Tag Archives: gay rights

School politics gets overly nasty

I fear a storm might be brewing in the community where my wife and I live and — to be candid it — makes me queasy to think of Princeton, Texas, as a place that could produce a serious culture battle.

The Princeton Independent School District is considering whether to ban all outside groups from using school venues for things such as, oh, rallies, fundraisers, luncheons.

It’s not that the school system wants to ban all of ’em. It appears the actual aim is to keep a certain group of constituents from using the venues: the LGBT community.

The PISD school board considered the item the other day, went into executive session, then came out and decided to send the matter to its legal counsel for advice on how to proceed.

I am just one voice in the community. I have no children or grandchildren enrolled in the school system. I just pay my taxes that help fund the school district. Thus, my conscience tells me to urge the school district to move away from banning all groups.

It is a ham-handed tactic that some on the school board apparently want to become part of an overall Princeton ISD strategy to keep certain people from using public property. We see this drama played out all over the country.

Some folks within the gay community want to use space in Princeton HIgh School to hold a gay pride event later this year. Some in the community object to it. They have friends on the school board who are willing to echo their objections. Two of their PISD school board friends were just elected to the panel and I sense they are moving this item toward some conclusion.

What is troubling to me is the idea that banning all groups means, well, all groups. That means church groups, Scout groups, veterans groups, homeowners association groups. They all would be denied use of public property — their property — for any purpose. Is that fair? No. It isn’t!

The school district, though, well might get advice from legal counsel that suggests it’s OK to ban them all. They can cite liability concerns or other safety-related matters. Except that any group also could be asked to sign documents that waive the school district from responsibility in case of an accident on school grounds.

Let’s not lose sight of what appears to be the cause of this discussion: foes of those who promote gay pride and want to express their pride on public property.

An outright ban on all outside use of that property is a slap in the face of those who pay for the right to use what is rightfully theirs.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

SCOTUS ruling on gay rights may reverberate … forever

It is hard to measure the long-term impact of today’s Supreme Court decision on gay rights so soon after the fact; these decisions need time to slow-cook.

However, it’s a major ruling that carries many implications … which are for the betterment of the nation.

The court ruled 6-3 today that the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits people from being fired from their jobs over their sexual orientation. It strikes a blow for LGBTQ rights and sticks it in the ear of those who continue to harp on the notion that gay Americans do not deserve the same constitutional protections under the law as every American.

What’s more, the decision was authored by Justice Neil Gorsuch, a Donald Trump appointee. Three justices dissented: Clarence Thomas (appointed by President Bush 41), Samuel Alito (President Bush 43) and Brett Kavanaugh (Donald Trump). Joining Gorsuch, along with the four progressive justices was none other than Chief Justice John Roberts, another Bush 43 appointee.

The notion that Justice Gorsuch would side with the liberal wing of the court — plus the chief justice — suggests a potentially new and unseen direction for the court. Trump’s two picks, Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, were seen as taking the court more sharply to the right. Today’s ruling suggests something else might be occurring.

It is that justices given lifetime appointments to the nation’s highest court are relatively free of political pressure, that they are able to view the Constitution through more a dispassionate lens.

Gorsuch’s decision reminds me of the kind of veering from predicted paths that other justices have demonstrated. I think of Chief Justice Earl Warren (appointed by Dwight Eisenhower), Justice Harry Blackmun (selected by Richard Nixon), justice John Paul Stevens (nominated by Gerald Ford) and Justice Byron White (picked by John F. Kennedy). Those presidents thought they were getting justices who would adhere more to their political leaning, only to get surprised … bigly!

As we digest the meaning of today’s decision, though, I am grateful that Justice Gorsuch — at least on this ruling — has become something other than the judicial bogeyman many of us had feared.

SCOTUS upholds LGBT protection! Wow!

What in the world is Donald J. Trump going to say about this ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court?

The court ruled today that protections written into the 1964 Civil Rights Act protect gay and transgender Americans from employment discrimination … meaning they cannot be fired because of their sexual orientation.

What is arguably the most astonishing aspect of this 6-3 ruling is that the majority opinion is authored by Justice Neil Gorsuch, one of Trump’s two appointees to the highest court in the land.

Previous federal judicial rulings that have gone against Trump’s wishes have resulted in snarky comments from POTUS about “so-called judges.” I doubt he’ll say such a thing about Justice Gorsuch. Still, this ruling is a big … deal.

According to NBC NewsThe rulings were victories for Gerald Bostock, who was fired from a county job in Georgia after he joined a gay softball team, and the relatives of Donald Zarda, a skydiving instructor who was fired after he told a female client not to worry about being strapped tightly to him during a jump, because he was “100 percent gay.” Zarda died before the case reached the Supreme Court.

