Archive for the ‘gay rights’ category

Down Under Bathrooms

February 28, 2017

As I await boarding my plane back to the US, I read (via internet) that a Federal Judge has intervened in a transgender bathroom use case. President Trump has already reversed an executive order mandating that a transgender person be allowed to use the bathroom of their sex identity, so is this Judge’s ruling a step towards a Constitution test of transgender rights?

Frankly I find this matter silly and representative of a weak puritanical mind set. The hysterical claims that allowing transgender people to use the bathroom opposite their birth sex would loose on the public sex deviates determined to rape or abuse little girls. Hmmm.

The world has other ideas about bathroom (toilets) usage. In most of Europe, China, Japan, and yes, even Australia, toilet access often involves a “two holers” with locking doors, neither of which is designated with a male or female sign. I guess Australians feel that a locked door is sufficient and with solid walls, privacy is adequately protected.

The real hoot about this controversy is to consider the example where a transgender male (born female), now fully transitioned wearing shorts, a tank top, and sporting facial hair pops into a female restroom (following the law) but against her wishes. Do you think the other restroom users would feel more or less comfortable with “him” in their restroom?

Supreme Decision

February 1, 2017

With the nomination of Federal Appeals Court Judge, Neil Gorsuch, a difficult decision lies in front of Democrat Senators. Do they oppose his confirmation at all costs or do they object but in the end allow him to be confirmed? And more to the point, why in either case?

Judge Gorsuch claims to be someone who interprets the Constitution as the framers intended and reads laws in the context of how they were created, not how they would impact the future. Judge Gorsuch as been described as “Scalia-esq” without the bombastic-ness Antonin Scalia employed. So does Judge Gorsuch deserve a hearing?

It should be very understandable if Democrats chose a “tit for tat” response reflecting Mitch McConnell’s decision to not even give hearings to Merritt Garland. On this basis alone, a logical refusal to confirm could be based.

Over time, however, political sentiment shifts back and forth from conservative to progressive and back. It should therefore not be overlooked that in the future as the recent past, progressives have been nominated. (Judge Garland’s treatment, unfortunately, hurts this argument).  Never the less, a complete stonewall of Gorsuch would only serve to dignify McConnell’s dysfunctional behavior.

Assuming there is a hearing, what questions should be asked? And what type of answers will indicate Judge Gorsuch is not “out of the mainstream”?

Judge Gorsuch calls himself an “originalist” in the Antonin Scalia mold.  Questions around social issues and religious rights represent places where (IMO) “originalists” are the furtherest out on the limb and may be seen as out of the mainstream.

For example, supporting the Little Sisters of the Poor’s or Hobby’s decision not to provide all of Obamacare’s benefits to women for religious reasons runs dead smack into the 14th Amendment (equal protection). The Affordable Care Act required no one to use any birth control method, ACA simply made it available to any woman who so chose. Does Judge Gorsuch believe exercising religious liberty can over ride the 14th Amendment?

Another social issue involves individual gay rights such as employment discrimination and same sex marriage. Does freedom of religion allow someone with “deeply held religious beliefs” to fire or refuse to hire someone, or to withhold services to a customer on the basis of sexual orientation?

And of course, does any government have the right to interfere with a women’s choices on her reproductive health, and by extension, does a person with deeply held religious views or any religious institution have standing in denying any women such rights?

Judge Gorsuch’s beliefs in other areas such as tort, tax, and corporate law, while important, are less relevant since the Judge’s opinions are well known to be the conservative side.

It is instead the social issues which are dividing the country and are not to be found in thoughts of our founding fathers.

A simple principle might be, “believe what you want, live personally your beliefs, do not require others to follow your beliefs”.

The Women’s March

January 23, 2017

What does one make of the enormous outpouring of feelings put forth by the several million all across the United States who took part on Saturday, January 21, 2017 Women’s Marches? The women organized marches were peaceful, enthusiastic, and expressive. Although the main message was women’s rights, organizers created room for gays, peace advocates, environmentalists, and immigrants.

Attendance in all cases significantly out numbered pre-march estimates. For example, Washington DC turnout numbered above two million versus an estimate of 900,000.
So why were the numbers so large in Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, and Los Angeles? What were the real message?

Conservatives are poised to reverse legislatively and/or through a Supreme Court appointment as much progressive gains women, gays, and immigrants have made, especially during the past 8 years. This has many women worried. Saturday, these women (not all women, just a lot of them) made clear they were not going to be made subservient to men, religious organization, or the Federal Government.

Saturday’s turnout will present President Trump with an early test. The Republican controlled Congress has already indicated it will repeal Obamacare, defund Planned Parenthood, and look for ways to constrict, if not eliminate Roe v Wade, and expects the President’s support. A wise person, especially someone who realizes he must appeal to all voters not just those in gerrymandered districts, that the women’s march signals a potential firestorm of opposition.

