Showing posts with label Homophobia/Commerce. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Homophobia/Commerce. Show all posts

February 16, 2017

State SupmeCourt: Flower Shop Discriminated Against Gay Couple








A Richland florist who refused to provide flowers to a gay couple for their wedding violated anti-discrimination law, the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

The court ruled unanimously that Barronelle Stutzman discriminated against longtime customers Rob Ingersoll and Curt Freed when she refused to do the flowers for their 2013 wedding because of her religious opposition to same-sex marriage. Instead, Stutzman suggested several other florists in the area who would help them.


“We’re thrilled that the Washington Supreme Court has ruled in our favor. The court affirmed that we are on the right side of the law and the right side of history,” Ingersoll and Freed said in a statement.

Stutzman and her attorneys said they would appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. They also held out hope that President Donald Trump would issue an executive order protecting religious freedom, which was a campaign pledge.
Stutzman called the ruling “terrifying when you think the government is coming in and telling you what to think and what to do.”

In its decision, the state’s highest court rejected Stutzman’s claims that since other florists in the area were willing to provide flowers, no harm resulted from her refusal.

Writing for the court majority, Justice Sheryl Gordon McCloud said, “We emphatically reject this argument. We agree with Ingersoll and Freed that ‘this case is no more about access to flowers than civil rights cases were about access to sandwiches.’ … As every other court to address the question has concluded, public accommodations laws do not simply guarantee access to goods or services. Instead, they serve a broader societal purpose: eradicating barriers to the equal treatment of all citizens in the commercial marketplace.”

The court also rejected Stutzman’s claims that her floral arrangements were a form of artistic expression and so protected by the First Amendment. Citing the case of a New Mexico photographer who similarly refused to take pictures at a gay marriage, the court said, “while photography may be expressive, the operation of a photography business is not.”

In December 2012, soon after the state legalized gay marriage, Ingersoll and Freed began planning a large wedding. Stutzman, who had provided flowers to the couple numerous times over the years, refused, citing her religious belief that marriage is a sacred covenant between a man and a woman.

The couple went ahead with their wedding, but they had it at home with 11 guests and flowers from another florist, instead of the larger event they had envisioned.

The couple, state Attorney General Bob Ferguson and the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington (ACLU) sued Stutzman under the state’s anti-discrimination and consumer-protection laws in what became a high-profile case that highlighted the clash between the right to be treated equally under the law and the free exercise of religion and speech.

A Benton County Superior Court judge last February ruled that Stutzman’s religious beliefs did not allow her to discriminate against the couple and that she must provide flowers for same-sex weddings, or stop doing weddings at all. The trial court also imposed a fine of $1,000 and legal fees of just $1.

Thursday’s state Supreme Court ruling upheld the lower court.

Ferguson on Thursday hailed the decision, saying, “It is a complete, unequivocal victory for equality in the state of Washington and sends a clear message around the country as well.”

Speaking with Ferguson at a news conference in Seattle, Michael Scott, the ACLU attorney for the same-sex couple, said the decision recognizes “human beings and their lives” while upholding the “core value of American law” regarding human dignity.

Scott said he would be surprised if the U.S. Supreme Court heard the case, citing a century of unbroken legal precedent. “It’s not groundbreaking law,” he said.


“If this case were about an interracial couple we wouldn’t be here today,” he added.

Scott said the fact that the state Supreme Court was unanimous carries extra weight.

“They’re sending a message that I think is loud and clear,” he said.

Ferguson, noting Stutzman’s attorneys had suffered “defeat after defeat,” said he was confident the decision would be upheld in the high court if it does hear the case.

He also said his office would closely scrutinize any executive order issued by Trump to undermine the decision.

Lambda Legal Defense, a national group protecting gay rights, also praised the court ruling.


“Businesses must not discriminate against LGBT people and religious motivation does not change that,” said Jennifer Pizer, Lambda Legal’s director of law and policy and co-author of the group’s friend-of-the-court brief filed in the case.

The Alliance Defending Freedom, which represents Stutzman, said that it will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review Thursday’s ruling.

Stutzman acted consistently with her faith, an Alliance news release said, but state justices “concluded that the government can force her — and, by extension, other Washingtonians — to create artistic expression and participate in events with which they disagree.”

In November, the state Supreme Court heard arguments in the case, Ingersoll v. Arlene’s Flowers, during a special session at Bellevue College.

Attorneys for Stutzman argued that a floral arrangement is a form of speech deserving of protection and that government cannot compel Stutzman to create an arrangement for a gay couple against her religious beliefs.

