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Published: Mon, 24 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0400

Last Build Date: Mon, 24 Oct 2016 19:39:24 -0400


Clinton Campaign Leaks Show Her Stubbornness on History of DOMA

Mon, 10 Oct 2016 17:45:00 -0400

Speaking for myself and only myself, I feel as though it's actually a positive development that gay and transgender issues are playing such a minor role in this year's presidential election. Granted, there are still some political fights going on (particularly in North Carolina over transgender bathroom issues and discrimination regulations), and there are some fears that the Supreme Court might rethink gay marriage recognition (very unlikely). But for better or worse, gay issues are not a major narrative in this election. But that does make me wonder why a blog post I wrote last February got a bunch of new visitors over the weekend. Maybe the title of the post helps explain: "Hillary Clinton's Struggles on Gay Issues Are About Her Honesty, Not Her Transformation." Like many Democratic politicians (including President Barack Obama), Clinton was not a supporter of legal gay marriage recognition until recent years. She "evolved," is the term they've all decided to use. Clinton got herself into some hot water earlier last fall defending Bill Clinton's signing of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) back when he was president. Both Clintons have tried to argue that their support of DOMA as an attempt to prevent a possible Republican effort to pass a constitutional amendment prohibiting recognition of same-sex marriage nationwide. They were trying to shift blame for their own support for DOMA to Republicans. The problem was that there was no Republican push for a constitutional amendment during Clinton's administration. That failed effort didn't come around until George W. Bush became president. LGBT activists knew this and blasted Clinton for trying to blame her own positions on Republicans. It was a revisionist history designed to try to wriggle their way out of responsibility for the passage of anti-gay legislation. Now the new leaks of internal emails within the Clinton campaign from Wikileaks make it clear that the Clinton campaign understood that she was wrong about the history of DOMA, but she also was not likely to admit it or their role in supporting the legislation. Clinton campaign LGBT liaison Dominic Lowell noted last October that gay activists were not supporting Clinton's story that there was a constitutional amendment being pushed by the Republicans. Dan Schwerin, director of speechwriting for the campaign, noted: [M]y two cents is that you're not going to get her to disavow her explanation about the constitutional amendment and this exercise will be most effective if it provides some context and then goes on offense. And later … I'm not saying double down or ever say it again. I'm just saying that she's not going to want to say she was wrong about that, given she and her husband believe it and have repeated it many times. Better to reiterate evolution, opposition to DOMA when court considered it, and forward looking stance. We've hit Trump repeatedly in his stubborn refusal to acknowledge the facts on everything from crime and trade because they're politically inconvenient to the message he's trying to sell to voters. Here, too, Clinton has been selling herself as the savior to LGBT voters for every political issue that remains (regardless of whether it needs any sort of federal involvement). But she stubbornly wants to cling to the idea that she was forced into an antigay stance, a claim that is not supported by history. That, in a nutshell, explains why this latest round of email leaks has probably led people back to my blog post from last year about her honesty. Which version of Clinton would be president? Why are we asking that question about Trump, but not her?[...]

If N.C. Food Trucks Can Discriminate Against Gays, Then Why Aren’t They?

Thu, 06 Oct 2016 12:45:00 -0400

Let's start off by fact-checking and correcting both The Daily Show's and Huffington Post writer Cavan Sieczkowski's understanding of North Carolina's HB2. This is the controversial "bathroom bill" that requires transgender people to use the government and public school facilities that match the sex listed on their birth certificates. There's more to the law, but it does not, as The Daily Show claims, permit or suddenly change state law to exclude gay and transgender people from antidiscrimination protections. In reality, North Carolina does not and never has provided state-level antidiscrimination protection for LGBT folks in employment and public accommodations. It's always been legal to discriminate against gay people and transgender people in North Carolina. Sexual orientation and gender identity are not classified as protected categories in their laws. What HB2 does is forbid cities within North Carolina from adding sexual orientation and gender identity (or any other classification the state doesn't recognize) to their own antidiscrimination laws. This was done in a response to the City of Charlotte expanding its antidiscrimination and public accommodation laws. I realize this is probably overly nuanced nitpicking for something like The Daily Show, but based on a stunt they recently pulled, it's really worth reminding folks that the government hasn't given anybody "permission to discriminate." The possibility of this kind of discrimination has been around all along because it hadn't been forbidden. The segment also incorrectly states that discrimination against LGBT people in the state will be legal for as long as HB2 is on the books. It will remain legal even if HB2 is repealed (at least on the state level) because, again, sexual orientation and gender identity are not considered protected classes by the state. (In fact, given the way the law is written, the state actually could add sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes without repealing the law at all and keep all the transgender bathroom nonsense intact) In an attempt to highlight the alleged absurdity of this mischaracterized "permission" to discriminate, The Daily Show sent a BBQ food truck to North Carolina to randomly refuse to serve people in comic fashion. Isn't it strange, the segment wants us to understand, to refuse to just arbitrarily refuse service to people because you think they're gay? Yes, it is strange for a food truck to refuse to serve customers based on their sexual orientation. Did anybody involved with this stunt maybe stop for a moment and realize that they were criticizing something that wasn't happening and therefore they were actually making a remarkably uncompelling argument? If there were a serious, widespread problem with discrimination against gay people, they wouldn't have had to set up a fake food truck, would they? They'd be able to just go down to North Carolina and go to one of the existing businesses who were discriminating against gay people and do one of those interviews where they get people to say stupid things so the viewers can feel superior. But they didn't. They had to fabricate a Seinfeldian Soup Nazi-style environment to try to present an exaggerated possibility. It's an attempt at satire. It's an attempt to comically present a potential logical conclusion. But the flaw is that it actually highlights how little interest there is in widespread discrimination against gay people. There are no scenes of Jim Crow-style behavior targeting LGBT folks. Yes, discrimination exists, but there is no widespread conspiracy to exclude gay and transgender people, and there is so much more cultural pressure that can resolve it positively without getting the state involved. The irony here is that they're exaggerating the potential threat of a problem to justify legal intervention controlling individual behavior, which is … exactly what Gov. Pat McCrory and supporters of monitoring public bathroom use are doing. There is little actual justification for the state telling transgender peo[...]

