Category Archives: Law

TEXAS: Four U.S. lesbians, wrongly accused of child abuse, have been exonerated

A deplorable scandal in Texas, wronging four women.

Four lesbian women, who were wrongly accused of child abuse, have been exonerated this week after serving nearly two decades in prison.

Elizabeth Ramirez, Cassandra Rivera, Kristie Mayhugh and Anna Vasquez, later named the ‘San Antonio Four’, who were 19 and 20 at the time of their arrest in 1994, were accused of sexually abusing Elizabeth’s nieces’ and ‘satanic rituals’.

“These four women have unquestionably established that they are innocent of these charges,” Texan judge David Newell wrote. “Those defendants have won the right to proclaim to the citizens of Texas that they did not commit a crime. That they are innocent. That they deserve to be exonerated.”

This outcome will allow the four women, who are now in their 40s, to clear their names and take them off the sex offenders list. It will also allow them to seek up to $80,00 USD in compensation for each year they were imprisoned – 17 years ($1,360,000 USD) for Elizabeth and 13 ($1,040,000 USD) for Cassandra, Kristie and Anna.

Source: Four U.S. lesbians, wrongly accused of child abuse, have been exonerated · PinkNews

SAVE YOUR TEARS: Anti-LGBT Nations Offer FAKE Condolences to #Orlando

In the spirit of GetEQUAL’s dragging of homophobic U.S. congressmembers for their unjustified, useless condolences, let’s look at the countries offering condolences to Orlando which have anti-gay sodomy laws or criminalization of freedom of expression for LGBT people.

Seriously, they range from fines to imprisonment to torture to execution. But yet, they offer condolences and absolutely DO NOT MENTION THAT QUEER FOLKS WERE TARGETED.

Continue reading SAVE YOUR TEARS: Anti-LGBT Nations Offer FAKE Condolences to #Orlando

Buzzfeed’s Chris Geidner Interviews President Obama

From Buzzfeed:

President Obama told BuzzFeed News Monday that the GOP is “looking at a Republican nominee” — Donald Trump — “who many of them say isn’t qualified to be president much less appoint someone” to the Supreme Court. And that, he said, means his nominee should get a vote, which Republicans have vowed not to do.

Obama’s comments came during a live interview with BuzzFeed News Legal Editor Chris Geidner from the White House’s Roosevelt Room.

BREAKING: Gov. Deal VETOES #HB757

Nathan_Deal,_official_110th_Congress_photoGeorgia Governor Nathan Deal announced in a press conference on Monday that he will veto House Bill 757, the legislation which would provide religious exemptions to religious owners of private establishments to regulate access to their public accommodations (FULL TRANSCRIPT HERE).

Gov. Deal stated that he saw no need for this legislation, stating “I find it ironic that some in the religious community look to government to secure religious rights.” He stated that “this shows how difficult it is to legislate an issue best left to the broad protections in our Constitution,” specifically citing the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution as a broad-enough protection of religious liberties in the state.

Citing the evolution of the bill prior to the anti-LGBT monstrosity it became at the hands of Sen. Greg Kirk (R-13), Gov. Deal noted:

I had no objection to the “Pastor Protection Act” that was passed by the House of Representatives. The other versions of the bill, however, contained language that could give rise to state sanctioned discrimination. I did have problems with that and made my concerns known as did many other individuals and organizations, including some within the faith based community.

Perhaps to hedge against any perception of weakness, Gov. Deal also took a swipe at both activist critics of his motives as well as members of the business community who threatened to withdraw their business from the state over the signature of the bill, stating, “I do not respond well to insults or threats.”

He ended the press conference with an exhortation to an image of the state’s character:

As I’ve said before, I do not think we have to discriminate against anyone to protect the faith-based community in Georgia of which my family and I are a part of for all of our lives. Our actions on HB 757 are not just about protecting the faith-based community or providing a business-friendly climate for job growth in Georgia. This is about the character of our State and the character of its people. Georgia is a welcoming state filled with warm, friendly and loving people. Our cities and countryside are populated with people who worship God in a myriad of ways and in very diverse settings. Our people work side-by-side without regard to the color of our skin, or the religion we adhere to. We are working to make life better for our families and our communities. That is the character of Georgia. I intend to do my part to keep it that way.

For that reason, I will veto HB 757.

After the press conference, Deal left the press conference without taking any questions from the press.

