LGBT issues clash with Immigration Issues

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion on August 9 of this year which is worthy of note.  It was an appeal from the Board of Immigration Appeals (Straus, IJ A038 575 464).  The petitioner in this case was Gavin Tariano Walker, a Jamaican citizen residing in the state of Connecticut.  It is unclear how long Walker had been living in the US, but clearly long enough to rack up a couple of state law convictions (aggravated felony and controlled substance offense).  Hence, an Immigration Judge determined to remove him from the US.  He appealed, indicating that the Immigration Judge, reviewing the BIA, should have deferred his removal from the US based on the Convention Against Torture.

Walker’s problem, you see, is that he contends that he is a “widely known homosexual in Jamaica.”

In order to relief under the Convention Against Torture (CAT), one has to demonstrate that it is more likely than not that he would be tortured if removed to t he proposed country of removal, and government officials in that country would inflict such torture.  It is true that in Jamaica acts of gross indecency between persons of the same sex are criminalized.  The Human Rights report for Jamaica indicates that LGBT individuals suffer “serious human rights abuses, including assaults with deadly weapons, ‘corrective rape’ of women accused of being lesbians, arbitrary detention, mob attacks, stabbings, harassment by hospital and prison staff, and targeted shootings.”

Pointing out that it was unlikely that the Immigration Judge had appropriately applied the applicable standards outlining CAT’s intent by conflating or diminishing the nature of government acquiescence, the Second Circuit remanded the matter to the Immigration Judge for further study.

What would Donald Trump make of that?  What do you make of that?  Is he a felon to deport or a life to be saved?  And if he is a life to be saved, what is the likelihood that he will commit another aggravated felony?  Geez…….these are tough questions.

Why ask?

Governor Bryant requested that US District Judge Carlton Reeves stay the ruling he handed down July 1 — the thrust of which precluded the Governor from enforcement of HB 1523.  The only question I have is “Why ask?”

It seemed pretty clear to me, reading the original opinion, that Judge Reeves was pretty clear.  By filing a motion to stay, the Governor wasted state resources/funds to have the motion drafted and filed.  Moreover, he wasted federal resources by filing the motion that clogged up the already clogged docket, required a fairly immediate response, and had literally no hope of success.

What is it the Governor doesn’t get?

In my favorite slice, Judge Reeves reasoned:  “Issuing a marriage license to a gay couple is not like being forced into armed combat or to assist with an abortion.  Matters of life and death are sui generis.  If movants truly believe that providing services to LGBT citizens forces them to ‘tinker with the machinery of death,’ their animus exceeds anything seen in Romer, Windsor, or the marriage equality cases.”

Yep, folks, that’s Mississippi.  Animus capitol of the world. And don’t you hate it?  Mississippi leads the nation in per capita charitable giving.  Communities are, for the most part, warm and loving, regardless of race or creed.  Its the government with most of the animus, not the citizens.

I realize that the citizens have elected the government, and I bemoan that.  But the government has gone too far.  Fair minded Mississippians just want you to know that while the Governor and his government are correctly characterized by Judge Reeves, most of us are not.

Judge Reeves’ opinion blocking Mississippi’s Religious Freedom Law

Judge Carlton Reeves, in blocking HB 1523, called it “state-sanctioned discrimination.”

He went further:  “There are almost endless explanations for how HB 1523 condones discrimination against the LGBT community, but in its simplest terms it denies LGBT citizens equal protection under the law.”  Judge Reeves noted that the law, if implemented, would create a separate system designed to diminish the rights of LGBT citizens, thus violating the equal protection guaranteed by the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution.  He also noted that it gave an official preference for certain religious beliefs over others, thus violating the 1st Amendment.

Governor Bryant had argued that HB 1523 would protect discrimination against people like him — who he defined as “Christians with deeply held religious beliefs about marriage and sex.”  And my deeply held religious beliefs are “chopped liver”, Governor?

Reeves show down the (admittedly weak) defense of HB 1523 by saying that this legislation granted “special rights” to certain citizens who held beliefs “reflecting disapproval of lesbian, gay, transgender and unmarried persons…..People who held contrary religious beliefs (than the Governor and his supporters) would remain unprotected….meaning the State has put its thumb on the scale to favor some religious beliefs over others….” — a violation of the Establishment Clause.

But Judge Reeves says it all when he says that enforcement of HB 1523 would create “an official preference” for certain religious tenets while offering no protection for people who had differing beliefs.

I admittedly have one aspect of my personal theology that causes me concern.  God doesn’t work on my timetable.  That’s right.  I beg him to smite my enemies.  Sometimes he doesn’t answer at all; often he says…hold on, Lydia.

Unfortunately there is an aspect of the personal theology of others I know that causes me concern also.  Many people think that they have a direct line to God.  If everyone who believed that they had a direct line would listen to what was said/sanctioned on that line, there would not be so much divergence of theological opinion.  Please don’t explain to me what your God said in his direct communication to you.  How do you know that you have the right connection?  Moreover, how do you know that you heard/understood what he said to you?

Thank you, Judge Reeves, for reconizing that Mississippians are a people of differing faiths and/or no faith at all.  Please keep reminding leadership that Republicans want to keep government “little” — not big.  Please keep reminding leadership that Republicans do not need to interfere in the personal rights of others.  Please keep reminding leadership that people in glass houses should be careful…..


