Posts Tagged ‘politics

25
Feb
14

Arizona’s SB1062 Would Have Dangerous Consequences, Faces Backlash or “The Arizona GOP continues to get things very, very wrong.”

The state of Arizona, or at least its legislature, is once again on the anti-queer bandwagon. After last year’s embarrassing fiasco where they attempted to legislate where trans people are allowed to void their bladders, one might have hoped they had learned their lesson. But, the GOP being who it is, they’ve opted to turn their queerphobia up to eleven with their latest jab at the LGBTQ community, SB1062.

SB1062, an amendment to the state’s current statutes on “the free exercise of religion,” codifies a person or company’s right to refuse service to anyone on the basis of their religion without fear of reprisal from government agencies and regardless of any local ordinances to the contrary. It appears to stem from a string of recent incidents around the country where businesses have been sanctioned for refusing service to queer individuals. It’s been approved by both chambers of the Arizona legislature, and it current awaits a signature from GOP Gov. Jan Brewer, who has given little indication of her position on the legislation.

 Previously, this statute granted this right to refuse service based upon religious objection only to any “religious assembly or institution”, but the revised statute would read:

“Person” includes a religious assembly or institution ANY INDIVIDUAL, ASSOCIATION, PARTNERSHIP, CORPORATION, CHURCH, RELIGIOUS ASSEMBLY OR INSTITUTION, ESTATE, TRUST, FOUNDATION OR OTHER LEGAL ENTITY.

This grants the ability of essentially organization, business, or person to access the particular protections of this statute (because really, there aren’t many things that don’t fall into those categories. The particulars of the statute read as such:

41-1493.01. Free exercise of religion protected; definition

4 A. Free exercise of religion is a fundamental right that applies in this state even if laws, rules or other government actions are facially neutral.

7 B. Except as provided in subsection C of this section, state action shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.

The key portion of that pile of legalese is “even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.” Rules of general applicability is a term that stems from a landmark Supreme Court case involving the free exercise of religion clause of the First Amendment, known as Employment Division, Department of Human Resources vs Smith. In it, the Court ruled that a person could not claim exception from a law based upon one’s religious beliefs if the law created rules that were of “general applicability”, that is-that they weren’t particularly targeted to religion or specific religious groups. This means that, as a general rule, people cannot claim exemption from things like employment, housing, or healthcare non-discrimination laws simply because of their particular religious beliefs. However, the proposed Arizona law would specifically enshrine the right of people within that state to ignore essentially ANY state law if they can ground it in their particular religious convictions.

So, what are the implications of a law like this? It means a corporation can adopt a particular religious doctrine and use it to deny service to LGBT individuals. It means religious hospitals can refuse to treat LGBT people. It means perfectly legal “No Gays Allowed” signs on businesses owned by anti-queer religious people. It means pharmacies being able to legally refuse to fill HIV meds, birth control, emergency contraception, and hormones for trans people if the pharmacy or it’s owners have specific religious views.  It could be interpreted to mean that police officers wouldn’t be required to assist LGBT individuals if their personal religious beliefs would be violated in doing so. It would absolutely mean that religious doctors or other healthcare professionals could deny life-saving pregnancy termination procedures to women if it violates their religious beliefs. Given that many racial hate groups use religion to justify their racism, it could mean that companies or organizations could use this law to refuse service to racial minorities Taken to extremes, it could even be used as a potential defense in violent hate crimes (after all, the Bible makes clear that homosexuality [along with lots of other things] is punishable by death), or as a justification for legalized spousal rape or beating (since there’s justification for both in the Bible).

Not surprisingly, the bill has received a huge amount of backlash from everything from feminist and LGBT activists concerned about how the law will be used, to business owners who are concerned that it will have wide reaching effects of tourism in Arizona (a large force in their economy). George Takei wrote a length missive calling for a boycott of Arizona if the bill is signed, and that call has been echoed loudly in the LGBT community. The mayors of Arizona’s largest cities, both of their sitting Senators, and a large contingent of their members of Congress have called of Gov. Brewer to veto the bill. Leaders of the state’s largest business groups wrote to Brewer imploring veto, concerned about opening businesses to potential litigation and having the state branded an unfriendly place for visitors. And in just the last few days, even three member of the state legislature who voted in favor of the bill have come forward urging a veto on the measure, calling passage of the measure a “mistake.’

