Sarah’s News Roundup 04.27.19
The Supreme Court will hear three cases that ask if existing US job discrimination laws should extend to sexual orientation and gender identity. Two of the cases involve alleged discrimination of gay men by their employers and the third examines the discrimination of a transgender person.
The cases will signal the direction of LGBTQ rights in the US four years after gay marriage was legalised nationwide.
In its listing of the cases the Supreme Court cites Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the section that prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of race, colour, religion, sex and national origin.
But it does not explicitly reference sexual orientation or gender identity and lower courts have been divided in recent years on whether the protections should apply to either category.
The US Justice Department under Trump has supported the employers in each case arguing that existing federal civil rights protections do not extend to sexual orientation or gender identity. This marks a change in course from the Obama administration, which supported treating LGBTQ discrimination as sex discrimination.
Sarah Warbelow, Human Rights Campaign legal director, said: “The Supreme Court has an opportunity to clarify this area of law to ensure protections for LGBTQ people in many important areas of life. The growing legal consensus is that our nation’s civil rights laws do protect LGBTQ people against discrimination under sex nondiscrimination laws.”
She went on to urge Congress to pass protections for LGBTQ employees “regardless” of the court’s decision.
The UN Security Council has passed a watered-down resolution on ending sexual violence in war after the United States threatened to veto the plans due to the Trump administration’s strong stance against abortion. The resolution condemns the use of rape as a weapon of war and expressed the council’s deep concern at “the slow progress” in addressing and eliminating sexual violence in conflicts around the world. It also said such acts often occur with impunity “and in some situations have become systematic and widespread, reaching appalling levels of brutality”.
The original draft of the proposal said the UN intends to: “Recognise the importance of providing timely assistance to survivors of sexual violence, urges United Nations entities and donors to provide non-discriminatory and comprehensive health services, including sexual and reproductive health, psychosocial, legal, and livelihood support and other multi-sectoral services for survivors of sexual violence, taking into account the specific needs of persons with disabilities.”
But the amended version stated the UN nations would only: “Recognise the importance of providing timely assistance to survivors of sexual violence, urges United Nations entities and donors to provide non-discriminatory and comprehensive health services, in line with Resolution 2106.”
The resolution passed 13-0, while China and Russia abstained from voting on the amended proposal.
Nobel Peace Prize winners Dr. Denis Mukwege (who set up a hospital to treat victims of sexual violence in conflict) and Nadia Murad (who was kept as a Yazidi sex slave by IS and campaigns to end sexual violence as a weapon of war) issued a statement condemning the US position: “There is simply no excuse for continuing to fail those who have already been victimised – as well as those who continue to be at risk of – devastating levels of sexual violence in conflict.”
Human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, who had attended the meeting and supported the initial resolution, demanded justice for victims of an “epidemic of sexual violence” in conflicts, especially rapes and other abuses perpetrated by Islamic State extremists in Iraq and Syria and told the security council that if the organisation’s most powerful body cannot prevent the prevalence of sexual violence in wars all over the world, “then at least it must punish it” and make justice a priority.
National Basketball Association coach Luke Walton is being sued for sexually asssaulting sports reporter Kelli Tennant. Ms Tennant alleges she met Walton at the Hotel Casa Del Mar in Santa Monica to give him a copy of her 2014 book. The two reportedly had a working relationship, stemming from Walton’s time as a guest on a US regional cable sports channel where Ms Tennant worked.
Walton had also written the foreword to her book. Ms Tennant had viewed Mr Walton as a “trusted mentor and colleague”. When Ms Tennant arrived at the hotel Walton invited her to his room, ostensibly so they would not be seen by any Golden State Warriors, the team he coached at the time.
Once inside his suite, Walton “pinned Ms Tennant on the bed, placing his hips and legs over her body”, before groping her chest and groin. The lawsuit states: “She was afraid she was about to be raped.”
Walton’s lawyer Mark Baute released a statement categorically denying the allegations: “The accuser is an opportunist, not a victim, and her claim is not credible.”
R Kelly has lost a civil court case by default after failing to respond to a legal case brought by a woman (known as HW) who accused him of repeated sexual abuse when she was 16. The age of consent in Illinois is 17. The victim sued the singer in February, a day before Kelly was arrested on 10 charges of sexual abuse.
The judge will determine how much Kelly should pay in damages next month.
The Native American equivalent of Miss World was this year dedicated to the indigenous women who have gone missing or been murdered.
The Miss Indian World Pageant is a part of one of the largest gatherings of Native American people in the US.
Organisers say they hope to raise awareness: “We’re just recognising and trying to bring more of a call of action toward the issue itself. Hopefully it will be the beginning to the end of this problem.”
The plight of the missing and murdered women has become a focus in the past year of state and federal legislation, prompting demonstrations and marches.
According to a report from the Urban Health Institute there were 5,712 cases of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls in 2016 alone.
But only 116 of these cases were logged in the Department of Justice’s federal missing persons database and due to a scarcity of resources in the area, researchers say this number is likely an undercount.
Other studies have shown that Native American women are killed at more than 10 times the national average.
Democratic representative Deb Haaland, the first Native American woman elected to Congress, welcomed the powwow to her native New Mexico, calling the event “one of the world’s most recognized celebrations of indigenous culture”: “I’m incredibly grateful for Miss Indian World for making this a priority and to the Gathering of Nations for their leadership.”