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Gay/Lesbian Issues

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Published: Mon, 16 Jan 2017 00:00:00 -0500

Last Build Date: Mon, 16 Jan 2017 20:12:33 -0500


Worst Bathroom Bill Ever: Alabama Law Would Mandate Attendants in Public Restrooms

Mon, 09 Jan 2017 15:05:00 -0500

(image) Talk about a race to the bottom.

Legislators in the great state of Alabama are moving swiftly to protect the safety of people using public restrooms.

Senator Phil Williams will introduce the Alabama Privacy Act, according to our news partners at

The bill will require bathrooms and changing rooms to either be exclusive to one gender or open to all genders. Bathrooms that are open to all genders must be staffed by an attendant at all times.

According to the bill, any public institution the leaves bathrooms unattended could be hit with fines ranging from $2,000 to $3,500 and face potential lawsuits.

So it's not just a hysterical reaction to the nonexistent threat of men dressing up as women to gain entry to bathrooms because, come on, perversion, right? It's also a jobs program! Needless to say, State Sen. Phil Williams defines himself as a "conservative Republican."

Read the full text of the proposed legislation here.

The Daily Caller notes that it's not just Alabama (and before it, North Carolina) that's wrangling with bathroom bills. Texas' Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, writes Amber Randall, is dropping knowledge like he just had lunch at What-A-Burger:

"If laws are passed by cities and counties and school districts allow men to go into a bathroom because of the way they feel, we will not be able to stop sexual predators from taking advantage of that law, like sexual predators take advantage of the internet," Patrick explained."

Virginia, too, is prepping a bathroom bill, because it's important to deal with non-issues rather than, say, balance state budgets or rein in public pensions.

Because we don't actually live in a completely post-fact world yet, it's worth underscoring that non-discrimination ordinances (NDOs) have been in place for years in various jurisdictions and led to no uptick in bathroom crimes.

HT: The Twitter feed of former Reasoner and current Wash Poster Radley Balko.

Note on image: Curt Schilling was an excellent baseball pitcher and a generally terrible human being and game designer who cost Rhode Island taxpayers on the order of $50 million.

Related video: How To Share a Bathroom with a Trans Person in 4 Easy Steps.

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Compromise Kills Two Bad Trans-Related Laws in North Carolina

Tue, 20 Dec 2016 12:42:00 -0500

The saga of North Carolina's House Bill 2 appears to be coming to a close. HB2 drew national attention, courted controversy and boycotts, and quite possibly contributed to both N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory's defeat at the polls and—paradoxically—Donald Trump's victory. HB2 was most famous for mandating that people in public schools and government buildings use the bathrooms and any gendered facilities as the sex listed on their birth certificates, blocking them from accommodating many transgender people. The law also forbid cities from either raising minimum wages above those the state mandated and also forbid cities from adding their own protected categories to anti-discrimination laws. The state law was a direct response to outrage from conservatives over Charlotte's City Council adding sexual orientation and gender identity to all its antidiscrimination laws. This included public accommodation laws, meaning both public and private entities would be obligated to allow transgender people to use the facilities of their chosen sex. Thus came the great transgender bathroom panic of 2016, also fed by pushes from the Departments of Justice and Education to require all schools across the country to provide similar accommodations. On Monday, in the spirit of compromise, Charlotte's City Council rescinded its additions to its antidiscrimination laws. And now McCrory has responded by calling for a special session of the state's legislature to strike down HB2. So in the end, everything will be back the way it was at the start, like your average sit-com. (McCrory is complaining that the way Charlotte immediately folded after he was ousted is proof that the true goal was to get rid of him.) The outcome will be that neither Charlotte nor the state of North Carolina as a whole offer protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Note that—as I have corrected bad reporting previously—eliminating HB2 does nothing to actually add LGBT protections. In fact, the state could have added LGBT protections to antidiscrimination laws and keep HB2 intact. But that's a whole different issue. Both Charlotte's ordinance additions and HB2's mandates were bad regulations that attempted use the law as a hammer in a culture war rather than carefully considering the personal liberties of all parties involved. A transgender person should be able to identify himself or herself to the government as he or she sees fit (assuming no effort to defraud the government or others). The purposes of things like birth certificates should be for us to tell the government who we are, not for the government to tell us who we are. As a legal and civil liberties matter, whether transgender is a "real thing" should not be relevant to our right to control our own identities. But to demand that private entities come along for the ride or face fines or shutdowns by government agencies denies those people the right to decide for themselves how much to accommodate others, and that has led to a massive backlash. There is little sign that the fear of predators posing as transgender people in order to target children or women is based on actual threats. But the rush to use the law to bypass the necessary cultural shifts to help transgender people achieve public acceptance got drawn into the tiresome "public correctness" fight that helped drive this election, and it didn't need to. There are signs that acceptance of transgender Americans is improving, bathroom conflicts aside. When you use the law to try to force agreement through threat of fines or force, the battle then becomes over who controls the law. And it assumes that there must be winners and losers and not a society where people work things out with each other through negotiation, debate, and influence.[...]