In the wake of this much pressure, it seems somewhat unlikely that Gov. Brewer would be willing to sign the legislation into law. However, the fact that the bill hit the governor’s desk at all is a very disturbing reminder of to just what lengths the GOP is willing to go to attack the LGBT community. Unfortunately, this is also far from an isolated incident. Similar bills attempting to enshrine the legal right to discriminate using a smoke-screen of religious liberty have been introduced in Ohio ,Idaho, Mississippi, and several other states recently, though none have yet progressed as far as the legislation in Arizona.

Despite the progress made in areas like marriage equality, the fight for equal rights and equal protections for LGBT individuals is FAR from over, and it appears that this new round of “religious objection” legislation represents the Republicans’ next volley in the pushback against the progress that has been made in the movement for equality for queer people.

 

 (Author’s note:  This is a significant simplification of the case law here, interpreted and explained by a scientist, not a lawyer.)

29
Jan
14

Obama’s State of the Union Address Ignores ENDA (and more), or “Remember when the President stood up for trans rights in front of Congress? Yeah, me neither.”

In tonight’s State of the Union address, President Obama talked extensively about jobs and the economy. He discussed immigration reform. He touted the success of the Affordable Care Act. He devoted several minutes to discussing current foreign policy situations. He touched on education, tax reforms, and pressed for an increase in the federal minimum wage. Sadly, he left a number of critical issues completely untouched- chief among them the concerns of the LGBT community and the languishing of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, commonly known as ENDA.

Oh sure, he gave the minimum of lip service to our existence in his brief mentions of “marriage equality” and later his hat-tip to “sexual orientation” in his statement about equality in regards to the upcoming Olympic games in Sochi. Meanwhile, in 29 states it remains perfectly legal to fire (or refuse to hire) someone because they’re gay, lesbian or transgender. 33 states offer no protections to transgender workers. According to the most recent report from the National Center for Transgender Equality, 90% of transgender workers have experienced some form of harassment. Nearly half (47%) had been fired, had not been hired, or had missed out on a promotion because they are trans, including 26% who had been actually lost their jobs. Because of the persistent discrimination and transphobia in the US, losing our jobs has even more catastrophic effect than it does for the straight, cis population, leading to four times the rate of extreme poverty, and four times the rate of homeless (1 in 5 trans people will be homeless at some point in our lives). Most heartbreaking of all, 41% of trans people will attempt suicide at some point in their lives, more than 25 times the risk of the general population.

These bleak facts stem for a systemic, entrenched anti-trans bias within the entirety of the US economic system, from education to the workforce. While we have lots of work to do to disassemble this bias, comprehensive workplace protections for transgender individuals (and indeed, all LGBT people) would provide a large measure of stability and would represent a huge leap forward in trans rights. Congress has an excellent opportunity to enact such protections, though S. 815, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) of 2013. The proposal passed the Senate in November 64-32, including three yes votes from Republicans. While Congress has previously considered similar bills, this marks the first time such a bill containing protections for trans people has gained final passage in a chamber of Congress. All indications are that- if allowed to come to a vote on the House floor- the bill would pass, and President Obama has indicated that he would sign it. So what’s keeping this critical legislation from passing? The unwillingness of Speaker John Boehner to allow a vote, as he views it as “unnecessary” (I’d be willing to bed the 1 in 4 trans people who’ve been fired would handily disagree). Unfortunately, the rules of the House make it nearly impossible to circumvent the Speaker’s block on the vote.

So, back to Obama’s State of the Union Address. President Obama prodded the members of Congress towards action on a number of issues, including extending unemployment benefits, increasing the federal minimum wage, closing tax loopholes, and funding preschool education. Unfortunately, he entirely failed to prod Congress on the final passage of ENDA. Job protections for LGBT people are not a particularly controversial topic for the public at large. A poll by the Center for American Progress back in 2011 demonstrated that nearly 3 of 4 Americans support workplace protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals, including a majority of Republicans. More troubling is that 90% believe these protections already exist. So, we have a policy that the majority of Americans- and a majority of Congress- supports (indeed that most think already exists) that won’t become law because of one single legislator’s objections. The State of the Union seemed like the perfect opportunity to press for action on such an item. Mr Obama could have very publicly called on Boehner to allow such a vote (either directly, or indirectly). The President could have promised to sign an executive order to require protections for LGBT people in all federal contractors as an additional pressure, much as he did with the federal contractors and minimum wage. President Obama’s press office included such items in his pre-address “fact sheet”, but that’s a far cry from a expression of public support in a major address. When the President took the podium, all we heard was a deafening silence on one of the most critical issues facing us today.

