Kansas Sued Over Regressive Birth Certificate Policy

Lambda Legal, an organization that focuses on equal rights and protections for LGBTQ people files a federal lawsuit against the state of Kansas because of the state's regressive views of gender on birth certificates, Lambda Legal reports.

The lawsuit seeks to challenge Kansas' unwillingness to change the gender marker on birth certificates for transgender people. Out of the fifty states in the Union, only three have not moved towards a more progressive stance on gender. The other two states are Tennessee and Ohio. The population of Kansas is almost three million according to the census so it stands to reason that there will be at least one transgender person living there.

Luc Bensimon, a forty-six-year-old transgender man living un Topeka, Kansas says that by having a birth certificate that says female, it complicates his life and that because his birth certificate says female but his gender identity is male, it makes it easier for people to discriminate against him. In addition, by not having the option to correct gender markers, transgender individuals have to live a lie outside of their control. This policy is discriminatory towards transgender and nonbinary people and displays an antiquated view of gender identity. 

The lawsuit, Foster v. Andersen, says that transgender people's rights are being violated under the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the Constitution, as well as having their first amendment free speech rights violated by not allowing them to correct their gender on their birth certificates. This refusal also contrasts with Kansas' policy of allowing people to change their gender on their driver's licenses and state ID cards.

Transgender people are people like you and me and they deserve the same rights as everyone else. However, that is not the case for many who face discrimination and violence due to their gender identity. By Lambda Legal suing the state of Kansas, they have the ability to effect change and add to the progress that the transgender community has already made.

h/t: Lambda Legal, US Census

Australian Prime Minister Says No More Expulsion for Gay Students Based on their Sexuality

In some Australian states, religious schools are permitted to expel LGBTQ students because of their sexuality. Today, October 13th, Scott Morrison, the Prime Minister of Australia, created new legislation that would prevent schools from discriminating against gay pupils, according to BBC.

The decision to reverse this discriminatory policy came about after Morrison was found defending leaked proposals from a report on religious freedom. The new proposals would allow all schools nationwide to discriminate against LGBT students based on their sexuality, and on October 10th, Morrison said that the proposals were already "existing law." If the proposals went through, it would have ensured that faith-based schools had the right to turn down gay students.

The proposals were made a year after same-sex marriage had become legal and suggested that private schools have procedures in place to reject LGBTQ students that would be spread nationwide, which would have been a huge blow to human rights in Australia.  

Morrison also said that the proposals would have been carried out respectfully, but backtracked three days later and said that religious schools should not have the right to discriminate. He said, "Given recent misreporting, we have an opportunity here to bring forward a simple amendment to end the confusion."

I do not think that religious schools should have the right to discriminate against anyone, not just LGBTQ people, regardless of whether or not that they are privately funded. But that could be because I was raised in a secular household... The decision to block religious schools in Australia from turning down and/or expelling LGBTQ students is a step in the right direction, although I suspect this decision was made due to public backlash.

h/t: BBC

A Teacher In China Was Fired Because He's Gay, And Now He's Suing In A Landmark Case

A gay kindergarten teacher is suing his former school after they fired him last month.

According to Reuters, the teacher’s court case is being considered a landmark discrimination and minority protections case for the country of China.

Back in August, the teacher, who has decided to stay anonymous, was fired from his job after he posted on social media that he attended a previous LGBTQ event. He was then told directly by the school principal that he was fired because he’s gay. Apparently, the school feared that parents wouldn’t want a gay man teaching their children.

The teacher, who had a 10 percent stake in the school, was then removed from his job without sufficient severance or payment for his stake, according to his lawyer Tang Xianqian.

“The main reason we filed this case is not just as a labour dispute but to make the gay community more visible to a wider group of people. To let more people realise that they can easily be victims of discrimination,” Tang said.

The anonymous teacher doubled down on this point by saying, “I hope that I can use this case to push forward Chinese society to be more balanced and accepting.”

While it is legal to be gay in China, there are no rights to protect specifically LGBTQ people from discrimination. Instead, there are more broad anti-discrimination laws that protect “minority groups.”

Now this case could change that as it’s the first case in China, as far as Tang’s aware of, involving a gay teacher being fired because of his or her sexual orientation.

