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LGBT workers caught in standoff as ENDA blocked

Boehner won’t bring up bill; White House continues to withhold executive order

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John Boehner, Republican Party, Ohio, Republican National Convention, Florida, Tampa, United States House of Representatives, gay news, Washington Blade
John Boehner, Speaker of the House, GOP, Republican, gay news, Washington Blade

House Speaker John Boehner opposes the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

After Senate passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, progress toward protecting LGBT workers has hit a wall amid an apparent standoff between the U.S. House and the White House.

On the one hand, U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has said he sees “no need or no basis” for ENDA, which would bar most employers from discriminating against LGBT workers. On the other, the White House insists the House of Representatives must take  action and is continuing to withhold an executive order prohibiting federal contractors from engaging in anti-LGBT discrimination.

Boehner made the comments in opposition to ENDA, articulating a view he previously expressed through a spokesperson, when asked by the Washington Blade last week whether he would allow a vote on the legislation despite his own misgivings about the bill.

“I think this legislation that I’ve dealt with as chairman of the Education & The Workforce Committee long before I was back in the leadership is unnecessary and would provide a basis for frivolous lawsuits,” Boehner said. “People are already protected in the workplace. I’m opposed to continuing this.”

LGBT advocates immediately pounced on Boehner’s remarks, saying there’s no basis to believe the bill would lead to “frivolous lawsuits,” citing a recent study by Government Accountability Office finding that the enactment of similar state laws have resulted in “relatively few employment discrimination complaints.” Advocates also noted an employee can be fired for being gay in 29 states and 33 states have no protections for transgender workers.

The next day, the Blade asked White House Press Secretary Jay Carney whether Boehner’s continued obstruction of a House vote on ENDA has led to any reconsideration of an executive order from President Obama barring LGBT discrimination among federal contractors. Carney restated Obama’s support for ENDA and redirected attention to Boehner in his response.

“So we are not at all ready to believe that the fight is over in the House, because it is the president’s strong conviction that this is the right thing to do and that the arguments against it do not hold up to scrutiny or the test of history,” Carney said. “So we’re going to keep fighting for the House to take it up and urging the House to take it up.”

Despite the outward appearance of a standoff between the White House and the House of Representatives, LGBT advocates dismiss the notion of gridlock and say movement continues behind the scenes.

Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work, said some of the momentum seen in the Senate continues in the House.

“More than a dozen House members have joined as ENDA co-sponsors within the last month alone, and we just reached the 200 sponsor mark,” Almeida said “By the end of this week, Freedom to Work will have met with and lobbied more than 15 Republican House offices in the two weeks since the Senate vote, and we think the number of ENDA co-sponsors will continue to grow.”

Almeida predicted that ENDA “would pass if allowed to reach the floor of the House,” joining Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Rep. Jared Polis and the Human Rights Campaign in making that assessment.

Laura Durso, director of the LGBT Research and Communications Project at the Center for American Progress, said the standoff on action for LGBT workers actually exists elsewhere.

“I personally see the standoff really between the Republican leadership in the House and the bipartisan majority of the American public, the bipartisan majority in the Senate who had supported ENDA,” Durso said.

Meanwhile, ENDA supporters are continuing to draw attention to the lack of federal workplace non-discrimination protections for LGBT workers.

Last week, a coalition of groups including the Movement Advancement Project, issued an update to its series of reports on the state of LGBT workers with a new study that examines the particular plight faced by LGBT workers of color.

The report, titled “A Broken Bargain for LGBT Workers of Color,” takes a broader look at issues for LGBT people of color other than workplace discrimination, but finds they have higher rates of unemployment in comparison to their straight counterparts.

The unemployment rate for LGBT Asian and Pacific Islanders is 11 percent compared to 8 percent for straight Asian and Pacific Islanders; for LGBT Latinos it’s 14 percent compared to 11 percent for straight Latinos; and 15 percent for LGBT African Americans compared to 12 percent for straight African Americans.

Additionally, the report found unemployment rates for transgender people of color have reached as high as four times the national unemployment rate.

