Tag: discrimination

Trump’s HHS Finalizes Rule Allowing Discrimination in Foster Care, Adoption, and Other Social Services

Trump's HHS Finalizes Rule Allowing Discrimination in Foster Care, Adoption,

Not letting a little thing like insurrection stop them, the Trump administration on Thursday finalized a rule that will allow foster care and adoption agencies, along with other public health and social service organizations receiving taxpayer funds, to discriminate against LGBTQ people and others.

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services - Hubert Humphrey Building

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services – Hubert Humphrey Building. Photo credit: Sarah Stierch. Licensed under CC BY 4.0.

The rule, first proposed at the end of 2019 with a shorter-than-usual period for public comment, removes explicit protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, sex, and religion in programs receiving grants from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). These programs include not only adoption and foster care services, but also ones dedicated to preventing youth homelessness, HIV, STI, and substance abuse, among others. The rule was filed in its final form last Thursday, while the capitol was still reeling from the insurrection, and will be officially published Monday. It is set to go into effect on February 11, 2021.

Even before this new rule made it explicit, HHS had said it would stop enforcing nondiscrimination protections among federal grantees. LGBTQ advocacy organizations have already been fighting this policy. Lambda Legal and Democracy Forward, in March sued HHS in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on behalf of Family Equality, True Colors United, and SAGE, claiming the policy was “arbitrary and capricious” and that there had been no opportunity for public comment.

Lambda Legal Senior Attorney Sasha Buchert said of the new rule, “Even as Trump administration officials abandon ship, HHS has announced yet another dangerous rule that invites discrimination against the very people federal grant programs are meant to help. We call on the Biden-Harris administration to address discriminatory policies such as these immediately, and commit to eliminating them root and branch. But in the meantime, Lambda Legal is prepared to take whatever action is necessary to protect the LGBTQ community from harm.”

M. Currey Cook, director of Lambda Legal’s Youth in Out-of-Home Care Project, added that the rule “puts at risk some of the most vulnerable members of our communities, including LGBT people who are poor or experiencing homelessness; LGBT seniors and LGBT youth in out-of-home care, including children in foster care, people living with HIV, and many others.”

Denise Brogan-Kator, interim CEO of Family Equality, also observed that “Removing nondiscrimination protections from health and human services programs could literally endanger the lives of vulnerable populations disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, including the LGBTQ+2S community.”

“We are particularly concerned that the 34% of foster youth who identify as LGBTQ+ and Two-Spirit, who are eligible for $400 million in direct relief under the most recent COVID-19 relief bill, will be excluded from services and supports under this new rule,” said Julie Kruse, Family Equality’s director of federal policy.  “Turning away those in need of health and human services during a pandemic is unconscionable.”

“Family Equality will sue HHS over this unlawful action,” asserted Brogan-Kator.

Next Week, a Crucial SCOTUS Case on Discrimination in Foster Care and Adoption

Next Week, a Crucial SCOTUS Case on Discrimination in Foster

We are a week away from the 2020 elections. President Trump’s nominee Amy Coney Barrett has just been seated on the U.S. Supreme Court. A case that the court will be hearing the day after the elections has me as concerned as the elections themselves, for it goes to the heart of how our country treats its children and to LGBTQ people’s right to be treated equally as prospective parents.

U.S. Supreme Court

The Case

The case, Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, began in 2018, when the City of Philadelphia stopped referring foster children to Catholic Social Services (CSS) because the agency would not license qualified same-sex couples to be foster or adoptive parents. CSS then brought a lawsuit in federal district court.

The ACLU intervened on behalf of the Support Center for Child Advocates, which provides legal representation and services to children in the foster care system, and Philadelphia Family Pride, a nonprofit organization for LGBTQ parents and prospective parents. They argued that children and families would be harmed by CSS’ actions. CSS countered by arguing that they had a First Amendment right to deny service based on religious beliefs, and asked the court for a preliminary injunction requiring the city to continue referring children to them while the case proceeded. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania denied that injunction in July 2018, and a three-judge panel of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in April 2019 supported the district court’s position.

CSS had also tried in August 2018 to petition the Supreme Court to grant them an injunction, but this was denied, though Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr., and Neil Gorsuch dissented. CSS appealed to the Supreme Court again after the appeals court ruling, and in February 2020, the Supreme Court took the case. In June, the Trump administration filed a brief siding with CSS.

