California Anti-Transgender Ballot Measure Fails

Here’s some good news as we find ourselves in the midst of the longest night of the year. Light a candle rather than curse the darkness, right? Well, here’s a candle.

Backers of a proposed ballot initiative that sought to require transgender people to use the public restrooms that correspond with their biological sex say they have failed to qualify the measure for the California ballot.

Monday was the deadline for the initiative’s sponsors to submit voter signatures to county election offices for verification.

Karen England of the Privacy for All campaign said in a statement that the volunteer-led effort fell short of the 365,880 signatures needed to get the initiative on the November 2016 ballot. England did not reveal by how much.

I despise the referendum and initiative process. It’s used disproportionately against racial and ethnic minority groups, gays and lesbians and now transgender people. Besides that, it’s completely at odds with our representative form of government. We don’t vote by plebiscite on every law, we rely on our elected representatives to make good choices (we can replace them if they don’t), and the initiative and referendum process is a failed vestige of the progressive era of the early 20th century. Whatever utility it may have once had, it should be done away with today. It encourages a know-nothing majoritarian mob mentality that almost never produces good outcomes.

Transgender Day Of Remembrance

Today is the annual observance of Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR), which has been observed since 1998. Dana Beyer wrote the following piece specifically about the progress that has been made in the past decade, but as can be seen from the murder of Zella Ziona just last month right here in Montgomery County, we still have a long way to go - politically, legislatively and culturally. And that’s before we get to the debacle in Houston, which we’ll leave for another day.

This week is dedicated to the transgender community’s remembering its dead, and celebrating its life and the growing cultural awareness. The week here in Maryland has been bookended by the Day of Remembrance ceremony at the Rockville United Church on Saturday, November 14th, and the traditional International Trans Day of Remembrance events this Friday, November 20th, with events in Baltimore and downtown DC.

This year we gathered to remember, with her family, Zella Ziona, the first trans woman murdered in Montgomery County. Zella was one of twenty-plus African-American trans women killed this year, just as similar numbers have been killed each year for the preceding two decades. We will not stop remembering the dead, including those who ended their own lives, but we can work towards preventing the list from getting longer.

And we are doing that. Zella’s mother and sister were present and spoke to the crowd, directly thanking Montgomery County Police Chief Tom Manger and his deputies for apprehending the alleged killer within 24 hours. The state’s attorney, John McCarthy, charged him hours later. Such an effective, rapid response is basically unheard of anywhere else in the country, but our community’s public safety team pulled it off.

Unfortunately, there were trans activists who harassed the officers as they were trying to do their job. Similarly, the keynote address painted a picture of Montgomery County and Maryland circa 2004, failing to take note of the passage of anti-discrimination laws in this county and others, and the state as a whole, as well as federal employment coverage under Title VII. This is a time when we mourn the victims, but should not be one where we choose to end up re-victimizing ourselves by choice.

We have laws for which the community fought, and those laws have begun to be implemented. Trans persons need to know their rights, so they can move forward with their lives with increasing self-confidence, rather than looking over their shoulder expecting the worst. Ultimately it comes down to taking care of ourselves, and using the tools available.

May we all go forward to the new year in peace and prosperity.


Think We’ve Solved All The LGBTQ Issues?

Guess again. This shocked even me, and I’m pretty jaded about criminal law and LGBTQ issues.

It may shock you to learn that 40 percent of the young girls incarcerated in juvenile detention center identify as LGBT.

Like the unbelievable number of homeless youth who identify as queer, LGBT young people are also disproportionately affected by systems of power that can cause them to become caught up in cycles of poverty and incarceration — particularly queer youth of color.

HuffPost Live sat down this week to talk about the importance of broadening our scope when thinking about the ways that marginalized groups are impacted by the prison industrial complex.

“I think statistics like that really identify the importance for us to think intersectionally,” Jonathan Lykes, policy analyst for the Center for the Study of Social Policy, says in the above clip. “A lot of times when we think about the criminal justice systems it’s often directed at young black men… this is not only about young black men, it’s about young black trans women, it’s about young cis women, it’s about the LGBTQ population also. So really understanding how all of these different populations are impacted by these oppressive systems.”