“Hiring bias and on-the-job discrimination mean that qualified LGBT workers of color may not have the opportunity to find jobs that match their abilities and aspirations and that allow them to support themselves and their families,” the report concludes.

CREDO, a progressive social change organization, has prepared an online petition calling on Boehner to allow a vote on ENDA. As of last week, more than 49,000 people had signed.

“The Employment Non-Discrimination Act passed the Senate,” the petition states. “Stop blocking an up-or-down vote, and let all members of the House go on the record about where they stand on equal rights in the workplace.”

Meanwhile, calls continue for President Obama to sign an executive order to bar LGBT discrimination among federal contractors. If the order were along the lines of Executive Order 11246 signed by President Lyndon Johnson, it would bar discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity for federal contractors that earn more than $10,000 a year in federal contracts.

Sarah Trumble, policy counsel for the centrist group known as the Third Way, said the White House may decide to issue the executive order “as a down payment” for LGBT workers while anticipating later action from Congress.

“Because these issues are actually separate, even if the White House does issue the executive order, we would still need ENDA and Speaker Boehner would continue to feel the pressure to give the bill a vote,” Trumble said.

Almeida expressed frustration that the Obama administration continues to hold out on the executive order.

“There’s no need to wait months, or even wait days, before adding strong LGBT workplace protections to millions of American jobs,” Almeida said. “The unexplained delays by the Obama administration are perplexing.”

Almeida said that last week the company Bechtel, a global engineering and construction company, received a $143 million contract from the U.S. government even though protections for transgender workers aren’t included in its non-discrimination policy.

“The existing federal contractor Executive Order 11246 already bans sex discrimination, giving the Labor Department the authority to insert transgender protections into the language of contracts like the one Bechtel signed last week,” Almeida said. “But the Labor Department is sadly allowing those opportunities for progress to slip away.”

Such action from the Labor Department, Almeida noted, would bring the existing executive order into alignment with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity’s decision in Macy v. Holder that found transgender discrimination amounts to gender discrimination prohibited under current law.

“We will keep pushing for both President Obama and Labor Secretary Perez to take concrete action to ensure American taxpayer money is not squandered on harassment or discrimination,” Almeida concluded.

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Politics

Pete Buttigieg calls out Tucker Carlson over attack

Fox News host mocked transportation secretary over paternity leave

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U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg (Washington Blade file photo)

Appearing remotely on MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace’s politics program Friday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg called out Fox News host Tucker Carlson for the attack on his parental leave.

“This attack is coming from a guy who has yet to explain his apparent approval for the assassination of Harvey Milk, ” Buttigieg said.

During his Thursday evening program Carlson said, “Pete Buttigieg has been on leave from his job since August after adopting a child—paternity leave, they call it—trying to figure out how to breastfeed. No word on how that went. But now he’s back in office as the transportation secretary and he’s deeply amused, he says, to see that dozens of container ships can’t get into this country.”

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‘Mercenarismo’: El delito que la Seguridad del Estado de Cuba usa para presionar al activista LGBTQ Raúl Soublett

Se realizó la interrogación el 9 de octubre

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Raúl Soublett López ((Foto cortesía de Twitter de María Matienzo)

Tremenda Nota es el socio mediático del Washington Blade en Cuba. Esta nota salió en su sitio web el 9 de octubre.

LA HABANA — El activista LGBTIQ+ Raúl Soublett López fue amenazado este sábado durante una entrevista con la Seguridad del Estado con un proceso penal por “mercenarismo”.

“Cualquier tipo de lucha en #Cuba puede ser criminalizada. A Raúl Soublett López ahora lo quieren procesar por mercenarismo y la notificación se la hace un tipo que tiene tanto miedo que no da ni su nombre real”, denunció la periodista María Matienzo en sus cuentas de Facebook y Twitter.

Según Matienzo, el argumento de la Seguridad del Estado para probar el «mercenarismo» de Raúl Soublett es una serie de videos contra el racismo y la homofobia que produjo el activista.

Al menos uno de esos videos fue publicado por Tremenda Nota.