School Choice Can Help LGBT Students Deal with Hostile Environments

Tue, 20 Dec 2016 07:30:00 -0500

(image) School choice is not the enemy for gay and transgender students. People with an entrenched interest in maintaining the public school status quo are selling it as a threat, suggesting the idea of charter schools and vouchers is all just a trick to siphon education funding away to religious schools and evil, evil "for-profit" corporations. (Whether or not parents are happier with the educations their kids are getting there is irrelevant.)

It's not entirely clear what the landscape on LGBT issues and public schooling is going to look like under President-Elect Donald Trump. It's an exaggeration of describe Trump as "anti-gay," but it's definitely accurate to at least describe his secretary of education nominee Betsy DeVos as having a history connecting her to anti-gay activism. Members of the religious DeVos family don't just have a particular set of conservative views. Through their foundation, they've spent money on state-level efforts to block same-sex marriage recognition.

This doesn't necessarily mean that making life miserable for LGBT students is on DeVos' agenda. It does mean that her religious motives are being used to impugn school choice, and that's a shame. If school choice is for anybody, it's for students who don't fit into a "one-size fits all" education system, and that includes LGBT teens, particularly now that transgender people are coming out at a younger age.

For proof, head down to Atlanta. Reuters has a story about Pride School Atlanta, a private non-profit school focused on serving these students. It's the first of its kind down there and is not sitting around waiting for the federal government to create rules on how to treat its students. And more power to them:

At Pride School, where transgender students are the majority of its inaugural class, Josh Farabee, 14, feels comfortable showing off his spunky pink and lime hair and long mauve nails.

Under the gender-neutral restroom policy students voted for, he tried the men's restrooms but discovered he still prefers the women's.

The transgender student's days at the school are a far cry from his former public school, where classmates called him "tranny" and "fag."

"I don't wake up scared to go to school," he said.

One thing to note about Pride School Atlanta is that it's a private school, not a charter school, so it has a tuition. Imagine how great it would be for parents of LGBT kids if it were a charter school, and they were able to send their children to a positive school that was funded from the tax dollars they have to contribute into the education systems.

That's why it's so important not to allow the idea that school choice is just for the right people (white religious folks) to control the debate. Charter schools are a boon for poor minorities in urban environments and parents love them.

Parents should not have to rely on the hospitality of the president or whoever is in charge on the federal level to determine whether their children are treated right. School choice will give parents the power to put kids in schools that treat their students well and punish those that do not.

Brickbat: Love Wins

Fri, 16 Dec 2016 04:00:00 -0500

(image) The Illinois Human Rights Commission has upheld an $80,000 judgement against the Christian owners of a bed and breakfast who refused to host a gay wedding. An attorney for owners of the Timber Creek Bed & Breakfast says they have never hosted civil union ceremonies or gay weddings and do not plan to do so despite the ruling against them.

