Bigger in Texas: Transphobia

Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick at left; Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton at right

Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick at left; Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton at right

Two of the state’s top elected officials — the lieutenant governor and the attorney general — both went on transphobic, fear-mongering tirades as North Carolina ramped up its defense of a controversial anti-trans law.

Moments after North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory announced Monday that he was suing the federal government over its determination that his state’s sweeping anti-LGBT law violates federal civil rights law, Texas’s top lawman rushed to his fellow Republican’s defense.

Local LGBT publication Dallas Voice posted the full statement from Attorney General Paxton, who is currently facing a federal securities fraud lawsuit, on top of similar charges filed against him  last year in state court. Paxton previously earned the ire of marriage equality supporters (and a formal ethics complaint) last year when he falsely informed Texas county clerks that they did not have to abide by the Supreme Court’s ruling bringing the freedom to marry to all 50 states.

Paxton said:

“The people of the United States, through their representatives in Congress, enacted the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to ensure, in part, that men and women are treated equally. Congress has not changed this law to mean that individuals may choose whether they want to be male or female for the purpose of public accommodations. One’s sex is a biological fact, not a state of mind, and this threat to North Carolina is the latest in a long series of efforts by an unaccountable federal executive branch. My office stands with Governor McCrory and the people of North Carolina regarding this unconstitutional form of federal overreach.”

[…]

The same day, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick — himself no stranger to transphobic fear mongering — took aim at a school superintendent who had approved a modestly trans-inclusive policy regarding bathroom and locker room access for students in the district.

Patrick suggested Monday that Kent Scribner, Fort Worth school district superintendent, should be removed from his position following the April 19 adoption of a district-wide policy that allows trans students to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

Full Story Here.

Saudi Cleric: Homosexuality should not be punished.

Salman al-Ouda talking to young YouTube producers (Emad Alhusayni/Flickr)

Salman al-Ouda talking to young YouTube producers (Emad Alhusayni/Flickr)

A leading Saudi cleric has publicly stated that homosexuality should not be criminally punished, during a visit to Sweden to visit Syrian refugees.

“Even though homosexuality is considered a sin in all the Semitic holy books, it does not require any punishment in this world,” Dr Salman al-Ouda said in an interview with the Swedish Sydsvenskan newspaper, adding that homosexuals would be punished “after death.”

Homosexuality has long been a controversial topic in much of the Muslim world. LGBT people still face the death penalty in Saudi Arabia.

[…]

“Homosexuals are not deviating from Islam,” continued Ouda in the interview. “Homosexuality is a grave sin, but those who say that homosexuals deviate from Islam are the real deviators.

“By condemning homosexuals to death they are committing a graver sin than homosexuality itself.”

He added that Islam did not “encourage individuals who have same-sex attraction to show their feelings in public.”

His comments have already provoked controversy in Saudi Arabia and other parts of the Middle East.

[…]

He also condemned the abuse of the concept of Sharia law by Islamic State and al-Qaeda.

“Sharia is a very broad and wide concept and it is a concept that has been kidnapped,” he said.

Though still a controversial topic, Ouda is not the first senior Islamic figure to propose changing the legal status of homosexuality.

Middle East Eye has the story.

Trump Presidency: Forget Canada, Go to Russia!

Russia

Several celebrities and liberal politicians have threatened to move to Canada if Donald Trump becomes president, but Vladimir Putin would like American political refugees to consider moving to Russia instead.

Putin is offering 2.5 acres and citizenship to any Americans fleeing a Donald Trump presidency who would be willing to live in Russia’s remote Far East for at least his first term.

Like the United States 19th century western land rush, the Russian Homestead Act was designed to lure hardy settlers and political asylum seekers to help settle the largely undeveloped region.

Inquisitr has the full story.

Absolutely. Terrifying.

Zhenyuanlong-Chuang

The newly described dinosaur Zhenyuanlong suni measured 5 feet in length and was a relative of the velociraptor. The fossil’s well-preserved wings bore complex feathers, not simple hairlike structures. Illustration by Zhao Chuang.

Click image for full size. I don’t know about you, but if something like that was chasing me…godsdamn. Feathers, much more terrifying than scales, hands down.

They Had Feathers: Is the World Ready to See Dinosaurs as They Really Were?  (Via Pharyngula.)

America, Home of Delusional, Prudish, Selfish Religious Nuts.

Shutterstock.

Shutterstock.

Kali Holloway has an article at AlterNet about how America compares to the rest of the world.

…The conservative American notion that people with far better healthcare, civil rights laws and gun control “hate our freedom” is a wishful imperialist delusion. Worse, it’s not fooling anybody at this point.

