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This Way Out Radio Episode #1840: SCOTUS v. Rights & School Board v. Bigots

A controversial U.S. Supreme Court term ends with a trifecta of right-leaning rulings, including a swipe at LGBTQ+ rights based on free speech. Equality California’s Jorge Reyes Salinas, Slate columnist Matthew Stone, Guardian columnist Moira Donegan, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, UC Berkeley law professor Dan Farmer and New Republic reporter Melissa Gira Grant comment (reported by Christina Aanestad of KPFA News and Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!).

The Los Angeles School Board’s lesbian President Jackie Goldberg reads a story to educate the book-burners.

And in NewsWrap: Nepal’s top court orders the government to register same-gender marriages, over a hundred Pride activists are arrested in Turkey, U.S. federal judges slam Tennessee and Kentucky pediatric trans care bans, Kansas to reverse gender identity changes transgender people have made to their state documents, Hamburger Mary’s serves a drag ban loss to Florida’s DeSantis, and more international LGBTQ news reported this week by Marcos Najera and Nico Raquel (produced by Brian DeShazor).

All this on the July 3, 2023 edition of This Way Out!

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Complete Program Summary
for the week of July 3, 2023

SCOTUS v. Rights & School Board v. Bigots

Program #1,840 distributed 07/03/23
Hosted this week by Lucia Chappelle and produced with Greg Gordon

NewsWrap (full transcript below): The U.S. Supreme Court decides that the “free speech” rights of a Christian website designer trump Colorado’s anti-bias protections for LGBTQ people … Nepal’s Supreme Court orders the government to register the civil marriages of same-gender and “non-traditional” heterosexual couples until parliament can change relevant laws … queer activists and their allies are sometimes violently arrested again for peaceful “attempted Pride” marches in several Turkish cities … U.S. federal judges in Kentucky and Tennessee each block enforcement of laws banning gender-affirming healthcare for trans young people … a Montana judge slaps the state with contempt charges for refusing to obey earlier orders to allow trans people to change the gender marker on their government documents without medical intervention … Kansas Republicans pass a law forcing the reversal on government documents to gender assigned at birth for trans people who have legally changed it, and to force trans people to use sex-segregated public bathrooms based only on their birth certificate gender … Arizona’s Democratic Governor Katie Hobbs issues executive orders banning “conversion therapy” for minors and to protect trans minors seeking gender-affirming healthcare … a U.S. federal judge blocks the enforcement of Florida’s “adult entertainment” law that essentially banned family-friendly drag shows (written by GREG GORDON, edited by LUCIA CHAPPELLE, reported this week by MARCOS NAJERA and NICO RAQUEL, produced by BRIAN DeSHAZOR).

Feature: The U.S. Supreme Court ended a controversial term with a trifecta of rulings of concern to progressives. After gutting affirmative action protocols for college admissions and the Biden administration’s plan to forgive student loans, the conservative supermajority took a major swipe at LGBTQ+ rights. KPFA News reporter CHRISTINA AANESTAD dissected the high court’s 303 Creative v. Elenis decision that queer customers cannot put words into a web designer’s mouth, while AMY GOODMAN of Democracy Now! followed up on the peculiar twist in the 303 Creative case (with an intro by SHORTY LONG, and comments by Equality California’s Jorge Reyes Salinas, Slate columnist Matthew Stone, Guardian columnist Moira Donegan, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, UC Berkeley law professor Dan Farmer and New Republic reporter Melissa Gira Grant).

Feature: The Los Angeles School Board’s lesbian President Jackie Goldberg is no drag queen, but she turned the June 7th meeting into a story hour that packed a punch. Following the ugly protest against one elementary school’s Pride Month assembly, the Board unanimously approved a resolution in support of LGBTQ+ education. Goldberg read The Great Big Book of Families during the discussion, and her powerful speech about it went viral (with intro music from BETWEEN THE LIONS).


A summary of some of the news in or affecting
global LGBTQ communities
for the week ending July 1st, 2023
Written by Greg Gordon, edited by Lucia Chappelle,
reported this week by Marcos Najera and Nico Raquel,
produced by Brian DeShazor

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that free speech “religious rights” can trump state anti-bias protections for LGBTQ people. By a 6-t0-3 vote, the high court decided that a Colorado graphic designer’s devout Christian beliefs give her the right to refuse to create wedding websites for same-gender couples. Most observers were not surprised by the right-leaning Court’s June 30th anti-queer ruling, announced the day after it struck down affirmative action programs for minority populations. The only astonishing thing about it was the hypothetical basis of the case: no queer couple ever asked designer Lorie Smith to build them a wedding website.

Smith had challenged Colorado’s state anti-discrimination laws that she claimed would force her to serve LGBTQ people despite her belief that marriage is for heterosexuals only. Trump-appointed Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote the opinion for the conservative Court majority, citing Smith’s First Amendment free speech rights. Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s dissent lamented the ruling because it approves the right of a business open to the public to refuse to serve a protected group. Her dissent was supported by liberal colleagues Justices Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson.

Queer advocates like the ACLU’s James Esseks were quick to sound the alarm. He wrote, “the fact that the high court has used the right to free speech to override non-discrimination protections even in limited circumstances is a seriously disturbing milestone.”

Stay tuned for more on this story after NewsWrap.

The government of Nepal is under an interim Supreme Court order to register the civil marriages of same-gender couples. This week’s action includes “non-traditional heterosexual couples,” which would seem to mean transgender people as well.