Some might argue that it’s a fairly “minor issue”, affecting a small number of Americans, and not worthy of the President’s limited speech time. However, as a comparison, roughly 1.6 million people recently lost their unemployment benefits, about 0.5% of the population by my estimate. LGBT identified folks make up about 4% of the US population by current estimates, more than 8 times as many who would benefit from the far-more controversial unemployment extension. However, that issue was found worthy of mentioning at length in his speech. Returning to the minimum-wage issue for a moment, about the same number (1.6 million) of individuals currently make minimum wage (per Bureau of Labor Statistics)  as recently lost unemployment checks. And yet, raising the federal minimum wage was a key issue in Obama’s address. Don’t misunderstand me, I believe these are both very important and worthwhile issues and they certainly warranted being discussed in the President’s speech. But in sheer numbers, the passage of ENDA impacts a greater number of people, and it’s nonsensical to argue that we’re comparatively insignificant minority.

I could take the President to task for many oversights in his address, from drug policy to criminal justice to reproductive rights to proper funding for the NIH. However, his failure to press for action for such basic protections that could do so much to improve the lives of trans (and other LGBT) individuals is absolutely inexcusable, particular given that that ENDA enjoys wide support with Americans and has functionally zero fiscal implications. If this version of ENDA dies in the House without reaching the President’s desk, it will represent an enormous missed opportunity to provide trans and queer people with something most have never had- a chance to live their lives without fear of losing their livelihoods and incomes simply for being who they are. The simple fact is, Mr Obama had the opportunity to take a groundbreaking step in going to bat for the LGBT population in his address (and, in doing so, keep a key campaign promise). However, as has become so common a theme in his administration, President Obama left queer and transgender Americans out in the cold.

28
Jan
14

Why Genital Essentialist Comments are Transphobic Microaggressions, or “People need to stop talking about what “real” men and women have in their pants.”

Microaggressions: those little phrases you hear every day that give you a stinging reminder that the world considers you “less than”. The term was originally coined back in the 1970s in regards to racism, but it’s come into usage in feminist, queer, and pretty much all other intersectional conversations about privilege. Dr Derald Sue, who has written extensively about racial and other microaggressions gave the following definition in a Psychology Today article in 2010:

“Microaggressions are the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.”

Think of it like this: open aggressive harassment is like someone dropping a big rock on your car from an overpass- it’s sudden, immediate, and it’s probably going to do some serious damage. Microaggressions are like being caught behind a gravel truck every day- each little hit does a fairly minor amount of damage but the accumulated effect day after day is going to make a big mess. Some microaggressions are direct: intentionally misgendering of a trans person, or asking a black guy what gang he’s in. Some are more subtle: men referring to certain tasks as “women’s work,” or someone commenting on the enjoyment of cake by a random person of size passing by. Jared Leto’s recent acceptance speech at the Golden Globes is another perfect example, as Parker Molloy recently discussed over on The Toast. If it’s sort of thing someone might brush off criticisms of as “being too sensitive”, there’s a pretty good chance it’s a microaggression. If you’re still having trouble conceptualizing this, the good folks over at The Microaggression Project have cataloged more examples than you’ll ever need. (Caution: it can be a pretty triggery website.)

Transphobic microaggressions take many forms, from downright hostile comments about how “gross” or “weird” trans people (and/or their bodies are) to insidious things like the use of phrases like “hot tranny mess” in a derogatory fashion about someone’s appearance. One that seems to be among the most prevalent (and dismissed) are comments about the sort of genitals (or other features) that “real” men or women should have, a situation commonly known as “essentialism”. When these comments are specifically about the sort of genitals that one particular gender has (or doesn’t have), it becomes genital essentialism. I recently came across this post in the blogosphere, ostensibly written about standards of female beauty, but unnecessarily containing a bold transphobic microaggression. (I have extended criticisms of the entire misogynist piece, but we’ll skip those today.) The writer opines:

“I’m going to let you and the rest of society in on a secret, real women have vaginas. In fact, that is the number one prerequisite in being considered a person of the female persuasion. It’s not the shape of your hips or the size of your rump, it’s the fact that I can’t find a penis anywhere on your body.”

