Monday, August 31, 2015
One of the informal prerequisites for the court to deem something a suspect class for purposes of equal protection is that the members of that class have an "immutable trait," something that they are born with and is not amenable to change.
As its name suggests, transgender implies an identity that is mutable. However, a recent NYT story challenges that inference.
Dr. Kranz studied four different groups: female-to-male transsexuals; male-to-female transsexuals; and controls who were born female or male and identify as such. Since hormones can have a direct effect on the brain, both transsexual groups were studied before they took any sex hormones, so observed differences in brain function and structure would not be affected by the treatment. He used a high-resolution technique called diffusion tensor imaging, a special type of M.R.I., to examine the white matter microstructure of subjects’ brains.
What Dr. Kranz found was intriguing: In several brain regions, people born female with a female gender identity had the highest level of something called mean diffusivity, followed by female-to-male transsexuals. Next came male-to-female transsexuals, and then the males with a male gender identity, who had the lowest levels.
In other words, it seems that Dr. Kranz may have found a neural signature of the transgender experience: a mismatch between one’s gender identity and physical sex. Transgender people have a brain that is structurally different than the brain of a nontransgender male or female — someplace in between men and women.
This gradient of structural brain differences, from females to males, with transgender people in between, suggests that gender identity has a neural basis and that it exists on a spectrum, like so much of human behavior.
Friday, August 21, 2015
Same-sex couples may have won marriage equality, but some gay and lesbian individuals have been left wondering if their unions are still less than equal in the eyes of the government.
Kathy Murphy is one of them. She has been unable to collect survivor and death benefits from Social Security since she lost her spouse, Sara Barker, to cancer in 2012. Ms. Murphy retired from her career in publishing in 2011, earlier than she expected, to care for Ms. Barker, who died at 62.
Ms. Murphy finds herself in this predicament largely because her spouse died before the Supreme Court’s monumental ruling in June, Obergefell v. Hodges, which declared that marriage is a fundamental right. That case came after the landmark Windsor decision, in 2013, in which the court ruled that same-sex couples are entitled to federal benefits.
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
Thus runs a tentative theory being floated by MSNBC, of all parties:
With his penchant for name-calling and plans to deport every undocumented immigrant living in the United States, Donald Trump hasn’t exactly established a reputation for tolerance. Yet the real estate mogul and reality TV host might nevertheless be the most LGBT-friendly Republican running for president.
Asked whether private companies should be able to fire employees simply because they’re gay, Trump told “Meet The Press” host Chuck Todd on Sunday that he didn’t think sexual orientation “should be a reason” for letting workers go.
The question is a significant one for any White House hopeful – currently, 31 states lack employment protections for LGBT Americans, by the Human Rights Campaign’s count, and there are no federal barriers to discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Trump’s response, however, marked a significant departure from the rest of the crowded GOP presidential pack, many of whom have pledged to expand protections for those wishing to turn away LGBT people on religious grounds.
About three weeks before the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage, the Colombian government issued a directive that received little international notice. On June 4th, the government announced that it would allow Colombian citizens to change their gender on identity documents without first undergoing gender-reassignment surgery or obtaining permission from a medical professional. These requirements, which remain in place, either in whole or in part, in the U.S. and most of the rest of the world, were “profoundly invasive of the right to privacy and based upon an impermissible bias,” said Yesid Reyes, the minister of justice. “The construction of sexual identity and gender is a matter that does not depend on biology.”
England and Spain passed the first laws making it easier for a person to change her gender on official documents, in 2004 and 2007, respectively, and Uruguay followed suit in 2009. Three years later, Argentina passed the most progressive gender-identity law in the world. Not only are Argentines spared the usual requirement of reassignment surgery or a medical diagnosis to change identity documents, but medical practitioners are bound by law to provide them with free hormone treatment and gender-reassignment surgery. Colombia’s decree, which was issued by the president, lacks the reach and force of Argentina’s legislation, but it is striking just the same. Now, in Colombia, all an individual has to do to change his or her gender on official documents is appear before a notary public.
Monday, August 17, 2015
Seattle follows Philly in making public restrooms gender neutral.
No matter how you identify, you’ll now be able to use a single-stall bathroom in the city of Seattle.
The Seattle City Council passed a law on Monday that requires all public spaces–both those controlled by the city and those of private businesses–to designate any existing and future single-stall restrooms as all-gender, reported local news outlet Seattle Pi.
This goes for all local businesses, including coffee shops, restaurants, hotels and stores. The law prevents business owners from labeling any restroom as gender exclusive.
