Nearly three quarters of American adults oppose businesses refusing to serve gay men and lesbians based on the owner’s religious beliefs.According to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll released Monday, 72 percent of respondents said that businesses whose owners are opposed to LGBT rights based on their religious beliefs should not be allowed to refuse to serve gay and bisexual men and lesbians.
The poll was released on the same day that the Supreme Court sided with a Colorado baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple. The high court’s ruling was narrow in scope and appeared to only apply to this case.
Pollsters found that 14 percent of respondents believe that business owners, because of their religious beliefs, have the right to refuse service based on sexual orientation. Nine percent said the right existed in “certain circumstances,” while 6 percent said they do not know.
The poll also found a majority of Americans (53%) support extending marriage rights to gay couples, up 11 percent from a 2013 Reuters/Ipsos poll.
California has banned government workers from non-essential travel to Oklahoma over its recent passage of an adoption law that discriminates against gay and lesbian couples.
Last month, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, a Republican, signed into law Senate Bill 1140, a controversial bill that allows religious child welfare organizations, including adoption and foster care agencies, to refuse to place children with same-sex couples.
California adopted a law in 2016 banning such travel to states that restrict LGBT rights. On Friday, Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced that the state had added Oklahoma to its list of states under its travel ban.
“California law requires that my office identify and maintain a list of states which are off-limits for state-funded or state-sponsored travel,” Becerra said in a statement. “California will not use state resources to support states that pass discriminatory laws. The law enacted in Oklahoma allows discrimination against LGBTQ children and aspiring LGBTQ parents who must navigate the adoption process. California taxpayers are taking a stand against bigotry and in support of those who would be harmed by this prejudiced policy.”
Kansas recently adopted a similar law, but the state was already included on California’s list. Other states on the list include Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas.
Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur praised the news.
“Every child deserves a loving, supportive family, and it’s neither pro-child, nor pro-family, for Oklahoma to deny them one,” said Zbur. “California taxpayers won’t subsidize Oklahoma’s – or any state’s – discriminatory policies, and we’re grateful to Attorney General Becerra for taking this decisive action today in support of equality for all.”
An agreement has been reached in the case of a transgender student who was seeking access to the bathroom of his choice at his Wisconsin high school.
Ashton Whitaker, who has since graduated high school, sued Kenosha Unified School District over its policy of restricting transgender students to using separate bathrooms from their peers. A lower court in September, 2016 ordered the school district to stop enforcing the policy. The school district turned to the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which also sided with Whitaker.
A three-judge panel said that Title IX of the Education Amendment of 1972, which bans sex discrimination in public schools, applies in the case, marking the first time that a federal appellate court took such a stance.
“A policy that requires an individual to use a bathroom that does not conform with his or her gender identity punishes that individual for his or her gender non-conformance, which in turn violates Title IX,” wrote Circuit Judge Ann Claire Williams in a 35-page ruling. “Providing a gender-neutral alternative is not sufficient to relieve the School District from liability, as it is the policy itself which violates the Act.”
The school district appealed the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. But as a condition of the settlement announced this week, which remains subject to court approval, the school district agreed to withdraw its petition before the high court.
If the settlement is approved by the court, it means that in Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana, the three states the appeals court covers, public schools must allow transgender students access to restrooms consistent with their gender identity. It also means that the Supreme Court will not get to weigh in on the issue.
Whitaker said in a statement that he’s “deeply relieved” by the settlement.
“Winning this case was so empowering and made me feel like I can actually do something to help other trans youth live authentically,” Whitaker said. “My message to other trans kids is to respect themselves and accept themselves and love themselves. If someone’s telling you that you don’t deserve that, prove them wrong.”
Whitaker was represented by the San Francisco-based Transgender Law Center.
“KUSD’s discriminatory actions included banning Ash from using boys’ restrooms, invasively monitoring his restroom use, referring to him by female pronouns in front of other students, initially denying him the right to run for junior prom king, and forcing him to room by himself during a week-long orchestra camp,” the Transgender Law Center said in a statement. “To avoid punishment, Ash tried to avoid using the bathroom at school altogether, and suffered serious depression, anxiety, and other physical and educational harms as a result of the discrimination he faced.”
As part of the settlement, the school district must pay $800,000 to Whitaker and reasonable attorneys’ fees.
“This settlement sends a clear message that schools are responsible for treating transgender students fairly and equally, without exception,” Masen Davis, CEO of the LGBT group Freedom for All Americans, said in a statement.