The email from Viaggio winery’s weddings and events director read: “While Viaggio Winery welcomes your business, we have never hosted a same-sex marriage.
“[The owners] understand that California statutory law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, and they don’t like to think they would ever discriminate on that basis even if a law allowed them to do so.
It then said that the owners would be willing to let the couple hold their reception there and take photos in their wedding dresses, as long as the ceremony was not on their property.
Responses to the Facebook post included: “The nerve thinking you and your beautiful bride would want to spend a dime there, or expose your family and friends to such a bigoted environment, after being told of the owner’s ‘feelings.’”
Another person said: “As a Christian I am so sick and tired of people using Jesus as a cover or an excuse for their homophobia. While they offer to take your money. How generous.”
The winery owners Teri and Larry Lawrence are also real estate agents.
According to her biography on the couple’s real estate website, Lawrence is “an active member of Eagle Forum of Sacramento, where she keeps abreast of current events regarding the family and business affairs”.
The Eagle Forum of Sacramento says it opposes same-sex marriage, abortion, sex education that does not teach abstinence or “‘New World Order’ interventions”.
Lawrence later provided a statement to FOX40 in which she said she had changed her mind about allowing same-sex couples to marry at the winery.
She said: “I realise now that contrary to my intent, this was hurtful to the people involved. Our staff, our customers, and our community have helped me see that I was wrong.”
The couple found another venue and are now happily married.
The Zero for Zeros campaign released today, a new round of companies who receive a perfect 100 rating from the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index (CEI), but use their corporate PACs to fund elected officials in Congress who lead opposition to LGBT equality. The list of anti-LGBT elected officials includes Reps. Steve King and Louie Gohmert as well as Senators Mike Enzi and Ted Cruz, among others. The campaign aims to pressure companies to review and end their financial support of these extreme anti-LGBT politicians.
Today’s companies are some of the biggest consumer names in the world and include:
● United Parcel Services
● Chevron Corp
● Northrop Grumman
● General Motors
● Ecolab Inc
● Dow Chemical Co
● Exelon Corp
● Johnson & Johnson
● Bayer AG
● Boston Scientific Corp● General Mills ● Procter & Gamble ● Cargill
● Nationwide Mutual Insurance● Cardinal Health ● Pepsico ● Diageo
● Best Buy ● Whirlpool Corporation● Merck
“Many of America’s biggest brands say they are proud supporters of their LGBT employees and customers, but at the same time, their corporate PACs are contributing to some of the most strident opponents of LGBT equality in Congress,” said Lane Hudson, Zero for Zeros’ campaign manager. “Those contributions enable the worst of the worst in Congress who work everyday to roll back the
progress we’ve fought hard to win, and who block critical protections for LGBT people like the Equality Act. Our ask is simple, these companies should end their corporate PAC contributions to the politicians who work everyday against equality. It is the right thing for their employees, their customers, and their brand.
Zero for Zeros found that 49 companies that received a 100% rating on the Human Rights Campaign’s CEI have donated to members of Congress that are the most outspoken against LGBT equality, earning a ZERO rating on the Human Rights Campaign’s Congressional Scorecard. These companies have contributed a total of $5,837,331 from their corporate PACs to the worst of the worst Members of Congress. Zero for Zeros is asking that the companies’ corporate PACs cease giving to these members of Congress. A summary of the contributions can be viewed on the Zero for Zero’s website.
“As a veteran of the financial industry and politics, I’ve worked to advance equality in corporate America and government. There is no logical rationale for a company that supports the LGBT community to support politicians that work against it,” said Charles Meyers, Chairman of Signum Global Advisors.
“As a corporate leader, my money goes to candidates that align with my values and the values of the company I lead. I would never contribute to candidates that not only don’t hold those values of equality and fairness, but who in fact work against them,” said Mitchell Gold, Co-Founder and Chairman of Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams.
