Monday, February 27, 2017

WJLA7 in Washington prepares for "We Will Rise" by covering Grimm SCOTUS case, providing Facebook town hall, and covering a male couple adoption in Maryland

WJLA7 in Washington DC covered the adoption of a baby girl by a male couple in Frederick, Maryland this evening, after matching with a birth mother in New York State.  They had been trying to adopt for three years  The story is here.

WJLA7 also covered the anticipated March 28 oral arguments for Gavin Grimm from Gloucester VA.

WJLA also had a Facebook live session in advance of “When We Rise”.

 A federal district court ruled in favor of Juliet Evancho, a transgender sister of a singer at President Trump’s inauguration, in Pennsylvania, in another public school bathroom case, Washington Blade story.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Houston has unusual club brawl; ABC miniseries on gay history coming next week

The Houston Chronicle has a report of an unusual and unfortunate event in a bar. A brawl broke out at the F Bar on Tuam Street in midtown Houston, story Feb. 24.    There were no reported injuries or arrests.  These events are rare in gay establishments.  I’ve witnessed only two of them.  One was in Wailuku Hawaii in Aug. 1980, and the other was in London, in the Soho area, in November 1982.  I did hear about an incident in the old Tracks in Washington in 1995 (when I wasn’t there).

These events of course don’t count external attacks, like the Pulse in Orlando in June 2016 or the arson at the Upstairs Lounge in Houston in June 1973, now the subject of a new film, “Upstairs Inferno”.   I’ve heard that fund raising will start soon for a film about Pulse, but I have no details.
I’ve actually been ejected once from a bar, the Gay 90s in Minneapolis, in October 2001, when a security person thought I was unsteady as I walked down stairs (I wasn’t).  Twice I was denied admission to the Brass Rail (small, no disco) in Minneapolis in the fall of 2002, and I have no idea why.  But security in bars was touchier in the period after 9/11 than it had ever been before.

At Cobalt last night, someone was wearing a T-shirt advocating California secession – an idea gaining steam in the era of Trump.

The ABC mini-series “When We Rise” will air next week on four nights, 2-hour segments (8 hours total) about gay history. 9 PM EST. schedule here.

Wikipedia attribution link for Houston picture by Trivillex, CCSA 2.0

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Gavin Grimm's arguments before the Supreme Court made public

The Washington Blade has a story by Chris Johnson outlining seven arguments made by Gavin Grimm before the Supreme Court, link here.  Essentially, the Tidewater Virginia school policy singles him out too much.

The clip above comes from the National Geographic film “Gender Revolution” with Katie Couric.

Here is the ACLU link on Grimm’s case and here is the brief.

Update: March 3, 2017 

It would be noteworthy to reference the rules for birth certificate change in Virginia.  It appears that a medical procedure would need to have been completed (link).

Update: March 6, 2017

The US Supreme Court removed (or vacated) a lower court's ruling in Grimm's favor and sent it back to the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, as a result of Trump's EO.

Update:  March 13, 2017

Gavin Grimm had indeed gotten his birth certificate changed.  The school district had argued that Title XI only protects women from discrimination, but that interpretation sounds discriminatory!  Here's the Salon story.

This sounds like something that states and school districts should be able to handle, but yet, indirectly at least, in this case, the school district wants a certain "gender-normative" interpretation, which is still discriminatory. I look at my own attitude.  Yes (like Milo) I personally admire and feel attracted only to "cisgender" gay men, of whom there are plenty. What I feel personally and know intellectually indeed are in conflict.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Trump and Sessions undo Obama's federal guidance to school systems on trans students, return matter to states

There are many media reports today about president Trump’s reversing an Obama administration “guidance”, motivated by the Civil Rights Act, that schools have to allow transgender students to use bathrooms of their choice.  Actually, “it” was Jeff Sessions.  The administration claims it is up to states to manage this issue.  Trump has personally said before that states should define their own procedures to recognize legitimate trans students legally and pass these on to schools. Many states would be able to do this administratively.  Unfortunately, North Carolina and Virginia, to name two examples, have made a mess.

Filmmaker Nev Schulman ("Catfish", on MTV) passed along the ATTN story on Facebook.