The Trump administration had urged the court to rule that Title VII does not cover cases like those, in a reversal from the position the government took during the Obama administration.

Twenty-one states have laws protecting Americans against discrimination based on sexual orientation. The ruling today now imposes federal law on all states, meaning that no one can be fired because they happen to be gay, bisexual or transgender.

Indeed, the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause does stipulate that all citizens deserve to be protected under the law. Justice Gorsuch’s ruling recognizes that fundamental tenet.

What’s more, it goes to show us all that once more in graphic fashion that presidents might not always get the kind of court rulings they desire when they select men and women for these lifetime jobs as federal judges.

This is an outstanding decision by the Supreme Court.

Good move, Gov. Hutchinson

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson is a smart politician, and I don’t say that intending to be snarky.

His state’s lawmakers sent him a bill that looks like the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act — the one that caused all that furor. What did Hutchinson do? He sent it back to the legislature and told lawmakers to rework the bill to ensure it doesn’t encourage discrimination against gays and lesbians.

http://www.politico.com/story/2015/04/arkansas-religious-freedom-bill-recall-asa-hutchinson-116574.html?hp=r1_4

If only Indiana Gov. Mike Pence had dialed in his own radar when he got the bill that he signed into law.

RFRA is intended to protect business owners from being sued for denying service to gays and lesbians. It is seen, though, as a license for business owners to discriminate against the LGBT community. The uproar has been furious.

Hutchinson heard the fury all the way down in Little Rock. His view is that the Arkansas bill needs to reflect the 1993 federal law signed by President Clinton that protects the rights of all citizens and disallows business owners from discriminating against anyone.

“My responsibility is to speak out on my own convictions and to do what I can as governor to make sure that this bill reflects the people of Arkansas, protects those of religious conscience, but also minimizes the chance of discrimination in the workplace and in the public environment,” Hutchinson said.

This debate has raged now for several days and it likely will continue to rage until the Indiana legislature does what Gov. Pence has requested, which is to rework it to protect all citizens’ rights. As for the Arkansas bill, Gov. Hutchinson took the advice of his son, Seth, who informed his father that he signed a petition urging Dad to veto the bill as it was presented to him initially.

Sons usually are told to listen to their fathers. In this case, Dad did the listening — as he should.

 

State using religion to discriminate?

Indiana seems like a nice enough place, with nice people motivated to do nice things to and for others.

Why, then, does the state’s legislature send to Gov. Mike Pence a bill that allows people to possibly concoct a religious belief in order to discriminate against others?

Pence this past week signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which prevents someone from suing, say, a business owner from doing business with you based on the business owner’s religious beliefs.

Pay attention here: The bill is aimed squarely at gays and lesbian who could be denied service from those business owners.

http://mediamatters.org/video/2015/03/29/abcs-stephanopoulos-grills-gov-mike-pence-on-an/203077

Reaction to this law has been furious. Business owners across the nation have declared their intention to cease doing business in Indiana as long as the state sanctions discrimination against their employees. With the NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four tournament set to be played in Indianapolis, there could be a serious backlash that inhibits the money the state hopes to earn.

This law looks for all the world — to me at least — as if the state is using “religious freedom” as a shield to protect those who wantonly discriminate against those who have a certain sexual orientation.

What we have here looks like a misuse of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, which guarantees the right of those to hold whatever religious belief they wish. The state is suggesting the First Amendment takes precedence over the 14th Amendment, which guarantees all citizens “equal protection” under the state and federal laws.

Imagine a couple wanting, say, to buy a home. Can a lender refuse to loan the couple the money to buy the home simply by pulling the “religious freedom” statute out of thin air — or out of some bodily orifice, for that matter? The law, as I understand it, prohibits the gay couple from suing the lender because the law protects the lender from being hassled over his or her religious beliefs.

The appearance of using religious liberty and freedom as a pretext to allow overt discrimination is a disgrace.

Houston backs away from needless fight

I’m a bit late getting into this tussle, but Houston city officials did the right thing in backing away from an effort to get some local pastors to turn over their sermon notes regarding their opposition to some gay-rights matters.

What we had going, of course, was a serious infringement on some First Amendment guarantees of free speech, freedom of religion and the right to practice both without government interference.

http://www.texastribune.org/2014/10/29/mayor-parker-says-houston-will-drop-subpoenas/

The city and its openly gay mayor, Annise Parker, had subpoenaed the pastors, who had expressed opposition to a law that banned discrimination against gays and lesbians. Conservatives got riled over the demand. Indeed, the fight seemed unnecessary.

According to the Texas Tribune: The subpoenas, sent to some outspoken pastors and religious leaders who had opposed the ordinance, had asked for ‘all speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO, the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession.’”

