Category: politics & causes

EEOC Ruling

Posted by – July 19, 2015

So what does this recent EEOC ruling mean? It means that sexual orientation discrimination is now considered sex discrimination, because the gender of you and the gender of who you love means it’s about gender, not orientation, per se.

The first time we saw this in any significant way was when Hawaii’s Baehr v Lewin case left the door open for civil unions back in 1993 (causing, some might argue, the whole DOMA movement at the federal and state levels).

This EEOC ruling is *not* binding in courts, but the EEOC investigates a lot of workplace cases and the courts, in turn, often defer to EEOC rulings precisely because the EEOC has more experience and expertise as their mission is to uphold the Civil Rights Act of 1064.

NCTE adds:

The argument that gender identity, but not sexual orientation, is already covered by Title VII and other sex discrimination laws has sometimes been asserted as a reason to cut gender identity out of LGBT nondiscrimination bills at the state or local level. In fact, all forms of anti-LGBT nondiscrimination are inherently gender-based—and yet we still urgently need legislation to make clear beyond doubt, once and for all, that LGBT people are protected. The EEOC’s underscores that the entire LGBT community is in the same boat in that regard.

Which is NCTE’s way of saying that the EEOC ruling may help, but it does not (yet) invalidate the need for ENDA.

SCOTUS Rules for Marriage Equality

Posted by – June 26, 2015

SCOTUS SAME SEX marriage ruling 2015

Ramadan’s American History

Posted by – June 17, 2015

Today is the start of Ramadan.One fourth of the world observes this Muslim fast, and I miss being in a culture where I could regularly witness the very happy fast-breaking at sundown; having grown up in a faith that fasts, I always felt especially sympathetic to the guys who worked in restaurants and delis and the like.

Social scientists estimate that 15 to 30 percent, or, “[a]s many as 600,000 to 1.2 million slaves” in antebellum America were Muslims. 46 percent of the slaves in the antebellum South were kidnapped from Africa’s western regions, which boasted “significant numbers of Muslims”. 

So of course significant numbers of slaves were Muslim, and they were practicing, too:

In addition to abstaining from food and drink, enslaved Muslims held holy month prayers in slave quarters, and put together iftars – meals at sundown to break the fast – that brought observing Muslims together. These prayers and iftars violated slave codes restricting assembly of any kind.

For instance, the Virginia Slave Code of 1723 considered the assembly of five slaves as an “unlawful and tumultuous meeting”, convened to plot rebellion attempts. Every state in the south codified similar laws barring slave assemblages, which disparately impacted enslaved African Muslims observing the Holy Month.

Therefore, practicing Islam and observing Ramadan and its fundamental rituals, for enslaved Muslims in antebellum America, necessitated the violation of slave codes. This exposed them to barbaric punishment, injury, and oftentimes, even death. However, the courage to observe the holy month while bonded, and in the face of grave risk, highlights the supreme piety of many enslaved Muslims.

And while this all makes perfect sense, it had never occurred to me, certainly. Do go read the rest of the piece by Khaled O Beydoun. American cultural and religious diversity continues to amaze me; so many things we consider “imported” in recent history – Islam and Socialism, for starters – have really been part of the American fabric for more than a hundred years. It does make you think about who has framed the narrative of America, and why.

The Origin of Memorial Day

Posted by – May 25, 2015

Interesting piece on the black origins of Memorial Day in the U.S.:

The largest of these events, forgotten until I had some extraordinary luck in an archive at Harvard, took place on May 1, 1865. During the final year of the war, the Confederates had converted the city’s Washington Race Course and Jockey Club into an outdoor prison. Union captives were kept in horrible conditions in the interior of the track; at least 257 died of disease and were hastily buried in a mass grave behind the grandstand.

After the Confederate evacuation of Charleston black workmen went to the site, reburied the Union dead properly, and built a high fence around the cemetery. They whitewashed the fence and built an archway over an entrance on which they inscribed the words, “Martyrs of the Race Course.”

The symbolic power of this Low Country planter aristocracy’s bastion was not lost on the freedpeople, who then, in cooperation with white missionaries and teachers, staged a parade of 10,000 on the track. A New York Tribune correspondent witnessed the event, describing “a procession of friends and mourners as South Carolina and the United States never saw before.”

The procession was led by 3,000 black schoolchildren carrying armloads of roses and singing the Union marching song “John Brown’s Body.” Several hundred black women followed with baskets of flowers, wreaths and crosses. Then came black men marching in cadence, followed by contingents of Union infantrymen. Within the cemetery enclosure a black children’s choir sang “We’ll Rally Around the Flag,” the “Star-Spangled Banner” and spirituals before a series of black ministers read from the Bible.