Beyond the goal of raising awareness for LGBTQ rights and anti-discrimination laws, the teacher is hoping for an outcome where he is rehired and paid for his financial loss. The court case has been picked up by a court in Quindao, so that result is now a possibility.

h/t: Reuters

Washington D.C. Man Sues Teachers Union For Gay Based Discrimination

A Washington D.C. man is suing the Washington Teachers’ Union after suffering discrimination and ultimately being fired because he’s gay.

According to PR Newswire, Barry Hobson, a 36-year-old Upper Marlboro resident who worked as a receptionist and office assistant, has filed a federal lawsuit with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Hobson is saying that his rights under the D.C. Human Rights Act were violated. He claims that the former Chief of Staff expressed disgusting views about him due to his sexuality. In addition, he says the President did nothing to stop the Chief of Staff and supported his firing.

Even though the organization presides over 5,000 teachers in D.C.’s public schools, the union’s leaders have little diversity training concerning LGBTQ employees. Hobson says he dealt with “hostile and retaliatory actions” while on the job.

The filed complaint included documentation of emails from Dorothy Egbufor, the former Chief of Staff. After Hobson “confirmed he engaged in same-sex intimacy,” Egbufor became nasty and refused him access to the organization’s health plan.

“Never in WTU's past have we allowed any individual to participate on our group policy 'openly gay' and I don't think this should be an exception," she wrote.

She later wrote in the same email that having Hobson and LGBTQ employees on the union's medical plan would cause a "substantial premium/rate increase" for other members because LGBTQ people "have AIDS, HIV and STDs."

According to the Washington Blade, the lawsuit also includes the following section explaining an interaction Egbufor and Hobson had after he applied for company benefits.

“Shortly after he submitted his paperwork, on or about January 31, 2017, Plaintiff had a disturbing phone call with Defendant Egbufor that she initiated about Plaintiff’s benefits,” the lawsuit states. “Defendant Egbufor said that she saw ‘Timothy’ listed on the benefits documents. Defendant Egbufor then asked, ‘Exactly who is he to you?’ Plaintiff responded ‘my fiancé,’” the lawsuit says.

“Prior to abruptly hanging up on Plaintiff, Defendant Egbufor said in a tone of disgust with a raised voice, ‘Your fiancé, ok Barry goodbye.’ Then she immediately hung up,” the lawsuit says.

Another attached email also showed that Egbufor wrote:

"Barry's nature of resistance and pushback is common among his peers in the homosexual community and will be an ongoing issue for WTU if not addressed while we maintain authority within the probationary period of employment.  As a result, I plan to recommend termination and immediately begin reassigning the remainder of his job duties to various staff in the coming days."

"What happened to Mr. Hobson was just plain awful,” said Brian J. Markovitz. “President Davis should resign immediately.  The head of the union that represents the teachers who teach our children and shape their values should not condone treating people poorly at work because of who they love.  That's not how people in the DC area want the world to be."

Now, Hobson is looking for $1 million in damages from the union and it’s leaders. According to the filed complaint, Hobson suffered through anxiety symptoms, chest pains, bad sleep, weight loss, breathing problems, and panic attacks because of the discrimination.

h/t: PR Newswire, The Washington Blade

Betsy DeVos Turns Blind Eye on Bathroom Bills

Politico tells the story of Alex Howe, a Texan high school student who hated the walk all the way to the unisex bathroom stalls in the middle of a building far from his classrooms. Since he is a transgender boy, his school district banned him from entering the boy’s restrooms making it inconvenient for him and forcing him to either choose the girl’s restroom or walking to the unisex stalls. As if that were not enough humiliation, conservative parents told the debate coach they didn’t want Howe sharing a room with their sons on trips to competitions. The coach argued that Howe should be treated the same as all of the other kids but the school administrators sided with the parents- Howe was forced to room alone. Transgender students like Howe are forced into a life of isolation because when they decide to be themselves, they are not included.

Howe isn’t the only student across the United States facing issues like this, kids face this every day, adults do, too. However, when students try to make change, the government turns a blind eye. After graduating in 2017, Howe filed a complaint with federal civil rights officials at the Department of Education hoping to make a change. After some research, Politico reports that his complaint is one of at least five involving transgender student rights that was thrown out by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who has halted investigations like these.

In 2016, president Trump said:

“[Transgender people] should use the bathroom they feel is appropriate.”

