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Judge lifts stay on Prop 8 ruling

Same-sex marriages could resume in Calif. next week

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Attorneys Ted Olson and David Boies (front) are waging the case against Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in California. (Photo courtesy of Equal Rights Foundation)

A federal judge in California has lifted his self-imposed stay on the ruling he handed down overturning the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, but he ordered that the stay must remain in effect until Aug. 18.

The action by U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker came as crowds of same-sex couples waited anxiously on the steps of San Francisco’s city hall, hoping to be able to obtain marriage licenses within minutes of any decision to lift the stay.

“Because proponents [of Proposition 8] fail to satisfy any of the factors necessary to warrant a stay, the court denies a stay except for a limited time solely in order to permit the court of appeals to consider the issue in an orderly manner,” Walker wrote in an 11-page ruling released Thursday.

Walker’s ruling came eight days after he issued a strongly worded decision overturning California’s Prop 8 on grounds that it violates the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection and due process clauses. Same-sex marriage opponents who defended Prop 8 were expected to immediately challenge Walker’s lifting of the stay before the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, where they are appealing the case.

Activists on both sides of the marriage issue were unsure whether the appeals court would have time to issue its own stay on Walker’s ruling overturning Prop 8 by Aug. 18 or whether the appeals court would reject a stay and allow same-sex marriage to resume in California. Both sides plan to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court if they lose on the appeals court level.

Jennifer Pizer, senior attorney for Lambda Legal, an LGBT litigation group, said all federal appeals courts have a standard process in place for hearing emergency motions for stays on lower court rulings.

She said it’s “quite possible” that a required three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals would be ready to hear arguments for a stay and rule on it before Walker’s Aug. 18 deadline.

“The evidence presented at trial and the position of the representatives of the State of California show that an injunction against enforcement of Proposition 8 is in the public’s interest,” Vaughn said in Thursday’s ruling. “Accordingly, the court concludes that the public interest counsels against entry of the stay proponents seek.”

Pizer noted that Walker raised a potentially explosive issue in his ruling Thursday lifting the stay when he cited legal precedent indicating Prop 8 supporters may no longer have legal standing to appeal the case to the Ninth Circuit.

Walker noted that legal precedent suggests that the state may have sole legal standing to appeal a case like the one involving Prop 8. This could sideline private parties seeking an appeal.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the state’s attorney general, Jerry Brown, filed papers last week that sought to immediately reinstate same-sex marriage in the Golden State. Last year, when same-sex couples filed their lawsuit seeking to overturn Prop 8, Brown refused to defend the same-sex marriage ban law and Schwarzenegger did not challenge Brown’s decision.

That meant California effectively chose not to defend a state law, forcing private groups and legal activists supportive of Prop 8 to fill in for the state in defending the law in court.

Walker said in his ruling Thursday that the private groups did have standing in the U.S. District Court, but a lack of support for an appeal by the state makes it doubtful that Prop 8 backers can file the appeal.

“If, however, no state defendant appeals, proponents will need to show standing in the court of appeals,” he said in his ruling. “Proponents’ intervention in the district court does not provide them with standing to appeal.”

California voters passed Prop 8 in November 2008 in the form of a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. The vote came less than a year after California’s Supreme Court overturned an earlier ban on same-sex marriage, enabling gay and lesbian couples to marry up until the enactment of Prop 8.

Vaughn’s decision Thursday to lift his stay on his own ruling came on the same day that CNN released a public opinion poll showing for the first time that a majority of Americans support same-sex marriage.

According to CNN, 52 percent of the respondents to the poll replied “yes” when asked, “Do you think gays and lesbians should have a constitutional right to get married and have their marriage recognized by law as valid?”

Forty-six percent of the respondents replied “no” to the question and 2 percent had no opinion, CNN reported. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percent, CNN said.

Vaughn’s action also came two days after the American Bar Association’s House of Delegates approved a resolution supporting legal recognition of same-sex marriage. The ABA is considered the nation’s preeminent membership organization of legal professionals, including lawyers and judges.

Upon issuing his Aug. 4 ruling overturning Prop 8, Vaughn placed an indefinite stay on the ruling, while giving the opposing parties in the case until Aug. 6 to file motions on whether they would like the hold to be lifted or remain in place until the Ninth Circle appeals court acts on the case.

