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Takano on path to make history in Calif. race

Democrat would be first out gay person of color in Congress

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U.S. House candidate Mark Takano (photo courtesy Takano campaign)

Mark Takano is poised to make history.

The openly gay congressional candidate is the only Democrat running in a newly created Democratic-leaning district in California. And if he wins in November 2012, the 51-year-old Japanese-American would become the first openly gay person of color elected to Congress.

“The significance of that achievement is the unique voice that an openly gay member of Congress of color can bring to the House floor and the House committee rooms,” Takano said in an interview with the Washington Blade. “It’s a double-awareness of what it means to be vulnerable.”

Takano said this “double-awareness” comes as a result of the discrimination that both Japanese-Americans and LGBT Americans have faced in this country.

In 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt issued an executive order placing an estimated 110,000 Japanese-Americans in internment camps as the United States battled Japan during World War II. Takano said his parents and grandparents were among those who were interned, and his grandmother lost the property she owned as a result of the government’s action.

The U.S. government eventually apologized for its actions. In 1988, Congress passed and President Reagan signed legislation apologizing for the internment and disbursing more than $1.6 billion to Japanese-Americans who had been interned and their heirs. Takano said he believes the LGBT community will achieve a similar victory in reaching full legal equality.

“They were able to right the wrong by passing the Japanese-American redress bill,” Takano said. “Watching that example gives me faith that the LGBT community is also going to prevail in their quest for full inclusion and full equality. Because I’ve watched it happen.”

Takano said he expects to take the Employment Non-Discrimination Act over the finish line during his tenure in Congress. He also said he wants to work toward repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act and passage of the Uniting American Families Act.

His election to Congress would also help maintain the level of LGBT representation in the House. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), the longest-serving openly gay U.S. House member, announced in November that he won’t seek a 17th term in office. Lesbian Rep. Tammy Baldwin is leaving the House to pursue a run for U.S. Senate.

That leaves Reps. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and David Cicilline (D-R.I.) as the only incumbent openly gay U.S. House members. Mark Pocan, another openly gay candidate, is seeking to win the seat that Baldwin is vacating.

Reflecting on Frank’s retirement, Takano said he feels a tinge of sadness that he won’t be able to serve alongside the Massachusetts Democrat.

“I really hoped as the first openly gay member of Congress who is a person of color that I get to serve with the openly gay member of Congress who’s the most colorful,” Takano joked.

He said Frank’s departure should instill a “sense of urgency” in the LGBT community in the upcoming election to maintain the number of openly LGBT people in Congress.

“If we’re going to move the agenda forward, it’s going to mean that we’re going to have to ensure that we keep the members there and increase our numbers this year,” Takano said. “We have an opportunity to do so.”

But the No. 1 priority for Takano if he’s elected to represent California’s 41st congressional district is addressing what he calls the “disastrous unemployment situation” in the country. According to the Labor Department, the national unemployment stands at 8.6 percent, which is down from recent months but still a high rate of joblessness.

Takano said that has been the top concern of the donors he’s spoken to — including LGBT donors — as he makes the case for his candidacy.

“This is a very dangerous situation for the nation to continue to have this unemployment because it threatens social stability and democratic institutions,” Takano said. “If it lasts too long, we’ll see the danger of extremist politics. I have concerns that vulnerable minorities will be in danger, so as LGBT Americans, we have a strong interest in making sure that we get all Americans back to work.”

A public school teacher for 23 years specializing in British literature, Takano also said education issues are of concern to him and he wants to reduce the high-school drop out rate while increasing the numbers of students attending college. He also said his district suffers from air pollution and he wants to be an environmental advocate in Congress.

Takano is no stranger to public service. In 1990, he was elected to the Riverside Community College District’s Board of Trustees and has served on that body since then. In 2001, Takano helped shepherd through the board a measure enabling Riverside Community College employees to have domestic partner benefits.

The candidate also made earlier attempts at winning a congressional House seat. In 1992, he defeated six contenders to win the Democratic nomination for then-California’s 43rd Congressional District. Takano didn’t succeed in the general election, but lost by fewer than 550 votes against Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.) in one of the closest congressional elections in California history. Takano made another unsuccessful attempt at running for the seat in 1994.