That looks for all the world to me like a dose of City Hall bullying of pastors who were speaking from their heart about a critical public issue.

HERO is an acronym that Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, which expanded rights for gays and lesbians. I would support such an ordinance if I lived in Houston. However, I honor the Constitution of the United States enough to know that it grants equal rights to those who oppose such an ordinance.

Parker has backed off. Good for her. As President Gerald Ford said at the end of a grave political crisis in August 1974, “The Constitution works.”

 

 

Yep, Perry 'stepped in it'

Let’s give credit where it’s due: Texas Gov. Rick Perry knows he messed up when he answered a question about whether homosexuality is a “disorder.”

Speaking at a luncheon sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor, Perry said this: “I got asked about an issue, and instead of saying, ‘You know what, we need to be a really respectful and tolerant country, and get back to talking about, whether you’re gay or straight you need to be having a job, and those are the focuses I want to be involved with,’ instead of getting — which I did, I readily admit, I stepped right in it.”

http://www.politico.com/story/2014/06/rick-perry-gay-comments-alcohol-108069.html?hp=r6

The problem the Texas governor is going to discover is that it will be next to impossible to shake “it” off his boots, if you get my drift.

That’s the trouble with considering whether to run for the highest public office in the land. When you make mistakes with careless speech, it comes back to haunt you because many Americans won’t let you forget it.

Perry compared gay sexual orientation with alcoholism in remarks to a political club in California, where he was attending a meeting to promote Texas business initiatives.

The comparison drew immediate and withering fire from critics — such as yours truly.

Alcoholism is a treatable disease; someone’s sexual orientation is part of one’s DNA — period.

I’ll give Perry credit, though, at least for recognizing aloud that he made a mistake.

It’s thought he’s considering a second presidential campaign in 2016. He says he’ll be better prepared than he was in 2012 when he fumbled, faltered and failed.

Gov. Perry needs more work to get ready for the next campaign.

Cruz demonstrates his loopiness

I’ve been following U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’s public life for a little more than a year and I learned pretty early on that he was prone to say just about anything to get attention.

Now, though, the junior Republican senator from Texas has really done it.

Cruz was speaking to a conservative audience the other day and said the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body needs 100 members following in the footsteps of the late North Carolina Republican Jesse Helms.

http://tv.msnbc.com/2013/09/12/ted-cruz-wishes-more-in-the-senate-would-say-crazy-things/

This is amazing and disgusting all at once.

Helms was known for a lot of traits, most of them — to my way of thinking — weren’t good. He was a segregationist, he espoused homophobic views, he spoke referred often to ethnic minorities in disgraceful language.

The man was known as Senator No, because he voted “no” on virtually every piece of constructive and/or progressive legislation that came before the Senate.

And all along the way, he would make the craziest statements.

Ted Cruz wants to serve with more senators like Helms? You must be kidding.

I’ll give Cruz this much: He said the Senate needs 100 folks like ol’ Jesse, which means he considers himself already to be a political clone of Helms, meaning the place needs only 99 more of them.

Helms never understood that he represented his entire state, which included many individuals who disagreed with his views on racial segregation, gay rights and abortion rights. He listened only to those who agreed with his pronouncements.

Yes, he got elected several times to the Senate from his home state, which means most of those who voted every six years approved of this guy’s incredible mean streak.

However, Jesse Helms was in no way, shape or form a constructive member of the Senate. He was an obstructionist who harbored hateful racist views.

That’s the kind of Senate Ted Cruz wants for America.

What happened to new freedoms, Russia?

Two decades ago, the Soviet Union receded into history. Russia was reborn supposedly as a country where its citizens could live in freedom.

It’s now painfully obvious, however, that freedom in Russia has its limits.

Freedom doesn’t include gay people.

http://news.yahoo.com/video/gay-russians-seeking-refuge-131300654.html

The Russian government has issued some kind of mandate that makes it illegal for homosexuals to demonstrate for their rights. One of the results of this crackdown has been an outmigration of Russians to other countries. Gay Russians no longer are welcome in their country. As the link attached here notes, Vancouver, British Columbia, is seeing a significant increase in Russians fleeing to that city on the Pacific Coast of Canada.

The communists who founded and later ruled the Soviet Union seized many people’s freedom. They couldn’t own property. They couldn’t acquire wealth, or worship freely. They couldn’t speak out against their government without fearing for their lives. They couldn’t love whomever they wished.

The commies are gone from power — more or less — and the Russian Federation has restored many of the aforementioned freedoms. The government, though, has declared in effect that it is illegal to be gay.

Is it any wonder, then, that President Barack Obama — who keeps speaking out on behalf of the rights of all the world’s citizens — and his Russian colleague, Vladimir Putin, can’t get along?