Camino al Código de las Familias, uno de los videos de Raúl Soublett señalados por la Seguridad del Estado como “mercenarismo”

La Alianza Afro-Cubana, una organización independiente que coordina el propio Soublett, informó este viernes que el activista había sido citado en la mañana del sábado para una entrevista con “agentes de la Seguridad del Estado” en una unidad de policía ubicada en Playa, La Habana.

En coincidencia con la citación, este sábado Raúl Soublett debió asistir a la universidad, donde cursa el último año de una licenciatura en Pedagogía.

María Matienzo advirtió en Facebook que “las citaciones con menos de 72 horas de antelación son ilegales también”.

El mismo día que citaron a Soublett, el presidente Miguel Díaz-Canel se reunió con activistas LGBTIQ+ y funcionarios del Centro Nacional de Educación Sexual (Cenesex). Malú Cano, la coordinadora de la red TransCuba, que fue una de las invitadas, calificó el encuentro como una evidencia de la “voluntad política de avanzar en el reconocimiento de los derechos de las personas LGBTIQ+”.

Matienzo, que también es lesbiana, observó la coincidencia entre ambos incidentes.

“Ante una comunidad #LGTBIQ que se reúne con el poder en #Cuba, quieren procesar al activista @RaulSoublett”, observó en Twitter.

El propio Soublett posteó en Facebook: “Mientras hay activistas LGBTIQ+ que no se les escuchan, que los acosan, los citan para interrogatorios ilegales, en fin. Esa es la Cuba de ponle corazón. Hipócritas”.

El pasado 25 de febrero, Raúl se reunió con la Seguridad del Estado y acabó autoagrediéndose como resultado de la presión.

“Fue interrogado por más de cuatro horas, según me describe las cuatro horas más horribles de su vida, en la cual usaron los más bajos recursos de intimidación, chantaje, coacción y sobre todo mucha violencia tanto psicológica como verbal”, relató en esa ocasión el periodista Héctor Luis Valdés Cocho.

Según el Código Penal vigente en Cuba, el delito de “mercenarismo” consiste en incorporare “a formaciones militares integradas total o parcialmente por individuos que no son ciudadanos del Estado en cuyo territorio se proponen actuar” a cambio de “un sueldo u otro tipo de retribución material”. 

Las sanciones previstas para estos casos son hasta 20 años de cárcel o muerte. 

Un experto en Derecho consultado por Tremenda Nota, que pidió reservar su identidad, considera que “esta amenaza no pasa de ser un recurso de tortura psicológica”.  “Ese delito es improcedente en este caso y eso sería obvio para cualquiera”, añadió. 

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Texas

Texas House approves anti-trans youth sports bill

HB 25 now heads to state Senate

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GenderCool Project leader and Trans activist Landon Richie (Photo courtesy of Landon Richie)

Texas House Republicans were able to push through the anti-trans youth sports measure Thursday evening after hours of emotional and at times rancorous debate, passing the bill in a 76-54 vote along party lines.

Under the provisions of Texas House Bill 25, all trans student athletes in grades K-12 will be prohibited from competing on sports teams aligned with their gender identity. The bill will now head to the Senate, where it is expected to pass.

The Texas Tribune reported that the University Interscholastic League, which governs school sports in Texas, already requires that an athlete’s gender be determined by the sex listed on their birth certificate. Republican Rep. Valoree Swanson, R-Spring, the author of HB 25 has said the bill would simply “codify” existing UIL rules.

However, UIL recognizes any legally modified birth certificates. That policy could accommodate someone who may have had their birth certificate changed to match their gender identity, which can sometimes be an arduous process.

HB 25 would not allow recognition of these legally modified birth certificates unless changes were made because of a clerical error. It’s not clear though how it will be determined if a birth certificate has been legally modified or not. According to the UIL, the process for checking student birth certificates is left up to schools and districts, not the UIL the Tribune reported.

“To say that tonight’s passage of HB 25 is devastating is an understatement. For the past 10 grueling, exhausting, and deeply traumatic months, trans youth have been forced to debate their very existence—only to be met by the deaf ears and averted eyes of our state’s leaders,” Landon Richie, a GenderCool Project leader, University of Houston student and Transactivist told the Washington Blade after the vote.

