Connect with us

U.S. Federal Courts

Michigan AG Nessel joins coalition opposing Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law

“Non-inclusive educational environments have severe negative health impacts on LGBTQ+ students, resulting in increased mental health issues”

Published

on

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel speaking at the Michigan capitol building for Pride June 26, 2022 Lansing, MI (Photo Credit: Office of the Michigan Attorney General)

By Jon King | LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has joined a coalition of 16 attorneys general from across the country in filing an amicus brief opposing Florida’s “Parental Rights in Education Act,” otherwise known as the “Don’t Say Gay” law.

Nessel, a Democrat who is Michigan’s first openly gay top statewide official, says that the law, which prevents classroom discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity, poses a serious threat to LGBTQ+ students who she says are particularly vulnerable to discrimination.  

“This bill is an affront not just to educators, but also to LGBTQ+ students, especially those who may already be experiencing the stigmatizing effect of their identity at school,” Nessel said. “This bill is not motivated by the desire to limit inappropriate content in classrooms. It is meant to have a chilling effect on how educators do their jobs and may also violate the First Amendment rights of students and teachers alike. I gladly join my colleagues on this brief and hope it discourages other states, including Michigan, from considering similar legislation.” 

The law is being challenged in federal district court by a group of students, parents, teachers and organizations seeking to prevent its enforcement by alleging that it violates, among other things, the Equal Protection Clause and the First Amendment.  

The law entirely bans “classroom instruction” on sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through Grade 3 while also requiring the state education agency write new classroom instructions for standards that must be followed by grades four through 12. 

Opponents say that because the law does not define many of its key terms, like “classroom instruction,” it is forcing Florida teachers to censor themselves out of fear of prosecution. That fear is further compounded by the fact that the law also allows a parent to bring a civil claim against a school district to enforce its prohibitions.  

There are two main points in the brief.

“Florida’s law is extreme,” it states. “Although Florida claims the Act is intended to protect children and preserve parental choice, the attorneys general have curricula in place that allow for age-appropriate discussion of LGBTQ+ issues while respecting parental views on the topic.”

“The law is causing significant harms to students, parents, teachers, and other states,” claims the brief. “Non-inclusive educational environments have severe negative health impacts on LGBTQ+ students, resulting in increased rates of mental health disorders and suicide attempts. These harms extend to youth not just in Florida, but throughout the country.”

Nessel is joining the amicus brief alongside Attorneys General from New Jersey, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New York and Oregon.

*********************

The preceding article was previously published by the Michigan Advance and is republished with permission.

*********************

Jon King has been a journalist for more than 35 years. He is the Past President of the Michigan Associated Press Media Editors Association and has been recognized for excellence numerous times, most recently in 2021 with the Best Investigative Story by the Michigan Association of Broadcasters. He is also an adjunct faculty member at Cleary University. Jon and his family live in Howell, where he also serves on the Board of Directors for the Livingston Diversity Council.

*********************

The Michigan Advance is a hard-hitting, nonprofit news site covering politics and policy across the state. We feature in-depth stories, briefs and social media updates, as well as top-notch progressive commentary. The Advance is free of advertising and free to our readers. We wholeheartedly believe that journalists have the biggest impact by reporting close to home, explaining what’s happening in our state and communities — and why. Michigan has hundreds fewer reporters than just a couple decades ago. The result is too many stories falling through the cracks.

The Advance is part of States Newsroom, a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit supported by grants and a coalition of donors and readers. The Advance retains editorial independence.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

U.S. Federal Courts

Supreme Court rules for LGBTQ students against Yeshiva Uni

The court’s order is a rare loss, for now, for conservative groups pushing so-called religious liberty arguments over LGBTQ rights

Published

on

The Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court (Photo Credit: U.S. Supreme Court)

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court in a 5-4 vote declined a request from New York City-based Yeshiva University to block a a New York County Supreme Court order that requires the university to recognize the “Pride Alliance” LGBTQ student club.

Last week Associate U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, in a brief order, granted an emergency request made by Yeshiva University to temporarily block the order by New York County Supreme Court Judge who had ruled this past June that Yeshiva was bound by the New York City Human Rights Law, which bars discrimination based on sexual orientation.

In its order, the high court noted that the New York state courts had yet to issue a final order in the case, and that Yeshiva could return to the U.S. Supreme Court after the New York courts had acted.

Yeshiva University buildings and facilities on Wilf Campus, New York City (Photo Credit: Yeshiva University)

The university argued that it is a religious institution and therefore should be exempted from the law. Requiring it to endorse the group would be a “clear violation” of its rights under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, which protects the free exercise of religion lawyers for the school said in court documents.

The court’s order is a rare loss, for now, for conservative groups pushing so-called religious liberty arguments over LGBTQ rights at the Supreme Court.

This is yet another in a series of cases the present court has heard and with its 6-3 conservative majority, has strongly backed religious rights in those cases.

Among its most recent rulings the high court has decided in favor of including a 6-3 ruling that sided with a former Bremerton, Washington assistant high school football coach fired for refusing to halt his practice of praying at mid-field after games on school property.

The court in 2021 ruled in favor of a Catholic Church-affiliated agency that Philadelphia had barred from participating in its foster care services because the group refused to place children with same-sex couples. Two years previously in 2018, the court ruled in favor of a conservative Christian baker in Colorado who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.

This Fall term justices are set to hear arguments in cases from a web designer, also from Colorado, who wants the court to rule that, based on her evangelical Christian beliefs, she does not have to design wedding websites for same-sex couples. 