There’s a longer video clip that can be viewed here.

h/t Kevin Gillogly for sending me the link

Interesting Clinton Emails

As a general proposition, and as I hope is clear by now, I think the whole Hillary Clinton email “story” is bogus and stupid. That said, now and again there are some interesting tidbits that come out as the emails are released. In the latest batch, there are emails showing that Clinton - even before she came out in favor of marriage equality in 2013 - was taking an interest in the issue, at one point in a way that involves our fair state of Maryland’s efforts to pass marriage equality in the General Assmbly.  The Washington Blade reports:

At a time when Hillary Clinton had yet to support same-sex marriage publicly, her staff and supporters were alerting her to news developments on the issue — and in at least one instance sought her help to advance the legalization of same-sex marriage in Maryland.

The latest Clinton emails made public by the State Department on Friday — more than 7,000 messages largely sent or received in 2011 and 2012 — reveal the exchanges.

Perhaps the most striking email to Clinton on marriage was from Peter Edelman, a law professor at Georgetown University who sought the former secretary of state’s help in convincing former Maryland Assembly member Sam Arora to vote for same-sex marriage in Maryland.

In a Feb. 16, 2012 email, Edelman forwards to Clinton confidante Cheryl Mills a complaint that Arora seemed poised to renege on his campaign promise to support same-sex marriage in the state. Mills had sent the message to Clinton.

“This is a little off the wall, but I am told that Sam Arora worked for Hillary at some point,” Edelman writes. “I may be writing too late anyway — I’ve been in meetings all day — but the people who are working the gay marriage bill in the Maryland legislature think it would be helpful if someone could find an appropriate way to say to Mr. Arora on Hillary’s behalf that it would be great if he could vote for the bill. Thanks for whatever is possible. I realize it may be too much of a reach. All best.”

Arora, who has since resigned from the legislature, would end up voting against same-sex marriage in Maryland. It’s unknown whether Clinton made any contact with Arora on the issue. According to reporting at the time from the Huffington Post, former President Bill Clinton was among those who reached out to Arora.

It Never Ends

Think the battle for LGBT rights is over? We won? Think again, grasshopper. Y’all ain’t been down to Texas much, I’m thinkin’.

Among the political signs jammed into the grass outside a polling station in this city’s South Park neighborhood stands one placard bearing an unusual slogan: “No men in women’s bathrooms.”

The statement, which is also emblazoned on T-shirts and conveyed in ominous television ads, has become a rallying cry for opponents of a measure designed to protect gay and transgender people from discrimination in Houston, the nation’s fourth-largest city and one of its most diverse.

The campaign to pass the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, or HERO, has become a priority for national gay rights groups and the city’s gay mayor — as well as for local business leaders, who fear an economic backlash similar to the one that hammered Indiana earlier this year if it is not adopted. But with an election set for Tuesday, polls show voters are divided on the measure — and some analysts are predicting defeat.

 One reason, they say, is the provocative claim that the measure would permit “any man at any time” to enter a women’s bathroom “simply by claiming to be a woman that day.” Opponents have dubbed the measure “the bathroom ordinance.”

“Houston voters do not want men in their women’s bathrooms,” said the Rev. Dave Welch, executive director of the Houston Area Pastors’ Council. “It’s an invasion of privacy, an invasion of a safe space for women and girls.”

It’s also completely untrue, supporters of the measure say. They accuse Welch and others of fearmongering, noting that the ordinance would not only protect the rights of transgender people, but also challenge discrimination on the basis of race, sex and a dozen other factors, including military status.

The sad thing is that the bullshit right wing playbook hasn’t changed at all in the eight years since the “shower nuts” in Montgomery County spouted pretty much identical nonsense in opposition to the transgender civil rights law here. And in case you think I’m being unfair with the name, their website here was called “” Yes, really.

The interesting - and encouraging - change since 2008 is the fact of the business community being on the side of civil rights. It’s not enlightenment, I think, but the realization that public opinion is now on the side of LGBT equality. And businesses don’t want to lose customers. No matter the reason, it’s good to have new allies.

But the fight isn’t over, not by a long shot.

Good Riddance

This is too good. Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out, sister.

Kim Davis, the clerk of Rowan County, Ky., who was embraced by Christian conservatives because of her resistance to same-sex marriage, said Friday that she would shun her Democratic Party roots and become a Republican.

“She has come to the conclusion that the Democratic Party has left her,” Mathew D. Staver, a lawyer for Ms. Davis, said in a statement. “She has decided to switch her voter registration.”

Bigotry and refusal to follow the law are so much more compatible with the GOP. 

