LGBT Friendly Institutions of Higher Learning

For several years now, CampusPride.org has offered a list of LGBT friendly colleges and universities.  The top for fall 2016 include:  Cornell University; Elon University; Harvey Mudd College; Hobart and William Smith Colleges; Indiana University, Bloomington Campus; Ithaca College, Macalester College, Montclair State University, Portland State University, Princeton University, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick Campus; San Diego State University; Southern Oregon University; The Pennsylvania State University; Tufts University; University of California, Los Angeles Campus; University of California, Davis Campus; University of California, Santa Barbara Campus; University of Illinois at Chicago; University of Maine at Machias; University of Maryland, College Park Campus; University of Massachusetts, Amherst Campus; University of Minnesota, Twin Cities Campus; University of Pennsylvania; University of Vermont; University of Washington; University of Wisconsin, Green Bay Campus; University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee Campus; and Washington State University.

The same poll noted 102 campuses with documented anti-LGBTQ policies and cited as dangerous environments for LGBT students.  (CampusPrice.org/ShameList)  They include:  Blue Mountain College and Mississippi College, two (2) Baptist colleges in Mississippi.

While Mississippi’s major state supported universities aren’t in the LGBT friendly list, at least they are not noted in the Shame List.  That’s a good thing.  And we can continue to work on that!

Salem, Mass

When I think of Salem, I think of the witch trials.  That’s what history reminds us of.  The more I learned about the witch trials, I realized that fear was at the heart of the witch trials — fear and intolerance.

The folks in Salem are at it again.  Yesterday, one of the newspaper boxes that sells Salem’s Rainbow Press was burned, after several others had been vandalized during the same week.  The Rainbow Press is an LGBT newspaper that touts the largest readership in the area.

Setting a newspaper box on fire seems more like a kid-prank than a hate crime, and had other boxes not been vandalized, I would have suggested that the police were on the wrong track when looking at it as a hate crime.  But again, fear and intolerance have triumphed — but just for a Saturday.  Because today, the last Sunday in August, rainbow flags fly high in Salem.  Support is important; a show of support is terrific!  Fly those flags.  Ostracize hate and intolerance.

Housing Relief? Perhaps not in our town…

There are times when LGBT couples have difficulty finding appropriate housing, particularly if the issue is renting rather than purchasing.  We are reminded, often, that in small Southern towns — well, in any small town — people talk and other people care deeply about what is said about them.

Imagine you live in one of those small towns and you are reticent to rent to people who are “unique.”  Are you going to run afoul of the law?

Here’s where to look:

42 USC 3604 (a), which is a section of the federal Fair Housing Act, prohibits a person from refusing to rent, refusing to negotiate the rental of, or otherwise make unavailable, or deny a dwelling to any person “because of …sex.”  Sub-section (c) prohibits a person from making, printing or publishing “any notice, statement, or advertisement, with respect to the sale or rental of a dwelling that indicates any preference, limitation or discrimination “based on…sex.”

Sub-section (a) also prohibits a person from refusing to rent, refusing to negotiate the rental of, or otherwise make unavailable, or deny a dwelling to any person “because of…familial status.” And likewise, sub-section (c) prohibits dissemination of advertising which discriminates “based on …familial status.”

What happens if you do this?  Well, it all depends whose wrath you incur.  But the legal remedies under 42 USC 3613 (c) include actual damages, punitive damages, injunctive relief, and reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs.  I wouldn’t take the chance.

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.