Gary Johnson Getting Nearly as Many LGBT Voters as Trump

Mon, 26 Sep 2016 12:40:00 -0400

(image) A new poll has Hillary Clinton dominating Donald Trump with registered gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender voters. This is not terribly surprising news. But both Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein are drawing some notable numbers from the LGBT community.

NBC partnered with Survey Monkey to track likely voters for two weeks in September. In a head-to-head matchup between Clinton and Trump, Clinton won overwhelmingly, 72 percent to 20 percent. Those numbers are generally comparable to the split in the LGBT vote in previous elections.

But the poll also evaluated a four-way matchup. There, both Clinton's and Trump's numbers dropped. Clinton would beat Trump for the LGBT vote, 63 percent to 15 percent. Johnson would get 13 percent of the LGBT vote and Stein would get 8 percent. So the third-party candidates are pulling 9 percentage points worth of LGBT votes from Clinton and 5 percentage points from Trump. And given that the head-to-head matchup shows an 8 percent either undecided or declining to say, it's safe to say that there's a good number of LGBT voters unhappy with their major party choices.


By and large, though, the poll also shows that LGBT voters view Clinton much more positively than the general public. Among those polled, 59 percent view Clinton positively. Her popularity numbers when comparing the LGBT community to the general community are essentially reversed. Trump's favorability rating is even worse among LGBT voters than it is among the general public. Only 17 percent of LGBT voters view Trump favorably.

Trump's unpopularity with the LGBT community should be seen as rather striking, given that he's less openly hostile on gay issues than previous Republican candidates. But policy-wise, he's extremely unpredictable. He has taken both sides on the debate over whether North Carolina can ban transgender people from using the school or government bathrooms and other facilities of their choice. He has, as the election gone on, essentially taken every Republican position, including opposition to the legal recognition of gay marriage.

Clinton, meanwhile has promised the LGBT community anything any activist group has asked for, a host of new federal laws and regulations to protect them, and just about anything at all to get the gay vote.

But clearly a good chunk of LGBT voters are thinking beyond gay issues, which is not unusual. What is unusual is that these third-party candidates are siphoning off such large numbers. According to the poll, 70 percent of the LGBT voters who responded identify as Democrats or lean Democrat. That means Clinton is losing seven percentage points from LGBT voters within her party when Johnson and Stein are offered.

The LGBT voting community is not large. They accounted for seven percent of this total voting sample. But given how close the polls are now, that's enough to swing an election outcome.

Australians Probably Won’t Have Public Vote on Recognizing Gay Marriages

Fri, 26 Aug 2016 16:15:00 -0400

(image) It appears as though Australians will not be heading to the polls to decide whether the government should recognize marriages between same-sex partners after all. In this case, parties on the left are blocking the public vote, which had been organized as a sort of compromise by conservatives who are part of the country's ruling Coalition and would not legislatively approve same-sex marriage.

But supporters of same-sex marriage in Australia don't want a public vote, though polls show that Australians overwhelmingly support recognition. They object to the cost of having an election for this issue (remember: voting in Australia is mandatory), and gay marriage proponents also oppose having a public vote on a human rights issue. But not a vote by lawmakers who represent the public. Go figure. (Well, I suppose you can't launch a campaign to boot your neighbors out afterward if you don't like how they voted.)

But that path to a Parliament vote is equally complicated, and The West Australian wonders if it might actually take several years more than to legalize it via lawmakers. The issue here is that Australia's Parliament is fragmented across several parties, and most votes are strictly enforced along party lines. The same reason that Australia's Parliament can't get approval for a public vote on gay marriage is essentially the same reason why it hasn't been able to get through the Parliament itself. There hasn't been a strong enough coalition between different groups.