The campaign has contacted the CEOs of each of these companies as part of the campaign. A diverse group of leading activists signed on in support of the campaign and is running digital ads anddigital video engaging employees and allies to join the campaign.
The full list of Zero for Zeros companies:
● Cisco Systems
● Dell Inc
● Sap America
● American Airlines
● Wells Fargo
● Morgan Stanley
● JPMorgan Chase
● Capital One FinancialCorp
● Cigna Corp ● PNC Financial Services● KPMG ● Ernst & Young ● Deloitte ● PricewaterhouseCoopers● Massachusetts Mutual
Life Insurance ● BBVA Compass Bank● United Parcel Services
● Chevron Corp
● Northrop Grumman
● General Motors
● Ecolab Inc
● Dow Chemical Co
● Exelon Corp
● Johnson & Johnson ● Bayer AG ● Boston Scientific Corp● General Mills ● Procter & Gamble ● Cargill ● Nationwide Mutual
An African American transgender woman in the Chicago area is suing national convenience store chain Circle K, alleging she was fired from one of its stores and retaliated against after reporting co-workers’ use of racial and transphobic slurs against her.
Judi Brown claims in the lawsuit filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois that a manager and other Circle K employees at the store in Bolingbrook, Illinois, harassed her based on her race and being transgender.
Brown, 26, said she was fired after she complained about the alleged discrimination.
“The discrimination and harassment were traumatizing and needed to be called out,” Brown said in a press release by the American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing her. “It was not fair.”
In Illinois, the state’s Human Rights Act includes specific protections for employees on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation, the ACLU said in its release.
When Brown worked as a Circle K cashier from May 2016 to June 2017, a store manager asked her “offensive and sexually explicit questions” about her romantic partners, sexual and reproductive anatomy and her plans for sexual reassignment surgery, the lawsuit claims.
She also alleges that a manager refused to refer to her by her chosen name in company documents and that another co-worker sometimes used male pronouns to refer to her and called her a “man in a dress.”
Brown also claims she “was forced to endure a racially hostile work environment” and that a manager used the N-word to refer to African American customers. The lawsuit says that a manager requested that employees closely watch African American customers and that another employee called Brown a n—–.
She says in addition that a manager made an “offensive comment” about the way “you people do your hair.”
Circle K said Wednesday in a statement that it “is an equal-opportunity employer with a diverse workforce, including transgender employees and fully cooperated with agency authorities during the previous investigation into this claim.”
When Brown reported the alleged harassment and discrimination, she said Circle K failed to act and instead retaliated against her by denying her a promised promotion, overscrutinizing her work and ultimately firing her, the lawsuit says.
Brown was scheduled to work on a Sunday during Chicago’s Pride celebration, even though she typically worked a Monday-to-Friday schedule, according to the lawsuit. She said her bosses knew that she intended to perform at the parade, and when she learned she was scheduled to work, she informed a manager that she could not. She said she was never notified that she was fired and found out when she couldn’t clock in for work during her next shift.
“I was in absolute shock after being fired,” Brown said. “I followed all the rules for taking off on that day so I could celebrate with my community — and they picked that day to terminate me. I felt so humiliated.”
Carolyn Wald, an attorney with the ACLU in Illinois, said Circle K’s actions were unacceptable and illegal.
“Employers should never advance the bigotry of some employees over the safety, well-being and success of others,” Wald said.
Brown is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, including for lost wages and benefits, attorneys’ fees and damages for emotional distress.
A group of LGBTQ creators has sued YouTube and its parent company Google, alleging that the video platform was regularly restricting their abilities to make money with their videos based on their sexual orientation.
The lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in California Tuesday and first reported by The Washington Post Wednesday morning, seeks class-action status.
YouTube did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday morning.
“YouTube is engaged in discriminatory, anticompetitive, and unlawful conduct that harms a protected class of persons under California law,” the lawsuit alleges. It was filed on behalf of the creators of GNews!, Bria Kam and Chrissy Chambers (BriaAndChrissy), Chase Ross (uppercaseCHASE1), Lindsay Amer (Queer Kid Stuff) and Amp Somers (Watts The Safeword).
