Showing posts with label LGBTQ Rights. Show all posts
Showing posts with label LGBTQ Rights. Show all posts

October 9, 2019

The Showdown Over Firing LGBTQ Employees Over Their Orientation Started Yesterday on The Supremes



                                               


               NPR


At the U.S. Supreme Court, the long-awaited showdown over the rights of LGBTQ employees is center stage. On Tuesday, the justices hear a set of cases testing whether the federal law that bars sex discrimination in employment applies to LGBTQ employees.
Specifically, the question is whether employers are free to fire employees because they are gay or transgender. Front and center in these cases is Gerald Bostock who, for 10 years, was the child-welfare coordinator for Clayton County, Ga. His primary responsibility was a program that provides advocates in court for abused and neglected children.
"It was the job I loved, and my employer loved me doing the job," says Bostock, noting that under his leadership the child advocates program "reached the benchmark of serving 100% of the children in foster care," an "unheard of milestone" for any such program in the greater metro Atlanta region.
"I was fired for being gay"
But in 2013, Bostock joined a gay recreational softball league. And "from that point on, my life changed, " he says. "Within months, I was fired for being gay. I lost my livelihood. I lost my medical insurance, and at the time I was fighting prostate cancer. It was devastating." 
Also front and center on Tuesday will be Aimee Stephens. She worked for the Harris Funeral Home in Livonia, Mich., as a funeral director for six years, presenting as a man. But by 2012, at age 51, she was in despair over her gender identity, and contemplating suicide.
"I stood in the backyard for an hour with a gun to my chest, but I couldn't do it," she says.
Stephens decided she would come out at work as a transgender woman. For eight months, she worked on a letter to her boss and co-workers telling them of her gender identity.
"In truth ... even I do not fully understand it myself"
"I have realized that some of you may have trouble understanding this," she wrote, adding, "In truth, I have had to live with it every day of my life, and even I do not fully understand it myself."
Two weeks after giving the letter to her boss, Stephens was fired.
Stephens and Bostock both took their former employers to court, charging that their dismissals were based on sex and thus violated Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which bars discrimination "because of sex," or "on the basis of sex."
The owner of Harris Funeral Homes, Tom Rost, explained in a videotaped interview with his lawyers why he fired Stephens, saying that he was concerned about how the families of the deceased would react to Stephens who was, in Rost's words, "the face of the Harris Funeral Home."
Neither Clayton County officials nor their lawyers would comment about Bostock's firing.
A "common-sense argument"
But in their briefs, the lawyers in both cases argue that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act does not apply to sexual orientation or gender status at all. "Everyone understood in 1964 [when the Civil Rights Act passed] that sex meant biological sex," says John Bursch who is arguing on behalf of Harris Funeral Homes in the Supreme Court. That means that neither women nor men can be treated unequally in the workplace, he says, but that "just does not translate into other categories" such as sexual orientation or gender identity.
Supporting that argument are 15 states, including Texas, and its solicitor general, Kyle Hawkins. The "common sense" argument, he asserts, is that "sex is not the same as sexual orientation and not the same as gender identity."
But lawyers representing the fired workers counter that the Supreme Court over the last half-century has interpreted the law far more broadly than that. They note that the justices have applied the anti-discrimination statute to a variety of situations that Congress wasn't thinking about in 1964.
For example, "in 1964 you wouldn't find a single dictionary that defined the term 'sexual harassment' and yet the Supreme Court has held that Title VII [of the 1964 Civil Rights Act] prohibits sexual harassment of women" and "also sexual harassment of men," observes Stanford Law Professor Pamela Karlan.
Indeed, more than two decades ago, the Supreme Court ruled that even same-sex sexual harassment was illegal under the statute. Writing for a unanimous court, conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, said that while same-sex sexual harassment was "not the principal evil Congress was concerned with" in 1964, "statutory provisions often go beyond the principal evil to cover reasonably comparable evils." And, he said, "it is ultimately the provisions of our laws, rather than the principal concerns of our legislators by which we are governed."
Stanford's Karlan, who is arguing for the gay employees on Tuesday, will remind the justices of the court's very first sex discrimination case after enactment of the 1964 law: Phillips v. Martin Marietta Corporation. At issue was an employer's policy barring the hiring of women with young children.
The court ruled unanimously that the policy was illegal sex discrimination. Karlan argues that just as women with children are a subset of women covered by the anti-discrimination law, so too are gay, lesbian and bisexual employees.
"If it's sex discrimination to say you can't work for us if you are a woman and you have children at home, it's also sex discrimination to say you can't work for us because you're a woman and you have a wife at home," says Karlan.
Similarly, she maintains, "If you wouldn't fire a man for marrying a woman, but "you would fire a woman for marrying a woman, you've discriminated against the woman who works for you," Karlan maintains.
The transgender argument: politically difficult but analytically stark
The argument for transgender employees may be more politically difficult to sell. But it is arguably starker. It goes like this: If an employer hires a man and later fires the employee when the employee shows up as a woman, how is that not discrimination based on sex?
Lawyer Bursch will tell the justices that sexual orientation and gender status simply do not fit under the 1964 anti-discrimination formula. He warns that if the court were to rule against the employers in these cases, it would have ramifications beyond employment.
Could employment cases affect school sports?
"If we redefine the meaning of sex in federal law," he predicts, it would allow "biological men to identify as women and take women's places on sports teams." Bursch argues that has already happened in some places, with cisgender women losing out in medals to transgender women.
Federal law does indeed bar sex discrimination in sports programs at schools that get federal money. And the NCAA has developed regulations for when trans student-athletes may or may not participate. But as Stanford's Karlan observes, Title IX, known best for its impact in advancing women's sports, "is a different statute." And the regulations for education funding under Title IX "are different than the rules in the workplace" under Title VII.
Lawyers for the employers respond that Congress in 1964 simply did not anticipate the questions raised in these cases about the scope of Title VII and that Congress, not the courts, should be addressing these issues.
The case has drawn even more attention than anticipated, with dozens of friend-of-the-court briefs on each side. Siding with the employers is business groups that, for the most part, have some religious affiliation. But weighing in on the other side, in favor of protection for gay and trans employees, are 206 major corporations who employ over 7 million workers.
The Trump administration, reversing the position of the Obama administration, will argue in the Supreme Court against the LGBTQ employees.