David Leyonhjelm, Australia's libertarian (technically Liberal Democrat) senator, had been trying to push for a same-sex marriage vote in the Parliament. Under the previous government (they've had a change in prime ministers and a new parliamentary election since then), the only way to have gotten gay marriage through the Parliament would have been for the ruling political parties to permit their members to vote their consciences rather than a party line. Attempts to make that happen in the government's ruling Coalition (center-to-right Liberals and Nationalists) failed, and the Coalition's official stance on same-sex marriage was in opposition. So members of those parties in the Parliament were expected to vote against it. Ao it has not been pushed to a vote in the Parliament yet.

The new Parliament keeps the same ruling coalition in charge, so there's a new push on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to get lawmakers to actually vote (and obviously vote "yes"). Read more here.

Beyond Gay and Straight: New Paper Says Sexual Orientation Is Much More Complicated

Wed, 24 Aug 2016 14:35:00 -0400

Have you ever looked at "MILF" photos? Lusted after someone with "dad bod?" Congratulations, you might be a mesophiliac! "Mesophilia"—a sexual attraction to middle-aged adults—is one of dozens of potential sexual-orientations explored in a new paper from forensic psychologist Michael Seto, an associate professor at the University of Toronto and director of forensic rehabilitation research at the Royal Ottawa Health Care Group. Seto's research has long focused on sexuality, especially the psychology of sex offenders and of pedophiles. In his latest paper, published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, Seto returns to and expands upon "the idea that pedophilia, a sexual interest in prepubescent children, can be considered a sexual orientation for age, in conjunction with the much more widely acknowledged and discussed sexual orientation for gender." The gendered direction of attraction is usually what we mean when we talk about sexual orientation: are you gay? straight? bisexual? But a burgeoning idea among sex researchers and psychologists is that this defines things too narrowly. As Jesse Singal explains at New York mag, "given the current scientific understanding of what sexual orientation is — that it is a deep-seated attraction toward certain sorts of people that first manifests itself around puberty, tends to be stable across the lifespan, and can't be altered by any intentional means — there's compelling reason to think gender is just one piece of a bigger, more complex puzzle." Even the gender dimension is more complex than most realize, writes Seto, with some people "attracted to gynandromorphs, that is... individuals with physical features of both sexes ... other individuals who are attracted specifically to transgender people, and those who would describe themselves as more pansexual with regard to gender, for example, being attracted to both cis- and trans-gender women or men." According to Seto—who defines sexual orientation as "essential aspects of one's sexuality that organize sexual attention, sexual response, and sexual behavior"—all of us have "multiple sexual orientations, rather than a single sexual orientation, across a variety of different dimensions." In his paper, Seto looks at seven chronophilias—orientations where sexual attraction hinges on age—and various paraphilias, the term given to sexual desires such as sadism, masochism, and exhibitionism. After gender, the second most-studied dimension for sexual attraction has been age. The vast majority of people are teleiophilic—that is, preferring sexually mature but pre-middle-age adults. For men, data indicates that around one percent are pedophilic (attracted to prepubescent children), notes Seto, while nepiophilia (attraction to infants and toddlers) is much more rare and hebephilia (attraction to children around ages 11-14) and ephebophilia (attraction to adolescents) both more common. Good estimates are hard to come by, however, as "little is known about noncriminal variations in age interests" and most of the research that does exist is exclusive to men. Sexual orientations are thought to be innate—i.e., a person can't choose to stop getting turned-on by feet or dominance or dad-bod anymore than they can choose to stop sexually reacting as they do to the opposite or same sex. This tends to alarm folks who think that calling something natural is to condone anything it inspires. But psychopathy and sociopathy are innate, or natural, too. The born-this-way element of sexual orientation doesn't mean that acting on an orientation is OK when it conflicts with other moral or social norms we've nurtured. Likewise, sexual orientations are psychologically neutral, notes Seto—that is, having an unusual orientation isn't, in itself, enough to raise mental-health concerns. But any particular sexual orientation might rise to the level of disorder if it causes someone severe distress or inhibits normal sexual functioning. Aside f[...]

