Tag Archives: lgbt

"The Most Dangerous Justice Department in Decades"

Mother Jones

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On a rainy Thursday morning, several members of Congress joined civil rights activists, policy experts, and former Obama administration officials for a forum on the future of civil rights in the Trump era. In the room typically occupied by the House Judiciary Committee, a common refrain quickly emerged. “The backstop that has been the civil rights enforcement of the federal government is no more,” said Catherine Lhamon, chair of the US Commission on Civil Rights.

In a wide-ranging discussion, panelists noted that the Trump administration is pulling back on the federal government’s interest in influencing a number of civil rights’ issues; transgender rights, immigration policy, voting rights, and fair housing were all discussed. But with a recent Justice Department memo calling for a review of all Obama-era police reform agreements or “consent decrees,” police reform received the most attention of any subject.

The memo, which was issued last week, but wasn’t made public until Monday, reveals a Justice Department highly skeptical of the importance of police oversight and reluctant to conduct further reviews of police departments. “The misdeeds of individual bad actors should not impugn or undermine the legitimate and honorable work that law enforcement agencies perform in keeping American communities safe,” it states.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been a frequent critic of consent decrees in the past. In February, Sessions, admitting that he hadn’t read the full reports after reviews of police departments in Ferguson and Chicago revealed widespread abuses disproportionately targeted at black residents, described them as “pretty anecdotal.” Earlier this week, the Justice Department asked a US District court to delay its hearing of the proposed consent decree between the DOJ and the Baltimore Police Department. (The request was refused and the hearing was held on Thursday.)

Ron Davis, the former director of the DOJ’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services during the Obama administration, noted that the Justice Department was “going back to the 1990s to fight a war that we have already lost.”

“We have advanced policing to a science; to go back to practices that we know are ineffective is outright ridiculous,” Davis added. Other panelists pointed out that the Justice Department could not unilaterally end reform agreements already in place, saying that the recent memo reflected a deep misunderstanding of how the process works.

Hassan Aden, a member of Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration and former chief of the Greenville, North Carolina, Police Department, addressed the administration’s approach to immigration enforcement, recalling his personal experience with Trump’s controversial “Muslim Ban.” Last month, US Customs and Border Patrol detained Aden as he returned to the US from a trip to Paris to celebrate his mother’s birthday. “My detention was 90 minutes,” he said, adding he never had any issues with customs before this year. “But there are others where their detention is significantly longer.”

The panelists’ concerns about the DOJ extended beyond the role it plays in law enforcement. Gavin Grimm, a transgender teen who has become a prominent transgender rights advocate after suing his local school board for limiting his access to school restrooms, spoke of the DOJ’s recent decision to back away from an Obama-era guidance requiring schools to let children to use the facility that matched their gender identity. Grimm’s case was scheduled to go to the Supreme Court but was removed from the court’s calendar shortly after the DOJ changed its position on transgender student guidance. “The decision to withdraw the guidance sent a terrible message to some of the most vulnerable people,” Grimm said. Despite President Trump’s campaign trail promises to protect the LGBT community, his administration was doing the opposite. “Actions speak louder than words,” Grimm said.

The congressional forum was officially hosted by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), the ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee. But unofficially, it was an event led by the Congressional Black Caucus, with several members—including caucus chair Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.)—speaking. Since Trump assumed office, CBC members have become some of the president’s loudest critics, and, comprising nearly one quarter of Democrats in Congress, a powerful voice for the party, particularly regarding civil rights.

Last month, members of the CBC executive leadership met with the president, sharing a policy document that outlined its vision for black America. After the meeting, Richmond said that the caucus would continue to remain in contact with the president and planned to hold meetings with several members of the Cabinet, including with Attorney General Sessions.

If today’s forum is any indication, that meeting will not be a pleasant one. “We may be seeing the most dangerous Department of Justice that we have seen in decades,” said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas). “We will continue to fight.”

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"The Most Dangerous Justice Department in Decades"

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Here Are the Very Best Signs From New York City’s Big LGBT Solidarity March

Mother Jones

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Emptying out from brunch spots wielding wickedly pointed signs, and chanting, “We want a leader, not a creepy tweeter!” thousands of anti-Trump demonstrators from the LGBT community met for a rally on hallowed turf on Saturday afternoon: the plaza outside the Stonewall nightclub in New York City’s West Village—recently designated by the Obama administration as a National Monument for its historic role in the long fight for gay rights.

