Religious Liberty Attorney May Challenge Whitmer’s LGBTQ Directive

By BTL Staff| January 24th, 2019|Michigan, News

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s new executive directive barring LGBTQ discrimination may be challenged by the head of the State Bar’s Religious Liberty section, according to the Michigan Advance.
The publication obtained an email from Tracy Lee, a West Bloomfield family law and nonprofit attorney, and reported that she “wrote to a group of lawyers encouraging them to ‘identify business owners who receive state funding in Michigan and are willing to do a pre-emptive challenge against Governor Whitmer’s executive directive.’”
Whitmer’s directive, signed on Monday, Jan. 7, outlines that it will help instill policies to “promote public confidence in the fairness and integrity of state government” by ensuring all Michigan residents receive fair treatment in “employment, state contracting and when accessing services from state government.” It does not include an exemption for religious organizations that receive state money.
Lee’s email follows a unanimous resolution on Wednesday, Jan. 16, from the Alcona County Board of Commissioners opposing Whitmer’s effort to protect the LGBTQ community. The board agreed that by signing the executive order, the governor “circumvented the legislative process” in invoking the Michigan Civil Rights Commission’s recently expanded definition of sex discrimination, which previously did not include sexual orientation and gender identity.
Unlike 18 other states, Michigan does not currently have a state law that explicitly prohibits anti-LGBT discrimination in employment, housing or public accommodations. As of May 2018, the Commission began processing complaints of sex discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Equality Michigan tweeted a response to the possibility that Lee may file a lawsuit.

Equality Michigan@Equality_MI

The attorney referenced is affiliated with two infamous, anti-LGBT hate groups. As stated in the article, “both the Governor and the Michigan Civil Rights Commission acted within their legal authority.”

Equality Michigan@Equality_MI

Our religious liberties have not been infringed upon. The freedom of religion is one of our most fundamental rights, it’s enshrined in Constitution. This is just another attempt by the anti-LGBT movement to assert their religious beliefs as a way to discriminate against others.

“The attorney referenced is affiliated with two infamous, anti-LGBT hate groups. As stated in the article, ‘both the Governor and the Michigan Civil Rights Commission acted within their legal authority.’ … Our religious liberties have not been infringed upon. The freedom of religion is one of our most fundamental rights, it’s enshrined in the Constitution. This is just another attempt by the anti-LGBT movement to assert their religious beliefs as a way to discriminate against others.”

We live in a nation where the church is trying as they have always done, and that is run not only the government but the lives of all people

When the church was first started, they murdered pagans because they could not accept a belief system that was around for centuries. Religion belongs in the church not in the public such as jobs, housing and services. If people feel that they can profit by discrimination, then they don’t belong running a business or services. This does more harm than good. No one has the right to discriminate just because they don’t agree. The time has come for us to return to the Constitution and separate church and state. Bring down the church that teaches bigotry and hate. The selectively read their Bible to interpret it in their own views. Look around Rome and the Vatican. You see a large pagan presence. People are leaving the church seeking a real belief system.

Maybe it is time to burn Christians at the stake~. I’d like to see more pentagrams in plain sight replacing the cross, which the church stole from the pagans. Chanting has been around longer than the Catholic Church. To think that people follow an old man who they believe is the voice of their deity. Wake up people, you have been lied to.

Making class rooms inclusive

EDUCATION

5 Ways To Make Classrooms More Inclusive

October 26, 20186:01 AM ET

JENNY BRUNDIN

FROM Gracia Lam for NPR

Back in September, teacher Mary Gilreath’s first-grade class was asked to wear blue for Peace Day. An adult worried the girls might not own blue shirts, and Gilreath saw an opportunity for her Boulder classroom. She shared the story with her students.

“What do you all think about that?” Gilreath asks them.

“Maybe it’s because girls mostly wear dresses?” a girl wonders

“Oh, is that true?” Gilreath replies. “What do you all think?”

The first graders erupt in a chorus of “No!”

Gilreath goes out of her way to address gender identity in her classroom. She says it’s “a safety issue and a mental health issue for kids,” pointing to the recent suicide of a 9-year-old Denver boy who was bullied after he came out to his classmates.

