Today, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) called on Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló to veto a bill passed by the Senate on Sunday that could allow anyone who claims a religious exemption the right to discriminate against the Commonwealth’s LGBTQ community and visitors.
“This legislation would allow a dangerous license to discriminate, putting LGBTQ people and other marginalized communities directly in harm’s way,” said Sarah Warbelow, HRC Legal Director. “Leaders in Puerto Rico should focus on bringing its citizens together — not on measures that would cause harm and discrimination.”
The bill, a Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) similar to the bill Vice President Pence disastrously signed into law as governor of Indiana, would empower individuals to pick and choose which laws they want to follow and allow an individual to sue government actors, including teachers, firefighters and police officers, if that individual believes their religious rights were being violated by a government action. Recently, a for profit business owner in Michigan used a RFRA to justify firing a transgender woman when she informed her boss about her plans to transition. This stands in stark contrast to Puerto Rico’s progress on LGBTQ equality in recent years, including laws banning anti-LGBTQ discrimination and adding gender identity and sexual orientation to statutes addressing domestic violence, as well as executive orders prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity in hospitals and allowing transgender persons to change their gender marker on driver’s licenses.
San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, currently focused on Hurricane Maria recovery efforts in her city, stated: “Discrimination–whatever it may be–disguises hatred, fear, and ignorance. There will never be a justification to hide it behind any law.”
Wednesday, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) claimed victory as Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley announced that Jeff Mateer, a radical anti-LGBTQ judicial nominee, would not be confirmed for a seat on the federal bench. Since the day the Trump-Pence administration announced their intent to nominate Mateer to a lifetime judicial appointment, HRC worked diligently to expose his shameful anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and the danger his nomination posed to our judicial system.
“Jeff Mateer’s extreme rhetoric and hateful comments are disqualifying for any public official and should have prevented Donald Trump from nominating him to begin with,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “We thank the Senators who expressed concern about this dangerous nominee and the many supporters who joined us to #StopJeffMateer. We will continue to fight back against the Trump-Pence administration’s attempt to appoint extremists across our judicial system and roll back our progress towards equality.”
Trump nominated Jeff Mateer to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. In a 2015 speech titled “The Church and Homosexuality,” Mateer objected to a transgender student using a restroom consistent with her gender identity, saying “I mean it just really shows you how Satan’s plan is working and the destruction that’s going on.” He defended then-Indiana Governor Mike Pence’s ‘license-to-discriminate’ bill and objected to efforts to alter the legislation. Mateer fought against non-discrimination protections for the LGBTQ community in Plano and San Antonio, Texas, and he even supports the dangerous and debunked practice of so-called “conversion therapy.” Mateer also claimed that marriage equality will lead to bestiality.
HRC lead a robust campaign to #StopJeffMateer and expose his shameful history of attacking LGBTQ people:
The Supreme Court of Hawai’i today heard oral argument in the case of C.C. v. D.D., in which Lambda Legal is urging the Court to uphold a lower court ruling that, just like different-sex spouses, same-sex spouses must be treated as the presumed parents of children born during their marriage, with equal rights and equal responsibilities, including legal parentage and child support.
The case involves a dispute between a married same-sex couple regarding whether the non-biological mother, C.C., is a legal parent to their child and thus responsible for paying child support. Lambda Legal is representing the biological mother, D.D., who gave birth to a child conceived through assisted reproduction using anonymous donor sperm, during the couple’s marriage. (The parties are identified only by pseudonym initials during the oral argument.)
Among other things, C.C. is asking the appeals court to hold that she is not a legal parent – and to relieve her of her child support obligations – simply because she is not biologically related to the child. The lower court rejected this argument and found that C.C. was a legal parent under the Uniform Parentage Act and Marriage Equality Act, both of which operate to presume that the legal spouse of a birth parent is also a parent, a longstanding feature of family law that is intended to protect the well-being of children.
