Calif. Women’s College Makes Trans-Inclusive History

In a historic move, one California college has adopted an explicitly trans-inclusive admissions policy, making it the only school to do so among the nation’s 119 single-sex college programs.

Mills Hall

Last week, Mills College became the first single-sex college in the U.S. to adopt a policy explicitly welcoming transgender students.

The new policy at the all-women school in Oakland, Calif., now extends an explicit invitation to trans students, making it the only school out of the country’s 119 single-sex programs to have implemented such a policy.

The thorough policy language distinguishes between the school’s women-only undergraduate program, and its co-ed graduate program.

“Applicants ‘not assigned to the female sex at birth’ but who self-identify as women are welcome,” reads the new policy, according to San Francisco Chronicle. “Applicants ‘who do not fit into the gender binary’ — being neither male nor female — are eligible if they were ‘assigned to the female sex at birth.’ Students ‘assigned to the female sex at birth’ who have legally become male prior to applying are not eligible unless they apply to the graduate program, which is coeducational. Female students who become male after enrolling may stay and graduate.”

According to Brian O’Rourke, vice president of enrollment and admissions at Mills, between three and five of the school’s 1,000 undergraduate students each year identity as something other than their assigned birth sex. “The purpose of the policy is that we didn’t want students to feel excluded in the application process,” he told the Chronicle.

Pressure continues to mount against single-gender schools with trans-exclusionary admissions policies — most notably, Smith College — though other single-sex programs are taking steps to create a more trans-friendly environment. Earlier this year, GLAAD cochair Jennifer Finney Boylan joined the staff of Barnard College, an all-women’s school in New York.

Source:  The Advocate, “Calif. Women’s College Makes Trans-Inclusive History,” By Parker Marie Molloy, August 27, 2014 1:31 PM ET


Judges chide state lawyers over gay marriage bans

CHICAGO (AP) – Federal appeals judges bristled on Tuesday at arguments defending gay marriage bans in Indiana and Wisconsin, with one Republican appointee comparing them to now-defunct laws that once outlawed weddings between blacks and whites.

ACLU attorney Ken Faulk, center, talks to reporters surrounded by plaintiffs and supporters of gay marriage, after Faulk participated in a hearing before the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on the challenges to Indiana and Wisconsin's gay marriage ban Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

ACLU attorney Ken Faulk, center, talks to reporters surrounded by plaintiffs and supporters of gay marriage, after Faulk participated in a hearing before the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on the challenges to Indiana and Wisconsin’s gay marriage ban Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

As the legal skirmish in the United States over same-sex marriage shifted to the three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, more than 200 people lined up hours before to ensure they got a seat at the much-anticipated hearing.

While judges often play devil’s advocate during oral arguments, the panel’s often-blistering questions for the defenders of the same-sex marriage bans could be a signal the laws may be in trouble – at least at this step in the legal process.

Richard Posner, who was appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1981, hit the backers of the ban the hardest. He balked when Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General Timothy Samuelson repeatedly pointed to “tradition” as the underlying justification for barring gay marriage.

“It was tradition to not allow blacks and whites to marry – a tradition that got swept away,” the 75-year-old judge said. Prohibition of same-sex marriage, Posner said, derives from “a tradition of hate … and savage discrimination” of homosexuals.

Attorneys general in both states asked the appellate court to permanently restore the bans, which were ruled unconstitutional in June. Its ruling could affect hundreds of couples who married after lower courts tossed the bans and before those rulings were stayed pending the Chicago appeal.

Gay marriage is legal in 19 states as well as the District of Columbia, and advocates have won more than 20 court victories around the country since the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the federal government to recognize state-sanctioned gay marriages last year.

The Supreme Court has yet to take up a case, but Utah and Oklahoma’s cases were appealed to the high court and Virginia’s attorney general also asked the justices to weigh in. Appeals court rulings are pending for Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee, while appellate court hearings are scheduled next month for Hawaii, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada and is expected soon in Texas.

Posner, who has a reputation for making lawyers before him squirm, cut off Indiana Solicitor General Thomas Fisher just moments into his presentation and frequently chided him to answer his questions.

At one point, Posner ran through a list of psychological strains the children of unmarried same-sex couples suffered, including having to struggle to grasp why their schoolmates’ parents were married and theirs weren’t.

“What horrible stuff,” Posner said. What benefit to society in barring gay marriage, he asked, outweighs that kind of harm to children?