Kim Davis Released From Jail

New right wing martyr Kim Davis was released from jail today, on the condition that she not interfere with the issuance of marriage licenses by her deputies to all eligible couples. The Post:

Five of the six clerks who work under Davis swore under oath last week that they could comply with the court’s order to issue marriage licenses. In a status report filed to Bunning’s court Tuesday, the couples who had filed suit against Davis after she first denied them marriage licenses said they were able to obtain them.

[Ted Cruz travels to Kentucky to support Kim Davis]

In Tuesday’s two-page order, Bunning said he is satisfied that the county clerk’s office is now complying with the court’s ruling.

He also ordered that Davis “shall not interfere in any way, directly or indirectly, with the efforts of her deputy clerks to issue marriage licenses to all legally eligible couples” in Rowan County. If she does interfere, Bunning wrote, the court will consider “appropriate sanctions.”

Legally, this was the right decision. The objective was to get marriage licenses issued. Thefts now happening. So long as she doesn’t screw with that process, there’s no appropriate basis for continuing her incarceration.

Politically, you’d think the Carter County Detention Center was the Birmingham Jail or some such bullshit. Presidential candidates Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz were falling all over themselves to get to Davis before  she got released.

Davis’ defiance has made her a hero in the eyes of her supporters. And the escalating drama has also drawn the attention of two Republican presidential contenders, Mike Huckabee and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who rushed to the jail Tuesday morning, shortly before Davis was released.

“I just want to give God the glory,” said Davis, who walked onto the stage as “Eye of the Tiger” blasted out on loudspeakers and the crowd cheered. “Keep on pressing, don’t let down because He is here.”

Before introducing her, Huckabee called Davis a representative from God sent to lead the charge against “judicial tyranny.”

“God showed up,” Huckabee said. “He showed up in the form of an elected Democrat named Kim Davis.”

Wait, what? “Eye of the Tiger”? We’ve officially moved from tragedy to farce. Somebody needs to license some slightly more current music than a hackneyed and cliched song from freaking 1982. Hell, I was still a freshman in college when that song came out. And Kim Davis hadn’t married even once back then.


Kim Davis Ordered To The Pokey

The four times divorced Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis has been taken into custody for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples, as her job requires. The 

A county clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples was found in contempt of court Thursday and taken into custody.

“The idea of natural law superceding this court’s authority would be a dangerous precedent indeed,” U.S. District Judge David L. Bunning told Rowan County clerk Kim Davis.
“Thank you, judge,” she replied before being removed from the courtroom by U.S. marshals.

Davis, an Apostolic Christian, had said it would violate her faith to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and had directed her office to withhold marriage licenses to anyone, gay or straight. She was sued by four gay couples who had been denied licenses, and was ordered by Bunning last month to begin issuing the licenses this week.

Martyr watch, Day One. No sympathy from me.

One thing to remember here: this is a civil contempt case, which means that Davis “holds the key to the jail cell.” She’s been jailed because she wouldn’t do what the law requires. If she indicated that she is willing to either (1) comply with the law, or (2) resign, then she’d be out of jail very quickly, probably in less than 24 hours. So don’t feels sorry for her, as her incarceration is entirely of her own making.

Selective Use Of The Bible, Chapter Eleventy Billion

So y’Know that court clerk down in Kentucky who doesn’t want to issue marriage licenses because some same sex couples might be getting married? And she’s worried about going to hell for violating the Bible? Turns out she has nothing to worry about.

The Kentucky county clerk facing potentially stiff penalties for refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses has been married four times, raising questions of hypocrisy and selective application of the Bible to her life. 

The marriages are documented in court records obtained by U.S. News, which show that Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis divorced three times, first in 1994, then 2006 and again in 2008.
She gave birth to twins five months after divorcing her first husband. They were fathered by her third husband but adopted by her second. Davis worked at the clerk’s office at the time of each divorce and has since remarried.

So she’s violating the biblical principles against divorce. Wait, what was that last paragraph again?

So she divorced hubby 1 to marry hubby 2, but somewhere right in the midst of that, shtups future hubby 3, gets pregnant with twins, doesn’t tell hubby 2, who adopts the kids, then divorces him to marry the guy who fathered the twins, but then later divorces hubby 3 and marries hubby 4.

So let’s see, we got divorce, we got fornicatin’ and we got lying your ass off about who fathered your children. Lady, you can skip the waiting list and go right down there and see the guy with the pitchfork right now. You’ve got enough frequent sinner miles that you can fly first class straight to hell. The gay marriage license thing ain’t gonna move that needle even one little bit. You’re there.

