Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Around The Nation

ACLU And Equality Pennsylvania Threaten To Sue School District After Request To Form Gay-Straight Alliance Denied
CHAMBERSBURG, PA -- The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and Equality Pennsylvania sent a letter Tuesday to the Chambersburg Area School District warning that it faces a federal lawsuit if it does not reverse its decision last month to prohibit a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) club.
Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania said;
"Allowing the creation of the Gay-Straight Alliance club is not only the legal thing to do, it is the right thing to do for the district's students. Discrimination and harassment can have a devastating impact on gay youth, and GSAs provide an important and safe forum for students who are concerned about these issues."
The 1984 Federal Equal Access Act requires secondary schools to allow a variety of student-run religious and non-religious voluntary clubs that meet during “non-instructional” time. This law was later upheld by the U. S. Supreme Court.
The letter gives the school district until March 15, 2013 to comply.
A group of Chambersburg Area Senior High School students had initially proposed the GSA at the January 2013 school board meeting. The motion to form the GSA had been tabled as a spokesperson for the school board said that the board had concerns regarding the wording of the proposed GSA’s constitution. Disagreement over the wording continued into the next session in February after which board members voted 5-4 to deny formation of the club.
According to the district's rules governing non-academic clubs, a non-sanctioned group would be prohibited from using the school's morning announcement system or put up flyers advertising its events, may not hold events or fundraisers, and may not participate as a group in Color Day events.
The school district has previously granted official approval to a number of non-curricular student groups at the Chambersburg High Senior School, including the Bible Club, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Ping Pong Club.
"Schools need to understand that they cannot pick and choose which clubs to allow," said Molly Tack-Hooper, staff attorney for the ACLU of Pennsylvania. "The same law that ensures the right of GSAs to exist also protects the existence of a variety of clubs, from scrapbooking to religious clubs."
Equality Pennsylvania Executive Director Ted Martin added;
"Equality Pennsylvania strongly recommends that the Chambersburg Area School Board reconsider their decision on a Gay-Straight Alliance at Chambersburg Senior High School. 
Given the lack of an LGBT-inclusive anti-bullying law in Pennsylvania, local school districts are left on their own to ensure safe environments for LGBT students to learn and to be themselves. 
Equality Pennsylvania is hopeful that the members of the Chambersburg Area School Board will do the right thing and allow students to organize a GSA in their district." 
Gay Baptist Minster And Equality Group Clash Over Same-Sex Marriage
LOUISVILLE, KY -- Disagreement over the direction of where the LGBT equality movement needs to head in the Blue-Grass state has two vocal advocates for equality at odds. Chris Hartman, head of Kentucky's Fairness Campaign, has focused on his group's efforts to pass a nondiscrimination law that would protect gays and lesbians from losing their jobs or being denied housing because of their sexual orientation. Hartman thinks that efforts to overturn the state's ban on same-sex marriage is not achievable telling Reuters;
"Marriage is on the forefront of many people's minds, and it's tough to go to the folks who are excited about relationship recognition and be the person to say, But that's not where our leaders are,'" said Hartman. "It's not that it's ambitious; it's unrealistic." 
The Rev. Maurice "Bojangles" Blanchard, an openly gay ordained Baptist minister disagrees. Blanchard, who was arrested with his partner in January when they refused to leave the Jefferson County clerk's office after being denied a marriage license, likens his fight to the struggle for black civil rights and says there is no proper time to demand equality.
"I want the (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) person who sees this event to feel affirmed: Faith is not against me and in fact it is the basis for calling for your rights," Blanchard said.
Both men seek to overturn discrimination against the LGBT community though Hartman, admitting that he is facing long odds, sees greater success through a legislative path versus Blanchard who wants to break down barriers to same-sex marriage with demonstrations and civil disobedience.
In 2004, Kentucky was one of 11 states to pass a constitutional amendment defining marriage as heterosexual. Since then, national gay rights groups have focused on marriage and, over the last decade, nine states plus the District of Columbia have legalized gay marriage.
This year, with gay marriage proposals being considered in Illinois, Rhode Island and Minnesota, there has been little talk of a "Southern strategy" for Bible Belt states.
But momentum has been building, said Michael Aldridge, who heads the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky. In January, the tiny Appalachian town of Vicco passed an ordinance prohibiting discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations based upon a person's actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity. Louisville, Lexington and Covington also have nondiscrimination ordinances.
Aldridge said there is no reliable count of how often gays and lesbians are penalized in the state because of their sexual orientation. Last summer, a lesbian couple in Richmond made headlines after being kicked out of a park while taking maternity pictures ahead of the birth of their baby boy.
"No state has ever passed relationship status without first having state-wide nondiscrimination protection, which is why that's our focus," Aldridge said. "A lot of people don't realize that it's still legal to discriminate."


Trab said...

There's nothing wrong with discrimination; just reserve it for food, drink, TV shows, books, movies, and music.