Connect with us

News

Hearing set in anti-gay bias lawsuit against Exxon Mobil

Fact-finding conference to determine if oil-and-gas giant discriminated in job hiring

Published

on

Exxon, Mobil, gay news, Washington Blade

A hearing is set for Tuesday over a lawsuit contending anti-gay bias at Exxon Mobil. (Photo of Exxon sign by Ildar Sagdejev, photo of Mobil sign by Terence Ong; courtesy Wikimedia Commons).

An LGBT group that has sued oil-and-gas giant Exxon Mobil on the grounds of alleged anti-gay bias in hiring practices will get its hearing on Tuesday.

In the case of Freedom to Work v. Exxon Mobil, the Illinois agency charged with enforcing state civil rights law has set Oct. 21 at 10:30 am Central Time for a fact-finding conference at Vandalia City Hall, according to a redacted notice from the LGBT group obtained Sunday by the Washington Blade.

It’ll be the first time during the entire controversy that started in 1998 when Exxon merged with Mobil and deleted the company’s LGBT protections that the company has had to answer in a legal proceeding questions about its lack of explicit non-discrimination protections.

In May 2013, Freedom to Work filed a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights alleging Exxon Mobil engaged in anti-gay discrimination in hiring practices for an Illinois job posting, which would be a violation of state law. As restitution, the lawsuit seeks enumerated protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the company’s equal employment opportunity policy.

Although the state initially threw out the lawsuit in January, the case was back on in July after the Illinois Human Rights Commission overturned that decision and remanded the case for additional review.

According to the notice, the fact-finding conference is an investigative forum “intended to define the issues, determine which facts are undisputed, obtain evidence and ascertain where there is a basis for a negotiated settlement of charge.” The investigator assigned to the case is Krista Sherrock, whose contact number information was redacted by Freedom to Work in the notice.

The investigator conducts the fact-finding conference, the notice states, and determines which persons should be present. During the conference, the investigator reads an opening statement as well as the charge and questions the participants.

Both Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work, as well representatives of Exxon Mobil — Kimberly Cunningham, who works in the company’s internal legal department, and Dona Steadman, a human resources adviser — are required to appear at the hearing, according to the notice.

As previously reported, the Chicago-based international law firm Seyfarth Shaw is designated as counsel for Exxon Mobil. The case is being handled for the law firm by attorney Gerald Maatman.

Representing Freedom to Work is Peter Romer-Friedman, an attorney with Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC.

“It is encouraging that the Illinois Department of Human Rights is now investigating the merits of Freedom to Work’s discrimination charge,” Romer-Friedman said. “We are confident the evidence will show Exxon broke the law and that Exxon must change its policies so that LGBT workers are no longer subject to harmful discrimination. After a one year delay due to an erroneous dismissal of the case on technical grounds, we look forward to working with the Department to finally hold Exxon accountable.”

Neither Exxon Mobil nor Seyfarth Shaw responded to the Blade’s request to comment on the hearing. A spokesperson for the Illinois Human Rights Department said she was unable to provide to comment on developments of the investigation.

In July, President Obama signed an executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, but that directive isn’t expected to take effect until early next year. It remains to be seen whether the executive order or the lawsuit will be responsible for compelling Exxon Mobil to include LGBT protections in its non-discrimination policy.

Advertisement
FUND LGBTQ JOURNALISM
SIGN UP FOR E-BLAST

The White House

VP Harris to oversee White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention

Goal is to implement and expand upon legislation, executive actions

Published

on

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, September 2023. (Official White House photograph by Lawrence Jackson)

The White House announced Thursday evening that President Joe Biden on Friday will establish the first-ever White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention, to be overseen by Vice President Kamala Harris.

The office will focus on implementing and expanding upon executive and legislative actions, including the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, “to reduce gun violence, which has ravaged communities across the country.”

Serving under Harris will be Stefanie Feldman, “a longtime policy advisor to President Biden on gun violence prevention,” and “leading gun violence prevention advocates Greg Jackson and Rob Wilcox.”

“Every time I’ve met with families impacted by gun violence as they mourn their loved ones, and I’ve met with so many throughout the country, they all have the same message for their elected officials: ‘do something,'” Biden said in a statement.