Vox has a long piece with card stack by German Lopez, “Anti-transgender bathroom hysteria, explained” ,  It led to a complete unraveling in North Carolina.

The Washington Post, to its credit, goes into the legal and constitutional issues in a long piece by Emma Brown et al, here.

Annual LGBT Mega Networking was held at Town DC tonight (Facebook reference).   I’ll have to wait for a friend’s report on FB, was at a Cato event today (issues blog).

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Milo is scorned by most of gay community; Presidents' Day weekend meltdowns

By now, everyone knows that Milo Yiannopolous had a rough President’s Day (it’s supposed to be a Holiday).  He was disinvited to speak at CPAC at National Harbor (MD), lost his book deal at Simon $ Shuster (Threshold), and could lose his place and income from Breitbart.

At a social last Saturday morning (AGLA at Freddie’s) some of us talked about his controversies.  There is a general feeling that, although his “enemies” like to pull his most provocative quotes out of context, his “rationalizatons” are self-serving (in a “Dr. Phil” sense).  He does not identify with being oppressed, particularly with being part of a marginalized group.  He (like Donald Trump) behaves as if he nurtured a certain inner contempt for “losers” (even in biological terms) or for people who cannot fit in to a competitive society easily.  One or more of his comments about trans people could certainly be viewed this way.  Milo seems to believe it is up to challenged people to lift themselves up, and fit in to the expectations of others.  That can invite bullying.

The male gay community, of course, is sometimes accused of promoting “body fascism” which, when it gets beyond the personal life area, can morph into something politically dangerous.

In a Vox  (article by German Lopez) has written that Milo has, perhaps not completely intentionally, fed into myths that connect male homosexuality to pedophilia.  This is an idea that Vladimir Putin in Russia exploited with the 2013 anti-gay propaganda law, a situation that still contributes to asylum seeking in the US, which may well narrow under Trump.

Some people, whom I see as credible, have told me in person that they are offended by Milo’s behavior and don’t like to see bloggers or reporters bringing him up and rationalizing his comments even with context.

But the Wall Street Journal has some constructive comments on the slant on the “pedophilia” issue in an article by Jeffrey Trachtenberg here. (Later today: Milo's own press conference remarks here on Facebook.)

On Saturday evening, by the way, I went in to Town DC and attended the DC Rawhide (country and western) event (every two weeks, since Remington’s closed about three years ago).  I went home early, while the Metro was still running.  it was good to hear some other general show music, as from the Twilight movies, The mood reminded me of the Roundup on Cedar Springs in Dallas (at one time known as Magnolia's).   I was last there in late 2011.


Was Milo set up by an "anti-Trump" hit?  Daily Caller has an account  Fake news?

There is a video of his press conference here.

Friday, February 17, 2017

AGLA holds social in Old Town Alexandria; more talk about Milo

Arlington Gay and Lesbian Alliance held a social in Alexandria at the Hilton Garden Inn this evening. This is the first time I've been to the Alexandria social.

It took a moment to find the valet parking, but then it went smoothly.

Yup, we talked about Donald Trump's comedy routine at his press conference Thursday, and then about bad boy Milo Yiannopoulos, who could be the reinvention of character Shane Lyons from the movie "Judas Kiss".  Milo was due to appear on HBO tonight with Bill Maher.   By the way, popular actor-singer Timo Descamps, who plays Shane, just tweeted spectacular pictures from winter hiking in the high (snow) desert in southern California and is said to visit Palm Springs sometimes.

Milo makes a lot of comments that are understandable in context to a less marginalized population, but which are seen as bullying by people who are already down.  Milo attacks the idea that people secure rights only by belonging to victimized "groups".

The concept on fat shaming is one of the most provocative, because body image is so critical to much of the make gay community (the "body fascism" idea).  There are SM rituals based on mental eroticizing of shame that used to get promoted in porn magazines in the past.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Asylum seekers (including gay men of color) crossing border into Canada "illegally"

Anderson Cooper presented a story Monday February 13, 2017 on his AC360 program on CNN about “refugees” crossing the border into Emerson, Manitoba, Canada, from the border (of Minnesota and North Dakota in the US).  The link is here.

In one case, both men lost most fingers to frostbite.  One of the men said he was gay and from Ghana and would be persecuted if he went back.

