Connect with us

News

Calif. trans law ‘unlikely’ to qualify for referendum

Only 75 percent of required signatures deemed valid

Published

on

California, LGBT, Gay News, Washington Blade
California, Gov. Jerry Brown, Gay News, Washington Blade

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law that says schools must allow trans students to use the bathrooms and locker rooms and play on sports teams that match their gender identification. (Photo public Domain)

A recently signed transgender student rights law in California may be secure as one LGBT advocate says it’s unlikely opponents of the law have submitted enough legitimate signatures to put the measure up for referendum.

A total of 504,760 signatures were due last Thursday, which are required to place the law, known as the School Success & Opportunity Act, on the ballot for the 2014 election. Opponents of the measure, led by the Privacy for All Students Coalition, submitted 613,120 signatures from a majority of state counties in favor of overturning the law.

But they’re averaging just 75 percent authenticity in the random sample as of Friday, which is significantly below the average ultimately needed to qualify. If the number of valid signatures is less than 95 percent of the 504,760 needed, the measure would fail to qualify for the ballot.

John O’Connor, executive director of Equality California, said “it’s unlikely, [but] it’s not impossible” that the measure will come up for referendum given the signature validation percentage at this point.

“They’re going to need an 81.41 percent validity rate to qualify for the ballot,” O’Connor said. “You can see that they’re well below it currently. That 81.41 percent would be well above the average for any signature gathering activity. So, I mean there’s very real reason to hope that they’re not going to, but nothing’s conclusive itself until the process ends, and, sadly, we just have to give it it’s time to work.”

Although the results of 11 counties have been examined, the signatures from 47 counties have yet to be reviewed. Of these 47, three have yet to report their signature data — Amador, Mono and Mariposa — but they’re small and the signatures there are unlikely to affect the outcome of the validation process.

The deadline for the California Secretary of State to complete the random sample validation is Jan. 8.

If opponents of the law were found to have between 95 and 110 percent valid names in the random sample of the required total, the California Secretary of State would require a full check of signatures, which could mean the verification process could go into mid-March.

A random sample in which more than 110 percent of the names were deemed valid of the required total would mean the measure would immediately qualify for the ballot.

The law, signed by California Gov. Jerry Brown on Aug. 13, requires California public schools to respect students’ gender identity and ensures transgender students have access to school activities, facilities and sports teams in accordance with their gender identity.

O’Connor said “it’s terrible”  that opponents of the law would even make the attempt to strip it from the books.

“This is an attack on perhaps the most vulnerable population in our community,” O’Connor said. “They’ve solidly lost on marriage, and so now they’re going to try to go after transgender kids. It’s just despicable.”

While the referendum on the law may be doomed, it’s still possible for opponents of the law to repeal it through the ballot initiative process. Moreover, opponents could go a step further and completely remove gender identity from non-discrimination laws if they so desired. A statutory ballot initiative would require 504,760 signatures to qualify for the ballot; a constitutional amendment would require 807,615 names.

But the time period to gather signatures for the ballot initiative process has already begun. Opponents of the student law would have to submit signatures before six months passes after Brown signed the measure into law, which means that four months remain for them to take action.

O’Connor said he doesn’t know if opponents of the law will pursue this course, but noted it’ll be more difficult as time goes by.

“The fact that the clock has been ticking and they’re losing time right now, it’s curious to me, it makes me wonder what they’re up to,” O’Connor said. “It makes me uncertain whether they will or they won’t.”

The Privacy for All Students Coalition didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the assessment of the signature validation process or whether the group intends to pursue a ballot initiative.

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said she shares the optimism that efforts to repeal the California student law will fail.

“While we wait for the official results of the signature verification, we’re optimistic that, because of our friends in California, the ballot initiative will fail,” Keisling said. “The Transgender Law Center, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and Equality California, among others, moved quickly to counter the repeal effort. And what we’ve shown is that campaigning against transgender kids won’t win in California or anywhere else.”

Continue Reading
Advertisement

District of Columbia

Lawsuit charges D.C. Courts illegally fired trans man

Complaint says building technician subjected to abuse by supervisors

Published

on

Among the names appearing on the AG office’s court briefs in the Carter lawsuit is D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine, a longtime supporter of LGBTQ rights. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The D.C. Court of Appeals is currently deliberating over whether a 51-year-old transgender man who was fired in June 2019 from his job as a building maintenance technician at three buildings where the D.C. Superior Court and D.C. Court of Appeals are located has legal grounds to contest the firing, which he says was based on his gender identity.

In a little-noticed development, D.C. resident Dion Carter in June 2020 filed a lawsuit in D.C. Superior Court naming the D.C. government as the main defendant in the case on grounds that it plays a role in the funding of the D.C. Courts system and was responsible in part for more than eight years of discrimination and abusive treatment to which Carter was subjected on the job.

