Category Archives: sexual orientation

Religious counseling law challenged in lawsuit

Two gay rights activists have filed a lawsuit challenging a new Tennessee law allowing mental health therapists to refuse treatment to patients based on the therapists’ religious or personal beliefs is unconstitutional, reports the News-Sentinel.

Bleu Copas of Anderson County and Caleb Laieski of Virginia filed the complaint Tuesday in Anderson County Chancery Court.

Sought is an injunction to keep the law from being applied and a judgment voiding the statute. The legal action was filed against Gov. Bill Haslam, who signed the controversial bill into law.

Both men are identified as homosexuals in the complaint, and Laieski is described as a “national lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights activist” who lives in Alexandria, Va.

The new law “is a matter of great public concern,” and LGBT individuals “are singled out for discriminatory treatment,” according to the complaint. “There is no other group which could conceivably be the target of the statute,” it continues.

“The effect of the statute is to give counselors and therapists an open door to discriminate against people of certain protected classes, specifically LGBT individuals and couples,” the legal action avers.

“Mr. Copas and Mr. Laieski, along with all other LGBT individuals, cannot be treated differently through legislation than the rest of the population,” it continues.

…Haslam has defended his decision to sign the bill into law, saying professionals should have the right to decide if their clients’ goals don’t match their own personal beliefs.

Chattanooga mayor denies sexual relationship with staffer

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke denied allegations that he maintained an inappropriate sexual relationship with one of his senior advisers Wednesday, five days after his adviser’s husband was arrested for domestic assault.

Further from the Times-Free Press:

As soon as Bobby Stone, 54, went to jail, rumors quickly began to spread that he attacked his wife, Lacie Stone, 38, after discovering she was romantically involved with Berke, who is also married. Berke said in a statement that Bobby Stone was lying.

“Upon being arrested and charged, her husband made numerous false allegations about me and other people involved in city government,” Berke said. “It is unfortunate that this situation escalated to the point of a domestic assault. Let me be clear: the allegations are absolutely false.”

Berke did not answer multiple previous requests for comment from the Times Free Press and declined to comment further, “out of respect for the ongoing investigation.”
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Some legislators unhappy over leaked bathroom emails

From a Tennessean story following up on last week’s report of email exchanges between House Republican Caucus members on whether to hold a special legislative session in response a federal directive on transgender bathroom use in schools:

An ongoing discussion about leaked emails between House Republican lawmakers has led one member to say whoever provided them to the media has betrayed their own party, another to suggest a colleague should “grow up” and a third to raise the possibility of asking the attorney general to look into the matter.

On Monday, Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Mt. Juliet, sent out an email to the House Republican Caucus asking “whoever released our email discussion of whether or not to hold a special session” to out themselves. Continue reading

Some TN reaction to bathroom lawsuit

From Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee:

“Title VII and Title IX have long prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex, and federal courts and agencies have recognized that this includes protections for transgender people. Like guidance issued by federal agencies for decades, the guidance in question does not change the law, but explains what agencies think existing law requires.

“The Supreme Court has made clear that you cannot sue an agency just because you disagree with the agency’s non-binding guidance. Moreover, because the guidance is nonbinding, this lawsuit appears to be nothing more than politically-motivated.

“But underneath all of the political bluster are real students, young people who should not have to live in fear of punishment or harassment every time they use the restroom like their peers, or be made to feel like second-class citizens merely for being themselves. We will continue to work toward a day when all students in Tennessee are treated fairly under the law.”

From Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville

“On behalf of the Senate Republican Caucus, we are pleased that Tennessee will join with other states in challenging the Obama Administration’s actions regarding the redefinition of the term ‘sex’ in connection with Title VII and Title IX and local education, and state sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment.”

“We remain hopeful that the Attorney General will demonstrate similar resolve regarding enforcement of the Refugee Act, public safety and state sovereignty pursuant to SJR467.”

From Family Action Council of Tennessee

Today the state of Tennessee, through the Tennessee Attorney General’s office, joined a lawsuit filed in Texas by that state and several other states over the Obama administration’s attempt to redefine “sex” in Title IX to mean the “gender” by which people subjectively identify themselves, risking the privacy and safety of our citizens. (Link to complaint HERE.)

We are still reviewing the complaint, but give a hearty “amen” to the following statement in it: “Defendants have conspired to turn workplaces and educational settings across the country into laboratories for a massive social experiment, flouting the democratic process, and running roughshod over commonsense policies protecting children and basic privacy rights.”
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AP story on 11 states (including TN) suing over bathroom directive

By Paul J. Weber, Associated Press
AUSTIN, Texas — Texas and 10 other states are suing the Obama administration over its directive to U.S. public schools to let transgender students use the bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity.