The problem here, of course, is that a statement like this also very clearly implies that anyone without a vagina is not, in fact, a “real woman.” It’s an implicit rejection of the femaleness every single trans woman on the planet who has not had GCS. Sure, it’s a flaming angry tirade from a religious crazy about what evil sexual perverts we all are. But, it is a jab at something that trans women hold fairly sacrosanct- their identity as a woman. In that, it becomes a transphobic microaggressions, even if the writer had no negative thoughts about trans women in his mind when he wrote it. A more wide-reaching example occurred just today on Twitter when Joss Whedon (of Buffy, Firefly, and Avengers fame) tapped out this doozy:

whedontweet

Once again, reducing femaleness to genitals…and this time not even the presence of a vagina, but simply the LACK of penis and testicles, making it not only an anti-trans microaggression (by implying that by having male genitals, trans women aren’t women and that by not having a penis trans men aren’t actually men), but also a sexist microaggression (by defining women as simply “that which is not a man,” the implication being that gender is defined in the context of maleness). Again, I’m not necessarily saying that Mr Whedon had any particularly transphobic or sexist intentions when he made this statement, but the fact that a statement like this can be tossed off like it’s nothing speaks volumes about the invisibility of trans people in the minds of the world at large.

Quite unfortunately, this whole “real women have vaginas” thing is a lot more prevalent than you might imagine. You see, a few years back the internets spawned a meme about female body image, centered around the phrase “real women have curves.” Not unexpectedly (nor at ALL unreasonably) there was significant backlash against this reduction a woman’s identity to her physical body appearance. After all, it’s pretty cruel and offensive to declare that thin women aren’t “real” women. Disappointingly, the phrase that seemed to frequently be substitutes in place of it was -you guessed it- “real women have vaginas.” This phrase became a rallying cry against the imposition of unfair beauty standards. Writer Dory Hartley wrote in a piece for Huffington Post:

“Number one: they all have vaginas. If you’ve got a vagina, you’re a real women.”

Again, the implication is clear: No vagina = not a woman, vagina = woman. There’s no room in that equation for trans bodies, and it becomes an inherent denial of our femaleness or maleness of this reduction of identity to genitalia. Tamsin Howse of Kiki & Tea was so body as to actual title a piece “Real Women have Vaginas.” In it she writes:

“Remember – Real women have vaginas. And some people I call women don’t even have that.”

There it is, again- a bold declarative about what exactly the sorts of body parts “real women” have. The follow-up statement feels like an attempt, perhaps, in being inclusive of trans women. But her phrasing contains an implication that she doesn’t believe they really ARE women, just that she calls them women, which feels almost like another microaggression in itself. I could, quite literally, go on for another 1000 words of similar examples. None of these pieces were written by trans-exclusive rad-fems bent on the oppression of trans people; I’m 99% sure none of them harbored any transphobic thoughts as they composed these articles. But each one of them is one more tiny jab at the femaleness (or maleness) of trans people, and a reinforcement of our invisibility.
The common response to this sort of criticism (so common I can practically hear the voices) is that we’re being “too sensitive,” that we’re “looking for transphobia” where it doesn’t really exist, that we’re trying to enforce “overly-PC” standards. These are the sorts of arguments consistently made by oppressor classes defend their privileged status. Similar arguments were made for years in regards to queer microaggression comments (for example, insulting a man by calling him a c*cksucker) that are now quite widely perceived as being offensive and inappropriate homophobic statements. Genital essentialist statements like “real women have vaginas” functionally reduce an extraordinarily complex portion of a person’s identity- their gender- to a rigid, overly simplistic, inaccurate, incomplete, and frankly incorrect biologic assumption that becomes an ugly, painful kick at something critically important to trans people, our firm understanding of our own femaleness or maleness. The accumulated effect of having statements like this bombard us daily from everywhere we look just adds to the pervasive transphobia that we endure from our culture. So, please stop reducing everyone to their genitals, and assuming that “real women” or “real men” have any single defining characteristic. Real women have bodies. Real men have bodies. Real Non-Gender-Binary-Identifying-People have bodies. That’s all you can assume about them.

27
Aug
13

SciFi Author Calls Out Troll, or “John Scalzi absolutely evisertes an idiot anti-feminist.”

To The Dudebro Who Thinks He’s Insulting Me by Calling Me a Feminist | Whatever.

