Thursday, February 25, 2016

Liberty Counsel orchestrates disappointment in Brevard County

The anti-gay hate group Liberty Counsel is taking credit for Brevard County School District unanimously rejecting expansion of their non-discrimination policy to include sexual identity and sexual orientation. Brevard County, population 550,823, is Florida's “Space Coast” about 20 miles east of Orlando.

Liberty Counsel's strategy is to put the school board on notice (see letter below) and then to mobilize Christians to attend a hearing. The letter includes:
In rejecting these particular categories, the District should maintain the common- sense position that objective biological sex – male and female – is (and should remain) the determining factor for access to gender-appropriate public school facilities and programs, not subjective mental “identity” claims or beliefs that one is the opposite sex, or subjective sexual attractions. As set forth below, there is no legal authority mandating addition of these improper categories to District policies.
This is the-kids-wake-up-in-the-morning-and-decide-to-be-[fill in the blank] strategy. It fails to respect the fact that transgender children have likely been in the intensive care of mental health and medical professionals. Did the school district hear from any of those pediatricians or counselors? Similarly, Liberty Counsel dismisses sexual orientation as “subjective sexual attractions.” The conservative Christian lawyers at Liberty Counsel are substituting their judgment for the judgment of mental health and medical professionals.

Continuing with the same theme:
There is no state-wide Florida law recognizing “sexual orientation” or “gender identity” as protected classes, because they are not like others protected by law. They are subjective, behavior-based categories, rather than federally-recognized immutable characteristics like race, color, sex, national origin, or constitutionally-protected fundamental rights, like religion.
Baloney! They are not protected classes because of politics. They are neither subjective nor behavior based. The overwhelming conclusion of social and medical science is that these are immutable characteristics. Moreover, the fact that people have a First Amendment right to “free exercise” is not the reason that religion is a protected class. Religion is a protected class because it is included as such in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Florida, for example, has a disgraceful history of anti-Semitism irrespective of “constitutionally-protected fundamental rights.”

LC devotes several paragraphs to Title IX compliance, cherry picking from the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights advisory on school violence. LC claims that OCR “cites no legal authority - case law or statutory - for the claim that Title IX now applies to students claiming to be the opposite sex for purposes of access to the opposite sex’s restrooms and locker rooms.”

OCR does, in fact, explain the legal authority. Perhaps more importantly the notion of “students claiming to be the opposite sex for purposes of access to the opposite sex’s restrooms and locker rooms.” is offensive demagoguery. These kids consistently present gender non-conformity. They do not do so to gain access to facilities. They do so because that is who they are.

Liberty Counsel wants to muddy the waters. This issue is not about case law or even Title IX (although applicable). This is about doing the right thing for students and staff. They have a thing or two (hateful) to say about employment protections:
Draft Policy 3122 “Equal Employment Opportunity” purports to add “sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity),” … If “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” are added, the same concerns for students’ First Amendment and privacy rights apply to District employees who express appropriate objections to homosexuality or cross- dressing, or who object to sharing lockers, showers, and restroom facilities with members of the opposite sex.
What they are saying is that these protections conflict with “free exercise” which is just more baloney. I honestl do not know what “appropriate objections to homosexuality” would be or why they would have to be voiced in school. Ultimately, Liberty Counsel wants to inflict its extreme Christianist agenda on everyone else. They seem to have succeeded in Brevard County. I sent a polite email to the members of the school board identified in LC's letter. I will update this post if I receive any replies.

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