Today, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights submitted comments to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights as they held a hearing to examine the issue of extrajudicial killings by law enforcement officers, and the U.S. government’s failure to protect its people from such actions.
“Since the advent of modern policing and for the past several decades, our laws have largely failed to ensure the justice that our Constitution professes to afford. Police brutality and discriminatory policing practices will continue to exist in the United States unless the federal government and Congress take stronger action to prevent them by implementing these recommendations. It is crucial that we continue to examine the challenges facing law enforcement in the 21st century, including an examination of the tension that has developed between law enforcement and communities of color, and advocate for transformative solutions that will promote lawful, fair, and effective police practices and accountability measures,” said Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference, in her submission.
The Leadership Conference notes that to effectively and comprehensively address these issues and the challenges facing law enforcement in the 21st century, we must transform the way that law enforcement officers interact with the community. This includes rebuilding police-community trust and ensuring accountability for any officers or departments that engage in civil and human rights violations. This can be accomplished by:
Training law enforcement officers on implicit bias, use of force, and de-escalation tactics;
Replacing “broken windows” policing with the community policing model;
Demilitarizing the police force and preventing the deployment of military weapons against communities of color;
Unequivocally and explicitly prohibiting racial profiling;
Developing uniform accreditation procedures and standards for police departments nationwide;
Increasing community oversight and federal oversight over local law enforcement through civilian review boards, criminal and civil rights investigations, and consent decrees; and
Requiring law enforcement departments to collect and report data – disaggregated by race – on incidents of police use of force and other police-civilian encounters.
The Leadership Conference’s full submission can be read here.
Today, the U.S. Supreme Court announced it will not review the Lambda Legal case on behalf of Jameka Evans, a Savannah security guard who was harassed at work and forced from her job because she is a lesbian.
“By declining to hear this case, the Supreme Court is delaying the inevitable and leaving a split in the circuits that will cause confusion across the country,” said Greg Nevins, Employment Fairness Project Director for Lambda Legal. “But this was not a “no” but a “not yet,” and rest assured that Lambda Legal will continue the fight, circuit by circuit as necessary, to establish that the Civil Rights Act prohibits sexual orientation discrimination. The vast majority of Americans believe that LGBT people should be treated equally in the workplace. The public is on the right side of history; it’s unfortunate that the Supreme Court has refused to join us today, but we will continue to invite them to do the right thing and end this hurtful balkanization of the right of LGBT people to be out at work.”
“This term will not see the Supreme Court provide a national remedy to stop the pervasive discrimination against LGBT people in the workplace. But don’t despair; if you have experienced discrimination in the workplace, please contact Lambda Legal’s Help Desk,” said Nevins. “We urge Congress to pass a federal law explicitly banning discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”
Several federal courts have affirmed the argument that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, when properly understood, protects LGBT employees. Most notably, the full Seventh Circuit overruled four of its precedents and ruled in April that Lambda Legal client Kimberly Hively could proceed under the Civil Rights Act with her claim that Indiana-based Ivy Tech Community College discriminated against her because she is a lesbian. In September, Lambda Legal argued before the full Second Circuit, which is reexamining two of its precedents in Zarda v. Altitude Express, the case of a New York skydiving instructor who was fired from his job because he was gay. No ruling has been issued yet in Zarda.
“Thousands of lives are already at risk and if Congress fails to act, many more dreamers — including more than 75,000 LGBTQ dreamers — will also be forced to face the real and dangerous threat of deportation,” said Alejandro Avilés, HRC’s Director of Outreach and Engagement. “It is unacceptable to use these young people as political pawns and Congress must act this year to pass a clean DREAM Act and address this problem created by the Trump-Pence administration. Today and everyday, HRC is proud to join forces with United We Dream, Center for Community Change, SEIU and many others to stand with all Dreamers and calls on Congress to pass a clean DREAM Act.”