Her attorneys argued that the Benton County Superior Court’s ruling was unlawful government coercion and that the creative expression of floral arrangement deserves the same protection as free speech.


Ferguson urged the court to uphold state anti-discrimination laws and not to create an exception for religious beliefs. He noted that many people once held strong religious beliefs against interracial marriage, but the courts struck down those laws as discriminatory.

It’s one of several lawsuits around the country — including some involving bakers — about whether businesses can refuse to provide services over causes they disagree with, or whether they must serve everyone equally.

A Colorado case involving a baker who would not make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, according to Lambda Legal. In 2014, the court declined to hear an appeal of a case out of New Mexico that went against a photographer who denied a same-sex couple service.

December 15, 2016

Video Company Challenges Gay Marriage in Court






The owners of a video company have filed a legal challenge to Minnesota's gay marriage law because they want to shoot weddings for heterosexual couples only.
Carl and Angel Larsen said they will be punished for refusing wedding services to same-sex couples. The St. Cloud couple, who owns Telescope Media Group, filed a lawsuit against the state's human rightscommission and attorney general.
The couple's federal lawsuit has the backing of the Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian legal nonprofit organization, the Star Tribune ( http://strib.mn/2g9Z6wX ) reported.
The Larsens' lawsuit doesn't respond to specific allegations, but they are hoping to prevent future penalties.
While Minnesota's law doesn't compel religious organizations to perform same-sex marriages, it does ban businesses from denying wedding services, such as cake decorating, wedding planning or other commercial services.
State officials can deploy "testers" to investigate discrimination, and business owners who are determined liable can be found guilty of a misdemeanor offense punishable by fines and up to 90 days in jail.
Jeremy Tedesco, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, said "any reasonable person" with the possibility of facing such punishments would follow in the Larsens' footsteps.
Human Rights Commissioner Kevin Lindsey said the lawsuit is part of a pattern of litigation nationwide aimed at eroding the rights of the LGBTQ community.
In agreement was Teresa Nelson, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota, who said the lawsuit would open "the door to a vast array of discrimination . if the court sides with the plaintiffs."
Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys also represent a group of parents and students from Virginia, Minnesota, in a federal lawsuit that seeks to bar high school transgender students from using locker rooms and restrooms consistent with their gender identity.
This week a federal judge suspended proceedings in the case until the U.S. Supreme Court issues an opinion or resolves a similar case being argued in Washington.
Minnesota's same-sex marriage law was enacted in 2013. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that the fundamental right to marriage is guaranteed to all.

August 11, 2016

Gay Couple Who Holding Hands at Mall in London Accosted by Security Guard



Sainsbury's



Thomas Rees was shopping in Sainsbury’s in Hackney, London, on Monday when a security guard approached him and his boyfriend to say someone had complained about them holding hands, he told BuzzFeed News.
The 32-year-old said he had just finished paying for his shopping at the Hackney Road store when he and his boyfriend Josh were “beckoned over” by the guard.
At first he thought they had accidentally stolen something, “because we were made to feel like criminals”. 
“My boyfriend and I became aware we were being watched,” Rees said. “We were holding hands, arms around each other’s waists, basically showing public displays of affection.
“As we came to pay for our shopping I noticed a security guard watching us. Once we had paid, he then approached us and asked us to follow him outside.”
Rees said the security guard told them a customer had complained about the couple. The guard said that while he “was brought up to believe in live and let live”, he had to tell them the customer had said they were touching and behaving inappropriately.
Rees said he did not witness the complaint being made and was “stunned and shaking”. “I just don’t understand why he needed to take us outside and why he needed to tell us,” he said.
“There was no sense of humility. I refuse to believe this would have happened to a heterosexual couple – we just stared in disbelief. The issue here is it felt like like 1960s Britain.” 
 Rees said the guard acted inappropriately in deciding to pull them aside and that Sainsbury’s should ensure staff are fully trained to deal with diversity.
He now feels uncomfortable shopping in the local store for fear of seeing the guard or discovering other customers in the store who share the same views as the complainant.
“The sad thing is there are multiple situations when Josh and I are holding hands and I’m the first to push him away,” he said, “but I felt safe surrounded by my community and I was oblivious and unguarded.”
He was torn over whether to complain, he said, but “part of me thought I should raise my voice”.
A customer service representative had since offered Rees a £10 gift card to apologise, he said, but he felt the gesture was not enough and Sainsbury’s should instead ensure all staff are properly trained.
This is not the first time the supermarket has found itself embroiled in controversyover its treatment of same-sex couples. 
In 2014, campaigners staged a “kiss-in” at a Sainsbury’s store in Brighton in support of LGBTQ rights after a security guard allegedly asked a lesbian couple to leave a store for kissing. At the time the retailer apologised and said: “This should never have happened.”
A spokesperson told BuzzFeed News on Tuesday: “We do not tolerate discrimination in any form. We are investigating this urgently with our security contractor.”
By Sara Spary who is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London. Contact this reporter at sara.spary@buzzfeed.com
Contact Sara Spary at sara.spary@buzzfeed.com.

