Tag Archives: gay discrimination

South Bend council puts off gay rights ordinance

A divided South Bend, Ind., City Council has put off a vote on a proposed ordinance extending employment discrimination protection to gays and lesbians.About 200 people packed the meeting room in late July as council members heard two hours of public debate about the proposal.

Councilman Oliver Davis, one of the measure’s three sponsors, sought the continuance when it became clear he lacked the five votes needed for a majority on the nine-member council.

Former Gov. Joe Kernan, a former mayor of South Bend, told council members failure to adopt a gay rights ordinance would hurt the city’s image.

The South Bend Tribune reported that councilwoman Karen White is the swing vote among the nine-member council. She said the proposal’s language was too vague and that she wanted more time for city attorneys to work on it before she decided how she would vote.

From WiG and AP reports

Court: Christian group can’t bar gays, get funding

WASHINGTON (AP) — An ideologically split Supreme Court ruled Monday that a law school can legally deny recognition to a Christian student group that won’t let gays join, with one justice saying that the First Amendment does not require a public university to validate or support the group’s “discriminatory practices.”

The court turned away an appeal from the Christian Legal Society, which sued to get funding and recognition from the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law. The CLS requires that voting members sign a statement of faith and regards “unrepentant participation in or advocacy of a sexually immoral lifestyle” as being inconsistent with that faith.

But Hastings, which is in San Francisco, said no recognized campus groups may exclude people due to religious belief or sexual orientation.

The court on a 5-4 judgment upheld the lower court rulings saying the Christian group’s First Amendment rights of association, free speech and free exercise were not violated by the college’s nondiscrimination policy.

“In requiring CLS — in common with all other student organizations — to choose between welcoming all students and forgoing the benefits of official recognition, we hold, Hastings did not transgress constitutional limitations,” said Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who wrote the 5-4 majority opinion for the court’s liberals and moderate Anthony Kennedy. “CLS, it bears emphasis, seeks not parity with other organizations, but a preferential exemption from Hastings’ policy.”

Justice Samuel Alito wrote a strong dissent for the court’s conservatives, saying the opinion was “a serious setback for freedom of expression in this country.”

“Our proudest boast of our free speech jurisprudence is that we protect the freedom to express ‘the thought that we hate,”’ Alito said, quoting a previous court decision. “Today’s decision rests on a very different principle: no freedom for expression that offends prevailing standards of political correctness in our country’s institutions of higher learning.”

The decision is a large setback for the Christian Legal Society, which has chapters at universities nationwide and has won similar lawsuits in other courts.

“All college students, including religious students, should have the right to form groups around shared beliefs without being banished from campus,” said Kim Colby, senior counsel at the Christian Legal Society’s Center for Law & Religious Freedom.

The 30-member Hastings group was told in 2004 that it was being denied recognition because of its policy of exclusion.

According to a society news release, it invites all students to its meetings.

“However, CLS voting members and officers must affirm its Statement of Faith,” the statement said. “CLS interprets the Statement of Faith to include the belief that Christians should not engage in sexual conduct outside of a marriage between a man and a woman.”

Kennedy said “the era of loyalty oaths is behind us.”

“A school quite properly may conclude that allowing an oath or belief-affirming requirement, or an outside conduct requirement, could be divisive for student relations and inconsistent with the basic concept that a view’s validity should be tested through free and open discussion,” Kennedy said.

Justice John Paul Stevens was even harsher, saying while the Constitution “may protect CLS’s discriminatory practices off campus, it does not require a public university to validate or support them.”

Stevens, who plans to retire this summer, added that “other groups may exclude or mistreat Jews, blacks and women — or those who do not share their contempt for Jews, blacks and women. A free society must tolerate such groups. It need not subsidize them, give them its official imprimatur, or grant them equal access to law school facilities.”

The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, called the decision a “huge step forward for fundamental fairness and equal treatment.”

“Religious discrimination is wrong, and a public school should be able to take steps to eradicate it,” Lynn said. “Today’s court ruling makes it easier for colleges and universities to do that.”

In another case, the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from some Texas parents who wanted to stop their school district from regulating when students can pass out religious-themed material to their classmates.

The court refused to hear an appeal from some parents from the Plano Independent School District.

The district in 2005 told elementary students religious-themed material could only be passed out before and after school, at recess, at three school parties or at designated tables. Middle and secondary students could add in lunchtime or between classes.

Parents say the policy dilutes students’ free speech rights. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled for the school district and the Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal.

The case is Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, 08-1371.

Anger mounts over Marquette

Less than a week after news broke that Marquette University had rescinded a high-profile job offer to an out lesbian, students there delivered a message to university president Robert A. Wild: Resign immediately.