Eugene Lovendusky, 31, works in not-for-profit financing in New York City. James West

Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), the Senate minority leader, received a mixed reception when he appeared in front of the microphone. “Grow some balls!” several people shouted. “Block everything!”—a reference to the ground-swell of progressive voters demanding Schumer lead Senate Democrats in styming President Trump’s agenda and appointments. (Protesters also gathered on Tuesday night outside the minority leader’s Brooklyn apartment.)

Schumer’s pledge to block Betsy DeVos, Trump’s pick for education secretary—”She can take her conversion therapy back to Michigan!”—was, on the other hand, met with cheers and applause.

James West

But it was clear from talking to multiple people in the LGBT community and their allies on this chilly but sunny Saturday that battle-lines have been drawn: many felt there could be no compromise with the Trump administration.

“It’s time to stop giving in,” said Alan Brodherson, a 52-year-old attorney. “Over the years, that’s what the Democrats have consistently done.”

“I don’t believe in complacency,” he said. “Be vigilant.”

Taylor James, a 29-year-old Canadian dancer and photographer who now lives in Los Angeles, was also impressed by the renewed sense of purpose amongst protesters. “It’s inspiring. In 50 years, in 40 years, I’ll look back to see how I stood up,” he said. “It feels very personal.”

Trump, he said, “forces us to show up.”

Taylor James, 29: “When you’re a liberal, you’re fighting to get to ground zero.”

Most people I spoke to said they turned up to show solidarity with the immigrants and refugees targeted by President Donald Trump’s executive order temporarily barring travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries, along with suspending America’s refugee program. (The Trump administration suffered a set-back on Friday night when Judge James Robart of Federal District Court in Seattle issued an order temporarily blocking Trump’s executive action.)

Jaimie McGovern, 29, showed up simply because “the LGBT community is across every spectrum. We’re Muslim, we’re Hispanic.” She surveyed the turnout: “This is fantastic.”

Marissa Nargi, left, and Jaimie McGovern, both students, turned out to show their support for immigrants and refugees. James West

“We’re not going to stand by while Trump takes away rights one by one,” said IT worker David Vazquez, 31. “It seems like every day he comes out with something new. We need to keep from being discouraged.”

Mike Hisey, dressed as Kellyanne Conway with a blond wig and an outfit that evoked her now-famous inauguration getup, stood outside Stonewall itself, attracting a constant stream of requests for photographs with a deadpan face. “Protesting and march works,” he said.

“I’ve been protesting for 30 years.”

Mike Hisey, a.k.a. “Alt-Fact Kelly,” outside Stonewall nightclub in Manhattan’s West Village. James West


Here Are the Very Best Signs From New York City’s Big LGBT Solidarity March

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After Ghost Ship Fire, Tupac’s Old Lawyer Is Helping Artists Fight Eviction

Mother Jones

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In the aftermath of the Ghost Ship warehouse fire in Oakland, California, that claimed 36 lives earlier this month, the inhabitants of live-work artist warehouses all over America have been receiving eviction threats and notices. In Oakland and San Francisco, residents of at least five such spaces are now facing eviction. Warehouses in Baltimore and Denver have been shuttered since the fire, and others are facing increased scrutiny in Nashville, Philadelphia, and Dallas, as well as Indianapolis, Indiana, and New Haven, Connecticut. Many worry that this activity is related less to safety concerns than to property owners’ desire to expel low-wage artists in favor of wealthier tenants.

Bay Area artists, at least, have a high-profile defender—the civil rights lawyer John Burris, who has stepped up to act as a liaison between tenants and local government code enforcers. Burris, whose name pops up in many a lawsuit regarding abusive practices by local police, is best known for representing Rodney King, Tupac Shakur, and the family of Oscar Grant—who was killed by a BART police officer, inspiring the movie Fruitvale Station. Standing up for low-rent artists seemed a little off the beaten track for Burris, so I reached out to him and his housing guru, James Cook, to see what was afoot.