Prepare for This Study on the Misuse of Science on LGBT Issues to Be Misused

Wed, 24 Aug 2016 12:35:00 -0400

When you find yourselves turning to the lyrics of a Lady Gaga song as evidence of a widespread "myth" about scientific research, maybe take a step back for a moment and reconsider your angle, The New Atlantis is a journal about science published by the conservative Ethics and Public Policy Center. It's not a peer-reviewed science journal—it's an opinion journal about science. Don't take this as criticism—we're not hypocrites. We write opinion pieces frequently that are informed by science but are also intended to push forward liberty-minded policies. They have a brand new journal out getting attention in conservative circles that purports to provide "the most up-to-date explanation of many of the most rigorous findings produced by the biological, physiological, and social sciences related to sexual orientation and gender identity." What this report is really about is pointing out how many theories about sexual orientation and gender identity are exactly that—theories. Lady Gaga's song "Born This Way," is invoked early on in the study as an example of pushing a theory that sexual orientation is innate and that the science on the matter is settled when it is not. Essentially, what this "Sexuality and Gender" report is intended to do is increase an emphasis on the ambiguity of the research to help push against public policies that want to treat everything about sexuality and gender identity as "settled science." The reality, though, is that much of what is in the report is not in any way, shape, or form "debunking" any "myths," as David French puts it at the National Review, because while some people may believe sexuality is innate, the science has been fairly consistent in saying the reasons currently remain inconclusive. (And since we don't have a scientifically confirmed explanation of where sexual orientation comes from, nothing has even been "debunked.") In fact, here's how the American Psychological Association (APA) itself responds to the question "What causes a person to have a particular sexual orientation?" There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay or lesbian orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles; most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation. That the APA doesn't classify homosexuality as a "mental illness" any longer and opposes efforts by therapists to change people's sexual orientation does not mean that the APA has concluded that sexual orientation is inherent or unchanging. The New Atlantis study also puts out these nuggets: Members of the non-heterosexual population are estimated to have about 1.5 times higher risk of experiencing anxiety disorders than members of the heterosexual population, as well as roughly double the risk of depression, 1.5 times the risk of substance abuse, and nearly 2.5 times the risk of suicide. Members of the transgender population are also at higher risk of a variety of mental health problems compared to members of the non-transgender population. Especially alarmingly, the rate of lifetime suicide attempts across all ages of transgender individuals is estimated at 41%, compared to under 5% in the overall U.S. population. What's fascinating about tossing out these numbers is that, first of all, they have nothing to do with the legitimacy of non-heterosexual orientations on gender identity. It's information intended to cast doubt on the state of minds of gay and transgender people without actually establishing a correlation. (To the study's credit, it does acknowledge the evidence that discrimination and social stigmas aga[...]

Could Gary Johnson Grab LGBT Voters from Clinton, Trump?

Wed, 17 Aug 2016 15:35:00 -0400

It may seem as though the Democrats will own a dominant chunk of the gay vote this election (again), regardless of the small—but symbolically significant—pushes by the Republican Party to be more friendly and supportive of the community, even if policy goals don't align. Mark Lee is an opinion columnist at the Washington Blade, an LGBT-targeted publication in the nation's capital. He has been writing about the growing discontent with the two major parties and is questioning whether Hillary Clinton will get the same level of the gay vote as previous Democratic candidates have received. Lee doesn't really have facts at the moment to back him up, but given that Clinton has such high unfavorable ratings, it is worth wondering how many gay voters might be looking elsewhere: Similar to all Americans, one-quarter of LGBT voters indicate they don't support either major party nominee. The high degree of dissatisfaction with both of these notorious grifters has the net effect of lowering Clinton's tally of LGBT votes. An astounding 41 percent of Americans have recently said they are having difficulty choosing between Clinton and Trump because they believe neither would make a good president. LGBT voters are undoubtedly among them. When given the option, 13 percent told a polling firm aligned with Democrats they'd prefer a giant meteor hitting earth than being forced to chose either Clinton or Trump. The disaffected among those under 30 represents a plurality. With the largest bloc of voters now self-identifying as independents, more than a quarter of the unaffiliated would chose annihilation. A poll of LGBT likely voters back in May showed overwhelming support of Clinton compared to Trump: 84 percent to 16 percent. Right now those numbers show Clinton performing better than Barack Obama did in 2012 with the LGBT vote. Exit polls from 2012 showed Obama getting 77 percent of the LGBT vote and Mitt Romney getting 23 percent. But also of interest in the Clinton-Trump poll: Those polled were not presented any third-party options, and 22 percent of the LGBT voters polled identify as "independent" (outnumbering the 15 percent that identify as Republican). Given Gov. Gary Johnson's pro-gay positions (some of which are subject to libertarian criticism because Johnson simply hasn't made good arguments justifying further government intrusion that reduces religious liberty and freedom of association—and for many libertarians, these policies are a violation of the non-aggression principle), there's certainly opportunity for him to land some of the LGBT vote. Clinton's still deeply disliked—a new poll by YouGov puts her unfavorable ratings at 55 percent. She's still less detested than Trump—his unfavorables are at 66 percent. But what's also different about this race is that Clinton has jumped aboard and declared support for every single political goal put forward by the most powerful of LGBT activist groups. This is not an election where there's been any equivocation or attempts to walk some line to appeal to more conservative, religious Democrats in Southern states. Clinton has publicized a pro-LGBT federal policy agenda that supports passage of a whole host of new laws. So to the extent that she loses LGBT votes, it seems as though the likely candidates are: Those who put other priorities ahead of LGBT issues and find the Dems wanting (essentially, likely the same pool of gay voters who have already been turning away from the Democrats); those who have concluded that we've reached the point where don't actually need additional federal regulations on LGBT issues in order to lead happy, free lives (that's guys like me, but I admittedly may be overestimating how many of us fit in this category); and those who really, really don't trust Clinton based on her background of, well, not being very trustworthy. When I look at those categories, I suspect we may not see a signific[...]