Pittsburgh Bans Conversion Therapy for Minors. Is It Professional Regulation or Censorship? (Or Both!)

Thu, 15 Dec 2016 14:05:00 -0500

Pittsburgh has joined a handful of states and other cities this week by legislatively banning the professional practice of conversion therapy for minors—that's counseling that seeks or claims to cure gay people of their homosexuality or transgender people of their feelings of being the opposite sex. The practice is widely discredited by professional counseling and mental health organizations. Not only does it probably not work, many therapists believe it is actively harmful to the mental health of its subject. In America, it's heavily tied to religious efforts to cure followers of unwanted sexual urges, and it is often (but not always) pushed on teens by the parents. I have been—and remain—a critic of these laws, not because I support conversion therapy (I agree with the mental health experts completely), but because I'm very concerned about the consequences of government control over subjective psychological treatments that are significantly speech-related. This law tells licensed therapists in Pittsburgh that they literally cannot talk to minor patients about a particular subject. There are a couple of indicators that government is well aware that they're regulating and censoring speech, even as they insist it's about stopping fraud. First of all, the law (as the other laws have been passed) only covers minors. The argument is that the treatment is fraudulent and dangerous, but if adults want to partake in it, go ahead. But minors often get put into conversion therapy against their will by parents and there are consent issues involved (a dynamic we occasionally see in other controversies where parents contradict medical professionals in the appropriate health treatments for children). Second, the law, like the others, only covers mental health professionals licensed by the state of Pennsylvania. They can't tell non-professionals that they can't talk with gay or transgender teens and tell them they can be "cured," because that would flat-out be censorship. As a result, this law can (and will) be ignored by church-based or religious-based conversion "therapy" treatment that is not provided by licensed professionals. Thus, the extent that this law really stops any actual conversion therapy taking place in Pittsburgh is not clear. But what it does do is establish a precedent of the government deciding what sort of discussions are legally legitimate by classifying it as "fraud" rather than speech and therefore open to regulation. And so far, the Christian Science Monitor notes, federal judges have deferred to the argument that these laws are regulating professions, not censoring free speech. Their piece also quotes from my previous criticism of these laws as using government regulation to provide scientific certainty to a social science field that is ever-evolving. Is there a reason to actually care if it stops kids from being abused by their parents? Yes, because why stop there? If a government agency can declare by its authority that a controversial matter is actually "settled" as a legal and regulatory issue, imagine what that could potentially mean. You don't have to stretch too far. Heck, you don't even have to leave this site. A pack of attorneys general have colluded to target ExxonMobil, attempting to subpoena reams of correspondence between them and think tanks (among them, the Reason Foundation, which publishes this website). Their argument is that the debate and discussions about climate change was actual an organized attempt to defraud people and they're looking for evidence. Ron Bailey noted at the time: "It's bad enough to politicize science, but to outlaw disagreements over how to interpret science heads down the perilous path toward Lysenkoism, in which only officially approved science is allowed to be practiced and to be discussed." Is there a better way of handling the junk science of conversion therapy that doesn't violate free speech? Perhaps consider it an issue of informed consent inste[...]

Time to End Discrimination Against Gays?