Mother Jones: What inspired you to help artists facing eviction after the fire?

John Burris: My daughter lost two friends. I knew she has spent time in the Bay Area’s artist warehouses, so I called her immediately when I heard the news. She had two friends who were missing, later confirmed dead. I feel her pain, but I’m pained just as a community person as well. The loss of 36 lives is just outrageous. So we thought, how can we help?

MJ: How are you helping? Are you filing a lawsuit?

JB: No. It’s not clear that the city can be held liable for the fire. But the eviction issue came up very quickly. We invited people in the affected community to sit around our table and tell us their stories. That’s what we do in civil rights law—we hear stories, and the stories move us to action. We said we don’t think we can do what we would traditionally do, which is file a lawsuit, but maybe there’s something else. Now we’re facilitating communication between the city and the artistic community. Ultimately we’ll have to bring in real estate people as well, because they hold the aces. Our goal is to make sure people know their rights, and make policy adjustments if needed to protect people from eviction.

MJ: Why is it important to you that these artists stay put?

JB: We’re concerned that this may turn into a boondoggle for landowners and real estate interests, who will use this tragedy to evict artists and members of alternative communities—including LGBT people. We fear they will legally be able to put people out by saying they need to get a building up to code for safety reasons, and then turn around and rent it for a lot of money to someone else. This practice is not uncommon. Take African American communities—often developers will come in and renovate a neighborhood, driving up rents, and the city fails to take action on behalf of the community, which eventually has to move out. The African American population is declining in Oakland, as it has already declined in San Francisco. So the question is, will this particular event cause that process to occur with respect to the artistic community, here and elsewhere?

MJ: Doesn’t the city have a responsibility to enforce housing codes?

JB: The city has a responsibility to make sure a living space is not harmful. But that doesn’t mean it has to be up to every code, in which case landlords would have reason to put people out left and right. Basic requirements of safety have to be maintained, but we have to preserve the affordable housing stock, too, and respect people’s right to stay in their homes.

MJ: Why would cities want to stop gentrification?

James Cook: We use the term “legacy community” to talk about a community that’s part of a city’s cultural, historical, and economic fabric. For good reason, we have housing laws in many cities designed to keep legacy communities in place, and to create some sort of economic structure to help those communities survive. If you can maintain legacy communities, the theory is that cities will thrive economically, thrive politically, thrive intellectually, thrive culturally. In the Bay Area, artists and LGBT people are legacy communities that we want to sustain.

MJ: Do you think a city has a special responsibility to its current residents, as opposed to potential future ones?

JB: Yes, a community is defined by those who are already here, not those whom you want to attract.

JC: Housing is the next dimension of civil rights law. There’s actually a constitutional case to be made for this. The Constitution says you have the right to a notice and a hearing before your property can be taken away. Some people may say that if you’re a tenant and you don’t own your house, this shouldn’t necessarily apply to you. But housing rights advocates argue that the law applies because you own a stake in the property as a leaseholder. Across the country, we increasingly have laws that mimic the 14th Amendment for tenants.

MJ: Does protecting these artists have implications for other legacy communities?

JB: Yes. Decreasing one type of diversity usually leads to decreasing other types. So if rents go up because the artistic community is expelled, African Americans will suffer too. Forward-thinking leaders of cities value diversity for many reasons, including economic ones. So if something comes along that threatens that diversity, the city has a responsibility to do what it can to make sure that doesn’t happen.

John Burris, right, stands with Tanti Martinez, whose asthmatic son died while incarcerated in California.

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After Ghost Ship Fire, Tupac’s Old Lawyer Is Helping Artists Fight Eviction

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After Losing Millions in Revenue, North Carolina Is Set to Repeal Its Horrible Bathroom Law

Mother Jones

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The North Carolina law that famously blocks transgender people from using the bathrooms of their choice appears to be on its deathbed. On Monday, Governor-elect Roy Cooper announced that House Bill 2, seen as the most sweeping anti-LGBT law in the country, would be repealed in a special session of the Legislature Tuesday.

The announcement came after the city council in Charlotte voted Monday morning to rescind a local nondiscrimination ordinance, passed in February, that had inspired state lawmakers to speed HB2 through the legislative process in a single day in March. In addition to blocking trans people from bathrooms, HB2 preempted local governments like Charlotte’s from passing measures that protect gay and trans people from discrimination.

Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, who passionately supported HB2 and narrowly lost his reelection bid, confirmed he would call a special session of the Legislature on Tuesday to repeal HB2. Governor-elect Cooper said the state Senate majority leader and House speaker had assured him they would kill the law because Charlotte had agreed to get rid of its local ordinance. “I hope they will keep their word to me and with the help of Democrats in the legislature, HB2 will be repealed in full,” Cooper said in a statement.

“Full repeal will help to bring jobs, sports and entertainment events back and will provide the opportunity for strong LGBT protections in our state,” he added. North Carolina lost millions of dollars of revenue after the law passed, as companies protested by canceling plans to bring jobs to the state, Bruce Springsteen and other musicians pulled out of concerts there, and the NBA and the NCAA moved sports events to other locations

Charlotte’s city council had previously refused to rescind its nondiscrimination ordinance. On Monday Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts defended the decision to do so. The vote “should in no way be viewed as a compromise of our principles or commitment to nondiscrimination,” she said.

Outgoing Gov. McCrory, whose popularity fell after HB2 was passed, criticized Charlotte leaders for not getting rid of the local ordinance sooner—and argued they waited for political reasons. “This sudden reversal, with little notice after the gubernatorial election, sadly proves this entire issue originated by the political left was all about politics and winning the governor’s race at the expense of Charlotte and our entire state,” McCrory’s office said in a statement.

LGBT rights organizations praised the plan to repeal HB2, which Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin described as “shameful and archaic” legislation. But they added they were disappointed to see Charlotte’s local ordinance go. “The problem has never been Charlotte,” said Equality North Carolina Executive Director Chris Sgro, noting that hundreds of cities across the country have similar ordinances to protect gay and transgender people from discrimination. Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said in a statement that the repeal of HB2 could open a door for other cities in the state to pass nondiscrimination protections in the future: “Completely repealing HB2 is only the first step lawmakers must take to repair the harm they have done to their own constituents. Even after it is repealed, there will be a long way to go.”

If the Republican-majority Legislature follows through and repeals HB2, it would be a surprising act of cooperation with the incoming Democratic governor. Just last week, Republican lawmakers in the state introduced a series of bills that would curtail his powers in office.

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After Losing Millions in Revenue, North Carolina Is Set to Repeal Its Horrible Bathroom Law

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Here’s Where Your State Stands on LGBT Rights

Mother Jones

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In a time of uncertainty and anxiety for LGBT rights advocates, and with plenty of battles left to fight, 2016 showed some encouraging signs for broader protections at the state level, according to a new analysis by the country’s biggest LGBT advocacy group.

Over the past year, state legislatures saw an uptick in bills affecting the LGBT community—with a whopping 753 such bills introduced. Some of the most famous, like North Carolina’s “bathroom bill,” sought to restrict their rights. But many more bills—two-thirds of them, in fact—pushed to improve protections for the LGBT community, the Human Rights Campaign found in a report published Wednesday. “There has definitely been some good to come out of the last 12 months,” says Lynne Bowman, a field director for the advocacy group, which put out the report in collaboration with Equality Federation Institute.

Sixteen nondiscrimination laws passed this year, including in Massachusetts, which enhanced its law in July to give trans people the right to use public bathrooms and locker rooms based on their gender identity. Governors in Montana, Louisiana, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania signed executive orders expanding protections for gay and trans state employees (though a Louisiana judge struck down the governor’s protection this week.)

Courtesy of the Human Rights Campaign

Hate crime laws were also expanded in a dozen states to include crimes targeting people for their sexual orientation or gender identity. (Check out how your state stacks up, in the map above.) The number of hate crime laws proposed more than doubled from 2015, with attacks on the LGBT community gaining national attention in the wake of the shooting at Pulse nightclub in Florida that left 50 people dead this summer.

In five states—Hawaii, Delaware, Maryland, Michigan, and Pennsylvania—lawmakers pushed through legislation to stop health care insurers from excluding trans patients. Meanwhile, half a dozen states passed bills relating to youth suicide prevention and anti-bullying in schools, and Vermont and New York joined the list of states banning conversion therapy.