October 12, 2015

Chick fil-A Opens in NYC with “NO to Homosexuals and Just Say NO to Gay Hating Chicken



                                                                               



“I don’t stand with their values. But I do stand with their sandwiches.” With this, Flatbush resident Jeremy McMahan succinctly captured the sentiment permeating the soggy masses huddled outside of New York’s first Chick-fil-A.
The opening of the company's first full-fledged NYC restaurant this weekend was marked both by sleeping bags and picket signs. As a steady stream of fast food enthusiasts joined the line snaking around the corner of 37th Street, the mood was festive and the crowd was hyped. “It’s great day to be an American right now,” proclaimed one woman as she stepped into the infamous establishment.
Chick-fil-A sparked a wave of controversy and kiss-ins in 2012 when its CEO, Dan Cathy, publicly opposed gay marriage. The Atlanta-based chicken empire has a documented history of homophobia, despite recent moves to remake the company image (think less bigoted, more gimmicky). In addition to all that, Chick-fil-A has an atrocious animal rights record, brought to light by Mercy for Animals in an undercover exposé last year (warning: these images are really gross).
But the controversies surrounding the company didn’t seem to matter to the many hungry New Yorkers lined up and waiting for their fast food fix. “It’s not the sandwich that’s discriminating,” pointed out Geoffrey Kwan of Battery Park City. Fellow fan Steven Chi acknowledged the controversy, but said that “at the end of the day…the sandwiches are so good!” Bronx resident Jay Holmes agreed, explaining that the chicken is “just so good"—when pressed to describe what made it so good, he responded, “I just don’t know why.” When asked about Chick-Fil-A’s documented history of human and animal abuse, Holmes shook his head. “I can’t comment on that.”
One group that did care to comment was Collectively Free, who organized a protest during the grand opening. A small but spirited group brandishing signs and chanting “We’re here! We’re queer! Get used to it!” burst out of the restaurant and onto the street.
“We’re here to protest violence towards animals and LGBTQ individuals” explained Raffaella Ciavatta of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. “Chick-fil-A perpetuates the idea that some lives matter more than others, and that is the root of all that is wrong with the world.”
In a surprise twist, the protest ended up being a double header: a group of self-proclaimed “Bible-Believers” joined the fray to protest the protest with battlecries of “Repent!” and “Sodomy is a sin! God hates gay!” The two camps settled in to yell at each other over police barricades while the line continued to work its way into the restaurant and people continued to order chicken sandwiches.


No to Homosexuals
 “We’re against these homosexuals,” explained Alan Ines of Stamford, Connecticut. “The Bible says that homosexuality is a sin. God doesn’t approve.” Ines was careful to note that God loves all people before turning towards the protesters and screaming “We love Chick-fil-A! We hate homo sex!!”
Chick-fil-A issued a statement addressing the protest, saying: “Chick-fil-A is aware of demonstrators who gathered at our restaurant today. Our grand opening day activities continue as planned, and we are focused on serving customers delicious food with great service. We are excited to serve all of our guests in New York City!”
As the protest battle between Collectively Free and the Bible Believers raged, the customers continued purchasing their chicken unperturbed. “I’m gay and I’m obsessed with Chick-fil-A” Prospect Heights resident Courtney Kim told us from the middle of the line. “My motto is that they’ll never hate gay people as much as I love fried chicken.”
At the end of the day, the doomsday calls to repent from sodomy and queer-hating didn’t move the blasé hearts of passersby. “I don’t get it,” one girl remarked to her friend. “It’s just fast food.”