Earlier this week…

Earlier this week, Judge Carlton Reeves of the Southern District of Mississippi, denied an injunction to a same sex couple in Meridian because their marriage was not eminent.  They were planning to marry in 2017.

However, in another case the following day, which was apparently on the merits (I have not had time to read it yet), he ruled that Obergefell established law in the United States relative to same sex marriage in Mississippi and that it really didn’t matter what legislators tried to do to invalidate the Obergefell decision.

More on this over the weekend!

Reverend Hrostowski is suing the Gov

Last week, Reverend Susan Hrostowski, an Episcopal priest at St. Elizabeth’s Episcopal Church in Collins and associate professor at University of Southern Mississippi, along with the Campaign for Southern Equality (CSE), filed a lawsuit against the Governor, et al., claiming that HB 1523 is unconstitutional.  My hero, Roberta Kaplan, will be representing the plaintiffs in the litigation.  Hrostowski had been a plaintiff, along with my friend, Tina Sweeden-Munford, in the adoption lawsuit that Kaplan won for the plaintiffs March 31.

The lawsuit filed by Hrostowski and CSE joins lawsuits filed by both the ACLU (Oliver Diaz) and the Mississippi Center for Justice, (Rob McDuff) asking that the Courts rule HB 1523 unconstitutional.  US District Judge Carlton Reeves was assigned the case.  The number in the Southern District of Mississippi is 3:16-CV-442-DPJ-FKB.

You can read/download a copy of the Mississippi “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act” as well as Hrowtowski’s complaint from the Thursday, June 16 issue of the Jackson Free Press.

Judge Reeves has set a hearing for June 20th in Jackson.


What do you say?

What do you say after Orlando?  There just aren’t words.  There needs to be action.

Mississippi is a parochial place, and doesn’t see itself as a haven for the LGBT community — even though the US Census suggests that the percentage of same-sex couple households in Mississippi mirror the majority of other states — with about 1% of couple households being same-sex couples.

But last night there was a vigil — in Jackson, Mississippi — at JC’s, to my knowledge the oldest gay bar in continuous operation in the Capital City (25 years and counting).  The vigil was well attended, not only by the LGBT community, but by many allies.

This follows a large turnout last month to express dissatisfaction with HB 1532, which takes effect July 1.  That demonstration was also well attended by allies.

Obviously, however, such peaceful community gatherings have not fazed the Mississippi legislature.  I am not advocating civil disobedience.  That will not help.

But there needs to be action — in Mississippi.  Action for protection of the civil rights of our LGBT community.  NOW.

What to do?  I don’t know.  I wish I did.  What do you say?

LGBT — the alphabet soup of gender

When I first realized what “gay” was — besides being jolly — I was pretty old — probably in college.  I had led a fairly sheltered life as the only child of a couple who were at the First Baptist Church of wherever they were living just about every time its door opened.  When I got to law school, it seemed that “gay” was perhaps not “right” anymore, and that “gays” should be called “queer.”  Now it seems that the complete gender alphabet is captured in LGBT or LGBTQ.  Because I had always perceived the moniker “queer” to be derogatory, I always opted for LGBT.  Right or wrong, I had made my choice.

I’m glad to realize that choosing the right characterization is an issue within the LGBT community as well.  Lea DeLaria, quoted in Between the Lines, said:  “This is the biggest issue we have in the queer community to date and will continue to be the biggest issue until we learn to accept our differences, and that’s the issue. And part of me believes that this inclusivity of calling us LGBTQQTY-whatever-LMNOP tends to stress our differences.  And that’s why I refuse to do it.  I say queer.  Queer is everybody.”

If you go to the dictionary, the second definition for the word queer is a “disparaging” or “offensive slang” way to refer to a gay or lesbian individual.  But the first definition of the word is something to consider: “deviating from what is expected or normal.”  Considering that, aren’t we all queer?



I’m an Episcopalian

I realize that my faith is irrelevant to this blog in general, but it is relevant to this particular blog entry.  So listen up.

First of all, the world is small.  This revelation, from the “Sun Herald” (Gulfport/Biloxi) was sent to me by my friend, Claudia L. Brind-Woody, living in the UK.

Here’s the news:  The Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi, Brian Seage, has authorized all priests of the diocese to marry same-sex couples or those who identify as part of the LGBT community without obtaining permission through an advance petition.  His letter announcing the diocesan position “permits marriage in church for all couples legally entitled to marry.”  Prior to this, parishes were required to submit petitions to the Bishop requesting approval to perform same-sex weddings.

Seage said:  “Our baptismal covenant calls each of us to welcome all people and encourage diversity under their church roofs.”

Several years ago, under the leadership of Bishop Duncan Gray, III, all parishes in Mississippi adopted the following statement of inclusion:  “We respect the dignity of all persons, regardless of sexual orientation, national origin, race, gender, or age and welcome and encourage them to fully participate in all areas of parish life.”


Roberta Kaplan is my hero…

Roberta Kaplan, an attorney and adjunct professor of law, is my hero.  She has repeatedly come to Mississippi (and other probably “as unfriendly” states) to begin to assist with LGBT rights litigation.  She is challenging Mississippi’s HB 1523 and has challenged Mississippi’s position on same sex marriage and Mississippi’s position on same same sex couples adopting children, among other issues.  This woman is making a significant mark on Mississippi history.