HRC President Chad Griffin said: “HRC continues to stand with more than 800,000 of our neighbors, friends, and family members whose livelihoods are being threatened by the Trump-Pence administration’s open assault on Dreamers and immigrants. In this country, we share a belief that a person’s circumstances at birth, or where their life takes them as a child, shouldn’t determine their ability to pursue the American dream. We urge Congress to protect these innocent Dreamers from the Trump-Pence administration’s heartless and cruel attacks.”
This year, the Trump-Pence administration announced the cruel decision to end DACA and created an arbitrary deadline for Congress to impose a legislative fix. The announcement is ending a five-year-old program that has allowed hundreds of thousands of young people who were brought to the U.S. as minors to stay in the only country they’ve ever known. Every day, more and more dreamers are having their DACA status expire.
This week, HRC joined with 127 LGBTQ and allied organizations in a letter calling on Congress to pass a clean Dream Act before the end of the year. The organizations made clear that Dreamers are a part of the American family and help make our communities vibrant.
Over 75,000 Dreamers identify as LGBTQ and over 36,000 of them have benefited from DACA. For these young people, the threat of deportation can hold an additional element of uncertainty, since they may be sent to countries with poor LGBTQ human rights records. For example, in El Salvador, transgender women have faced such a tremendous upsurge in violence that the United Nations called for an investigation into the situation.
Nancy Haque’s parents understood discrimination — after moving to the U.S. from Bangladesh, they endured threats, even glass under the tires of the family car. But Haque says the discrimination she faces as a queer woman is different.
“As the child of immigrant parents, it’s not like I had to come out as being South Asian,” Haque laughs. “But I think that we didn’t talk about discrimination.”
She talks about it now. Haque is co-director of Basic Rights Oregon, an LGBTQ advocacy group based in Portland. She is committed to bringing civil rights issues to the forefront of LGBTQ organizing.
In 2017, Haque says, “if you’re an LGBTQ organization that hasn’t taken on racial justice as a key part of who you are and what you do, then you’re irrelevant.” That is because the discrimination that LGBTQ people of color experience and the resources they have to combat it are compounded by their intersecting identities.
According to a new poll by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, LGBTQ people of color are more than twice as likely as their white counterparts to say they’ve been discriminated against because they are LGBTQ in applying for jobs and interacting with police.
The National Black Justice Coalition focuses on the intersection of racial justice and LGBTQ rights. Isaiah Wilson, the coalition’s director of external affairs, says LGBTQ people of color are “the most impacted communities” when it comes to discrimination, “be it trans military service, be it access to health care, or if you look at employment.”
And according to demographic data collected by the Williams Institute, black LGBTQ people are more likely to live where other black folks live — many of them in the South, says Wilson, “where we don’t have state and local protections to be out.”
Wilson says given this compounded discrimination, LGBTQ people of color need support. But they don’t always get it — because the LGBTQ movement at large has had different priorities. Namely, organizing around the fight for marriage equality that culminated with the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.
“When you’re continuing as a community to face discrimination, harassment, even violence,” Wilson explains, “marriage is a luxury. Surviving, being able to participate in community, being able to provide for our families — if I can’t do that, who’s thinking about a marriage certificate?”
And while communities of color come together around the discrimination and harassment they face, they may not always see LGBTQ issues as part of the same struggle.
In the Latino community, for example, “the perception … is that it’s always been a conservative community,” says Ingrid Duran, founder of Familia Es Familia, a group that aims to increase LGBTQ acceptance among Latinos.
And, she adds, “that conservative element comes along with religious beliefs” — primarily those of the Catholic Church, which regards homosexuality as a sin.
But Duran says that is changing. The U.S. Latino population is very young, and young people are increasingly moving away from organized religion — and the Catholic Church itself is changing. And, Duran says, the Latino community is changing on queer issues, especially when there has been outreach and education from groups like Familia es Familia, because of the cultural priority on family.
“Nine times out of 10, a grandparent or a parent is going to accept their child. Because it is their family,” Duran says. “And they still hold the same values that they held five minutes before they came out to you.”
