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Honda resolution would protect LGBT House staff

Rep. Mike Honda introduced a bipartisan resolution Thursday to protect House workers from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

“No person should be afraid of persecution, discrimination, threats, or bullying simply for being who they are,” Honda, D-San Jose, said in his news release. “It is important that in Congress, we lead by example and ensure that the workplace is safe and secure for all employees, and to ensure that discrimination has no place in Congress, especially for LGBTQ individuals. Congress needs to be an equal opportunity employer.”

Honda is founder and chairman of the Congressional Caucus to End Bullying; his resolution’s original cosponsors include Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla.

“Most Americans already believe that people in any workplace cannot be discriminated against due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. Unfortunately, that is not the case anywhere as it relates to federal law,” Ros-Lehtinen said in the news release. “If we are truly to be The People’s House, we must reflect our nation’s views and values and lead by example. No reasonable person can believe that discrimination or other reprisals based on an immutable characteristic is a tolerable situation in any workplace.”

The resolution is supported by groups including the Human Rights Campaign and the Bay Area Municipal Elections Committee.

Honda one year ago Thursday testified before a House Rules subcommittee in support of the House’s LGBT workers, noting that under current rules, “individuals are protected from employment decisions on the basis or face, color, religion, sex, disability, age, or national origin” but not sexual orientation or gender identity.

“For the many LGBT employees of the House – today and tomorrow – we must ensure that employment discrimination has no place in this Congress, or any thereafter,” he said at the time. “After all, securing the comfort and protections for our employees ultimately serves our nation.”

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Lawmakers urge $$$ disclosure, LGBT protection

Bay Area House Democrats are demanding action on disclosure of government contractors’ political contributions and on protecting LGBT people from assault in immigration detention centers.

Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, led 104 House members while U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., let 26 senators in urging President Barack Obama to issue an executive order requiring companies that do business with the federal government to fully disclose their political contributions.

“Taxpayers have a right to know where their money is spent and you have the power to ensure that the American people can obtain this information,” the House members wrote. “With public funds come public responsibilities, and any company receiving federal tax dollars should be required by executive order to fully disclose their political spending in a timely and accessible manner.”

Among the top 15 recipients of federal contracting dollars, a recent analysis by Public Citizen found that only 47 percent fully disclose their contributions to non-disclosing 501(c)(4) organizations. This is the fourth time since 2011 that Eshoo has led her colleagues in calling on President Obama to issue such an executive order. All Bay Area House members signed the letter except Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco; U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., signed the senate version, but Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., did not.

honda.jpgAlso Tuesday, Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, and Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., led 33 House members in writing a letter to the Department of Homeland Security to express concerns over the treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender immigrants while in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody.

“Detention should almost never be used for vulnerable groups such as LGBT immigrants facing immigration proceedings,” they wrote. “Recent surveys of jails and prisons by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) found that non-heterosexual detainees experience sexual assault at up to 10 times the rate of heterosexual men. The situation is starker for transgender detainees. According to the BJS survey, one in three will be sexually abused within 12 months in custody.”

The lawmakers asked that DHS and ICE consider an LGBT person’s detention to be “not in the public interest” per the department’s November 2014 enforcement memo, and that they work with LGBT and civil rights groups “to develop additional community-based alternatives to detention.”

Bay Area Reps. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, and Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, were among those signing the letter.

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Rep. Ted Lieu on GOP, climate change, LGBT rights

Rep. Ted Lieu, in Silicon Valley on Monday and Tuesday to tour tech companies and pay homage to his alma mater, says the key to Democratic victories in 2016 lies on the other side of the aisle.

Ted Lieu“We want to see lots of Ted Cruz on television,” Lieu, D-Torrance, said Monday during an interview at a Starbucks in San Jose. “I want him to win the nomination on the Republican side.”

Even if that doesn’t happen, having such sharply conservative voices on the other side makes it easier for Democrats to underscore how large segments of the GOP are increasingly out of step with a changing national electorate, Lieu said.