After the dedication the crowd dispersed into the infield and did what many of us do on Memorial Day: enjoyed picnics, listened to speeches and watched soldiers drill. Among the full brigade of Union infantrymen participating were the famous 54th Massachusetts and the 34th and 104th United States Colored Troops, who performed a special double-columned march around the gravesite.

The war was over, and Memorial Day had been founded by African-Americans in a ritual of remembrance and consecration. The war, they had boldly announced, had been about the triumph of their emancipation over a slaveholders’ republic. They were themselves the true patriots.

Despite the size and some newspaper coverage of the event, its memory was suppressed by white Charlestonians in favor of their own version of the day. From 1876 on, after white Democrats took back control of South Carolina politics and the Lost Cause defined public memory and race relations, the day’s racecourse origin vanished.

Happy May Day.

Posted by – May 1, 2015

IN Just Made Bigotry Legal

Posted by – March 24, 2015

from Lambda Legal, via Jillian Weiss:

Today, the Indiana House of Representatives, with a vote of 63-31, passed a bill designed to allow private businesses, individuals and organizations to discriminate against anyone in Indiana on religious grounds. Lambda Legal condemns SB 101’s passage, which Governor Pence has vowed to sign into Indiana law.

We are extremely disappointed that Indiana’s House, despite knowing the vast implications for all Hoosiers, voted to facilitate religious discrimination in many areas of life for Indiana’s families, workers and others. Once the governor signs this bill into law, women, racial minorities, religious minorities, people living with HIV and many others will be much more vulnerable to the whims of any individual or business owner who refuses services to particular groups of people based on religious objections to who those people are.

We urge members of the LGBT community to alert Lambda Legal if they experience discrimination explained as due to religious beliefs about gay or transgender people. If you have questions or feel that you have been discriminated against based on your sexual orientation, gender identity or HIV status, please contact our Legal Help Desk http://www.lambdalegal.org/help.

Tell Your Story to the US Commission

Posted by – March 24, 2015

If you have been discriminated against & you’re trans, NCTE is now taking testimony. You can submit your story as Anonymous if necessary, as this testimony will appear in public documents.

#blacklivesmatter

Posted by – December 9, 2014

Oh, #alllivesmatter people, please, just listen for a minute.

For those of us in communities that are targeted for violence – from both people who hate us and often the police who are supposed to serve and protect us – we’re aware that our lives are supposed to matter. We know our own lives matter.

But for LGBTQ people, that is not often the case.

For trans people, it is rarely the case.

For Hispanic people, it is rarely the case.

For black people, it is almost never the case.

The reason #alllivesmatter is an insulting response to a racial problem is because it whitewashes the problem. Being more humane doesn’t work; racial prejudices and homophobia go so deep historically, personally, unconsciously, that unless we pay special attention to the kinds of hatred that fuels the killings of trans women and black men, trans women of color in particular, young black men in particular, our systems don’t get any better.

Look, the hippies tried loving everyone and that was a long time ago, and if the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner teach us anything, it’s that people refusing to call our national race problem a race problem is part of it.

Please. Of course #alllivesmatter. But as Orwell once wrote, the problem is that some lives matter a hell of a lot more than others, which is why we need to highlight that #blacklivesmatter and #translivesmatter and #queerlivesmatter.

Step away from your white privilege. We are part of a system that kills black men and imprisons them and throws them away. “Universalizing” is exactly what disappears black lives in the first place.

No Justice, No Peace: UVA & Marisa Alexander

Posted by – November 25, 2014

A first year student was gang raped at UVA, and it took a Rolling Stone article (TW) to get anyone to pay attention.

It turns out UVA doesn’t even expel people who have admitted to rape.

Those of us who teach gender studies are assumed to be pessimistic at best and paranoid at worst, but you read two facts like that and wow, we’re just right.

Or you read that Marisa Alexander – the woman who fired a warning shot because she feared for her own life after her husband barged through a door she had locked herself behind and grabbed her by the neck – and all that 9 days after she’d given birth – was convicted and given 20 years in prison. She managed to plea down to 3, but why is she serving any time at all? She didn’t, mind you, kill or injure anyone.

Jeff Severs, a friend of a friend, after reading Wilson’s testimony about Mike Brown – which is something like a compendium of the racist imagination of black bodies as monstrous – wrote that “Brown’s body is bound to bear so horribly, impossibly much”.

As was that student’s, as was Marisa Alexander’s, and in none of these cases is there any justice, any condemnation of the objectification and othering of these bodies and the lives they carry.