The lawsuit announced Wednesday includes Oklahoma, Alabama, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Tennessee, Maine, Arizona, Louisiana, Utah and Georgia. It asks a North Texas federal court to declare the directive unlawful in what ranks among the most coordinated and visible legal challenges by states over the socially divisive issue of bathroom rights for transgender persons.

The Obama administration has “conspired to turn workplace and educational settings across the country into laboratories for a massive social experiment, flouting the democratic process, and running roughshod over commonsense policies protecting children and basic privacy rights,” the lawsuit reads.

Many of the conservative states involved had previously vowed defiance, calling the guidance a threat to safety while being accused of discrimination by supporters of transgender rights. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch has previously said “there is no room in our schools for discrimination.”
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Slatery joins Texas lawsuit over transgender bathroom directive

News release from Tennessee attorney general’s office:
Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III today joined Texas and nine other states in filing a lawsuit against the United States Department of Education (DOE) and the Department of Justice (DOJ). This is in direct response to recent actions taken by DOE and DOJ in connection with Title VII and Title IX. In the joint letter referred to as the “Dear Colleague Letter” sent by DOE and DOJ to school districts across the country, DOE and DOJ redefined the term “sex” as a person’s sense of gender identity and placed federal funding at risk for schools whose facilities and programs do not comply with the new definition.

Slatery said, “The Executive Branch has taken what should be a state and local issue [under the Tenth Amendment] and made it a federal issue. Schools that do not conform under the new rules risk losing their federal funding. This is yet another instance of the Executive Branch changing law on a grand scale, which is not its constitutional role. Congress legislates, not the Executive Branch. Our Office has consistently opposed efforts like this to take away states’ rights and exclude the people’s representatives from making these decisions, or at a minimum being able to engage in a notice and comment period under the Administrative Procedures Act (APA). As the complaint describes, it is a social experiment implemented by federal departments denying basic privacy rights and placing the burden largely on our children, not adults. Sitting on the sidelines on this issue was not an option.”

In 1964, Congress enacted Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, making it illegal for employers to discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Eight years later, Congress took it a step further with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, expanding those protections to federally funded education programs.

Slatery added, “Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of “sex” – defined to be a biological category based principally on male or female anatomy. The Administration is incorrectly interpreting Title IX to include self-proclaimed gender identity. By issuing this change as a “guideline,” DOE and DOJ are sidestepping the APA and infringing on a legal territory reserved for the legislature. Tennessee is initiating this lawsuit with the other states to contest the action for all of these reasons.”

Other states joining in the filing are Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Maine, Oklahoma, Utah, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Casada shelves push for special bathroom session; Haslam vows to help sued systems

House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada is putting his push for a special legisslative session on transgender bathrooms on hold, reports WPLN. He says it looks like there’s no longer a need for lawmakers to weigh in.

Casada started the petition to hold a special meeting. He did it after the Obama administration told school districts they’d be running afoul of federal anti-discrimination rules if they don’t let transgender students use the facilities of their gender identity.

Casada worries Tennessee districts will be sued, and he wanted to compel the state’s attorney general, Herbert Slatery, to defend them.

But now Slatery has told Republican leaders he’ll take the case, which is good enough for Casada. He says the only reason to hold a special session was to protect Tennessee school districts from a directive he sees as unconstitutional.

That’s being met in Sumner County, Casada says, and “it’s safe to assume that if you’re helping one county, you would help others that got sued.”

Special sessions are usually called by Tennessee governors, often to deal with major legislation. But state lawmakers have managed to do it only twice — in 1971 to give 18 year olds the right to vote and in 1982 to meet at the World’s Fair in Knoxville.

…Casada says the petition won’t be thrown out. He plans to keep it on file, just in case interest in the session bubbles up again.

Gov. Bill Haslam, who has been decidedly cool on a special bathroom session, tells WKRN that he stands ready to fully support any local school system that gets into legal troubles over transgender restroom policies:

“If they get sued I think that we the state will jump in to help those local school boards, because it should be their decision,” he told News 2 after a stop at the American Legion Boys State in Cookeville.

Casada said Slatery’s office indicated to Lt. Governor Ramsey that it would defend Sumner County Schools against an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) complaint filed last week for lack of a transgender bathroom/locker room policy.

“I really applaud the attorney general for stepping up and defending Sumner County and it’s given a lot of members comfort,” Rep. Casada told News 2. “We would love to see the attorney general say I am going to defend any school over this unconstitutional DOJ directive.”

The governor believes that would happen for any school district facing legal challenges over transgender student polices.

“My full intention would be for the state to help them in every way that we can if they are sued,” added the governor.