In California, with No Real Opposition Left, LGBT Activists Target Religious Colleges

Tue, 09 Aug 2016 15:30:00 -0400

Let's start with the understanding that the government should neither be funding nor meddling with religious colleges at all. (We will pause for a moment for some readers to yell that that the government shouldn't be funding any colleges, religious or secular). But they do. They have for a long time and they will continue to do so. So before talking about the circumstances and rules through which the government funds and sets rules for religious colleges, we will have to acknowledge the current environment. As religious institutions, these colleges are able to receive federal exemptions from complying with some nondiscrimination laws that contradict church teachings. California lawmakers are targeting these exemptions with a bill that will meddle with religious schools over whatever rules they might have that allow them to engage in some types of discrimination. To be more specific: SB 1146 is looking to find ways to punish religious schools that are not on board with accepting sexually active gay students, gay marriage, and transgender students. There was a bill proposed that flat-out cut state grants going to schools that engaged in such discrimination. This bill has been held in committee since May. SB 1146 is different and a bit more subtle, but still puts the state in position of meddling with religious schools. It requires that any religious school that seeks an exemption from state or federal discrimination laws to make all that information available publicly, so the state can put together an online list of colleges that have gotten the exemption. The bill furthermore declares that colleges that receive funding from the state can be privately sued for violating the state's non-discrimination laws. It states that religious schools that have sex-segregated housing and restrooms must accommodate the selected gender identities of students. The schools may enforce religious-based practices as long as they equally apply to students regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. There are very narrow exemptions for schools that exist solely for the purpose teaching the propagation of a particular religion (like seminaries), and institutions that have previously been admitting students of one sex may continue to do so. The push for these new rules are not coming from within the church. They're come from LGBT organizations yanking around the dimensions of the Overton Window to interfere further and further with private religious practices they find detestable. The executive director of Equality California, which is pushing the bill, told NBC it was "about discrimination." But it's about discrimination based on a religion's clearly defined beliefs, which themselves are protected by the First Amendment. And in contrast to the kind of widespread discriminatory behavior that has inspired civil rights movements, we're talking about a small number of colleges with a specific population that has chosen to be there. In NBC's reporting, one student actually worried about the bill because she chose to go to a religious college to "integrate [her] faith in [her] major." For those who are not interested in living under the rules of the religions that have brought these colleges into existence in the first place, California has no dearth of options. California is not a state where students have trouble finding colleges to attend. In a response from the Los Angeles Archdiocese, Archbishop Jose Gomez and Bishop Charles Blake note "It is important to remember that no one is compelled to attend a private religious college or university. Those who do so make a deliberate decision because they are seeking an academic environment and community in which they can live, learn and serve with others who share their beliefs, values and aspirations." This bill feels like nothing so much as activism that can't acknowledge that it has won the day and relax [...]

Gary Johnson’s Religious Freedom Position Needs Some Critical Analysis

Fri, 29 Jul 2016 12:15:00 -0400

Over at the Washington Examiner, Tim Carney, managed a few minutes to chat with Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gov. Gary Johnson while at this week's Democratic National Convention. The chat focused on two issues of importance to more socially conservative libertarians—religious freedom rights and abortion. On religious freedom, Johnson is staying true to his position against allowing religious-based exemptions to discrimination laws, which has earned him the ire of not a few libertarians. In Carney's conversation with him, what feels very clear is that Johnson feels strongly about his position, but hasn't really analyzed the complexity of the issue nearly enough: Do you think New Mexico was right to fine the photographer for not photographing the gay wedding? "Look. Here's the issue. You've narrowly defined this. But if we allow for discrimination — if we pass a law that allows for discrimination on the basis of religion — literally, we're gonna open up a can of worms when it come stop discrimination of all forms, starting with Muslims … who knows. You're narrowly looking at a situation where if you broaden that, I just tell you — on the basis of religious freedom, being able to discriminate — something that is currently not allowed — discrimination will exist in places we never dreamed of." Can the current federal [Religious Freedom Restoration Act] be applied to protect things like the wedding photographer and the Little Sisters of the Poor? "The problem is I don't think you can cut out a little chunk there. I think what you're going to end up doing is open up a plethora of discrimination that you never believed could exist. And it'll start with Muslims." A host of responses to this rather simplistic take on what is a complicated issue: Formulating laws and regulations based on the "precautionary principle" is bad in general, but it's particularly bad when discussing the limits of liberty. To the extent that the law restricts a liberty, like freedom of religious expression and freedom of association, it needs to be tied to widespread harms that actually occur, not on a fear of what might happen. Johnson is essentially making the same kind of argument that drug warriors make. We can't legalize marijuana because it might lead users to harder drugs. Or people will get behind the wheel stoned and cause accidents. These arguments have not been based on factual analysis but on a fear of what might happen. Undoubtedly there is animosity against Muslim citizens and they may face additional discrimination and rejection in the current environment. But Johnson has failed to provide evidence that the slippery slope he suggests here will actually happen, will be widespread, and will require government intervention to fix. The public accommodation laws of the Civil Rights Act are actually rather narrowly defined based on the types of widespread and coordinated discrimination minorities were actually facing at the time. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) is simply not blanket permission to discriminate on the basis of one's beliefs. This seems to elude Johnson. The RFRA is a method of defense against government accusations of legal or civil violations by claiming that one's religious practices run counter to the law. The government then must make a case that the law furthers a valid government interest and that forcing people to comply with the law is the least intrusive way they can further that interest. So the government needs to argue it has a legitimate need to make people comply with the law, despite religious beliefs. In the Little Sisters of the Poor case, which was about whether a religious organization could be forced to cover the costs of contraception for female workers, the Supreme Court kicked the case down to lower courts to see if there was a way for the government [...]