Just say no to gay hating chicken


Even the most miserable weather this city's seen in months couldn't deter hundreds of Chick-fil-A fans from queueing up outside the company first full-fledged NYC restaurant yesterday evening. The reward for 100 lucky lottery-drawing souls—all of whom had to prove they weren't homeless—was one chicken sandwich meal per week for a year. They also had to spend the entire night camped out inside the fast-food chain restaurant—but not on the sidewalk, as is the usual Chick-fil-A custom whenever a new branch is opened, thanks to the storm.
Press was barred from entering the sleepover, but at around 5 a.m. this morning everyone was kicked out into the 48-degree drizzle so that the Chick-fil-A crew could make the place presentable again for the restaurant's first full day of service. As the winners waited for the doors to reopen so they could collect their free-meal card, tales from the long night emerged: of friends made and blanket forts constructed; of relentlessly cheery staffers, of fitful (or zero) sleep, and, of course, the trials and tribulations that stem from sharing a single bathroom with so many other fried-food-eating folks. 
Apparently no one witnessed or participated in any sort of debauchery overnight, though one upstairs area did reportedly become known as the "Rowdy Corner." And sadly, one man who vowed to hand over his winnings to the Trinity Place Homeless Shelter for LBGT Youth did not appear to make it past the lottery round yesterday evening, as he was nowhere to be found this morning. 
At 6 a.m. the winners were allowed back inside, where they were paraded around in front of the official Chick-fil-A cameras as staff members clapped, cheered, and sang. About a half-hour later, the public was invited in as well, officially commencing the Chick-fil-A era in our great city's history. 
As for the Chick-fil-A food itself... it is awful. I had planned on not eating, both because I'd rather not give money to chains and because of CEO Dan Cathy's financial support of anti-gay activities and groups. It should be noted here that everyone I spoke to who stood on line either agreed with Cathy's stance on same-sex marriage, or justified giving the company their business because they loved the chicken and thought that everyone, Cathy included, has a right to their own opinion. 
But after getting kicked out of the place twice prior to the official opening, the only way I was going to be allowed to stay inside and chat with and photograph the winners was to get on line and order something. Plus, I admit I was curious about a sandwich that inspired such a fanatical following. But really, there was nothing going on with my remarkably blah Original Chicken to warrant even grudging half-admiration. And the wan-ass Waffle Fries were even more uninspired. So just say no to gay-hating chicken.

October 5, 2015

{Sickening Chick} 1st Chick-fil-A in NYC Opens in the Mist of Protests



                                                                                     

“I don’t stand with their values. But I do stand with their sandwiches.” With this, Flatbush resident Jeremy McMahan succinctly captured the sentiment permeating the soggy masses huddled outside of New York’s first Chick-fil-A.
The opening of the company's first full-fledged NYC restaurant this weekend was marked both by sleeping bags and picket signs. As a steady stream of fast food enthusiasts joined the line snaking around the corner of 37th Street, the mood was festive and the crowd was hyped. “It’s great day to be an American right now,” proclaimed one woman as she stepped into the infamous establishment.
Chick-Fil-A Protest by Gothamist
Chick-fil-A sparked a wave of controversy and kiss-ins in 2012 when its CEO, Dan Cathy, publicly opposed gay marriage. The Atlanta-based chicken empire has a documented history of homophobia, despite recent moves to remake the company image (think less bigoted, more gimmicky). In addition to all that, Chick-fil-A has an atrocious animal rights record, brought to light by Mercy for Animals in an undercover exposé last year (warning: these images are really gross).

But the controversies surrounding the company didn’t seem to matter to the many hungry New Yorkers lined up and waiting for their fast food fix. “It’s not the sandwich that’s discriminating,” pointed out Geoffrey Kwan of Battery Park City. Fellow fan Steven Chi acknowledged the controversy, but said that “at the end of the day…the sandwiches are so good!” Bronx resident Jay Holmes agreed, explaining that the chicken is “just so good"—when pressed to describe what made it so good, he responded, “I just don’t know why.” When asked about Chick-Fil-A’s documented history of human and animal abuse, Holmes shook his head. “I can’t comment on that.”

One group that did care to comment was Collectively Free, who organized a protest during the grand opening. A small but spirited group brandishing signs and chanting “We’re here! We’re queer! Get used to it!” burst out of the restaurant and onto the street.
“We’re here to protest violence towards animals and LGBTQ individuals” explained Raffaella Ciavatta of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. “Chick-fil-A perpetuates the idea that some lives matter more than others, and that is the root of all that is wrong with the world.”
In a surprise twist, the protest ended up being a double header: a group of self-proclaimed “Bible-Believers” joined the fray to protest the protest with battlecries of “Repent!” and “Sodomy is a sin! God hates gay!” The two camps settled in to yell at each other over police barricades while the line continued to work its way into the restaurant and people continued to order chicken sandwiches.

