Tag Archives: job

LGBT rights groups hail court ruling as ‘game changer’

A federal appeals court has ruled for the first time that a landmark civil rights law protects LGBT employees from workplace discrimination, setting up a likely battle before the U.S. Supreme Court over the scope of the 53-year-old law.

The 8-to-3 decision on April 4 by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago came just three weeks after a three-judge panel in Atlanta ruled the opposite, saying employers can discriminate based on sexual orientation.

LGBT rights organizations hailed the Chicago ruling as a “game changer,” in part because the 7th Circuit is considered relatively conservative.

The majority opinion and dissent in the case highlight a sharp difference between judges who say the interpretation of laws can change with the times and those who say judges should apply them as written.

Here’s the reaction…

U.S. Rep. Linda T. Sánchez, D-Calif., vice chair of the House Democratic Caucus and vice-chair of the LGBT Equality Caucus, said, “The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the right of all Americans to be able to work freely without discrimination based on their sexual orientation. It is important that the protections provided by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 recognizes sex discrimination in its multiple forms. Although this is an important step forward, we must ensure we continue to fight for full equality for our LGBT community both in employment and in broader society.”

“This critically important circuit court decision has adopted a well-grounded legal analysis concluding that our nation’s civil rights laws include sexual orientation,” said HRC legal director Sarah Warbelow. “Today’s ruling is a monumental victory for fairness in the workplace, and for the dignity of lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans who may live in fear of losing their job based on whom they love. This court joins five others that have ruled these laws also prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity. We congratulate plaintiff Kimberly Hively, Lambda Legal and all the attorneys who helped achieve this victory.”

Calendar shows how little candidate Walker was in Wisconsin

If it felt like Gov. Scott Walker didn’t spend much time in Wisconsin after announcing his run for president, it’s because he didn’t.

Walker’s official calendar released to The Associated Press under the state’s open records law shows he spent one day in July in Wisconsin on official business after launching his presidential candidacy July 13.Walker also spent the majority of August and September on the road campaigning, although his calendars showing what official events he attended in Wisconsin have not yet been released.

Wisconsin’s governor began his presidential campaign with great fanfare in front of thousands of supporters in Waukesha, after traveling the country and raising money as a candidate in everything but name only for six months before that.

Walker spent the 10 weeks that his campaign lasted extensively traveling the country, with a heavy focus on the early primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.

Despite rarely being in the state, Walker insisted that he was in constant contact with his staff and legislative leaders. The calendars show he had daily 15-minute conference calls scheduled with his executive staff, but no other meetings are noted.

Walker abruptly quit the race 70 days after it officially began, promising to spend more time in Wisconsin to rehabilitate his image with voters. His favorability ratings were at an all-time low of 39 percent in a Marquette University Law School poll released in August.

“The bad news is the campaign is over,” Walker told Assembly Republicans. “The good news is I’m here all the time.”

Speaking to reporters late last week for the first time since quitting the race, Walker said his strategy between now and when his term ends in 2017 was to “be there.”

“I think all of us know in a relationship you can say all you want, but the best way to make that case is to be there,” Walker said.

His calendar, released late last Friday, shows that he wasn’t in Wisconsin much after his presidential run officially began.

On July 20 he returned to attend a meeting of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. and tour the grounds of the Experimental Aircraft Association convention, both in Oshkosh. Before the board meeting that day, Walker also held a ceremony to sign into law a bill banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Walker made an unplanned return to Wisconsin five days later, on July 25, to visit the family of Carson Holmquist, a Marine killed at a Navy-Marine reserve center in Tennessee. Walker had originally planned to be campaigning outside Wisconsin that day, but canceled his events to attend Holmquist’s visitation in Grantsburg.

In terms of other official business in July, Walker’s calendar shows he was scheduled for a 30-minute conference call to be briefed three days before the WEDC board meeting, and twice reserved 30 minutes to record his weekly radio address.

Oregon county judge refuses to perform same-sex marriages

Marion County Judge Vance Day is being investigated by a judicial fitness commission in part over his refusal to perform same-sex marriages on religious grounds, a spokesman for the Oregon judge said.

