This Week in Nondiscrimination: Anti-LGBTQ Moves in TX and OH, a Show of Support in MA and GA, and Positive Rulings in PA and OR

By Shane Stahl • June 22, 2018 • 5:00 pm

This week in nondiscrimination saw the judiciary continue to show further support for LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections, as the 3rd Circuit released its strongly worded opinion in favor of transgender Pennsylvania students and the Oregon Supreme Court denied review of a case virtually identical to Masterpiece. Furthermore, the U.S. Conference of Mayors adopted two pro-LGBTQ resolutions, with several members of the Mayors Against LGBT Discrimination coalition marching in the Boston Pride Parade. However, before the week was out, we saw the Texas GOP adopt 24 anti-LGBTQ party planks, and in Ohio, LGBTQ opponents introduced legislation harmful to the care and well-being of transgender students. Here are the stories you may have missed for the third week of June.

PENNSYLVANIA

On Monday, June 18, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals released its written opinion in the case of Doe v. Boyertown, where anti-LGBTQ extremists Alliance Defending Freedom sought to undo the Boyertown School District’s transgender-inclusive policy preventing students from being discriminated against when using the bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond to their gender identity. The case was filed by ADF on behalf of anonymous non-transgender students.

The Court heard the case on May 24, and issued its ruling only 30 minutes later, upholding the policy and accommodating students for the remainder of the school year. The opinion released on Monday took the ADF to task, including statements such as:

“We conclude that, under the circumstances here, the presence of transgender students in the locker and restrooms is no more offensive to constitutional or Pennsylvania-law privacy interests than the presence of the other students who are not transgender. Nor does their presence infringe on the plaintiffs’ rights under Title IX.”

The ruling follows similar decisions in Wisconsin and Virginia, which also found in favor of transgender students.

OREGON

The morning of June 22, the Oregon Supreme Court declined to review a case virtually identical to the recent Masterpiece case, upholding an earlier decision from the state’s Court of Appeals.

Melissa and Aaron Klein, owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa, refused service to a lesbian couple in 2013 by claiming their religious beliefs prevented them from providing a cake for the couple’s upcoming wedding. Subsequently, the couple filed a complaint with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, who in 2015 ruled that the Kleins had unlawfully discriminated against the couple, and assessed a $135,000 fine against them.

The Kleins would take the case to the Oregon Court of Appeals with the help of First Liberty Institute, an anti-LGBTQ organization. The appeals court would uphold the Bureau’s decision, and the Kleins’ legal team then appealed to the state supreme court.

The court’s denial of review comes shortly after a similar denial in Arizona, which cited the Masterpiece Cakeshop case’s statement that discrimination against LGBTQ people in and of itself is unlawful.

MASSACHUSETTS

In a week full of support for the LGBTQ community, the U.S. Conference of Mayors convened in Boston for their annual meeting, and by its conclusion, had adopted two pro-LGBTQ resolutions as part of its agenda.

The first resolution affirmed the mayors’ belief that Title IX protections apply to transgender students, specifically to their ability to use the bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond to their gender identity. The second resolution opposed religious exemptions from nondiscrimination laws,

Following the conference, members of the Mayors Against LGBT Discrimination coalition marched alongside Freedom For All Massachusetts, the campaign to uphold the state’s existing public accommodations law protecting transgender people; included among the marchers were coalition co-chair Mayor Jenny Durkan of Seattle and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh.

The people of Massachusetts will go to the ballot in 2018 as the first state forced to defend the dignity of transgender people, after LGBTQ opponents gathered an incredibly low threshhold of signatures to place a repeal effort on the ballot. Read more about Freedom For All Massachusetts here.

GEORGIA

This week, the city of Augusta and the Augusta-Richmond County Commission voted unanimously to update their existing employment nondiscrimination protections to include LGBTQ municipal employees. The vote places Augusta alongside other cities including Atlanta, Savannah, and Macon as those protecting their employees from discrimination on the basis sexual orientation and gender identity.

LGBTQ advocates were hopeful a resolution would be voted on before Augusta’s annual Pride celebration, taking place June 21-24.

The move is largely in line with the actions of the Georgia state legislature, who with the help of LGBTQ advocates and organizations, have beaten back anti-LGBTQ legislation for the past 3 years.

Our congratulations to our friends and partners at Equality Augusta and Georgia Equality worked diligently alongside city officials to make this necessary change in policy.

OHIO

Ohio lawmakers Rep, Tom Brinkman and Rep. Paul Zeltwanger this week introduced a bill that would greatly endanger the well-being of transgender students across the state.

HB 658 would require school staff to inform parents if a child wishes to be “treated in a manner opposite” of their “biological sex,” in addition to requiring written parental consent for any transgender-related healthcare needs, with an additional provision that the state cannot interfere if parents refuse to provide such care.

Equality Ohio, the state’s leading LGBTQ advocacy group, has cited the findings of the AMA, APA, and other recognized psychiatric and medical associations who have stated repeatedly that transition-related healthcare is medically necessary, and is a conversation for families to have between themselves, without government involvement.

In a post to their website, the organization said:

“A few cynical politicians are trying to drum up fear and division about transgender youth and their families at a time when we need more love, respect, and kindness. This unnecessary and discriminatory bill does nothing to support youth and families. In fact, it puts the livelihoods of some of our most vulnerable youth––transgender youth––further at risk with bullying and discrimination by potentially forcing teachers to out them.”

Sponsor testimony on HB 658 occurred on June 20, with no option for public comment at the time. We thank our friends and partners at Equality Ohio for fighting for the dignity of transgender students across the Buckeye State.

TEXAS

During the weekend of June 16, Texas Republican lawmakers met in San Antonio for their annual conference. During discussion regarding the official party platform, lawmakers accepted 24 separate anti-LGBTQ planks, setting up the 2019 legislative session to be equally if not more combative than that of 2017.

Among the positions adopted by the party were:

  • A dangerous endorsement of conversion therapy, a practice denounced as harmful pseudoscience by the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association.
  • Opposition of all efforts to “validate transgender identity.”
  • Allowance of religious exemptions for business owners, enabling them to discriminate at-will against LGBTQ people
  • Continued opposition to marriage for same-sex couples and adoption by LGBTQ people.

Also making its way into the platform is yet another attempt to legalize public accommodations discrimination against transgender people, by forbidding them access to the bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond to their gender identity. Legislation attempting to legalize such discrimination, State Bill 6, was beaten back in 2017 during a contentious legislative session by the efforts of advocates and organizations statewide. The Texas legislature, which meets only every other year, is due to go into session in January, 2019.


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