“We’re against these homosexuals,” explained Alan Ines of Stamford, Connecticut. “The Bible says that homosexuality is a sin. God doesn’t approve.” Ines was careful to note that God loves all people before turning towards the protesters and screaming “We love Chick-fil-A! We hate homo sex!!”
Chick-fil-A issued a statement addressing the protest, saying: “Chick-fil-A is aware of demonstrators who gathered at our restaurant today. Our grand opening day activities continue as planned, and we are focused on serving customers delicious food with great service. We are excited to serve all of our guests in New York City!”
As the protest battle between Collectively Free and the Bible Believers raged, the customers continued purchasing their chicken unperturbed. “I’m gay and I’m obsessed with Chick-fil-A” Prospect Heights resident Courtney Kim told us from the middle of the line. “My motto is that they’ll never hate gay people as much as I love fried chicken.”
At the end of the day, the doomsday calls to repent from sodomy and queer-hating didn’t move the blasé hearts of passersby. “I don’t get it,” one girl remarked to her friend. “It’s just fast food.”

August 25, 2015

Anti gay Cake Makers Sent Cakes to LGBT Orgs




Oregon bakers Aaron and Melissa Klein and their children stand over their a batch of cakes they made that were then sent to nearly a dozen LGBT centers in Southern California.

Oregon bakers Aaron and Melissa Klein and their children stand over their a batch of cakes they made that were then sent to nearly a dozen LGBT centers in Southern California.

This is what you might call just desserts.
An agency that runs an LGBT center in Southern California found a more tasteful way to utilize the not-so-sweet cake that was cooked up and delivered by a pair of bakers in Gresham, Ore., who got burnt by their opposition to gay marriage.
Equality California fed the cake they received in the mail from the former owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa to homeless children at a Los Angeles shelter.
“I know they said it’s not a publicity stunt, but it sure looks like one,” Equality California spokesman Jason Howe told the Daily News.
The group’s employees anticipated the cake's arrival and opened a box to find it iced with what appeared to be a friendly message:
"We really do love you," read the message on the now-devoured cake.
The dry-iced delivery came replete with an Olive Garden gift card and a film known as “Audacity” that has been perceived by critics as homophobic. It was released in June by Christian evangelist Ray Comfort.
Instead of consuming the cake at their office, the folks at Equality California drove it over to Midnight Mission on Skid Row. 
The former owners of the bakery business are Melissa and Aaron Klein, the couple who were ordered to pay up about $150,000 to a lesbian couple after they refused to bake their wedding cake, citing religious-based objections.
Melissa and her husband shuttered the bakery at the end of 2013, but continued taking private orders from clients such as an anti-gay ministry known as Restored Hope Network.
They said they baked up the cakes and sent them out this week to “express our love for (gay people) as Christians,” Melissa Klein said in an email to the Oregonian. “We don’t hate them.”
The couple stood alongside their children and posed above the 10 cakes they shipped to groups listed by the Daily Signal as California LGBT Arts Alliance, Asian and Pacific Islander Wellness Center, Californians Against Hate, CFAC Headquarters, Equality California, Out and Equal, The South Bay LGBT Community Organization, The LGBTQ Center Long Beach, Los Angeles LGBT Center McDonald/Wright Building and LGBT of Southern Nevada.
The cakes came with a message that said, "We really do love you," and a film that has been perceived as homophobic.THE DAILY SIGNAL

The cakes came with a message that said, "We really do love you," and a film that has been perceived as homophobic.

Without any knowledge of this week’s stunt, the outlier group in Nevada, the Gay and Lesbian Center of Southern Nevada in Las Vegas, sliced into its own cake when it arrived on Thursday afternoon.
“We were cautious about doing it, but laughed if we should try or sample the cake. Was this a spoof?” the group’s CEO, Michael Dimengo, said.
The former Catholic priest said he and his colleagues ultimately “feasted on the cake.”
“I looked at it as a good gesture when they said it was loving, but I also looked at it with skepticism, as propaganda," Dimengo added.
One of the cakes arrived at the Long Beach center in not the best of shape and went straight into the garbage can.
“Unfortunately the dry ice did not hold up. Our cake looked a little different than it was supposed to,” the center’s executive director, Porter Gilberg, told The News.
Gilberg commended the Kleins for at least taking the time to reach out and in an email to the couple, Gilberg invited the bakers to stop by the LGBT center during their next Long Beach visit.
“I think one of the most difficult things for folks to do is to reach out to people who have a different belief especially when it comes to LGBTQ people,” Gilberg said. “We did not expect to receive a cake from the folks in Oregon.”
Pics Daily signal

August 21, 2015

Chick Fil-A Stopped from going into Denver Int. Airport




                                                                          


