The city of San Francisco has filed a lawsuit alleging that a new federal rule is unconstitutional. The rule greatly expands the types of cases in which a health-care worker or entity can decline, on religious grounds, to participate in providing a service.

 

In a filing in the U.S. District Court for Northern California, San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera said the new regulations - announced Thursday by President Donald Trump - are discriminatory and prioritize "providers' religious beliefs over the health and lives of women, lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender people, and other medically and socially vulnerable populations. If San Francisco does not comply, the complaint states, it could lose $1 billion in federal funding that support critical services.

The rule is a hallmark project for the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services. OCR director Roger Severino said Thursday in a conference call with reporters that the new rule is necessary because while there are numerous religion and conscience exemption statutes on the books, they have not been as strongly enforced as other civil rights laws.

In previous administrations, the OCR was known for increasing access to care by taking a lead in ending segregation in health-care facilities and taking on insurers who discriminated against people with HIV. In recent years, as more medical records have gone online, it has invested resources into ensuring the privacy and security of medical information. Under Trump, who was elected on a wave of support from social conservatives, however, the focus has been more on protecting people's expressions of religion.

Herrera said in the filing that the result has been that the OCR "has turned this legacy on its head."

"This is a perversion of OCR's mission, it is unlawful, and San Francisco will not abide it," Herrera wrote.

The new rule is scheduled to take effect 60 days from its publication in the Federal Register. It has received widespread support from conservative groups such as the Family Research Council, March for Life and the Catholic Medical Association. But the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood, Lambda Legal and other groups that support abortion and LGBTQ rights have opposed it, saying it will make it more difficult for hundreds of thousands of Americans to get the health care they need.

TODAY -- HISTORIC EQUALITY ACT MARKUP: Today, the House Judiciary Committee will vote on the historic LGBTQ civil rights legislation, a crucial step toward passage of the law. The vitally important, bipartisan legislation would provide clear, comprehensive non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people and strengthen existing protections for all people covered by our nation’s civil rights laws. The measure has unprecedented support from nearly 70 percent of Americans, more than 280 members of Congress, more than 195 major businesses and more than 350 statewide and national organizations. Recently, the House Judiciary and Education and Labor Committees held hearings on the legislation, which Speaker Pelosi has made a priority in the new pro-equality Congress.  

HRC TO HONOR MICHAEL URIE WITH HRC VISIBILITY AWARD AT HRC WESTERN NEW YORK DINNER: “From his iconic role on Ugly Betty to his award-winning portrayal of Arnold in Torch Song, Michael Urie has captured hearts across America,” said HRC President Chad Griffin (@ChadHGriffin). “By using his transformational talents and global platform to celebrate openness and authenticity, Michael Urie is bringing greater visibility to the LGBTQ community and making a real difference for countless people. HRC is proud to honor Michael Urie with the HRC Visibility Award at our 2019 Western New York Dinner.” More from HRC and Playbill.

IOWA LAWMAKERS PUSH DISCRIMINATORY LEGISLATION AT 11TH HOUR: At the last possible moment, far-right lawmakers pushed to add language to the HHS funding bill that, among other concerning provisions, allows legislators to refuse state funding for critically important, often life-saving transition-related care for transgender Iowans. More from HRC and Des Moines Register.

WHAT WE’RE WATCHING WEDNESDAY -- QUEER EYE’S KARAMO BROWN JOINS THE “AMERICANS FOR THE EQUALITY ACT” CAMPAIGN IN POWERFUL NEW VIDEO:The Americans for the Equality Act series, filmed by award-winning directors Dustin Lance Black (@DLanceBlack) and Paris Barclay (@Harparbar), launched with a debut videofeaturing Academy Award-winning actress Sally Field (@sally_field) and her son Sam Greisman (@SAMGREIS). Additional videos have included Adam Rippon (@adaripp), Shea Diamond (@iamsheadiamond) and Justina Machado (@JustinaMachado). More from The Houston Chronicle.

HRC’S CATHRYN OAKLEY BREAKS DOWN HOW TEXAS’ PROPOSED “LICENSE TO DISCRIMINATE” BILL HARMS LGBTQ PEOPLE: “There are certainly some hospitals that have great nondiscrimination policies for patients, for visitors, for staff, and maybe you’re fortunate enough to live within driving distance of one of those places,” said HRC State Legislative Director Cathryn Oakley (@CthrynOkly). “But if you’re hit by a car, the ambulance picks you up and takes you wherever they take you. You don’t get to choose -- you’re at the mercy of the caregivers there.” More from Texas Observer.