“The rest of America, with every passing day, looks more and more like California” in its demographics and policies, he said. “The current path of the GOP is not sustainable.”

Already the shifting demographics in key Electoral College states make it hard to see how Republicans can win the White House, Lieu said, and while Republicans might control Congress for a few more cycles, “you can only redistrict so much” before the sheer weight of a changing electorate catches up.

Lieu – who in January succeeded 40-year incumbent Democrat Henry Waxman in a coastal district that runs from San Pedro up past Malibu – is in the Bay Area this week to meet with tech leaders, including a dinner Monday night with Silicon Valley Leadership Group members, and visits to companies including Oracle, SunPower and Intuitive Surgical. A self-described “recovering computer science major,” he’ll also speak at Tuesday’s event commemorating the 50th anniversary of Stanford’s computer science program, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1991.

Lieu said he sees the tech sector as “one of America’s and California’s competitive advantages,” but sees a need to build diversity in its boardrooms and workspaces just as in the rest of corporate America and government. “Government operates better if it looks like the people it represents, and I think that’s also true for the private sector.”

Lots more from Lieu, after the jump…
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Speier to offer ‘gay conversion therapy’ ban effort

A Bay Area congresswoman will introduce a resolution next week urging states to ban “gay conversion therapy,” as President Obama called for in recent days.

Jackie SpeierRep. Jackie Speier plans to introduce the Stop Harming Our Kids (SHOK) resolution next Tuesday morning. The resolution calls on states to ban licensed mental health professionals from engaging in therapy to try to change minors’ sexual orientations.

“Conversion therapy is quackery — you can’t ‘cure’ or ‘treat’ sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression,” Speier, D-San Mateo, said in a news release. “I applaud the president for his strong stance against it. I look forward to working with the White House when I reintroduce the Stop Harming Our Kids (SHOK) Resolution. What LGBT youth need is love and support, not discredited pseudoscience.”

Speier first introduced the SHOK resolution in late 2012, soon after California enacted such a ban. California’s law took effect in 2014 after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear challenges to it.

Reacting to a public petition, the White House this week announced the Obama administration’s support of efforts to ban the practice.

The American Psychiatric Association and American Psychological Association have rejected gay conversion therapy as a scientifically invalid practice, finding it can cause serious harm.

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AG seeks court’s OK to nix gay execution measure

Attorney General Kamala Harris announced Wednesday that she’s seeking the California Supreme Court’s permission to refuse to prepare an official title and summary for a proposed ballot measure called the “Sodomite Suppression Act,” which would require the state to execute lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Harris, who is running for the U.S. Senate next year, said it’s her “sworn duty to uphold the California and United States Constitutions and to protect the rights of all Californians.

Kamala Harris“This proposal not only threatens public safety, it is patently unconstitutional, utterly reprehensible, and has no place in a civil society,” she said. “Today, I am filing an action for declaratory relief with the court seeking judicial authorization for relief from the duty to prepare and issue the title and summary for the ‘Sodomite Suppression Act.’ If the Court does not grant this relief, my office will be forced to issue a title and summary for a proposal that seeks to legalize discrimination and vigilantism.”

Alas, unlike those in many other states, California’s ballot initiative process doesn’t provide for pre-enactment constitutional review. But Harris is getting praise for trying to avoid enabling this odious idea – pitched by Huntington Beach attorney Matthew Gregory McLaughlin – from even being circulated as a petition for placement on next year’s ballot.

Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins – who one assumes would be on McLaughlin’s “hit list” – said Harris is right to ask the court to let the state turn away “an obviously unconstitutional and dangerous initiative proposal that actually promotes murder.

“The proposal represents either the depth of bigotry and hatred or the height of sick publicity stunts — either way it should not be dignified by becoming an official part of the process Californians have to amend the state Constitution,” said Atkins, D-San Diego. “Having discussed options with Attorney General Harris, I know how seriously she takes her responsibility to the law and how seriously she takes her responsibility to protect the public’s safety. I urge the court to grant the Attorney General’s request and prevent the state’s initiative process from being abused in this egregious manner.”