In their lawsuit, these creators allege that YouTube regularly labels their videos as offensive or sexually explicit simply because of their sexual orientation. They also allege that their videos are regularly being demonetized, that YouTube changes their thumbnail videos, and excludes them from content recommendations, resulting in suppressed view counts.
This all happens while YouTube doesn’t enforce its content policies against users harassing LGBTQ creators, the lawsuit alleges:
“Defendants’ control and regulation of speech on YouTube has resulted in a chaotic cesspool where popular, compliant, top quality, and protected LGBTQ+ content is restricted, stigmatized, and demonetized as “shocking,” “inappropriate,” “offensive,” and “sexually explicit,” while homophobic and racist hatemongers run wild and are free to post vile and obscene content on the pages and channels of the LGBTQ+ Plaintiffs and other LGBTQ+ content creators.”
To further make their case, the plaintiffs published a video on YouTube Wednesday morning:
The lawsuit comes just a few months after YouTube faced a backlash over the way it handled homophobic speech on its platform. At the time, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki apologized for its handling of a particularly high-profile case, which involved the far-right YouTube commentator Steven Crowder mocking gay Vox journalist Carlos Maza.
“I know the decision we made was very hurtful to the LGBT community and that was not our intention at all,” she said during an interview at Recode’s Code Conference.
The lawsuit alleges that this was just a PR exercise: “Instead of taking LGBTQ+ reports of viewpoint discrimination and selective restrictions on LGBTQ+ content seriously, Ms. Wojcicki spent some of her “personal vacation” time doing carefully scripted PR or “selfie” interviews with selected YouTubers.”
The lawsuit also cites recent reports by the New York Times that suggested that the video platform was in part to blame for the election of Brazil’s far-right and homophobic president Jair Bolsonaro, and reference recent appearances of Google and YouTube executives in congressional hearings.
In addition to monetary compensation, the lawsuit is also asking the court to order an injunction that would stop YouTube from “censoring, restricting, restraining, or regulating speech based on the discretionary use or application of discriminatory, animus-based, arbitrary, capricious, vague, unspecified, or subjective criteria, rules, guidelines, and/or practices.”
In a stunning move the Trump Dept. of Justice is trying to get the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission(EEOC) to reverse years of findings and rulings, and declare that discrimination against LGBT workers is legal. The EEOC does not make law but its findings are highly-regarded and taken into account by the courts.
Now, the DOJ is “urging,” as Bloomberg Law reports, the EEOC to “flip” its position, and tell the U.S. Supreme Court discriminating against LGBT workers is not a form of sex bias and therefore is totally legal.
“Political leadership in the Solicitor General’s office wants the EEOC on board to show the high court that the Trump administration is now unified in the belief that Congress didn’t have lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender workers in mind when it passed a federal workplace discrimination law more than five decades ago,” Bloomberg Law states.
The government has until Friday to decide how it will proceed – united or not.00:1100:44
The EEOC successfully sued on behalf of a transgender woman who worked as a funeral home director in Michigan, but was fired when she said she would be transitioning. The Justice Dept. would like the case reversed by the Supreme Court.
Bloomberg says it’s “unlikely” the EEOC will reverse course, but it also reports the DOJ could just roll over the EEOC. Given its history under the Trump administration, it seems that is more likely to happen than Bloomberg suggests.
LGBT people, especially transgender people, could be subjected to discrimination, harassment, and identity theft if careful government controls are not placed on rapidly developing and widely used facial recognition technology, according to the group LGBT Tech.
The Staunton, Va.-based group has joined six other LGBT organizations in signing on to a June 3, 2019 letter written by the ACLU calling on Congress to place a moratorium on the use of facial recognition technology for law enforcement and immigration enforcement purposes until privacy related restrictions can be developed for the technology.