57 TN House Republicans want special bathroom session

Excerpt from a Tennessean update on efforts to call a special legislative session on transgender bathrooms:

As of Monday afternoon, 57 House Republicans have agreed with the call for a special session, nine have said no and six are undecided, according to Cade Cothren, a caucus spokesman. In the House, Republicans will likely need Democratic support to call the special session.

The Tennessee Constitution stipulates that it takes two-thirds of both chambers — 66 signatures in the House and 22 in the Senate — for lawmakers to call themselves back for a special session.

Despite the push from Republicans, Haslam, House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, have questioned the need for a special session. Although the Senate has not formally started a similar signature gathering effort, they are expected to do so in the event that the House reaches the required number.

The article includes comments from emails Republican representatives have sent on the matter. Rep. Susan Lynn, who sponsored a transgender bathroom bill that failed during regular session, suggests a special session might be premature. She said that the federal directive was nothing more than “bait” and an attempt to “jerk us around.” Lynn sponsored — and later withdrew — legislation this year requiring students to use the restroom corresponding to the gender on their birth certificate.

“They want us to be drawn in,” she wrote to her colleagues. “All we have to do is ride out the clock. Next year we will have President Trump and he will not pursue us over this nor will his DOE (Department of Education) nor justice department make the same assessment.”

In the event that Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton wins in November, Lynn said “we should be all up in it all the time — we can be her worst nightmare but right now we have one chance left — let’s elect our candidate.”

…Rep. John Ragan, R-Oak Ridge, who said his email has been “lighting up” with concerned constituents — all of whom opposed the federal directive — warned that while it may be true that the issue is intended to be an “election-year ‘distraction’ by the Obama administration” there has been little indication that Gov. Bill Haslam will take a stronger stand and issue an executive order opposing the directive.

“The impact on Tennessee elections will be mostly in the primaries, as the Democrats will stay as far from this as they can,” Ragan added.

Ragan expressed skepticism that the attorney general would take “independent action” on the matter.

“Our actions in this situation must have a ‘strategic’ view as well as a ‘tactical’ one,” Ragan wrote.

Ramsey: AG ready for legal fight over bathrooms

Attorney General Herbert Slatery has promised Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey that he will “wholeheartedly” defend Tennessee school systems against a federal directive on transgender bathroom use, reports the Times-Free Press. That, says Ramsey, means there’s no need for a special legislative session on the matter.

“Herbert Slatery, the attorney general, called me to say we’re going to defend that wholeheartedly,” Ramsey, the Republican Senate speaker, told Bradley County Republicans on Saturday night at their annual Lincoln Day Dinner.

House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada has been canvassing colleagues, seeking support for a possible special session to require Slatery to defend schools sued for violating President Barack Obama’s transgender student policies.

A recent directive from the U.S. Justice and Education departments said students should be allowed to use bathrooms and locker rooms based on their gender identity, not biological sex.

The American Civil Liberties Union-Tennessee fanned conservative Republicans’ ire last week by asking Education Department officials to enforce the directive against Sumner County schools. The ACLU complained the district is not complying with the policy, though Sumner officials say they try to be accommodating.

The Justice Department is suing North Carolina over its law restricting transgender students to bathrooms matching their biological sex.

After the dinner, Ramsey said Slatery told him Friday “he didn’t feel like we needed a special session” to require him to defend Sumner County. He said Slatery is “100 percent on board with it.”

“He feels confident they have statutory authority to [defend a local school system],” Ramsey added.

Memphis police liaison to gay community files lawsuit

The Memphis police officer serving as liaison to the city’s homosexual and transgender community has filed a lawsuit saying he has been the victim of discrimination based on sexual orientation, reports the Commercial Appeal.

The officer, Davin Clemons, argues in the suit that he faced discrimination, harassment and retaliation against him based on his same-sex orientation and his work as police liaison to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. He also argues he faced discrimination based on two other factors: a medical condition that stops him from achieving a clean shave, and his religion — he’s an elder in a Christian church that he helped found called Cathedral of Praise Church of Memphis.

He was named in 2014 to the liaison position, which he does in addition to his other duties.

Police spokeswoman Karen Rudolph said Friday that Clemons still serves on the elite TACT unit and that she believed he was still serving as LGBTQ liaison. “We are aware of the lawsuit, however, we are unable to comment on any cases pending litigation,” she wrote in an e-mail.

Clemons had complained to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, but earlier this year the organization ruled it couldn’t demonstrate violations of the law, according to a court document. Clemons had the right to file a lawsuit within 90 days of receipt of the notice, and he filed on May 12.

The suit describes many incidents that Clemons says are discriminatory. For instance, he alleges that when he got engaged to another male police officer in November 2015, a group of other officers passed around a social media video of the engagement and made fun of it.