LGBTQ Protesters March For Black Lives In Downtown Louisville Saturday, Jul 25 2020 

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Louisville Metro Police said they arrested 76 people Friday in the NuLu area.

Police in NuLu on July 24, 2020 when 76 people were arrested.

 A crowd of people had set up, what appeared to be, a block party on Market Street, between Shelby and Clay, with tables, tents, music, art and a trampoline. U-Hauls delivered supplies, and there were chants of “Whose streets, our streets” and “This is what democracy looks like.”


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U of L issues no-contact order to student Monday, Feb 17 2020 

By Maggie Vancampen — 

The University of Louisville issued a no-contact order to the student who passed out anti-LGBTQ+ literature in a classroom Jan. 28.

U of L spokesperson John Karman said it was issued Feb. 13.

The no-contact order prohibits a person from having communication with another person.

Ricky Jones, head of the Pan-African Studies department, posted on Facebook that the student is not allowed to talk to the professor or students, and is not allowed near the classroom.

To further address the controversy, University Provost Beth Boehm said she is gathering a committee to review the current Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities, the U of L Code of Conduct and other free speech policies with the Kentucky Campus Free Speech Act of 2019.

She wants a mix of students, faculty and staff on this committee.

Professor Kaila Story, who teaches the Intro to LGBTQ Studies class, is glad this is over and can’t wait to get back to teaching. The U of L community expressed their dislike of the way the university initially handled the situation.

Boehm is planning a forum dedicated to exploring how to balance everyone’s right to free speech.

“We need to learn from this incident so that we can all do a better job of affirming our LGBTQ students — and all our students, faculty and staff,” Boehm said.

Interim Arts and Sciences dean David Owen said there is a list of things to implement. They are:

  • Plan a townhall meeting for the A&S community to campus community members affected.
  • A U of L police officer will be posted outside of the classroom for the remainder of the semester.
  • Priority counseling will be provided to affected students.
  • Review the Student Code of Conduct to make possible revisions.

“I am very proud – and we all should be – of the care and support many in the A&S and U of L community have shown for the students and faculty who have been impacted by this,” Owen said. “I also am proud of the critical analyses and passionate advocacy we have seen, which I am confident will continue and will lead to man[y] fruitful discussions and actions in the future.”

Jones hosted a forum Feb. 10 to discuss the situation.

Photo by Haeli Spears // The Louisville Cardinal

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U of L community upset over anti-LGBTQ literature Sunday, Feb 9 2020 


By Maggie Vancampen and Eli Hughes — 

The tension between First Amendment rights and students’ right to feel safe on campus exploded into controversy Jan. 28 when a student passed out copies of Ray Comfort’s “God & Sexuality” to an Intro to LGBTQ Studies class. University of Louisville President Neeli Bendapudi emailed the U of L community Feb. 6 after meeting with the class and said the university must find a balance between upholding the First Amendment and fostering inclusivity.

She said resources and opportunities to educate the community will be made available with the help of Provost Beth Boehm and interim-dean David Owen. There will apparently be no formal action taken against the unnamed student who passed out the information.

After the class found the pamphlets on their desks, the student waited outside the classroom where the students and professor Kaila Story found him.

Story asked him to leave and he did.

Students from the class report he returned Jan. 30 and campus police escorted him from the classroom.

U of L spokesperson John Karman said administrators met with all faculty that raised the issue Feb. 3. Other administrators met with the student Feb. 4 and report he said he only wanted to raise awareness, not intimidate.

“The university values diversity in all its forms, including diversity of opinion. That said, student safety is our top priority. We will continue to monitor the situation and will take steps to ensure an environment that supports the highest level of learning,” Karman said.

Dean of Students Michael Mardis said that the office has had a Student Care Team for years that is made up of professionals in law enforcement, mental health, campus health and student health. He said team members assess students based on their previous and current behavior, facts and circumstance of the situation, in-person observation, in-class behaviors and on and off-campus behaviors. “Without the ability of its members to freely hear, express, and debate different ideas and points of view, the University would lack the culture of free inquiry that lies at the foundation of the academic enterprise,” Mardis said.