  • Major corporations, from American Airlines to IBM, are making it clear that they do not support Texas’ anti-LGBTQ bills. More from Dallas Morning News.

MUST READ PROFILE OF TRANS WOMAN AT THE HEART OF TITLE VII CASE SCOTUS TO HEAR: Aimee Stephens worked as a funeral director at R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes. When she informed the funeral home’s owner that she is transgender, the business owner fired her, saying it would be “unacceptable” for her to appear and behave as a woman. More from The Washington Post.

HRC CALLS ON HHS TO REJECT PROPOSAL REMOVING SEXUAL ORIENTATION DATA COLLECTION FROM FED CHILD WELFARE REPORTING SYSTEM: Said Ellen Kahn, director of the HRC Foundation Children, Youth and Families Program: “Missed opportunities to collect data can lead to setbacks. In my mind, that’s unconscionable.” More from The Columbus Dispatch.

MEET THE TRANSGENDER WOMEN FIGHTING THE TRUMP-PENCE TRANS MILITARY BAN: More from The Philadelphia Inquirer.

FEDERAL JUDGE RULES WISCONSIN MEDICAID PROGRAM MUST COVER MEDICALLY NECESSARY TRANSGENDER HEALTH CARE: More from Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

NEW REPORT FROM ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE AUDITS ANTI-SEMITIC INCIDENTS IN 2018: Read more here.

FOR YOUR CALENDAR -- MAY AWARENESS AND HERITAGE MONTH EVENTS:

  • National Foster Care Month: HRC’s All Children - All Families project is launching its #FosterEquality campaign in partnership with FosterClub to spread awareness of the experiences of LGBTQ youth in foster care again this year. More from HRC.
  • Mental Health Awareness Month: Studies have shown that, compared to their non-LGBTQ peers, LGBTQ youth report much higher rates of depression, anxiety, alcohol and drug use, and lowered self-esteem. And for bisexual and gender-expansive youth, as well as young people living at the intersections of multiple marginalized identities, those numbers are even higher. More from HRC.
  • Asian Pacific American Islander Heritage Month: HRC is proud to celebrate the advocates and allies who have driven our movement forward at the intersections of LGBTQ experiences and Asian American and Pacific Islander identities. More from HRC.

The U.S. Supreme Court will consider whether federal anti-discrimination laws prevent employers from firing workers because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.

The court announced last week that it accepted three cases involving gay, lesbian and transgender employees for the term that will begin in October. A decision is expected next year.

The central issue focuses on Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and whether the term “on the basis of sex” bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The court is being asked to parse words and intentions of a law that is decades old.

The issue has split circuit courts on whether the federal anti-discrimination laws prevent employers from firing workers because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.

What has frustrated many of those in the employment law community has been the failure of Congress to act on legislation that would have guaranteed rights to gay and transgender individuals.

The opportunity arose in 1994 when Congress first introduced the Employee Nondiscrimination Act. This proposed legislation, and subsequent versions, have been introduced on a regular basis over the years.

If approved, it would have negated the need for Supreme Court interpretation and guaranteed rights to these individuals in the workplace.

But Congress has failed to act to guarantee employment rights to gay, lesbian and transgender employees.

The Supreme Court now is faced with determining whether Congress in 1964 intended to include lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals when lawmakers approved Title VII prohibiting employers from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin.

A federal court in Atlanta concluded that Title VII doesn’t prohibit “discharge for homosexuality.”

The federal appeals court in New York concluded that discrimination based on sexual orientation is protected under the law, while a federal appeals court in Cincinnati ruled in favor of an employee, saying that the law protected transgender workers..

To make things more complicated, another federal appeals court ruled earlier this month that Title VII does not protect a heterosexual who claims he was discriminated against for being heterosexual and opposing homosexuality.

Now the question is how the Supreme Court will rule in these cases.

As with many mainstream issues, the law can’t seem to keep up with an evolving society.