The president noted his signing of last year’s bipartisan gun violence prevention law, a flagship legislative accomplishment for the administration, along with his issuance of more executive actions than any president in history to address this problem.

Calling these “just the first steps,” Biden said the establishment of the White House Office on Gun Violence Prevention will “build upon these measures and keep Americans safe.”

He also urged Congress to do more by passing legislation requiring universal background checks, and baning assault weapons and high capacity magazines.

In a statement, Harris said, “This epidemic of gun violence requires urgent leadership to end the fear and trauma that Americans experience every day.”

“The new Office of Gun Violence Prevention will play a critical role in implementing President Biden’s and my efforts to reduce violence to the fullest extent under the law,” she said, “while also engaging and encouraging Congressional leaders, state and local leaders, and advocates to come together to build upon the meaningful progress that we have made to save lives.”

“Our promise to the American people is this: we will not stop working to end the epidemic of gun violence in every community, because we do not have a moment, nor a life to spare,” the vice president said.

Then Vice President Biden hugs Brandon J. Wolf as he talks with family members of the victims and survivors in the June 12th mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida, June 16, 2016.
Wolf, a Pulse survivor, was recently appointed National Press Secretary of the Human Rights Campaign.
(Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)
Continue Reading

Congress

House GOP sinks their own spending bill, Dems object to anti-LGBTQ riders

Vote was 216-212

Published

on

U.S. Capitol
U.S. Capitol (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A group of four hardline House Republicans on Thursday joined Democratic colleagues to sink their own spending bill, a $886 billion military appropriations package full of riders from GOP members that include anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ provisions.

The 216-212 vote raised the likelihood of a government shutdown if lawmakers are unable to forge a path forward before the end of September.

“Instead of decreasing the chance of a shutdown, Speaker McCarthy is actually increasing it by wasting time on extremist proposals that cannot become law in the Senate,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said.

His counterpart in the House, Republican Speaker Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) expressed frustration with his own caucus, characterizing the impasse he has reached with colleagues as “frustrating in the sense that I don’t understand why anybody votes against bringing the idea and having the debate.”

“And then you got all the amendments if you don’t like the bill,” he continued. “This is a whole new concept of individuals that just want to burn the whole place down — it doesn’t work.”

A group of 155 House Democrats on Thursday issued a letter objecting to anti-LGBTQ provisions in the bill, the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act, addressing the message to U.S. Sens. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), chair and ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and U.S. Reps. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) and Adam Smith (D-Wash.), chair and ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee.

The effort was led by Congressional Equality Caucus Chair U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and the co-chairs of the Caucus’s Transgender Equality Task Force, U.S. Reps. Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.) and Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.).

Specifically, the letter argues several anti-equality amendments would “actively target LGBTQ+ service members and LGBTQ+ dependents and threaten the recruitment, retention, and readiness of our Armed Forces.”

Among these are riders prohibiting coverage of gender affirming healthcare interventions for service members and their dependents; banning LGBTQ Pride flags, drag shows and other events; and restricting funding for certain books in schools operated by the Department of Defense Education Activity.

Continue Reading

Canada

Eight jailed across Canada during anti-LGBTQ sex ed rallies

Prime minister condemned bigotry; counterprotests outnumbered demonstrations

Published

on

Protests sparked across Canada over gender policies in schools took place on Sept. 20, 2023. (Screenshot/YouTube CBC)

A highly coordinated series of anti-LGBTQ protests rocked more than 80 cities across Canada on Wednesday, in a significant escalation of tactics by Canada’s anti-LGBTQ extremists.

The coordinated protests dubbed 1 Million March 4 Children are demanding an end to discussions on sexual orientation and gender identity in Canadian classrooms. They come as several Canadian provinces have enacted policies that require students to have parental permission to change their preferred name or pronoun used in schools, and shortly after the federal Conservative Party adopted a series of anti-trans policies at its national convention.

According to its website, 1 Million March 4 Children is calling for “the elimination of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) curriculum, pronouns, gender ideology and mixed bathrooms in schools.” The website also lists among its supporters numerous groups that were opposed to masking policies during the COVID-19 pandemic, anti-vaccine groups, groups that promote conspiracy theories, and groups that support the truck convoys that laid siege to Ottawa and several U.S. border crossings last year.

