First Openly Gay Student Body President

On April  1, Bobby Brooks, a junior at Texas A & M University, will begin as the first openly gay student body president in the history of the school, and the 74th elected.

A & M routinely makes the list of 20 least LGBTQ-friendly schools in the nation.  Fall of 2016 was the first time A & M wasn’t on the list since 2011.

Asked about his choice to attend a university with a history of intolerance for LGBTQ orientation, Brooks said:  “I was an Aggie from the first day that I was born, there was no choice about it…My sexuality was a non-issue in terms of selecting Texas A & M as a university because I knew what this university could offer.”

Brooks actually ended up in second place in the vote for student body president, but as a result of an investigation which revealed that his opponent ran a campaign of fraud and intimidation, the “winner” was disqualified.  Thus, Brooks won!

A new beginning for the Aggie Nation!……….

Gay and Lesbian Parents

 I think I mentioned that I was going to speak on the topic of same-sex parenting in Mississippi to the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection’s Integrity group on 3/23 at 6 p.m.  More on that topic……..

The Public Policy Research Portal at Columbia Law School identified 79 scholarly articles in search of authentic academic work on the subject of the well-being of children raised by gay or lesbian parents.  Seventy-five (75) of these concluded that children of gay or lesbian parents fare no worse than other children.  Columbia’s policy research institute concluded that the “research forms an overwhelming scholarly consensus, based on over three (3) decades of peer-reviewed research, that having a gay or lesbian parent does not harm a child.

Nadia Kounang at CNN reached the same conclusion after evaluating a study in the Journal of Development and Behavioral Pediatrics which reached a statistical judgment that children or same-sex parents are just as healthy emotionally and physically as the children of different-sex parents.  The journal is joined by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which issued a policy statement which supports access for all children to (1) civil marriage rights for their parents and  (2) willing and capable foster and adoptive parents, regardless of the parents’ sexual orientation.  The Academy of Pediatrics supports families in all their diversity, because “the family has always been the basic social unit in which children develop the supporting and nurturing relationships with adults that they need to thrive.”

And in South Carolina last month, a federal district judge ruled that same sex parents must be listed on a child’s birth certificate.  The case is Carson v. Heigel.

Remember Gavin Grimm?

Gavin Grimm is the high school student who sued his Virginia school district based on the transgender use of bathrooms.  The United States Supreme Court announced this week that, instead of ruling on the case, it will send it back to the Fourth Circuit.  The SCT’s reasoning:  the Fourth Circuit based its ruling on guidance which was issued by the Obama administration clarifying Title IX protections for transgender students.

On February 22, the Trump administration rescinded that guidance.  The administration revoked federal guidelines specifying that transgender students have the right to use public school restrooms that match their gender identity.  The Education and Justice Departments were notified that the administration is ordering schools to disregard memos issued relative to transgender student rights.  The “Dear Colleague” letter, which is the method by which the executive branch sends out “memos”, does not offer any guidance but says that earlier guidance lacked extensive legal analysis, did not go through a public vetting process, sowed confusion and drew legal challenges.

The administration said that it wants to “further and more completely consider the legal issues involved” and that any guidance must include “due regard for the primary role of the State and local school districts in establishing educational policy.”

So the Fourth Circuit is back in business on this transgender case, as well as other transgender student cases that are moving through the lower courts.  The Seventh Circuit will hear a case wherein Ash Whitaker, a Wisconsin student, is requesting relief, on March 29th.  Both Ohio and Pennsylvania courts have held that while the litigation is working its way through the courts, transgender students must allowed to use the facilities of their choice.

We will continue to watch these cases.

Integrity

I am delighted to speak to the Integrity meeting at the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection in Starkville MS on THURSDAY, MARCH 23 at 6 pm in the Johnson Center. Visitors are welcome. I will be speaking on the status of single-sex parenting in Mississippi.

Thoughts on Trump

It’s hard to tell….I would say too early to tell, but I’m an optimist.  And while many of my colleagues and friends thought the world would end on inauguration day, we’re still here — the LGBTQ community and its allies.

So in early February the President said he would not roll back the executive order that offers workplace non-discrimination protections to federal employees and federal contractors.  But cabinet nominees appear to have a long, and generally unfavorable, relationship with LGBTQ issues, most notably Congressman Tom Price, Betsy DeVos, Senator Jeff Sessions, and Judge Neil Gorsuch.  All is not lost in these appointments.  We have seen many appointees who become “different” people and take stances that are not historically “theirs” when they become cabinet members or Supreme Court Justices.  Take Hugo Black and Earl Warren, for example.