This is one of those moments where I feel oh-so-proud to consider myself a member of the science fiction community. John Scalzi is an incredibly talented and quite successful science-fiction author, and he maintains one of the oldest (and most entertaining) individual blogs on the Internet. Having had the privilege of meeting him at a few conventions, I can also say that’s a pretty cool guy. He earned a huge extra chunk of respect and admiration from when when he posted about his support for trans people back in December of last year. (I mean, there’s a reason he’s on my blogroll!) Today, it appears Scalzi is on a roll again as he absolutely tears apart an idiot troll being snide about feminism.

For a little background, a while back, John challenged his twitter followers to raise $500 in a day for the Clarion Foundation. For this, John would post on his blog a photo of himself in a very lovely period Regency dress. His followers came through, and boom, we have John in a dress. End of story, for the time being.

Fast forward a bit, and some idiot decides to take said picture and caption with the words “This is what a feminist looks like” in a very sad, feeble attempt to insult either feminists or Mr Scalzi. In either case, John does a fantastic job publicly shaming and ridiculing said person in a way that only someone of Scalzi’s particular brand of snark can manage. I very much suggest you head over to his blog and read it for yourself.

Now, loyal readers, you might say “But what was John doing in that dress to begin with? Wasn’t he denigrating femininity by putting on a dress for money?” I’m going to go with no. If you go back and read the post, it’s done with utter respect. It was actually done in response to a request a Twitter user who challenged him to wear the dress. Feeling no challenge to his masculinity nor his heterosexuality, he seized upon the moment to raise for money for a favorite charity, and cheerfully complied. He indicated absolutely zero discomfort or humiliation with the experience. I think he handled the situation with appropriately and with dignity.

I do wish he had seized a little more on the point that the creator of the captioned image may have been looking to insult the entire of the feminist cause by ascribing the term to a picture of a man in a dress (in order words HURR HURR, FEMINISTS ARE SCARY BUTCH LESBIANS WHO LOOK LIKE DUDES). But then again, that’s such a tired cliche that it’s barely even worth mentioning, other than for the requisite eye-roll and sigh of derision.

In any case, I applaud Mr Scalzi for his publicly provided tongue lashing, and his very public proclamation of his feminist beliefs. I’ll definitely have to be sure to give him a hug for it the next time I see him at a convention. :

27
Jul
13

The Pardoning of Alan Turing, or “Sorry, United Kingdom, but you are 60 years too late for this to have much meaning.

Alan Turing to receive pardon – CBS News.

Okay, if you don’t know who Alan Turing is, you should crawl out from under your rock and look him up. He’s one of the largest pioneers of what would later become the field of computer science, as the Turing Test (for computer intelligence) is named after him. The Turing Machine is one of the earliest electronic computing devices. He is largely credited with breaking with the German Enigma code in World War II, which allowed the Allies to decode classified, encrypted German military communication. Many believe the intelligence gained from this shortened the war by a matter of years. Unfortunately for Turing, he was also gay, and any form of homosexual sex was illegal at that point in history. In 1952, after admitting to having a relationship with a young man over the course of an investigation into the burglary of his apartment, Turing was charged, tried, and convicted of “gross indecency,” which was nothing more than homosexual sex. Turing was forced to undergo a treatment known as “chemical castration” to render him impotent and destroy his sex drive, or face a significant prison sentence. He lost his security clearance, and his position with the British government. In 1953, Turing took his own life with cyanide.

Turing wasn’t the only man forced into inhumane medical treatment, or who had his life destroyed by the rampant homophobia of the time. Almost 50,000 men in the UK shared his fate during that period. But the tragic loss of such a brilliant, celebrated young scientist and war hero for having the audacity to be gay and unashamed sheds stark light on just how recently our world treated the LGBT population as little more than vermin to control. Turing saved countless lives through his efforts in cryptology, but even that didn’t grant him a bit of leniency in the face of the widely-held notion that being gay is evil and immoral. The fact that Turing’s conviction stood for 60 years is just a further testament to how deeply entrenched those ideas are. Even just last year, there wasn’t enough positive sentiment for Parliament to pass such a pardon. Finally, it appears that later this summer, Alan Turing, father of modern computing and hero of WWII, will be pardoned for his crime of nothing more than being gay.

