Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Around The Nation

Florida High School Senior allowed to return to classes after being suspended for gay adult film role
Robert Marucci via WKMG
BREVARD COUNTY -- The Brevard County School District announced Tuesday that officials will allow a high school senior to return who claimed he was kicked out of school after he turned to gay adult films to pay his family's bills.
18-year-old Robert Marucci claimed that Cocoa High School Principal, Stephanie Soliven told him that he was suspended allegedly for his after-school hours work as a gay adult film model for digital online porn company, Sean Cody Studios. He said other students found his work and he became a target for bullies after which the principal became involved.
The story went viral last week globally after Marucci's suspension was promoted by his friends on Facebook and other social media. On Monday the story was covered by Orlando station WKMG after the high school student told the station he was being kicked out of school for his gay adult film work.
Brevard Schools spokeswoman Michelle Irwin said Tuesday that Soliven had met with Marucci and reached an agreement that would allow him to return to school on Wednesday.
"In this particular case, we had an investigation, which is now complete, and the student is welcomed to come back to talk to Dr. Sullivan about his educational options," said Irwin adding, 
“It’s easy to become emotional about a situation when it looks like a student is being targeted for his lifestyle choices, that is not the case here. We will continue to work with the student and his family to make sure he graduates and moves on with is education.” 
Irwin said the student was never expelled but was told to stay home and issued a referral slip because of “credible allegations” the staff received several weeks ago.
She would not elaborate on Marucci's suspension, citing Florida's Family Educational Rights to Privacy Act. She said the school had conducted an investigation and all allegations against him had been cleared.
She added that the discussion was according to the district's policies and were unrelated to the Facebook reaction and feedback the district has gotten from around the globe after the story broke.

Illinois B&B owner says he won't host same-sex weddings either
PAXTON — The owner of an Illinois Bed & Breakfast that banned civil-union ceremonies said Monday that he will also not allow same-sex weddings when the newly passed Illinois Marriage Equality law takes effect June 1.
Jim Walder, owner of the Timber Creek Bed & Breakfast, is also the subject of a civil-rights complaint  filed in 2011 with the Illinois Human Rights Commission by a same-sex couple alleging he discriminated against them when he refused to host their civil-union ceremony at his business, which advertises itself as a site for weddings and other special events.
"As long as I own Timber Creek, there will never be a gay marriage at this wedding venue," Walder said
A decision in that case is expected at any time according to Ed Yohnka, director of communications and public policy for the ACLU of Illinois. The ACLU is representing the complainant in the Human Rights Commission case.
Speaking with LGBTQ Nation Tuesday, Yohnka, indicated that the civil unions case is fully briefed and “we are simply awaiting a decision by a hearing officer for the Illinois Human Rights Commission.”
Yohnka added that the ACLU “was hopeful that every business in Illinois will recognise their obligation to uphold the state's Human Rights Act.”
Chicago based attorney Jason R. Craddock is representing Walder. According to Craddock, Walder opposed holding civil union ceremonies at his B&B for religious reasons, and he added that it would be a violation of his client's First Amendment rights if the Human Rights Commission were to side with he complainant. If that happens, He noted that the should decision would be upheld then appeal and litigation would follow.
Yohnka disagreed telling LGBTQ Nation that at issue is that if a person or persons operate an establishment that is strictly private and not open to the general public, then that business is free to establish its own rules governing its use and patronage. But, if a business is open to the public, then the rule of law applies which precludes its ability to choose which laws it feels are applicable as the HR Act effects everyone equally.
State Representative Josh Harms, R-Watseka, who voted last year against the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act because, he said, among other reasons, "businesses will be forced to host, cater or otherwise serve gay weddings, even if their religion forbids it." 
He plans to draft legislation "protect all entities controlled by the church" — specifically, exemptions for private schools affiliated with churches. However, he also would like laws changed that would protect "the rights of those individuals and businesses that have religious objections to gay weddings."  
"Entities that conduct business with the public are bound by Illinois law not to discriminate against customers for a range of reasons, including sexual orientation," said Yohnka.  "The notion that we would carve out an exception to these laws for businesses that want to discriminate against gay and lesbian couples is something that we oppose strenuously. 
"If such a carve-out is allowed, what next? Could a business say that they have a religious objection to folks of other religious beliefs, or against women? We do not let people pick and choose which nondiscrimination laws they follow. We enforce the law for the benefit of everyone. Changing that policy invites chaos."
A request for a statement from the Illinois Human Rights Commission went unanswered.