Texas moves forward with anti-LGBTQ bills; Confederate monuments removed in New Orleans
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QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“Here is the essential truth: we are better together than we are apart. Indivisibility is our essence. Isn’t this the gift that the people of New Orleans have given to the world? We radiate beauty and grace in our food, in our music, in our architecture, in our joy of life, in our celebration of death; in everything that we do. We gave the world this funky thing called jazz; the most uniquely American art form that is developed across the ages from different cultures. […] All we hold dear is created by throwing everything in the pot; creating, producing something better; everything a product of our historic diversity.”
– New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu addressing the removal of Confederate monuments in the city
Here’s your breakdown of what’s happening this week in the #LGBTsouth:
A WEEK OF WINS AND LOSSES
With more than two dozen anti-LGBTQ bills proposed this session, the Texas state legislature looks poised to pass two of them. Senate Bill 6, an HB 2-style bathroom bill, failed to get past the House, but Republican lawmakers reinterpreted it as an amendment to another bill, which passed on Sunday, along with HB 3859. HB 3859, also called the “Freedom to Serve Children” would allow state-funded adoption agencies to discriminate against LGBTQ couples and to practice conversion therapy on LGBTQ youth in their care. HB 3859 is one pen stroke away from becoming law, if Governor Greg Abbott signs it, while the bill containing the bathroom bill amendment, SB 2078, still has to make it through the Senate.
In a landmark ruling, a federal judge has decided that a transgender woman can sue for employment discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act due to her gender dysphoria. The woman, Kate Lynn Blatt, says she was not allowed to use the women’s restroom at work and was forced to wear a name tag bearing her birth name. Judge Joseph Leeson found that, while being transgender is not a disability, gender dysphoria is covered by the ADA. The question going forward is how to prove that Blatt was discriminated against due to her dysphoria, rather than her gender identity as a whole.
In a huge win in the ongoing fight for voting rights in North Carolina, the Supreme Court ruled Monday that lawmakers illegally redrew congressional districts based on race to give Republicans an unfair advantage. The redistricting led to Republican control of 10 of the 13 districts and suppressed Black voters, diminishing the power of their votes. And in Alabama, Governor Kay Ivey signed a new bill into law, which will restore voting rights to thousands of citizens. The new law more clearly defines a legal term called “moral turpitude”, which was previously vague and prevented people with certain felonies from voting. However, Alabama is still being challenged in court for its strict voter ID laws.
BUILDING A BETTER SOUTH
After years of heated debate in the city, the last of four Confederate monuments being removed in New Orleans has finally come down. The 133-year-old statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee stood on top of a large pedestal in a prominent area of the city until Friday, and Mayor Mitch Landrieu delivered a powerful speech coinciding with its removal. “To literally put the Confederacy on a pedestal in our most prominent places of honor is an inaccurate recitation of our full past, it is an affront to our present, and it is a bad prescription for our future,” he said.
The removal of the statues has brought up debate in other areas of the South over the persistent and painful legacy of Confederate symbolism and those who argue that the monuments are simply representing history. But Landrieu made a good point in his speech: if we are honoring history, why are there no monuments to slave ships, auction blocks, lynchings, and other horrific elements of this history, only to those who fought to uphold them? He said, “So for those self-appointed defenders of history and the monuments, they are eerily silent on what amounts to this historical malfeasance, a lie by omission. There is a difference between remembrance of history and reverence of it.”
States like Virginia, Georgia, and North Carolina still have hundreds of Confederate monuments standing across each state. South Carolina finally removed the Confederate flag, which had been put up in the ’60s, from its State House following the Charleston massacre; the shooter was influenced by Confederate symbolism. And in Mississippi, where the Confederate flag is part of the state flag, there is an ongoing debate over whether to change it, and last year state universities voted not to fly it on their campuses.
Although this is a uniquely Southern issue in some ways, the whole country can take something from Landrieu’s poignant speech on togetherness, diversity, and strength in numbers. But as we continue to grapple with this history here in the South, will other states follow his lead?
After a court struck down it’s definition of marriage as between a man and a woman, Taiwan could become the first Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage.
Hallmark has begun selling cards to celebrate people who are transitioning.
Janet Mock discusses her new book and why she struggles with being branded a “trans advocate”.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos stated this week that schools that discriminate against LGBTQ students should still be allowed to receive federal funding.
This piece in the New York Times offers advice for people questioning their gender or sexuality, including embracing that these identities are a spectrum.
A senior at Ole Miss tells how the university accepted him when his family did not.
The Asheville Citizen-Times followed the story of Emma, a 6-year-old transgender girl in Arden, N.C., and her family as she enters kindergarten.
A new bill in North Carolina could cut food stamps for over 130,000 people – over a third of whom are children.
WHAT THE CAMPAIGN FOR SOUTHERN EQUALITY IS UP TO
We are excited to launch Safe Schools, Safe Communities, a new round of rapid response grants to promote safety in schools and communities across the South.
We’re open to all kinds of ideas. If it will make your community safer, we want to hear about it – whether you’re organizing a rally to speak out against violence against trans women of color; hosting trainings to provide sanctuary for undocumented immigrants; educating legislators about the importance of access to affordable healthcare; or building a coalition of staff, faculty and parents to reduce bullying against LGBTQ, immigrant and Muslim students.
We need all of these efforts and more to protect and defend those who are most vulnerable in our communities across the South. Click here to apply for funding today.
We will accept and review applications for grants of up to $500 on an ongoing basis. Applicants will receive a response within one month of submission.
We are excited to host a series of FREE “Protect Yourself” Clinic that centers the trans experience.
Led by and for trans folks, these clinics will cover a range of safety issues including: trainings in self defense and pepper spray, writing a safety plan, and using safety apps on your phone. Free and confidential HIV testing and counseling will also be available.