However, his policies how otherwise. The Education Department declined to answer questions about how it handles transgender cases but after Politico published their article, they released a statement saying:

“[We are] committed to defending the civil rights of all students and ensuring all students have an equal opportunity to learn in an environment free from harassment and discrimination. [We will continue to use] current law and current regulation to determine if any child in school is being harassed or discriminated against due to race, sex, or disability.”

Politico’s investigation showed at least 107 complaints filed with the Education Department since January of 2014, all connected to transgender students who were treated differently, excluded, or denied benefits.

GLSEN says that most transgender students are required to use bathrooms that don’t match their gender identity. This sort of emotional abuse and exclusion has an effect on the mental health of these children and the Department of Education refuses to act. When Betsy DeVos decides it is easier to look the other way than to act, we must ensure these issues are not forgotten.

h/t: Politico, True Pundit

Police Arrest and Wreck the Lives of 13 Men Caught Having Sex in South Florida Pleasure Emporium

A forced outing is damn traumatizing and always causes nothing but harm.

Well, never mind all that if you’re Hollywood, Florida police, who last week raided an adult store and arrested 13 men who were having consensual sexual encounters in a private area.

Police officers went to the trouble of paying $25 to enter locked, private rooms at the back of the Pleasure Emporium in South Florida where men were masturbating and engaging in oral sex.

After the arrests, several news outlets reported on the incident, revealing the men’s names, their hometowns, ages and mugshots.

The smearing has justifiably led to bitter backlash. According to the Miami New Times, an attorney for one of the men says her client was fired from his job in the medical field as a result of the coverage.

It gets worse: the man (we’re not using his name and no outlet run by humans with a shred of decency would) had fled Cuba 20 years prior to avoid persecution.

"He was persecuted in Cuba because of his sexuality," says his attorney, Abbie Cuellar. "He was thrown out of his home and thrown out of school because he was gay. He fled as a result and thought America was going to be this beacon of 'freedom.' He now basically has lost everything he has worked for... He is horribly suicidal.”

Just to repeat, these men were arrested, humiliated and worse—their lives are probably wrecked— for having consensual sex in private.

The raid cost taxpayers $240, as the two police officers got four hours of overtime pay a piece.

Hollywood PD has made a habit of raiding the Pleasure Emporium. They arrested six men there in February. In a statement, they defended last week’s raid, calling the locked, private rooms that you have to pay to get into at Pleasure Emporium a “public space."

"Clearly, this was a private setting within a private setting — you would have to pay to get into it," Cuellar says. "It's not in a residential neighborhood. There's no danger a kid would ever walk past, even. The fact that they’ve been made out to be these sexual deviants, I feel like I’m back in the 1960s! I don't understand the point of this arrest other than smearing and humiliating these men."

For the full story: Miami New Times

h/t: Pink News

New Defense Department Policy Could End Military Service For HIV+ Folks

It was one year ago today that Donald Trump tweeted his intention to ban transgender people from serving in the U.S. armed forces.

Now, the Trump administration seems to be turning his attention to HIV positive service members.

A February 14 Department of Defense memo announced a new “Deploy or Get Out!” policy which goes into effect on October 1.

The new policy orders the Pentagon to discharge those service members who are unable to be deployed outside the U.S. for more than a year. According to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, the point was to ensure “readiness” within the U.S. military.

But an existing DOD policy dating back to the height of the AIDS epidemic prohibits HIV+ service members from being deployed overseas. Therefore, the new guidance would appear to make it impossible to serve their country.

HIV+ folks are prohibited from enlisting in the Armed Forces. Soldiers who are already serving but later seroconvert are allowed to stay in the military, but cannot be deployed in combat or overseas.

Two soldiers have filed separate lawsuits - Doe v. Mattis and Harrison v. Mattis - hoping to stop the new policy from going into effect.

Forty-one-year old Sgt. Nick Harrison is afraid his life would be dramatically affected by the new policy.

From HIVPlusMag:

Sgt. Harrison hopes to make a difference for other members of the Armed Forces. He isn’t being secretive about his identity, either. Harrison was deployed to both Afghanistan and Kuwait, but was diagnosed with HIV shortly after returning home from Kuwait in 2012. “This case is not just about me,” Harrison said. “This is about every person living with HIV knowing that they can perform any job in the world, including serving in the military. Together, we must stop the Pentagon from closing its doors to successful and talented service members. I look forward to the day that I can serve my country to the full extent of my abilities, based on my performance and unfettered by unfounded fears and misperceptions about HIV.”

