HRC Sends FOIA Request to Justice Department Regarding Creation of “Religious Liberty Task Force”

Today, HRC sent a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Department of Justice (DOJ) calling for the release of all records related to the so-called “Religious Liberty Task Force” announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions on July 30, 2018. HRC is demanding transparency from the DOJ, which has not provided details publicly on the activities of the task force, including how much it is spending, what it’s mandate and scope is, and who is on it.

Sessions announced the creation of the task force on July 30th at the U.S. Department of Justice standing alongside the anti-LGBTQ Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and their client, a Colorado baker who refused to serve a gay couple in violation of the state’s nondiscrimination law. It will be co-chaired by Acting Associate Attorney General Jesse Panuccio, who was an attorney in 2010 for supporters of Proposition 8, California’s same-sex marriage ban, and Beth Williams, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Policy.

The FOIA request was sent ahead of Sessions’ speech tomorrow at the ADF Summit on Religious Liberty.

“The American people deserve transparency about how much taxpayer money the DOJ is spending on this discriminatory so-called “task force,” said David Stacy, HRC Government Affairs Director. “We also deserve to know: who is on this task force? What is the scope of its mandate? Was this proposed by ADF or other anti-LGBTQ groups? It is important that the American people understand the process through which this task force was created and the involvement of anti-LGBTQ organizations like the Alliance Defending Freedom.”

This task force is the latest effort in an 18-month campaign by the Trump-Administration to license discrimination against LGBTQ people for so-called ‘religious’ reasons. Last year, Donald Trump issued an Executive Order directing Jeff Sessions to look across the federal government and assess ways in which the administration could license discrimination at government agencies. In January, the Department of Health and Human Services announced the creation of a so-called “Conscience” Division, empowering health care providers to discriminate against LGBTQ people. The Trump Administration has also proposed an accompanying rule that could permit health care providers–doctors, nurses, and even non medical support staff like receptionists–to deny even potentially life-saving care to LGBTQ people, women, and other vulnerable communities on the basis of the worker’s personal beliefs.

HRC has been chronicling the Trump-Pence Administration’s onslaught of attacks on the LGBTQ community here: hrc.org/trump.

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Koch Brothers Network Continues to Pour Millions Targeting Pro-Equality Champion Tammy Baldwin

HRC responded to the Koch brothers’ latest efforts to influence an election by pouring an additional $1 million of out-of-state money in an attempt to defeat LGBTQ champion Senator Tammy Baldwin in her re-election bid. Senator Baldwin has been the top target of big money special interest groups this election cycle, who have already spent upwards of $10 million to oust her — more than four times what has been spent against her Democratic colleagues.

“Big powerful special interests groups and right-wing out-of-state billionaires have set their eyes on Tammy Baldwin and opened their checkbooks in an effort to defeat her, setting record after record with their barrage of unprecedented spending and attack ads in our state,” said HRC Wisconsin State Director Wendy Strout. “As two anti-LGBTQ extremists, who have pledged to double down on the Trump Pence administration’s discriminatory agenda duke it out for the GOP U.S. Senate nomination, the people of Wisconsin know that Senator Baldwin will continue to stand up to special interests and fight for all Wisconsin families. That’s why HRC is on the ground working hard to ensure that every day Wisconsinites have a voice in this election and turn out for equality, despite these attempts by out-of-state billionaires to decide who will represent us.”

The Koch brothers and their affiliated groups have already unleashed more than $4 million dollars in attacks against Senator Baldwin, labelling her defeat one of their top priorities this cycle. Groups backed by out-of-state anti-equality mega donor Richard Uihlein, who supported disgraced Alabama U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore throughout his entire campaign last year despite the appalling allegations against Moore, have also already spent more than $5 million on their efforts to defeat Senator Baldwin. Uihlein has a long history of backing far right political candidates and organizations that have been identified as anti-LGBTQ hate groups.

HRC is proud to support Senator Baldwin for re-election. She is the first openly LGBTQ U.S. senator and the first woman elected to the chamber from Wisconsin. Throughout her public service, she has been a pioneer for equality as a leader in the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” a champion for federal hate crimes protections, and a primary sponsor of the Equality Act. In addition to Baldwin’s strong civil rights record, she has been a voice for Wisconsin’s working people, leading the fight for quality, affordable health care access and an economy that works for everyone.

Anti-equality candidates Kevin Nicholson and Wisconsin State Senator Leah Vukmir, who has been endorsed by the state Republican party, are both seeking the GOP nomination to challenge Baldwin. Vukmir has consistently voted against pro-equality legislation and for anti-LGBTQ legislation, derailing efforts to add protections for LGBTQ students in a state anti-bullying bill and supporting a constitutional amendment banning marriage equality. Nicholson backed the Trump-Pence administration’s efforts to ban transgender people from serving in the military and has received significant funding and support from opponents of equality, including Uihlein.