GOP's Overall Message to LGBTs: We Don’t Actually Want You Dead, Okay?

Fri, 22 Jul 2016 11:45:00 -0400

PayPal's Peter Thiel's self-identification as a proud gay man during his speech at the Republican National Convention is getting a lot of media attention, as it should. Though the RNC has had openly gay speakers before, this was the first time a speaker made reference to his own non-heterosexual identity. When accepting the nomination for president, Donald Trump also made reference to the gay and transgender community. He referenced the Orlando attack on a gay bar that killed 49 people, noting that the killer targeted the "LGBTQ community." Trump said that was "no good" and that he "would stop it." This prompted cheers from the audience, and he continued that he would do everything within his power to protect LGBTQ folks from violence and the "hateful oppression" of radical Islam. This prompted another round of cheers, and Trump went off-script for a moment to say "As a Republican, it's so nice to hear you cheering for what I just said." This has been characterized as a sign of advancement for the Republican Party in some fashion, but is it really something new for the Republican Party to say they don't want gay Americans to be murdered? Certainly the left would love to characterize the party that way, but for those of us who see ourselves independent of party ties, is this an actual shift in the party or something that was simply expected? It's hard not to feel cynical about the invocations given that they're tied primarily to encourage a focus on a foreign policy on how to fight Islamic terrorism and no indication of any domestic policy shifts at home. The official platform of the party has stubbornly refused reforms, continuing to reject same-sex marriage recognition, attempting to classify it as a state-level issue, yet still calling for federal policies to encourage stable families. The platform has taken a stand against federal demands that schools accommodate transgender students. Thiel described the transgender bathroom panic behavior as a "distraction," but did so in such a vague way that it's not clear whether he thinks state-level laws like those in North Carolina are bad or whether he thinks people just shouldn't get upset about it. It's easy to be dismissive of lawmaking as a "distraction" when it involves regulations that aren't likely to affect you. Taken holistically, the message from the GOP seems to be "Hey, at least we don't want to kill you! Radical Islam and Muslim-dominated countries want to kill you, but we don't." Well … thanks? I acknowledge I may be an outlier in my lack of warm feelings over how gay issues have been referenced at the convention, at least from the perspective as a libertarian gay man who is not a leftist or Democrat. Stephen Miller, over at the Independent Gay Forum's Culture Watch, sees the invocation of the gay community in speeches at the convention as a "dramatic change from the past" (he's nevertheless voting for Gary Johnson). ABC News tracked down a Trump supporter on the convention floor who was moved to tears by Trump's reference because she has a married gay son. And the lack of actual platform shift is particularly disappointing because next week, when the Democratic Party has its convention, I know full well they're going to be running so far in the other direction I'll end up frustrated for completely different reasons. Hillary Clinton is openly calling for a raft of new federal laws to address any sort of concerns raised by anybody who is gay or transgender. I noted previously that her pursuit of the gay vote calls for six new federal laws, a whole host of regulations that can be used by the government to punish citizens for refusing to make gay wedding cakes or refusing to offer adoption services to gay couples. I find such expansion of regulation oppressive to a culture that has navigated slowly but surely in the dir[...]