Monday, August 3, 2015
An automatic legal pardon should be given to all men convicted under historical homosexuality laws without the need for families or individuals to apply to the government, the Labour leadership contender Andy Burnham has proposed. His pledge, following consultation with Sir Keir Starmer, the former director of public prosecutions and current Labour MP, means it would be possible to quash up to 50,000 convictions for acts that would be not be illegal today.
Burnham, who currently shares roughly the same number of constituency nominations as Jeremy Corbyn, said he will press prime minister David Cameron to make a relatively simple change to the law, but if he does not do so, it would form part of the first legislative programme of a Burnham-led government. The move comes two years after the royal pardon granted to second world war codebreaker Alan Turing.
Were there any women convicted the referenced law?
Wednesday, July 29, 2015
So reads the headline from an Atlantic article. The contents thereof read:
Gay Americans can now get married in the morning and then, in the afternoon, just for being gay, their employers can fire them. Is doing so legal? Up until last week, the answer was yes for Americans living in the 28 states without explicit bans on workplace sexual-orientation discrimination. But an important rulingfrom the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) means that courts in those states are now more likely to say that such discrimination is illegal, and that gay Americans are already protected from such discrimination under existing law.
Related articles include:
Monday, July 27, 2015
President Obama is presently traveling through Africa. Recently, he gave a speech in Kenya condemning the nation's refusal to protect the rights of its gay citizens. From the NYT:
NAIROBI, Kenya—Widespread celebration of President Barack Obama’s visit to a country teeming with national pride over an American leader considered a local son was briefly overshadowed Saturday by a public disagreement with his Kenyan counterpart over gay rights.
In an awkward moment of tension, Mr. Obama condemned Kenya’s treatment of gays and lesbians as “wrong—full stop” while standing alongside Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta during a joint news conference.
The president, whose personal story has deep resonance in Kenya, even used himself as an example of why discrimination on the basis of gender, race or sexual orientation should be illegal.
“As an African American in the United States I am painfully aware of what happens when people are treated differently under the law,” said Mr. Obama, whose father was born and raised in Kenya.
To no avail......
But none of it swayed Mr. Kenyatta, who responded by saying his country does not share the U.S. president’s view.
“For Kenyans today the issue of gay rights is really a non-issue,” Mr. Kenyatta said, stressing matter-of-factly that economic and security concerns are of higher concern.
Gavin Grimm sat quietly in the audience last November as dozens of parents at a school board meeting in Gloucester County, Va., demanded that he be barred from using the boys’ restrooms at school. They discussed the transgender boy’s genitals, expressed concern that he might expose himself and cautioned that being in a men’s room would make the teenager vulnerable to rape. One person called him a “freak.”
When Gavin, 16, got his turn at the podium, he was remarkably composed. “I didn’t ask to be this way,” Gavin said. “All I want to do is be a normal child and use the restroom in peace.”
On Monday, Judge Robert Doumar of Federal District Court in Virginia is scheduled to consider whether the school board’s decision to prohibit Gavin from using the male restroom is unlawful discrimination. The case addresses one of the main unresolved battles in the fight for transgender equality.
A favorable decision for the student would be the first time a federal court has ruled that refusing transgender students access to proper restrooms is discriminatory. Any other outcome would reinforce cruel policies that deny dignity to some of the most vulnerable students and subject them to more bullying and stigmatization.
Saturday, July 25, 2015
Something extraordinary happened Thursday to advance fairness and equality in the United States. Members of Congress introduced legislation to amend the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 to embrace a more robust vision of equality.
The bill -- aptly named the Equality Act -- would amend existing law to explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expand protections against discrimination for women. The bill would also extend the reach of protections against discrimination by businesses and stop the use of religion to discriminate. It's historic -- and it may also be a surprise because many people think such discrimination is already illegal
Friday, July 24, 2015
From the LA Times, an interesting comparison with the much more open policy of the Girl Scouts.
The Boy Scouts of America didn't go as far as it ought to have with its new recommendation on gay Scout leaders, but it did make reluctant headway. This wasn't the leap of an organization that now views sexual orientation with more tolerant eyes, but rather a shuffling step by a tradition-bound group that has been prodded by dramatic changes in societal views of sexual orientation, as well as the financial realities of needing to woo back corporate donors such as Walt Disney Co. that are reluctant to sponsor an organization that discriminates against gay people.
The resolution approved last week by the Scouts' national executive committee puts an end to the organization's official ban on gay Scout leaders and volunteers. But rather than banning such discrimination entirely, it leaves the decision up to individual troops and units. (The new policy is expected to be ratified by the executive board July 27.) Some of those troops already have shown interest in welcoming all interested and qualified adults, regardless of sexual orientation; many others are expected to keep a ban in place.