Harrison also claims that the military’s policy wrongfully blocked him from ascending to Judge Advocate General officer of the D.C. National Guard, reports Bloomberg, because members living with HIV also cannot achieve officer status.

Scott Schoettes, Counsel and HIV Project Director at Lambda Legal, issued this statement regarding the discriminatory policy:

“Soldiers, sailors, fighter pilots and marines are seeing their promising careers cut short, their dreams of service shattered and their health jeopardized due to antiquated notions about HIV and the stigma that results. This must end. If the court doesn’t intervene, the Trump administration will continue to discharge more promising service members living with HIV, denying them the ability to continue serving their country. Every day, people living with HIV are suffering professional setbacks and losing out on career advancement opportunities, and we are asking this court to put an end to these harmful actions.”

According to HIVPlusMag, approximately 1,200 service members could be affected by the policy change.  

(h/t HIVPlusMag)

Married Lesbian Couple Turned Away By Senior Living Community In Missouri

A senior same-sex married couple in Missouri have been turned away by a senior housing community because of the couple’s sexual orientation.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch is reporting on a new law suit filed by Bev Nance, 68, and Mary Walsh, 72, who have been denied housing by the Friendship Village senior living community because they are married to each other.

The couple, who have been together for almost four decades and legally married since 2009, had toured the Sunset Hills location several times and even put down a $2,000 deposit. 

According to the lawsuit, the couple were denied housing because their same-sex relationship violated Friendship Village’s cohabitation policy that views marriage as “the union of one man and one woman, as marriage is understood in the Bible.”

The St. Louis Post Dispatch received a statement from Friendship Village which read: “We have just been made aware of a lawsuit that we have not yet seen and have not had an opportunity to review. This matter will be discussed with legal counsel and (we) have no further comment at this time.”

Nance and Walsh are being represented by the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the ACLU and Washington-based law firm of Relman, Dane & Colfax.

The couple’s legal team says the policy violates the Fair Housing Act in terms of sex discrimination. Since the women are married to females, not men, the decision to deny them occupancy is, in essence, discrimination based on their sex.

However, Missouri’s public accommodation laws don’t explicitly include sexual orientation or gender identity.

“Mary and Bev were denied housing for one reason and one reason only — because they were married to each other rather than to men. This is exactly the type of sex discrimination the Fair Housing Act prohibits,” said Julie Wilensky, an attorney for the NCLR,  in a statement to the press. “Their story demonstrates the kind of exclusion and discrimination still facing same-sex couples of all ages.”

The couple attempted to move into Friendship Village in 2016. After multiple visits and several conversations with the staff they put down a $2,000 deposit in order to get on a waiting list. It was only after that they were informed of the “longstanding” policy on cohabitation.

From The Post-Dispatch

The Friendship Village website says it is a nonprofit that provides “a fulfilling, worry-free lifestyle” to more than 1,000 seniors in Chesterfield and Sunset Hills. Its mission statement says, “Guided by Biblical values, continually serve the senior community with quality offerings that promote lifelong well-being.”

Walsh and Nance considered other housing but said Friendship Village was the only place in the St. Louis area “that can provide increased levels of care without an increased monthly cost to residents.”

According to the lawsuit, a letter to Walsh dated July 29, 2016, from Michael Heselbarth, a top administrator with the retirement village, said: “ Your request to share a single unit does not fall within the categories permitted by the long-standing policy of Friendship Village Sunset Hills.”

Legal experts are divided on the possibility of winning the lawsuit.

Anders Walker, a constitutional law professor at St. Louis University, told the Post-Dispatch, “My gut instinct is they’re probably out of luck."

“When a private body doesn’t want to rent a room to you, for them, that’s freedom of association," he added. "They’re probably entitled to their deposit back.”

But Marcia McCormick, an employment and labor law expert, says Friendship Village’s religious freedom claim “does have to be sincere. The defense of the First Amendment does not excuse discrimination in the Fair Housing Law.”

Michael Adams, CEO of SAGE, the country's largest and oldest organization dedicated to improving the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) older people, issued this statement via email.

“The horrible discrimination experienced by this older lesbian couple – for something as basic as senior housing – is a stark reminder of the challenges that many LGBT elders face. We know that this story is far from unique. Research shows that 45 percent of same-sex couples who apply for senior housing in Missouri are discriminated against. This lawsuit will help ensure that Mary and Bev – and all older same-sex couples—will have the same access to senior housing as everybody else.”