July 3, 2019

LGBTQ 5 Year Journey of Documenting Their Love Stories in China



 
       
SHURAN HUANG
  Although China officially decriminalized homosexuality in 1997, activists say the stigma around being LGBTQ — and discussing it publicly — remains today.
In the past few years, Chinese Web censors have made headlines for repeatedly targeting depictions of homosexuality. In a 2018 survey by the U.N. and the Chinese University of Hong Kong, only 5% of LGBTQ people in China felt comfortable being out at work.
Italian-born photographer Raul Ariano is currently based between Shanghai and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. He says he traveled from Italy because he was fascinated by "Chinese people and their way of adapting themselves in the fast-paced change of their society."
Over dinner during Ariano's first weekend in mainland China, he says he was talking with a friend who called LGBTQ people "sick and dangerous."
"I was shocked to hear that," Ariano says.
So, over the course of five years, Ariano set out to photograph more than 30 LGBTQ participants across mainland China — eventually turning the project into a portrait series.
He says his goal was to "share stories of love, dignity and hope in a segment of society that tends to be hidden in China." 
Because many people avoid coming out to their parents and relatives for fear of being rejected, Ariano says he constantly faced difficulties finding willing participants. He almost gave up on the project several times.
But between commercial and editorial assignments, he reached out to the local community with the help of PFLAG China, an organization based in Guangzhou City.
Ariano photographed participants in their apartments, with natural lighting and different colors to show the intimacy between couples.
He says he was inspired by Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar-wai's 1997 movie Happy Together. The movie is famous for his masterful explorations of colors and blurs and its distinctive style.
Ariano says getting access to such private spaces in people's lives was the most challenging part of the project.
But the concept of home was compelling for him. He says it's "the space where the couples share their time, their intimacy, and is a sort of shelter where they are protected and can be their real selves."
Throughout the series, Ariano met LGBTQ people across mainland China. Some had the support of their families. Others had been forced to endure conversion therapy.
"But the most incredible thing I have felt was the strength and the determination of those people to live the life they want," he says. "Whatever it takes."
Raul Ariano is an Italian photographer based in Shanghai and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
Shuran Huang is NPR's photo intern.

June 4, 2019

In Argentina “Cholita” Using Folklore in Singing, Dancing and Challenges Gender and Stereotypes





Screen capture from “Ramita Seca,” produced by Elisa Portela via YouTube, featuring choreography and interpretation of “Bartolina Xixa” a drag persona inspired by Andean indigenous aesthetics.
In the middle of a large garbage dump, surrounded by fog, a figure in a wide pastel pink skirt and long braids dances a vidala, a form of traditional poetry accompanied by music typical of Argentinian folklore.