Also very amusing is the comment from her lawyer when asked about the multiple marriages:

The leader of the organization providing her legal representation, Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel, says he’s not sure precisely how many husbands Davis has had, but that it’s not relevant.

“I know she was married more than once – I’ve heard three [times],” he says. “It’s a matter of fact that she’s been married multiple times.”
Staver says “it’s not really relevant, it’s something that happened in her past” and that her conversion to Christianity about four years ago wiped her slate clean. “It’s something that’s not relevant to the issue at hand,” he says. “She was 180 degrees changed.”
In a Tuesday statement released by Liberty Counsel, Davis admitted she had lived an imperfect life, but insisted her current beliefs are sincere. 
“It is not a light issue for me,” she said. “It is a heaven or hell decision.”

OK. This whole “wiped the slate clean” thing is a problem for me. With all due respect to deeply religious people, this is my problem. I always hear “I found God, I came to Jesus, and he forgave me. So those old sins no longer count.” Until, a day or a week or a month or a year or a decade later, the person sins again. And then they ask for forgiveness. And God gives it to them. Again.

Two questions: this God seems a lot more permissive to these repeat sinners than these folks are about gays or liberals or women getting an abortion. What’s up with that?

Second, can someone find me one person who has said: “I found God. I asked for her forgiveness, and she told me to go straight to hell. My sins were too numerous and too profound for her”? I mean, come on, look at the world, there’s some really, really bad stuff going on. Surely there have to be some sins, some hypocrisy, some level of debased hatred that is more than God can stand. Right?

Or if the answer is that God can forgive anything if you’re sincere in your heart about atoning, OK, well surely some of these people just aren’t sincere. How many people do we encounter in our daily lives who make us crazy with their insincerity, their dishonesty, their hypocrisy? Surely God has to have some limit to how much bullshit she can put up with before saying “just step through that door over there, go down the steps, and when it gets really, really hot, you’ll see another door. Go through it and have a great eternity with no air conditioning.”

If this is what passes for religious liberty, then we might as well throw in the towel on this whole exercise right now, because we are going to be overrun by self-righteous pious frauds claiming that the laws don’t apply to them because “I saw a vision of Jesus telling me that it was perfectly fine to drive my Buick 125 miles an hour through a playground and if those children couldn’t move out of the way fast enough, well, that too was part of God’s plan, and you can’t prosecute me because I believe, I believe, I believe.”

Thanks, Supreme Court, for not squashing this nonsense when the Hobby Lobby case was heard. Anything for the cause of conservatism, huh? Seemed like a smart idea at the time, right? Not feeling so smart now, are you, guys?

Dos And Don’ts

This is how to wrap up your organization’s mission with dignity and class.

How ecstatic is Evan Wolfson, given that he is soon to be unemployed and that the organization he founded, nurtured and helmed is shuttering for good?

“I feel exuberant and happy and proud and lucky and gratified,” he says, sitting in Freedom to Marry’s sunny Chelsea office.
More? “I just feel this wave upon wave upon wave of love. I’m inundated with love, and it hasn’t stopped.”
Although the path to legal same-sex marriage appeared swift, it took more than three decades for the self-described “Mr. Marriage” to get to this moment of unrestrained bliss. He now oversees the rare nonprofit organization that will go out of business because of resounding success.

Here’s how not to do it.

Equality Maryland in a statement said the board elected a transitional board that Larry Jacobs will chair. Rabbi Stephanie Bernstein will chair the Equality Maryland Foundation’s board of directors, while Keith Thirion will remain the organization’s acting director and only full-time staff member. A board member donated office space after Equality Maryland closed its Baltimore location on July 31.

“Yesterday the directors of Equality Maryland voted to continue the organization’s work to improve the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Marylanders,” said Equality Maryland in a statement it released on Monday. “This move comes after Equality Maryland admitted its financial difficulties, and heard a strong response identifying many needs left to be addressed in achieving legal equality and reducing anti-LGBT prejudice and discrimination.”

New interim board chair Larry Jacobs asks rhetorically:

“I didn’t believe that we could just rest on our laurels and say, well Equality Maryland was great in its day and it got us marriage,” Jacobs told the Blade. “It was extremely important to keep the organization alive.”

Why? And to do what? Clearly the donor base doesn’t agree - the EM fiscal crisis has been going on for almost five years. And if Evan Wolfson and Freedom to Marry can bring the curtain down with such class, surely Equality Maryland should be following suit.