When a federal court ruling in May 2014 made same-sex marriage legal in Oregon, Day instructed his staff to refer same-sex couples looking to marry to other judges, spokesman Patrick Korten said.

Last fall, he decided to stop performing weddings altogether, aside from one in March that had long been scheduled, Korten said.

“He made a decision nearly a year ago to stop doing weddings altogether, and the principal factor that he weighed was the pressure that one would face to perform a same-sex wedding, which he had a conflict with his religious beliefs,” Korten said.

In an email, Day declined to comment and referred questions to Korten.

The issue of same-sex weddings is “the weightiest” of several allegations against Day that are being investigated by the Commission on Judicial Fitness and Disability, Korten said.

He declined to detail any of the allegations, saying he didn’t want to defy the commission, which considers complaints confidential until it is ready to make them public.

The investigation of Day’s conduct comes amid heightened national attention to the responsibilities of public officials who oppose same-sex marriage. Kim Davis, a county clerk in Kentucky, went to jail Thursday because of her refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Last month, the Ohio Supreme Court’s Board of Professional Conduct said judges can’t refuse to marry same-sex couples on personal, moral or religious grounds.

Judges who stop performing all marriages to avoid marrying same-sex couples may be interpreted as biased and could be disqualified from any case where sexual orientation is an issue, the Ohio board ruled.

The investigation of Day came to light last week, when the Oregon Government Ethics Commission – a separate entity from the judicial fitness commission – approved the judge’s request to create a legal defense fund to pay his lawyers.

Day, a former chairman of the Oregon Republican Party, was appointed to the bench in 2011 by then-Gov. John Kitzhaber, a Democrat.

Day’s move concerned Jeana Frazzini, co-director of the gay-rights group Basic Rights Oregon.

“Taking that kind of a step really calls into question how an LGBTQ person could expect to be treated in a court of law,” Frazzini said. “It goes beyond marriage and gets to serious questions about judicial integrity.”

Center’s new director seems born for the job

With a smile that lights up the room and a personality that makes you quickly feel as if you’ve known her for years, Colleen Carpenter could host a morning television show or be a star diplomat.

But, fortunately for the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center, she’s decided to become its new executive director — after being selected from a pool of candidates that numbered close to 60. The announcement of her hiring was the crowning achievement of a year that saw the struggling center come back from near death to firm financial footing, while at the same time attaining an unprecedented level of community engagement.

Carpenter’s resume and her personal history create the portrait of someone who’s not merely suited for her new position but fated for it.

“I had four different people send me the announcement (for the job) and say, ‘You’d be perfect for this position,’” she said. “And I thought, ‘What fun!’” 

Carpenter’s professional background mirrors many of the programs offered by the center.

Carpenter was married and had three children when she finally came out to herself and her family in 1986. She lived in Milwaukee at the time and worked for organizations serving victims of domestic violence.

In the late 1990s, Carpenter relocated to St. Louis, where she ran a YWCA community center and also worked for organizations that that found housing for people living with AIDS and assisted homeless and runaway youth. 

She moved back to Milwaukee to be near her grown children, and she’s now single and living in the neighborhood she calls “Gay View.”

Carpenter officially begins the job on Nov. 18. I sat down with her shortly after her hiring was announced, and we had a wide-ranging conversation.

Louis Weisberg: What attracted you to the job?

Colleen Carpenter: The board of directors is the first thing. When you’re an executive director, you have not one boss but 12 or 14. This group has done such an amazing job of pulling in the same direction. I’ve never met more dedicated, intelligent and passionate people.

The second thing was the business structure. Most nonprofits are confined to a specific mission: sexual assault, domestic violence, homelessness, whatever it is. A community center is so different because whatever programming is there should be reflective of all the needs and interests of the community it’s designed to serve. You have a chance to be creative with the programming in a way that you can’t when you’re working with a single issue.

What will be your first order of business?

It seems to me that my first couple of months here my stance should be to watch, listen and learn. It’s really presumptuous when a new director comes in and her first week or first month comes says, ‘This is what we’re going to do.’ I think it’s disrespectful, and I don’t really have an agenda.

To come in behind (interim executive director) Karen (Gotzler), whom I’ve idolized for 25 years, is humbling. I’ve known her since shortly after I first came out. She’s brilliant and driven and entrepreneurial — and it’s just like, ‘Wow.’ If  I can perform at half the level that Karen Gotzler performs at every day with one hand tied behind her back, I’ll be doing good.