Some LGBTQ people of color, like Geeta Lewis, never have a chance to come out to their families. Lewis, a black trans woman, recently explained why at a leadership program organized by Basic Rights Oregon.
“Because of the kind of systemic oppression that is typical of people of color, particularly black people, I, at 61, have lived longer than anybody else in my family,” she told the group.
Lewis vows to spend the rest of her life fighting entrenched discrimination, so that the next generation of LGBTQ people of color can have a different future: one that is less marked by the kinds of losses she has suffered. She joins a growing number of activists who see that fight as their right, and their duty.
A majority of Americans say they think senior members of Donald Trump’s administration definitely or probably had improper contacts with Russia during last year’s presidential campaign. And most are at least somewhat confident that special counsel Robert Mueller will conduct a fair investigation into the matter.
Republicans and Democrats are deeply divided in views of possible wrongdoing by senior administration officials, as well as in confidence in Mueller to conduct a fair investigation. In addition, while just 19% of Republicans view the Russia probe as “very important” to the nation, more than three times as many Democrats (71%) say the same.
The new national survey by Pew Research Center, conducted Nov. 29-Dec. 4 among 1,503 adults, finds that President Trump’s job approval rating has declined over the course of his first year in office.
Currently, 32% of the public approves of the way Trump is handling his job as president, while 63% disapprove. Trump’s job approval is little changed since October (34%), but lower than in early February (39%), a few weeks after Trump’s inauguration. Pew Research Center surveys are based on the general public, rather than registered or likely voters. Trump’s approval rating in the current survey among registered voters is 34%. (For more on the differences in these bases, see “A basic question when reading a poll: Does it include or exclude nonvoters?”).
While just 30% of Americans think senior Trump officials definitely had improper contacts with Russia during the campaign, a majority (59%) thinks such contacts definitely or probably occurred; 30% think they definitely or probably did not happen. In views of Mueller’s investigation, 56% are very or somewhat confident he will conduct the probe fairly.
Only about a quarter of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (26%) say Trump officials definitely or probably had improper contacts with Russia during the campaign; 82% of Democrats and Democratic leaners think there were improper contacts – with 49% saying they definitely took place. About two-thirds of Democrats (68%) and 44% Republicans say they are at least somewhat confident Mueller’s investigation will be conducted fairly.
The survey was being conducted when Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, pleaded guilty to lying about contacts with Russian officials during the presidential transition. There are no significant differences in opinions about whether senior administration officials had improper campaign contacts with Russia, or in views of Mueller’s investigation, in interviewing conducted before and after Flynn pleaded guilty on Dec. 1.
The survey finds broad partisan agreement about the importance of the tax debate in Congress: 71% of Republicans and 70% of Democrats say “proposed changes to the federal tax system” are a very important issue for the country. However, Democrats are more likely to view several other current developments as very important, including the issue of sexual harassment and assault (81% of Democrats say this is very important, compared with 61% of Republicans) and the possibility of a government shutdown in coming weeks (65% vs. 47%). (For more on the public’s views of recent reports of sexual misconduct see Women, Men in Both Parties Say Sexual Harassment Allegations Reflect ‘Widespread Problems in Society’)
In addition, more Democrats (55%) than Republicans (46%) say the status of immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as children is a very important issue.
No current development or issue, among five tested, is as divisive as the investigation into Russia’s alleged involvement in the 2016 election. Few Republicans (19%) regard the investigation as very important, while another 15% say it is somewhat important; a majority (64%) say it is not too important (19%) or not at all important (45%). By comparison, just 10% of Democrats view the Russia investigation as either not too important or not at all important.
Views of Trump among his approvers and disapprovers
Trump’s job rating of 32% is lower than those of recent presidents dating back to Ronald Reagan near the end of their first year in office. In follow-up questions, those who approve of Trump were asked if he has done things that have disappointed them, while those who disapprove (63% of the public) were asked if he has done things they have been happy with.