Potential Outcomes

Depending on how the Supreme Court rules and how broad or narrow its ruling is, Fulton could create a license to discriminate in Philadelphia or around the country, said the Movement Advancement Project (MAP) in an August report. Otherwise-qualified prospective parents could be turned away by child service agencies. LGBTQ children could be turned away or be placed with families that don’t support their identities.

Beyond child welfare, MAP said, a very broad ruling could even mean that other institutions receiving government funding, such as soup kitchens and job training programs, could claim religious exemptions and “serve only those who share their own beliefs or [refuse] to provide critical services to those who don’t.”

The outcome could also reduce the possibility of successfully challenging existing discriminatory laws. Eleven states now allow discrimination in child services by agencies citing religious beliefs, all but two allowing it even for taxpayer-funded agencies. And the amount of taxpayer money in child services is significant. An estimated $29.9 billion in federal, state, and local funds was spent on child welfare in 2016, according to the nonpartisan, nonprofit research center Child Trends. Beyond child services, the Trump administration last November issued a rule that allows not only child service agencies, but also other recipients of grants from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), to cite their religious beliefs as a reason to discriminate.

The Arguments

It’s important to understand the arguments made by those wishing to allow this discrimination. One is that faith-based child service agencies would otherwise be forced to close, limiting the number of homes available to the more than 400,000 children in the foster care system. As the ACLU notes on its website, however, most faith-based foster care agencies do accept all qualified families. Bethany Christian Services in Philadelphia, in fact, changed its policy after the city objected and now accepts same-sex couples wishing to foster children. When some agencies have chosen to stop offering taxpayer-funded services rather than comply with nondiscrimination laws, others, including faith-based ones, “have stepped in to provide those services,” says the ACLU. The shortage is thus of foster families, not of agencies—and turning away otherwise-qualified people would exacerbate this.

Another argument is that prospective foster parents who are turned away can just go to another agency. Even if there are other agencies nearby that will serve them, however (not always a given), the prospective parents may choose to stop trying and not to “risk further humiliation,” notes the ACLU.

Yes, freedom of religion is a founding principle of this country—but so is the separation of church and state. That means that any organization using public funds should not impose its beliefs on others or use them as a reason to discriminate. Many agree. In August, more than 1,000 experts and organizations—including LGBTQ, civil rights, and child welfare organizations, faith-based foster care agencies, faith leaders, legal scholars, and bipartisan elected officials—filed nearly 50 briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of Philadelphia and its position.

Taking Action, Looking Ahead

A loss in this case would first and foremost be harmful to the many children in need of homes. It would also set back the family-building plans of many LGBTQ people and others and could have a far-reaching impact on other critical social services.

Family Equality is launching a storytelling project with the goal of changing “hearts, minds, and policies” around this case and these issues. If you have experience with the child welfare system in any context, visit their website to see if your story can help.

No matter what happens on November 3, our work fighting for equality—for our families and others—will continue on November 4 and far beyond.

(Originally published with slight modification as my Mombian newspaper column.)

Anti-masker calls 9-1-1 to claim discrimination; queer shopkeeper becomes viral hero / Queerty

Anti-masker calls 9-1-1 to claim discrimination; queer shopkeeper becomes viral

Aidan Bearpaw. KESQ screenshot.

Viral footage taken by a pet shop attendant in Palm Springs, California has gone viral after it recorded a maskless woman calling 9-1-1 to report discrimination. The shop attended refused to let her in the store without a mask.

Aidan Bearpaw, a queer employee at the Bones-N-Scones pet store posted the video to social media following the encounter last week. In it, the woman claims she can’t wear a mask because of anxiety, and threatens to call the police if Bearpaw refuses to let her in the store without one.

“As per the 1964 Civil Rights Act, I cannot be discriminated against,” the woman rants. “I do have a right to breathe O2 not CO2 and I am being discriminated against right now. I have a religious exemption right and a God-given right to breathe O2 not CO2. Yes, medical exemption too.”

Related: WATCH: In a sea of Karens, meet the “anti-Karen”

Bearpaw had the good sense to know that the woman didn’t have her facts correct, and refused to let her in. She eventually left after calling 9-1-1 and being told by a dispatcher that she needed to obey a city-wide mask mandate. Unfortunately, Bearpaw encountered the police again the following day after the woman dialed 9-1-1 again, apparently furious at footage of the encounter going viral.