The decision was issued by a single high court justice. Til Prasad Shrestha said the order would stay in place until lawmakers can amend existing marriage laws. The ruling puts Nepal on the path to becoming the 36th country to open civil marriage to same-gender couples -- the first in Southern Asia. The first Asian marriage equality nation was Taiwan, where the law was enacted in 2019. Nepal is home to about 30 million people.

Pinky Gurung leads the venerable Nepalese queer rights group The Blue Diamond Society, and was one of the nine plaintiffs in the case. Gurung told reporters, “As the Parliament may take years to pass the marriage equality law, this order paves the way for members of sexual and gender minority communities who wish to register their marriage legally. … This court ruling has established that we are equal citizens of this country.”

Queer activists and their allies were arrested for “attempted Pride” in Turkey once again this week. Human Rights Watch counted 113 detainees in Istanbul, and 52 in the western city of Izmir. Peaceful Pride-goers also faced overly aggressive police officers in Beşiktaş and Cihangir, and dozens were injured in all four cities.

Istanbul once hosted one of the largest Pride celebrations in the region. For the past several years local governments have banned Pride marches, following the lead of vocally anti-LGBTQ President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The increasingly dictatorial Erdoğan has ruled Turkey since 2003. He peppered the victory speech following his recent re-election with anti-queer epithets.

Amnesty International Europe Director Nils Muižnieks says that in Turkey, “Under the pretext of protecting family values, the authorities are denying LGBTI people the right to live freely.”

Anti-queer laws by Republican-controlled states that target transgender young people are not fairing well in U.S. courts.

Federal judges have temporarily blocked most provisions of laws banning gender-affirming healthcare for trans minors in Tennessee and Kentucky. The only exception is a ban on gender-affirming surgery for trans people under the age of 18 — procedures that are rarely if ever done anyway.

Both Judge Eli Richardson of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee and Judge David Hale of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky issued temporary injunctions this week. They both said that constitutional challenges to the laws by families with transgender children and healthcare providers are likely to succeed.

Judge Michael Moses of Montana’s 13th Judicial District Court ruled this week that the state’s law making it harder for trans people to change the gender marker on their birth certificates is unconstitutional – but that’s not all. He found Montana’s Health Department in contempt of court for ignoring previous orders that temporarily banned enforcement of the statute. Signed into law by Republican Governor Greg Gianforte in 2021, it required trans people to undergo gender confirmation surgery and get a court to order the Health Department to make the paperwork change.

Clearly angered by the authorities’ refusal to abide by previous orders temporarily blocking the law, Moses also ordered the state to pay attorneys’ fees. The American Civil Liberties Union of Montana represented the plaintiffs in the constitutional challenge.

It went differently in Kansas, where the state is going to reverse changes transgender people have made to match their gender identity on state documents. The Republican majority had enough votes to override a veto by Democratic Governor Laura Kelly in April. The law defines “sex” as “either male or female at birth.” Period.

The law reverses a 2019 federal court ruling that required Kansas to allow trans people to change the gender marker on their birth certificates. Attorney General Kris Kobach told reporters this week that the law would take effect on July 1st, and birth certificates and drivers’ licenses will revert to the gender trans people were assigned at birth. It will also require public schools to track students based on their birth gender, even if teachers and other staff recognize the identities of trans, gender fluid, non-conforming and non-binary students.

The legislation forces trans people to use sex-segregated public facilities, like bathrooms and locker rooms, based only on their birth gender. However the law does not include a specific penalty for violations of that part of the law.

Queer legal advocates plan to challenge the rights-reversing legislation.

Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs issued two executive orders this week to advance LGBTQ equality. The Democrat made Arizona the 27th U.S. state to ban medically debunked “conversion therapy” for minors, which falsely claims to make queer people straight through counseling and prayer. Her second order requires the state employee health care plan to cover medically necessary gender-affirming surgery.

Hobbs has promised to “do everything in my power to fight for full equality,” and said she will “continue working until Arizona is a place where every individual can participate equally in our economy and our workforce without fear of discrimination or exclusion.”

Jeanne Woodbury is the Interim Executive Director for the statewide queer advocacy group Equality Arizona. She said in a statement, “Protecting Arizonans from fraudulent and harmful treatment is exactly what we elect our statewide leaders to accomplish.”

Finally, Florida’s Republican Governor and wannabe presidential nominee Ron DeSantis lost another queer rights case in federal court. A U.S. district judge struck down yet another of the many anti-LGBTQ laws DeSantis has pushed through the Republican-heavy legislature.

The Orlando owners of the Hamburger Mary’s restaurant chain challenged a law that effectively targeted family-friendly drag shows. It threatened to revoke the business licenses of any venue that allowed minors to attend live shows with what it considered to be “adult content.” The law applied to live performances that included nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, lewd conduct, or lewd exposure of prosthetic or imitation genitals or breasts. Of course, family-friendly drag shows are nothing like that. The plaintiffs argued that the law “has nothing to do with children, and everything to do with the continued oppression of the LGBTQ+ community.”

U.S. District Judge Gregory Presnell noted that Florida already has laws preventing minors from attending strip shows and other live events with nudity and overt sexuality. He refuted the idea that the law protects “parents’ rights.” He said that the claim “rings hollow … when accompanied by the knowledge that Florida state law presently and independently ... permits any minor to attend an R-rated film at a movie theater if accompanied by a parent or guardian.”

The smack down came just days after a decision against the state’s ban on Medicaid for gender-affirming health care – government coverage for low-income families and individuals. DeSantis’ press secretary said the state will appeal the drag ban ruling.

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