“Make no mistake: This bill will not only have detrimental impacts on trans youth, who already suffer immense levels of harassment and bullying in schools, but also on cisgender youth who don’t conform to Texas’s idea of ‘male’ or ‘female.’ To trans kids everywhere: you belong, you are loved, you are valued, you are deserving of dignity, respect, care and the ability to live freely as your true and authentic selves, no matter where you are. We will never stop fighting for trans lives and a future where trans kids are unequivocally and unwaveringly celebrated for who they are,” Richie said.

“The cruelty of this bill is breathtaking, and the legislators who are pushing it forward are doing irreparable harm to our state. Texas is a place where people value freedom and respect for diversity. This bill is a betrayal of those cherished values, and future generations will look back on this moment in disbelief that elected officials supported such an absurd and hateful measure,” Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights told the Blade. “The families of these kids deserve better, and the burden is now on the rest of us to do everything in our power to stop this dangerous bill now,” he added.

During the debate on the measure, state Rep. James Talarico, (D-Round Rock), a former middle school teacher, began his remarks by apologizing to the trans kids and families who have gone to the Capitol time and time again this year. He tells the chamber he speaks now as a legislator, and educator, and a Christian.

He quoted Republican Rep. Valoree Swanson, R-Spring, the author of HB 25 who said “if one girl wins a game, it’s worth it.” He says he has a different moral yardstick. “If one trans kid dies for a trophy, this bill is grotesque.”

He ended speaking to his “fellow believers” in the chamber. “The worst part in these hearings have been in hearing the Bible used against trans kids to support these bills. Even tonight, ‘God’s law’ was used to present an amendment.” He then quoted the first two lines of the Bible, where God is referred to with two different Hebrew words, one masculine/one feminine. “God is non-binary.” He then prevented an interruption in the chamber and continued telling trans kids that he loves them.

Fellow Democratic state Rep. Jessica González, (D-Dallas County), vice-chair of the Texas House LGBTQ Caucus asked the chamber how many trans Texas kids they are willing to hurt. She reminded her fellow representatives that cisgender women and girls will also be hurt by the bill. She shared a personal story about being outed in high school by a friend, having her locker, home, and car vandalized and losing all of her friends. “Kids are cruel.”

González told lawmakers that her brother encouraged her to try out for soccer, and she was bullied with comments like “shouldn’t she be trying out for the boys’ team.” She went from feeling a bit accepted to being an outsider again. She then reflected on carrying those feelings into adulthood and said that this bill will have long-term affects on trans kids. She asked legislators to listen to the stories of the trans kids who have bravely testified, saying kids will contemplate suicide or complete suicide.

Representative Diego Bernal, (D-San Antonio), told the chamber that some representatives can’t wrap their heads around knowing that there is no problem but there is *real* harm to trans kids, and for whatever reason, that’s not enough it seems to stop moving these bills.

He said that he has heard “if they already have mental health issues and suicide ideation, this can’t make it worse” and “if the debate is harming them, let’s just vote.” The he breaks down the Texas statute’s definition of bullying, telling lawmakers, “The bullying statute doesn’t have an intent requirement. It doesn’t matter if you don’t mean to cause them harm. We are bullying these students. Know that by law … our own definitions and our own words, we are. And we don’t have to.”

“Texas lawmakers voted today to deliberately discriminate against transgender children. Excluding transgender students from participating in sports with their peers violates the Constitution and puts already vulnerable youth at serious risk of mental and emotional harm,” Adri Perez, policy and advocacy strategist at the ACLU of Texas said in a statement to the Blade.

“There is no evidence that transgender kids pose any threat. It is indefensible that legislators would force transgender youth and their families to travel to Austin to defend their own humanity, then blatantly ignore hours of testimony about the real damage this bill causes. Trans kids and their families deserve our love and support—they’ve been fighting this legislation for months. Texans will hold lawmakers accountable for their cruelty,” she added.

The statewide LGBTQ+ advocacy group Equality Texas in a tweet after the vote said; ” We will not stop fighting to protect transgender children.” Then added “We’ll continue to educate lawmakers—replacing misinformation with real stories—and demand the statewide and federal nondiscrimination protections we need to prevent further harms.”

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