Residents of the town say they get doorkknocks from border-crossers escaping the cold.  Some don't have cell phones and want to call police so that they can demand asylum.  (This does sound like a setup for a trojan horse home invasion incident.)

It was not clear if they were simply undocumented (and had entered somehow through Mexico) or had attempted to apply for asylum legally in the U.S.  Generally, they would have needed to apply for asylum within one year of arrival.  There was no mention of whether they had sought assistance from attorneys or social groups helping aslyees (the nearest big US city would have been Minneapolis-St. Paul).

Monday, February 13, 2017

"Particular social group" and "political opinion" in asylum law, and LGBTQ people

Following up on a post I wrote on my International Issues blog yesterday, Sunday, February 12, 2017 about the “Particular Social Group” component of asylum seeking, it’s natural to wonder if right-wing cabinet choices, especially Attorney General Jeff Sessions, could deliberately undermine or eliminate the practice of often considering homosexuals a particular social group in asylum cases.

 Today I’ll follow up on a that and on a post Feb. 8.  

If someone were hosting such an asylum seeker, that could presumably lead to denial and illegal status and possible deportation, and a moral dilemma for hosts as to breaking the law.

The general impression from reading the statutes (as in yesterday’s posts) is that the Attorney General or other officials are not supposed to make any judgment like this based on some personal religious or closely held belief.

Could there be legitimate foreign policy reasons for undermining the PSG concept?  It sounds far-fetched.  But in the case of Russia, and Trump’s proclaimed desire to let Putin help Trump defeat ISIS in Syria (however unwise, given what has happened in Aleppo) it could be argued, perhaps, that American citizens should not assist immigrants (who might otherwise be forced to return) just to protect a foreign country’s policy on social issues, especially homosexuals, or perhaps even women as a whole.  (Russia seems poised to pass a law reducing wives’ access to legal measures after domestic violence.)   I’ve heard this said to me personally.  There is the “take care of your own” first idea.

It could be argued that “homosexuals” are not a class as such but simply professing a desired lifestyle path (rather than staying in a “closet” after returning and living a straight life of traditional marriage and kids).  But then it might be possible for the asylee to use the (imputed) “political opinion” prong of asylum definition (rather than PSG).

Donald Trump himself has not shown personal animosity to gays (or trans).  This could partly be the result of positive experiences on his “Apprentice” program.  Indeed, he seems to enjoy the support of people ranging from Peter Thiel (who could be very positive in jobs building in tech and in areas like domestic national security, for example, or infrastructure) to Milo Yiannopoulos (whose statements and stage performances are not as inflammatory as the combative far Left – and even Twitter --  makes them out to be).  But he has certainly made many appointments (most of all Sessions) with rather frightening records on LGBTQ issues, and in many cases attitudes that seem racist as well.  Furthermore, Trump’s obsession with Muslims as a group sets a frightening precedent (ironically, the “Jews” of today).

In any case, no change in PSG policy should put an asylee in a position of returning to certain persecution, violence, imprisonment, or even death.  There are asylum seekers who would face immediate physical danger or imprisonment if returned by deportation.  Any change in policy that creates this danger should be met with litigation.

Second picture: Placard from Freddie's Beach Bar, for openly gay secretary of the Army Eric Fanning. 

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Lesbian immigrant in Canada explains how Islam is anti-individualistic; Sessions leaves trans protections alone; HB2 repeal introduced in NC by Democrats

Metro Weekly has an interesting article this week by Randy Shulman about lesbian Muslim Urppj Ashad, who lives in Canada (back ground from Pakistan).  She describes being sponsored by her uncle.  Private sponsorhip for refugees exists in Canada.  Note where Arshad says “You’re not an individual the way you are in the West” in Islamic society.

There is also other news:  Jeff Sessions and his Department of Justice apparently will not interfere with Obama-order-trans-student-protections of transgender students in some public school situations.

And with demonstrations in Raleigh NV today, Democrats have introduced a repeal of HB2, story   But much of the problem with HB2 was how it affected other non-discrimination ordinances outside of trans.