Mon, 05 Dec 2016 00:01:00 -0500

On gay rights, America has come a great distance in a short time. Remember the days, not so long ago, that gays stayed in the closet, sodomy was a crime, same-sex marriage was banned and people could be fired from their jobs because of their sexual orientation? Actually, you don't have to try to remember that last. It's still the case in 28 states, including Mike Pence's Indiana, that holding hands with your same-sex partner in public can mean losing your livelihood. A bigoted boss can cashier a good employee for loving someone of the wrong gender. This unprotected status is an anomaly under the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which forbids employment discrimination on the basis of "race, color, religion, sex, or national origin." African-Americans and other racial minorities are protected, Catholics and Muslims are protected, women are protected and immigrants are protected. Gays are not. Many libertarians, whose general principles I share, think the law is an intolerable infringement on contractual freedom. When Gary Johnson, the party's presidential nominee, said at the Libertarian Party's national convention in May that he would have voted for the 1964 Civil Rights Act, he was booed. But pretty much everyone else agrees that ship has sailed, as well it should have. The question now is not whether federal law should ban discrimination on the basis of certain criteria. It's merely which criteria deserve inclusion. On this issue, the public took the side of gays even before coming around on same-sex marriage. Most Americans think discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation should be illegal. Not only that, a 2015 survey by the Public Religion Research Institute found that 75 percent think it already is. A study by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law reported, "A majority of Americans in every U.S. congressional district support laws that protect against employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation." Such an expansion would make sense, because gays are similar to other minorities that have long been targets of hostility and mistreatment. But when the 1964 law was passed, no one was thinking of protecting gays, who were widely viewed with ignorant disgust. And a bill known as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act has been repeatedly introduced in Congress, to no avail. So federal law leaves gays out in the cold. Or does it? A lawsuit heard on Nov. 30 before the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago argues that the federal law against discrimination on the basis of sex should be interpreted to cover sexual orientation. Nearly all of the judges who asked questions appeared to find much merit in the argument. Frank Easterbrook, a renowned conservative appointed by Ronald Reagan, noted that in its 1967 decision in Loving v. Virginia, the Supreme Court struck down a law forbidding interracial marriage because it treated people of different races differently. A black woman could marry a black man but not a white man. She was penalized solely because of her race. In the gay rights case, community college teacher Kimberly Hively said she lost her job after she was seen kissing her female partner goodbye in the parking lot. Had she been seen kissing her male partner, she would not have lost her job. "Why isn't that sex discrimination by exactly the reasoning of Loving?" demanded Easterbrook. Hively allegedly suffered retribution not for having a female partner, which would be perfectly fine if she were a man, but for being a woman who has a female partner. How can that not qualify as sex discrimination? The obvious retort is that the lawmakers who approved the 1964 Civil Rights Act didn't mean to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and therefore it doesn't. But they also didn't set out to deter sexual harassment of men by men or to prevent the firing of women because they are perceived as unfeminine—both of which the Supreme Court has ruled il[...]

How Much Do We Still Need to Care if a Potential Cabinet Member Is Anti-Gay?