Takano is likely to claim the Democratic nomination in the congressional race. The deadline for filing is March 9, and no other Democrat has yet to enter the race. Odds are also good for Takano in the general election. The 41st congressional district is new, but had it existed in 2008, President Obama would have won there by 20 points.

Still, even though the district is Democratic-leaning, Takano isn’t in the clear because he’ll be up against a Republican opponent. Riverside County Supervisor John Tavaglione has thrown his hat into the race.

The Human Rights Campaign, the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund and gay Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) have already endorsed Takano. During a recent trip to D.C., Takano also secured endorsements from retiring gay Rep. Frank as well as members of the House Democratic leadership, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).

Jennifer Crider, a Pelosi spokesperson, said of the Democratic leader’s endorsement of Takano, “She supports Mark Takano because he is committed to reigniting the American dream by getting people back to work, helping them stay in their homes and building strong small businesses. He will be a great representative of his district as well as the LGBT and Asian-American communities.”

Additionally, Takano also won the endorsement of fellow Japanese-American Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), the most senior U.S. senator. Takano said Inouye’s support is significant because the senator rarely endorses a Democratic candidate before a primary is held.

In a statement provided to the Washington Blade, Inouye said, “Mark Takano has served this newly created congressional District as a classroom teacher, college board trustee and community leader for more than two decades. As a member of the U.S. House of Representatives I am confident that Mark will work hard to create quality jobs, improve public education and preserve national security.  I have known Mark for some time and I am pleased to endorse his campaign for Congress.”

 

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Anti-LGBTQ Colorado baker loses Trans birthday cake court case

Phillips violated Colorado’s ant-discrimination law citing the fact that at issue was a ‘product’ not freedom of speech or expression

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Jack Phillips (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

DENVER – A Colorado State District Court Judge ruled against the baker who had previously refused to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding and won at the U.S. Supreme Court a partial narrow victory in that case in 2018.

CBSN Denver reported that Denver District Judge A. Bruce Jones order that Jack Phillips violated Colorado’s anti discrimination law Tuesday citing the fact that at issue was a ‘product’ not freedom of speech or expression.

In court documents, Jones said that Phillips refusal to make the plantiff, Autumn Scardina a cake made with blue icing on the outside and pink on the inside to celebrate her gender transition on her birthday because of her transgender status but without a written message, was in violation of the law. Phillips was ordered to pay a $500 fine.

Jones noted in his ruling that Phillips testified during a trial in March that ‘he did not think someone could change their gender’ and he would not celebrate “somebody who thinks that they can.”

“The anti-discrimination laws are intended to ensure that members of our society who have historically been treated unfairly, who have been deprived of even the every-day right to access businesses to buy products, are no longer treated as ‘others,‘” the judge wrote.

The Scottsdale, Arizona based Alliance Defending Freedom, an anti-LGBTQ legal group that has been place on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hate Watch List for spreading propaganda and lies about LGBTQ people, told CBSN that the group would appeal Jones’ ruling.

“Radical activists and government officials are targeting artists like Jack because they won’t promote messages on marriage and sexuality that violate their core convictions,” ADF’s general counsel, Kristen Waggoner, said in a media statement.

The maximum fine for each violation of Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act is $500. But it was not clear from the ruling if the fine was for the two attempts that Scardina made to order the cake or just one.

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Supreme Court rules for religious agency seeking to reject LGBTQ families

Unanimous decision bottled up to context of city contract

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The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Thursday in favor of a religious-affiliated foster care agency seeking to refuse child placement into LGBTQ homes, issuing a decision with limited reach that determined the City of Philadelphia’s enforcement of a contract with non-discrimination provisions violates freedom of religion under the First Amendment.

In a surprise twist, the ruling was unanimous with nine justices on the court agreeing to the result in favor of Catholic Social Services, with Chief Justice John Roberts writing the opinion. As noted by SCOTUSblog, the court seemed much more divided in oral arguments, although inclined to rule for the foster care agency.

“The refusal of Philadelphia to contract with CSS for the provision of foster care services unless the agency agrees to certify same-sex couples as foster parents cannot survive strict scrutiny and violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment,” Roberts writes.