Studies have shown LGBTQ students are more likely to be bullied at school, which can lead to missed classes and a higher risk of suicide. For those kids, a teacher who knows how to be inclusive — or how to “queer” the classroom, as some refer to it — can make a big difference. But many teachers aren’t sure how to do that. Over the years, gender and sexual identity have evolved, and not everyone has kept up.

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“When they [teachers] realize, ‘I don’t know what I’m doing,’ you know how vulnerable it feels? It’s a big deal. They need support.”

Bethy Leonardi, co-founder of A Queer Endeavor

“When they [teachers] realize, ‘I don’t know what I’m doing,’ you know how vulnerable it feels? It’s a big deal. They need support,” says Bethy Leonardi, co-founder of A Queer Endeavor, an initiative of University of Colorado Boulder School of Education. A Queer Endeavor helps teachers navigate questions like how to intervene when they see anti-LGBTQ bullying, how to be there for students who identify as gender-fluid and how to address kids who use gender-neutral pronouns like “they.”

The organization has put out a list of tips for making classrooms more LGBTQ-friendly. They include:

Let students identify themselves on the first day of class. Ask them to fill out index cards with their preferred name and pronouns, then be sure to update the class list and share that list when there’s a substitute teacher.

Avoid using gendered language to address students (“ladies and gentlemen,” “boys/girls”). Instead, use words like “scientists,” “readers,” “athletes,” “writers,” “artists,” “scholars,” etc.

Avoid grouping students by gender. Instead, use birthdays, ice cream preferences, pet preferences, etc.

If there are all-gender bathrooms, make sure students know where they are and that they are for everyone.

Make your ally status known by hanging a rainbow flag, sharing your own pronouns and/or supporting the school’s LGBTQ groups.

“I just didn’t know the questions to ask”

Lisa Durant teaches health and physical education at a high school outside Denver. She says when she started hearing students use words like “asexual” and “gender-fluid,” “I had no idea what they were talking about.”

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Then in June, Durant attended A Queer Endeavor’s teacher training. She learned some new terminology (“C-I-S; binary, non-binary; the umbrella of transgender, pangender”) and reconsidered an interaction with a student who transitioned from male to female while at Durant’s school. She remembers talking to that student about which pronouns to use and the lesson material she’d missed. But Durant now looks back at that conversation with regret.

She says she didn’t ask, ” ‘How can I support you? What do I need to do to make you feel more comfortable in a group setting in this classroom?’ I just didn’t know the questions to ask.”

A Queer Endeavor also encourages teachers to validate who their students are. Before the training, Denver high school teacher Kari Allerton had always lived the mantra that it doesn’t matter who you love or how you identify: “You’re all my students and I love you all.” But the training gave her an insight.

“Saying [to a teenager] that I don’t care if you’re gay or straight or trans, it’s almost like when people say, ‘I don’t see color.’ ”

Kari Allerton, Denver high school teacher

“Saying [to a teenager] that I don’t care if you’re gay or straight or trans, it’s almost like when people say, ‘I don’t see color,’ ” she explains. It’s dismissing them instead of “validating the beautiful people that they blossom into at our school.”

She remembers a student who, by the end of the year, had dyed his hair pink and started wearing earrings and lipstick. “I didn’t say anything to him,” Allerton says — she didn’t know what to say. At the training, a fellow teacher made a suggestion: “It’s so much fun watching you become who you are.”

“We don’t talk like that in my classroom”

As an LGBTQ teacher, Meghan Mosher brings a different perspective to her Louisville classroom. She says she works hard to make her high school science class a place where kids feel free to ask uncomfortable questions. Once, during a lesson about chromosomes, she heard a student put one such question to his classmate.

“He was whispering across the table and said, ‘Is that what makes you gay?’ ”

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For Mosher, it was a chance to clarify that many factors determine sexual orientation and gender identity.

But Mosher has also struggled with how to address slurs like “That’s so gay.” In the past, she talked to kids individually; but that didn’t stop other students from uttering the same slurs. Then one day she heard it in the middle of a lab.

“And I stopped everybody. And it was dead silent. And I said, ‘It’s not OK to use someone’s identity as an insult.’ And I finally brought my own identity into it.”