Compare that with the way the Girl Scouts recently made news: A Scouting council in western Washington rejected a $100,000 donation that came with the stipulation that it not be used to support transgender Scouts. That's in line with the organization's history. The Girl Scouts also became racially integrated much earlier than the Boy Scouts, and had little problem accepting atheist members.
Saturday, July 18, 2015
On Thursday, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission dropped a bombshell: Sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace, the EEOC ruled, is already illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This ruling—which is binding on EEOC conciliations between employers and employees, and is an extremely persuasive authority for courts—has been a long time in the making. In fact, it can be traced back to a unanimous 1997 Supreme Court opinion written by none other than Justice Antonin Scalia.
That case, Oncale v. Sundownerdealt with Title VII’s prohibition of discrimination “because of sex.” Joseph Oncale worked on an oil rig with seven other men, who sexually harassed him physically and verbally. Oncale sued his employer, arguing that he faced discrimination because of his sex. But the court ruled against him, holding that Title VII did not protect men against sex discrimination by male co-workers.
In a terse opinion, Scalia emphatically rejected this reasoning. Male-on-male sexual harassment, Scalia acknowledged, “was assuredly not the principal evil Congress was concerned with when it enacted Title VII.” (The principal evil, of course, was male-on-female workplace discrimination.) Still, Scalia explained: "Statutory prohibitions often go beyond the principal evil to cover reasonably comparable evils, and it is ultimately the provisions of our laws rather than the principal concerns of our legislators by which we are governed."
This passage has formed the bedrock of the EEOC’s expansion of Title VII’s protections to sexual and gender minorities. In a 2012 decision holding that Title VII bars discrimination based on gender identity and transgender status, the EEOC placed Scalia’s “comparable evils” declaration at the center of its analysis. On Thursday, the commission pulled the same maneuver, faithfully quoting Scalia and noting that the text of Title VII does not exclude sexual minorities from the law’s protections. And now, thanks in part to Scalia, LGBT employees in every state are protected from workplace discrimination by federal law.
Friday, July 17, 2015
WASHINGTON – A Michigan congressman today proposed to do formally what the U.S. Supreme Court effectively accomplished last month: take the gender references out of the federal tax code.
U.S. Rep. Sander Levin, D-Royal Oak, introduced legislation intended to make clear that all married couples, regardless of gender, are equal under the tax code, removing gender references such as “husband and wife” and replacing them with nongender references like “married couple.”
Transgender people in Ireland have won legal recognition of their status after a law was passed allowing them to change their legal gender with no medical or state intervention.
The majority of countries in Europe require transgender people to undergo surgery and sterilisation, or be diagnosed with a mental disorder and get divorced if they are married, in order to have their desired gender legally recognised.
The gender recognition bill, passed late on Wednesday and set to be signed into law by the end of July, makes Ireland only the third European country, after Denmark and Malta, to allow transgender people aged over 18 to change their legal gender without intervention.
The bill was passed months after the people of Ireland backed same-sex marriageby a landslide in a referendum that marked a dramatic social shift in a country that decriminalised homosexuality just two decades ago.
Wednesday, July 15, 2015
HONOLULU — Gov. David Ige signed a bill Monday that will allow transgender men and women in Hawaii to more easily change the gender on their birth certificate.
The new law eliminates the requirement that someone must undergo gender reassignment surgery before officially making the switch.
"I know that this has been a tough issue," Ige said. "As all of you know, the birth certificate is one of those foundation documents."
Many in the transgender community can't afford or don't want to undergo costly surgeries. But having a birth certificate that reflects their gender expression is critical for school transcripts, job applications, health insurance and many other aspects of life, advocates said.
"With this new law, it's life-changing," said Tia Thompson, 30, of Honolulu, who was denied a birth certificate that reflects her female gender identity. "Words cannot express what's going on."
Monday, July 13, 2015
WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — It’summer wedding season, and as couples prepare to say “I do,” some lawmakers have been looking to change hundreds of laws on the books.
As CBS2’s Lou Young reported, a proposal in the U.S. House of Representatives would remove the terms “husband” and “wife.”
In White Plains, the sculpture “Contact” by J. Seward Johnson depicts a man and woman embracing. They are married – as the rings on their fingers demonstrate.
But are they “husband and wife?” Are they “two spouses?” Does it matter?
“I’m a husband. I’m married to a wife,” said James Kindro of Ardsley, “and if you want to say ‘married couple,’ I really don’t bother me one way or the other.”
The recent revolution in same-sex unions has prompted a proposal to gender-neutralize federal law, deleting references to “husband and wife” and opting for “spouse” or “married couple.