During an emotional May 11 meeting with Wild, group after group of students approached microphones to repeatedly read a prepared statement calling on Wild to step down, to publicly apologize and to re-extend the original offer he made Jodi O’Brien to become dean of the college of arts and sciences.

Although the wording of their demands was strong, the tone among the more than 400 students who attended the event at Alumni Memorial Union was more sad than angry. Some students, many of them wearing rainbow stickers, spoke through tears and quivering voices.

“Marquette has broken my heart,” one student said, breaking from the prepared statement. “This is not the institution that over 100 years ago was revolutionary for admitting women.”

William Malloy, a senior nursing student, fought back tears as he told WiG that the university’s action “makes me ashamed to have a Marquette diploma.”

“Some of my closest friends are gay, and it embarrasses me to have to tell them I went to Marquette,” Malloy said.

Students have staged three demonstrations and created a Facebook page titled Marquette: Do Not Discriminate Against Jodi O’Brien. More than 3,300 people have joined the page.

Marquette’s faculty has also organized around the incident. The university’s academic senate approved a resolution May 10 condemning Wild and recommending a vote of no confidence in him in the fall, unless the university has by then assured faculty members that their advancement will not be impeded by the topics they research.

Academic freedom is at the heart of the concerns of many on campus. Wild has cited O’Brien’s published writings on lesbian sex and marriage as the reason for retracting his offer, saying they were inconsistent with Marquette’s Roman Catholic mission.

But Marquette faculty countered that the writings in question were published in respected peer-reviewed academic journals and were well-known to the search committee that recommended O’Brien for the job after interviewing her several times over the last two years.

Nancy  Snow

They also pointed out that O’Brien’s 15-years of experience teaching at Seattle University, a Jesuit school where she heads the sociology department, demonstrated her success working within a Roman Catholic institution.

O’Brien’s situation has sent shock waves throughout academia and drawn attention from national media, including USA Today, The New York Times and the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Several Marquette students and faculty members told WiG they feared the negative publicity had tarnished the university’s academic reputation and could potentially harm their career prospects.

“Marquette has broken the principles of academic freedom and professional collegiality and damaged the university’s own stature as an institution of higher education,” wrote Evelyn Nakano Glenn, president of the American Sociological Association, in a letter calling on Wild to reverse his decision. “Marquette University appears to have violated its own non-discrimination policy as well as the principles of free inquiry that govern all great universities.”

“This is very damaging to our image,” said Sharon Chubbuck, professor of education at Marquette. “There’s always a tension between being a Catholic institution and a university, but the search for truth cannot be afraid of any knowledge that might be uncovered.”

Nancy Snow, professor of philosophy at Marquette and an out lesbian, said the faculty’s resolution condemning Wild should have gone much further. Snow and her partner took O’Brien house-hunting in Shorewood following one of her trips to Milwaukee to interview for the job.

Snow said she was ecstatic when she learned April 17 that O’Brien had been offered the position. “When I heard the offer had been withdrawn, I was devastated,” she said.

Although Wild assured students May 11 that “this decision is not about donor or outside influence,” O’Brien contradicted that claim in an interview with the Seattle University Spectator.

“I think (Wild)) is responding to people who are concerned with what I represent,” she told the newspaper. O’Brien said Wild called her to say that he feared her appointment would receive “too much distraction from people external to the university who did not support my appointment.”

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki was the most important external figure behind Wild’s decision to reverse the offer to O’Brien. Listecki is a hard-line Vatican activist who spoke out against Notre Dame University last year for inviting President Barack Obama to speak there.

“This confirms our suspicions of corruption at the highest levels of the decision-making process,” Snow said in a posting on Facebook.

Wild has refused to discuss Listecki’s role in the decision, saying only that the archbishop “can speak for himself.”

Wild now says the university will chose a new dean internally. As of press time, O’Brien had not decided whether to seek legal action against Marquette.

Mo. Southern to explore added protection for gays

JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri Southern State University committee is looking into adding protections for gays and lesbians to its nondiscrimination policy.

On Friday, Board of Governors President Rod Anderson told the committee it should “investigate, inquire, and advise the best way to proceed regarding university policy.”

The Joplin Globe reported that the committee is made up of members of the board and the Joplin school’s president, Bruce Speck.

Earlier this month, the university’s faculty senate approved a proposal that would protect gays and lesbians from discrimination in the school’s hiring policies. But the proposal did not include the school’s overall nondiscrimination policy.

Students have been staging protests demanding the addition of protections for gay and lesbian students.

Advocates share stories of anti-gay housing bias

More than a dozen members of the gay community, fair housing advocates and officials have weighed in on a first-ever national survey of anti-gay housing discrimination.

