Connect with us

Politics

National LGBT Bar Assn asks lawyers to repudiate anti-LGBT law firms

DOJ joins FRC for task force defending “religious liberties”

Published

on

The National LGBT Bar Association is asking attorneys across the United States to repudiate anti-LGBT legal groups as the Trump-Pence administration takes their predilection toward divisiveness to a new level. On Monday, July 30, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the creation of a Religious Liberties Task Force alongside anti-LGBT extremists from the ubiquitous anti-LGBT Alliance Defending Freedom, as well as the Colorado baker who refused to serve a gay couple in violation of the state’s nondiscrimination law. The taxpayer-funded task force will be led by Jesse Panuccio, the acting Associate Attorney General at the Department of Justice who worked for attorney Chuck Cooper in 2010 defending Proposition 8, California’s same-sex marriage ban, during the federal trial that struck down the ban.

“This taxpayer funded task force is yet another example of the Trump-Pence White House and Jeff Sessions sanctioning discrimination against LGBTQ people,” said Human Rights Campaign Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. “Over the last 18 months, Donald Trump, Mike Pence and Jeff Sessions have engaged in a brazen campaign to erode and limit the rights of LGBTQ people in the name of religion. The Attorney General standing shoulder-to-shoulder this morning with anti-LGBTQ extremists tells you everything you need to know about what today’s announcement was really all about.”

“Under this administration, the federal government is not just reacting—we are actively seeking, carefully, thoughtfully and lawfully, to accommodate people of faith,” Sessions said. “Religious Americans are no longer an afterthought.”

“Religious freedom is important – and, as many of the speakers at today’s Department of Justice event noted – it’s already concretely protected in our Constitution and laws, Jon Davidson, Chief Counsel of Freedom for All Americans Education Fund, told the Los Angeles Blade. “No one is trying to change that. Despite that, today’s DOJ action is just the latest step this administration has taken to undermine the rights of LGBTQ Americans under our nation’s laws. Time and again, Jeff Sessions’ DOJ has seized the opportunity to side in court with those who seek to be permitted to violate those laws and discriminate against LGBTQ Americans. Decades of legal precedent make clear that religious freedom is not a justification for harming others, and that should apply to LGBTQ people as well.”

Davidson is part of a new campaign by the National LGBT Bar Association to reach out to and dissuade their colleagues not to take up cases that defend or advocate for anti-LGBT causes.

“For more than 25 years, groups like Alliance Defending Freedom and Liberty Counsel have overseen an army of litigators and waged a systematic, insidious, and well-funded crusade to strip protections from LGBT people,” says LGBT Bar Association Executive Director D’Arcy Kemnitz. “With the recent Supreme Court decision in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, the announced retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy, and more and more court victories for those seeking a license to discriminate, fair-minded attorneys committed to diversity must push back. If we don’t take these threats seriously and act accordingly, we could face long term legal setbacks for LGBT people.”

The campaign, COMMIT to INCLUSION, includes a fact sheet detailing the history of these anti-LGBT legal groups, their enormous budgets, and a sample list of cases in which they have sought to harm LGBT people. It also includes a one-minute video featuring: Kemnitz; Davidson; and Cathy Sakimura, Family Law Director at the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

The COMMIT to INCLUSION campaign pledge reads in part: “We commit to inclusion by ensuring that our personal pro bono and volunteer capacity and personal financial resources will not be used to support the work of ADF and Liberty Counsel.”

“As someone who has been on the other side of the Alliance Defending Freedom and Liberty Counsel in more than a dozen lawsuits, I can say with certainty that, if a member of the National LGBT Bar Association were to provide their services to the Alliance Defending Freedom or Liberty Counsel, they would be working directly in opposition to the mission of association they have joined. I commend the LGBT Bar for educating the public about these groups’ anti-LGBT activities and urging its members to work to end discrimination against LGBT people through the bar’s Commit to Inclusion campaign,“ Davidson, tells the Los Angeles Blade in an email.

“We strongly support this campaign the same way we’d urge law firms to fight against those legal groups which support discrimination on women’s rights, immigrant rights, and more often than not also support discrimination against LGBTQI people,” Shannon Minter, Legal Director for the San Francisco-based National Center for Lesbian rights tells the LA Blade.

“This campaign is a call to action to warn attorneys about anti-LGBT legal groups and their dangerous and strategic efforts to chip away at legal protections for LGBT people,” says Kemnitz. “We are imploring the legal profession to hold back pro bono resources that would help these groups advance their discriminatory agenda. When you help anti-LGBT legal groups – even on matters not relating to LGBT issues – you hurt LGBT people.”