But it wasn’t all good news for LGBT rights. State legislators proposed more than 250 anti-LGBT bills this year, more than in any other year since 2009. The most high-profile setback was North Carolina’s House Bill 2, which removed anti-discrimination protections for LGBT workers and required trans people to use the bathroom corresponding to their biological sex, not their gender identity. Gov. Pat McCrory and North Carolina’s legislators met immediate pushback, losing an estimated $395 million in business in the state and sparking a Justice Department lawsuit. Even so, 14 other states proposed their own bathroom bills this year—though none of them passed. Of the 252 total bills seeking to restrict LGBT rights, only 8 passed. It “took a lot of collective work” to make sure this restrictive legislation didn’t go through, HRC’s Bowman said.

Courtesy of the Human Rights Campaign

And there’s still a lot of work to do. Eight states don’t allow teachers to discuss LGBT topics in schools, while 19 states exclude transgender people from state Medicaid. More than half of all states still don’t have nondiscrimination laws protecting gay or gender-nonconforming people in employment, housing, public accommodation, or education. (See more in the map below.)

Courtesy of the Human Rights Campaign

Even with so many anti-LGBT bills shot down this year, Bowman said we should expect more to crop up in 2017, particularly “religious freedom” bills and additional laws that discriminate against transgender people. Of course, this is all just at the state level. Donald Trump’s administration, along with a prospective Cabinet of LGBT rights opponents, could pose a whole new set of hurdles in the years to come.


Here’s Where Your State Stands on LGBT Rights

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The VA Just Dealt a Big Blow to Transgender Veterans

Mother Jones

The Department of Veterans Affairs is calling off plans to allow sex reassignment surgeries for transgender veterans, citing budget concerns.

The decision is a blow to trans veterans who need the surgery to treat gender dysphoria, a medical condition characterized by extreme distress over a mismatch between a person’s body and gender identity. It also marks a departure from the Pentagon’s recent move to cover the surgery for eligible active-duty troops. (There are an estimated 1,320 to 6,630 trans soldiers in the military.)

The VA Department has banned sex reassignment surgeries for veterans since the early 1990s, but it covers hormone therapy. In June, the department announced that it was considering lifting the ban on surgeries “to remove any barriers to transition-related care.” But in a statement to the Military Times this week, VA officials said the proposal had been scrapped by the Office of Management and Budget because it was not clear how the department would pay for it. The National Center for Transgender Equality has estimated that more than 134,000 veterans are transgender, though it’s not known how many would have tried to get the surgery. When the Pentagon decided in September to cover sex reassignment surgery, researchers noted that of thousands of trans troops, only an estimated 25 to 130 soldiers would opt for the procedure each year, amounting to less than a 0.13 percent increase in current health spending.

The VA Department said it would consider covering the surgery “when appropriate funding is available.”

“Increased understanding of both gender dysphoria and surgical techniques in this area has improved significantly and is now widely accepted as medically necessary treatment,” it said in the statement. “VA has been and will continue to explore a regulatory change that would allow VA to perform gender alteration surgery.”

Though he has called for a return to “traditional values,” President-elect Donald Trump has not commented on whether the government should pay for transition-related health care for trans vets. Nor has he taken a clear stance on trans rights more generally. In May, he said that if elected president, he would rescind Obama administration guidelines that protect trans rights in schools and health care—before adding that the government had a responsibility to “protect all people” and that he looked forward to learning more about the push for trans rights. In October, he described as “ridiculous” the Pentagon’s decisions to allow transgender people to serve openly in the military.

As the Republican president-elect prepares to head to the White House, LGBT advocacy groups worry trans veterans may be out of luck for some time. “This is a deeply disappointing setback,” Ashley Broadway-Mack, president of the American Military Partner Association, said of the VA Department’s decision not to offer sex reassignment surgeries. “As we now face a new incoming administration, we implore fair-minded Americans to stand united in holding our new administration officials accountable by insisting this be fixed.”