Story said she is disturbed by how the Dean of Students office originally treated the incident. “In these terrifying times of school shootings and public displays of violence, I would like to think that a university office would be just as alarmed as me and my students were regarding this issue,” she said.

Junior Alexander Vernon, who is in the class, said, “The last thing I would want is anyone else who holds hateful or harmful bigotry towards anyone on this campus targeting any other minority groups or the LGBTQ students again.”

Ricky Jones, chair of the Department of Pan-African Studies, said there is something wrong with both the law and university policy if this type of behavior is allowed. Jones said there was no reason for the student to return to the class because he already passed out the literature.

Dawn Heineken, head of the department of Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies, said Mardis did not seem to understand why students, faculty and the chairs of two departments found this scary. “I think the university needs to look long and hard at its internal processes,” she said.

“It definitely needs to ensure that folks making decisions about questions related to student learning, safety and well-being need to be better educated on, and take more seriously, the concerns of all students – especially students from marginalized groups who already have to struggle every day to feel safe and respected in the wider world.”

The president of a a student organization for LGBTQ + students of color and their allies said the university did not address the issue properly. Shades President Luke Moore said that they were disappointed in the response from the university.

“They need to ask themselves whether or not free speech is more important than the lives and the safety of their LGBTQ+ students, who they love to use to promote our university and talk about how LGBT-friendly it is and how young LGBT students should be coming here,” Moore said.

Bendapudi wrote, “I learned today from my conversation how frightening and painful the experience was for the bright, passionate, and engaged students in Dr. Kaila Story’s Introduction to LGBTQ Studies class. I also learned we have much work to do to make sure that all students (and faculty and staff) feel welcome and supported on our campus. There are clearly areas where we need to improve in terms of caring for our campus community, communicating appropriately, and responding swiftly.”

Jones said the class has written letters of complaint to the administration, talked to reporters outside of the university and refused to hide their names. He said, “I’m very proud of them for doing that in an age where silence is rewarded more than being brave.”

“I think those students and the professor have every right to do everything under the sun to not only protect their lives and protect their right to learn, but also protect their dignity and their right to exist in this place and in this world,” Jones said.

Jones scheduled a forum at 2 p.m. Monday, Feb. 10 to discuss the issue publicly. See Louisvillecardinal.com for updated info, as this meeting is after our deadline for this issue.

 

 

 

 

 

Photo courtesy from Kaila Story

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Ky. Supreme Court Dismisses Gay Pride T-Shirt Case Thursday, Oct 31 2019 

The Kentucky Supreme Court has dismissed a lawsuit against Lexington T-shirt maker Hands On Originals, which refused to print T-shirts for a 2012 gay pride festival on religious grounds.

The court did not address the main arguments of the case, instead ruling that Lexington’s anti-discrimination ordinance does not protect groups who feel they have been discriminated against — only individuals.

Lexington’s Gay and Lesbian Services Organization filed a complaint with the city’s Human Rights Commission in 2012, arguing that the T-shirt maker violated the city’s fairness ordinance, which bans discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing and public accommodations.

In its ruling on Thursday, the state Supreme Court ruled that the group didn’t have standing to be aggrieved by Hands On Originals.

“Because an ‘individual’ did not file the claim, but rather an organization did, we would have to determine whether the organization is a member of the protected class, which we find impossible to ascertain,” the 11-page ruling stated.

The ruling means that the court didn’t ultimately determine whether Hands On Originals violated Lexington’s fairness ordinance.

The challenge began after Blaine Adams, the owner of Hands On Originals, refused to make T-shirts for GLSO in 2012, saying that doing so would have violated his religious beliefs.

GLSO filed a complaint with the Lexington Human Rights Commission, which said the company had violated the city’s fairness ordinance.

But Hands On Originals appealed the decision and courts have so far ruled against the Human Rights Commission’s decision, saying the company’s actions were protected under the First Amendment.

“While this result is no doubt disappointing to many interested in this case and its potential outcome, the fact that the wrong party filed the complaint makes the discrimination analysis almost impossible to conduct, including issues related to freedom of expression and religion,” the court wrote.

Fourteen Kentucky cities have passed fairness ordinances, including Louisville and Lexington.

Some Kentucky lawmakers have for years pushed for a statewide fairness law, but the policy has never received an official vote in a legislative committee.