I hate being right. I hate that my view of the world as unjust-by-design is so obviously, patently true. You can explain away Grand Jury history (well, actually, you can’t) or you can point up the peculiarities of the criminal justice system, but really, when university administrators are ignoring rape confessions and a woman who was defending herself is found guilty and given 20 years to serve – and who was, mind you, statistically more likely to die at her partner’s hands precisely because she was pregnant or had just given birth – that is, she had a better reason for self-defense than most, and far more than Darren Wilson ever needed – you have to know this system was designed to keep most of us in our places.

Bill Hicks was right, too, except they don’t even bother to tell you to pick up the gun anymore. They don’t have to.

Come On Already, NYC

Posted by – November 12, 2014

Honestly, we need someone to do groundbreaking stuff – don’t let Iowa beat you to it again, okay? Shoot, NYS has already beaten you to it.


A proposed law that would allow individuals to change the sex on their birth certificate without having gender reassignment surgery would ease the barrier to basic services such as health care, housing and jobs, transgender advocates said.

Testimony happened on Monday, 11/10, that helped explain why surgery should not be a requirement to change your birth certificate in NYC.

Please, Please Vote. Please.

Posted by – November 4, 2014

I’m starting to get a kind of sick feeling about Wednesday and I don’t like it. No, I didn’t do nearly as much as I should have but you can bet your ass I’ll show up to vote.

And what I’m worried about is that I’ll see the same pathetic numbers for voter turnout – especially voter turnout for young people – that I see every year.

And every year it breaks my damn heart that people die for the right to vote and yet people in the US just don’t bother to.

Why? I don’t know. I remember hearing a lot of “If voting worked, it wouldn’t be legal” more-radical-than-thou bullshit when I was a Green activist in NYC.

I know some people don’t feel sufficiently informed and honestly, if you know anything about any goddamn celebrity and you don’t know who you’d prefer to govern your life, your right to choice, your healthcare, your education, and pretty much every aspect of the rest of your life, your priorities are out of order.

The concentration of power in this country is becoming scary. I look at the bright, earnest young people I teach and I hope they are paying attention enough to realize that VOTING MATTERS.

Go do it. Even if you don’t feel informed. The first few times I voted, I didn’t either, and I always left the polls feeling guilty that I hadn’t done my homework. And I still never do as much as I want to, but you learn a little every year until how you vote and who you vote for starts to feel like something you know.

 

Vote!

Posted by – November 3, 2014

Tomorrow is Election Day, so here’s some important info about voting in WI:

  • YOU DON’T NEED AN ID TO VOTE TOMORROW.
  • You can register to vote at your polling place – all you need is proof of residency (WI license, bank statement, recent utility bill, other government document with your address on it). That proof can be paper or electronic.
  • The governorship is a BIG DEAL. Governors who are successful often go on to run for President, and Walker looks like he wants to. If he is voted out now, that will be way less likely.
  • When women and black voters get to the polls in hefty numbers, Democrats win.
  • Call your local Democratic office if you need a ride to the polls.

Goodbye, Eric Holder

Posted by – October 1, 2014

Wow am I going to miss him.

Vote!

Posted by – August 12, 2014

www.myvote.wi.gov

WI’s Attorney General Needs to Hear from You

Posted by – August 11, 2014

Wisconsin’s Attorney General Van Hollen is against same sex marriage. He was the one who put a halt to the marriages that were taking after a WI court declared WI’s super DOMA unconstitutional, and he has vowed to keep same sex couples from marrying no matter what the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals rules.

That is, he insists on defending a marriage ban that was already struck down by a WI court, and he can, because he’s Attorney General.

Wisconsin Unites for Marriage has a petition up which will let him know that same sex couples should be able to marry.

WI Unites for Marriage

Posted by – August 7, 2014



Sign the pledge
if you think same sex couples deserve marriage in Wisconsin.

Find out more about this campaign from Our Lives and the Wisconsin Gazette. Keep up via FB or Twitter.

Obama Adds Protections

Posted by – July 18, 2014

President Obama will sign executive orders to grant employees working for federal contractors and federal workers freedom from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

That is, he’s doing what Congress – the House, specifically – has not done by not yet having passed ENDA.

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin, praised Obama for “showing strong leadership taking this historic action to advance equality in our country.”

But, Baldwin emphasized, Congress still must act. “The fight to pass on to the next generation an America that is more equal not less does not end with the president’s signature,” she said. “We have more work to do. Every American deserves the freedom to work free from discrimination and last year the Senate found common ground, passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act with strong bipartisan support. I will continue to call on the House to put progress ahead of politics and give the Senate-passed ENDA an up or down vote because this legislation provides workplace protections that millions more Americans need and deserve today.”

