One Equal World

Posts Tagged ‘LGBT

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Jamaica has an ugly record regarding the treatment of LGBT citizens and visitors.

Sexual activity between men is illegal, with life imprisonment and hard labor among possible sentences. There are many reports of hate crimes against gay or transgender people—from corrective rape, to denial of health care by doctors, to murder and a lack of interest by the police in investigating such crimes. Hundreds of LGBT Jamaicans seek asylum in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom every year.

There is a breath of change in the wind, however. While human rights groups continue to point to Jamaica as the most homophobic Christian-majority nation in the world, the current government says that “there is no legal discrimination against persons on the grounds of their sexual orientation”

Mind, they haven’t changed those laws yet.

But the country made the news this week for turning away notorious American anti-gay pastor Steven Anderson, who travels the world as a “missionary” to spread his teaching that homosexuality should be punishable by death.

Anderson and his teenage son were about to board a flight from Atlanta, Georgia to Jamaica when Delta Airlines informed him that Jamaica was denying his entry. This happened in response to a 38,000-signature petition by Jamaican citizens, collected by LGBT activists.

Anderson has previously been banned from South Africa and deported from Botswana for shouting on a local radio program that LGBT people should be “stoned to death.”

Jamaican officials said only that Anderson’s statements were “not conducive to the current climate.”

Does that mean it’s purely a PR move? It’s possible. But the immediate result is that a man who uses the pulpit to directly preach hate and violence will not be allowed to stir up a potentially dangerous audience. So it seems like a net win, regardless of the motivation of the Jamaican government.


The logo for the American Mortgage Diversity Council.

More than half of America’s states don’t have protections for LGBT identities in their housing discrimination laws. Same-sex marriage is legal nationwide, but a queer person in Texas, Tennessee, New Hampshire, or 27 other states could come home from their honeymoon to a perfectly legal eviction notice on their door. It’s worse for transgender individuals, as only a few states have language that explicitly includes them in legal protections.

On Thursday, December 7th, the American Mortgage Diversity Council, supported by Bank of America, hosted a roundtable conference in Dallas, Texas to discuss legislation that includes sexuality and gender identity in Fair Housing Act protections.

The council also discussed instituting programs that encourage LGBT home ownership, particularly programs at the federal level. This would also include a training program about unconscious bias for industry professionals in loans and realty.

“This round-table Town Hall connects the leaders of the Dallas LGBT community into a collaborative dialogue with the leaders of the mortgage banking and financial services industry to shed light on the challenges facing all facets of their community in an effort to ensure that diversity and inclusion remains a top priority,” said John Rieger, the Executive Director for the American Mortgage Diversity Council.

The reason why it needs to be a top priority is apparent in the words of Neil Cazares-Thomas, Senior Paster at the inclusive Cathedral of Hope:

“It is imperative that the full power of the banking industry is both seen as being diverse and supporting the many causes that support the fight of discrimination and stigma that is seen in the LGBT community, which leads to homelessness, issues with addiction, and other social needs.”

The American Mortgage Diversity Council intends this to be the first of many such roundtables held in cities around the country. In each, it will loop local LGBT resource centers and educational programs in with banking professionals and experts in property loans.

A photo of a sign that reads, "Welcome to Cleveland State University."

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The fliers found in Cleveland State University’s main classrooms building last week might have seemed innocuous at first glance, but not after a second’s thought.

A cover-sheet showed a man and woman, over the words “We have a right to exist.” But if the art looks familiar, that’s because it’s taken from ’40s propaganda posters of the Nazi Aryan ideal. And lifting the cover sheet makes the poster even worse.

The second page is a hanged man in silhouette. In rainbow text and a slur, the poster exhorts LGBT viewers to commit suicide. The poster was signed “Fascist Solutions.”

While it was an isolated posting on CSU’s campus, a similar poster was found at a bus stop in Texas in May.

The poster itself, however, is not the spark of the outrage currently entangling the campus. Rather, it is that CSU’s president Ronald Berkman took pains to remind students that free speech protected the poster, in lieu of any statement assuring LGBT students of their safety. Only after the outcry did he address that matter.

The poster was removed, but only because it had not been approved to be posted through the required channels. Berkman’s insistence that he would have had to post it, had the source followed proper procedure, is what has angered students.

The jury has never been in on the fine and nebulous line between freedom of speech and protection from hate speech. It’s a controversial matter, and one that arises frequently at state-funded universities which are on the fringe of being entities of the government. But speech exhorting violence or crime is explicitly not covered under free speech, and this poster undeniably promoted both, in a vicious manner.

And as for the cover sheet? “We have a right to exist.” Cleveland State University is 66% white, its faculty even more so. Perhaps they should check their remedial math courses for the culprit.

A shattered rainbow heart.

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Like more than half the country, Michigan’s current state laws don’t include protections for sexuality in employment or housing law. Same-sex marriage may be legal under the federal umbrella, but if you invite your boss to your Friday wedding, it’s perfectly legal for him to fire you on Monday. Drive your can-and-streamer-decorated car home to enjoy seeing “just married” in your driveway for a few days, and you can wake up to a 30-day order to vacate.

Attempting to address this injustice, pro-LGBT advocacy group Equality Michigan requested a review of the state’s existing laws by the Civil Rights Commission to see if there was a way to extend anti-discrimination protection to LGBT citizens. Whether or not such a re-interpretation is up to the commission has been a controversial matter, but they did intend to put it to a vote.