Despite Deal’s veto of the bill, as Sen. Bill Heath (R-31) has threatened, GOP members have already threatened to call a special session to override it. However, as noted by the AJC, the bill failed to reach the necessary two-thirds majority in both the Senate (by one vote) and the House (by 16 votes, 10 of which were Republican) upon final passage to guarantee an override.

Reaction to the veto is forthcoming. Expect Sen. Josh McKoon, Columbus’ staunchest defender of the bill, to react to the veto as he usually does:

 

General Assembly Votes YES on #HB757: How Muscogee’s Delegation Voted

Well, folks. There you have it. The Georgia House has passed the amended version of HB 757 104-65, and the Senate 37-18.

Here’s how Muscogee County’s delegation in the General Assembly voted:

  • Rep. Carolyn Hugley (D-136) voted NO
  • Rep. Calvin Smyre (D-135) voted NO
  • Rep. Debbie Buckner (D-137) voted NO
  • Rep. John Pezold (R-133) voted NO
  • Sen. Ed Harbison (D-15) voted NO
  • Rep. Richard Smith (R-134) voted YES
  • Sen. Josh McKoon (R-29) voted YES

We can at least be glad that the majority of our delegation voted against this bill.

Also, it apparently was not a party-line vote: 10 Republicans in the House and 1 Republican in the Senate voted against the bill, thanks to lobbying from Georgia Republicans for the Future. From Project Q Atlanta:

If there was an upside to the votes on Wednesday, Georgia Republicans for the Future – a coalition that has opposed the “religious freedom” legislation – said it came as 10 House Republicans voted against House Bill 757. The list included Rep. Allen Peake, a Republican from Macon who has a gay brother and has spoken out against legislation that would discriminate against LGBT people.[…]

Other House Republicans that voted against the legislation included Reps. Beth Beskin, Rich Golick, Gerald Greene, Chuck Martin, BJ Pak, John Pezold, Tom Taylor, Joe Wilkinson and Chuck Williams. Rep. Rusty Kidd, an Independent, causes with the GOP and also voted against the bill.

In the Senate, Sen. JaNice VanNess was the only Republican to vote against the bill.

Of note: Most of the Republican NO votes are from the Metro Atlanta area, one with a much-better-organized LGBT community.

  • Rep. Beskin (HD 54 – Atlanta)
  • Rep. Golick (HD 40 – Smyrna)
  • Rep. Martin (HD 49 – Alpharetta)
  • Rep. Pak (HD 108 – Lilburn)
  • Rep. Taylor (HD 79 – Dunwoody)
  • Rep. Wilkinson (HD 52 – Atlanta)
  • Sen. VanNess (SD 43 – Conyers)

Outside of Atlanta metro, the GOP No votes were from isolated pockets of non-Atlanta Georgia: Reps. Pezold (HD 133 – Columbus), Greene (HD 151 – Cuthbert), and Williams (HD 119 – Watkinsville). Rep, Kidd (HD 145), the sole independent in the Assembly, represents Milledgeville and voted NO.

And just to mollify those supporters who say: “Read the bill, you’ll like it!”, here’s the amended version which passed (PDF), which continues to allow discrimination in public accommodations.

Reactions

Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin:

“Governor Deal made clear weeks ago that he wouldn’t sign legislation that allows discrimination–now is the time for him to show Georgia and the nation that he means it. Shockingly, the decision by the legislature today was to make an egregious and discriminatory bill even worse. It’s appalling that anti-equality extremists in the legislature are trying to ignore the will of the people of Georgia, and to empower businesses with the explicit right to discriminate and deny service to LGBT Americans. Corporate leaders in Georgia and across the country have already spoken out against this bill because the First Amendment already protects religious freedom. It’s time for Governor Deal to veto H.B. 757. Anything other than a swift veto is only courting an Indiana-style backlash.”

Lambda Legal southern regional director (and former state representative) Simone Bell:

“We are deeply disappointed that the Georgia House and Senate passed HB 757 and we urge Governor Deal to veto this discriminatory bill. This is still a terrible bill and it is nowhere near a solution. It is equally as divisive and harmful as the bill that is opposed by hundreds of ministers, thousands of employers, and tens of thousands of Georgians.

“We cannot replace a bad bill with another bad bill. And this is a very bad bill. It invites discrimination and encourages lawsuits. It is targeted at the LGBT community but will sweep in others. It purports to excuse anyone from following the law if they claim it burdens their religion.