Continue Reading

U.S. Federal Courts

DOJ sues on behalf of gay tenant harassed by property manager

“We stand ready to use civil rights laws to combat sexual harassment in housing, including based on sexual orientation/gender identity”

Published

on

Milwaukee Federal Building & U.S. Courthouse (Photo Credit: U.S. Courts/GSA)

MILWAUKEE, Wi – The owner and managers of a rental property in Milwaukee, Wisconsin were sued by the U.S. Department of Justice on Friday over their harassment of a gay and disabled tenant in violation of the Fair Housing Act. 

According to the complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, the defendants subjected the complainant-tenant to “discrimination on the basis of sex and disability, including severe, pervasive and unwelcome harassment on multiple occasions” and  “unwelcome and unwanted sexual comments that were egregious, offensive, and violent.” 

“At times relevant to this complaint,” the complainant-tenant, who is gay, received social security disability benefits (“SSDI”) for mental health conditions that left him unable to do basic work-related activities. These included bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”), the latter stemming in part from a sexual assault and rape. 

The complainant-tenant made the onsite property manager aware of his sexual orientation and disabilities, including the PTSD, partly because they had become friendly and partly to ensure they were comfortable with his renting a unit on the property. 

Sexual orientation and gender identity are not explicitly covered in the Fair Housing Act but the federal government considers discrimination on these bases tantamount to sex or gender based discrimination. 

Beginning in December 2019 and continuing “throughout most of Complainant’s Tenancy,” to July 2020, the onsite property manager repeatedly texted the complainant-tenant messages such as, “Your a fag a abomination against Jesus fuck you,” and would often yell epithets like, “God hates faggots” from his residence across the street. 

These messages included unwelcome and sexually violent texts like, ““Grab your ankles daddy is coming to get some,” “What do you think about anal fisting,” and “I have a bowling [p]in with your name on it,” according to the complaint. 

The complainant-tenant was also targeted over his disability with messages like, “Get off your lazy ass and work quit scamming off the government” and “Little fag parade scam off the government you can work you‘re no better than a … fucking lazy POS and judge others.”

This escalated into violent confrontations in which the defendant allegedly struck the complainant-tenant in the groin, saying “hope you enjoyed the sexual assault.” 

For these and other violations of the Fair Housing Act, the Justice Department is asking the court to, among other actions, enjoin the defendants from future discrimination, award monetary damages, and other relief. 

“We stand ready to use our civil rights laws to combat all forms of sexual harassment in housing, including harassment based on sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, in a press release issued by the agency. 

“The Justice Department will hold accountable landlords and housing providers who engage in unlawful discrimination and harassment of vulnerable tenants.”

Continue Reading

U.S. Federal Courts

Supreme Court: Yeshiva University can block LGBTQ student club

“Requiring it to endorse the group would be a “clear violation” of its rights under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment”

Published

on

Yeshiva University buildings and facilities on Wilf Campus, New York City (Photo Credit: Yeshiva University)

WASHINGTON – Associate U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, in a brief order granted an emergency request made by Yeshiva University, a private modern Orthodox Jewish research university in New York City, to deny official recognition to an LGBTQ student group.

Today’s ruling by Justice Sotomayor puts on hold a decision by a New York County Supreme Court Judge this past June who ruled that Yeshiva was bound by the New York City Human Rights Law, which bars discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Last year in May, The Washington Post reported that the suit was filed April 26 in the New York County Supreme Court on behalf of a group of students collectively as ‘YU Pride Alliance, along with recent graduates including openly bisexual Molly Meisels, who told the Post she had come out at a rally on campus in September 2019. She added that she started a feminist club during her second semester on campus, and while it was initially ridiculed, she said, now it is simply accepted as a club.

She emphasized that having an officially recognized LGBTQ club at Yeshiva University is important in a tightknit, small campus, especially where the Jewish community emphasizes connection.

“What a queer club provides is community, especially where community is so vital,” Meisels said.

What sets the 3,000 students university apart is that it has registered as a nonsectarian corporation versus the more typical religious affiliated institution of higher education.

That status according to attorney Katie Rosenfeld, who is representing some of the students in the suit sets YU apart, especially she argues that because the school receives government and state funding, it shouldn’t qualify for religious exemptions. she works at a law firm that specializes in cases on civil rights.

The university argued that it is a religious institution and therefore should be exempted from the law. Requiring it to endorse the group would be a “clear violation” of its rights under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, which protects the free exercise of religion, the university said in its response.

“Yeshiva shouldn’t have been forced to go all the way to the Supreme Court to receive such a commonsense ruling in favor of its First Amendment rights. We are grateful that Justice Sotomayor stepped in to protect Yeshiva’s religious liberty in this case,” Eric Baxter, a lawyer at the religious liberty legal advocacy group Becket, which is representing Yeshiva told NBC News.

Katherine Rosenfeld, a lawyer for Pride Alliance, said Friday in a statement that the group “remains committed to creating a space space for LGBTQ students” on campus and would await final action from the Supreme Court.

This is yet another in a series of cases the present court has heard and with its 6-3 conservative majority, has strongly backed religious rights in those cases.

Among its most recent rulings the high court has decided in favor of including a 6-3 ruling that sided with a former Bremerton, Washington assistant high school football coach fired for refusing to halt his practice of praying at mid-field after games on school property.

The court in 2021 ruled in favor of a Catholic Church-affiliated agency that Philadelphia had barred from participating in its foster care services because the group refused to place children with same-sex couples. Two years previously in 2018, the court ruled in favor of a conservative Christian baker in Colorado who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.

This Fall term justices are set to hear arguments in cases from a web designer, also from Colorado, who wants the court to rule that, based on her evangelical Christian beliefs, she does not have to design wedding websites for same-sex couples. 

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts

Advertisement

Follow Us @LosAngelesBlade

Advertisement

Popular