But instead, Attorney General Bill Schuette brought down the hammer by sending law enforcement to the commission hearing to inform them that his office had unilaterally decided they did not in fact have that authority.

Schuette’s input is far from unbiased. He defended Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage in 2016 all the way to the Supreme Court (and lost), claiming he had no choice but to “defend” his constituents in that manner. Who is he defending?

Certainly not the estimated 30% of LGBT Michiganders who experience workplace discrimination, or the 20%  of trans individuals who report housing discrimination (from a 2013 study). Nor is he defending local business. Large corporations across the nation are cutting ties with states who persist in remaining in the stagnant back-eddies of progress, costing states who dig their heels in billions of dollars and thousands of jobs.

Hopefully, while Schuette runs for governor of Michigan in the current election year, his voters will remember his backward thinking, and ensure that he does not gain even more authority to keep Michigan state in the dark ages.

A photo of a legal document that's titled "lawsuit."

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Donna Kikkert calls herself a “mainstream” student. By that, the 59-year-old woman chasing her first degree at the University of Wisconsin means that she is straight, white, and Christian. She took a poetry class, and is suing the professor for choosing a reading selection that did not “serve her needs.”

Without naming titles, Kikkert claimed in course records that the assigned readings for her Creative Writing Poetry course focused on “lesbians, illicit sexual relationships, incest, and frequent swearing.” She had demanded more “classic” works, and when that was denied, she complained first to the professor, then to the university, and then, after her failing grade was upheld and the course was finished, to court.

Kikkert’s demands included not only an A grade for herself, but also that the teacher, Professor Patricia Dyjak, be fired or suspended without pay for a full year—four times the length of the course. Kikkert also made personal accusations of inappropriate behavior against Dyjak, accusations refuted by other students.

For generations, literature studies have included only the works of white men and the occasional white woman, only the experiences of the majority. Decades of poetry written by LGBT people, people of color, women, and other “fringe” populations have been left out of the curriculum, and now that they are there, the “mainstream” students feel attacked by their very presence.

There’s a supported study by Australian Dale Spender which indicates that men feel that women are dominating the conversation if women speak 30% of the time. One assumes the same winds up true no matter which majority and minority you substitute in.

Kikkert could have chosen to include the titles from her professor’s curriculum. That she didn’t implies that she knew an actual review of the content wouldn’t support her accusation. And even if those accusations were true, there’s nothing in the law or in the tenants of University of Wisconsin that requires a course to cater to her. That’s why the court not only dismissed her case, but also her request for free counsel.

A businessman dressed in a suit and tie rips open his shirt, revealing a rainbow shirt underneath.

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In all fifty states, same-sex marriage has been made legal. But in 28 of those states, mentioning your fiance’s name when asking for time off for your honeymoon can get you fired, because in more than half the country it’s still legal to discriminate against LGBT people in the workplace. And in the midst of the current conservative backlash against gay rights, it’s important to take grassroots stands in the workplace.

Here are a few suggestions for what you, your coworkers, and your boss can do to make acceptance one of your core values.

1. The big one: benefits. This is your employer putting their money where their mouth is. Make sure your coworkers with same-sex partners and non-traditional families have the same access to health care that you do, including gender-blind parental options, allowances for adoption and surrogacy, and gender-affirmation and transition-related care.

2. Help support resource groups for LGBT employees, particularly if you are in a state that still supports discrimination. They need a place where they can discuss the weight of those issues.

3. Ask what your company is doing to support LGBT people outside their walls. Do they give preference to relationships with other inclusive companies? Devote any resources to outreach? Does your leadership do any communicating on this issue, or is it just a line for show in the company’s values posters?

4. Track what’s actually happening. Does the data indicate that your goals for diversity are being met? This doesn’t mean hiring to a quota–if you’re truly inclusive, that should be entirely unnecessary. If you can’t have this data, ask your HR why.

5. Speak up when you hear ugly speech at work. It only takes one bigot to make LGBT employees feel unwelcome and under fire if everyone else lets their behavior go unremarked. Report what you hear, and hold your employer responsible for responding.

There are many, many more tactics to take to make your job a shelter for those who still need it. Most of these tactics can be applied to any under-served population, and will make you a role model for other employers in your community.

A photo of a skyscraper with rainbow colors on it.

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Although the White House backed away from an executive order that would have allowed federal contractors to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people, it is still clear that this is not an administration that will go out of the way to defend the LGBTQ+ community. With a number of states having passed or considered passing various “bathroom bills” or “religious freedom” bills that would enshrine discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation, the situation for LGBTQ+ rights is precarious.

But there are allies, especially in the one sector that conservatives value more than any other: business. As we’ve seen, discriminatory laws don’t work out well for the states that enact them, and in a number of cases, it is local and national companies that are first in line to oppose such bills.

For example, 82% of Fortune 500 companies explicitly forbid discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation. In Texas, 1,200 companies came forward in opposition to SB-6. And in Tennessee, the Hospital Corporation of America, FedEx, Jack Daniels, and Country Music Television opposed a proposed law that would allow mental health counselors to refuse treatment based on their religion. In Georgia, Salesforce, Apple, Microsoft, Disney, Intel, and Home Depot urged the governor to veto that state’s discrimination bill, which worked.

Republicans have made it clear that they don’t listen to people who won’t tell them what they want to hear, and this administration will absolutely be no different in that. But that’s people. When it comes to businesses, they’re a lot more likely to listen. While it may bother many of us that companies have so much more clout with politicians than do the people of the United States, when they use that clout to help prevent the passage of discriminatory bills, it would be absurd to turn away such allies.