“The well documented potential for abuse and misuse of these tools built by giant and influential companies as well as government and law enforcement agencies should give serious pause to anyone who values their privacy – especially members of communities that have been historically marginalized and discriminated against,” said LGBT Tech deputy director and general counsel Carlos Gutierrez in a July 18 op-ed column.
“Without proper privacy protections in place, data breaches that target facial recognition data may become far more likely,” Gutierrez said. “In the wrong hands, a person’s previously undisclosed sexual orientation or gender identity can become a tool for discrimination, harassment, or harm to their life or livelihood,” he said.
“The risks to transgender, nonbinary, or gender non-conforming individuals are even more acute,” he continued.
Gutierrez and other experts familiar with software already in use that uses facial recognition technology say the software has been programmed to divide the people it recognizes as male and female based on their biological or physiological gender.
“The extent of the misgendering problem was highlighted in a recent report that found that over the last three decades of facial recognition, researchers used a binary construct to gender over 90 percent of the time and understood gender to be solely a physiological construct over 80 percent of the time,” Gutierrez said.
He and other experts monitoring the technology say the inability of most of the software now in use, including the software expected to be used for security screening at all airports by 2020, could have a devastating impact on transgender people attempting to board a plane.
“We are deeply concerned about the growth and lack of efficacy of facial recognition technology as a means of increasing security in airports or any other public space,” said Gillian Branstetter, media relations manager for the National Center for Transgender Equality.
“The technologies most frequently sold by vendors have proven biases against women and people of color born of inaccuracies and oversights in their development,” she told the Blade in a statement.
“Just as well, they have consistently misidentified transgender people in academic studies, perhaps providing an automated way to out trans people while we’re traveling or just living our lives,” Branstetter said. “In a worst case scenario, such a technology could be used to ensure transgender people are excluded from gendered spaces, including locker rooms and restrooms.”
Added Branstetter: “The use and growth of the technology’s popularity has plainly outpaced the law, and we’ve urged Congress and government agencies to respond to and assess the risks of these technologies before implementing them.”
The National Center for Transgender Equality and LGBT Tech are among seven LGBT groups that joined 29 civil liberties, privacy rights, civil rights, investor, and faith groups in signing a letter drafted by the ACLU calling on Congress to intervene to regulate facial recognition technology.
The other LGBT groups that signed on to the letter include CenterLink: The Community of LGBT Centers, Equality North Carolina, National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund, PFLAG National, and TRANScending Barriers of Atlanta.
The letter notes that federal government agencies, including the FBI, have continued to expand the use of facial recognition technology without safeguards.
“The FBI has access to over 400 million photos for face matching, including the driver’s license databases of over fifteen states and passport application photos, has performed hundreds of thousands of face recognition searches, and is now reportedly piloting new uses of the technology,” the letter says.
“This capability threatens to create a world where people are watched and identified as they attend a protest, congregate outside a place of worship, visit a medical provider, or simply go about their daily lives,” the ACLU letter states.
In his op-ed, Gutierrez of LGBT Tech stressed the need for government regulation of facial recognition technology.
“Members of the LGBTQ+ community cannot shoulder the burden of lax digital privacy standards without also assuming unnecessary risks to their safety online and offline,” he said. “Our vibrant communities deserve comprehensive, national privacy protections to fully participate in society and live without the fear that their data – biometric or otherwise – will be used to further entrench existing bias and prejudice.”
Transgender rights advocate Dana Beyer, co-founder of the trans group Gender Rights Maryland, said the urgency for adopting government regulations for the technology can’t be overstated.
“I think the problem goes far beyond the trans community, as is the case with most things happening today, but should we not turn things around in 15 months this will definitely become a tool to make trans lives miserable,” she said.
The D.C.-based Capital Area Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce announced on Aug. 2 that it’s changing its name and rebranding its image for the second time in its 28-year history.
Its new name will be the Equality Chamber of Commerce DC Metro Area (ECCDC).