The Human Rights Campaign hailed the legal action, too.

“This disgusting, barbaric measure should be stopped in its tracks, and once again Attorney General Harris has demonstrated leadership in standing up for the rights and dignity of LGBT Californians,” HRC President Chad Griffin said. “It is our sincere hope that the Supreme Court of California gives her the authority to prevent it from advancing.”

Assemblyman Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, earlier Wednesday said McLaughlin’s proposed measure has inspired him to develop legislation to make signatures on ballot-measure petitions into public records.

“Voters must be informed when a petition they sign violates the United States Constitution,” said Rendon. “My proposal is simple: initiative signatures – particularly those that give permission to violate constitutional rights – shall be subject to the California Public Records Act.”

Even one of California’s most virulent anti-gay activists has shunned the proposed measure.

“This terrible ballot initiative doesn’t deserve any reporting, because advocating the killing of people who are not guilty of a contemporary capital crime, not guilty of threatening you with death yourself, and not pointing a rifle at you in war, is wrong in both the eyes of conservatives and liberals,” Randy Thomasson, president of SaveCalifornia.com, said Saturday.

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Ballot measure proposes all LGBT people be shot

Insane, the work of a bigoted asshat, or a miserably failed attempt at satire? You decide.

Huntington Beach attorney Matthew Gregory McLaughlin last week submitted to the California Attorney General’s office a proposed ballot measure that would require the state to execute lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Yes, you read that right.

“Seeing that it is better that offenders should die rather than that all of us should be killed by God’s just wrath against us for the folly of tolerating-wickedness in our midst, the People of California wisely command, in the fear of God, that any person who willingly touches another person of the same gender for purposes of sexual gratification be put to death by bullets to the head or by any other convenient method,” the proposed measure reads.

McLaughlin’s “Sodomite Suppression Act” also would make distribution of “sodomistic propaganda” – which McLaughlin defines as “anything aimed at creating interest in or acceptance of human sexual relations other than between a man and a woman” – punishable by a $1 million fine, up to 10 years in prison, and expulsion from California. And it would bar anyone “who is a sodomite, or who espouses sodomistic propaganda or who belongs to any group that does” from holding public office or receiving public benefits – though that seems redundant, since the measure would ensure such people already are dead or in prison.

Finally, the proposed measure specifies that it “shall not be rendered ineffective nor invalidated by any court, state or federal, until heard by a quorum of the Supreme Court of California consisting only of judges who are neither sodomites nor subject to disqualification hereunder.”

The “hereunder” is a nice touch, sort of gives it a ring of legalese. Never mind that almost every part of this measure is blatantly unconstitutional – and, very likely, utterly insane.

Remember, McLaughlin is an attorney: His State Bar of California record shows he earned an undergraduate degree from UC-Irvine and a law degree from George Mason University School of Law in Virginia – his professors must be SO proud – before being admitted to practice law in 1998.

Opponents have begun an online petition urging the State Bar to disbar McLaughlin.

“Advocating the murder of innocent citizens clearly demonstrates moral turpitude and abuse of the law,” the petition says. “It is disturbing and outrageous that a lawyer admitted to the California State Bar would disgrace the profession and the state. This immoral individual is unfit to practice law. He should be immediately be barred from practicing law in California.”

Meanwhile, the attorney general’s office has no choice but to take it seriously, and begin the process of developing a title and summary under which McLaughlin can circulate petitions to place this on next year’s ballot.

Your tax dollars will pay for the time and effort it takes to do this. Unlike those in some arguably wiser states, California’s ballot-measure process doesn’t include any review to determine whether an idea is constitutionally plausible before it hits the streets.

But oh, to be a fly on the wall as McLaughlin goes out asking people to sign his petitions. It should be quite a sight to see.