At the request of the Office of the D.C. Attorney General, which is representing the DC Court system in the lawsuit, a D.C. Superior Court judge on Jan. 29, 2021, dismissed the lawsuit on procedural grounds without addressing any of Carter’s allegations of discrimination.

Superior Court Judge William M. Jackson stated in a three-page ruling that the D.C. Attorney General’s Office correctly stated in a motion seeking the dismissal of the case that Carter’s lawsuit failed to plead a viable cause of action on two grounds.

One of the grounds, the AG’s office stated, is that the D.C. Courts’ Comprehensive Personnel Policy does not provide a remedy for employment discrimination allegations. Jackson cited the second ground for dismissal proposed by the AG’s office was that the D.C. Courts’ same personnel policy does not provide a private right of action for employees to seek monetary damages in a lawsuit related to discrimination.

In its brief calling for dismissal, the D.C. AG’s office also pointed out that Carter’s lawsuit was invalid because under court rules pertaining to the D.C. Courts’ personnel system, an internal administrative complaint alleging employment discrimination must be filed and carried out to completion before a lawsuit could be filed in court.

In a brief in support of Carter’s lawsuit, Carter’s attorney, Stephen Pershing, strongly disputes the AG office’s assertions, saying at least one Court of Appeals ruling indicated the D.C. Courts’ personnel policies legally “mirror” the provisions of the D.C. Human Rights Act, which, among other things, prohibits discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.  

Pershing also argued in his court briefs that Carter did file an internal administration complaint to contest his firing. But he stated that a high-level D.C. Courts’ official advised Carter that under the court system’s personnel rules, a ruling in Carter’s favor could not result in monetary compensation for lost wages or other legal remedies that Carter called for in his complaint. The official advised Carter and Pershing to file the discrimination case in a lawsuit in court, the lawsuit says. This prompted Carter to withdraw his administrative complaint, a development that Pershing now says was based on false and misleading information provided by the D.C. Court’s official.

In February 2021, Pershing appealed the dismissal of the case before the D.C. Court of Appeals, requesting that the dismissal be reversed and the case be sent back to D.C. Superior Court, where the specific merits of the case could be argued and presented before a jury.

Since the filing of the appeal, Pershing and attorneys with the Office of the D.C. Attorney General have filed briefs under consideration by the Court of Appeals supporting and opposing the contention that the D.C. Courts’ personnel rules allow a remedy for Carter’s discrimination claims.

Like the original lawsuit filed in Superior Court, Carter’s appeal briefs filed by Pershing state that the alleged discrimination against Carter started shortly after Carter first began working in the court system’s building maintenance department in January 2010 as an out lesbian prior to his transition as a male.

At that time Carter already had 15 years of experience in the field of building maintenance technology and became the first woman to hold such as position at the D.C. Courts, the lawsuit says.

According to the lawsuit, the abusive and discriminatory treatment toward Carter increased dramatically in 2015 when Carter informed his then-supervisor Emanuel Allen that he would be taking a short period of leave to undergo gender reassignment surgery. Upon his return to work after the first of five gender reassignment surgical procedures that he has now completed, Carter presented for the first time at work as a male, the lawsuit says.

“For the six months between Carter’s Family Medical Leave Act notice and his surgery, Mr. Allen cut Mr. Carter out of all overtime duty, overtime that was mandatory for all building maintenance workers and that they considered desirable,” the lawsuit says. It says that when Carter asked why Allen did this Allen refused to provide an answer and threatened to issue a poor work performance evaluation against Carter if he continued to question the overtime denial decision.

When Carter returned from his surgery and presented as male, the lawsuit charges, Allen repeatedly referred to Carter as “he-she” in the presence of fellow employees as well as high-level officials involved in the operation of the court system buildings. Carter viewed his treatment by Allen as a form of bullying and disrespect, the lawsuit states.

Over the next three years, according to the lawsuit, Carter was subjected to a hostile work environment by supervisors who, among other things, made false claims that Carter was not doing his job properly, was absent from work without permission, and was acting “aggressively” toward his supervisors or fellow employees. One supervisor blamed Carter’s alleged hostile behavior on the testosterone treatment that Carter was undergoing as a routine part of his gender transition process, the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit alleges that Carter was ultimately fired “on a false pretext” allegedly fabricated by James Vaughn, the Chief Building Engineer and Acting Building Operations Manager of the D.C. Courts. The lawsuit and appeals court briefs say Vaughn accused Carter of consuming an alcoholic beverage at one of the court buildings where Carter was assigned to work on April 6, 2019.