Quiet Liberal Victories at the Republican Convention

Thu, 21 Jul 2016 15:25:00 -0400

If you want to see how far along a social transformation has gone, you'll learn more by paying attention to the things conservatives accept than the things radicals propose. When Pat Buchanan spoke at the Republican national convention in 1992, his address was received—rightly—as a thumping culture-war broadside. But consider this passage from it: Then there was the legal secretary that I met at the Manchester airport on Christmas Day who came running up to me and said, "Mr. Buchanan, I'm going to vote for you." And then she broke down weeping, and she said, "I've lost my job; I don't have any money, and they're going to take away my little girl. What am I going to do?" My friends, these people are our people. They don't read Adam Smith or Edmund Burke, but they come from the same schoolyards and the same playgrounds and towns as we came from. They share our beliefs and our convictions, our hopes and our dreams. These are the conservatives of the heart. Working mothers once were met with widespread disapproval. But by 1992, a fiery jeremiad by the year's most prominent social conservative could casually complain that a mom had lost her job, and then embrace her as a "conservative of the heart." Not because Buchanan was some sort of closet feminist, but because this was a battle the feminists had won. As I've watched this year's GOP's convention, I've been listening for little moments like that—quiet signs that what once was unusual is now acceptable. And I've found them. Take Michelle Van Etten, the multi-level marketer who spoke last night on behalf of Women in Business for Trump. At one point, she recalled her 20th high school reunion: The girls I went to school with, they were driving BMWs and they looked like Barbie. I was 30 pounds overweight, a stay-at-home mom, and driving a minivan. I decided at that point I needed a change, and I began to dream again. (applause) I took a leap of faith and decided to open up my own home-based business. And what I realized, when you go after a dream, you are gonna have to learn how to fail forward and never quit. (applause) I also learned that I had to level up to become the type of person I wanted in my business. After two years, I was able to retire my husband after 28 years in the DOD. Today, my husband, he stays at home with our children and he homeschools them, because I will not subject them to Common Core. (big applause) So here we have not just a working mother, but one who resented her old status as a stay-at-home mom—and who now is married to a stay-at-home dad. And no one seemed to blink at what once would have been an avant-garde way to organize the household. Instead they whooped it up in shared revulsion for Common Core. Then there was this moment in Ted Cruz's speech: Freedom means religious freedom, whether you are Christian or Jew, Muslim or atheist. Whether you are gay or straight, the Bill of Rights protects the rights of all of us to live according to our conscience. That got a huge amount of applause, as you'd expect from a socially conservative crowd. The underlying idea, after all, was that people with religious objections to gay marriage should not be compelled to participate in same-sex marriage ceremonies. But think about that sentence: "Whether you are gay or straight, the Bill of Rights protects the rights of all of us to live according to our conscience." There was a time when you wouldn't expect a major presidential candidate in either party to allude favorably to gay people's freedom of conscience. Now a leader of the Republicans' conservative wing wasn't thinking twice about it. You measure social change by watching where conservatives draw the line. And gradually, outside the spotlight, that line keeps quietly moving.[...]

Caitlyn Jenner Urges GOP Tolerance on LGBT Issues

Wed, 20 Jul 2016 16:35:00 -0400

At a special event adjacent to, but not exactly at, the Republican National Convention today, Caitlyn Jenner made it clear today that she still sees herself a Republican, but pushed the party to improve its positions on gay and transgender issues. Jenner (along with talk show host Montel Williams) participated in a "Big Tent Brunch" sponsored by the American Unity Fund. The American Unity Fund is a non-profit group that supports LGBT causes on behalf of friendly conservatives and Republicans. The event today served as pushback against a party platform that seems to have grown more explicitly opposed to accommodating LGBT concerns. Jenner, of course, was asked to weigh in on transgender issues and the fact that the GOP platform has openly taken a position against transgender accommodation in bathrooms and locker room facilities in public schools as "at once illegal, dangerous, and ignores privacy issues." Jenner responded that everybody wants "safety in the bathrooms" but pointed out that there are already laws that exist to protect people from being victimized or having their privacy violated while using public facility. The reason this conflict is developing now is because transgender youths are now starting to self-identify earlier. That's leading to new types of bullying and "a terrible suicide rate of young kids." As such, she opposed the kind of legislation passed in North Carolina that requires transgender people to use the public school and government facilities that match the sex listed on birth certificates (private facilities are free to accommodate transgender people as they wish). "Now the state of North Carolina is gonna come in and bully you, too," she said. She noted that she's been using women's restrooms for the past year and a half and has had no troubles and felt as though states were making new laws for a "non-issue." The idea of policing who may go in which bathroom may seem inherently absurd and unenforceable, and insight on a lawsuit against a Wisconsin school district shows exactly how bonkers it gets when school officials decide to step in. According to The Daily Beast, the school district stands accused of ordering transgender students to wear bright green wristbands so that officials could observe and enforce making the students either use a single-occupancy restroom or the restroom of the student's birth sex. The family has filed a federal Title IX lawsuit against the school district. While Milo Yiannopoulos may have been keeping his name in the limelight trying to get gay conservatives on board for Donald Trump, the Log Cabin Republicans, the best-known group for LGBT conservatives, actually put out a full-page ad in USA Today slamming the Republican Party for what they describe as "the most anti-LGBT platform the Republican Party has ever had." Watch Jenner's speech below: src="" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="340" frameborder="0">[...]