In Wisconsin, HRC has identified more half a million “Equality Voters” — voters who support LGBTQ-inclusive policies including marriage equality, equitable family law, and laws that would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. HRC has prioritized investments and organizing in Wisconsin in the 2018 cycle, and has already put staff and resources on the ground in the state. Last July, HRC announced a coast-to-coast campaign called HRC Rising, which represents the largest grassroots expansion in the organization’s 38-year history.
 

Paid for by Human Rights Campaign PAC. Not authorized by any campaign or candidate.

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Call it Out: Fox & Friends Invites Radical Anti-LGBTQ Activist on Show

On July 31, Fox & Friends invited University of Toronto professor Jordan Peterson on air to share extremist opinions regarding teaching students tolerance. During his appearance, Peterson asserted that “faculties of education are full of people who are radical.”

Peterson is an anti-LGBTQ extremist, using his platform as a media pundit to spread misinformation that stokes dangerous hatred. On his Twitter account, he has made specious claims that the movement for transgender equality and same-sex parents are a sign of “cultural collapse,” and that “science has not yet proven that trans is even a thing.”

We are calling out Peterson — and Fox & Friends for elevating his extremely dangerous rhetoric.

Last year, HRC debunked myths about transgender people being perpetrated by quacks and bigots like Peterson. Check out our video explainer, part of our McHugh Exposed campaign, here:

A widespread medical consensus and growing body of research have affirmed the reality of transgender people’s identities. Major medical associations, including the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association, have reinforced the validity of transgender people’s gender identities, as well as the medical necessity of transition-related care. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Osteopathic Pediatricians also publicly support inclusive practices for transgender and gender expansive youth.

And Peterson’s ill-informed comments dismissing the importance of inclusive learning environments, and the teachers who help create them, simply promote putting children in peril.

  • Inclusive schools are key to the success and well-being of LGBTQ students — the exact concept Peterson stands against.
  • To date, only 19 states and the District of Columbia have enacted anti-bullying laws to protect LGBTQ students from being bullied by students, teachers and school staff on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • Meanwhile, just 13 states and the District of Columbia have passed school non-discrimination laws and state-wide regulations to protect LGBTQ students from discrimination in schools on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Without such policies in place, LGBTQ youth remain vulnerable to discrimination, harassment and bullying from peers, teachers and administrators. HRC Foundation and the University of Connecticut recently released the largest-of-its-kind survey of more than 12,000 LGBTQ teenagers across the nation, revealing in distressing detail the persistent challenges so many of them face going about their daily lives at home, at school and in their communities.

It found that these teenagers are not only experiencing heartbreaking levels of stress, anxiety and rejection, but also overwhelmingly feel unsafe in their own school classrooms. Only 27 percent of LGBTQ youth can “definitely” be themselves in school as an LGBTQ person and only 26 percent of LGBTQ youth report that they always feel safe in the classroom.

HRC remains committed to protecting LGBTQ youth and training youth-serving professionals through its the Welcoming Schools program, the All Children-All Families program and the Time to THRIVE conference.

HRC’s “Call It Out” calls out inaccurate, misguided or extreme anti-LGBTQ references in the public square. For more information, check out hrc.org.

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For Pose, The Category Is… Making History

If you haven’t been watching “Pose,” Ryan Murphy’s latest television series on FX, you’ve been missing out on a necessary, revolutionary look at recent LGBTQ history.

Last night, Janet Mock made history by becoming the first transgender woman of color to both write, produce and direct for a major network television show.

Pose is helmed by a cast and crew of queer and transgender trailblazers including HRC honorees Angelica Ross and Billy Porter, MJ Rodriguez, Dominique Jackson, Steven Canals — and of course, Mock.

The show is set in New York City, juxtaposing the house/ball scene against the tumultuous political and social climate of the 1980s — and it features the largest cast of transgender actors in series regular roles, as well as the largest recurring cast of LGBTQ actors ever for a scripted series.

“I want to tell stories and to create the mirrors that I didn’t have growing up,” said Mock in a column she wrote for Variety describing her journey with the show.

Here are five of our favorite moments from Mock’s directorial debut last night:

1. Costas Perez and Pray Tell’s relationship

The love between Costas Perez and Pray Tell made us laugh and made us cry throughout this season — and while we knew his time living with HIV was short, Perez’s death has left us heartbroken.

