HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Criminal defendants in Connecticut would be barred from claiming as their sole legal defense that they panicked after learning about their victim’s sexual orientation.
The state House of Representatives approved legislation Tuesday preventing defendants from using the so-called gay panic defense. That defense blames a violent reaction on discovering a victim’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.
The legislation already cleared the Senate and now moves to the governor.
Defense attorneys unsuccessfully attempted to use the “gay panic defense” in the case of Matthew Shepard, the college student beaten to death by two men in Wyoming in 1998. The judge would not allow it, and those men were convicted.
Queer Eye’s Jonathan Van Ness Comes Out As Nonbinary
Jonathan Van Ness, the grooming guy from the Netflix makeover show Queer Eye, recently came out as nonbinary, clarifying that “he prefers he/him pronouns, but does not identify as a ‘man.’”
As a child, Van Ness used to put on his mother’s makeup, high heels and scarves while playing in his family’s basement, but he never felt he could wear such things to school where he was bullied for being different.
“I didn’t really put [my dressing] that together with ‘gender nonconforming’ or ‘nonbinary’ or owning that as an identity until recently,” Van Ness said. He continued:
He said the visibility of social media has shown people the options they have for expressing their own gender and added that most of his role models are women including his mother, grandmother and pop divas like Gloria Estefan, Celine Dion, Aretha Franklin, Shania Twain, and Mariah Carey.
What does it mean to be non-binary?
According to the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), non-binary and genderqueer identity are labels that refer to people who “don’t identify with any gender” or whose “gender changes over time.” The word non-binary literally means someone whose gender falls outside of the male-or-female binary.
The NCTE points out that non-binary people have existed in societies throughout world history, not all non-binary people get gender-affirmation surgeries and non-binary isn’t the same thing as being trans or intersex (although some trans and intersex people do identify as non-binary or genderqueer).
The organization also says that allies should be respectful of non-binary and genderqueer people’s chosen names and pronouns, recognizing that they don’t need to “understand what it means for someone to be non-binary to respect them.” Most of all, allies should advocate for policies that allow non-binary people to live, dress and have their gender expression respected at work, at school and public spaces, especially bathrooms.
“There’s no one way to be non-binary,” the NCTE writes. “The best way to understand what it’s like to be non-binary is to talk with non-binary people and listen to their stories.”
(Reporting by Queerty)
Supreme Court Rejects Appeal Over Transgender Bathrooms
On May 28, the Supreme Court rejected an appeal filed by teenagers in Pennsylvania who opposed a school district policy allowing students to use the locker rooms and bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity. As CNN reports, the Supreme Court’s decision to leave a lower court’s ruling in place means that Boyertown School District’s current policy, which allows transgender students to choose which facilities they use, will stay in place.
Reuters reports that the six students opposing the policy argued that allowing their transgender peers to use the bathrooms corresponding with their gender identity would be in violation of Title IX and privacy. The students are represented by Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian organization that is considered a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The SPLC calls the firm “one of the most influential groups informing the administration’s attack on LGBT rights.”
According to CNN, the plaintiffs’ lawyers argued that “forcing a teenager to share a locker room or restroom with a member of the opposite sex can cause embarrassment and distress.” Boyertown School District’s policy allows students to choose which bathrooms they use on a case by case basis; before a student is allowed to use a facility with a label that differs from the gender they were assigned at birth, they are required to meet with a guidance counselor.
Lawyers for the school district say that they have this policy in place because they believe “that transgender students should have the right to use school bathroom and locker facilities on the same basis as non-transgender students.”
The Supreme Court issued their decision without comment, but many people are viewing the court’s rejection of the appeal as the latest positive development in a nationwide legal battle for transgender rights. In a tweet on Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union announced that the Supreme Court’s rejection of the appeal is a “victory for trans students and educators nationwide.”
“Boyertown’s schools chose to be inclusive and welcoming of transgender students in 2016, a decision the courts have affirmed again and again,” the ACLU added in a statement to CNBC. “This lawsuit sought to reverse that hard-won progress by excluding transgender students from school facilities that other students use. That would have increased the stigma and discrimination that transgender students already face.”