“All this is a reflection of biology,” Fisher answered. “Men and women make babies, same-sex couples do not… we have to have a mechanism to regulate that, and marriage is that mechanism.”

Samuelson echoed that, telling the hearing that regulating marriage – including by encouraging men and women to marry – was part of a concerted Wisconsin policy to reduce numbers of children born out of wedlock.

“I assume you know how that has been working out in practice?” Judge David Hamilton responded, citing figures that births to single women from 1990 to 2009 rose 53 percent in Wisconsin and 68 percent in Indiana.

While the judges seemed to push defenders of the bans the hardest, they also pressed the side arguing for gay marriage to say just where they themselves would draw the line between who could and couldn’t marry.

Would they argue in favor of polygamy on similar grounds, by pointing to the emotional toll on children in families with multiple mothers or fathers, asked Hamilton, a President Barack Obama appointee.

“If you have two people, it’s going to look like a marriage,” said attorney Kenneth Falk of the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana. “If you have three or four, it doesn’t. … There’s no slippery slope.”

Among those following the arguments in court was plaintiff Ruth Morrison, a retired Indianapolis Fire Department battalion chief. She said that because Indiana won’t recognize the woman she married in another state as her wife, she wouldn’t be able to pass on pension and other benefits if she dies.

“Now Indiana tells us our promises are only good if our spouses are of the opposite sex,” Morrison, wearing a fire department uniform, said during a rally ahead of the hearing Monday night.

A voter-approved constitutional amendment bans gay marriage in Wisconsin. State law prohibits it in Indiana. Neither state recognizes same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. The lawsuits that led to Tuesday’s hearing in Chicago contend that the bans violate the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection guarantee.

Despite the seriousness of the hearing, there was some levity.

At one point, a visibly uncomfortable Samuelson struggled to offer a specific reason for how gay marriage bans benefit society. He then noted a yellow courtroom light was on signaling his allotted time was nearly up.

“It won’t save you,” Judge Ann Claire Williams, a Bill Clinton appointee, told him, prompting laughter in court.

Samuleson smiled, and said: “It was worth a try.”

Source:  Associated Press, “Judges chide state lawyers over gay marriage bans,” by Micahel Tarm, August 26, 2014

Even Former NOM Executives Believe Marriage Equality Is Imminent

Jennifer Roback-Morse, who has a long history working with the antigay National Organization for Marriage, expects marriage equality to be legal nationwide by next fall.

Jennifer Roback-Morse

Amid growing evidence that the antigay right wing has lost its battle opposing same-sex marriage, yet another prominent anti-equality voice has conceded that marriage equality will soon be the law of the land — by next year, according to her estimation.

Jennifer Roback-Morse spent more than a decade affiliated with the antigay National Organization, first as a spokesperson for California’s now-defunct Proposition 8, then as a senior official of NOM’s “Marriage Education Fund.” She still serves as the president of the NOM-backed antigay think tank she founded, known as the Ruth Institute. For the past 20 years, Morse has literally made her living by stoking fears about the cultural and economic doom that marriage equality would bring upon the nation, focusing especially on the scientifically disproven claim that children suffer when they are raised by same-sex parents.

Now, however, Morse is singing a different tune, telling the National Catholic Singles’ Conference in San Diego this month that she wanted to “go on the record” about “what is going to happen as we move along the path of redefining marriage.”

“We’re here, in 2014, talking about the redefinition of marriage. I’m going to go on the record here, and forecast, that by this time next year, it’ll be over, as a legal matter,” Morse continues. “There will be same-sex, genderless marriage in every state in the union.”

Morse went on to apologize to any Texans in the room, telling them that they “are not going to be able to hold out” on maintaining discriminatory marriage laws. (Indeed, a federal judge in February ruled that Texas’ constitutional ban on same-sex marriage violated the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the U.S. Constitution. The state’s attorney general has appealed that ruling.)

Good As You founder, GLAAD correspondent, and an honoree in this year’s Advocate’s 40 Under 40, Jeremy Hooper tracked down this latest piece of audio, noting that the timeline Morse estimates for legal marriage equality nationwide is shorter than even the most ardent pro-equality advocates foresee.

“Even I would allow for a two-year timeline,” writes Hooper. “But if Ms. Roback-Morse wants to help speed up the inevitable, who am I to stop her?”

