Overwhelming public opposition rose in response to Arizona’s recently vetoed bill, SB 1062. The bill, which has just been vetoed by Governor Jan Brewer, was a hateful piece of legislature that would have mad it legal for businesses in AZ to discriminate against LGBTs on the basis of “religious freedom.”
Activists, politicians, celebrities, and people all over the country showed their outrage and opposition to the bill on social media and other major public platforms. Everyone from John McCain to local Arizona businesses to LGBT advocates like actor George Takei voiced their passionate and disbelieving concerns about the horrific implications this bill would have on society if passed into law. Takei, who has a massive online following with more than 6 million Facebook followers alone, recently penned an open essay about SB 1062, making it clear that he and his powerful network of allies would not stand silent while a bill so blatantly discriminatory got passed.
“Dear Arizona, Congratulations. You are now the first state actually to pass a bill permitting businesses – even those open to the public – to refuse to provide service to LGBT people based on an individual’s ‘sincerely held religious belief.’ This ‘turn away the gay’ bill enshrines discrimination into the law. Your taxi drivers can refuse to carry us. Your hotels can refuse to house us. And your restaurants can refuse to serve us…” of the way that SB 1062 would deeply impact the quality of life and dignity of LGBT people in Arizona.
He goes on, “When I was younger, people used ‘God’s Will’ as a reason to keep the races separate, too. Make no mistake, this is the new segregation, yours is a Jim Crow law, and you are about to make yourself ground zero,” calling out the hateful message hidden within the rhetoric of the bill. Takei, like countless others, was floored that this kind of legislature would even be considered by policy makers in 2014.
Takei finished his essay with a promise, citing a 1989 incident wherein Arizona refused to recognize Martin Luther King Day as a holiday and faced massive financial backlash: “So let me make [my opinion] just as clear. If your Governor Jan Brewer signs this repugnant bill into law, make no mistake. We will not come. We will not spend. And we will urge everyone we know – from large corporations to small families on vacation – to boycott. Because you don’t deserve our dollars. Not one red cent.” Takei and his partner Brad have ties to family and friends in Arizona, but the actor promises to revoke all support of the state if SB 1062 comes into law. His compelling words mirrored what many felt in regards to the discriminatory bill, and it seems as though they actually helped persuade Governor Brewer that passing SB 1062 would be a grave mistake.
Read Takei’s entire essay here.
Sporting a small rainbow-colored pin that read “Stand With Sam”, Michael Sam faced what may have been the largest crowd ever for an individual player press conference at the annual NFL Combine Saturday in Indianapolis. The first-team All-American defensive lineman from the University of Missouri fielded questions with ease, conviction and humor showing he is ready and willing to handle the spotlight.
The 24-year-old from Texas became the first openly gay player in NFL history. Sam wished his sexual orientation wasn’t a major story and that reporters would ask him about football. Sam did get a brief ten-minute stretch to talk about his ability to rush the passer and willingness to play either defensive end or outside linebacker.
The SEC’s 2013 co-defensive player of the year answered questions mostly related to his decision to come out, his experience with teammates in college and how he might handle certain situations in an NFL locker room. Sam was unworried and resolute. “If someone wants to call me a name, I will have a conversation with that guy, and hopefully, it won’t lead to nothing else.”
Sam has been receiving immense amounts of attention in the media, one receiving huge praise is the case made by American sportscaster Dale Hansen. Check out the interview with Michael Sam below:
An independent research group of the Dutch Ministry of Defense released a global ranking of countries based on their level of inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender service members in their armed forces today. Countries were judged on their level of inclusion, admission and tolerance of LGBT service members.
The top ranked countries on that list are New Zealand, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. The United States is ranked 40 out of 103 countries, behind countries like Chile, Georgia and Cuba.
Although the U.S. has already repealed its controversial “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, it has a lesser known ban on transgender people serving in the armed forces that dragged the country down to the lower ranking.
In a document obtained by The Guardian, the Department of Defense (DOD) states that applicants can be rejected if there is a “current or history of psychosexual conditions, transsexualism, exhibitionism, trasvestism, voyeurism and other paraphilias.”
There have been several advancements in the past year for the United States. Last year the Supreme Court struck down portions of the controversial Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which made it illegal for the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages.
Since that change, same-sex married couples have become eligible to jointly file their income tax, receive spousal death benefits and a host of other benefits previously afforded only to heterosexual married couples.
There are currently five court cases challenging same-sex marriage bans in conservative states such as Missouri. Many of the challenges are expected to make their way to the Supreme Court.
Most recently, the Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Justice Department will also amend its policies to treat same-sex married couples the same as heterosexual couples. The change allows gay couples to invoke “marital privilege” in court, file for bankruptcy together and have the same visitation rights in federal prison as their heterosexual counterparts.
The Hague Center will issue a full report based on the LGBT military index in May. The rankings are available here.
When most people think of former president Ronald Reagan, “ally” and “friend of the gay community” are probably the last things that might come to mind, if at all. Surprisingly however, Reagan is actually considered to be one of the few Republican leaders to have been tolerant and understanding of the LGBT community during his presidency. Many even regard him as a “conservative icon” among marginalized communities.
February 6th, 2014 would have been Reagan’s 103rd birthday, and to honor his legacy the Liberty Education Forum (LEF) created a video that featured Reagan’s farewell speech overlaid on a pro-LGBT video. LEF is the nonpartisan branch of the Log Cabin Republicans, the nation’s largest Republican organization dedicated to representing gay and lesbian conservatives and allies. Log Cabin Republicans has been instrumental in debunking the assumption that conservative Republicans – think Ken Mehlman, Ted Olsen, Paul Singer, and of course Ronald Reagan – aren’t for LGBT rights.