While the rhetoric is definitely not comforting, the only thing that any of these individuals have done so far is in their pasts.  The world has changed and continues to change and attitudes that once were shocking — particularly in southern states like Alabama and Georgia — are no longer shocking.  Vehemently opposed, perhaps, but no longer shocking.

Let’s bide our time and mark upcoming actions as the test of where this administration is going.  We think we know but in truth, we do not.

Trump Appoints AG

President elect Trump has appointed Senator Jeff Sessions,the 3 term junior US Senator from Alabama, to be the next attorney general of the US.  I do not know Senator Sessions personally, but living in the same general area of the country, he is often on my radar screen.

Sessions (Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III) has been called by the “National Journal” the fifth most conservative US Senator.  He has supported a national amendment to ban same sex marriage (remember, he is from the state where the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Roy Moore, has been cited and suspended from the high court by the Court of the Judiciary because he told Alabama’s probate judges to defy the federal court orders on same sex marriage — the same guy, who in 2003, was taken off the bench when he defied orders to take down the 10 Commandments monument from the state judicial building) and has supported other conservative measures, including opposition to abortion and illegal immigration.  (Now, don’t get me wrong, I oppose illegal immigration, too, but our entire immigration system is “broke” and we won’t fix it with hostility.)

When Sessions was Attorney General of Alabama, he worked to deny funding to student Gay-Straight alliances at Auburn and the University of South Alabama.  It is positions like this one that earned him a zero (0) rating from the Human Rights Campaign.  And Oregon in particular is concerned because of his rather rabid anti-marijuana position.  (Apparently his rabid anti-marijuana sentiments came to light during his hearing before the Senate to become a federal judge in Alabama.  An African American man whom Sessions had worked with on some policy issues alleged to the committee that Sessions had said that he approved of the Ku Klux Klan until he realized that some of them smoked marijuana but that folks that smoke marijuana are “bad” people. This was reported by Ken Rudin, of NPR in his blog, Political Junkie,” posted on May 5, 2009.  He didn’t get confirmed.)

As the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee in the 110th Congress, while questioning Judge Sonia Sotomayor upon her nomination to the Supreme Court, he noted that “empathy for one party is always prejudice against another.”  (My understanding of the meaning of empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within the other being’s frame of reference — to walk a mile in those shoes, so to speak. I would hope that every judge in the land has empathy for every litigant.)  He also questioned her on her position relative to the use of foreign legal materials in considering US constitutional cases. (Scalia hated the use  of foreign legal materials; Breyer loves the use of foreign legal materials.  All I know is that after the US constitution was adopted, we relied on foreign legal materials all the time.  We had no case law of our own, so courts often turned to Britain for guidance.  British common law is still a moving force in our American rule of law.)  And he made it clear that he did not like the fact that Judge Sotomayor had served as a board member of Latino Justice (formerly known as the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education fund) which was founded as a US non-profit in 1972, taking the lead from the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund which Thurgood Marshall had established in 1957.

So, it sorta seems to me that Senator Sessions doesn’t like people who think differently from him.  He seems to actually simply disregard him.  I guess his empathy level is not too high.

I’m not even going to discuss his views on women.

 

 

Wisconsin Federal Court Ruling on Birth Certificates

In late September of this year, the United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin (The Honorable Barbara B. Crabb, District Judge) enjoined the Wisconsin Department of Health from enforcing a Wisconsin statute as it was written and directed the DOH to apply/construe it in gender neutral terms:  specifically that the word “husband” should be construed to mean “spouse.”  She also adopted a notice and measures as to how birth certificates created prior to this ruling could be corrected.

Our Mississippi judges could have thought of that….

 

Two women can’t make a child…

Recently Chancellor John S. Grant of Rankin County, Mississippi, ruled that, since two women can’t make a child, one of the divorcing parents in a couple’s same sex marriage will be denied custody.  So the woman who carried the child who was made viable by sperm donation is the woman parent, and  the child “…has got a natural father somewhere.”

Chancellor Grant reasoned that his decision was not discriminatory; it was based on a biological fact…”it is impossible for two women to conceive a child and that conception must occur between a man and a woman.”

Perhaps the Chancellor is correct in his biological facts.  But he is not right in disturbing the only family relationship the child — the couple’s youngest son — has ever known.  Somehow I think that Judge Grant forgot that these custody issues look to the “best interests of the child.”