While I’m sure that for some of the remains of Turing’s family, the pardon is a meaningful act that may give them some peace about the memory of the this extraordinary man. But in the grand scheme of things, it feels like a hollow gesture to me. It makes great press, but little else. Turing is still lost to us, as are all of the contributions he had yet to make. 50,000 other men were still humiliated and subject to horrific medical treatment, and they haven’t received pardons. If this is Parliament’s way of proving it’s commitment to the LGBT community, then they have a long way to go. I recognize that the UK has comparatively progressive attitude towards LGBT rights, especially compared to the US, but some compensation for those subjected to the same treatment, some concrete action on improved services for the queer community, or recognition for current queer leaders would have a great deal more meaning than a shallow correction of a horrible mistake that was left to fester too long, and tarnished the memory of one of the most important scientists of the 2oth century.

24
Jul
13

Violent Homophobic Rhetoric in Ontario, or “Two brave women in Kingston are calling out some cowards.”

Letters To Kingston Lesbians Contain Bizarre, Troubling Threats (PHOTOS).

Here’s one of those items that I feel like I needed to share just to give more give more light to just how incredibly disturbing this is, and to make sure people realize that these sorts of things still go on and that our work as advocates isn’t even close to done.  A lesbian couple in Kingston, Ontario recently received some very disturbing hate mail, demanding they move out of town, or face violence. The first note is a page-long demand letter, addressed to “Lesbian Bitches,” and it lays out the plan of a supposed “small but dedicated group of Kingston residents” to force all homosexuals out of the city. They claim to have a “head office in the Deep South”, and to have successfully forced out several other people in the area, and it includes some fairly ominous threats including “You are not going to be safe at home, office or anywhere else”. A followup letter came days later (I guess they were expecting these women to just pack up and leave town in a day or two.) This is a much shorter letter addressed to “lesbos” informing them that they have purchased BB guns for their children which are intended to be used to “hunt them down” because “what better targets than you.” It ends with a note that these “fun and games” will turn “deadly serious.”

I’m just sickened by this entire thing. I’d like to think that this is the work of one or a very very small handful of truly deranged homophobes, and that swift action by the Kingston Police and the RCMP will find these idiots before this actually escalates into physical violence. I’m hoping against hope that there aren’t actually any children being indoctrinated into this kind of culture of hate and violence, and it’s all just more ploy for their sick game. But the realist in me has to admit that homophobia, even the violent and aggressive kind, is still alive and well that it’s entirely possible that some underground hate group IS operating in Kingston and legitimately threatening the physical safety of the LGBT community in that area (the letters themselves are threats enough to their psychological safety, even if they’re BS).

I applaud the response of these fantastic women, who have remained defiant in the face of these threats. They’ve peacefully protested this garbage by continuing on with their lives, publicly exposing the threats made (even writing about it on HuffPo), and packing their front porch with supportive friends and neighbors. I was really moved by the last few lines of her post about the situation:

As we make a point of facing these threats publicly, we can’t ignore the corrosive effect this all has on our imagination. It’s odd to be surrounded by all the support in the real and virtual world, and yet still think suspicious, fearful thoughts about passers-by. The deluge can happen in an instant, but climate change — both the physical and the social varieties — has been building for years. It has history behind it. So relocation offers aside, we’ll stay on our front porch with our friends, to take cover and peacefully stand our ground.

It’s sad to realize that such ugly homophobia can still pop up in an area as progressive as Ontario, but it’s reassuring to know that our community remains steadfast in it’s strength to withstand these kinds of attacks. Bravo, ladies.

19
Jul
13

#16, or “Finally we have marriage quality…in the UK.”

Britain Legalizes Gay Marriage.

The United Kingdom has now become the 16th nation in the world to  legalize gay marriage. With the largely ceremonial assent of the Queen, queer couple in England and Wales may now legally wed their partners and enjoy all the legal protections afforded to spouses. The law only applies to England and Wales as the individual Parliaments of Scotland and North Ireland have a degree of self-determination under current UK law. Similar legislation has already been introduced in Scotland is is expected to pass this year; same-same marriage remains officially banned in far more conservative North Ireland.

Congratulations, all you fine Brits! I look forward to seeing photos of many happy British gay weddings over the next weeks. With each new country that embraces the notions of marriage equality, the US (the supposed Leader of the Free World) falls farther and farther behind in the human rights. Even Argentina and Brazil, two countries where Catholicism is the predominant religion and socially conservative views are popular, marriage equality has been enacted. It’s about time we see some movement on a national law to enshrine this important right into law.

28
Jun
13

SB5 Rises from the Grave, or “Rick Perry really loves fetuses and hates women.”