“This bill encourages government officials to use religion to treat LGBT people, and others, unfairly and to ignore anti-discrimination policies. Freedom of religion does not give any of us the right to discriminate against others. The bill is a toxic recipe for increasing disputes, discord and discrimination across the state. It would allow taxpayer-funded faith-based organizations (like soup kitchens, homeless shelters, etc.) to deny services to LGBT people or others, and to fire and otherwise discriminate against LGB people. It could apply to universities, colleges, schools, businesses and organizations – big and small — that are tangentially-related to, or affiliated with, a church. Most egregiously, this bill could override Non-Discrimination Ordinances in a host of ways.

“Lambda Legal urges the Governor to veto this bill before it causes damage and legal havoc between neighbors, landlord and tenant, employee and employer, and customer and company.

“Do not be fooled — nothing in this bill protects LGBT people from discrimination. It is a shameful and blatant attempt to roll back equality for LGBT people and their families.”

Freedom For All Americans executive director Matt McTighe:

“Governor Deal spoke from the heart just a few weeks ago when he stated his unequivocal opposition to legislation that does exactly what HB 757 portends to do. Nothing in the License to Discriminate legislation has changed for the better since Governor Deal made his original remarks – in fact, the bill is worse. Governor Deal must veto this dangerous legislation. Georgia’s economy and brand are both at stake. This is alarmingly similar to the course of events we saw play out in Indiana, right before religious exemptions legislation in the state cost millions in lost revenue.”

From Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce spokesperson Ada Hatzios:

“We recognize this is a very challenging issue and that there was meaningful effort to address the balance between deeply held views and the interests and rights of others.  We appreciate the efforts made to find common ground by the House and Senate. However, we are opposed to HB 757. This legislation is in conflict with the values of diversity and inclusion that Georgians hold dear and could erode Georgia’s hard-earned status as the No. 1 state for business — and would harm our ability to create and keep jobs that Georgia families depend upon. The bill does not protect local non-discrimination ordinances, which could impact the state’s ability to recruit major revenue-driving sporting events like the Super Bowl, the Final Four and the College Football Championship; it also jeopardizes our convention and tourism businesses. We agree with Governor Deal that allowing discrimination isn’t a proper reflection of who we are and echo his call for unity and inclusion. We deeply appreciate the Governor’s deliberation on this very important issue, and respectfully ask him to maintain this view while considering this legislation.”

From Georgia Equality President Jeff Graham:

“Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen an unprecedented chorus of unexpected allies come together to speak out against HB 757, the License to Discriminate. Conservatives, legal experts, people of faith, businesses and more than 75,000 Georgians expressed their strong opposition to legislation which threatens our state’s economy and reputation, and which very clearly singles out LGBT people and others for harm. It’s shameful that lawmakers in the House ignored this feedback and, rather than taking steps to mitigate any potential fallout, actually made a bad bill worse.

“Make no mistake about it – this is legislation that singles out LGBT Georgians, single mothers, religious minorities and so many others for discrimination. This bill will have immediate and severe consequences for our state.

“Governor Deal spoke in very eloquent terms about his opposition to HB 757 earlier this month, and I hope the governor understands that this amended legislation is worse than the previous version he spoke out about. The HB 757 which passed the House tonight will undoubtedly harm our economy and our state’s reputation. Governor Deal should hold true to his earlier opposition and veto this harmful, discriminatory bill.”

From Colgay Pride President Jeremy Hobbs:

“This is a call to action to everyone to call the Governor and tell him to honor his promise to veto House Bill 757. In his first public comments since the contentious new religious liberty bill swept through the Legislature, Gov. Nathan Deal said he was “pleasantly surprised” lawmakers hashed out a compromise but emphasized that he faces a hard decision ahead whether to sign it. Just two weeks ago, Governor Deal made statements strongly opposing “any” religious exemptions bill that would promote discrimination in the state of Georgia.  We must stand together and Hold Governor Nathan Deal to his word. This bill is bad for business and it’s bad for Georgians all around.

I still cannot believe that in 2016 we are setting forth a legalized Religious Crusades to destroy the foundation of which this country was built.  A country that would founded and built upon and fought for to defend the founding principles of Separation of Church and State.  Why are we trying to say this has anything to do with religion because in my faith, Jesus NEVER turned anyone away?  The only thing these bills foundations are built upon is hatred and division.  Religion does not preach hate or division but instead teaches love thy neighbor and promotes non-judgmental unity.