The marchers were mostly regular everyday mainstream people. Sure there were a few blue haired marchers but most were natural blonds, brunettes, and all shades of gray. The bulk of marchers were women who were not about to surrender their individual dignities nor their newly won freedoms. Young children marched with their older sisters and mothers, learning first hand what peaceful protesting was about.

A wise President Trump would conclude that his goals of invigorating the economy and repositioning US foreign policy would not be served well by opening a social war with this group of women. There is a substantial element of the Republican Party whose demagoguery embraces authoritarian religiosity and accordingly wants to return womanhood to the 1950’s or before. The President needs to either squash this faction or at least divert them for the time being.

If President Trump chooses to ignore these marches’ message, he does so at his own governance risk.

Hunkering Down For Four Long Years

December 11, 2016

Donald Trump’s election coupled with the GOP control of Congress augers for a long and difficult four years. The tough times will come in the form of social conservatism running rough shod over the last eight years of social progressivism. People of small minds will foist their views on others and attempt to roll back 40 years of progressive gains.

The Trump years will be a field day for “anything goes” labor laws, loose and lax environmental rules, and open season for States rights. All this in the name of making America Great Again. Hmmm.

Great leaders are given credit for enabling great outcomes. Less than great leaders often unleash events and outcomes of staggering proportions but too often these come with unintended or unexpected consequences. With a President and Congressional of the same party, President-elect Trump faces the fork in the road, will he strive to be great or will events and the enemy within his party overwhelm his Presidency?

Ohio is a good example of what will face President Trump during the next four years.
The Ohio legislature has rushed a bill through the Republican controlled legislature. The bill would outlaw abortions once a fetal heart beat is detectable. In Ohio legislators’ minds, life begins with detection of a heart beat, not viability which the Supreme Court has rules as the standard. For pro-lifers, this is welcome legislation. For pro-choice, this is the dark side rising again.

The Supreme Court has ruled that before “viability”, about the 24th week, a woman should have the unobstructed right to end a pregnancy for what ever reason she chooses. After 24 weeks, States could impose reasonable restriction. So what is Ohio thinking?

Pundits report that Ohio is anticipating President-elect Trump’s promise to appoint conservative Supreme Court Justices in the mold of the deceased Antonin Scalia. Accordingly the conservative goal is to outlaw abortion and if that is not possible, return abortion law to States and keep the Federal Government out of this process.

What could be more democratic than to allow States to rule on this contentious issue for themselves?

The abortion issue is quite complicated. In an ideal world, a woman would become pregnant only if she truly wanted a child. In this ideal world, pregnancies would proceed medically trouble free and the child would be born into a loving, wholesome family setting. Regrettably, life does not follow that path.

Rape, incest, and risk to the woman’s life are real parts of American lives. Domestic violence and sudden economic trouble also unfortunately move many pregnant women to determine the timing is inappropriate for a full term pregnancy. And to be sure, there are some who attach no importance to pregnancy and for even the most minor inconvenience would end the pregnancy, or worse bring a newborn into a world absent of love and care.

For these reason, pro-choice advocates seek to make abortion legal and safe but exceedingly rare.

It is difficult to know what President-elect Trump actually thinks about abortion access. Over the years, he has held both pro and con views.  And, as if he was the Pied Piper, Trump has said many things only to later walk them back.

What is not hard anticipate is that all the conservative special interests will once again try to impose their personal views on others.

Keep your eyes open for the flat earth-ers (the earth is 5,000 years old), global warming deniers (science is bunk), sexual orientation bigots (the bible say so), and not to be overlooked, the neocons who will gleefully send other Americans’ children off to war (remember Iraq).

Bathrooms Please !

May 22, 2016

The recent North Carolina controversy about who can use which gender designated bathroom reminds me of children’s arguments about which toy they can play with next. It totally baffles me why a modern State like North Carolina would rush HB-2 through and even more baffling why a former mayor of the vibrant commercial city of Charlotte would sign the bill into law.

Politics, in the sense of there is no place too low to go if one wants to win, is the most likely explanation. But why show everyone how pedestrian State politicians might be?

The advocacy groups who support transgender people being able to use which ever bathroom the individual feels most comfortable with has been somewhat as inane as the politicians supporting HB 2. Imagine (this may be an extreme) someone with facial hair (mustache, beard) who truly feels they are on the journey to identifying as a woman walking into a ladies room. Most anyone would react with surprise followed by some degree of uneasiness.

HB-2 also gratuitously opens the door for discrimination against gays by negating any local ordinances which specifically include sexual orientation as a basis for discrimination.

So, why was this necessary?

HB-2 was code named the “bathroom” law. Supporters cited the risk of allowing trans persons from using a bathroom of their choice that sexual predators would use this as cover and also enter women’s bathrooms and molest young children. Hmmm.