Rick Perry Calls Second Special Session To Pass Abortion Restrictions.

Alright, so the title might be a little political hyperbole, but only just. After the heroic, body-wrecking filibuster of Sen. Wendy Davis prevented the passage of the insanely over-reaching Texas abortion legislation know as SB5, Governor Rick Perry is going to call the legislators back for ANOTHER special session and to try this again. Sadly, the law allows Perry to do this over and over again until he gets what he wants. In the end, SB5 will likely become law in Texas, because Gov. Rick seems to think trampling women’s rights and violating Roe v. Wade is more important fixing the myriad of problems in Texas.

My only hope is that enough voters in Texas are paying attention to this ridiculous sideshow, and might be willing to help throw these jerks out on their cans come election time.

A girl can dream, right?

But seriously, I think Wendy Davis has done a fantastic job of galvanizing women and progressives in Texas and it might be enough to get some changes down there.

And of course, there’s also the hope that the generally more sane Federal court system will quash this garbage before it has the chance to harm anyone.

Anyway, I still stand with Wendy, and her efforts on behalf of Texas women are to cheered as loudly as we can manage.

26
Jun
13

The Bravery of Wendy Davis, or “One amazing woman has the guts to call the Texas GOP on their misogynistic bullshit.” [I Stand With Wendy!]

Badass Texas Senator Launches Intense Filibuster Against Abortion Bill.

So if you’re a feminist and you haven’t heard about SB5 in Texas, then you are probably living under a rock. But if you are just recently coming out of coma or something: the Republican legislators in Texas are attempting to push through sweep legislation that would ban abortions after 20 weeks (much like this bullshit legislation before Congress) and close all but 5 abortion providers in the state.

The measure has already gained passage in the state House, and it came to the state Senate floor today. One awesome and brave female state Senator has taken on the task of filibuster this horrific piece of legislation. Wendy Davis took the floor and as of the moment I’m posting is still standing strong. And Senator Davis isn’t just reading a phone book up there…she’s been actively destroying the “merits” of this legislation for the entire duration. She’s pulled apart the language, read court opinions, provided medical research, and shared the stories of dozens upon dozens of women.

Making this feat even more impressive are the particularly difficult rules governing filibusters in the Texas Senate. She must remain standing the entire time, without so much as leaning on the rostrum. She can take n breaks for food or the bathroom. The GOP has been looking for ways to force her off the floor, but she’s remained steadfast in her effort.

I am so blown away by Wendy Davis’s dedication to fighting for women’s right to control their bodies. I’m proud to declare her my hero of the month! If you’d like to share your story with her, you can tweet her @WendyDavisTexas or show your support by tweet with the hashtag #StandWithWendy.

12
Jun
13

A Tragic Miscarriage of Justice, or “In Texas, the life of a sex worker is now worth less than $150.”

Jury Acquits Escort Shooter

When this article first came across my newsfeed, I actually had to do some research to assure myself that I wasn’t being duped by the Onion (and I think a lot of me really hoped that I was). Sadly, this is the real deal. In basic summation: a man in Texas was acquitted of murdering an escort that he ADMITS TO SHOOTING while he was allegedly trying to recover the money ($150) he had given her because she refused to have sex with him. Go ahead and re-read that sentence and let it sink it for a minute. The defense built their case around a Texas law that allows the use of deadly force to recovery property during a night-time robbery, and a jury found him not guilty.

I’m not even sure how to begin to form a response to his. My first instinct is just to jump up and down and shout “WHAT THE EFF IS WRONG WITH TEXAS?” until I go hoarse. But while that might temporarily make me feel better, it certainly doesn’t help anyone, and it definitely doesn’t make for interesting blogging. So I suppose I’ll jump on the most obvious problem here-  this case essentially functions as a state endorsement of vigilantism, and it turns non-violent theft into a capital offense. The general doctrine in the US is that lethal force may only be used when a human life is in immediate danger. Recently this notion has started to have some erosion as more states pass “stand your ground” types of laws that allow deadly force against an intruder in one’s home. While I have strong reservations about that legislation as well, this simply goes too far. This law allows individuals to exact their own brand of violent “justice” against someone who has stolen their property. While I’m sure much of Texas still harbors delusions that they’re in the “Old West”, we have a criminal justice system for a reason. Furthermore, capital punishment has long been reserved for only the most heinous of crimes, and the Supreme Court has relatively recently upheld the notion that the death penalty is only appropriate in cases of murder. But with this law in place, a relatively minor property crime now becomes a de-facto capital offense, as the victim is allowed to end your life to recover their property, without any kind of due-process whatsoever. It’s the ultimate express death penalty. And from my research, this is a law that pushed for by gun lobbyists (after all, if “deadly force” is going to be used, it’s unlikely to be with almost anything else). So what we have here is a horrifying dismantling of one of the most crucial right we have as Americans- due process- in order to slake the bloodlust of the gun activists.