Overall, 37% of Trump approvers cite something Trump has done to disappoint them (62% say they can’t think of anything). In December 2009, by comparison, somewhat fewer (30%) of those who approved of Barack Obama’s job performance said there was something Obama had done that had made them unhappy; at the time, Obama’s job approval was 49%.
The criticisms raised by Trump supporters are quite different from those cited by Obama’s backers eight years ago. About a quarter (26%) say they have been disappointed by aspects of Trump’s personal style, with 14% specifically mentioning his use of Twitter or social media. An identical share (14%) points to his behavior or speech. Only 13% of those who approve of Trump cite a disappointment related to policy.
In December 2009, disappointments among those who gave Obama a positive job rating were mostly about policies, not Obama’s personal style. Just 5% of those who approved of Obama cited an aspect of Obama’s personality or style, while 29% said they had been disappointed by policies such as Afghanistan or health care.
Among the majority of Americans who disapprove of Trump’s job performance, 14% say there is something he has done that they have been happy with (84% say they are unable to think of anything). The most frequent responses focus on Trump’s domestic policies (8%), while just 3% mention his personal style. Eight years ago, a higher share of those who disapproved of Obama (24%) said there was something they had been happy with; as with Trump, most who disapproved of Obama’s job performance in 2009 cited policies, rather than his style, as what they had been happy with.
Trump’s first-year job rating
Since Trump became president, his job approval ratings have been more polarized than past presidents during their first year in office. That remains the case today, but his job ratings are lower today among Republicans than they were in February. His ratings are virtually unchanged among Democrats.
Currently, 76% of Republicans and Republican leaners approve of Trump’s job performance, compared with 84% who did so in February. Trump’s job approval among Democrats and Democratic leaners is 7%, about the same as in February (8%).
In addition, Trump’s job rating has declined among several groups that gave him relatively high ratings in February, including older adults (38% of those 50 and older approve today, compared with 47% who did so in February) and whites (41% now, 49% then), as well as white evangelical Protestants (61% now, 78% then).
Trump’s job ratings continue to be divided by gender and education. While 40% of men approve of the way Trump is handling his job as president, only 25% of women do so. Fewer than a third of adults with postgraduate degrees (24%) or four-year college degrees (27%) approve of the way Trump is handling his job, compared with 35% of those who have not completed college.
Trump’s job approval rating among members of his own party, while lower today than at the beginning of the year, is in line with those of most of his predecessors. The lone exception is George W. Bush, whose job rating surged after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
However, Trump’s job ratings among members of the opposing party have been consistently lower than those of recent presidents. For example, Obama lost considerable support among Republicans in 2009, his first year in office; his job rating among Republicans plummeted from 37% to 18% over the course of the year. Still, Obama’s year-end job rating of 18% among Republicans was more than double Trump’s current job approval among Democrats (7%).
Little change in views of Congress’ productivity
Overall, views of the productivity of Congress are little changed over the past few years. When asked to compare the current Congress to recent sessions, about half of Americans (52%) say that it has accomplished less than usual, 8% say that it has accomplished more, and a third (33%) say that it has accomplished about the same amount as recent sessions of Congress.
The public expressed similar views about congressional productivity in 2014 and 2011. However, earlier in the 2000s and in the late 1990s, views of Congress’ accomplishments were less negative; no more than about four-in-ten said those Congresses had accomplished less than their predecessors.
While overall opinions about congressional productivity have changed little in recent years, there has been substantial movement among partisans.
In July 2014, when Democrats held a narrow majority in the Senate and Republicans held a majority of seats in the House, about six-in-ten (58%) Republicans and Republican leaners said that Congress had accomplished less than usual. Now that Republicans are in control of the White House and Congress, that figure has declined to 37%.
By contrast, Democrats have become much more critical of congressional productivity since 2014. Currently, 66% of Democrats say Congress has accomplished less than in the past, up from 54% three years ago and the highest share saying this in more than 20 years.
Among those who say Congress has accomplished less, more than half (56%) blame Republican leaders for this lack of accomplishment. A smaller share (23%) volunteer that leaders of both parties are to blame, and only a small minority (16%) says Democratic leaders are most to blame for the lack of accomplishments by Congress.