The good news is that employers need not worry about what the law says. They can independently without any affirmation of the law refuse to tolerate any form of discrimination or harassment based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Employers need to implement policies that mandate nondiscrimination and harassment for sexual orientation and gender identity.

Companies need to make sure that managers are trained to understand the business’s expectations for nondiscrimination and harassment within the LGBTQ community and to be sensitive if such situations arise.

Employers don’t need a law to do the right thing — they need policies, accountability and leadership.

For the first time, the transgender woman who was violently beaten in Dallas, Texas earlier this month is speaking publicly about what happened.

The attack on 23-year-old Muhlaysia Booker is being investigated as a hate crime.

Saturday, she tearfully thanked supporters and demanded justice at a rally and press conference.

It was held outside Abounding Prosperity, Inc., a Dallas-based nonprofit that provides health, social and economic services, particularly to gay and bisexual men, transgender women and their families.

"This time it was me. The next time could be someone else close to you," Booker said.

Booker was brutally beaten on April 12 outside Royal Crest Apartments in southeast Dallas.

Police said Booker was behind the wheel of a dark-colored vehicle when she accidentally backed into a white car.

Police said the man she hit chased her down and demanded she pay for the damage.

Minutes later, cell phone video showed a crowd gathered around Booker.

Police said the man she hit offered others $200 to beat Booker.

The video showed Booker being punched and kicked as she tried to protect herself on the ground.

The video ended with a group of women carrying Booker to safety.

She suffered a swollen face and broken wrist.

Booker's wrist was bandaged at Saturday's rally. She was visibly shaken as she took the stage to speak and needed support to get through a prepared statement.

"This time I can stand before you, where as in other scenarios we are at a memorial. Our time to seek justice is now. If not now, when?" Booker asked.

At the rally, there were activists, members of the LGBTQ community and Dallas police who issued a call to action.

"The more shocking [thing] to me, as a police officer, is the community that stood around and did nothing," Maj. Elaine Page said. "The community needs to step up."

Edward Thomas, 29, has been arrested and charged with aggravated assault.

He remains in the Dallas County jail on a $75,000 bond.

If a Newark police officer arrests somebody who is transgender, they should not question that person’s gender identity.

The cop can relegate someone’s legal name as an alias on an arrest report, should remember that hypodermic needles may only be indicators of hormone therapy, and allow transgender suspects to be held in single-person cells.

Newark is not the only department re-writing how officers should interact with people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning their gender identity (simplified as LGBTQ). The West Orange Police Department recently began training on similar rules, and the attorney general’s office is working on guidelines that would apply to the entire state.

But Newark’s policy, which took effect April 3, comes at a particularly critical moment for the department. The more than 1,000 officers serving the state’s largest city are currently under supervision by the U.S. Department of Justice, after a federal report found a pattern of unconstitutional policing. A team within the department is now working on reforms, and the newest report on their progress was published Tuesday.

These new rules, however, go beyond what’s mandatory: Neither the Justice Department nor the state currently require departments to have a specific LGBTQ policy.

“It’s long overdue" said Newark Public Safety Director Anthony Ambrose in an interview. “It’s something that will only help.”

The Justice Department had found “anecdotal evidence” that Newark cops had discriminated against people because of their gender identity or sexual orientation, and reported that some officers had the “mistaken assumption that all female transgender persons are prostitutes.”

“There are things on the books, and there are things that don’t necessarily play themselves out on the streets,” he said.

Representatives from a transgender rights group and an LGBT organization in New Jersey reviewed a draft of Newark’s policy and said it was a step in the right direction, although they flagged areas they said could be improved.

Gillian Branstetter, a spokesperson for the National Center for Transgender Equality, wrote in an email that one problem was that the policy did not include more protections for non-binary people, those who do not identify as male or female.

Aaron Potenza, the policy director for Garden State Equality, raised the same point while also calling the draft a "tremendous step forward.” He said he would like to see similar policies adopted across the state.

Newark’s Ambrose and O’Hara said they were open to critiques, but said language describing people in the LGBTQ community could change so rapidly that it was difficult to incorporate every group into one set of rules. (Newark’s policy does reference non-binary people in its glossary.)

Taylor, the pastor, said he plans to host another public meeting next month and spoke highly of the department’s willingness to listen.“The fact that they keep coming back to the table, and keep adding leaves to the table, is a really good sign,” Taylor said.

 

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