Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Slouching Toward Equality In The Workplace

Gay workers in Connecticut, New York, and Vermont will sleep better tonight knowing that yesterday a federal appeals court in Manhattan ruled that gay employees are allowed to sue their employers over sexual orientation. 
The ruling does not apply nationwide and could be headed to the Supreme Court where possibly it could be reversed because of a history of conflicting rulings.  The decision on February 26th by the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is not unlike a ruling in Chicago in April 2017 by appeals judges.  Last year, a federal appeal court in Atlanta ruled the opposite way and the Supreme Court declined the petition.  The federal courts are split around how to interpret anti-discrimination protection under Title VII.  Does the law’s prohibition on sex discrimination in the workplace also cover sexual orientation discrimination?
Donald Zarda thinks it does. Zarda claims that his employers Altitude Express violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that prohibits employment discrimination based on “race, color, religion, sex or national origin.”  
The case Zarda v. Altitude Express, 15-3775.:  Donald Zarda, a skydiver, now deceased, sued his employer Altitude Express because he said he was fired in 2010 after a customer complained about Mr. Zarda’s disclosure of his sexual orientation during a jump with a female skydiver.  Mr. Zarda died in 2015, but his family and estate have taken his claim to court.
Last April, a lower court dismissed his case, and the Second Circuit rejected his appeal because they found a distinction between sex and sex orientation. In an unusual move, his case was granted a full appeals court.
The ruling was 10-3 that sexual orientation is defined by one’s sex in relation to the sex of those to whom one is attracted; therefore, it’s impossible for an employer to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation without taking sex into account. Consequently, sexual orientation discrimination is a subset of sex discrimination.
In 2015, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, responsible for enforcing Title VII, insisted that the Civil Rights Law covers sexual orientation.  The Justice Department does not share its views.  In July, the Justice Department under the Trump Administration filed an amicus brief that does not support EPOC’s position. Others like Judge Gerard Lynch advocates that Title VII should fall to Congress, not the courts.
The entire United States still does not have a policy that protects LGBTQ workers from being fired for their sexual orientation.  However, with Monday’s federal appeals court ruling siding with LGBTQ people despite Trump’s Administration’s opposition, at least the protections are making inroads.  Maybe Title VII’s arguments like Edie Windsor’s case for legalizing same-sex marriage, will prevail in the Supreme Court, and sexual orientation will be protected throughout the workplaces in the United States.      

Friday, February 16, 2018

Mike Pence Is On Thin Ice with Rippon

Of the fifteen LGBTQ athletes competing in the Winter Olympics, Gus Kenworthy the American freestyle skier and Adam Rippon, the American figure skater have attracted the most attention for their stances against Vice -President Mike Pence’s past voting records on LGBT rights.
Pence led the U.S. delegation at the opening of The Winter Olympics at Pyeongchang before the figure skating began. Rippon has been very vocal about LGBT rights when he’s not competing on the ice. “Being here at the Olympics does give me a louder voice.  It has given me a platform. It’s given me a voice to reach young kids.”
Rippon, who came out in 2015 during an interview with Skating magazine, says “he doesn’t want his Olympic experience to be about Mike Pence.”  Rippon’s comments about Pence refer to Pence’s 2000 congressional campaign website on which the then-candidate said he believed resources should be “directed to those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior. “  Pence’s spokesman said he wasn’t referring to conversion therapy.  Hmmm. Sure sounds like it! When Pence was Governor of Indiana, he rejected gay marriage and in 2006, he said gay couples signaled societal collapse.  He also opposed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. 
 Rippon says the feud is becoming a distraction to the games, and that he was not offered a meeting with Pence. He does not want to go with TEAM USA to the White House for he feels he would not be welcome by the current Administration. 
Pence did tweet to Rippon to “Go for the Gold!” Commentator of the Winter Olympics Johnny Weir called Rippon’s performance ” spellbinding.”  Co-commentator Tara Lipinski called him “the prince of the Olympics.”  The Bronze Medalist Rippon has been called the most fun to be interviewed by NBC.
Says witty Rippon, “my blades are sharp, but my tongue is sharper.”  Although Rippon, 28, was first place with a 87.95 score in the short-skating program, he was later beaten by Russia’s Dimitri Aliev who received a 98 score.  Rippon’s skating did not include quads so his score fall despite his clean triple axels.
Whoppi Goldberg from “The View” wrote on Huffington Post that asking Rippon to meet Pence is like “asking a Jewish person to sit down and understand where the Nazi is coming from.” However, Republicans such as Sarah Palin’s daughter, Briston and Donald Trump, Jr. defend the Vice-President.
Should Rippon as an American and U.S. Team member go to the White House?  Or should he boycott because Pence’s stance on LGBTQ rights is at odds with his own.  What do you think?


Monday, February 5, 2018

Who Is Kristin Beck? Why We Should Care

 Just last week, I watched a documentary entitled “Lady Valor:  The Kristin Beck Story,” released in 2014, at our local theatre.  The movie was preceded by Beck’s memoire Warrior Princess: A US. Navy Seal’s Journey to Coming Out Transgender, co-written with psychologist Anne Spechard, Ph.D. in 2013.
Apparently, the movie was filmed a few months after Anderson Cooper’s AC360 piece on Beck was aired.  I missed that show as well.
Kristin Beck’s story is still timely.  Starting out in life in 1966 as Christopher T. Beck in a Baptist family, Christopher graduates from Virginia Military Institute in 1987.  He spent twenty years as a member of the elite Special Forces Navy SEALS on SEAL Team 1 as well as United States Special Warfare Development Group (SEAL Team 6).  Highly decorated with a Purple Heart and Bronze Medal with a “V” for Valor, among other medals, he retired in 2011 with the rank of Senior Chief and continued high-level clearance work for the U.S. government and the Pentagon.
Beck did thirteen deployments from 1991 and 2011 while he had a wife and two children. While fighting for America, he drowned out the noise in his head about his identity.   In 2013, Chris Beck came out as transgender on LINKEDIn and lives life as Kristin Beck.
Kristin Beck tours the country giving speeches as a fighter for justice and equality in the military. She is a fighter for transgender acceptance. “It shouldn’t take courage to be yourself,” she confirms. This is her new mission that she states is even harder than serving in the military.  Beck points out that often transsexuals hide out in the military as she did. 
Beck states in the movie that his recent fight for equality is “mentally more rigorous” than serving in the military. She has received hate mail, even death threats, and has lost close friends because of her decision to transition.  This loss hurt her, but her goal is to be Kristen Beck, and raise awareness so others can be themselves as well.  She lost in Maryland’s primary Democratic election to represent the 5th Congressional district in 2016.
Her sister is interviewed in the movie as is her one brother who states that he “never saw girly in him.” Yet at a young age, Christopher would feign illness and stay home and put on his sister’s clothes that felt comfortable.  At age five, he was steered away from feminine toys.  Her mother and two other siblings would not be interviewed for the movie.  “Our family is a work in progress,” she says.
A good marksman, Kristin was seen in the movie as an instructor wearing a skirt, same attire for her VMI reunion.  She doesn’t want to look like Barbie, and says you don’t need surgeries to make you whole.
She is particularly concerned with the transgender teen community that has a high suicide rate and Trump’s temporary military ban of transsexuals in the military.  “There are some very qualified transsexuals in the military who can’t be replaced and their contracts shouldn’t be broken.”  Just as I fought for “liberty, justice, and the pursuit of happiness,” I’m now fighting for my pursuit of happiness, to be a full human being as well as for the transgender community.”