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LGBT rights

Legislation to Protect LGBT Workers Stalling Nationally

The International Business Times' Cole Stangler reports that 31 states in the U.S. don't have any legal protections for LGBT employees from being fired by their bosses. And things aren't getting better. "Less than a year after same-sex couples won marriage rights at the Supreme Court, and as public opinion becomes increasingly gay-friendly, efforts to extend workplace discrimination laws to LGBT people are struggling to gain traction across the country," Stangler reports.

Heather Cronk, co-director of GetEqual, a LGBT advocacy group, told Stangler that focusing on getting same-sex marriage imperiled the possibility of the success of antidiscrimination laws: "'Marriage was centered around these heteronormative stories that people could get into and identify with. With nondiscrimination, it’s a totally different ballgame.”'


Record Number of US Cities Protecting LGBT Rights

A record number of American cities have enacted efforts to protect LGBT rights, the Christian Science Monitor's Jessica Mendoza reports: "The Human Rights Campaign’s (HRC) 2015 Municipal Equality Indexfound that 32 million people now live in cities with explicit and comprehensive equal-rights policies." However, the report notes that protection from discrimination in employment and transgender rights still needs much, much more progress, Mendoza reports.

Citing 'God's Authority' Shaky Ground to Not Obey the Law, Experts Say

When Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis went to jail rather than issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, her argument that doing so would violate her religious beliefs highlighted the issue of whether people must obey the law and go against their religious faith.

The Washington Post's Robert Barnes and Katie Zezima report that legal experts said that Davis was on shaky ground in citing her religious beliefs when she was a public official pledged to uphold the law. No U.S. Supreme Court justice signaled disagreement with the decision not to take up Davis' appeal when she stopped issuing marriage licenses to both same-sex and opposite-sex couples.

Richard Garnett, a Notre Dame law professor who specializes in religion and the law, told the Post that appeals to morality are hard for a judge to assess considering same-sex couples feel that it is moral to have access to the right to marriage and religious opponents feel that it is immoral to allow same-sex matrimony.

Obama Proposes Plan to Ban Discrimination Against Transgender People in Health Care

President Obama's administration has proposed a plan to ban discrimination against transgender people in the health care system, the Associated Press reports. The regulations would expand "insurance coverage for gender transition and prohibit health care facilities from denying transgender people access to restrooms that match their individual gender identity." Public comment is being accepted until November 6, including on providing religious protections for healthcare providers.

Federal Judge: Alabama Judges Must Issue Same-Sex Marriage Licenses

As of this morning, U.S. District Judge Callie Granade has ordered all probate judges in Alabama to issue same-sex marriage licenses, NBC News' Pete Williams and Kathryn Robinson report.

Prior to the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling Friday that denying same-sex couples the right to marry is a constitutional violation, there was back-and-forth in Alabama on whether to issue same-sex marriage licenses. Granade overturned Alabama's ban on same-sex marriages, but Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore ordered probate judges not to issue licenses to same-sex couples.

Next Frontier in LGBT Rights: Fighting Bias in Jobs and Housing

The next frontier in civil rights for LGBT Americans will be fighting bias in jobs and housing, The New York Times' Erik Eckholm reports. Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized the right to marry as a civil right for gays and lesbians, many gay civil rights leaders are turning their attention to getting legal protections from discrimination by employers and in housing. The majority of states don't bar discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. However, religious conservatives are concerned that such laws will be used to force people to violate their religious beliefs, such as having to hire gays and lesbians in church-related jobs, Eckholm reports. Senator Jeff Merkley, a Democrat representing Oregon, said he planned to introduce a bill within the next few months to add protections for gays and transgender people to the Civil Rights Act, but he is not hopeful the bill will pass in the Republican-controlled Senate. He told Eckholm, "'People are going to realize that you can get married in the morning and be fired from your job or refused entry to a restaurant in the afternoon. That is unacceptable.”'

ACLU Plans Ballot Initiative Campaigns on Criminal Justice, LGBT Discrimination

The American Civil Liberties Union is planning a major political advocacy program, including pursuing ballot intiatives to try to enact criminal justice reform and protections for gays, lesbians and transgendered people, the Washington Post's James Hohmann reports. The ACLU will pick three states with high incarceration rates and then sponsor ballot initiatives with the goal of driving sentencing reform. The ACLU also has raised $5 million to try to enact protections for nondiscrimination protections for LGBT individuals.

Supreme Court Cautious About Making Sweeping Change to Marriage

The National Law Journal's Tony Mauro reports that the Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments this morning about the constitutionality of several states' bans on same-sex marriage, appeared to be cautious about making sweeping change to the definition of matrimony in the United States.

According to Mauro, Justice Anthony Kennedy, who has authored several of the court's landmark decisions on LGBT rights and is considered a swing vote on the issue, said, '"The word that keeps coming to me is 'millennia.'" Kennedy, however, also said that there is nobility in marriage that same-sex couples should enjoy. I think that sentiment from Kennedy seems to reflect the kind of rhetoric he deployed in decisions that struck down criminal bans on consensual sodomy and a Colorado state constitutional amendment that barred any extra legal protections for LGBT Coloradans.

According to Mauro, Michigan special attorney general John Bursch asserted that states have a rational basis for keeping marriage to opposite-sex couples in order to encourage children being raised in stable families. But the liberal justices sharply challenged that argument.

Kentucky's Ban on Same-Sex Marriage Struck Down Again

Kentucky's ban on same-sex marriage has been struck down by a state judge on the grounds that there is no rational basis for the prohibition, the Lexington Herald-Leader's John Cheves reports: "Judge Thomas Wingate ruled for two Lexington couples who were denied marriage licenses by the Fayette County Clerk in 2013 because Kentucky's constitution was amended by voters to define marriage as exclusively between one man and one woman."

When a Kentucky federal judge struck down Kentucky's ban, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit restored the ban on appeal. The U.S. Supreme Court will hear the issue April 28.

Arkansas and Indiana Governors Sign Religious Freedom Redos

The tension between the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people to be protected against discrimination and the right to religious freedom to express condemnation of LGBT people has come to the forefront this week. Indiana Governor Mike Pence and Arkanas Governor Asa Hutchinson have both signed compromise bills that backed off some of the most overt discriminatory impacts of new religious freedom laws in those states.

Pence first signed a law that inspired Connecticut's and New York's governors to ban unnecessary government travel to Indiana and the Angie's List CEO to put an expansion in Indianapolis on hold. About a week later, Pence signed a revision that "eliminates the potential erosion of LGBT protections in communities, including Indianapolis, that have local anti-discrimination ordinances protecting sexual orientation and gender identity," the Indianapolis Star's Tom LoBianco and Tony Cook report. Discrimination against gays and lesbians is not expressly prohibited in the rest of the state, they report.

Hutchinson signed a compromise bill that mirrors the language of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's Spencer Williams reports. Another bill rejected by Hutchinson would have provided legal protection even when there was no government action or law. Under the law signed by Hutchinson, "neither state nor local laws or policies can infringe on one's beliefs unless the government can demonstrate that it has a 'compelling' interest and that it is using that 'least restrictive' means to achieve it," Williams reports.


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