“She was feeling the public backlash and dispatched police on me again,” Bearpaw told The New York Post. “My bosses were initially furious. It was very possible I was going to be fired. My co-workers were all very supportive and made it clear there would be consequences if I was terminated.”

Fortunately, Bearpaw’s superiors eventually came around after he became a local celebrity, drawing more customers into the store to congratulate and even take pictures of him. His manager, Jay Smith, later commended Bearpaw as “a shining example of how just doing what’s right, standing your ground, overcomes [stupidity and harasament].”

“Aiden won for all of us,” Smith told local news station KESQ. “He didn’t just win for Bones-N-Scones, he won for the city of Palm Springs, for the United States and for humanity in general.”

Here’s hoping Aiden gets a raise for his good sense.

LGBT discrimination ruling supported by 9 in 10 adults

Supreme Court LGBT workplace discrimination ruling poll

Joseph Fons holding a Pride Flag in front of the U.S. Supreme Court building last week (Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

An incredible 90 per cent of people in the United States agree with the Supreme Court ruling banning workplace discrimination for LGBT+ people, according to a new poll.

Last week, the US Supreme Court ruled that LGBT+ people are entitled to protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the workplace.

The surprise ruling extends sex-based employment discrimination protections to LGBT+ people in all 50 states.

And a new nationally representative poll of 1,001 adults in America has found that the vast majority of the public support the ruling.

90 per cent of adults support the momentous Supreme Court ruling on LGBT+ discrimination.

The poll, which was conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), found that 9 in 10 adults (90 per cent) agreed that it should be illegal to fire people because of their sexual or gender identity.

The poll also found that 7 in 10 Republicans agree that discrimination against LGBT+ people in the workplace should be illegal.

However, Republicans are also less likely to believe that LGBT+ people, as well as Black and Hispanic people, face discrimination.

Elsewhere, pollsters found that 69 per cent of adults support laws that ban discrimination against lesbian, gay and bisexual people, while 68 per cent believe trans people should be legally protected from discrimination.

That figure is similar to the percentage of people who support laws banning discrimination based on race (71 per cent) and disability (76 per cent).

Meanwhile, 79 per cent of those surveyed believe trans people face at least some discrimination in the United States, while 74 per cent thought the same was true for lesbian, gay and bisexual people.

The public is shifting more quickly on these issues than the political and legal landscapes are.

The poll revealed that 49 per cent of Americans believe society has “not gone far enough in accepting people who are transgender”, up 10 percentage points from a 2017 poll.

Conversely, just 15 per cent said society has “gone too far” in accepting trans people, while 32 per cent said it “has been about right”.

The poll was conducted between June 16-21 through telephone interviews in English and Spanish.

“Most Americans – including most Republicans – oppose discrimination against people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender,” said KFF president Drew Altman.

“The public is shifting more quickly on these issues than the political and legal landscapes are.”

The ruling found that an employer who fires an LGBT+ employee because of their identity ‘defies the law’.

The poll comes just over a week after the Supreme Court delivered its surprise ruling.

In the court’s 6-3 ruling, conservative justice Neil Gorusch said: “It is impossible to discriminate against a person for being homosexual or transgender without discriminating against that individual based on sex.

“We do not hesitate to recognise today a necessary consequence of that legislative choice: An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies the law,” he said.

The ruling went against the Trump administration, which had intervened in the case to argue that the Civil Rights Act does not apply to LGBT+ people.

Trump’s Department of Justice had sought to assert that the Title VII provisions should only apply based on the “ordinary meaning of sex” as male or female, not covering sexual orientation or gender identity.




Supreme Court protects LGBTQ workers from discrimination

Supreme Court protects LGBTQ workers from discrimination

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

In a major defeat for the Trump Administration, the Supreme Court decided that civil rights law protects gay, lesbian and transgender workers.

The landmark ruling will extend protections to millions of workers nationwide and is a defeat for the Trump administration, which argued that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act that bars discrimination based on sex did not extend to claims of gender identity and sexual orientation.

The 6-3 opinion was written by Justice Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump’s first Supreme Court nominee, and joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and the court’s four liberal justices. 

“An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex. Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids,” Gorsuch wrote.

“There is simply no escaping the role intent plays here: Just as sex is necessarily a but-for cause when an employer discriminates against homosexual or transgender employees, an employer who discriminates on these grounds inescapably intends to rely on sex in its decisionmaking,” the opinion read.

via New York Times