                         
A small portrait of Romina Navarro
Written byRomina Navarro
Translated byDaniela Cristain



It's Bartolina Xixa, the Andean “drag folk” character created by Maximiliano Mamaní, who reassesses Argentinian northern folklore from a gender perspective and aims to decolonize it with a focus on indigenous peoples.
In their most recent work, “Dry Little Branch, the Permanent Coloniality,” the artist chose the open-air dump setting of Hornillos, located in the Quebrada of Humahuaca, a region declared as a cultural and natural heritage of humanity by UNESCO in 2003.
The vidala has plenty of symbolism. Composed by singer-songwriter Aldana Bello, the lyrics explore the topic of mining exploitation and atrocities perpetrated against Indigenous communities: 
 This vidala I'm singing / Is bleeding with grief and pain / The injustices of centuries / Still stand fierce […] In the Andean zone there are mining [companies] / They pollute dreams / Water, land, everything / [everything] that surrounds them.
Mamaní was born in Jujuy, located in far northwest Argentina, and grew up in the neighboring region of Salta. They study Anthropology at the National University of Salta and work as a professor of folk dance.
With Bartolina Xixa, Mamaní challenges stereotypes found in folk art, in which gender roles perpetuate binary structures that leave out a range of identities. As Mamaní points out in an interview with the Argentine site VOS:
I perform Argentine, Peruvian and Bolivian folk dances. I like folk music, which is why I had the need to reflect on it and on my position as a gay man in it, as I was being denied the opportunity to express myself when it came to build a choreography and make a partner dance…
And they add:
I realized that the same thing was happening to many others, because folklore has been designed from a heterosexual point of view. Certain attributes are given to the male figure, to the gauchos [for example], such as strength, firmness, and courtship. He is the one who leads. Women, meanwhile, are submissive, complacent.

A tribute to an Aymara heroine

Mamaní's social questionings are not limited to the world of folklore — they also address the tendencies that dominate global aesthetics with which “drag” is approached, an aesthetic that the artist says is linked to stereotypes of Western cultures’ notions of the feminine.
Their drag character is a departure from that tendency: Inspired by Bartolina Sisa Vargas, an Aymara leader who rebelled against the Spanish empire and subsequently captured, tortured and murdered in La Paz, Bolivia, in 1782, Mamaní pays tribute to this Andean woman, the “cholita” — “a hardworking woman, head of her household, who goes out to work every day, and who has ties to her family, her community, her ancestors, her traditions.”

Bartolina Xixa during a presentation in Buenos Aires, June 2018. Photo by Elisa Portela, used with permission.
In an episode of the podcast “Relatos Disidentes” or “Dissident Chronicles,” from the Salta-based portal, VóVè, Mamaní describes his character:
I usually say that I lend my body to Bartolina Xixa. [A character that] was born from the urgency of being able to think of other ways of doing folklore, another way of understanding identities that cross my own experience and that cross a whole group's experience.

Challenging the construction of Argentine masculinity and the “LGBT-norm”

Mamaní's activism and militancy appeal to social networks — especially Facebookand Instagram — through which to convey provocative messages. The best example is a Facebook post that became known as the “gay kiss,” which went viral on the platform in November 2018.
They shared the post during the pre-game soccer match between Boca Juniors and River Plate soccer clubs, featuring images of Mamaní kissing another man in front of the convent, San Bernardo, in Salta, while wearing the shirts of the rival teams. They declared it the “Super Classic Gay Kiss”:
An extract of the text in the post reads:
The super classic Gay Kiss. We're black, we're from the slums, we're from the countryside, we're poor. We don't have the stereotypical slim body, we're the face that coloniality refuses to acknowledge. We're fags, empowered and subaltern, away from the steretypical “classic” gay [man] […] We live our lives in spaces and memories that are always silenced by the heteronorm and the LGBTnorm […] An Argentine clssic is not Boca vs River. An Argentinian classic is seeing we're stigmatized, insulted, expelled (from our lands), hated, killed.
The post attracted all kinds of reactions and comments of support, rejection, ridicule, admiration, love, and hate from users. Global Voices spoke with Mamaní about the post via WhatsApp:
An interesting thing was seeing how they were attacking us by saying we were not Argentinian […] What they were trying to say is that the face of Argentina is white, is heterosexual, and has no brown or indigenous attributes, nor it has any sexual diversity.
Mamaní acknowledged that he is cautious when he publishes on social networks, aware of how it exposes them to attacks and intolerance. But they do not let attacks and negative criticism interfere with their main goal to disseminate artistic work through their drag persona, Bartolina, in the spirit of environmental, social, political and gender activism.
Mamaní also stressed how they are constantly challenged within the “drag queen scene” and LGBTQ communities of Argentina. Their way of expressing diversity from a “peripheral perspective” — away from the urban centers of power, Mamaní says, is questioned by choosing, instead, a drag character from the aesthetic of Bolivian indigenous culture:
It is not the same to be a white gay [man] from the city than a brown gay [man], with body that is not normative [according the dominant idea of beauty], with an indigenous face, who lives in a community far from all capitalist culture. [Being] gay, poor, from the working class… all of that defines and differentiates [our social] structures [and experiences].