Morse isn’t the only former antigay talking head to wave the white flag in the fight for equal marriage rights. Last year, former NOM president Maggie Gallagher began echoing a similar refrain, encouraging antigay activists to focus on finding ways to survive in the amoral landscape that she believes will come about if LGBT couples are allowed to marry the person of their choice.

Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, an outspoken opponent to marriage equality, the repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ and supporter of the now-overturned federal Defense of Marriage Act, told a local radio station in May that “anybody who does not believe that gay marriage is going to be the law of the land hasn’t been observing what’s been going on.” He anticipated that the U.S. Supreme Court, when it takes up at least one of the several cases seeking marriage equality before it, will rule in favor of same-sex couples’ right to marry.

Currently, same-sex couples can legally marry in 19 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. Nationwide, there are 79 lawsuits aiming to strike down individual state laws banning same-sex marriage, being advanced in 32 states and territories, according to advocacy group Freedom to Marry. Since last summer’s landmark Supreme Court rulings, which struck down DOMA and California’s Prop. 8, 37 state and federal judges have ruled in favor of equality. Just one — a state judge in Tennessee — determined that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage was constitutional.

Source:  The Advocate, “Even Former NOM Executives Believe Marriage Equality Is Imminent,” by Sunnivie Brydum, August 20,2014 7:12 PM ET

Crimes against humanity lawsuit against anti-gay evangelist Pastor Scott Lively, of Springfield, advances in federal court

SPRINGFIELD — A federal judge has refused to dismiss a lawsuit against controversial Pastor Scott Lively filed in 2012, alleging crimes against humanity linked to Lively’s work in Uganda evangelizing against homosexuality.

Pastor Scott Lively stands outside federal court in Springfield, addressing reporters. Republican File Photo.

Pastor Scott Lively stands outside federal court in Springfield, addressing reporters. Republican File Photo.

Lawyers for human rights groups Sexual Minorities Uganda and the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights filed the lawsuit amid loud applause from gay rights activists. Each court date for the case draws a considerable number of protesters to the federal courthouse on State Street.

Lawyers for Lively attempted to argue for dismissing the case on a number of fronts including jurisdictional issues and free speech protections under the First Amendment. Lively also contended there is a lack of evidence linking him to the alleged persecution of anyone in Uganda.

Filed in March 2012, the lawsuit accuses Lively of fanning anti-gay flames in the East African country during an address to parliament members in 2009.

U.S. District Court Judge Michael A. Ponsor rejected the jurisdictional claims by the defendant, ruling that the plaintiffs were on solid ground under international and federal law and that First Amendment arguments were “premature.”

“He has allegedly supported and actively participated in worldwide initiatives, with a substantial focus on Uganda, aimed at repressing free expression by LGBTI groups,
destroying the organizations that support them, intimidating LGBTI individuals, and even criminalizing the very status of being lesbian or gay,” Ponsor wrote in a 79-page ruling issued last week.

Lively declined to comment for this story on the advice of his lawyer. However, he has not shied away from answering his detractors in the past. He runs and preaches at the Holy Grounds Cafe on State Street, where his supporters have said that Lively saved them from homelessness and substance abuse, and offered counsel during their lowest moments.

His lawyer, Horatio G. Mihet, of “Liberty Counsel” in Orlando, Fla., issued a brief statement:

“We are disappointed with the decision because we believe SMUG’s claims are firmly foreclosed, not only by the First Amendment right to free speech, but also by the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Kiobel, which eliminated Alien Tort Statute claims for events that allegedly occurred in foreign nations. We are still reviewing the Court’s ruling, and will continue to vigorously defend Mr. Lively’s constitutional rights, with confidence that he will ultimately be vindicated,” Mihet wrote.

Lively, a Shelburne Falls native, at one time said he was exploring a run for governor and posted on his blog late last year that God had a hand in blowing up a strip club on Worthington Street. The blast was actually due to a punctured natural gas line.

When asked by a reporter about the rationale behind his theory that the strip club was leveled by divine intervention, Lively responded:

“My prayer is and has been for God to save the people and destroy the institutions. I think this is a good example of that though it is only speculation that (the cause of the explosion) was God. The fact there were no serious injuries lends weight to that.”

Nearly two dozen gas employees, emergency personnel and bystanders were injured in the explosion; there were no deaths.

Source:  Mass Live, “Crimes against humanity lawsuit against anti-gay evangelist Pastor Scott Lively, of Springfield, advances in federal court,” By Stephanie Barry | on August 19, 2013 at 8:02 AM, updated August 19, 2013 at 8:09 AM