The slurs stopped after that. She knows not all teachers can bring their personal lives into the classroom, but she says it’s important to tell kids what’s appropriate and what’s not.

Asher Cutler agrees. A recent Denver high school graduate, Cutler identifies as gender-fluid. At the training, they said they know it can be uncomfortable to intervene, but, “Don’t fear that. Go for it, please. Your role as an authoritative figure means that you can save someone’s life. … These comments are the little things that build up over time, and you have to, as a teacher say, ‘No, we don’t talk like that in my classroom.’ ”

When a teacher makes their classroom a safe place where a student isn’t bullied for an hour out of the day, “That is so important,” Cutler said.

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“Oh, is that true?” Gilreath replies. “What do you all think?”

The first graders erupt in a chorus of “No!”

Gilreath goes out of her way to

Washington, D.C. High School Principal Comes Out as Gay During School’s Pride Day

Washington, D.C. High School Principal Comes Out as Gay During School’s Pride Day

June 4, 2014 by Maureen McCarty, HRC Associate Director of Digital Media

 

Today at Wilson High School in Washington, D.C., Principal Pete Cahall came out as gay during the school’s second annual Pride Day celebration, reported The Washington Post.

“I want to say publicly for the first time because of your leadership, care and support that I am a proud gay man who just happens to be the principal of Wilson High School,” Cahall said.

The student body, assembled together for the lunchtime event, broke out in a loud cheer.

With Mayor Vincent C Gray and the District’s first openly gay councilmember David Catania by his side, Cahall explained it was his students that inspired him to take this brave step forward.

“I want to say publicly for the first time because of your leadership, care and support that I am a proud gay man who just happens to be the principal of Wilson High School,” Cahall said.

Reportedly shaking while delivering his speech, Cahall said that he felt he had to keep his sexual orientation a secret for his entire life.

“I just turned 50 … I’m tired for hiding,” he said.

Cahall has since seen an outpouring of support since his announcement, including tweets from Muriel Bowser and Councilmember David Grosso.

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Two spirited

The ‘two-spirit’ people of indigenous North Americans

This week’s guest editor, Antony Hegarty, is a fan of the book The Spirit and the Flesh. He asked its author, Walter L Williams, to write a feature for guardian.co.uk/music on the ‘two-spirit’ tradition in Native American culture

 

We-Wa, a Zuni two-spirit, weaving

Native Americans have often held intersex, androgynous people, feminine males and masculine females in high respect. The most common term to define such persons today is to refer to them as “two-spirit” people, but in the past feminine males were sometimes referred to as “berdache” by early French explorers in North America, who adapted a Persian word “bardaj”, meaning an intimate male friend. Because these androgynous males were commonly married to a masculine man, or had sex with men, and the masculine females had feminine women as wives, the term berdache had a clear homosexual connotation. Both the Spanish settlers in Latin America and the English colonists in North America condemned them as “sodomites”.

Rather than emphasising the homosexuality of these persons, however, many Native Americans focused on their spiritual gifts. American Indian traditionalists, even today, tend to see a person’s basic character as a reflection of their spirit. Since everything that exists is thought to come from the spirit world, androgynous or transgender persons are seen as doubly blessed, having both the spirit of a man and the spirit of a woman. Thus, they are honoured for having two spirits, and are seen as more spiritually gifted than the typical masculine male or feminine female.

Therefore, many Native American religions, rather than stigmatising such persons, often looked to them as religious leaders and teachers. Quite similar religious traditions existed among the native peoples of Siberia and many parts of Central and southeast Asia. Since the ancestors of Native Americans migrated from Siberia over 20,000 years ago, and since reports of highly respected androgynous persons have been noted among indigenous Americans from Alaska to Chile, androgyny seems to be quite ancient among humans.

Rather than the physical body, Native Americans emphasised a person’s “spirit”, or character, as being most important. Instead of seeing two-spirit persons as transsexuals who try to make themselves into “the opposite sex”, it is more accurate to understand them as individuals who take on a gender status that is different from both men and women. This alternative gender status offers a range of possibilities, from slightly effeminate males or masculine females, to androgynous or transgender persons, to those who completely cross-dress and act as the other gender. The emphasis of Native Americans is not to force every person into one box, but to allow for the reality of diversity in gender and sexual identities.

