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Exxon Mobil rejects resolution to protect LGBT workers

Only 20 percent of shareholders vote ‘yes’ on non-discrimination policy

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Exxon, Mobil, gay news, Washington Blade

Exxon Mobil rejected an LGBT non-discrimination policy for the 16th time (Photo of Exxon sign by Ildar Sagdejev, photo of Mobil sign by Terence Ong; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Exxon Mobil shareholders voted by a significant margin on Wednesday to reject a resolution that would have expanded the company’s equal employment opportunity policy to include non-discrimination protections for  LGBT workers.

This year is the 16th time the company rejected a resolution to protect LGBT workers, according to Exxon Mobil, despite some media reports that it was the 14th time.

This year, this resolution was sponsored New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, whose state owns a significant share in the company. The resolution failed after only 19.8 percent of shareholders approved the measure.

Tico Almeida, president of the LGBT group Freedom to Work, chided Exxon Mobil for not instituting a policy that would bring the company into alignment with its competitors and other Fortune 500 companies, such as BP and Texaco.

“Exxon shareholders once again rejected a measure that would simply provide all Americans a fair shot to hold a job no matter who they are or who they love,” Almeida said. “Every day, more and more Americans realize that the Golden Rule of treating others as we would like to be treated applies to gay and transgender people too. Exxon remains on the wrong side of history for its business, for its workers and for the American people.”

An Exxon Mobil spokesperson wouldn’t comment on the rejection of the resolution other than to provide the vote tallies from this year and the previous two years. In 2012, 20.6 percent of company shareholders voted in favor of the resolution, while in 2011, 19.9 percent of shareholders voted in favor of it.

Tony Perkins, president of the anti-gay Family Research Council, claimed victory over the rejection of the resolution, which said indicates the company “is putting its stock in something other than political correctness.”

“The four to one margin against the resolution is a strong indication that the homosexual community’s agenda is not resonating beyond the most liberal states,” Perkins said. “Exxon is setting a good example for other businesses who think promoting extreme political views is the only away to avoid the strong arm tactics of far left special interests.”

Last week, Freedom to Work filed a lawsuit against Exxon Mobil alleging anti-gay bias in hiring practices in Illinois, which is against state law there. As a part of a potential settlement agreement, Freedom to Work is asking the company to institute a non-discrimination policy for LGBT workers, an option Almeida said is still on the table.

“The directors can agree to a settlement without the shareholders taking up a vote, so we maintain our position that we would settle the lawsuit tomorrow if they would cut and paste the LGBT workplace policies of Chevron or BP or Texaco,” Almeida said. “But they may, out of stubbornness, choose not to settle. They may choose to drag this out as long as possible. In which case, we look forward to the discovery process, litigation where we will subpoena internal documents and depose H.R. professionals to try to root out the cause of Exxon’s stubborn decision to hold on antiquated anti-gay policies.”

The decision to reject the policy at Exxon Mobil — which has received more than $1 billion in U.S. government awards in the past decade — raises the question of whether President Obama will issue an executive order requiring federal contractors to have non-discrimination policies based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The White House has said it prefers a legislative approach to addressing the issue of LGBT workplace discrimination in the form of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. In response to a Washington Blade inquiry on whether the Exxon Mobil vote warrants a reexamination of the executive order, Shin Inouye, a White House spokesperson, replied, “Regarding a hypothetical Executive Order on LGBT non-discrimination for federal contractors, I have no updates for you on that issue.”

Nonetheless, Almeida said the vote demonstrates the need for President Obama to take administrative action to protect LGBT workers from discrimination.

“Now is the time for President Obama to act decisively and make clear that doing business with the American government and the American taxpayer means adhering to the American people’s sense of fairness,” Almeida said. “President Obama can and should sign an executive order today that bars federal contracts for companies that don’t prohibit discrimination against LGBT Americans. He made this a written campaign promise five years ago, and there are no good excuses for delaying fairness any longer.”

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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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