Monday, March 25, 2013

Around The Nation

Salt Lake City BSA Council Survey Shows 83% Oppose Lifting Ban
SALT LAKE, UT -- The results of a survey published Monday found that eighty-three percent of the Boy Scout leaders, parents and representatives from troops in the Great Salt Lake Council oppose lifting a ban on gay leaders and Scouts.
The survey was sent out via email ahead of the upcoming nationwide vote of all Boy Scout councils by the Boy Scouts of America on May 23 about whether to alter membership rules.
In an interview with The Salt Lake Tribune, Rick Barnes, The Great Salt Lake Council’s Scouting executive said that the survey is designed to not allow respondents to be anonymous. This factor caused University of Utah statistics professor Andrew Jorgenson to note that the survey’s response rate and design are problematic.
The Tribune pointed out that currently the survey has a response rate of 11 percent.
"Methodologically speaking, (11 percent) is an extremely low response rate," Jorgenson said. "It can certainly increase the likelihood that the results are not representative of the broader population they’re trying to survey."
The results show that of 4,600 people who have responded so far, 70 percent say they will be less involved or will quit Scouting if the ban ends. Fourteen percent say they would like to see a change in the policy.
Jorgenson said the survey may not represent the views of the 41,000 leaders and parents queried by the council.
According to Barnes, respondents are being identified by their email address, "to make sure that only those we sent surveys to can reply." Recipients can return their surveys until the end of this week.'
Longtime Scout leader Michael Clara, who is also a Salt Lake School District board member and an active Mormon, did not return the survey. He told the Tribune that Scouts have the right to decide with whom they want to associate.
"I’m willing to support whatever the decision is," said Clara, who was endorsed by Equality Utah, which advocates for gay civil rights. "I support their current position now, but I don’t see how their position is in opposition to gay rights."
He added: "Just because headquarters is having an issue doesn’t mean we’re having an issue on the local level."
Barnes also said that roughly 98 percent of the Great Salt Lake Council’s troops are sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Portland High School's Transgender Students Get Unisex Bathroom Option
PORTLAND, OR -- A senior high school in Northeast Portland solved a problem for its Transgender students by  redesignating four former student restrooms and two staff bathrooms as unisex bathrooms. Kristyn Westphal, the Vice-Principal at Grant High School, said that school officials acted after guidance counselors informed them that the school's ten transgender students were uncomfortable with traditional bathrooms.
"We just need to make sure that all students are safe and comfortable here, and that they have their needs met," Westphal told The Oregonian. "If they feel unsafe using the bathroom, that's a problem."
Westphal added that the newly minted unisex bathrooms will be open to all students 
The efforts by the high school- Portland Public Schools' largest- is a first for the district and is an uncommon move nationwide for K-12 schools, as Transgender rights has become a more prevalent issue.
The bathrooms throughout the school were changed to "unisex" in February. For those restrooms containing two bathroom stalls, school personnel installed interior locks to prevent multiple students from using them at the same time.
The conversion cost less than $500, most coming from changing to interior locks.
The Oregonian reported that Grant's Scott Morrison a 17-year-old senior, who was born a female but identifies as a male, said he appreciates the privacy of the new rooms.
Two years ago, Morrison would start his day by picking between a "boy outfit" and "girl outfit" he would lay on his bed. Before long, he was only choosing men's clothes -- and eventually decided to stop identifying as a woman. 
But though Morrison became comfortable with telling friends to call him Scott or use male pronouns, the bathroom was still a place fraught with anxiety and fear. Before long, he stopped drinking water to avoid choosing between using the boys or girls bathrooms. 
He no longer has that problem, he said. "You don't even have to think about it, and that's great," he said. 
Morrison said the new bathrooms are the best fit for him right now, as he undergoes hormone therapy. 
In the girls bathroom, he felt "confronted by gender" as he maneuvered around girls fixing their makeup in front of the mirror. In the boys bathroom, he worried someone would ridicule him or tell him to leave, which happened to him in a public restroom. 
The setup might not be every Transgender person's preference, but for Morrison, "it's a godsend."
Sasha Buchert, communications manager of Basic Rights Oregon, called the change a positive step forward.
"It seems like a really wonderful partnership between student advocates trying to create a safe space for transgender and nonconforming students and the school system to find a solution that will ensure folks can go to school and focus on learning."
Delaware NAACP Chapter Supports Same-Sex Marriage
NAACP Delaware chapter head, Richard Smith
WILMINGTON, DE -- In an online video posted by LGBTQ Equality Rights group Equality Delaware last Thursday, the president of the state's chapter of the NAACP, Richard Smith said; “Our gay brothers and sisters should have the freedom to marry the person they love.”
Smith pointed out that the NAACP national board declared its support for same-sex marriage initiatives across the nation in the summer of 2012. In an e-mail to the Delaware On-Line media outlet Smith said,
“Civil marriage equality is a clear cut issue for the NAACP – it’s simply about equal protection under the law. People may have their own personal or religious views on this issue, but that’s not what is at issue here. This is a matter of civil marriage not religious marriage.”
Equality Delaware’s campaign for same-sex marriage in Delaware has revolved around endorsements from individuals and groups across the state.
Lisa Goodman, the group's president said the NAACP endorsement is evidence of an inaccurate portrayal of the black community’s stance on gay rights.
“I think there has been a misconception in certain areas relating to African-American support for marriage equality, which has been created in part or perpetuated in part by those who are against equality,” she said. “What we’ve seen nationally is that the politics of division are not long effective on this issue.”
A new poll released earlier this month shows that a strong majority of Delaware voters want the state’s General Assembly to pass legislation legalizing same-sex marriage.
The poll, commissioned by Equality Delaware, found that voters support marriage equality by a 17-point margin, with 54 percent of voters in favor of extending marriage rights to same-sex couples, compare to 37 percent opposed.
Additionally, 80 percent of respondents said legalizing same-sex marriage would have no effect on their own lives or marriage.
“This poll shows that Delawareans, like a majority of Americans, believe in marriage equality,” said Goodman.