(h/t St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

A Crowd of Over a Thousand Shouts Insults and Jeers as Gay Men Are Publicly Beaten in Indonesia

More than a thousand people crowded the courtyard of a mosque in Indonesia’s Aceh province on Tuesday, jeering and shouting insults as two young men, 20 and 23, were publicly flogged over 80 times for having consensual gay sex.

Aceh is the only province in Indonesia to practice Shariah law; this is the first public caning for the crime of homosexuality there.

Five robed and hooded figures doled out the punishment as the young men winced and cried out in pain. Many spectators took photos and videos on their mobile devices.

The young men were sentenced to 85 lashings last week (100 is the maximum); they were arrested in March. Authorities (vigilantes) had suspected them of being gay, then raided a hotel room they rented and found them having sex.

This public flogging had a significantly higher turnout than usual, because people wanted to witness the first-ever public caning for gay sex.

Sarojini Mutia Irfan, a female student, weighed in on the punishment:

"What they have done is like a virus that can harm people's morale. This kind of public punishment is an attempt to stop the spread of the virus to other communities in Aceh.”

A total of 15 people were punished at the flogging, though the others received fewer lashings for crimes like showing affection outside of wedlock and selling alcohol. Lashings are also commonly served to women who wear tight clothes and people who don’t pray.

Homosexuality isn’t technically illegal in Indonesia outside of Aceh, yet the LGBTQ+ community has nevertheless felt violent discrimination throughout the country with the world’s largest Muslim population.

A banner was raised in Aceh’s capital, Banda Aceh, demanding that Shariah law upheld at whatever cost necessary, courtesy of the The Islamic Defenders Front.

A case before the country’s highest court is pushing to make gay sex and all sex out of wedlock illegal throughout Indonesia.

On Monday, 141 men were arrested in a raid on a gay sauna in Indonesia’s capital.

Human Rights Watch has publicly called for Indonesia’s President President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo to denounced the “medieval” torture and human rights violations.

h/t: The Telegraph

h/t: Pink News

Hawaii: B&B Owner Loses LGBTQ Discrimination Case - Again

In 2007, Diane Cervelli and Taeko Bufford of Long Beach, California, traveled to the Aloha state to visit a friend who had just given birth.

The child apparently was having some health issues at the time, so the couple decided to seek accommodations nearby. The closest option was The Aloha Bed & Breakfast.

But when the couple called Phyllis Young, owner of The Aloha B&B in Honolulu’s Hawaii Kai area, Young told the couple same-sex relationships are "detestable" and “defile our land.

Hawaii’s public accommodation law specifically bans establishments that provide lodging to transient guests from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation, race, color, ancestry, religion, disability and sex —including gender identity or expression.

Later that year, Cervilli and Bufford filed a complaint with Hawaii’s Civil Rights Commission. 

Although Young asserted she had the right to discriminate since her business was in her home, the commission determined Young had openly discriminated against the couple.

Cervilli and Bufford consequently filed a lawsuit against Young in 2011.

In 2013, a Hawaii First Circuit Court judge ruled that Young had violated the state’s public accommodation laws and ordered her to stop discriminating.

Young appealed the decision and in February of this year, the Intermediate Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court ruling.

In a last ditch effort, the B&B owner asked the state’s Supreme Court to review the case. The high court declined to do so, and effectively affirming the lower court ruling that Young had discriminated.

Earlier this year, Bufford told QVoiceNews, “I can’t tell you how much it hurt to be essentially told, ‘we don’t do business with your kind.’ It still stings to this day.”

“We thought the days when business owners would say ‘We’re open to the public – but not to you’ was a thing of the past,” she added. “You don’t have to change your beliefs,” she said, “but you do have to follow the law just as everyone else does.”

Lambda Legal Senior Attorney Peter Renn hailed the decision saying in a statement

“In letting the existing decision stand, Hawai‘i today joined a long line of states across the country that understand how pernicious and damaging a religious license to discriminate would be.”

“In fact, since the U.S. Supreme Court’s narrow ruling in Masterpiece Cakeshop in early June, three state courts – in Arizona, Oregon and now Hawai`i – have either ruled against or refused to review rulings against business owners who have claimed religious justifications to discriminate.”