That said, if all the world’s a stage, America is a prime player: a rich, loud, attention-seeking celebrity not fully deserving of its starring role, often putting in a critically reviled performance and tending toward histrionics that threaten to ruin the show for everybody else. (Also, embarrassingly, possibly the last to know that its career as top biller is in rapid decline.) To the outside onlooker, American culture—I’m consolidating an infinitely layered thing to save time and space—is contradictory and bizarre, hypocritical and self-congratulatory. Its national character is a textbook study in narcissistic tendencies coupled with crushing insecurity issues.

How to reconcile a country that fetishizes violence and is squeamish about sex; conflates Christianity and consumerism; says it loves liberty yet made human rights violations a founding principle? In conversations with non-Americans, should the topic of the U.S. come up, there are often expressions of incredulity and bewilderment about things that seem weird when you aren’t from here. Talk and think about those things enough, and they also start to seem objectively weird if you are from here, too.

That perception is held even by countries that share similarities with America. The Pew Research Center rounded up surveys from recent years that point out some of the ways American and European attitudes diverge, not infrequently widely. Obviously, there’s plenty of cultural difference among European countries, and surveys aren’t necessarily nuanced in describing how the citizens of entire countries see the world. But these polls do tell us something about the things large swaths of those countries agree on, as well as how those popular ideas tend to differ from pervasive notions and sensibilities within America.

The Full Story is Here.

A Floating Food Forest

Food-Barge-NYC-released-Swale-800x430

Swale, a collaborative floating food project, is dedicated to rethinking and challenging New York City’s connection to our environment. Built on an 80-foot by 30-foot floating platform, Swale contains an edible forest garden. Functioning as both a sculpture and a tool, Swale provides free healthy food at the intersection of public art and service. With Swale, we want to reinforce water as a commons, and work towards fresh food as a commons too.

Swale is an artwork. Art is integral to imagining new worlds. By continuing to create and explore new ways of living, we hope that Swale will strengthen our ways of collaborating, of cooperating, and of supporting one another. At its heart, Swale is a call to action. It asks us to reconsider our food systems, to confirm our belief in food as a human right, and to pave pathways to create public food in public space.

This is a great way to get fresh, healthy food to known food deserts. Have a look around Swale’s space, and donate if you can.

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LC: Pedophiles Behind Non-Discrimination Laws

Mat Staver, Liberty Counsel.

Mat Staver, Liberty Counsel.

From Right Wing Watch: On today’s “Faith and Freedom” radio program, Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver asserted that North Carolina’s anti-LGBT law and the Religious Right’s boycott of Target are necessary because efforts to allow transgender people to use facilities that match their gender identity are being pushed by pedophilia advocates.

“The fact is we know sexual assaults occur,” he said, “they are going to occur with or without these laws, there’s no question about that. People commit sexual assaults, they commit them in buildings, they commit them in restrooms; but what you have now done, knowing that sexual assaults occur, knowing that they occur in these places where women are trapped and they can’t get out, now what we’ve done, through these laws, is we’ve opened the door for every rapist and pedophile.”

“Frankly,” he continued, “when you look at some of the people behind the North Carolina law and some of these other laws, who are they? They have been identified, some of them that have been advocating this, as pedophiles. Some of this is being financed by those who are actively promoting pedophilia.”

Naturally, Staver did not state just which groups are advocating child abuse.

The Advocate also has this story.

Faith Driven Consumer

FDI screen grab.

FDI screen grab.

Faith Driven Consumers are Christians who choose to live out our faith in every arena of life – including the marketplace. We make daily decisions based on our biblical worldview and see everything we do in the context of stewardship. Our heartbeat is to give honor to God with every choice we make.

Like other groups, Faith Driven Consumers are a minority in the rich tapestry of American diversity. As a rapidly emerging and economically powerful movement with a legitimate voice in the public square, Faith Driven Consumers comprise 17 percent of the population – 41 million Americans – and spend $2 trillion annually.

While many companies routinely target other consumer segments, Faith Driven Consumers have been largely overlooked. However, we’re actively seeking to do business with companies that welcome us and respect our values – and we’re ready, willing and able to switch our loyalties to brands that include us.

As Faith Driven Consumers, we choose to match our wallets to our worldview and support companies whose corporate actions are compatible with biblical faith. This is action every one of us can take, every day. And we can advocate for and grow faith-compatible businesses all over America.

Faith Driven Consumers are creating space in the American marketplace for those who hold to a biblical worldview. If you seek to steward the resources you’ve been entrusted in ways that create a more faith-compatible marketplace, join the Faith Driven Consumer community today. It all starts with you!