Of commemorating Reagan on his birthday earlier this month, Gregory T. Angelo, Executive Director of LEF explains, “I can think of no better ambassador to take our mission of fostering gay acceptance to conservatives and people of faith across the United States than President Reagan, and I can think of no better date to make a historic stand for equality than the anniversary of his birth.” Associating such an iconic figure with equal rights, and LGBT rights in particular is a very strategic move on the part of the Log Cabin Republicans.
Republicans Against 8 campaign manager Scott Schmidt agrees, explaining, “Ronald Reagan is a conservative icon because of his efforts to spread freedom around the globe. Conservatives need to remember that Ronald Reagan was opposed to taking away people’s rights,” of the ways in which Reagan was more accepting than his legacy suggests.
Click here to watch LEF’s “What It Means To Be An American” video.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) plans to sue Missouri this week for its ban of same-sex marriage. The litigation, which includes couples from Kansas City, St. Louis, mid-Missouri and Springfield, seeks to overturn Missouri’s ban on same-sex marriage.
The litigation, which will be filed in state court in Kansas City, comes less than a month after a federal judge struck down Oklahoma’s ban on same-sex marriage.
Missouri voters approved the ban at 71 percent in 2004—the same year Oklahoma approved its ban. The bans are both amendments to the state constitutions. U.S. District Judge Terrence Kern in his decision said Oklahoma’s ban violates the U.S. Constitution. The ruling stated the amendment violated the equal-protection clause and called the ban “an arbitrary, irrational exclusion of just one class of Oklahoma citizens from a governmental benefit.”
If there is a decision that finds Missouri’s ban unconstitutional it will likely anger state lawmakers such as house speaker Tim Jones, who opposes gay marriage. “My position is my position. I personally do not understand how marriage can be defined other than between a man and a woman. That is the definition of marriage. All these other things, I think they’re trying to call it something else and force it into the definition of marriage, which I think is an improper argument to even have, logically,” Jones said last year.
This past summer the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, prohibiting federal recognition of same-sex marriage, invited several litigations attacking prohibitions on same-sex marriage.
Fans, allies, and LGBTs everywhere swooned as Ellen Page came out publicly during her speech at the Human Rights Campaign’s (HRC) Time to Thrive Conference on Valentine’s Day. The actress announced to the audience that she was gay during her speech at the event; she also discussed unfair entertainment industry standards, and the work that activists are doing to make life better for gay, lesbian, and transgender youth.
Page came out in an eloquent, heartfelt way, thanking the HRC and supporters for giving her the courage to do so. She said,
“I’m here today because I am gay. And because maybe I can make a difference to help others have an easier and more hopeful time. Regardless, for me, I feel a personal obligation and a social responsibility. I am tired of hiding and I am tired of lying by omission. I suffered for years because I was scared to be out. My spirit suffered, my mental health suffered and my relationships suffered. And I’m standing here today, with all of you, on the other side of that pain.”
Page’s words resonated with countless Time to Thrive attendees, as well as the millions of people who have since watched her speech online after The Hollywood Reporter broke the story. Page has received a huge outpouring of support from fans and fellow actors, including Kristen Bell, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Anna Kendrick, and Kate Mara, who tweeted, “Hey @EllenPage…Be my Valentine?” It seems that Page can finally feel comfortable being honest about who she is, and can do so with a massive, supportive group of allies, fans, and colleagues standing with her. Hopefully, Page’s coming out will help others accept themselves for who they are, and bring more widespread attention to LGBT issues.
Watch Page’s speech at the Time to Thrive Conference here.
Using public restrooms is a daily ritual that is taken for granted by most people. What if this completely private, safe space was suddenly made dangerous and scary for you? How would you fee? Unfortunately, many individuals do regard public restrooms – in schools, in shopping centers, at work – with fear and anxiety because of their gender identity.
For transgender people, or other people who are gender nonconforming, these public spaces are stigmatizing, confusing, and even dangerous. As James Nichols for The Huffington Post explains, “Finding a safe bathroom space has always been an issue for transgender, genderqueer, non-binary individuals – people from all over the spectrum of gender identity.” Nichols reports that “Now, a new website called Refuge Restrooms is attempting to help people in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community who don’t feel safe in traditionally gendered restrooms find safe options within close proximity.”
Gender-neutral bathrooms are definitely not always easy to come by, particularly in more rural areas. This is why Refuge Restrooms creator Teagan Widmer decided to create a unisex restroom tracker, to equip non-binary individuals with a resource to help them safely navigate public spaces. Widmer explains, “Bathroom usage is a huge issue for trans people. It’s been well documented over the past few months in the press just how big of an issue it is…I built the site because I saw a gap that needed to be filled.”
Gendered bathrooms and how they can be dangerous spaces for trans folk certainly has been a topic heavily covered by media outlets over the last few months. California recently passed a law that allowed transgender students to use the bathroom with which they identify without fear of penalization, and transgender children like Coy Mathis made headlines in 2013 for the ways in which school administration made it confusing and difficult to use the restroom while at school. With more transgender advocates expressing the genuine need for gender-neutral public restrooms, more awareness about the severity of this issue is being brought to the forefront.
Learn more about Refuge Restrooms in Nichols’s report.