This Week in Nondiscrimination: Major Wins in the Judiciary and MA Ballot Issue Receives Official Designation

By Shane Stahl • July 13, 2018 • 3:43 pm

This week in nondiscrimination saw major wins for the LGBTQ community in courts across the country, as attempts to discriminate were denied review and existing discriminatory laws were struck down. In addition, the Massachusetts Secretary of State officially designated the fight to defend the state’s existing public accommodations laws for transgender people as Issue 3, setting up our partners at Freedom For All Massachusetts to issue an official rallying cry to protect the dignity of transgender Bay Staters. Here is a collection of stories you may have missed for the second week of July:

MASSACHUSETTS

On Monday, the Massachusetts Secretary of State officially designated all the state’s ballot questions for the November 2018 election with issue numbers, naming the question of defending the dignity of transgender people in public accommodations as Issue 3.

Freedom For All Massachusetts (FFAM), the campaign to protect the state’s existing LGBTQ nondiscrimination law (of which Freedom for All Americans is a leading and founding member), has officially adopted the slogan of YES on 3, continuing to speak to voters statewide about voting YES to defend their transgender family, friends, and neighbors.

The campaign has been working diligently over the past year to raise awareness about efforts by opponents of LGBTQ equality to repeal existing nondiscrimination protections for transgender people in public accommodations, signed into law by Republican Governor Charlie Baker in 2016. To learn more about them, visit the Freedom For All Massachusetts website here.

ARIZONA

Alliance Defending Freedom, an organization with a long history of pushing an anti-LGBTQ agenda, has filed documents asking the Arizona Supreme Court to review the case of a business seeking to openly discriminate against LGBTQ people, following a ruling from the state’s appeals court against the business.

Brush and Nib Studio v. City of Phoenix involves a calligraphy studio owned by two women who are Christian and claim that the ordinance interferes with their religious freedom. The business often offers calligraphy services, including for wedding invitations and stationery, but have stopped offering the service since the Phoenix nondiscrimination ordinance took effect.

On June 7, a three judge panel of the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled against Brush and Nib, affirming a previous lower court ruling that rejected the business’ attempt to subvert the law. In their ruling, the court listed a long line of cases in which courts have held that a business’ freedom of religion does not grant them an exemption from laws prohibiting anti-LGBTQ discrimination.

Nearly all of the prominent cases centered on business owners wishing to discriminate against LGBTQ people are led by the Alliance Defending Freedom. Learn more about the extrem organization at www.truthaboutadf.org.

HAWAII

The Hawaii Supreme Court denied a request to review the case of a bed & breakfast seeking to challenge the state’s existing LGBTQ nondiscrimination law, leaving in place a decision that favors LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination protections.

In 2007, Diane Cervelli and Taeko Bufford were visiting a friend in Hawaii and sought accommodation at Aloha Bed and Breakfast. The establishment’s owner said that her religious beliefs allowed her business the right to refuse to rent a room to the couple.

In 2011, the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission found in favor of the couple, and a lawsuit brought by the couple and Lambda Legal brought an additional victory in 2013.. The business appealed the ruling, and earlier this year, the Hawaii Intermediate Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s decision, that the Bed and Breakfast had violated the state’s existing nondiscrimination laws.

This ruling is the latest in a series of decisions following the Masterpiece Cakeshop case where state courts have seen no reason to review cases with positive decisions regarding existing nondiscrimination laws.

IOWA

On Thursday, June 12, Chief District Judge Arthur Gamble of the Iowa District Court struck down an exemption from the state’s Medicaid program that banned coverage of transition-related healthcare, paving the way for transgender people to receive gender-affirming medical services.

The nation’s major medical groups, including the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association, have stated that transition-related healthcare, including gender confirmation surgery, is essential for transgender people to live full and healthy lives, while also noting that surgery is not the decision of every transgender person.

Two transgender women, Carol Ann Beal of northwest Iowa and EerieAnna Good of the Quad Cities, filed suit with the assistance of our legal partners at the ACLU challenging the state’s ban. In his ruling, Judge Gamble said that the regulation blocking transition-related care “has not kept up with law and medicine.”

Daniel Hoffman-Zinnel, executive director of One Iowa, the state’s leading LGBTQ advocacy group, said in a statement:

“Through our work with transgender Iowans, we have seen firsthand how powerful, life-changing, and absolutely essential gender-affirming surgery can be for transgender people grappling with gender dysphoria. This decision will, quite literally, save lives.”


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