“They’ll never know that feeling — what it’s like to love without worrying that you’re going to die or worse yet that you’re going to kill somebody.” #PoseFX https://t.co/NLsMEJyixb

— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) July 9, 2018

Love Live Never forget, but work on letting go. #PoseFX pic.twitter.com/pMM5QzTp7Z

— Mj Rodriguez (@MjRodriguez7) July 9, 2018

2. Sandra Bernhard

Need we say more?

Forever grateful for @angelbcuriel‘s comedic relief — especially during that scene. Whew. #posefx pic.twitter.com/NWKSzGr6Om

— them. (@them) July 9, 2018

3. Billy Porter and MJ Rodriguez’s emotional duet at the cabaret

It was a raw look through the eyes of Porter and Rodriguez’s characters into the fear and pain of both living with HIV and watching your loved ones die from the disease that, at the time, no one knew how to stop.

.@theebillyporter All. The. Feels. ������ https://t.co/ArouS9di17

— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) July 9, 2018

@PoseOnFX Fun Fact: The AIDS cabaret storyline was inspired by a conversation between @theebillyporter, @MrRPMurphy, and I. Billy informed us of cabarets that would take place at AIDS wards in the late 80s and early 90s. #PoseFX

— Steven Canals (@StevenCanals) July 9, 2018

And I’ve learned
That we must look inside our hearts
To find
A world full of love
Like yours, Like mine
Like Home. #PoseFX
Thank you @theebillyporter x @MjRodriguez7 pic.twitter.com/LMDd3Jphpc

— Janet Mock (@janetmock) July 9, 2018

4. Lil Papi finally getting his perfect 10 

10s 10s 10s!!! #LilPapi did that ������ pic.twitter.com/seYHOmC6vM

— Angel Bismark Curiel (@angelbcuriel) July 9, 2018

5. “Love is the message.”

Pray Tell may have found some new music for the next ball, but as we dry our tears after watching this episode, we won’t forget that love is indeed the message.

❤️���������� is the message. #PoseFX https://t.co/0KE48ySJl2

— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) July 9, 2018

I dedicate this episode to all those we have lost from AIDS. We need to remember, and never forget. Thank you Janet and the cast and crew for making me weep and yet cheer for what is possible when LOVE IS THE MESSAGE.

— Ryan Murphy (@MrRPMurphy) July 8, 2018

 POSE airs at 9 p.m. EDT Sundays on FX. Be sure to tune in!

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With our Most Fundamental Rights on the Line, the American People Should Decide at the Ballot Box

Today, HRC called on the Senate not to consider the next Supreme Court nominee until after the American people vote in the midterm elections this November. Donald Trump has signaled his intention to nominate Supreme Court justices who would undermine significant progress — from health care to LGBTQ equality to the Constitutional right to safe, legal abortion. HRC calls on Senate Leadership to allow the American people to decide at the ballot box whether they want a nominee who will undermine their fundamental rights and freedoms — or one who will protect them.

“Justice Kennedy’s retirement should serve as a wakeup call for every pro-equality voter in America,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “Trump wants a Supreme Court nominee who will undermine progress we’ve made on affordable health care, LGBTQ equality, Roe and more. The American people don’t — and they should have an opportunity to say so at the ballot box in November. The 2018 midterm elections just became the most consequential election of our lifetime. We must keep organizing, mobilizing, and holding lawmakers to account every single day — and then we need turn out like never before this November.”

The Human Rights Campaign believes judicial nominees should:

  • Demonstrate commitment to full equality under law for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Americans; individuals living with HIV and AIDS; women; people with disabilities; and racial, ethnic and religious minorities;
  • Demonstrate commitment to the constitutional right to privacy and individual liberty, including the right of two consenting adults to enter into consensual intimate relationships;
  • Respect the constitutional authority of Congress to promote equality and civil rights and provide statutory remedies for discrimination and violence;
  • Demonstrate a sophisticated understanding of and commitment to the separation of church and state and the protection of those citizens with minority religious views;
  • Respect state legislatures’ attempts to address discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, race, color, national origin, religion and other factors through carefully crafted legislation that meets the requirements of the Constitution.

Over 30 years on the Supreme Court, Justice Kennedy cast countless tie-breaking votes on major decisions, and authored the majority opinion in the four most influential cases affecting LGBTQ people in the past three decades:

  • Romer v. Evans, finding that bare animus can not be a justification to pass measures that discriminate aginst LGBTQ people;
  • Lawrence v. Texas, finding laws that criminalize intimate relationships between same-sex couples to be unconstitutional;
  • US v. Windsor, finding that the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibited legally married same-sex couples from being recognized as married by the federal government, to be unconstitutional; and
  • Obergefell v. Hodges, finding that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry regardless of where they live in the United States.

As this process moves forward, HRC will work in coalition with civil rights groups across movements to advocate for the appointment of a fair-minded Constitutionalist to the nation’s highest court.

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