Sadly, the destruction of due-process isn’t even the MOST disturbing implication of this case. To me, even more frightening is the complete devaluation of human life. From all angles, this woman was a victim. Whether this is a case of a plan to steal this man’s money, or a misunderstood assumption about what was being paid for is immaterial…given that this woman was under the control of pimp, she fairly certainly had no choice in what was going on. If she had refused, the relatively standard response from her pimp would have been a beating or worse. Furthermore, solicitation of a prostitute is a crime (and one widely codified as more severe than prostitution itself.) So if this man were expecting sex for his money, he was actively committing a crime himself, and at least to some extent, victimizing this woman. But despite the fact that this woman seems to bear the least responsibility in the situation, she ended up dead. Why? Because this man wanted his $150 back and he felt justified in shooting her for it, because that’s how little her life was worth to him. And in acquitting him of murder charges, the jury simply affirmed his belief…that this poor soul’s life was worth less than the cost of an Xbox. As sickening as that is, I’m STILL not to what I find the most disturbing about what’s going here.

One of the most upsetting things about this case for me is the realization that this woman died because of a man’s belief in his entitlement to sex. The problem with men’s entitlement belief when it comes to sex is a widespread one, and it presents itself in situations as relatively subtle as the constant complaints of “friendzoning” by men to as brutal as sexual violence. And in this case, it cost this woman her very life. This man believed that giving this woman $150 dollars entitled him to have sex with her, and when he did not receive the sexual encounter he believed he was entitled to, he shot her in the neck. Now, all of the testimony in place indicated that the matter of sex was never even discussed…this was simply an assumption that he had made based on the idea that he was paying her for her time. To him the exchange of money for time and companionship intrinsically implied the right to have sex with her. In my mind, there’s almost nothing to really here to establish that his man had been robbed of anything at all. But the results of this case essentially mean that simply because a man BELIEVES he is entitled to sex for a payment (even if there’s no direct justification for it), then the entitlement stands and he’s not legally culpable for taking her life to recover his money if she refuses to screw him.

There’s a darker implication here that I think is easily missed though. If he is entitled to sex with her by virtue of giving her $150 in cash, would he have been legally justified in raping her? Is her simple act of refusing consent an act of theft (which by Texas law opens her to lethal force)? It appears to me that logically, if her refusal to give consent constitutes theft, then by law he “owns” the right to have sex with her, and raping her would be legally permissible as she’s not legally entitled to NOT consent. So in one quick turn, you have essentially eliminated a sex worker’s rights over her body. She is now nothing more than an object, and her sexual function can legally (well, aside from the illegality of prostitution itself) be bought and sold without her consent. Imagine this…a young woman is sold into prostitution from Eastern Europe or West Africa to a pimp in Texas. Under the threat of violence (and possibly death) from her pimp, she is sent to service a john who pays her the agreed sum of money for some fairly violent and unsavory sex that is essentially rape. This woman now has two choices: endure the rape from this man, or risk being shot to death when she flees and he decides to recovery his money in the manner made legal by this law (and reinforced by this case). And where does this stop? What happens if a man takes a woman on a date and gives her a gift and expects sex? If she doesn’t give him the sexual encounter that he feels he is entitled to, can he shoot her to recover that gift? The distance between those two stories is frighteningly short. It’s all just one more disturbing example of how men are finding ways to increase and exert their dominance over women and their bodies.

There are even more ways to tear this apart and find implication, but I’m honestly emotionally drained and I believe my point is made. What we have here, at its core, is an absolute travesty of justice based on an extremely poorly considered piece of legislation, and the continued problems of an entitled male hierarchy bent on the control women’s bodies and sexualities. A victimized young woman receives no justice for her life being violently and senselessly cut short by a bullet, and we all lose a little bit more of our legal rights to consent (or not consent) to the sexual whims of men.




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