Tue, 22 Nov 2016 13:10:00 -0500

Georgia Republican Rep. Tom Price is being floated as one of President-Elect Donald Trump's likely picks to serve as secretary of Health and Human Services. It shouldn't come as a surprise (at least for people who know who Price is). Price, current head of the House Budget Committee, is a doctor and huge opponent of the Affordable Care Act as it exists. But Price is more than just somebody who doesn't like Obamacare—he's one of the Republicans responsible for actually putting together a substantive plan for reforms. Peter Suderman analyzed Price's ideas to repeal and replace Obamacare in a 2014 issue of Reason magazine. Price is also extremely conservative in just about every way—including holding socially conservative views opposing gay marriage and gay rights laws. Price regularly scores a zero on the Human Rights Campaign's scorecard evaluating legislators' votes on LGBT issues. He put out a statement after the Supreme Court mandated government recognition of same-sex marriages as "legislating from the bench" and "a sad day for marriage." He has previously supported a constitutional amendment defining marriage as being between one man and one woman. So his history of comments on LGBT issues has popped up on gay blogs and sites as a source of concern. But would his positions opposing gay marriage actually mean anything in office? Legal recognition is a settled matter. It seems unlikely he would be able to implement policies that, for example, assist families headed by a heterosexual couple but not gay ones. There is a quote from 2013 people are noticing that could be instructive. Price is no fan of LGBT folks, but he's also clearly a policy wonk. When asked by an antigay rabbi about whether the legislature should take into account the "health impact and economic impact" of "promoting" homosexuality, abortion, or pornography, he responded: The consequences of activity that has been seen as outside the norm are real and must be explored completely and in their entirety prior to moving forward with any social legislation that would alter things. I'm always struck by people who wake up one morning and think that they've got a grand new way of doing something when as you all know that the tried and true traditions in history that made us great are preserved and have survived because they are effective. I hear you, medical health and costs; you talk about a huge cost-driver to state pensions and other things, many of these areas would significantly alter state balance sheets. The quote is kind of fascinating in the sense that homosexuality, abortion, and pornography are hardly "new" and are part of those traditions of history that have survived because some people happen to be gay and lots of people love porn. Liberal elites aren't the only folks who live inside bubbles sometimes. But as for his concerns about the cost impact to state pensions and balances, I can only assume he's talking about what happens to benefits when states are legally required to recognize same-sex partners as beneficiaries. In that case, let's suggest that if it's too costly to treat couples equally under the law for these benefits, the problem then lies in the benefits themselves, not with equality. Given Price's interest in cost controls and reducing government spending, maybe that's something he should think about. There will likely be fights between the LGBT and a Price-run HHS in issues raging from whether transgender people can have treatments covered, access to the latest medicines that are showing to be increasingly successful in preventing the spread of HIV, and even the unending debate over how much to teach children about sexuality and/or abstinence. If anything, these examples show the problem with the government having so much control over what we do with our own bodies and how we do it. If we want government out of our bedrooms, we also need to stop demanding the govern[...]

Let’s Not Have an LGBT Panic over Trump’s Election

Mon, 14 Nov 2016 14:15:00 -0500

Because President-Elect Donald Trump has taken just about every conceivable possible position on gay and transgender issues, and because these LGBT issues played almost no role in how the election turned out, I've been reluctant to even speculate what might happen in a Trump administration. Others have been much less circumspect and are certain that Trump is going to be a disaster for LGBT issues. History suggests they would be saying that regardless of who the Republican nominee was, so it's helpful to recognize that this freakout would have happened if it had been Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, or probably any of the other GOP candidates except maybe John Kasich. The Republican Party did decide to maintain and even expand an anti-gay platform prior to the election despite the opportunity to move forward. All of this response is rather disconnected from what Trump actually has the power to accomplish when in office and what the public at large would actually stand for. Yes, Vice President-Elect Mike Pence has legitimately awful positions on gay and transgender issues, but that should not be taken as indicator of what can actually happen. After all, conservative Christians rallied voters to the polls in 2004 with the possibility of a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage recognition and that never happened or even got anywhere near where it was even a possibility. It did influence several state-level gay marriage bans. Fear was used to keep the LGBT vote strongly directed toward the Democrats. Clinton lost, but the fear remains, even though it's tied to not a whole lot but rhetoric. Walter Olson, Cato senior fellow and Reason contributing editor, took to the New York Post to actually analyze what's likely to happen under Trump and came away concluding that as president, he won't be rolling back gay rights. But LGBT groups may not succeed in pushing for even more federal oversight over private treatment of gay and transgender issues. Gay marriage recognition is safe (Trump said on 60 Minutes that he has no interest in trying to relitigate that fight). There's going to be no effort to reinstitute a ban on military service. But there's a couple of issues that Olson points out where I agree and would like to flesh out a little bit. Quoting Olson: The federal government will pull back from its ill-advised attempt to prescribe nationwide rules for school bathrooms and changing areas. Debates will continue at the state and local level, where public opinion will prove more amenable to workable compromise than one would guess from the loudest voices on both sides. Trump himself said in April he opposes the controversial North Carolina law on the issue that some social conservatives have championed. Organized LGBT groups will go on refusing to concede any legitimate role for religious exemptions in discrimination law, even in the operation of, say, church-affiliated colleges. They will therefore decline to enter any negotiations to amend or refine proposals like the so-called First Amendment Defense Act. That will, in turn, increase the danger that congressional Republicans will themselves overreach by enacting some version of such a proposal that is unfair or impractical. Right before the election, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case of a transgender teen fighting with a Virginia school board over the Department of Education's rule-making that schools must accommodate his request to use male facilities at school. The case, though, could end up really being about the process of federal rule-making and could avoid answering the actual question of whether the Obama administration's interpretation of the law is correct. The court could rule that the administration didn't properly implement policies, and then it could be up to the Trump administration to decide what to do next. But the worst-case scenario here would be that they decide not [...]