The VA Just Dealt a Big Blow to Transgender Veterans

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The Lawyers Who Helped Make Gay Marriage the Law of the Land Are Just Getting Started

Mother Jones

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Last June, in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide. A year later, President Obama has christened Stonewall Inn the first national monument to LGBT rights, and the nation is engaged in a conversation—and new legal battles—involving transgender equality, another piece of the puzzle. I caught up with Memphis-based civil rights attorney Maureen Holland, part of the winning legal team in Obergfell, to discuss the eventful past year, the Pulse massacre, and her next big legal project.

Maureen Holland

Mother Jones: After the Obergefell ruling, there was substantial resistance, including Kim Davis the county clerk in Kentucky who refused to grant marriage licenses. Several states proposed bills that would let businesses deny services to LGBT customers on religious grounds. Were you surprised by the level of pushback?

Maureen Holland: It did not surprise me. Many southern states pushed back after the Loving 1967 interracial marriage case was decided, so we recognized there might be resistance. But I think the pushback was overshadowed by the overwhelming support for the decision. For some time, I was continually getting comments about how many lives were positively affected.

MJ: Since then, there’s been a growing number of federal lawsuits by people alleging their civil rights were violated when they were denied marriage benefits, or fired after coming out to their employers as gay.

MH: Employment protections are the next step in the gay-rights fight. In February 2015, before Obergefell, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced that its offices would accept claims from people alleging sexual orientation-based discrimination in the workplace. After Obergefell, many people believed their cases would finally be heard if they filed claims—so they did. But the EEOC has to review the claims, decide which ones it wants to take action on, deny the claim, or tell the claimant they can sue in federal court. In recent months, we’ve seen people filing lawsuits who finally got their right-to-sue letters for claims they filed right after Obergefell. I don’t know if any organization is keeping track of the number of cases.

MJ: You’re now working on a case on behalf of a gay cop in Memphis who says he was harassed while working as his department’s LGBT liaison. You argue that workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation is covered under the Civil Rights Act’s ban on gender discrimination in the workplace. Can you explain the logic?

MH: Sexual orientation discrimination is essentially discriminating against somebody because they’re not conforming to the norms of their sex. Men should talk a certain way. Women should wear a certain attire at work. That kind of discrimination is illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. And discriminating against someone because they’re a man dating a man but you think they should date women is the same type of discrimination. So we think it is illegal as well. That argument would also extend to discrimination based on gender identity.

MJ: Which brings me to my next question: In Obergefell the Supreme Court found that gay marriage is a protected right under the Constitution, but it didn’t say sexual orientation is a protected class, like race and gender. Is there any language in that opinion that suggests your strategy will succeed?

MH: There’s language in any court opinion—called dicta—that you can draw implications from and use to extend the finding to other contexts. The dicta in Obergefell is clear: The Court adopts the idea that “psychologists and others recognize that sexual orientation is both a normal expression of human sexuality and immutable.” In my complaint for the Memphis officer, I use this and other quotes as the framework for the argument that the Obergefell ruling was not just about marriage.

MJ: This notion that sexual orientation is immutable sounds like a clear indication that it should be a protected class. The Constitution’s equal protection clause was meant to protect people from discrimination based on attributes they can’t change.

MH: Exactly. But we don’t have case law that says it with that level of clarity in regard to sexual orientation. That’s why people are bringing these cases.

MJ: Let’s pivot to transgender rights. We’re in the midst of a big national debate about that. Why now?

MH: It’s the next conversation we had to have about LGBT rights. Gender identity—what is that? What does it mean? How do our laws apply to individuals who transition? The Obergefell decision opened up space for a more national conversation.

MJ: President Obama repealed Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. His Department of Justice stopped enforcing the Defense of Marriage Act before the Obergefell decision. And 11 states are now suing his administration over bathroom guidelines it issued for transgender students.

MH: I think President Obama has become a great advocate for LGBT rights. He’s talked about his transition in thinking on same-sex marriage, and the fact that we got to see him do that openly and honestly has been helpful. He has issued executive orders that give protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity to public-sector employees. All these things speak well to his willingness to not just say it, but to do things that are meaningful to protect LGBT people.

MJ: When might the Supreme Court take up the question of whether sexual orientation and gender identity are constitutionally protected?