This figure is similar to other points when Republicans held united control of the government. In April 2006, for example, Republicans controlled the presidency and both chambers of Congress, as they do today. At that time, fewer people said Congress had accomplished less (38% then, 52% today), but GOP leaders received most of the blame for this, as they do today.
Views of Mueller’s investigation into Russian involvement in 2016 election
Overall, 56% of Americans are either very (25%) or somewhat (30%) confident that Mueller will conduct a fair investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 election, while 36% say they are not too (20%) or not at all confident (16%) he will do so.
As with opinions about whether or not senior Trump administration officials had improper contact with Russia during the campaign, there are partisan differences in confidence in Mueller: 44% of Republicans and Republican leaners are at least somewhat confident that Robert Mueller will conduct a fair investigation, compared with 68% of Democrats and Democratic leaners. (By comparison, 82% of Democrats vs. just 26% of Republicans say improper contacts definitely or probably occurred).
Views of the investigation are related to beliefs about whether there were improper contacts between senior Trump officials and Russia during the 2106 campaign.
Among those who say that it is at least probable that senior members of the Trump administration had improper contact with Russia, 36% are very confident that Mueller’s investigation will be fair and another 31% are somewhat confident. Among those who think that there was probably or definitely no improper contact, only 12% are very confident in a fair investigation, while 30% are somewhat confident.
Among Republicans and Republican leaners, 58% of those who say senior Trump officials probably or definitely had improper contact with Russia during the 2016 campaign are at least somewhat confident in Mueller to conduct a fair investigation, compared with 39% of those who think no improper contact occurred.
Today, the LGBT Congressional Staff ssociation, Congressional Asian Pacific American Staff Association, Congressional Black Associates, Congressional Hispanic Staff Association, Congressional South Asian American Staff Association, Congressional Vegetarian Staff Association, Italian-American Congressional Staff Association, Professional Administrative Managers Staff Organization, Senate Black Legislative Staff Caucus, Senate GLASS Caucus, and Women’s Congressional Staff Association together issued the following joint statement urging Congress to take additional action regarding workplace sexual harassment:
“Working for Congress is an honor and a privilege for all of us. We work hard to support Members of the House and Senate in their service to the constituents they represent. The #MeToo movement has sparked an important national conversation and brought to light cases of sexual harassment at all levels of Capitol Hill, including between members and staff, between senior staff and the people they manage, and between colleagues. It also made clear what many of us already knew: the current disjointed process for reporting sexual harassment discourages victims from coming forward and has allowed a culture where this type of abuse goes unchecked.
“The legislation that the House and Senate passed to require sexual harassment and workplace rights training for all Members and staff is a step in the right direction. Holding Members of Congress accountable for their actions is critical and we need to reform the current reporting process to protect survivors. Members of Congress and their staff should be held to high standards and our workplace should set an example. It is our hope that Congress takes sexual harassment seriously and considers legislation to address these issues.”
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Congressional Staff Association
Congressional Asian Pacific American Staff Association
Congressional Black Associates
Congressional Hispanic Staff Association
Congressional South Asian American Staff Association
Congressional Vegetarian Staff Association
Italian-American Congressional Staff Association
Professional Administrative Managers Staff OrganizationSenate Black Legislative Staff Caucus
U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, the first member of the LGBT community elected to the U.S. Senate, has been presented with the international Jose Julio Sarria Civil Rights Award.
In 1961, Sarria, War World II Veteran and proud Latino became the first openly gay candidate to run for public office in America. In 1965, Sarria founded the International Court System which has chapters in over 70 cities in the U.S.A., Canada and Mexico. San Diego City Commissioner Nicole Murray Ramirez, chairman, C.E.O. of the International Imperial Council presented the award this week.
Sen.r Baldwin was in San Diego for a special reception at the home of Robert Gleason and Marc Matys.