“Originally founded as the Potomac Executive Network (PEN), the Chamber began when being associated with an organization that had ‘gay’ in its name would end a career or business,” the organization said in a statement.
“Eventually rebranding to the Capital Area Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (CAGLCC), its members were proud to ‘come out’ as an organization,” the statement says. “With the continued advancement of the LGBTQ rights movement,” the Chamber announced in its Aug. 2 statement, “‘gay and lesbian’ no longer reflects where it is as an organization, nor where the LGBTQ rights movement should be.”
In a separate statement on social media, the organization’s president, Van Goodwin, stated, “We are changing our brand to reflect both the progress we’ve made in being a more inclusive organization and where we want to continue to grow…We believe more LGBTQ professionals and business owners should have a seat at the table, and we want you to have a seat at ours.”
The first statement says that in connection with the rebrand, the Chamber plans to host special public and members-only events over the next few months, including an official rebrand celebration for its members on Aug. 22. Goodwin told the Blade the organization’s new website, eccdc.biz, would be officially live by Monday, Aug. 12.
Technology companies are often portrayed as being progressive businesses, but their political spending suggests otherwise. Activist group Zero for Zeros analyzed political contributions made by the highest-scoring companies on the Human Rights Campaign’s (HRC) Corporate Equality Index, a benchmarking tool that focuses on measuring corporate policies and practices for LGBTQ employees. It found that while many companies talk a big game when it comes to equality, they have quietly been lining the pockets of politicians who support regressive and oppressive measures that tread on LGBTQ rights.
Tech companies were particularly noteworthy offenders, racking up $1,312,560 in contributions that were spread around to ten members of the House and 19 Senators were identified by HRC as the worst-of-the-worst when it comes to LGBT issues. The “FAANG” companies — Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google — accounted for $356,000 of that total, with Amazon leading the way by giving $178,500 to anti-LGBTQ politicians. Facebook gave $100,000, while Amazon added $77,500. (Netflix and Apple did not make contributions to any of HRC’s lowest-scoring politicians, per Zero for Zeros’ data).
Several other tech firms contributed more than $100,000 to politicians who have pushed for laws that harm LGBTQ people over the last decade. Microsoft gave $238,500, while T-Mobile contributed $101,500. AT&T, one of the largest telecom providers in the country, was also the largest single contributor tracked by Zero for Zeros. It gave a total of $460,000 to anti-LGBTQ legislators. This, perhaps, shouldn’t come as a surprise, as the company has come under fire for its contributions to socially regressive politicians in the past.
Popular Information reported earlier this year that AT&T is one of the biggest financial backers of politicians pushing incredibly restrictive anti-abortion legislation in states like Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi and Ohio. The corporation also gave nearly $200,000 to the legislators who introduced and voted for laws that would effectively ban abortion. Popular Information also noted that during Pride Month in June, AT&T gave another $144,500 to politicians and leadership PACs that push anti-LGBTQ laws. That included a donation to Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), who proposed legislation to deny medical treatment to trans members of the military — made while AT&T was sporting a rainbow flag avatar on its social media accounts.
Tech companies and corporations as a whole have made it a habit to express their support for LGBTQ causes when it is most convenient. It’s easy to put out lukewarm statements full of platitudes about equality when everyone else is doing it. But when it comes down to it, these companies will put their own interests before those of the marginalized groups they claim to support. All you have to do to find proof of that is follow the money.
Stephen Ross, the billionaire investor behind SoulCycle and Equinox gym, is under fire for plans to host a fundraiser for President Trump in the Hamptons.
The fundraiser is scheduled for August 9 in Southampton, New York, with top priced tickets selling for $250,000, which includes a meeting with the president.
Ross is chairman of The Related Companies, a real estate company that owns Equinox, SoulCycle, and Pure Yoga. Related Companies is also behind the Hudson Yards development on the west side of Manhattan.
Ross is also the owner of NFL team the Miami Dolphins.