Most of the evidence for respectful two-spirit traditions is focused on the native peoples of the Plains, the Great Lakes, the Southwest, and California. With over a thousand vastly different cultural and linguistic backgrounds, it is important not to overgeneralise for the indigenous peoples of North America. Some documentary sources suggest that a minority of societies treated two-spirit persons disrespectfully, by kidding them or discouraging children from taking on a two-spirit role. However, many of the documents that report negative reactions are themselves suspect, and should be evaluated critically in light of the preponderance of evidence that suggests a respectful attitude. Some European commentators, from early frontier explorers to modern anthropologists, also were influenced by their own homophobic prejudices to distort native attitudes.

Two-spirit people were respected by native societies not only due to religious attitudes, but also because of practical concerns. Because their gender roles involved a mixture of both masculine and feminine traits, two-spirit persons could do both the work of men and of women. They were often considered to be hard workers and artistically gifted, of great value to their extended families and community. Among some groups, such as the Navajo, a family was believed to be economically benefited by having a “nadleh” (literally translated as “one who is transformed”) androgynous person as a relative. Two-spirit persons assisted their siblings’ children and took care of elderly relatives, and often served as adoptive parents for homeless children.

A feminine male who preferred to do women’s work (gathering wild plants or farming domestic plants) was logically expected to marry a masculine male, who did men’s work (hunting and warfare). Because a family needed both plant foods and meat, a masculine female hunter, in turn, usually married a feminine female, to provide these complementary gender roles for economic survival. The gender-conforming spouse of two-spirit people did not see themselves as “homosexual” or as anything other than “normal”.

In the 20th-century, as homophobic European Christian influences increased among many Native Americans, respect for same-sex love and for androgynous persons greatly declined. Two-spirit people were often forced, either by government officials, Christian missionaries or their own community, to conform to standard gender roles. Some, who could not conform, either went underground or committed suicide. With the imposition of Euro-American marriage laws, same-sex marriages between two-spirit people and their spouses were no longer legally recognised. But with the revitalisation of Native American “red power” cultural pride since the 60s, and the rise of gay and lesbian liberation movements at the same time, a new respect for androgyny started slowly re-emerging among American Indian people.

Because of this tradition of respect, in the 90s many gay and lesbian Native American activists in the United States and Canada rejected the French word berdache in favour of the term two-spirit people to describe themselves. Many non-American Indians have incorporated knowledge of Native American two-spirit traditions into their increasing acceptance of same-sex love, androgyny and transgender diversity. Native American same-sex marriages have been used as a model for legalising same-sex marriages, and the spiritual gifts of androgynous persons have started to become more recognised.

 

Winter Guard

 
Coming Out As… A Winter Guard Performer

By Jase Peeples

Originally published on Advocate.com October 10 2013 8:00 AM ET

Most people have an idea of what a color guard is — those people who dance around the football field spinning flags, rifles, and sabers alongside the marching band. But ask the average person to tell you what a winter guard is and expect to receive a confused look in reply. At its roots, a winter guard is a color guard that performs a program set to prerecorded music indoors and competes against other groups doing the same during the winter months of the year. But winter guard isn’t just a group of people spinning equipment under the fluorescent lights of a gymnasium for an average of five minutes. In truth, it’s something much, much more.

Growing up in the tractor-plowed fields of California’s Central Valley meant I was rarely exposed to the arts as a young boy. In fact, aside from the few hours of MTV I secretly watched each day after school before my strict Pentecostal Christian parents came home from work, the performing arts were an alien activity. In our small town, boys played sports, watched wrestling on Saturday mornings, and dreamed of driving monster trucks. They didn’t spend hours at a time in the library reading books, idolize Debbie Gibson, or obsess over Jem and the Holograms, as I did. And they absolutely never, ever, under any circumstances, danced.  

So when I watched the high school color guard perform its winter program in front of my eighth-grade class for the first time during an assembly, a whole new world opened up before my eyes. I stared in awe as both boys and girls, who were dressed in dramatic costumes, appeared to float effortlessly across the floor. Flags rippled through the air in perfect synchronization whileHeaven and Hell by Vangelis blared over the gym speakers above. By the time their performance ended I was absolutely giddy with the knowledge that groups like this not only existed, but that one could be found at the very high school I would be attending. There was no question — I absolutely had to join.