Friday, July 10, 2015
Casey Hoke would spend an average of two minutes out of his seven-hour school day in the restroom. “That’s it. Business as usual. No one bats an eye,” Hokewrote in January, back when he was a high-school senior in Louisville, Kentucky. “How we go about our business is none of yours.”
By “we,” Hoke was referring to transgender students. He was primarily addressing Kentucky’s legislature, which at the time was considering a bill that would’ve cracked down on transgender students’ use of K-12 bathrooms. The legislation would’ve legally required schools to ensure that children follow anatomical conventions when using gender-segregated school facilities: that children who were born boys but identify as girls use the boys’ restroom, and vice versa. What Hoke found particularly egregious about the “Kentucky Student Privacy Act” was that, in its original version, the legislation also would’ve entitledstudents who sued offenders in state court to damages of $2,500 each. Hoke compared this proposed system to a witch hunt.
Monday, July 6, 2015
Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin and GOP presidential hopeful, publicly condemned the Supreme Court's recognition of gay marriage as a fundamental right. His sons--both college students--were "disappointed" by their father's intolerance. From WaPo:
In the political world, Walker drew immediate scrutiny for being particularly strident. In their house, Tonette Walker heard immediately about her husband’s response from the couple’s two sons, Matt and Alex, who are taking time off from college to help their father’s campaign. She told them to talk directly to him.
“That was a hard one,” Tonette said, pausing and choosing her words carefully. “Our sons were disappointed. . . . I was torn. I have children who are very passionate [in favor of same-sex marriage], and Scott was on his side very passionate.”
“It’s hard for me because I have a cousin who I love dearly — she is like a sister to me — who is married to a woman, her partner of 18 years,” she said.
She said her son Alex was her cousin’s best man at their wedding last year.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker
“As a result of this decision, the only alternative left for the American people is to support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to reaffirm the ability of the states to continue to define marriage. I call on the president and all governors to join me in reassuring millions of Americans that the government will not force them to participate in activities that violate their deeply held religious beliefs.”
Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush
“Guided by my faith, I believe in traditional marriage. I believe the Supreme Court should have allowed the states to make this decision. I also believe that we should love our neighbor and respect others, including those making lifetime commitments. In a country as diverse as ours, good people who have opposing views should be able to live side by side. It is now crucial that as a country we protect religious freedom and the right of conscience and also not discriminate.”
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee
“The Supreme Court has spoken with a very divided voice on something only the Supreme Being can do — redefine marriage. I will not acquiesce to an imperial court any more than our Founders acquiesced to an imperial British monarch. We must resist and reject judicial tyranny, not retreat.”
“This ruling is not about marriage equality, it’s about marriage redefinition. This irrational, unconstitutional rejection of the expressed will of the people in over 30 states will prove to be one of the court’s most disastrous decisions, and they have had many. The only outcome worse than this flawed, failed decision would be for the President and Congress, two co-equal branches of government, to surrender in the face of this out-of-control act of unconstitutional, judicial tyranny.”
“The Supreme Court can no more repeal the laws of nature and nature’s God on marriage than it can the law of gravity. Under our Constitution, the court cannot write a law, even though some cowardly politicians will wave the white flag and accept it without realizing that they are failing their sworn duty to reject abuses from the court. If accepted by Congress and this President, this decision will be a serious blow to religious liberty, which is the heart of the First Amendment.”
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal
“The Supreme Court decision today conveniently and not surprisingly follows public opinion polls, and tramples on states’ rights that were once protected by the 10th Amendment of the Constitution. Marriage between a man and a woman was established by God, and no earthly court can alter that.”
“This decision will pave the way for an all out assault against the religious freedom rights of Christians who disagree with this decision. This ruling must not be used as pretext by Washington to erode our right to religious liberty.”
“The government should not force those who have sincerely held religious beliefs about marriage to participate in these ceremonies. That would be a clear violation of America’s long held commitment to religious liberty as protected in the First Amendment.”
Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum
“This is a watershed moment in American history. It’s the most egregious rejection of traditional values and the Bill of Rights since Roe v. Wade.”
Sunday, June 28, 2015
The graph below was lifted from an Atlantic essay that shortly predated the Supreme Court's announcement regarding gay marriage.
White evangelical Protestants and Mormons are the only two groups in which majorities of younger members do not support same-sex marriage. But even among these most conservative groups, the generation gaps are yawning. And it is striking that among young white evangelical Protestants, opposition falls short of a majority.
Whether or not the Supreme Court deals the final blow to the culture war over same-sex marriage next week, public opinion trends indicate—and the public overall perceives—that the days of the decades-long debate over this issue are numbered. In light of that reality, both supporters and opponents of gay rights are already asking, “Then what?”