I’m not convinced Congress will act, however, so at least there’s something in place now.

Obama Issues Executive Order to Protect Trans Employees

Posted by – July 1, 2014

Obama:

“I’ve repeatedly called on Congress to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act,” Obama said. “Right now, there are more states that let same-sex couples get married than there are states who prohibit discrimination against their LGBT workers.  We have laws that say Americans can’t be fired on the basis of the color of their skin or their religion, or because they have a disability. But every day, millions of Americans go to work worried that they could lose their job -– not because of anything they’ve done.”

“I know, it’s terrible,” Obama continued, as a baby in the audience began to cry. “It’s upsetting. It is wrong.”

Obama also cited a long list of LGBT accomplishments during his remarks, drawing cheers from the energetic crowd. In particular, the president repeated his calls for LGBT-rights activists to direct their energy and resources toward other “injustices,” including progressive causes such as raising the minimum wage, youth homelessness, equal pay and eliminating racial and religious discrimination.

“Dr. King said an ‘injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ And that means that we’ve got to be able to set up a community that extends beyond our own particular narrow interests; we’ve got to make sure that we’re reaching out to others who need our help as well,” Obama said. “That’s how we continue our nation’s march towards justice and equality.  That’s how we build a more perfect union –- a country where no matter what you look like, where you come from, what your last name is, who you love, you’ve got a chance to make it if you try. You guys have shown what can happen when people of goodwill organize and stand up for what’s right. And we’ve got to make sure that that’s not applied just one place, in one circumstance, in one time. That’s part of the journey that makes America the greatest country on Earth.”

Whenever I ask my students whether it’s legal to fire someone for being gay in this country, they look at me like I’m crazy. Because it is crazy, and it’s absurdly short-sighted and long overdue.

 

 

Hobby Lobbied

Posted by – June 30, 2014

There’s a part of me that wishes we could all go back to bed and pretend it’s Sunday night so that there would still be a chance these awful rulings wouldn’t have been handed down by the Supreme Court today, but they were.

The first is that labor unions can’t collect dues automatically from the workers they represent in negotiations with the management. It will decimate labor unions and workers’ rights.

The second is that corporations don’t have to cover contraception. The fear is that this will allow corporations to decide what kind of healthcare they have to insure. What’s happened is this: we are not talking about an individual being able to choose based on religious exemptions. We’re talking about a corporation being able to. As Justice Ginsberg put it:

In a decision of startling breadth, the Court holds that commercial enterprises, including corporations, along with partnerships and sole proprietorships, can opt out of any law (saving only tax laws) they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs.

Theoretically, then, a corporation could not provide pre natal care, trans health care, etc. If the company is owned by Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example, they could deny all access to modern medicine because that’s their religious beliefs. Also, “contraception” isn’t just the pill; it’s also the shot (Depo-Provera), the ring (Nuvaring), contraceptive implants (IUD), diaphragms, cervical caps and permanent contraceptive methods, like tubal ligation. I haven’t read yet if it includes vasectomies, but it should (and I’m guessing doesn’t, because patriarchy).

The fear is a slippery slope where religious exemptions are claimed in order to deny LGBTQ+ people employment or marriage benefits. Why should they have to cover my wife’s health insurance if they believe my marriage is immoral and against their religious beliefs?

Here are some of Justice Ginsberg’s best quotes in her dissent, some of the major issues, and a brief synopsis of her grounds for it.

The good news, if there is any good news, is that most corporations will continue to cover contraception because financially, speaking, birth control is way easier to pay for than pregnancy.

Appleton’s Non Discimination Ordinance

Posted by – June 19, 2014

appleton NDO 2014Last night, the city of Appleton, WI passed a non discrimination ordinance that is inclusive of gender identity and expression. It passed the City Council 12-2, with awesome work by staff, council members, and Fair Wisconsin, and by my wife, who is not always thrilled about having to come out to people but does because it’s important.

It’s pretty damn cool to wake up & realize that I got to be part of getting more people a fair shake, especially those most vulnerable to discrimination.

Appleton is only the third city in the state to manage it (Milwaukee & Madison were first, of course).

What’s even more interesting is to wake up and read another column calling for NYS to get its act together and pass an inclusive GENDA. The Federal Government hasn’t managed it yet, either.

So yay for Appleton! It’s a pleasure being able to assist a city that is so clear on wanting to communicate a welcoming environment for all.

(& Yes, this is what I do for fun around here.)