Equinox and SoulCycle are popular with the LGBTQ community and soon after the news broke, activists were calling for a boycott of the brands. Equinox itself touts its “clubs” as LGBTQ friendly and has a significant presence in LGBTQ pride parades around the country.
“This Pride, we’re celebrating life with one of the most powerful forms of movement—voguing,” says Equinox’s “Powered by Pride” website, which said the company raised $20,000 for a New York City Ballroom charity, and even posted a #PoweredByPride Equinox playlist on Spotify.
In a post on Instagram, Equinox acknowledged that “many members raised their concerns about a political fundraiser taking place later this week.”
“We want to let you know that Equinox and SoulCycle have nothing to do with the event and do not support it,” Equinox wrote, claiming that “no company profits are used to fund politicians.”
“Mr. Ross is a passive investor and is not involved with the management of the business,” the statement continued.
“We believed that we were supporting a company that was inclusive, accepting and celebrating our diversity and supporting our physical and mental health as a community,” Cruz wrote. “We joined this gym because we believed it shared our values. We believed it was a safe space for people like us.”
“[I]f this fundraiser indeed does take place we will be looking for another gym to give our money to and we will be calling on our networks of LGBTQ and POC friends to do the same,” Cruz wrote.
Kenny Stills, wide receiver for Ross’ Miami Dolphins, criticized the move by saying it was at odds with the mission of the charitable organization founded by Ross. The Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality is a nonprofit which says its mission is to educate and empower the sports community “to eliminate racial discrimination, champion social justice and improve race relations.”
“You can’t have a non profit with this mission statement then open your doors to Trump,” Stills tweeted with a “skeptical” emoji.
Phillipe Reines, a former advisor to Hillary Clinton when she was Secretary of State, said on Twitter “No way to spin this. Boycott @soulcycle & @Equinox.”
Many others took to social media to say that they are canceling their Equinox membership, though others noted that it is very difficult to extract oneself from onerous contracts which allow few reasons for cancellation.
Gay actor and comedian Billy Eichner also tweeted that he canceled his membership. “There are a handful of billionaires who own everything and many support Trump,” Eichner wrote. “Practically speaking, it’s probably impossible to completely avoid them. But considering @Equinox’s clientele and how they’ve pandered to us, this one feels particularly hypocritical and shameful.”
New York Sports Clubs, a competitor, offered free admissions to its gyms on Friday: “This Friday, August 9th we’re not doing anything in Southampton,” NYSC tweeted. “Come work out with us.”
Ross issued a statement on Wednesday defending his political activism and gave no indication he would cancel the fundraiser.
“While some prefer to sit outside of the process and criticize, I prefer to engage directly and support the things I deeply care about,” Ross said in the statement given to NBC News.
“I have known Donald Trump for 40 years, and while we agree on some issues, we strongly disagree on many others and I have never been bashful about expressing my opinions,” Ross said. “I have been, and will continue to be, an outspoken champion of racial equality, inclusion, diversity, public education and environmental sustainability, and I have and will continue to support leaders on both sides of the aisle to address these challenges.”
According to the Washington Post, the event will be attended by Jared Kushner, Donald Trump Jr., Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, as well as Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale.
After a few days the banner stopped appearing for lesbian-related search terms, and Google reportedly would not provide an explanation for its disappearance.
When questioned at a later date, Pandu Nayak, Google’s vice president of search engine quality, said: “I find that these [search] results are terrible, there is no doubt about it.
“We are aware that there are problems like this, in many languages and different researches. We have developed algorithms to improve this research, one after the other.”
He noted Google’s prior issues with the words ‘girl’ and ‘teen,’ which also linked to porn sites before algorithm changes were made.
“We have taken measures in cases where, when there is a reason for the word to be interpreted in a non-pornographic way, that interpretation is put forward,” he explained, adding that such structural changes “take time.”
Google has since taken action and as of July 19, the top search results for the term ‘lesbian’ are news articles and the lesbian Wikipedia page. These results will appear even if Safe Search is not active.