Texas Passes Discriminatory Adoption Ban and California Implements Travel Ban

AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN VIA AP
Cantor Yitzhak Ben-Moshe, Pastor Brad Fuerst and supporter Kim Jones along with dozens of clergy and faith leaders rallied outside the House Chamber at the Capitol in Austin in opposition of bills they consider anti-LGBT.

Houston  Before going to the annual Local 100 Leadership Conference, I took a look at the Houston Chronicle to see if there was any local news. There was a weird front page headline, “State Fires Back at California Ban,” prompting me to ask my hosts, what the frick was this about? The answer was an OMG moment!

The Texas legislature in its peculiar wisdom had passed a bill which they called the “Freedom to Serve Children Act,” which – and I was so incredulous about this I had to double check to make sure I wasn’t imagining this – gives publicly funded adoption agencies the right of a “religious refusal” on adoptions. This isn’t just just standard garden variety gay-bashing so common among the cowboys up there. This was a hater bill discriminating broadly on just about anybody. Not only could such agencies refuse to place children in LGBT households, but they also could fence off unmarried couples, single mothers or fathers, and non-Christian prospective parents from their services, while still continuing to feed from the public trough supported by all Texas taxpayers. According to news reports, such agencies provide 25% of the adoption services in Texas at this point. All of this is unbelievable, but equally surprising, at least to me, given how blatantly discriminatory such legislation is, Texas wasn’t even the first state to pass such a bill. South Dakota seems to have done so last spring.

So, you might wonder, as I did, how California got themselves in the middle of this mess? Well, California banned all state-funded travel to Texas because of this blatant discrimination, especially against the LGBT community. Somehow I had missed this as well, but Texas is the 8thstate on the California travel ban. Of course South Dakota is on the list, but so is Kentucky and Alabama. They are joined Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina and Tennessee in the gang of eight. Texas legislators were quoted hoping that Governor Abbot would let them extract revenge on California in the coming days of the special legislative session, so stay tuned for more word bullets flying.

For now it’s just a spit fight. Abbot claimed that who cared, arguing that businesses are fleeing high-tax Cali for wild west Texas. Spokespeople for California put their nose in the air and noted that, oh, really, then why is California the 6th largest economy in the world, recently surpassing France in that position. No one every misses a shot at France it seems.

Don’t get distracted by the bizarre craziness of all of this. The bottom line is that this act and others like it are just plain wrong and are state-funded and supported discrimination. Doing so while hiding behind the cloak of religion seems even more shameful.

Once you stop laughing, start fighting.

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Up-Standers, Answer the Call!

fhupstanderNew Orleans  I’m a “what’s next” guy. Good news or bad news, how do we respond, what do we do next. Resilience. Problem solving. Whatever, I try to manage the present and prepare for the future, respecting the past, but always trying to stay in motion to move forward. Not surprisingly, that’s been my personal response to the Trump victory. I understand and respect that it is not everyone’s default mode or reality though.

We were fortunate to have our daughter in town this weekend visiting. She was in for the traditional Scorpio celebration for her mother, grandmother, and herself. We had hardly ordered before she was asking how, or maybe not so much asking as telling us, people, particularly women and people she knew in the LGBT and minority communities, were feeling the changes in the national temperament. She was hearing and feeling real fear. She and many of her friends and colleagues felt they were being looked at differently and with more hostility than in the past. There were too many reports of recent catcalls. Her friends were on red alert, especially among men. If a man even looked at them cross eyed in this new environment, they were arms up and ready to respond. It was fight not flight, but overall still tinged with fear.

This was not an encouraging report from the land of millennials. What was encouraging was her report that people were issuing the call for more up-standers. I don’t even know if up-standing or up-standers are real words, but they probably should be. Up-standers are not bystanders. She had heard the term from elementary school teachers who talked to children about being up-standers as a response to bullying in school. Other children needed to be ready and able to be up-standers to stop bullies.

Calling for up-standers in all situations seems exactly the right response to these times and, in my view, all times. Men, women, and all people of good will who care about each other and this country need to be prepared to stand in solidarity and call out instances of misogyny, racism, ethnic slurs and prejudices, religious intolerance, and more. We all have to be ready to stand up and say, that’s not right, stop!

One of the depressing speculations during the recent election on the impact of women speaking out on sexual harassment is that a Trump victory along with many of his supporters, including the majority of white women, rationalizing his remarks and assaults, or even worse, denigrating the women coming forward as incredible, rather than forcing this into the open so that it finally could be stopped in the workplace and elsewhere, would in fact force in below the radar once again, making it harder and riskier for women to come forward in the future. We can’t allow that, and my daughter, her mother, and grandmother are right, they can’t be expected to carry the weight. It takes all of us committing to being up-standers and standing up and speaking out everywhere and anywhere that we hear or see instances of this effort to destroy the basic human rights of anyone, anywhere, whether the same or different than we are.

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