Others have proposed legislation that would gut local fairness ordinances by protecting businesses from being sued or having to pay fines for violating the laws.

Trump Appointee Gorsuch Cryptic In LGBTQ Employment Rights Case Wednesday, Oct 9 2019 

The retirement of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy loomed large over arguments at the court Tuesday in a set of cases testing whether employers are free to fire gay and transgender employees. Kennedy, a Reagan appointee, was the author of every major gay rights decision for more than two decades. His absence, and the presence of two new Trump appointees, could very well determine how these cases are decided, who wins, and who loses.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who replaced Kennedy, asked only one question during two hours of argument Tuesday. Instead, it was Justice Neil Gorsuch, the other Trump appointee, who was the focal point.

Gorsuch, an adamant advocate for reading the text of a statute literally, admitted to a bit of a conundrum. Addressing ACLU lawyer David Cole, he said, “Assume for the moment … I’m with you on the textual evidence,” but “it’s close … very close.” The words of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act bar employment discrimination “because of sex,” or “based on sex.”

Gorsuch seemed to be agreeing that language would appear to cover gay and transgender employees. But, he then asked whether a justice should “take into consideration the massive social upheaval that would” ensue from such a decision. Wouldn’t it be better to let Congress do it?

Cole replied that federal courts have been finding it illegal to discriminate against transgender employees for 20 years, and “there’s been no upheaval.” Dress codes and sex-segregated restrooms “have not fallen,” he observed, adding there has been no tumult.

The day began on a discordant note. Outside the court, demonstrators and TV crews were hustled away from the Supreme Court building and away from the street after police discovered two suspicious packages. The packages eventually proved benign.

Watching the back-and-forth unfold were the plaintiffs in the cases.

Gerald Bostock won awards for his work as the child-welfare coordinator for Clayton County, Ga. Then he joined a gay recreational softball league.

“Within months, I was fired for being gay, ” he said. “I lost my livelihood … I lost my medical insurance, and I was recovering from prostate cancer when this occurred. It was devastating.”

Aimee Stephens, after working for six years as a male funeral director in Michigan, was fired two weeks after she told her boss she was transgender and would be coming to work as a woman.

Bostock and Stephens challenged their dismissals in court under the 1964 Civil Rights Act — the law barring employment discrimination “because of sex.”

As they looked on, Gorsuch would play both sides of the issue, in contrast with the court’s other conservatives who generally seemed to support the employers’ position that the 1964 law does not protect gay and transgender employees.

Justice Samuel Alito, for instance, noted that Congress in 1964 didn’t have gay and transgender employees in mind at all. If the court were to interpret the statute now to prohibit discrimination against gay and trans workers, he said, the court would be “acting exactly like a legislature.”

Lawyer Pamela Karlan shot back that there were many kinds of discrimination Congress didn’t specifically envision in 1964 that the court has consistently found to be covered by the broad words of the statute.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg chimed in that sexual harassment was not even a legal concept in 1964, and yet the court decades ago found it to be prohibited conduct under the 1964 law.

The court’s other liberal justices seemed to agree. Suppose a Catholic and a Jew get married, posited Justice Stephen Breyer. “Employer fires the Catholic. Why? He’s not against Catholics. He’s against intermarriage.” That argument, Breyer suggested, is much like the argument that firing an employee because he’s gay is different from discrimination because of sex.

Justice Elena Kagan pointed to what she said was the “simple test” the court has used in these cases for decades. Would the same thing have happened to you if you were a different sex?

Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked: “At what point does a court continue to permit invidious discrimination?” After all, she said, “We can’t deny that homosexuals are being fired merely for being who they are, … not because they are performing their jobs poorly.”

Solicitor General Noel Francisco, representing the Trump administration, replied that “sex means whether you’re male or female, not whether you’re gay or straight.”

But Gorsuch suggested that if the employer who fired Bostock was given truth serum, the reason he would likely give for the firing was “because this person was a man who liked other men?”

It was one of the moments Gorsuch seemed to side with the gay employees. But there were many more when he seemed to go the other way.