First, there is nothing in the law that prevents this from happening and most tellingly, there is no epidemic of predators invading women’s bathrooms now.

Through the fog of nonsense, however, HB-2 answers the concerns and hurt feelings of religious groups who still claim the Bible tells them being gay (and OMG, same sex marriage) is flat out wrong. Politicians who generally wear religion on their sleeve more vividly than in their heart have seen HB-2 as a sure fire vote getter.

The bill doesn’t outrightly call out gays, lesbians, and bi-sexuals for new “anti” measures. HB-2 is much more sophisticated. Since current North Carolina State law provides no specific protections around sexual orientation, HB-2 cleverly says no North Carolina city could enacts its own sexual discrimination laws.

Transgenders are the least understood LGBT group but the idea that a male born, female oriented person could use a lady’s bathroom just could not be imagined by many North Carolinians.

Not so long ago, when the gays rights movement was springing to life, a majority of Americans considered being gay a learned or nurtured condition.  “Love thy neighbor as thy self” didn’t cut it among many religious groups nationally. Being gay was an undesirable condition.

But then something began to happen across American. Americans began to get to know someone who was gay and the condition became real. Suddenly, being gay was viewed as a result of nature, or in other words, being gay was a form of being normal.

While there are still religious groups which denounce homosexuality, most now make fools of themselves by claiming they respect a homosexual as a person but not the life style practices of homosexuals. Hmmm. Never the less,today, more than 50% of Americans support gay rights including same sex marriage.

North Carolina is not going to get this genie back in the bottle. Supreme Court rulings clearly prohibit sexual orientation as a valid basis for discrimination and have also approved same sex marriage as a right of gay couples. So there.

But what about these sexual predators?

Most people do not carry around their birth certificate so it is unreasonable to expect anyone to be able to prove what their sex at birth might have been. Male to female trans persons (assuming no beards) will use a stall in a lady’s room and no one will be the wiser anyways. Female to male trans would be expected to also select a stall when using a men’s room. So where will the provocation be?

Several times in my life time I have been in a restroom and someone from the opposite sex has come in. Usually it is with a young boy who doesn’t know (or want) to enter the room by himself. Other times it is a personal emergency such as a super long line to get in a lady’s room or some mechanical problem making the room unavailable. When nature calls, laws do not mean much.

The LGBT community is arguing HB-2 is about denying respect for transgender people. Maybe, but HB-2 more clearly reflects ignorance and foolishness on the part of State law makers. Transgender use of public bathrooms will in 99.9% of the cases not be recognized by anyone else (person with beard using a lady’s room excepted).

So why is this big deal?

New York Has Spoken, Who Is Listening

April 21, 2016

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton won big in New York’s Presidential primary on Tuesday. Both overwhelmed their opponents with vote pluralities. So what are the messages voters sent?

Trump’s victory seems a reflection of those who have seen the American dream disappear right before their eyes. Teachers, police and firemen, shop keepers, laborers, and those once employed making things have become disenchanted with intransigence of Congress, the seeming ineffectiveness of Government, and the message veracity of the standard politician.

Trump cuts through the verbal manure promising a fix. (Interestingly there are never any details on how.)  For New Yorkers, who as a group don’t care much about social issues (or at least place them way down the list compared to economic ones), there is a feeling “this might be the Messiah.

New Yorker GOP members simply are not like those in much of the rest of the country. Outside the greater North East area, the GOP is a cobbled up group of narrow interests which share the similarity of not being Democrats.

There are evangelicals and fundamentalists who relish the opportunity to discriminate against gays, deny women a right to reproductive health, and see xenophobia as an asset. The GOP also is also home to 2nd Amendment enthusiasts and wish to see guns in every home and on every person, the more the merrier.

The “gold standard” crowd also finds the GOP as their home.  They seek not just a balanced budget but a budget leading to zero debt without regard to the consequences. Then there is the “end entitlements” group operating from the GOP reservation.

And one can not forget the GOP’s dangerous affair with neoconservatives (remember the Iraq War) who haven’t seen a foreign involvement they did not like.

An important point about these desperate factions is that each has little or nothing in common with the other group.

Donald Trump has recognized the Republican Party for what it is and that its leadership is incapable of offering an exciting candidate, and will proposed a “sure loose” platform (their usually litany of anti-women, anti-gay, and anti-immigrant pledges.  The GOP leadership will trade the White House for reelection of “down ticket” candidates (control of Congress).

Trump, however, sees himself as someone who doesn’t need to pander to the religious right, can walk back from his anti-immigrant positions, and bore in on his ideas about rejuvenating the economy with one hand while throwing slime at Hillary with the other.

New York also spoke about Democrats too. While the Democrats are less complicated, Bernie Sanders does represent much more liberal elements with a honed attack line aimed at campaign financing, big banks, and income inequality.