Update:  Feb. 14

There is a clarification on the bathroom bill issue.  Sessions withdrew an appeal that might have helped some transgender students, story.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Washington Post explains state religious liberty bills

Sandhya Somashekha has a good article on p. A16 of the Washington Post today, Thursday February 9, 2017, “Trump didn’t sign a religious liberties executive order, but states are filling the gap”   in print, reading “Raft of states drafting religious opt-out bills that critics call discriminatory; measures would permit refusal of services to gay and transgender people”.

The problem comes with faith-based agencies that get government money, to provide services like adoption assistance.  While one may have an anti-intellectual, “faith-based” belief that only heterosexually married couples should raise children, such a belief actually drives farther apart, encouraging a competitive adult culture where more adults have no interest in providing got others besides themselves.

There is also a problem when businesses operate commercially as public accommodations, or when professionals are licensed by the state.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Just how could Trump's EO's (now or future) affect LGBTQ asylum seekers already here in U.S.? Seems very unclear

As noted before, there is no really clear indication yet from the Trump administration as to how the recent EO’s and the legal battle right now could (downstream) affect LGBT asylum seekers.

This particular site, however, “Immigration Equality” seems particularly objective.  A couple of questions:  it is sometimes possible to apply for asylum more than one year after arrival, such as if one “came out” recently or had trans-related medical procedures recently in the U.S.  If asylum is denied, most of the time removal and deportation proceedings are likely to start quickly, according to the site.

It is possible in some cases for applications to be denied if the person could go back “incognito” and live in a different part of the country.  But social media activity while in the United States could be relevant.

It is logical to be concerned that the Trump administration could decide to undermine LGBTQ status as a qualifier for asylum (as a “member of a social group”, if this idea is diluted over conservative objections to reliance on “identity politics” as opposed to “conduct”), or “political opinion” (which in my thinking carries more weight).  Someone could host an asylum seeker and suddenly learn that the request will “automatically” denied.  Then how would the host be expected to behave?

Many media sources use the term “asylum” carelessly, not realizing that to request asylum someone must already be in the country (sometimes with an overstayed visa, sometimes undocumented).

Catholic Review has a major article of asylum requests at the southern border.  But it doesn’t make sense to talk about releasing people from detention centers unless there are private resources to support them.

Trump could complicate the rules for being allowed to work or get benefits later.  The underlying assumption of allowing an asylum seeker to go “free” is that someone (often a relative) is available to vouch for the person, and provide financial support, as a dependent.  But there is no formal recognition of “private sponsorship” as exists in Canada (which applies to refugees).  That sounds like a serious logical gap in the system  -- the legal responsibilities of hosts.

Furthermore, there is some talk in Trump-land (to borrow from Michael Moore) that "immigrants" (users of any immigration benefit) who overuse public services could be deported, and that those who had helped them could be billed for the benefit -- an idea again that would logically argue for the development of private sponsorship.  There is also talk that some organizations that give services (like HIV-related) to some LGBT immigrants could lose funding in the sanctuary cities fiasco, further arguing for private resources.

Monday, February 06, 2017

Could Trump reneg on LGBTQ "rights" for "religious freedom"?

The Washington Post has a major editorial Monday morning, “Will Trump keep his promise on protecting LGBT rights?”

So far, perhaps with the urging of Jared Kushner and his wife, her has.  There has been no undoing of an Obama executive order protecting employees of federal contractors.

There is a concern about possible future orders or legislation that would allow federal employees to recuse themselves from providing assistance to people against their religious beliefs.
Likewise, there is concern that public accommodations could be allowed exceptions based on religious beliefs of owners.

If you use public funds, you should not be able to discriminate.  If you work for a government agency, you should not be able to circumvent the law in serving a particular constituent because of your religious beliefs.

But one problem is that legal procedures (and litigation) often name individuals as the agents of the organizations they work for.  That conveys the idea that there is no “double life”.  You should not work for an agency at all if your religious beliefs would interfere with your processing of a same-sex marriage license.

There’s no question, if you actually work for a church as a religious entity, then the church can require you to follow the faith.  But what about a parochial school, licensed by the state?  It should function as a public accommodation in treatment of employees and teachers.
I must say, I’ve visited a local Catholic school for some chess tournaments, and never run into any kind of issue.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

Paul Ryan notes Obama's support for LGBT refugees and asylum seekers

As I noted yesterday, there’s a lot of uncertainty regarding LGBT refugees and asylum seekers, as court rulings, appeals, and more EO’s seem to change the legal landscape every day, even on weekends.

