Thursday, February 14, 2013

Around The Nation

Gay Students Can Receive Singing Valentines
Copper Hills High School via West Jordan School District
School officials claim “no same-sex delivery” note was a “mistake” and “miscommunication” was corrected after protests.
WEST JORDAN, UT -- A flyer handed out to Copper Hills High School students last week regarding the school’s annual choir fundraiser —in which students make a donation and choir students in turn deliver songs to other students — with these words on it: "Sorry, no same-sex delivery," created a firestorm of criticism.  Students along with some staff, faculty, and parents regarded the statement as singling out LGBT students and was interpreted by some as anti-gay bullying. The flyer seemed odd given the fact that school recently started a new gay-straight student alliance.
The Salt Lake Tribune reports that Copper Hills Principal Todd Quarnberg said that the flyer was a "mistake" by choir students and not meant as a slight against any group of students.
"It was a misunderstanding," said Quarnberg, adding the choir students had choreographed their songs with winking and crooning. "They don’t care if you’re gay or lesbian. It was just miscommunication." 
The student co-president of the school's GSA disagreed;
"It upset a lot of the student body," Dylan Lukes, 17, said. "LGBT and even friends who are girls. I think schools should be a place for acceptance. They should not post no same-sex deliveries — they’re singling everybody out."
The protest spilled over to social media sites including Facebook where Kim Hackford-Peer, a University of Utah lecturer who specializes in gender studies, noted that situations like the one at Copper Hills High are not unusual because of the way conflicting Utah laws are written. 
Hackford-Peer pointed out that to a Utah Board of Education rule that forbids "the advocacy of homosexuality," which was written previous to 1999 and reads, "[prohibits] ... the acceptance or advocacy of homosexuality as a desirable or healthy sexual adjustment or lifestyle."
However she also pointed out that that there is a Utah educator standard, which protects all students. It states: "An educator shall not exclude a student from participating in any program, deny or grant any benefit to any student on the basis of race, color, creed, sex, national origin, marital status, political or religious beliefs, physical or mental conditions, family, social, or cultural background, or sexual orientation, and may not engage in a course of conduct that would encourage a student(s) to develop a prejudice on these grounds or any others." 
"What does it mean to advocate homosexuality? She asked, "The bottom line is it’s a really complicated issue." Hackford-Peer said. "The bottom line is it’s a really complicated issue. At first, Singing Valentines are not complicated, but it could embarrass and shame one group, or result in an at-risk student of being beat up."
Valerie Larabee, executive director of Utah Pride Center, remarked;
"Discrimination is built into our laws in Utah [because] our educators are able to apply their own scrutiny into what it means not to promote homosexuality," Larabee said.
Principal Quarnberg told The Tribune that he had addressed the outcry over the flyer as soon as he was made aware of it. "It was quickly fixed," he said.
Hackford-Peer, who is a former K-12 teacher, said Copper Hills administrators deserve praise for addressing the issue.
"Copper Hills should be commended for working on this and engaging in it," Hackford-Peer said. " It’s a confusing thing: You don’t want to take the Singing Valentines away, but how do you do it [in a fair manner to all]?"
District Of Columbia
Senators Call For Non-Discrimination Executive Order
WASHINGTON -- A group 37 United States senators, led by Oregon Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley, sent a letter to the White House Thursday urging President Obama to issue an executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating in hiring on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.  Because of a lack of federal protections, it remains legal to fire or refuse to hire someone based on his or her sexual orientation in more than half the country – 29 states – and to base those same employment decisions on someone’s gender identity in 34 states. Federal contractors employ more than 20 percent of the American workforce and earn around $500 billion from federal taxpayers every year.
“An executive order from President Obama would ensure that hundreds of thousands of LGBT federal  contract employees could go to work every day without fear of being fired for who they are or who they love,” said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin.  “I am grateful to these leaders in the Senate for speaking out on behalf of LGBT Americans who want nothing more than a fair shot at a job.”
According to the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, prohibiting anti-LGBT employment discrimination by federal contractors would extend equal workplace rights to more than 16 million workers, and would help ensure that they are not forced into the ranks of the unemployed based solely on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
“It’s outrageous that in the year 2013, it is still legal to fire someone based on who they love,” said Merkley. “The President can protect millions of workers from unfair discrimination with the stroke of a pen. I’m pleased that 36 of my colleagues have joined together to push for more equality in the workplace.”
According to a recent poll commissioned by HRC, 73 percent of Americans support an executive order barring discrimination against LGBT employees by federal contractors.  Furthermore, a strong majority (57 percent) of Fortune 500 companies have enacted such policies for their employees.


Desmond Rutherford said...

The Australian Fair Work Ombudsman only has powers to investigate and take action about workplace discriminatory practices that happened (or continued) after 1 July 2009.

Unlawful workplace discrimination occurs when an employer takes adverse action against a person who is an employee or prospective employee because of the following attributes of the person:

sexual preference
physical or mental disability
marital status
family or carer’s responsibilities
political opinion
national extraction or social origin.

But Australia still doesn't recognise same sex marriage.