RNC Platform Opposes Gay Marriage Recognition While Making Case for It

Mon, 18 Jul 2016 19:35:00 -0400

The 2016 Republican National Convention Party platform is out, folks, and has a lot to say. As Reason previously noted, internal efforts to try to moderate the party's platform on gay and transgender issues failed, and if anything, what is in the 2016 platform feels just even more aggressively opposed to whatever is currently being pushed within the LGBT agenda. I would like to highlight the platform's positions on gay marriage recognition because I want to make an important point: This platform is not promoting the libertarian "get government out of marriage entirely" concept in any way, shape, or form. The platform very much wants the federal government to be involved in marriages, until federal officials do something they don't like. On page 11, the platform has a whole short section titled "Defending Marriage Against an Activist Judiciary." The section describes the Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges to mandate same-sex marriage recognition across the country as "lawless," and that it robbed "320 million Americans of their legitimate constitutional authority to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman." Note the strange wording on that sentence there that assumes a certain outcome (and also includes children among the number of people who would be voting, but anyway). The platform calls for the ruling to be overturned and to leave the matter to the states. So one might think logically, consistently, this would be a platform that opposes federal involvement in policies related to marriage, wouldn't one? Federal government is currently deeply involved in policies and benefits that are connected to whether participants are married or not. But no, the RNC platform is fine with federal involvement in marriage to extent that it validates their positions on what a marriage should be. On page 31, the platform begins a lengthy segment on "Marriage, Family, and Society." It declares "natural marriage" to be between a man and a woman, but then goes on to talk about all the important regulations and policies that should be focused on encouraging stable families: "Its daily lessons — cooperation, patience, mutual respect, responsibility, self-reliance — are fundamental to the order and progress of our Republic. Strong families, depending upon God and one another, advance the cause of liberty by lessening the need for government in their daily lives. Conversely, as we have learned over the last five decades, the loss of faith and family life leads to greater dependence upon government. That is why Republicans formulate public policy, from taxation to education, from healthcare to welfare, with attention to the needs and strengths of the family." It goes on a little further: Children raised in a two-parent household tend to be physically and emotionally healthier, more likely to do well in school, less likely to use drugs and alcohol, engage in crime or become pregnant outside of marriage. We oppose policies and laws that create a financial incentive for or encourage cohabitation. Moreover, marriage remains the greatest antidote to child poverty. The 40 percent of children who now are born outside of marriage are five times more likely to live in poverty than youngsters born and raised by a mother and father in the home. Nearly three-quarters of the $450 billion government annually spends on welfare goes to single-parent households. This is what it takes for a governmental village to raise a child, and the village is doing a tragically poor job of it. Remarkably, after presenting all this evidence that married households are more stable and benefit children, the platform immediately pivots and declares that this is all evidence that the government should only recognize heteros[...]

LGBT History Education Coming to Calif. Schools

Fri, 15 Jul 2016 16:15:00 -0400

(image) Special pleading or valuable knowledge about America's history? Or is that a false choice? Can we acknowledge that legal and cultural conflicts about how to treat gay and lesbian citizens are an important and teachable part of modern American history while still maybe rolling our eyes a little bit at the lobbying to force it into public schools?

On the one hand, public schools are struggling to teach the kinds of things students really need to make their way in the world. On the other hand, these issues are still heavily influencing the platforms for both the Democratic and Republican parties. To not teach about the history of current political movements that have shown lasting presence is itself a form of pandering to a particular mindset.

California has decided it's going to incorporate gay and lesbian issues into history and sociology education. Legislators already passed a law to mandate more inclusion in education all the way back in 2012. Now they're figuring out how. Ah, the speed of public education. The Los Angeles Times notes:

LGBT content will be included in some elementary, middle and high school grades. In fourth grade, for example, students would learn about "the emergence of the nation's first gay rights organizations in the 1950s," the framework states, as well as struggles in California from the 1970s to the present day to affirm the right of gay people to teach and to get married.

Equality California, an LGBT advocacy group, issued a statement praising the move, saying the new framework more accurately represents figures important to the LGBT movement.

The new guidelines, the group added, now better captures "essential moments in the struggle for equality, and the evolution of communities and identities." Equality California said a more inclusive curriculum will make LGBT students more comfortable in school.

That at the end from Equality California is where the feeling of special pleading comes in. The goal should be for students of all types to understand history and how it got them to where they are now. That it makes students "more comfortable" shouldn't be a goal of the education process. It's a positive outcome—a side effect. In fact, I would argue that truly accurate teaching of gay political history should at some points cause the opposite. It was not "comfortable" living through some of this stuff.

As an unintentionally amusing footnote, the L.A. Times notes that the new framework for adding more subjects to education includes "financial literacy," in a state school system that is hungrily devouring taxpayer dollars in order to pay for massively growing pension debts. On the fall ballot in November will be a vote to extend a temporary tax increase that was supposed to have fixed state budget issues.

Brickbat: Freedom of Religion

Fri, 08 Jul 2016 04:00:00 -0400

(image) The Ontario Court of Appeal, the province's highest court, has upheld the decision by the Law Society of Upper Canada not to accredit a Christian university's law school. The court found that Trinity Western University's "community covenant," which bars students from having sex outside heterosexual marriage, discriminates against gays and lesbians. The ruling means that Trinity Western law graduates may not take the bar exam to practice in Ontario.