The U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department held a listening session in late February at Chicago City Hall. Sessions also are set for New York and San Francisco as HUD gathers input on how best to design the survey.

In Chicago, housing advocates shared stories of discrimination from their clients.

Raphael Bostic, HUD’s assistant secretary for policy development and research, said the meeting proved substantive, thoughtful and provocative.

Va. AG: Colleges can’t ban gay discrimination

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia’s attorney general has advised the state’s public colleges that they don’t have the authority to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation, saying only the General Assembly has that power.

The letter sent by Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli to state college presidents and other officials Thursday drew swift criticism from Democrats and gay rights activists.

Cuccinelli said the legislature has repeatedly refused to exercise its authority. As recently as Tuesday, a subcommittee killed legislation that would have banned job discrimination against gay state employees.

“It is my advice that the law and public policy of the Commonwealth of Virginia prohibit a college or university from including ‘sexual orientation,’ ‘gender identity,’ ‘gender expression,’ or like classification, as a protected class within its nondiscrimination policy, absent specific authorization from the General Assembly,’’ Cuccinelli wrote.

The Republican advised college governing boards to “take appropriate actions to bring their policies in conformance with the law.’’

Jon Blair, chief executive officer of the gay rights group Equality Virginia, said Cuccinelli’s “radical actions are putting Virginia at risk of losing both top students and faculty, and discouraging prospective ones from coming here.’’

C. Richard Cranwell, state Democratic Party chairman, said Virginia’s colleges and universities were more than capable of setting policies that work for them “without meddling from Ken Cuccinelli.’’

The attorney general said his letter merely stated Virginia law, which prohibits discrimination because of “race, color, religion, national origin, sex, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, age, marital status, or disability,’’ but makes no mention of sexual orientation.

Cuccinelli said the criticism was coming from people who have been frustrated in their attempts to change the law.

“None of them suggest our reading of the law is wrong. It’s people who don’t like the policy speaking up because it’s their opportunity to go on the attack,’’ he said.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia legal director Rebecca Glenberg said colleges are bound by U.S. Supreme Court decisions not to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.

A spokesman for the Family Foundation of Virginia, which has opposed expanding state anti-discrimination policies to protect gays, said the criticism of Cuccinelli’s action is unwarranted.

“My understanding is all he’s done is essentially ask the universities to follow the law,’’ spokesman Chris Freund said. “It’s a little perplexing to see people respond the way they have.’’

Virginia’s last two Democratic governors, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, signed executive orders barring state agencies from discriminating in hiring, promotions or firing based on sexual orientation. Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell, who took office in January, removed protections based on sexual orientation from his anti-discrimination order.

As attorney general in 2006, McDonnell said Kaine exceeded his constitutional authority by extending protections to gays.

Utah lawmakers hold off on anti-bias study

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah lawmakers have scrapped plans for a year-long study of employment and housing discrimination against gays and lesbians.

A week ago, some Republican and Democratic lawmakers touted the interim study as a way to determine the need for legislation creating statewide anti-discrimination protections in 2011.

But Senate President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, said Senate Republicans fear the study would undermine a moratorium this session on all bills related to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

He said lawmakers will wait and see what happens with anti-discrimination ordinances recently passed by Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County.

“We have decided, as the Republican Senate caucus, that we would like to see (the ordinances) work for a year and see if there are problems,” Waddoups said. “We’ve taken a position as a Senate that there will be a moratorium on all bills for, against (or) dealing with this issue.”

Rep. Christine Johnson, D-Salt Lake City, accepted the decision to drop the study she was pursuing with Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper.

“I am very hopeful this sets a precedent for us being able to have a dialogue on these issues rather than a heated battle,” said Johnson, one of two openly gay members of the Legislature.

She and Waddoups expect information-gathering to take place informally this year.

“A moratorium on bills in no way denotes a moratorium on public opinion or lobbying,” Johnson said. “I want to be clear, this is not intended to discourage the public process over the next year.”

Waddoups said he has a “message” for all Utahns regarding the issue.

“Our citizens shouldn’t be doing things that are discriminatory. If they are — and if that’s the information we gather during the next year — that will push legislation to deal with that in that direction,” he said.

“If the LGBT community are doing offensive activities in a public setting, that will push legislation in the other direction,” he added.

Gay activist Jacob Whipple said there’s enough information for Utah to pass a statewide anti-discrimination law now. Twenty-one states bar housing and employment discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation.

“The LGBT community should be as loud and as visible as necessary so that all of our stories and our hurts and our needs can be displayed for the people of Utah so the proper legislation will be enacted,” he said.

The anti-discrimination ordinances passed by the city and county were supported by the Mormon church.