MH: It could happen the year after next. They have to accept a case that asks the question, first. But there are a number of those moving into the Court of Appeals. It also depends on the decisions of the Courts of Appeal. The Supreme Court tends to take cases when there’s a difference in opinion in the circuits—not just because they think a case is interesting. That’s what happened in Obergefell.

MJ: I’m curious about your thoughts on what happened in Orlando.

MH: I was heartbroken. It was hard to see—as a member of the LGBT community myself—people targeted because of their identity, when a year prior we had celebrated Obergefell. No one should be targeted because of who they love, and that message needs to continue to be said, and protections need to be in place. I spoke at a vigil for Orlando here in Memphis the day it happened. The crowd came out, and I think they were afraid to be who they are because they knew they could be targeted. You want to live in a community where you don’t have to be afraid to go outside or go to work and be who you are. And that’s what I hope the future will be. We’re not there yet.

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The Lawyers Who Helped Make Gay Marriage the Law of the Land Are Just Getting Started

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Tennessee Lawmaker Insists On Giving Away a Rifle Similar to the One Used in the Orlando Massacre

Mother Jones

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The day after a rifle similar to an AR-15 was used to massacre 49 people at an LGBT club in Orlando, Tennessee state Rep. Andy Holt is standing by his decision to give away an AR-15 as a door prize at an upcoming campaign fundraiser and turkey shoot.

In fact, he’s now giving away two. Holt, a Republican, told a reporter who asked if the prize was insensitive in light of the recent shooting, “absolutely not.” Holt told The Tennessean that the only problem with the assault rifle is that “it’s black and it looks real scary.”

“If I beat somebody to death with a hammer that’s just a hammer,” Holt continued. “But if I was to take and wrap it up in electrical tape and make it black, I guess that would make it an assault hammer.”

Holt was a cosponsor on the state’s recent anti-transgender bathroom bill, which ultimately failed, and he introduced a successful bill that permits full-time employees of Tennessee colleges and universities to carry a handgun on campus.

In a Facebook post Monday morning, Holt issued a call to arms to his constituents. “I want you to arm yourselves and learn to shoot with deadly accuracy should the need arise,” he wrote. “Protect your family. Protect yourselves. Protect your friends. Our government has made it quite clear that it is incapable of doing so. At the end of the day, it’s your responsibility anyways.”

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Tennessee Lawmaker Insists On Giving Away a Rifle Similar to the One Used in the Orlando Massacre

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Clinton Blasts Anti-Muslim Bigotry in Aftermath of Orlando Attack

Mother Jones

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Hillary Clinton never mentioned Donald Trump’s name, but in her first speech since Sunday’s massacre at an Orlando gay club, Clinton sharply rebuked the anti-Muslim sentiment that has been at the center of his presidential campaign.

In a somber foreign policy speech in Cleveland on Monday, Clinton laid out a broad outline of her anti-terrorism strategy, one that mostly targets ISIS. “The attack in Orlando makes it even more clear: We cannot contain this threat, we must defeat it,” she said at a rally that had already been scheduled and was adjusted in the aftermath of Sunday’s events. Referring to the attacks in Paris and Brussels, as well as the one in Orlando, Clinton warned that the “threat is metastasizing.”

Clinton stressed that Muslim communities need to be treated as allies by law enforcement, because extra surveillance or profiling “plays right into the terrorists’ hands.” She noted that hate crimes against Muslims have increased after past terrorist attacks. She singled out Trump’s “inflammatory anti-Muslim rhetoric” and his call for a ban on Muslim immigrants, which Clinton said “hurts the vast majority of Muslims, who love freedom and hate terror.” With the threat of ISIS, she added, the country should be “strengthening our alliances, not weakening them or walking away from them,” a not-so-subtle rebuke of Trump’s penchant for dismissing the importance of NATO and other longstanding alliances.

When President George W. Bush responded to 9/11, she recalled, he reached out to the Muslim community, even visiting a mosque six days after the attack. “It is time to get back to those days,” she said, drawing another contrast to Trump, who reiterated his proposed travel ban over the weekend.

Clinton also used the speech to push for increased gun control, including reviving the ban on assault weapons that lapsed in 2004. “I believe weapons of war have no place on our streets,” she said, noting that the AR-15 rifle, which was used in Orlando, was also employed in the San Bernardino and Sandy Hook attacks. The presumptive Democratic nominee also pushed to bar individuals on the FBI watch list and the no-fly list from being able to purchase weapons. “If the FBI is watching you for suspected terrorist links,” she said, “you shouldn’t be able to just go buy a gun with no questions asked.”