Vaughn recommended to the court system’s acting director of capital projects and facilities management that Carter be terminated from his job on grounds of violating Personnel Policy No. 800, which prohibits consuming illegal drugs or alcohol on court property while on duty.

“That allegation is factually untrue,” the lawsuit states. “Mr. Carter neither consumed nor was under the influence of alcohol while on site,” it says.

“Mr. Carter’s termination was unjustified on any legitimate ground and was an act of unlawful discrimination on account of Mr. Carter’s race, sex, sexual orientation and/or gender identity and expression, and in retaliation for his complaining to his superiors about his illicit mistreatment on these grounds,” the lawsuit and the current appeals court briefs charge.

“These acts and omissions caused Mr. Carter loss of employment, loss of pay and other benefits of employment, as well as anguish, intense hurt, humiliation, anger, sense of loss, disappointment, and emotional conflict between his desire for professional excellence and the torment inflicted on him merely for showing up every day, working, and working well, as an African American, as a lesbian, and as a transgender male,” the lawsuit says. 

“The acts of one or more of Mr. Carter’s superiors alleged in this complaint were motivated by actual malice and/or evil intent and were done with the intention to cause Mr. Carter pain, humiliation, anguish and torment, and as such warrant the imposition of punitive damages,” the lawsuit concludes.

Abigail McDonough, a spokesperson for the Office of the D.C. Attorney General, did not respond to an email message from the Blade asking the AG’s office to comment on Carter’s discrimination allegations. Among the names appearing on the AG office’s court briefs in the Carter lawsuit is D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine, who has expressed strong support for LGBTQ rights in the past.

Douglas Buchanan, a spokesperson for the D.C. Courts, said he would try to determine whether the court system’s building maintenance department would respond to a Blade request for comment on the Carter lawsuit and its allegations that high-level court officials in the maintenance department engaged in anti-transgender discrimination.

Pershing said he plans to file a separate lawsuit on Carter’s behalf in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia claiming the discrimination Carter faced violated his constitutional rights. He said he is hopeful that the D.C. Court of Appeals will rule in Carter’s favor, but a backlog in cases will likely mean a ruling would not take place before June of this year.

Under federal court rules, Carter must file his federal discrimination lawsuit in the U.S. District Court within three years from the time he was fired from his job in June of 2019.

Congress created the D.C. court system as a federal entity in 1970 at the time it created D.C.’s home rule government. The U.S. president appoints all judges. The D.C. Council and mayor have no control over the court system, although the D.C. government along with Congress funds the court system. The system is run by a Joint Committee on Judicial Administration consisting of five judges and a secretary who serves as the executive officer.

Continue Reading

Africa

Botswana government to abide by decriminalization ruling

Mokgweetsi Masisi met with LGBTQ activists on Monday

Published

on

(Public domain photo)

Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi on Monday said his government will abide by a ruling that decriminalized consensual same-sex sexual relations in his country.

Masisi said he would implement the Botswana High Court’s 2019 ruling against sections of the Batswana Penal Code that criminalized homosexuality.

The Batswana government appealed the High Court ruling. The Botswana Court of Appeals last November upheld it.

Agence France-Presse reported Masisi invited representatives of Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO), a Batswana LGBTQ rights group that challenged the criminalization law with the support of the Southern Africa Litigation Center, to meet with him at his office in Gaborone, the Batswana capital.

“We demand and expect anybody to respect the decisions of our court,” Masisi told LEGABIBO members, according to Agence France-Presse.

Botswana remains one of only a handful of countries that have decriminalized homosexuality.

Continue Reading

World

Global Equality Caucus hires former El Salvador National Assembly candidate

Erick Iván Ortiz received more than 10,000 votes in 2021

Published

on

Erick Iván Ortiz (Foto cortesía de Erick Iván Ortiz)

A group of LGBTQ elected officials from around the world that fights discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity has hired an openly gay man who ran for the El Salvador National Assembly last year.

Erick Iván Ortiz will oversee the Global Equality Caucus’ work throughout Latin America.

This work will specifically focus on Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Colombia, Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Peru. Two events that are scheduled to take place in Mexico City in April and Buenos Aires in May will mark the official launch of the Global Equality Caucus’ efforts in the region.

“The idea at the end of the day is to confront the threats from anti-rights groups that can be identified,” Ortiz told the Washington Blade during a recent interview in the Salvadoran capital of San Salvador.

Ortiz, who is a member of Nuestro Tiempo, a new Salvadoran political party, received 10,615 votes when he ran for National Assembly in 2021. Ortiz would have been the first openly gay man elected to the country’s legislative body if he had won.

Editor’s note: The Blade on Monday published a Spanish version of this story that El Salvador Correspondent Ernesto Valle wrote.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Follow Us @washblade

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts

Popular