A decision is expected by the end of June.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Showdown Over LGBTQ Employment Rights Hits Supreme Court Tuesday, Oct 8 2019 

At the U.S. Supreme Court, the long-awaited showdown over the rights of LGBTQ employees is center stage. On Tuesday, the justices hear a set of cases testing whether the federal law that bars sex discrimination in employment applies to LGBTQ employees.

Specifically, the question is whether employers are free to fire employees because they are gay or transgender. Front and center in these cases is Gerald Bostock who, for 10 years, was the child-welfare coordinator for Clayton County, Ga. His primary responsibility was a program that provides advocates in court for abused and neglected children.

“It was the job I loved, and my employer loved me doing the job,” says Bostock, noting that under his leadership the child advocates program “reached the benchmark of serving 100% of the children in foster care,” an “unheard of milestone” for any such program in the greater metro Atlanta region.

“I was fired for being gay”

But in 2013, Bostock joined a gay recreational softball league. And “from that point on, my life changed, ” he says. “Within months, I was fired for being gay. I lost my livelihood. I lost my medical insurance, and at the time I was fighting prostate cancer. It was devastating.”

Also front and center on Tuesday will be Aimee Stephens (pictured above). She worked for the Harris Funeral Home in Livonia, Mich., as a funeral director for six years, presenting as a man. But by 2012, at age 51, she was in despair over her gender identity, and contemplating suicide.

“I stood in the backyard for an hour with a gun to my chest, but I couldn’t do it,” she says.

Stephens decided she would come out at work as a transgender woman. For eight months, she worked on a letter to her boss and co-workers telling them of her gender identity.

“In truth … even I do not fully understand it myself”

“I have realized that some of you may have trouble understanding this,” she wrote, adding, “In truth, I have had to live with it every day of my life, and even I do not fully understand it myself.”

Two weeks after giving the letter to her boss, Stephens was fired.

Stephens and Bostock both took their former employers to court, charging that their dismissals were based on sex and thus violated Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which bars discrimination “because of sex,” or “on the basis of sex.”

The owner of Harris Funeral Homes, Tom Rost, explained in a videotaped interview with his lawyers why he fired Stephens, saying that he was concerned about how the families of the deceased would react to Stephens who was, in Rost’s words, “the face of the Harris Funeral Home.”

Neither Clayton County officials nor their lawyers would comment about Bostock’s firing.

A “common sense argument”

But in their briefs the lawyers in both cases argue that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act does not apply to sexual orientation or gender status at all. “Everyone understood in 1964 [when the Civil Rights Act passed] that sex meant biological sex,” says John Bursch who is arguing on behalf of Harris Funeral Homes in the Supreme Court. That means that neither women nor men can be treated unequally in the work place, he says, but that “just does not translate into other categories” such as sexual orientation or gender identity.

Supporting that argument are 15 states, including Texas, and its solicitor general, Kyle Hawkins. The “common sense” argument, he asserts, is that “sex is not the same as sexual orientation and not the same as gender identity.”

But lawyers representing the fired workers counter that the Supreme Court over the last half century has interpreted the law far more broadly than that. They note that the justices have applied the anti-discrimination statute to a variety of situations that Congress wasn’t thinking about in 1964.

Where and how to draw the line

For example, “in 1964 you wouldn’t find a single dictionary that defined the term ‘sexual harassment’ and yet the Supreme Court has held that Title VII [of the 1964 Civil Rights Act] prohibits sexual harassment of women” and “also sexual harassment of men,” observes Stanford Law Professor Pamela Karlan.

Indeed, more than two decades ago, the Supreme Court ruled that even same-sex sexual harassment was illegal under the statute. Writing for a unanimous court, conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, said that while same-sex sexual harassment was “not the principal evil Congress was concerned with” in 1964, “statutory provisions often go beyond the principal evil to cover reasonably comparable evils.” And, he said, “it is ultimately the provisions of our laws, rather than the principal concerns of our legislators by which we are governed.”

Stanford’s Karlan, who is arguing for the gay employees on Tuesday, will remind the justices of the court’s very first sex discrimination case after enactment of the 1964 law: Phillips v. Martin Marietta Corporation. At issue was an employer’s policy barring the hiring of women with young children.