There is a really tough decision ahead for our Governor.  A decision that could cost Georgia Billions if he does not VETO it.  Tell the Governor to do his job and protect the rights of ALL Georgians. Veto HB 757.”

From Georgia Republicans for the Future spokesperson Allen Fox:

On Wednesday 10 House Republican lawmakers broke rank with leadership in voting down a dangerous proposal that would give broad license to discriminate and erase local power.

Together, these legislators represent the new face of the Republican Party. Together, they honor the limited government tradition of the Republican Party.

Georgia Republicans for the Future commends these legislators for demonstrating uncommon courage in the political arena by standing on the side of individual and economic freedom.

And for the sake of our growing Republican Party and Georgia’s distinction as the “Best Place in the Nation to Do Business,” we urge Governor Deal to uphold his commitment to veto any bill that discriminates.

From Georgia Democrats spokesperson Michael Smith:

“Republican lawmakers should be ashamed of this small-minded piece of legislation. If this bill is signed into law, today will be looked back upon as one of our state’s most disgraceful moments in modern history. Georgia has been down the road of discrimination before, and it did not end well.

“The business community has been consistently clear with their aversion of this legislation. If the GOP’s goal was to draft an economic stimulus for attorneys, then mission accomplished. The resulting litigation from this move will clog our courts, paralyze our economy, and drain our business community dry. HB 757 is a short-sighted move by Republicans that will have consequences for years to come.

“Discrimination and exclusion are not Georgia values, and history has shown that hope and progress always win.”

Cheers to Sam Wolfe!

I met lawyer Sam Wolfe back in 2012 at the Protest against “Love Won Out” in front of Midway Church in Villa Rica, GA. He was there representing the Southern Poverty Law Center, along with many others including Wayne Besen of Truth Wins Out, Chaim Levin of Gotta Give Em’ Hope, Art Izzard from the Queer Justice League of Atlanta, members of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence’s Atlanta chapter, GetEQUAL GA (Hi Paul Shapoe!) and GetEqual OH (hey Tom Morgan!), and my friend Edric Floyd of PFLAG Macon (Macon Georgia).

Edric and I rode up from what was then Macon State College (now Middle Georgia State University) to Villa Rica in the morning. It was pretty gray out, and we protesters had to stand on the edge of the other side of the road according to the squad cars blocking the one entryway to the church parking lot. There was one bullhorn, and no sidewalk.

Someone from Georgia Voice and Matt Hennie from Project Q Atlanta (both of which are models for how I want to operate the Pink Peach News – LGBT News in Columbus, Georgia) were both present. I remember some cowardly truck turned the corner next to us screaming the word “faggots” before speeding off.
It was my first LGBT-rights protest, and my first taste of the LGBT Atlanta which was a far cry from the comparative nothingness of LGBT Macon. It motivated me to become more involved in advocacy; I became President of Middle Georgia State University Gay-Straight Alliance in August for my final senior year.
I’m glad that Sam has spent up to this point fighting the good fight in Alabama and throughout the Deep South. His career at the SPLC should be best remembered for fighting successfully for an Alabama widower who fought to have the death certificate of his husband include his name as spouse and inheritor of his estate, against the intransigence of a bull-headed homophobic mother-in-law and a just-as-bullheaded State Supreme Court.
Sam Wolfe, pictured here at the Civil Rights Memorial in Birmingham, is an honorable person and tireless advocate for human rights. I cheer him as he moves on to the next chapter in his life. Viva Sam Wolfe!

LISTEN LIVE: Missouri Senate Dems Filibuster anti-LGBT Bill

Ya’ll in Missouri need to listen to the filibuster in the MO Senate right now. Going on 18-19 hours now. Senator Maria Chapelle Nadal spoke all night. ‪Follow the reactions and quotes through hashtag #‎SJR39‬.

mms://chamber.senate.mo.gov/SenateChamber

Also, send some Twitter love to State Senators Maria Chapelle-Nadal (@MariaChappelleN), Jill Schupp (@JillSchupp), Jamilah Nasheed (@SenatorNasheed), Joe Keaveny (@JoeKeaveny) and Kiki Curls (@KikiCurls).