The rejection of the plaintiffs’ appeal comes as the Trump administration continues to roll back anti-discrimination protections for transgender Americans. Back in February 2017, the administration removed an Obama-era guidance that encouraged schools toallow students to use the bathrooms and locker rooms that corresponded with their gender identity. More recently, on April 12, the Supreme Court upheld a Trump policy that bans people who identify as transgender from serving in the armed forces, which will affect an estimated 14,700 troops, according to the Palm Center.
And on May 24, the administration announced that it plans to remove Obama-era protections against transgender people seeking medical care, by removing gender identity from discrimination “on the basis of sex.” In response, the National Center for Transgender Equality called the proposal “an escalation of its dangerous attacks against transgender people.”
(Reporting by Mic)
Trump Rolls Back Transgender Housing Protections, Allowing Shelters To Turn Away Transgender People
WASHINGTON — The Trump administration on Wednesday announced plans to let shelters and other recipients of federal housing money place transgender people in facilities alongside others of their birth sex — not with people of their gender identity — gutting protections created during the Obama administration.
Critics warn the proposal, which would effectively allow shelters to force transgender women to share bathing and sleeping facilities with men, puts transgender people at a higher risk for homelessness and abuse. The rule could also allow single-sex shelters to turn away transgender people entirely.
It is the latest rollback of LBGT rights in President Donald Trump’s campaign to allow discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in public and private settings.
Trump’s Justice Department has said transgender women in prison must be jailed in cells with men, argued that religious shopkeepers can refuse service to same-sex couples, and defended a ban on transgender troops in the military. On Tuesday, Trump released a conscience rule that would let health care providers recuse themselves from providing certain services to transgender patients.
The complete text of the draft rule by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) was not immediately available. However, the Office of Management and Budget published a summary on Wednesday that says it would allow shelter operators and others receiving HUD funds to cite safety, religious objections, and the person’s birth sex as reasons to determine where transgender people are placed.
The rule concerns single-sex or sex-segregated facilities, such as bathrooms, emergency shelters, and other accommodations.
“The proposed rule permits Shelter Providers to consider a range of factors in making such determinations, including privacy, safety, practical concerns, religious beliefs, any relevant considerations under civil rights and nondiscrimination authorities, the individual’s sex as reflected in official government documents, as well as the gender which a person identifies with,” says an abstract of the draft regulation.
The proposal would need to be published in full and opened to public comment before it could be finalized as a regulation. The proposal says HUD is still “ensuring that its programs are open to all … regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.”
But critics immediately blasted the proposal as a threat to transgender people, who face high rates of discrimination in employment and housing, and as a result, disproportionately need shelters and other housing assistance.
The Obama administration had approved two regulations designed to protect LGBT homeless people who rely on HUD services, including a 2016 regulation titled Equal Access in Accordance with an Individual’s Gender Identity in Community Planning and Development Programs.
HUD’s website explains the 2016 rule “ensures equal access to individuals in accordance with their gender identity in programs and shelter funded under programs administered by HUD’s Office of Community Planning and Development.”
While the new proposal would not rescind the older policies, it would allow shelter operators and others receiving HUD funds to skirt them.
Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, called the proposal an “attack on some of the most vulnerable people in our society. The programs impacted by this rule are life-saving for transgender people, particularly youth rejected by their families, and a lack of stable housing fuels the violence and abuse that takes the lives of many transgender people of color.”
HUD did not immediately respond to a request for comment on why the new rule is necessary and how it responded to concerns about the proposal.
The 2015 US Transgender Survey, the largest survey of its type to date, found one in four transgender adults experienced housing bias within the previous last year. Homeless transgender people were found to be more likely to face physical and sexual violence.
In April, HUD Secretary Ben Carson defended his department against criticism over withdrawing guidance on nondiscrimination by citing the Equal Access Rule in his testimony before the House Appropriations Subcommittee.
“We have not removed the rules,” he said at the time. “We have not changed the rules at all.”
(Reporting by Buzzfeed News)
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