The court ruled unanimously that the policy was illegal sex discrimination. Karlan argues that just as women with children are a subset of women covered by the anti-discrimination law, so too are gay, lesbian and bisexual employees.

“If it’s sex discrimination to say you can’t work for us if you are a woman and you have children at home, it’s also sex discrimination to say you can’t work for us because you’re a woman and you have a wife at home,” says Karlan.

Similarly, she maintains, “If you wouldn’t fire a man for marrying a woman, but “you would fire a woman for marrying a woman, you’ve discriminated against the woman who works for you,” Karlan maintains.

The transgender argument: politically difficult but analytically stark

The argument for transgender employees may be more politically difficult to sell. But it is arguably more stark. It goes like this: If an employer hires a man and later fires the employee when the employee shows up as a woman, how is that not discrimination based on sex?

Lawyer Bursch will tell the justices that sexual orientation and gender status simply do not fit under the 1964 anti-discrimination formula. He warns that if the court were to rule against the employers in these cases, it would have ramifications beyond employment.

Could employment cases affect school sports?

“If we redefine the meaning of sex in federal law,” he predicts, it would allow “biological men to identify as women and take women’s places on sports teams.” Bursch argues that has already happened in some places, with cisgender women losing out in medals to transgender women.

Federal law does indeed bar sex discrimination in sports programs at schools that get federal money. And the NCAA has developed regulations for when trans student athletes may or may not participate. But as Stanford’s Karlan observes, Title IX, known best for its impact in advancing women’s sports, “is a different statute.” And the regulations for education funding under Title IX “are different than the rules in the workplace” under Title VII.

Lawyers for the employers respond that Congress in 1964 simply did not anticipate the questions raised in these cases about the scope of Title VII and that Congress, not the courts, should be addressing these issues.

The case has drawn even more attention than anticipated, with dozens of friend-of-the-court briefs on each side. Siding with the employers are business groups that, for the most part, have some religious affiliation. But weighing in on the other side, in favor of protection for gay and trans employees, are 206 major corporations who employ over 7 million workers.

The Trump administration, reversing the position of the Obama administration, will argue in the Supreme Court against the LGBTQ employees.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

LGBT students are safe and supported at U of L Tuesday, Oct 1 2019 

By Rei Taylor —

I first came out as bisexual at the age of 11. Later, I came out again as pansexual, which was less of a coming out and more of a clarification. Now, at 18, I am an active member in Louisville’s LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer/Questioning) scene and an advocate for gay rights, just like the University of Louisville.

Being voted several times as a top LGBT-friendly university by three national groups, U of L makes an effort to create a supportive and caring environment for LGBTQ students.

“These awards are a direct result of U of L’s commitment to building an inclusive and LGBTQ-friendly environment on campus and in our community,” said U of L President Neeli Bendapudi. “I am so proud of our efforts and look forward to seeing how we continue to grow in the future.”

U of L offers many services for LGBTQ students, such as the Bayard Rustin Community, a housing community based in University Towers Apartments. Being the first of its kind at a Kentucky college or university, it offers a safe living space for LGBTQ and allied students.

Research suggests that membership in a themed housing environment supports student retention and academic success. These residences are extremely beneficial to incoming students, especially LGBTQ students, allowing them to make friends with people without fear of being judged for their sexuality.

Another service U of L offers is Pride Week, a week where the university holds multiple events based around being LGBTQ and LGBTQ culture. With everything from fairs to keynote speakers, U of L pulls out all the stops to engage and involve their LGBTQ students. They offer free food, informational panels, game nights and HIV testing throughout the week, as well as a flag hanging ceremony of two gay pride flags off of the belltower.

They also offer blood drives based around destigmatizing gay men giving blood, something that has been restricted since 1992. This, along with all of the other events, allows visibility for LGBTQ students, creating an open and accepting campus.

Every semester, U of L offers classes based around LGBTQ students and culture. They have diversity classes through the women’s, gender, and sexuality studies department that are made for LGBTQ students to be understood and to create allies. These classes allow students to feel free to discuss their sexuality and gender identities freely in class without fear of judgment.

Overall, the U of L has done an excellent job of being inclusive and accepting of LGBTQ students and allies within the institution.

File Photo // The Louisville Cardinal

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