If Bernie were to upset the Clinton campaign on the basis of issues, New York was the place. It did not happen. While there could be events in the next few months which could change the outcome, Clinton looks like the Democrat winner. Oh, and by the way, there are no similar subdivisions of Democrats like one can see in the GOP.

So what has New York said?

My guess is that it is as follows. If any candidate understands the frustration of so many Americans who do not see a chance at the American dream, then there is a ready audience who could care less about social issues or foreign policy. This audience wants someone who will tell them they have a plan to make life better.

Should there ever be a President Trump, he will be judged carefully on whether he actually tries to help and whether he is successful. A President Trump will not be given a free pass for just talking, he will need to succeed. Why?

The easy answer is that regardless of a President Trumps intentions, those in his administration will be stuffing their pockets with perks and free-byes which come with the job. In short, after four years a President Trump could look like those before him (save President Obama), just another establishment guy.

For voters, however, a likely Hillary Presidency could be a disappointment too. Her campaign will be expensive and she will owe much to supporters. Escaping this appearance of in-proprietary will be nearly impossible… unless… under President Clinton there is a substantial improvement in voters perception of achieving the American dream.

Hmmm.

Pandering To “Deeply” Held Religious Views

April 16, 2016

The Constitution’s first amendment guarantees that Government will not restrict expression of religion. But what is included in this presumed freedom? Can mothers prevent their children from being vaccinated to guard against a communicable disease if their brand of religion believes god will safe guard their child? Or, what if ones religion rules out blood transfusions? Could an individual refuse a transfusion? Could that individual refuse a life saving transfusion for his spouse or child? Hmmm.

Many religion are associated with certain wearing apparel. In America, there is fairly wide acceptance or probably better daid, an indifference) to religious dress such as Jewish Kippah, Muslim Hijab, or Amish traditional dress. And underlying this acceptance (or indifference) is that no one else is forced to wear these items.

The operating principle over the years has been religious freedom means that an individual can believe what they want providing their beliefs do not hurt others.

The secular world is another place altogether. Here is where the economy and daily living takes place. One would nowadays never expect to see a door at Walmart which said “Christians Entrance”, or another which said “Blacks Only”. Over the years, secular laws have evolved to provide a commercial world open to all.

The rub arises when religious worlds cross paths with the secular world. Christians normally have religious services on Sunday while Jews hold services Friday evening. In the recent past, there existed a set of laws restricting commercial activity on Sundays. These so-called “blue laws” attempted to discourage most commercial activity on Sundays.

Today there are no laws requiring a commercial establishment to operate on Sunday but more importantantly there are no laws preventing them from being open. Commercial businesses, even those associated with specific religious groups have a choice. No one is required to shop on Sunday and no business is required to be open.

Now a new conflict has arisen testing freedom of religion.

Over the past few years as the Country’s social conscience has evolved to where a majority of Americans accept the LBGT community and recognize same sex marriage.Unfortunately many religious organizations have brought forward objections under the headline, homosexuality, changing gender identity, and same sex marriage violate “deeply held religious views”.

While the law of the land might be that same sex marriage is legal in all 50 States, certain individuals holding “deeply held religious views” believe they possess a right (from the first amendment) to withhold service (during their work) from those who are in some way in violation of their “deeply held religious views”.

There is a cartoon circulating which shows a number of grocery store check-out lanes. In the first lane, the employee tells the customer that due to his “deeply held catholic beliefs” the condoms the customers wishes to purchase must be taken to another lane. In the next lane, a Muslim tells the customer that due to his “deeply held religious beliefs” he can not ring up the bacon and that the customer must take the product to another lane. Sound ridiculous?

Consider then the recent move by some Republican majority States to pass laws nibble away at rulings by the Supreme Court.  These individual instances are not isolated but reflect a broader effort by evangelical and fundamentalist religious groups to have it both ways. They want freedom of religion and they want the right to take certain freedoms from others. Hmmm.

These religious groups want the right to deny service to others whose life style they deem an offense to their “deeply held religious beliefs”. As private organizations, one might understand rules excluding others who can not meet religious tests but when members of these religious organizations are working in the public sector, this seems way over the line. What ever happened to “love thy neighbor as thy self”?

As disappointing as these religious groups behavior, even more disappointing, yet not that surprising, are the political leaders who are pandering to these evangelicals and fundamentalists.

So it should be no surprise that States like Indiana, North Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, and Alabama have all proposed or implemented State laws which in some way attempt to “guarantee” religious freedom and protect individuals who discriminate from civil suits…  anyone, that is, who withholds services due to “deeply held religious views”.

For these religious groups, it takes very small people to think and act in a mean and discriminatory way.

For these political officials, the bar is even lower. Politicians only seek enough votes to remain in power while feeding off the public trough.  Votes are just votes.  Et tu Ted Cruz.