Attorneys for the group that defended Prop 8 filed papers calling for retaining the stay. But in a development that surprised some political observers, Schwarzenegger, a Republican, filed papers asking Vaughn to lift the stay so same-sex couples could begin marrying immediately. The state attorney general also filed papers seeking the lifting of the stay.

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Florida House committee passes “Don’t Say Gay” bill

“LGBTQ people are your neighbors, family members, and friends. We are a normal, healthy part of society and we will not be erased”

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Florida State Capitol building

TALLAHASSEE – A Republican majority Florida House Education & Employment Committee passed HB 1557, the Parental Rights in Education bill, colloquially referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill advancing the measure to the full House.

HB 1557 and its companion Senate bill SB 1834, would ban classroom discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity in schools, erasing LGBTQ identity, history, and culture — as well as LGBTQ students themselves.

The bill also has provisions that appear to undermine LGBTQ support in schools and include vague parental notification requirements which could effectively “out” LGBTQ-identifying students to their parents without their consent.

“The Trevor Project’s research has found that LGBTQ youth who learned about LGBTQ issues or people in classes at school had 23% lower odds of reporting a suicide attempt in the past year. This bill will erase young LGBTQ students across Florida, forcing many back into the closet by policing their identity and silencing important discussions about the issues they face,” said Sam Ames, Director of Advocacy and Government Affairs at The Trevor Project. “LGBTQ students deserve their history and experiences to be reflected in their education, just like their peers.”

In an email to the Blade, Brandon J. Wolf, the Press Secretary for Equality Florida noted; “Governor DeSantis’ march toward his own personal surveillance state continues. Today, the Don’t Say Gay bill, a piece of legislation to erase discussion of LGBTQ people from schools in Florida, passed its first committee and became another component of an agenda designed to police us in our classrooms, doctor’s offices, and workplaces. Make no mistake — LGBTQ people are your neighbors, family members, and friends. We are a normal, healthy part of society and we will not be erased.”

The Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that more than 42% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth.

According to a recent poll conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of The Trevor Project, 85% of transgender and nonbinary youth — and two-thirds of all LGBTQ youth (66%) — say recent debates about state laws restricting the rights of transgender people have negatively impacted their mental health.

When asked about proposed legislation that would require schools to tell a student’s parent or guardian if they request to use a different name/pronoun or if they identify as LGBTQ at school, 56% of transgender and nonbinary youth said it made them feel angry, 47% felt nervous and/or scared, 45% felt stressed, and more than 1 in 3 felt sad.

If you or someone you know needs help or support, The Trevor Project’s trained crisis counselors are available 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386, via chat at TheTrevorProject.org/Get-Help, or by texting START to 678678. 

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California mom claims school manipulated child into changing gender identity

Jessica Konen gave the school permission to use the boy’s name for attendance and tried to be supportive but noted it was difficult for her

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Fox News host Laura Ingraham & Center for American Liberty CEO Harmeet Dhillon with client, Jessica Konen (Screenshot Fox News)

A Northern California mother is claiming teachers in a small school district in the state manipulated her daughter into changing her gender identity and name in a legal claim. 

The claim, filed by the ultra-conservative Center for American Liberty on behalf of the mother, alleged “extreme and outrageous conduct” by the Spreckels Union School District, leading Jessica Konen’s 11-year-old daughter to change her gender identity and drive a wedge between them.

Specifically, the claim, a precursor to a lawsuit, names two teachers – Lori Caldera and Kelly Baraki – at Buena Vista Middle who, in addition to teaching, ran the school’s Equality Club, later known as UBU (You Be You). Buena Vista is a part of the district. 

It comes after Abigail Shrier, the author of a book widely criticized as anti-trans, quoted what the two educators said last year at the California Teachers Association’s annual LGBTQ+ Issues Conference in a piece headlined “How Activist Teachers Recruit Kids.” Caldera and Baraki spoke about the difficulty of running a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) in a socially conservative community. 

After the article was published, the teachers were put on administrative leave, and the district hired a law firm to investigate, which is ongoing. The UBU club was suspended. 