April 26, 2019

“Son You Can Get Married But We Need to Fire You Because is Against Our Religious Belief



 The Suprme Court Could Set the Clock back for the LGBT Community!









It’s been almost four years since the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage for everyone, and yet, anti-LGBT discrimination remains a real problem in much of this country. In a majority of states, LGBT folks can be fired or otherwise discriminated against for no reason other than their sexual orientation or gender identity. That may change though, as yesterday the Supreme Court agreed to hear three cases that could fix this problem — or possibly set anti-discrimination law back decades.
How is it that anti-LGBT job discrimination is still allowed? Well, we can blame Congressional Republicans for that. Every time Democrats have attempted to change Title VII — the federal law that protects against discrimination in employment — to include sexual orientation and gender identity, they have been met with fierce opposition from Republicans.

That hasn’t stopped creative lawyers from trying to protect their clients. When Title VII became law in 1964, it included “sex” among the categories that were off-limits for employers to consider. Much still needs to be accomplished for there to be true equality at work, but it is undeniable that the law has been transformative for women in the workplace.
Without language in the law specifically protecting LGBT people, advocates have argued something quite clever — that the law already protects LGBT folks. Sure, it would be nice if it were specifically spelled out, but the language prohibiting discrimination based on “sex” already does the work.
The reasoning is actually quite simple. When a gay person is fired at work because of her sexual orientation, the employer is firing her because she is romantically or sexually attracted to other women. However, the employer would not fire a man attracted to women; thus, the employer is firing her because she is a woman, which is plain old sex discrimination.
The argument is similar for trans people, though more based on the idea of sex stereotyping. The boss who fires a trans man is firing him because the boss thinks that someone assigned female at birth should act a certain way. The trans man, however, is not conforming to sex stereotypes, thus the firing. Firing someone because they don’t live up to sex stereotypes is also sex discrimination.  
These arguments have not been universally accepted by the federal courts, but they’ve been taken up in some notable cases. In particular, the federal appeals court in New York ruled that a sky diving instructor who was fired because he was gay was entitled to sue under Title VII. But a federal appeals court in Atlanta ruled the opposite in a case involving a gay county advocate who was fired because of his sexual orientation. On Monday, the Supreme Court announced that it was taking both of these cases to decide, once and for all, whether sexual-orientation discrimination is protected under Title VII.
The court also took a case involving a trans woman who was fired from a funeral home because of her gender identity. That case, out of Ohio, will decide whether trans people are protected under Title VII.
This series of three cases has the potential to do what Congress should have done a long time ago – protect all LGBT workers in this country from discrimination on the job. The argument that discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is a form of sex discrimination seems odd to some people at first, but is in reality a very straightforward application of the law. After all, it is impossible to discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity without taking sex into account. The legal argument is that simple.
The problem with these cases, of course, is that the ability of LGBT people to earn a livelihood without being treated discriminatorily is a political issue and not simply a basic issue of human decency. That means that the conservative Justices will be torn between interpreting simple statutory language and adhering to their own ideology.
The hope here is that Chief Justice Roberts and even Justice Brett Kavanaugh will draw on their time among the D.C. establishment and maybe their sense of the historical importance of this issue and steer the court in the right direction by protecting LGBT folks across the country. However, if they join the other three conservatives on the court, it would be a huge setback for LGBT civil rights. Even worse, they could chip away at important sex discrimination precedents, such as the 1989 case that protects against sex stereotyping at work
Given how conservative this Supreme Court is, these cases are dangerous. Not a single conservative Justice currently on the Court has ruled in favor of LGBT rights, and Justice Kavanaugh never ruled on a related issue in his time before joining the Court. In a sense, then, these cases are uphill battles. However, given the stakes involved – allowing people to earn a living free from discrimination – and the fact that popular opinion is on the side of LGBT folks on this issue, ruling against LGBT rights might be too risky for the Court’s legitimacy

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