Faith Driven Consumer Website.

The Advocate took a closer look at some of the companies listed.

a group called Faith Driven Consumer, which purports to represent “Christians who choose to live out our faith in every arena of life — including the marketplace,” put together a list of retailers that it suggests its followers patronize instead of Target. But are these companies anti-LGBT? Well, not all of them. Click through the next pages for an analysis.

Full Story Here.

Mississippi Gets Federal Lawsuit, Too.

Nykolas Alford and Stephen Thomas.

Nykolas Alford and Stephen Thomas.

An engaged same-sex couple in Mississippi today filed a federal lawsuit seeking to block the implementation of the state’s sweeping anti-LGBT “religious freedom” law before it takes effect July 1.

The federal complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, contends that Mississippi’s Protecting Freedom of Conscience From Government Discrimination Act, also known as House Bill 1523, violates the promises of equal protection guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

The named plaintiffs are Nykola Alford and Stephen Thomas (pictured above), who have been engaged for nearly two years, according to a press release from the American Civil Liberties Union and its Mississippi chapter, which is representing the couple.

“When HB 1523 passed, it was heartbreaking because it takes away our chance to finally be treated equally,” the couple said in the ACLU’s statement. “At a time when we’re supposed to be excited as a couple engaged to be married, this law permits discrimination against us simply because of who we are. This is not the Mississippi we’re proud to call home. We’re hopeful others will come to realize this and not allow this harmful measure to become law.”

Full Story Here.

McCrory: We’ll Sue the Feds

nc-mccrory-sues-fedsx750

Facing a federal government about to crack down, Gov. Pat McCrory is suing to stop them, arguing there’s no such thing as federal protections for transgender people.

At a press conference at the state capitol in Raleigh today, McCrory repeated his earlier claims that he and his conservative colleagues in the legislature did not “seek out” this issue, placing the blame squarely on members of the Charlotte City Council, which approved a trans-inclusive public accommodations ordinance in February. The statewide law was drafted explicitly as a response to these protections, which McCrory has consistently called “government overreach.”

[…]

North Carolina’s chief legal counsel, Bob Stephens, confirmed during today’s press conference that the state’s lawsuit, seeking declaratory judgment, “is our response to that deadline” set by the DOJ. “So we’ve met the deadline and now we’ll go forward,” he added.

The lawsuit blasts the United States, in particular the federal Department of Justice, led by Attorney General Loretta Lynch, “for their radical reinterpretation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which would prevent plaintiffs from protecting the bodily privacy rights of state employees while accommodating the needs of transgendered state employees.”

Mischaracterizing the law as a “common sense privacy policy,” the complaint admits that House Bill 2 does not grant citizens access to public restrooms based on their gender identity. The suit continues:

“The Department [of Justice] contends that North Carolina’s common sense privacy policy constitutes a pattern or practice of discriminating against transgender employees in the terms and conditions of their employment because it does not give employees an unfettered right to use the bathroom or changing facility of their choice based on gender identity. The Department’s position is a baseless and blatant overreach.”

North Carolina’s complaint contends that there is no legal precedent affirming that transgender individuals are protected by federal employment law, but relies upon cases decided up to 16 years ago, notably failing to mention the numerous pro-trans equality rulings handed down in federal courts under the Obama administration.

At today’s press conference, Stephens told reporters that the DOJ is misunderstanding federal civil rights law, and argued that transgender people are not protected under Title VII. “The class of people that the Justice Department are referring to, are not a protected class,” Stephens told reporters, speaking about transgender employees who are now barred from using public restrooms that match their gender identity.

The Advocate has the full story. This just keeps plumbing brand new depths of stupidity and bigotry. How is it possible that holding on to bigotry is worth so much?

An actual bathroom crime

columbus division of police

Columbus division of police

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Police in Ohio’s capital are searching for a man who’s been pilfering plumbing from stores, hospitals and restaurants.

Dubbed the Bathroom Bandit, Columbus police say he enters various local establishments, visits the men’s restroom, disconnects the plumbing and leaves with the stolen parts in his backpack.

A police department spokeswoman says the businesses won’t only have to replace the parts, but hire a plumber to repair the man’s toilet tinkering. She said his crimes may be unusual, but they’re still felonies.

Articles here and here.

Okay, I’ll admit to being terribly curious as to the why here. The ‘Bathroom Bandit’ doesn’t seem to be terribly concerned with being identified or caught.

UPDATE: The bathroom bandit, Gilbert Duwayne Courts, has been caught. The police say Courts was stealing the fixtures for scrap to support a drug habit.