Spreckels is a town of about 400 people in the agricultural Salinas Valley, approximately 90 miles south of San Francisco

According to the complaint, Konen’s daughter began attending Equality Club meetings after being invited by a friend when she started sixth grade at Buena Vista. After attending one session, she decided it wasn’t for her until Caldiera convinced her to come back. At the gatherings, Caldera and Baraki held LGBTQ-centered discussions and introduced students to different gender identities and sexualities. 

During her time in the club, Konen’s daughter began exploring her own gender identity and sexuality, choosing to wear more masuline clothes. At some point, she decided to change her name and pronouns, which she has since changed back to her original name and pronouns. 

Konen said she was aware her daughter was bisexual but did not know she began using a male name and gender pronouns until she was called into the school when her daughter was in seventh grade. The meeting caught both Konen and her daughter by surprise – Konen’s daughter had said she wanted to notify her mother, but she did not know the meeting was that day. 

Konen gave the school permission to use the boy’s name for attendance and tried to be supportive but noted it was difficult for her. 

However, when Shrier’s article was published and circulated around the small town, everything changed. At this time, Konen’s daughter was again using a female name and pronouns.

In the leaked recording from the LGBTQ conference, Caldera and Baraki were discussing how they kept meetings private, among other things. 

“When we were doing our virtual learning — we totally stalked what they were doing on Google, when they weren’t doing school work,” Baraki said. “One of them was googling ‘Trans Day of Visibility.’ And we’re like, ‘Check.’ We’re going to invite that kid when we get back on campus.”

However, Caldera told the San Francisco Chronicle that the quotes were either taken out of context or misrepresented. According to Caldera, the stalking comment was a joke. She also defended their work, saying students lead the conversation and they provide honest and fair answers to their questions.
In addition, a spokesperson for the California Teachers Association criticized the group bringing the lawsuit forward, according to the Associated Press: “We are concerned about a political climate right now in which outside political forces fuel chaos and misinformation and seek to divide parents, educators and school communities for their own political gain, which is evident in this complaint. The Center for American Liberty is concerned with pushing its own political agenda through litigation and has filed multiple lawsuits against various school districts and communities.”

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GOP majority city council to repeal LGBTQ+ law in Pennsylvania

“I don’t know of any reasons for repealing it other than a political move […] This issue should not be politicized”

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Chambersburg, Pennsylvania (Photo Credit: Borough of Chambersburg)

The council of this central Pennsylvania borough (town) will meet on Monday, January 24 for a likely vote to repeal an ordinance passed this last October that safeguards residents against discrimination based on their sexual orientation, ethnicity or gender identity.

Opposition to the ordinance is led by newly installed borough council president Allen Coffman, a Republican. In an interview with media outlet Penn Live Saturday, Coffman said, “All of us that ran in this election to be on council we think we got a mandate from the people,” he said. “People we talked to when we were campaigning did not like this ordinance at all. I don’t know what the vote will be, but I have a pretty good idea.”

The political makeup of the council changed with the November municipal election, which ushered in a 7-3 Republican majority.

The ordinance, which extends protections against discrimination to gay, transgender or genderqueer people in employment, housing and public accommodations, was passed in October by the then-Democratic majority council, Penn Live reported.

“I don’t know of any reasons for repealing it other than a political move,” said Alice Elia, a Democrat and the former Chambersburg borough council president. “This issue should not be politicized. It’s an issue of justice and having equal protection for everybody in our community. It shouldn’t be a political or a Democratic or Republican issue. This should be something we are all concerned about.”

Coffman told Penn Live that the ordinance serves no purpose and is redundant. He points out that Pennsylvania’s Human Relations Commission handles discrimination complaints from residents across the state.

“There are no penalties, no fines,” he said. “There’s nothing that the ordinance can make someone do. The most they can hope for is that the committee request the two parties to sit down with a counselor or mediator and talk about it. Quite frankly there is nothing that compels them to. There’s no teeth in this.”

Penn Live’s Ivey DeJesus noted if Chambersburg succeeds in repealing the ordinance, it would mark the first time an LGBTQ inclusive law is revoked in Pennsylvania. To date, 70 municipalities have ratified such ordinances.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is one of the 27 states in the nation that have no explicit statewide laws protecting people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations.

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