What’s your vision for the center?

I’m really interested in hearing from the community. I really do believe that we should be reflecting the interests of our community. When our community says, ‘Wow, wouldn’t it be great if we could do this?’ then our job is to make that happen. 

“I describe the community center model as a big canvas. You’ve painted certain things in certain places on the canvas but there’s still a lot of white space there. I want to see us painting on a larger surface of the canvas.

What’s your approach to youth programming?

“When we talk about young people, we’re always programming toward their deficits. We want to help them address safety, risk prevention and all of those things. They’re absolutely essential. But you talk to any of our young people and they can tell you what their issues are, but they might not have a clue what their gifts are. In a broad sense I want us to figure out ways to help our young people to find their gifts and find things they can celebrate as opposed to just what their problem is this week or month.

Are you looking forward to this?

I think it’s going to be a blast. I know you’re not supposed to have fun at work because then it’s not work — that’s our puritan upbringing.

Small business survey finds strong support for laws protecting LGBT workers

The Small Business Majority has published a report showing strong support among small business owners for federal and state laws banning bias against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

The report, announced June 4, provides a clearer picture of support for anti-discrimination legislation in the business community. Surveys – and policies – have for years shown strong support at some of nation’s largest and wealthiest companies, the Fortune 500 members. Also, activists on the right have long maintained – erroneously – that broadening anti-discrimination laws to include LGBT people puts an added and unwanted burden on small business owners.

The Small Business Majority is an advocacy group founded and run by small business owners to “focus on solving the biggest problems facing small businesses today.” The organization engages small business owners and policymakers on the big issues that impact business and the economy, including immigration and health care reform, clean energy and LGBT equality.

SBM said June 4 that “national scientific opinion polling shows the vast majority of small business owners believe we’re long overdue for federal and state policies protecting all workers from discrimination, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. It’s good for business, it helps companies attract and retain talent, and it’s the right thing to do, according to our nation’s leading job creators.”

The findings in the report:

• More than two-thirds of entrepreneurs believe federal law should prohibit employment discrimination against gay and transgender people.

• Seven in 10 owners in states without anti-discrimination policies protecting LGBT workers say their state should have a law.

• When asked if, to the best of their knowledge, it is legal or illegal under federal law to fire or refuse to hire someone because they are gay or transgender, about 81 percent of small business owners said it is illegal.

• A 63 percent majority believes an employer should not be able to fire or refuse to hire someone who is gay or transgender if working with a gay or transgender employee conflicts with the employer’s)religious beliefs.

• About 70 percent believe a business should not be legally allowed to refuse services to some customers but not others based on religious beliefs.

Activists call at campaign HQs, demand executive order

LGBT civil rights activists are visiting Obama for America campaign offices to protest the president’s decision against issuing an executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT workers.

In mid-April, the direct-action group GetEQUAL encouraged people to visit their local Obama for America campaign offices to urge support for the executive order protecting LGBT applicants and workers.

GetEQUAL estimated that more than 1,000 people had committed to visiting campaign offices.

“Honestly, we were stunned at the response to this call for volunteers,” said GetEQUAL managing director Heather Cronk. “We thought that 100 people might respond – this kind of response is a clear call to the president that LGBT Americans are looking for his leadership on this issue.

“With his campaign slogan – ‘We Can’t Wait’ – on the tips of their tongues, nearly 1,000 advocates are fanning out to OFA offices across the country to ask President Obama to lead the way toward ending workplace discrimination by ensuring that government money is not used to fuel LGBT discrimination.”

An executive order has widespread support among voters, as well as endorsements from 72 members of Congress and two of the nation’s leading daily newspapers – the Washington Post and The New York Times.

Already an executive order – signed by Lyndon Johnson in 1965 – exists to prohibit discrimination by federal contractors and subcontractors on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

LGBT activists claim the president promised an executive order four years ago while campaigning for office.

The White House says the president wants to focus on passing the broader Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which has been introduced in every Congress since Bill Clinton’s first term.

The bill, which would ban employers from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, is not expected to advance in the GOP-controlled House this year.

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