The Denver City Council has stalled a deal to renew the lease of a Chick-fil-A restaurant at Denver International Airport, citing the company's reputation as an opponent of same-sex marriage.
The Business Development Committee on Tuesday stalled the seven-year deal with a new franchise of the popular chicken chain for two weeks.
"I think the airport also has a question about our reputation," said Robin Kniech, a Denver City Council Member, during Tuesday's meeting. "It has been the corporate philosophy [of Chik-fil-A] to use the dollars they earn to fund discriminatory lawsuits and to fund discriminatory political rhetoric. So that's of concern to the extent that they will be forming profits from operating in our airport."
Kniech and Council Member Jolon Clark on Wednesday said their focus now is on Chick-fil-A's current practices and policies.
"Constituents of mine, people who are very near and dear to me, have been fighting for their relationships to be recognized and for their rights to be equal," said Clark, who also questioned allowing the lease at DIA during Tuesday's meeting.
If the committee rejects the lease, an individual member could introduce the deal in the full council. At Tuesday's meeting, none of the 10 members in attendance defended Chick-fil-A.
In 2012 Chick-fil-A's president publicly reaffirmed his support of what he called the "biblical definition of the family unit" that did not include same-sex marriage. He has since said he regrets inserting the company into political debates.
A 2013 survey at DIA showed the chicken sandwich chain was the second-most suggested fast food at the airport, following Chipotle, which did not apply for the spot.
"Our passengers have said loud and clear that they like Chick-fil-A," DIA spokeswoman Stacey Stegman said. "We have very strong contracts that prohibit discrimination of any kind, and that’s what we expect of our business partners." 
7NEWS reached out to Chick-fi-A for a statement and received the following response:
Chick-fil-A is a restaurant company focused on serving great food and providing remarkable service to every single customer.
Chick-fil-A, Inc. and its franchised restaurant owners are equal opportunity employers, employing more than 75,000 individuals who represent many diverse viewpoints, opinions, backgrounds and beliefs. 
We are humbled to be named to the 2015 “Top 10 Best Companies to Work For” list by 24/7 Wall Street and to be first in our category in customer satisfaction according to the 2015 American Customer Satisfaction Index.

Jaclyn Allen
thedenverchannel.com

June 19, 2015

American Pfizer Fires Gay Employee for Taking Part in Moscow Protest





pfizer_fires_man_for_moscow_pride_protestLGBT activists are calling for a global boycott of American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer over claims that its Russian division fired an employee for taking part in last month’s Moscow Pride protest.
On May 30, a group of activists, including Pfizer staff member Vadim Gruzdev, participated in the illegal but peaceful protest to demonstrate against the decade-long ban on holding Pride in the Russian capital.
Gruzdev drove a quad bike with Moscow Pride organiser Nikolai Alekseev and another activist on the back as they waved a rainbow flag and trailed dark orange smoke from a flare.
Gruzdev and his colleagues were then not only brutally attacked by anti-gay extremists but were also arrested and jailed for ten days by the authorities.
On Wednesday, Alekseev posted on Facebook: “Vadim Gruzdev dismissed from the Russian branch of a major US pharmaceutical company Pfizer only for the fact that participated in the Moscow gay parade and spent 10 days in jail on trumped-up charges!”
He added: “It turns out large foreign companies are so afraid of the Russian special services that are ready to shit on all human values. But we will achieve justice! Boycott Pfizer worldwide!!!”
Amnesty International said earlier in statement that the activists, including Gruzdev, were “imprisoned solely because of the peaceful attempt to exercise their right to freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly.”
In a letter to the company appealing to be reinstated, Gruzdev wrote: “Due to the fact that our arrest was illegal, and the case to be referred to the European Court of Human Rights I appeal to you to analyse the situation and restore me in the workplace in the name of fairness.”
According to GayRussia.Ru, activists are planning an online petition and intend to picket Pfizer’s offices in Moscow and New York.
Moscow has ignored a 2010 ruling by the European Court of Human Rights that its Pride bans are discriminatory and a violation of the right to free assembly.
This posting appeared on Mamba on Line yesterday.

June 4, 2015

TD Bank Locking Out Trans Customers in Toronto



                                               
                      