Protests happened from coast to coast, in big cities, suburbs and small towns, but in most cases, they were met with coordinated counter-protests in support of LGBTQ rights who greatly outnumbered the protesters. 

CBC reported that counter-protesters numbered roughly double the anti-LGBTQ protesters in St. John’s, Newfoundland.  

Inclusive sex education has long been part of school curriculums in most provinces in Canada and has generally enjoyed support from all major political parties.

While the protests where mostly peaceful, at least four anti-LGBTQ protesters were arrested after getting into altercations with counter-protestors in British Columbia, and police advised that the protest in front of the provincial legislature had become “unsafe.”

Police in Nanaimo, British Columbia, tackled and arrested one man who attempted to flee after allegedly getting into a physical altercation at City Hall. Two protestors were also arrested in Victoria, British Columbia, as they demonstrated in front of the provincial legislature, and another protester was arrested in Vancouver. Police in both cities did not provide additional information.

Ottawa police also arrested two protesters for allegedly inciting hatred and another for causing a disturbance in at the protest in front of Parliament.

And Toronto police arrested 47-year-old protester Julia Stevenson for allegedly bringing a weapon to the demonstration outside the provincial legislature. Police did not give further details about what kind of weapon she is alleged to have been carrying.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was at the U.N. General Assembly in New York, condemned the anti-LGBTQ protests in a tweet on X, formerly Twitter.

“Let me make one thing very clear: Transphobia, homophobia and biphobia have no place in this country. We strongly condemn this hate and its manifestations, and we stand united in support of 2SLGBTQI+ Canadians across the country — you are valid and you are valued,” he wrote.

Conservative Party leader Pierre Poilievre did not put out any statement on the protests, nor did deputy leader Melissa Lantsman, who is openly lesbian and has previously spoken out on LGBTQ issues on behalf of the party. 

The leader of the left-leaning New Democratic Party Jagmeet Singh joined the counter-protestors who demonstrated in Ottawa and marched toward Parliament Hill.

“We know that there’s a lot of folks that don’t feel safe because of the rise in hate and division that’s targeting vulnerable people,” Singh told CTV. “But then you see a lot of people coming together, and it shows the strength of solidarity, of us supporting each other, of having each other’s back.”

Alberta Teachers’ Association President Jason Schilling says the protesters are part of a North America-wide movement fomenting hatred against queer people using misinformation and lies.

“Using ‘parental consent’ as camouflage, this rally was part of a coordinated strike across North America to promote misinformation, intolerance and hate toward the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, as well as toward teachers who work to protect the safety and well-being of all students,” Schilling said in a statement.

In many cities, the anti-LGBTQ protests were officially condemned by mayors and school boards.

Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow, who has publicly supported LGBTQ rights since the 1980s, issued a strong statement condemning the protests

“We stand against all forms of discrimination, hatred and bigotry, and for the safety and well-being of all young people. Some wish to target our schools and libraries to spread hate. We know these must be spaces that welcome everyone, especially students,” Chow wrote.

The city of Whitehorse, Yukon, issued a statement condemning bigotry in advance of the protests.

“While the city supports people’s right to organize and protest, we stand by our 2SLGBTQIA+ community members and their right to live their true selves safely and free of harassment and hate. The promotion of anti-2SLGBTQIA+ ideas has no place in our community and messages that target fellow community members will not be tolerated,” the statement says.

However, New Brunswick Primer Blaine Higgs, who was the first to introduce a “parental consent” policy for trans students, joined the protesters in front of the provincial legislature in Fredericton. 

“I think our parents should become knowledgeable about what their kids are being taught and what is important for them to learn in schools and what’s important for parents to make decisions on with kids that are under 16-years-old,” Higgs told reporters.

British Columbia Conservative Party leader John Rustad went further in a statement on the protests. While he says he doesn’t “officially” support the protests, if his party wins next year’s election, he promised to cancel the province’s sex ed curriculum and implied he would ban transgender girls from sports.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Sign Up for Weekly E-Blast

Follow Us @washblade

Advertisement

Popular