Tony Perkins, head of the anti-LGBT extremist group the Family Research Council and close advisor to Vice President Mike Pence, put out a press release both slamming the LGBT Bar Association move and foreshadowing AG Session’s “religious liberties” task force announcement – otherwise construed as a declaration of holy war against LGBT people.

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins is among those who participated in a religious freedom conference the State Department held in D.C. this week. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

“First, LGBT activists wanted conservatives out of the wedding business. Then came professional sports, the restaurant industry, big tech, teaching, broadcasting, the police force, fire department, local government, the Olympics, military, counseling, adoption and foster care. What’s left? According to one extremist group, the law,” says Perkins.

“The legal profession has already seen its share of bullying from LGBT extremists. In at least four states, judges have been threatened, suspended, or otherwise punished for their marriage views. In two states, they’ve been professionally disciplined. Of course, there’s been an effort to shun lawyers who express any sort of support for natural marriage for years,” Perkins continues.

“The LGBT Bar Association is hoping to persuade people that mainstream organizations like Liberty Counsel and Alliance Defending Freedom are waging ‘a systematic, insidious, and well-funded crusade to strip protections from LGBT people,’” Perkins opines. “In the end, the people who avoid a debate are the ones scared of losing. They scream about freedom when it suits their purpose, only to deny others the freedom to even be heard. Like so many people outside the mainstream, this group’s call for tolerance is just a cover for social tyranny.”

Here’s the video from COMMIT to INCLUSION, which runs from July 24 through September 27. 

Reporting by Karen Ocamb, the staff of the Los Angeles Blade and wire service reports

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Politics

Out for America; nearly 1,000 elected LGBTQ+ officials but more needed

Lack of representation has consequences, as LGBTQ elected officials are best positioned to defend against anti-LGBTQ legislative attacks

Published

on

Victory Institute Out for America report cover Image of Delaware State Senator Sarah McBride (D First District) being sworn in to office

WASHINGTON – In its annual report the Washington D.C. based LGBTQ Victory Institute noted that there had been an increase of 17 percent in the past year of LGBTQ Americans serving as elected officials. According to the data in the Out for America 2021 report released this past week, there are 986 known out LGBTQ elected officials in the United States.

The Victory Institute reported that total included two U.S. senators, nine U.S. representatives, two governors, 189 state legislators, 56 mayors and six statewide executives. While this is considered a large increase, LGBTQ people hold just 0.19 percent of elected positions in the United States, despite making up at least 5.6 percent of the U.S. adult population.

Americans must elect 28,116 more LGBTQ people to public office for LGBTQ people to achieve equitable representation (serving in 5.6 percent of elected positions) the report went on to note.

KEY FINDINGS:

The report found that in the past year (between June 2020 and June 2021):

  • LGBTQ elected officials of color increased by 51 percent, with Black LGBTQ elected officials growing at the fastest pace (a 75 percent increase);
  • Trans women elected officials increased by 71 percent (from 21 to 36), yet trans men saw no increase (with just five serving nationwide);
  • Queer-identified elected officials increased by 83 percent, faster than all other sexual orientations; and
  • LGBQ cisgender women state legislators surpassed the number of GBQ cisgender men state legislators for the first time.

The report also found that:

  • LGBTQ elected officials are significantly more racially and ethnically diverse than the overall elected official population, but are less diverse than the U.S. population;
  • Mississippi is the only state in the nation with zero known out LGBTQ elected officials serving;
  • 23 states have transgender elected officials serving and 29 states have non-cisgender elected officials;
  • LGBTQ people are equitably represented among mayors of top 100 cities for the first time (with six), but are underrepresented among mayors overall and in all other public positions; and that
  • 84 percent of LGBTQ elected officials are Democrats and just three percent are Republicans.

In an emailed statement, former Houston, Texas Mayor Annise Parker, who currently serves as the President & CEO of LGBTQ Victory Institute reflected, “While LGBTQ elected officials are growing steadily in number, at this pace it will still take decades to come anywhere close to achieving equitable representation in government.” 

Parker went on to note, “This lack of representation has enormous consequences, because LGBTQ elected officials are best positioned to defend against anti-LGBTQ legislative attacks and to change the hearts and minds of colleagues in supporting inclusive policies. A moonshot effort to increase our numbers is essential to advancing equality at every level of government – and a large part of that is showing LGBTQ people that running for office is our best bet to achieve lasting social change.”