A TD Bank Group employee shut out a Toronto trans woman from her bank accounts and credit card because he didn’t like the sound of her voice on the phone, the woman alleges.
“I got locked out of all my accounts because . . . my voice wasn’t completely perfect,” says Emily-Rose Kinsley, a self-employed business owner. “He was calling me ‘ma’am’ but then switched to ‘sir,’” she says. “[He] refused access [to my records] and then called me a man because of my voice and said that I was being locked out . . . [he] didn’t even ask me my security questions,” she claims.
Kinsley says TD’s customer service representatives refused to listen to her when she called back and appeared to have no awareness of trans issues. “I even told them I was transsexual, and they just hung up,” she explains. “I was shocked; it made me cry.”
Without access to her money, Kinsley was at a loss. “I couldn’t eat or smoke or anything for two days.” She says she used to trust TD with her money “but not anymore.”
“They made me cry; they made me scared to be me. They told me I was a guy. I can’t trust anyone who would treat me with such disrespect.”
Many trans women, depending on what age they transitioned, have already experienced the testosterone-based puberty typically associated with boys growing into men. Whereas trans men (who were designated female at birth) can gain a deepened voice from testosterone treatments, estrogen cannot reverse or “heighten” a voice for trans women if it’s already become deep (facial hair works by similar rules).
Although there are throat and larynx surgeries designed to alter the voices of trans women to make them sound more conventionally feminine, these surgeries are risky, they leave visible scars and they don’t guarantee good results. Also, like all surgical treatments related to gender identity, they are difficult to access and can be prohibitively expensive.
Some trans women can adjust their natural speaking voices on their own, through practice or by guided speech therapy, but not all trans women are able to — or even want to.
“Why should I have to be in a constant state of panic over how my voice sounds?” complains trans activist Christine Newman, who describes her voice as “low and throaty, like Lauren Bacall, naturally.” She says the need to “pass constantly,” for transgender people to fit into an expected set of standards based on how cisgender people look and sound, is unfair.
“It’s one more expectation put upon trans people [to be just like cis people] instead of just being able to be yourself,” she says.
Eventually, Kinsley regained access to her money. “It took me five attempts, and five hangups, to get any help,” she explains. She says someone from TD told her that they have annotated her computer file in a way that “outs” her without her consent: “All my accounts now say I’m a deep-voiced transsexual,” she reports. “That is not okay.”
Newman agrees. “I personally find it disturbing that you are forced to be outed as trans just so some call-centre rep doesn’t lock out all your banking because you don’t sound like your proper gender.”
Kinsley is not the only transgender customer who has had problems with TD. Sam (who asked that Xtrause only her first name) reports an almost identical experience. “I had forgotten my PIN number and been locked out of my bank account. So I called [TD customer service]. They asked me security questions, which I knew the answers to.” Despite passing the standard security test, Sam says she was still refused phone service.
“They said I had to go in to the bank,” she says. Unlike Kinsley, Sam had a backup account at a different bank, so she had other options. When she did visit her branch, she says, she was told “there was a note on my account saying a guy called in pretending to be (me), and we locked the account.” Sam also reports that her bank manager insisted on adding a notation to the file, saying she is a transgender woman.
“TD is a proud supporter of the LGBT community,” says Ron Puccini, senior manager of diversity at TD. TD Canada Trust is a major annual sponsor of Pride Toronto, including 2014’s WorldPride, and routinely runs pro-gay and -lesbian banking advertisements during the Pride season.
Despite the experiences reported by both Kinsley and Sam, Puccini says that “we do not practise putting personal information on customer profiles that ‘outs’ them.” However, he does not deny that TD judges callers on the quality of their voices: “In order to prevent fraud against our customers, TD uses a variety of best practices, including voice authentication.”
In 2011, a gay man in Vancouver told Xtra that he was denied access to his account after a call centre representative mistook his voice for a woman’s.
At that time, TD spokesperson Suzanna Cohen apologized for the “bad service.”
“We don’t want this type of situation to happen. People shouldn’t have to call and experience this type of frustration and bad service,” she said.
For TD, raising a red flag against uncommonly pitched voices is an effective way of protecting accounts, but Puccini acknowledges that TD doesn’t have a concrete solution for its trans customers.
“We are aware of the recent concerns, and we take them seriously. We also recognize that we don’t get it right every time,” he says. “We are continuously looking at ways to improve our customer service, and this includes looking at ways to improve the customer experience for customers in the transgender community.”
MP Randall Garrison, who is the federal NDP critic on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and transsexual issues, says that stories like these point to the need for increased protection for transgender people in Canada.
“Banks are regulated federally,” Garrison says. He introduced bill C-279 in 2012, to add gender identity to the Human Rights Act, which would solidify the government’s position against anti-transgender discrimination. That bill hasn’t passed yet, but even without it, Garrison says these women might have a case. “They could [make a complaint against TD] to the Canadian Human Rights Commission, and a decision would be made,” he explains. “But it would certainly be easier to find resolution after 279 passes.”

May 30, 2015

Gay Hotelier Hosted Ted Cruz Also gave Him Contribution



                                 
Cruz on right


When the gay hoteliers Ian Reisner and Mati Weiderpass found themselves under siege for hosting a dinner for Ted Cruz, the Texas senator who is running for president and has been vociferously opposed to same-sex marriage, they repeatedly stressed that the event was not a fund-raiser.



Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, was one of the presidential candidates who spoke at the Champions of Jewish Values gala on Thursday night in Manhattan.Credit James Estrin/The New York Times

“There were no checks given, it was nothing like that,” Mr. Reisner told New York magazine, after The New York Times first reported on the mid-April dinner at the Central Park South penthouse. 

Protests and calls for boycotts of Mr. Reisner’s and Mr. Weiderpass’s properties, including their groundbreaking hotel for gay clientele, the Out NYC, ensued.

As it turns out, Mr. Reisner himself wrote a check to Mr. Cruz’s presidential campaign, making a $2,700 donation — the maximum allowed in a nominating contest — around the time the dinner took place.

But shortly after The Times reported on the dinner, where about 18 people sat down at two tables in separate areas of the palatial penthouse, Mr. Reisner called the campaign and asked for his check to be refunded.

“In the interest of transparency, I gave Senator Cruz a $2,700 check to show my support for his work on behalf of Israel,” Mr. Reisner said in a statement he provided after The Times learned of the donation from two people with direct knowledge of it. “When I realized his donation could be misconstrued as supporting his anti-gay marriage agenda, I asked for the money back. Senator Cruz’s office gave the money back, and I have no intention of giving any money to any politicians who aren’t in support of L.G.B.T. issues.”

A spokesman for Mr. Cruz declined to comment. Mr. Reisner, a friend insisted, was aware that his donation — and the refund — will appear on Mr. Cruz’s campaign finance filing when it becomes public in July.

Mr. Reisner and Mr. Weiderpass have been doing damage control for over a month since the dinner, which made them pariahs in New York City’s gay rights community in which they’d been figures for years. As two people who have rarely donated politically, they seemed surprised by the reaction, stressing they were drawn to Mr. Cruz because of their mutual interests in foreign policy. Mr. Reisner repeatedly insisted he was unaware of Mr. Cruz’s strident views against same-sex marriage, and has since apologized and denounced the Texas lawmaker.

Mr. Cruz faced some questions over why the campaign didn’t do a more thorough vetting of Mr. Reisner and Mr. Weiderpass, business partners and former lovers who still co-own their penthouse, where a young man was found unconscious in their bathtub from a drug overdose last October and was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.

Yet the anger at the hoteliers has been fierce and unrelenting. Mr. Reisner is under great pressure from angry residents in the Fire Island Pines who want him to divest of his interest in the commercial property there. In early May, Eric von Kuersteiner, a businessman on Fire Island who previously owned the properties in the harbor, even approached Mr. Reisner offering to buy him out for somewhere in the ballpark of $2 million.

Jon Reinish, a Democratic strategist who works with several gay rights causes, said he was not surprised to learn that there had been a check given after all, saying it’s typical for campaign staff members to follow up after such events asking if attendees would consider making a “max-out” donation.

“Anyone with a passing knowledge of politics knows this,” Mr. Reinish said. “So the idea that fund-raising was not a part of this was not believable from the get-go.”

Still, he said there was something unthinkable about a person in Mr. Reisner’s position giving any money to Senator Cruz.

“It’s not like they sat down with Jeb Bush,” he said. “They sat down with a proud enemy of the gay community. Ted Cruz legislates on that, he runs on that. It’s one of the foundations of his platform and it’s not just opposition to gay marriage. He’s against basic civil rights and he’s been out there on that from the very beginning.”

Mr. Weiderpass, who served in the military, said that he had not given a check to Mr. Cruz himself. He seemed surprised to learn of Mr. Reisner’s donation, when told about by it as he was walking between tables at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square on Thursday night. He was there for an event hosted by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, at which Mr. Cruz happened to be one of the speakers.

Rabbi Boteach, who supports gay rights, has been trying to build a bridge with Mr. Cruz over such issues, and invited Mr. Weiderpass to attend, the hotel developer said.

He was not there to see Mr. Cruz, although that was exactly what happened.

“Literally the first person I saw was Senator Cruz” when he arrived at the event, Mr. Weiderpass said. They exchanged “hellos,” and Mr. Weiderpass moved on. He said he didn’t want to create a new story out of their encounter.

Haberman and Jacob Bernstein

The Thing with people with a lot of money that need to make more like Hoteliers, Developers etc., even if they are gay. The need for legal rights, do not touch them. They can get everything they want with their money. This particular Hotelier is gay but a republican so he is looking out for his peeps.  Yes, the GOP still fighting us on Gay marriage, equal rights but they figure those are for us the people.  What we need to do is know the Hotels from this guy and hold back our money. It is not going to make him poor but may be it will be a message for others.
             

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