News Briefs for the Week of Mar. 29, 2017

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Check out the latest news from around the nation!

 

Conservative Group Files Against Jacksonville Human Rights Law

(EDGE) On Thursday, Liberty Counsel filed a motion for Summary Judgement in a lawsuit to invalidate Jacksonville, Florida's recently adopted Human Rights Ordinance (HRO) that adds sexual orientation and gender identity to groups protected from discrimination for public accommodations, employment and housing.

The motion follows Wednesday's filing by the city of a Motion to Dismiss the hate group's standing lawsuit against the pro-LGBT ordinance. The city filed to Dismiss on the grounds that Liberty Counsel's plaintiff lacks the legal standing to file a lawsuit because he has no "special injury."

Liberty Counsel, gained national prominence by defending Kim Davis in 2015, and has twice gone up against prior versions of the HRO, which they claim violates Florida and Jacksonville law.

"The violations of Florida and Jacksonville law by the HRO authors and sponsors are so clear that no trial is necessary," said Liberty Counsel's Assistant Vice President of Legal Affairs, Roger Gannam, a former long-time Jacksonville resident. "City officials were wrong to choose the radical LGBT agenda over the rule of law and the fair and honest people of Jacksonville. This law deceptively and unnecessarily puts women in harm's way, by opening their facilities to men, and forces Jacksonville's businesses and citizens to celebrate the same-sex relationships of others under threat of fines and even loss of their businesses," said Gannam.

In February, the Jacksonville City Council voted 12-6 to expand the Human Rights Ordinance to include the words sexual orientation and gender identity to the existing HRO which prohibits discrimination for public accommodations, employment and housing.

 

Opponents: Arkansas Exposure Bill Targets Transgender People

(AP) An Arkansas lawmaker wants to expand the state's indecent exposure in a move that opponents say could criminalize transgender people's use of bathrooms.

Republican Rep. Bob Ballinger's proposal would make it a crime for people to knowingly expose their sex organs to someone of the opposite sex in a public place under circumstances likely to cause alarm. Ballinger said the measure was needed to protect children in situations such as when a father takes his daughter into the men's restroom. The bill would make it a crime for the men to deliberately expose themselves to the child.

But American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas legal director Holly Dickson says laws already are in place to address people acting with criminal intent in public restrooms. Dickson says Ballinger's bill is just a way to make it a crime for transgender people to use bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity.

"This bill is intimidating. It can lead to increased harassment. It will chill transgender people's participation in public life," Dickson said.

She noted the impact statement attached to the proposed measure, which says there were only seven convictions for violations of Arkansas' current indecent exposure law from 2013 to 2015.

"It is creating problems where there are no problems," Dickson said.

 

Oklahoma Avoids Boycotts by Derailing Anti-Gay Bills

(AP) Two bills that opponents say have led to boycotts in other states and could jeopardize Oklahoma's ability to attract major sporting events have been derailed in the Oklahoma Senate.

The Republican-controlled Senate voted 25-18 on Thursday against a bill that would have prohibited cities and towns from enacting ordinances that protect gay people from discrimination in housing and employment.

Coalgate Republican Sen. Josh Brecheen wrote the bill and says it was intended to protect people's sincerely held religious beliefs.

After the bill failed, the author of a second measure to allow businesses to discriminate against gay people withdrew his proposal.

The director of the gay rights group Freedom Oklahoma praised the Senate for its vote. Troy Stevenson said similar bills have led to boycotts in North Carolina and Indiana.

 

Montana Warned About Consequences of Bathroom Bill

(AP) Montana's chief economic development officer warned Thursday of dire economic consequences if lawmakers entangle the state in a national debate over bathrooms and transgender people.

A conservative group seeking to preserve traditional family values is pushing the Legislature to let voters decide whether people should only use the bathroom or locker room that matches their biological sex. Both sides sought to persuade lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee, with one side arguing in favor of limits by asserting privacy and safety concern and opponents dismayed about being forced to redefine their gender identity.

But Ken Fichtler, the governor's chief adviser on economic development, defined the issue in economic terms.

"This bill is clearly counter to the economic interests that your constituents sent you here to grow and defend," Fichtler told lawmakers.

Fichtler pointed to North Carolina as a prime example of the negative repercussions that could arise from the debate over who can legally use gender-specific bathrooms. Some businesses cancelled expansion plans in North Carolina because of a law that requires people to use the bathroom that matches their biological sex.

The Montana Family Foundation is pushing the Legislature to place the matter before voters in 2018. Dubbed the "Montana Locker Room Privacy Act," the measure would define sex as "a person's immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics existing at the time of birth."

Rep. Carl Glimm, a Republican from Kila, carried the bill on behalf of the foundation. If placed on the ballot and approved by voters, the measure would affect how public schools and universities, as well as other government agencies, accommodate transgender people. Facilities such as locker rooms designated for use by one sex must provide privacy from the opposite sex.


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