Thursday, April 14, 2011

LGBT rights tug-of-war in Hawaii and Illinois

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Gay-colored Hawaiian state flag
Hawaiian state flag, made more … cheery

The last couple of days have brought LGBT Americans a few small steps closer to equality under the law, minus a few potential setbacks. First, Hawaii has become one state less to allow transgender workers to be bullied at work:

Honolulu, Hawaii — The Hawaii Senate approved a bill, previously passed by the House, to ban discrimination based on gender identity and expression in the workplace.


Equality Hawaii and The Human Rights Campaign worked together to build support for HB 546, which passed by a 22 to 2 vote on Tuesday.

Discrimination against transgender individuals is already illegal in Hawaii for housing, public accommodations and employment, but the ban on employment discrimination has only been established by rulings of the Civil Rights Commission and has not been written into the state statute.

The legislation moves to gay-friendly Democratic Gov. Neil Abercromie. Upon the governor's signature, Hawaii will join 12 states and the District of Columbia to provide transgender employment, house and public accommodation protections.

Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA)

Welcome news indeed, even if it’s a far cry from the fully inclusive federal-level Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which is being reintroduced in the US Senate today. Given its long, sad history of failure in Congress for nearly two decades now, the bill has only a slim chance of passing through the Senate, although its House variant, which was introduced last week, is certain to meet a prompt death in the far-Right Republican majority.

We’re also seeing a small sign of progress in Illinois, where legislation that would have ensured the right of religious adoption groups to turn away same-sex couples has failed in the State Senate:

SPRINGFIELD --- A measure to ensure faith-based groups could turn away committed same-sex couples who want to adopt children or provide foster homes failed in the Illinois Senate today.
Opponents said it's a direct assault on Illinois' new civil union law, which takes effect June 1. And some fear children will lose opportunities to be placed in loving homes because of discrimination.

LGBT adoption

Now, I’m honestly a little more conflicted about this one. It’s a common refrain in same-sex marriage cases that preachers won’t be forced to wed LGBT couples if they don’t want to for religious reasons, and we all accept that as being a part of their religious freedom. That’s why I feel that not allowing even the most hardlined and bigoted of faith-based adoption groups from turning away LGBT clients does actually pose a bit of a quandary (though the law may speak differently on the matter; if someone more cognizant about it could educate me, that would be appreciated) … but in the end, being a proponent of the greater good, I do believe that the right of kids to be placed into loving homes wherever we can find them and ensuring their safe development in the midst of caring households, regardless of the gender(s) of the parent(s), does trump the right of narrow-minded folks to turn such potentially great parents away out of silly concerns, thus risking the children’s futures. You can be bigoted on your own time, but when you start potentially sacrificing the well-being of defenseless innocents because you’re too busy being hateful to put their best interests first, the priorities shift.

Virginia State Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli
AG Ken Cuccinelli (R-VA)

Though, this little ethical quandary is apparently to be a non-issue in the state of Virginia, where wingnutty AG Ken Cuccinelli, of anti-Global Warming witch hunt and pro-schoolyard anti-gay bullying fame, has “advised” the State Board of Social Services that they cannot allow would-be LGBT parents to adopt or foster children. Because, of course, the righteous need to prevent gays from going after kids … even if it’s to offer them loving homes.

(via Joe. My. God., Joe. My. God., @BreakingNews and Joe. My. God.)