Although Catholic Social Services had also contended a freedom of speech right under the First Amendment to reject same-sex couples, Roberts adds the court didn’t reach a conclusion on that part of the argument.

Becket Law, which had argued in case on behalf of Catholic Social Services, crowed in a statement over its win at the Supreme Court.

“It’s a beautiful day when the highest court in the land protects foster moms and the 200-year-old religious ministry that supports them,” said Lori Windham, senior counsel at Becket. “Taking care of children, especially children who have been neglected and abused is a universal value that spans all ideological divides.

A key portion of the Roberts decision that could limit its reach is language specific to Philadelphia’s contract with the city allowing for discretion on enforcement, which he says means the measure isn’t generally applicable measure.

“Section 3.21 of the contract requires an agency to provide services defined in the contract to prospective foster parents without regard to their sexual orientation,” Roberts writes. “But section 3.21 also permits exceptions to this requirement at the ‘sole discretion’ of the Commissioner. This inclusion of a mechanism for entirely discretionary exceptions renders the non-discrimination provision not generally applicable.”

The American Civil Liberties Union, which had argued before the Supreme Court in the case and sided with the City of Philadelphia, claimed a small victory after the decision.

“The decision will not affect any foster care programs that do not have the same system for individualized exemptions that were at issue here,” Leslie Cooper, deputy director of the ACLU LGBTQ & HIV Project, said in a statement. “This is good news for the more than 400,000 children in foster care across the country, who are the ones who get hurt the most if placement decisions are made based on an agency’s religious beliefs rather than the child’s best interest. And this decision does not allow discrimination in other taxpayer-funded government programs such as homeless shelters, disaster relief programs and health care.”

Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of the LGBTQ Catholic group DignityUSA, initially issued a statement saying the decision opened the door to discrimination against LGBTQ families, but subsequently updated it with a reaction more attune to the decision’s language.

“While we are disappointed in the specifics of today’s ruling, we are relieved that the court did not allow a broad exemption to nondiscrimination provisions in foster and adoption care,” Duddy-Burke said. “It remains deeply problematic that some religiously affiliated agencies continue to seek the ability to ban same-sex couples from opening their hearts and homes to children in need and undermine our hopes for expanding our families. The biases that lie at the heart of this case need to be eradicated.”

David Flugman, a lawyer at the New York-based Selendy & Gay PLLC whose practice includes LGBTQ rights, said in a statement the technical nature of the Fulton is “sure to invite even more litigation.

“Today the Supreme Court held, on narrow, technical grounds, that the City of Philadelphia’s attempt to ensure that Catholic Charities abide by the same non-discrimination provisions applicable to all other city contractors could not withstand Catholic Charities’ religious right to refuse to screen loving same-sex couples to act as foster parents,” Flugman writes. “The Court did not take up Catholic Charities’ invitation to scuttle the 30 year-old test for free exercise claims that was announced in Smith v. Employment Division, which held that a neutral law of general applicability could survive even if it burdens religious practice.”

The Supreme Court reversed and remanded decision of the U.S. Third Circuit of Court of Appeals, which had ruled in favor of City of Philadelphia enforcing its contract with Catholic Social Services. Both the appeals courts and the lower trial court had come to the opposite conclusion of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Notably, although the City of Philadelphia in addition to the contract it struck with Catholic Social Services has in a place LGBTQ non-discrimination ordinance, the Supreme Court determines that measure doesn’t apply in the context of foster care services because it’s limited to the services “made available to the public.”

“Certification is not ‘made available to the public’ in the usual sense of the words,” Roberts writes. “Certification as a foster parent is not readily accessible to the public; the process involves a customized and selective assessment that bears little resemblance to staying in a hotel, eating at a restaurant, or riding a bus.”

Fatima Goss Graves, CEO of the National Women’s Law Center, said in a statement the decision from the Supreme Court is a harmful loss to the children in the foster care system in Philadelphia as well as the countless LGBTQ parents.”

“Weakening the government’s ability to protect their civil rights is hardly in their best interest, and we’re committed to ensuring this loophole is not stretched to further justify hatred or prejudice,” Graves added. “We must protect the right of every person to live without fear of discrimination because of who they are or who they love, and we must hold that value particularly close when it comes to the best interest of LGBTQ youth and the families who love them.” 