Though the bulk of Clinton’s speech focused on the foreign policy implications of domestic terrorism, she did note that the attack in Orlando targeted the LGBT community. “To all the LGBT people grieving today: You have millions of allies who will always have your back,” Clinton said. “I am one of them.”

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Clinton Blasts Anti-Muslim Bigotry in Aftermath of Orlando Attack

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Over Dinner, Clinton and Sanders Bash Wisconsin’s Scott Walker

Mother Jones

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With just a few days left before the Wisconsin primary, both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are trying their best to convince Democrats in the state that they’re the real anti-Scott Walker.

On Saturday night, Wisconsin’s Democratic elite gathered at a convention center in downtown Milwaukee to listen to a string of Democratic politicians—including both Sanders and Clinton—offer speeches at the party’s annual Founders Day Gala. The crowd was swank, well-connected: Tickets for the gala started at $150 and ran up to $5,000 for a “prime table,” and based on cheers and stickers, the party insiders heavily favored Clinton. But attendees were united in shouting support for any denunciation of their governor, first when Sanders spoke and then again when Clinton took the stage later in the evening (the presidential candidates swept quickly through the convention hall just for their slotted speaking times, so unfortunately there was no public crossing of paths).

“It is terrible to see the damage Gov. Walker and his allies in the legislature have done in just five years,” Clinton said.

“Think about all of the things Gov. Walker does, and I will do exactly the opposite,” Sanders promised for how he’d govern in the White House.

Polls released over the past week have generally shown Sanders holding a narrow lead over Clinton in Wisconsin, including the well-respected Marquette Law School poll that had Sanders ahead by 4 percent earlier this week. Meanwhile, Walker’s approval numbers in the state have sunk since he won reelection in 2014 and then turned his attention to his failed presidential run. Voters in the state now give him a net negative 10 percent favorability. Running by bashing Walker is a reliable way to inspire passion among Wisconsin Democrats.

Clinton tied a host of her regular campaign issues into a referendum against Walker. “We believe that a governor that attacks teachers, nurses, and firefighters, it doesn’t make him a leader, it makes him a bully,” she said. She warned that Ted Cruz and the other Republican presidential candidates would export Walker-style policies nationally, and that the result would be cataclysmic for the country.

In a not-so-subtle jab at Sanders, who has been hesitant to throw his weight behind down-ballot Democrats, Clinton promised to do everything in her power to get Walker out of office and get Democrats back in control of the Wisconsin legislature. “In 2018, we will defeat Scott Walker,” Clinton guaranteed.

She trained her harshest criticism on Rebecca Bradley, a state Supreme Court justice appointed by Walker and who is up for election on Tuesday. During the campaign, liberals in Wisconsin have highlighted Bradley’s past writings, which included a 2006 column in which the judge likens use of birth control to murder. “I had to read this three times, she has actually said birth control is morally abhorrent and doctors who provided it, namely birth control, and women who use it, namely birth control, are party to murder,” Clinton said, her voice full of astonishment.

“There is no place,” she said, “on any Supreme Court, or any court in this country, no place at all for Rebecca Bradley’s decades-long track record of dangerous rhetoric against women, survivors of sexual assault, and the LGBT community.”

Half an hour before Clinton took the mic at the center of the room, Sanders had ripped into Walker for pushing laws to restrict voting access. “I have contempt, absolute contempt, for those Republican governors who do not have the guts to support free, open, and fair elections,” Sanders said. Thanks to Walker, Wisconsin has new strict photo ID law that has made it difficult for some groups—that just happen to skew Democratic—from being able to cast a vote. “I say to Gov. Walker, and all of the other Republican governors who are trying to make it harder to vote for poor people and old people and people of color and young people—trying to make it harder for them to participate in the political process,” Sanders said, “I say to them, if you don’t have to guts to participate in a free and fair election, get out of politics and get another job.”

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Over Dinner, Clinton and Sanders Bash Wisconsin’s Scott Walker

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