Paul Ryan tried to cite the Obama administration’s informal quota of LGBT refugees as a justification for Trump’s recognition of religious minorities in Muslim countries by parallelism.  Chris Johnson has the Washington Blade story by Chris Johnson here.  Democrats deny that there were any quotas.  But the story is significant in that it appears that the GOP does accept the idea that LGBT persecution abroad is a legitimate reason for refugee entry, or for asylum processing (when already here) at least sometimes.  I have not heard any statements from Trump or the White House that this would change.

The Blade has also noted the threat to funding of LGBT services (like HIV clinics and probably asylum assistance in many cities) could occur if Trump is able to punish “sanctuary cities” including Washington.  That could, in some scenarios, lead to situations were asylum seekers become totally dependent on hosts because they are not allowed to have benefits or to work in many cases.
It’s uncertain what will happen, but it looks like asylum processing will be suspended, at least for the “countries of particular concern”, but it doesn’t look like asylum seekers would be deported, at least for now.  But it still sounds uncertain.

The Organization for Refugee, Asylum and Migration (ORAM) has a statement on the travel ban (as under litigation now).

Picture:  Near "Putinville" and the closed Russian spy compound on the Bay ("Back to the Bay" indeed) at Centreville. MD, today.

Update: Feb. 7

Note this Blade article by Michael K, Lavers on El Salvador -- but that country is bad for almost everybody. 

Friday, February 03, 2017

Trump could undo "Johnson Amendment" which could unleash religious right politically

President Donald Trump has pledged to “destroy” the “Johnson Amendment”, (LBJ) singed by Dwight Eisenhower in the 1950s.  It prevents religious organizations from being able to claim tax deductions for partisan pollical activity.  The New York Times explains here. Sidney Waldman has an op-ed about it here.  There is some hint that Trump threw the religious right a "bone" after he left an LGBT EO in place, at the urging of adviser Jared Kushner.

The laws has some significance to the LGBTQ community.  Were it repealed, “religious right” churches could become more politically effective in elections and possibly re-introduce anti-gay agendas.  The deeper point is that people on the extremes are more likely to organize and maintain emotional "solidarity", whereas people in the middle are more likely to insist on keeping their own separate voices.  This is a serious problem that encourages more extreme, less intellectual or "elite" persons to bond together and take over political office.

Likewise, there is concern that orders or “religious freedom” legislation is coming down the pike soon.

On immigration, I posted a story on my International Issues blog about the status of asylum seekers in the Trump ban era (which is further complicated by a judge’s halting the ban tonight).
Photo: AGLA photo tonight.  News of judge’s order came into lobby by CNN.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Gorsuch may have been supportive of gays in the military as an undergraduate; conservative columnist George Will talks about the Ninth Amendment and natural rights

NBC News reported Wednesday that Neil Gorsuch had once appeared to oppose campus recruiters for the military at Harvard back in 1987 because all the services had banned gays under the infamous “123 Words” (as Randy Shilts had called it) initiated in early 1981, just as Reagan took office.  The updated NBC article is here.

The fact pattern is a bit more nuanced. In 1986, as an undergraduate at Columbia, Gorsuch had submitted a somewhat libertarian article about the right of people to support the military on campus but to have gay lifestyles.    Then NBC goes on to present two more archives that suggest Gorsuch had supported gays in the military and then corrected that.  The overall NBC story now says Gorsuch had taken a “dim view of campus protestors”.

But as I noted in “Chapter 4” of my first DADT book, it would have been very difficult to get a Supreme Court to strike down “don’t ask don’t tell” or earlier “absolute ban” policies (with asking) on narrow constitutional grounds alone. This eventually required Congress, in 2010.

Mark Zuckerberg was a freshman at Harvard when campus recruiters was a big issue because of DADT and would have been familiar with the controversy when he founded Facebook.

George Will offers an op-ed in the Washington Post today suggesting that Gorsuch may have more respect for “natural rights” of individuals than did Scalia, as noted in the Ninth Amendment.   Will also invokes the Declaration of Independence in his argument.