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U.S. Senate to consider apology for past anti-LGBTQ discrimination

Report shows 70-year history of gov’t persecution, purges of ‘sex deviates’

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Pioneering activist Frank Kameny, who was fired from his government job for being gay, received an apology from the government decades later, but that apology did not extend to the thousands of other LGBT Americans persecuted by their government. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

U.S. Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) are preparing to introduce a first-ever resolution calling on the Senate to acknowledge and apologize for the federal government’s discrimination against LGBTQ federal workers and members of the military over a period of at least 70 years.

The two senators have agreed to introduce the proposed resolution at the request of the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C., an LGBTQ group that specializes in archival research into the federal government’s decades-long policy of banning LGBTQ people from working in federal jobs and serving in the U.S. military and purging them when found to be in those positions.

The Mattachine Society, in partnership with the international law firm McDermott Will & Emery, prepared a 28-page white paper reporting in extensive detail the U.S. government’s history of what it calls discrimination and persecution of LGBTQ federal workers and LGBTQ military service members.
The white paper is entitled, “America’s Promise of Reconciliation and Redemption: The Need for an Official Acknowledgement and Apology for the Historic Government Assault on LGBT Federal Employees and Military Personnel.”

In a statement, the Mattachine Society says the paper is the product of a two-year research project involving a team of five attorneys with the McDermott Will & Emery firm and Mattachine Society.

“Over many decades, the United States government, led by teams within the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), and nearly every agency and branch of government, began the process of investigating, harassing, interrogating, court-martialing, terminating, hospitalizing, and, in some cases, criminally prosecuting LGBT Americans for no other reason than their sexual orientation or gender expression,” the paper says.

“This wholesale purging left tens of thousands in financial ruin, without jobs, with personal lives destroyed, and, in many cases, completely estranged from their own families,” the paper states.

“A straightforward acknowledgement of the mistreatment of these military and civilian employees and an official apology is overdue,” the paper continues. “Both the Congress and the Executive Branch were complicit in this pervasive mistreatment of LGBT citizens.”

The paper points out that over the past 30 years Congress has officially acknowledged and apologized on six different occasions for U.S. mistreatment of other marginalized groups.

Among the subject areas of those apologies were the enslavement of African Americans, the failure to enforce anti-lynching laws to protect African Americans, the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, the mistreatment of Native Hawaiians, the mistreatment of Native Americans, and government polices of exclusion of Chinese immigrants.

The paper says the time has come for the federal government to issue its own “acknowledgement and apology” to the LGBT community by following the precedent established by Congress with respect to apologies to the other marginalized groups.

Jeff Trammell, a Mattachine Society board member who led the project to prepare the white paper, said Baldwin and Kaine were in the process of lining up other senators to sign on as co-sponsors of the resolution.

Baldwin is the Senate’s only out lesbian member. Kaine is a longtime supporter of LGBTQ rights.
Trammell said Mattachine of Washington considers the Senate resolution the first step in an ongoing effort to obtain a similar resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives and a possible similar statement of acknowledgement and apology from the executive branch, including the Biden administration.

He said he and the resolution’s supporters were hopeful that most senators, including Republicans, would view it as non-controversial and as a nonpartisan measure because it seeks only the acknowledgement of historical facts. Trammell noted that unlike other resolutions of apology pertaining to other minorities approved by Congress in the past, the LGBT apology resolution does not call for any financial reparations.

The eight-page proposed resolution addresses that question by stating, “Nothing in this resolution…authorizes or supports any claim against the United States or serves as a settlement of any claim against the United States.”

Trammell noted that under the Obama administration, John Berry, the director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, issued an official government apology for the firing of D.C. gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny from his government job in the late 1950s. But Trammell said the apology to Kameny, which was considered important and groundbreaking, did not extend to the thousands of other LGBTQ employees fired or harassed in the years before and after Kameny’s firing.

The white paper also points out that at least seven U.S. allied nations have issued apologies for past mistreatment of their own LGBTQ citizens. Among them are Spain, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, Brazil, and The Netherlands.

“We believe the time has come to understand and acknowledge the historical animus that LGBT federal employees and military personnel faced for generations from their own government to ensure it can never happen again,” Trammell said.

The white paper can be accessed here.

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