However, it was only after making the final cut at the audition that summer that I learned the winter guard spent the fall months as the color guard, performing parades and field shows alongside the marching band. By September of my freshman year I found myself in a blue spandex jumpsuit topped with gold sequins, dodging spitballs and homophobic slurs hurled by the crowd as I performed with my flag-spinning teammates at football games. It was embarrassing. Not because of the finger-pointing and name-calling that seemed to come from every teenager within a 20-mile radius each time I slipped into to my costume, but because I had witnessed the creative marvel a winter guard could be — and this was not that.

It was only two months later, after the leaves surrounding the high school stadium had turned from green to a mosaic of yellow, orange, and brown, that I discovered the true heart of a color guard. As we came out to perform our field show for the final time that season, one of the football players from our own school broke our carefully maintained ranks, grabbed my left arm, and snarled, “Are you a fag?”

“Leave me alone!” I shouted, trying my best to press forward, but the meathead only tightened his grip.

Suddenly a flag swung into my field of view, connecting with the side of the aggressive athlete’s helmeted head. I turned to see my friend and teammate Emily, who was holding the other end of the pole. “So what if he is,” she growled. “We have a show to perform and you haven’t won a game all season.” As we continued marching onto the field she shouted over her shoulder, “Worry about yourself, asshole!” while the football player stared on in stunned silence. By the time the band began to play, tears had started to fall from my eyes. Not because I was bothered by the jock — as an effeminate boy, I had dealt with more than my fair share of bullies since the earliest days of grade school — but because Emily’s comment marked the first time I’d heard someone treat my sexuality as a nonissue. Though I had accepted the fact I was gay by the time I was 12 years old, I’d never told another person. Never thought anyone would accept that part of me. Until that point, homosexuality was something I was taught to despise, something people burned in hell for, not something others rushed to defend with the blunt end of a flagpole.

Later that night I came out to Emily, and I laughed when she simply responded with, “I know – and that’s awesome.” In the months that followed we left the football field behind to compete on the winter guard floor, and I soon began to discover my own athletic ability — something I was convinced I could never possess after I spent a year playing on a youth soccer team when I was 10 years old. I may not have been able to dribble a ball with skill, but I could leap, turn, and spin a mean rifle, and that instilled a sense of confidence in me I’d never known. Winter guard provided a safe space throughout my high school years where I was not only accepted by my peers for who I was, I was allowed to grow and become a vital part of something bigger than myself.

After graduation, it was my guard instructors Robert and Nicole who encouraged me to audition for the Blue Devils, an Independent World Class winter guard that competed at the highest levels of the activity. It was there I was able to meet and form friendships with gay men my age for the first time, many of whom I remain close with today. Over the three years I spent as a member of the Blue Devils, we accomplished many things I never dreamed I would be a part of. We traveled across the country, performed in front of crowds made up of thousands of cheering fans, and won three consecutive World Championship titles.

Many of the people I bonded with through my experience of spinning flags, rifles, and sabers have been far more than friends throughout my life  — they have been my family. They were the ones who took me in at 19 when my father kicked me out of the house after I came out to him. They were the ones who encouraged me when I decided to return to college at 30 to earn my writing degree, and they are always among the first to congratulate me for even the smallest accomplishments.

Though I haven’t performed in a winter guard since 1997, it continues to enrich my life today. For more than 15 years I’ve remained involved in the activity as an instructor and show designer, where my color guard family has grown to include many wonderful people who were once my students. I’ve learned there’s no substitute for the joy that comes from being a part of that moment when a young person achieves something they once believed impossible. I’ve also had the of honor seeing hundreds of kids over the years blossom into beautiful young adults, capable of tackling any challenge life throws at them because they were given an outlet that allowed them to shine. But of course I know firsthand the lifelong impact a loving, accepting environment can have on a teenager. It started the day my first instructors taught me how to spin a flag — and it hasn’t stopped yet.   

JASE PEEPLES is The Advocate’s entertainment editor and the director of the Homestead High School color guard in Cupertino, CA. He lives in San Francisco with his partner. Follow him on Twitter @JasePeeples