In addition to changes in representation over the last year, the report also looks at trends since the first Out for America report was released in November 2017. In that time, LGBTQ elected officials increased by 121 percent (from 448 to 986) overall, and LGBTQ elected officials of color increased by 201 percent (from 92 to 277). 

Since November 2017, there is a 296 percent increase in Black LGBTQ elected officials (from 23 to 91), 135 percent increase in Latinx LGBTQ elected officials (from 51 to 120) and a 117 percent increase in Asian American and Pacific Islander elected officials (from 12 to 26). Trans women increased by 800 percent (from four to 36) and bisexual elected officials by 787 percent (from eight to 71).

“LGBTQ elected officials are significantly more diverse than the overall elected official population – so their impact extends beyond LGBTQ equality alone,” said Ruben Gonzales, Executive Director of LGBTQ Victory Institute. “LGBTQ elected officials are on the frontlines in legislative efforts to end police brutality, defend voting rights and secure inclusive healthcare reform. LGBTQ people are represented in every community in America and that diversity allows for more thoughtful policy changes when we are in office.”

The Out for America report is an annual analysis of LGBTQ elected representation in government based on Victory Institute’s LGBTQ elected officials database – the largest and most comprehensive listing available. The interactive Out for America map, updated daily, displays all known LGBTQ elected officials and is available at outforamerica.org.

Read the full Out for America 2021 report at victoryinstitute.org/out-for-america-2021.

Continue Reading

Politics

Biden to nominate LGBTQ synagogue rabbi to religious freedom commission

Sharon Kleinbaum joined NYC’s Congregation Beit Simchat Torah in 1992

Published

on

Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

WASHINGTON — President Biden on Friday announced he plans to nominate the chief rabbi of an LGBTQ synagogue in New York City to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum joined Congregation Beit Simchat Torah in 1992.

“She was installed as CBST’s first rabbi in 1992, arriving at the height of the AIDS crisis when the synagogue was in desperate need of pastoral care and spiritual leadership,” reads a bio that announced Biden’s intention to nominate Kleinbaum to the commission. “She guided the congregation through a period of loss and change, while addressing social issues and building a strong and deeply spiritual community. Under her leadership as senior rabbi, CBST has become a powerful voice in the movement for equality and justice for people of all sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions.”

Kleinbaum is married to American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten.

The commission seeks to defend religious freedom in the U.S. and around the world. The president and Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress nominate members.

Continue Reading

Politics

Bill would require universities to apply for Title IX religious exemption waiver

Measure seeks to highlight anti-LGBTQ higher education institutions

Published

on

WASHINGTON — Four members of Congress on Thursday introduced a bill that would require federally-funded universities to apply for a waiver from the U.S. Department of Education before they can receive a religious exemption from Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

A press release that U.S. Reps. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.), Chris Pappas (D-N.H.), Sharice Davids (D-Kan.) and Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.) issued notes the Exposing Discrimination in Higher Education Act would also require “the Department of Education and the exempted higher education institutions to prominently display the waiver on their websites in order to inform students of their beliefs before arriving on campus.”

The members of Congress note “several higher education institutions across the U.S.” beginning in 2013 “applied for religious exemptions with the Department of Education that would allow them to discriminate against LGBTQ students on campus.” The Department of Education during the previous White House sought to revoke the waiver application requirement.

“These exemptions allow students to be removed from extracurricular organizations, leadership posts, sports teams, and even be expelled simply for being members of the LGBTQ community,” reads the press release.

The previous White House rescinded guidance to public schools that said Title IX requires them to allow transgender students to use restrooms based on their gender identity. The Biden administration last month said Title IX bans discrimination against LGBTQ students.

“Every student deserves to attend a college where their entire identity is accepted and celebrated,” said Clark. “Without transparency about a school’s beliefs, students may arrive on campus only to learn that their school has policies in place that infringe on their civil rights. I’m proud to introduce the Exposing Discrimination in Higher Education Act to ensure that students can apply to college with all the information necessary to set them up for success.”

Davids added “every student deserves an educational experience free from discrimination and harassment.”

“At the moment, we are letting down our LGBTQ+ community on college campuses, as more taxpayer-funded universities quietly skirt around civil rights law,” said the Kansas Democrat. “By reinstating the waiver requirement for universities who seek exemption from anti-discrimination protections, we are not only protecting LGBTQ+ students from unfair treatment, but we are reminding them that their experience is visible and valuable.”

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Follow Us @LosAngelesBlade

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts

Popular