Democratic Lawmaker Calls for Boycott of Brewery for Supporting Trump

Fri, 28 Oct 2016 12:20:00 -0400

Meet Brian Sims, member of Pennsylvania's state House of Representatives and a Democrat. He gets a lot of attention nationally because he's also openly gay and an activist in the gay community. He's been serving in office since 2012. Now meet Dick Yuengling Jr., the elderly proprietor of Yuengling brewery in Pennsylvania. Donald Trump's son, Eric, visited the brewery on Monday and promoted it as a great business success, promising there would be more companies like it if his dad were president. Yuengling (the man, not the brewery) is a Trump supporter and told Eric, "Our guys are behind your father. We need him in there." Apparently that some people at a brewery support Trump as president has resulted in some outrage within the gay community, and this has led to a call for gay bars to dump Yuengling's beers as a protest. Sims is a loud proponent of such a boycott. He posted on Facebook: GOOD BYE, Yuengling Brewery: I'm not normally one to call for boycotts but I absolutely believe that how we spend our dollars is a reflection of our votes and our values! Supporting Yuengling Brewery, that uses my dollars to bolster a man, and an agenda, that wants to punish me for being a member of the LGBT community and punish the black and brown members of my community for not being white, is something I'm too smart and too grown up to do. D.G. Yuengling & Son, Inc. believes that an agenda that is anti-woman, anti-immigrant, anti-LGBT, anti-racial minority and anti-equality is best for them and that tells me all I need to know about what they think is best for their own customers. I won't reminisce about your product or lament any losses. Goodbye Yuengling and shame on you. Sincerely, A former customer of 17 years! Now, this initial post is simply Sims saying he's not buying Yuengling anymore because of the owner's politics, and, you know, there's nothing wrong with that. Many people have made choices like this. But a subsequent post took it to the next level and called on gay bars in the Philadelphia area to dump the beer. And because of Sims' position as an elected official, this call is getting media attention. Claire Sasko over at Philadelphia magazine notes that Dick Yuengling is a well-known conservative who holds conservative views and has been such for years, so Sims acting like he's just discovering the man's politics is a bit rich. If true, it kind of shows how unaware Sims is of his state's own political landscape. I've been critical of previous LGBT-centered boycott calls as misguided and ineffective (consider the absurd and pointless of boycott of Stolichnaya vodka in order to attempt to punish the Russian government for treating gay people there badly). We should be even more critical of this call from Sims. Sims is not just a gay activist. He is an elected official of the Democratic Party. He is calling for citizens to punish a business for supporting the presidential candidate of the political party that opposes him. He is not Dan Savage. He's an elected office-holder attempting to punish a supporter of another political party. He can couch it in terms of gay issues all he wants, but he is still calling for the economic harm of a man and a company over support of a Republican. This is grotesque and needs to be pushed back. This is an unhealthy attitude for a politician in a country that values free and open elections. The response from a Democratic politician to Trump's campaign should be to make a better case for Hillary Clinton, not to try to hurt citizens within his own state who support the Republican. Furthermore, this is an effort that can so clearly and obviously backfire terribly. A good, huge (yuuuuge!) chunk of Trump voters are motivated by the belief that they are victims and that politicians and bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., are "out to get them," to hurt them by handing their tax dollars[...]

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 pr[...]

Gary Johnson Getting Nearly as Many LGBT Voters as Trump

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

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, [...]

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 [...]