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Supreme Court Sides With Baker, Ignores Civil Rights

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I have no problem with people practicing their religion. In fact, freedom of religion is literally the first thing in the US Constitution. What I do have a problem with is people using their religion to discriminate against people. Recently, the Supreme Court of the United States, or SCOTUS, sided with a baker in Colorado who refused to bake a cake for a same-sex couple because his religion does not allow him to acknowledge same-sex marriage.

 

How it started

Same-sex couple Charlie Craig and David Mullins asked Masterpiece Cakeshop to design and bake a cake for their upcoming wedding in 2012. However, the owner of the bakery, Jack Phillips refused to bake the cake because baking it would be a violation of his religious beliefs, saying that they can deny service to anyone who intends to purchase baked goods from Masterpiece Cakeshop with the intent that they will be used to celebrate a same-sex wedding.

 

Why this was wrong

The Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act that “prohibits discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation, religion, disability, race, creed, color, sex, age, national origin or ancestry.” By refusing to bake the cake for Craig and Mullins, Jack Phillips discriminated against them because of their sexual orientation. Clear-cut, obvious violation of this act, no? The Colorado Civil Rights Commission agrees, as, on May 30, 2014, they found that Masterpiece Cakeshop had committed discrimination against a person based on their sexual orientation which is, as mentioned before, a violation of Colorado law. Victory! Or maybe not…

 

A difference of values

Ever-persistent, Jack Phillips was unhappy with the Commission’s verdict and appealed to Colorado’s Supreme Court in 2015. When his case was denied, he went to the SCOTUS to settle the matter once and for all. I and many others were hoping that the DoJ would side with Craig and Mullins, seeing as how Jack Phillips broke the anti-discrimination law in place in Colorado. However, on September 7, 2017, the Supreme Court stated that Phillips baking a cake for a same-sex wedding infringes on his first amendment right as it goes against his deeply-held religious beliefs. Phillips claimed that Colorado was violating his right to free speech and his right to practice his religion. These claims do not hold water as the SCOTUS found that one’s religious beliefs do not excuse them from “compliance with an otherwise valid law prohibiting conduct that government is free to regulate.” So basically, Phillips’ claim that his first amendment right was being infringed upon is not true and that him using that as an excuse to refuse to bake a cake for a same-sex couple would not normally be considered valid. So why did the SCOTUS reach the verdict that they did?

 

A much deeper issue

It is no secret that over the years, the LGBTQ community has had to fight an uphill battle in this country. LGBTQ people have existed since humans first started to populate the Earth, but only recently have they received the same rights as heterosexuals with the Obergefell v. Hodges case in 2016 that decriminalized same-sex marriage across the United States. However, that was just the first step in fighting the arduous battle for equal rights. In many states, a person can be fired for being gay or transgender and over one hundred anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced in 2017. There is a very obvious anti-LGBTQ pattern here, showing that we still have a long way to go to have equal rights. Back to the bakery case, the DoJ claimed the cake baking is a highly expressive act and, as such, is protected under the first amendment. The problem with this logic is that Phillips outwardly refused to bake the cake because of his personal objection to a customer’s identity, which by all accounts is discrimination. It would make sense if Phillips refused to bake a cake that included hateful symbols and/or words because of the moral implications. However, this was not the case. Phillips literally refused service to people because of their unchanging identity. This is analogous to a restaurant owner refusing to serve food to a person of color because the owner has some sort of objection towards any non-white individual. What’s more is that the Supreme Court never held the belief that any for-profit business has the right to discriminate by claiming free speech.

Barry Goldwater, who voted against the Civil Rights Acts of 1964, believed that the government should not make businesses associate themselves with certain people. However, this argument was never adopted, but, unfortunately, there is one exception to civil rights law that allows discrimination against same-sex couples because most opposition to same-sex relationships are rooted in deeply held religious or philosophical beliefs. This is how Phillips got away with clearly discriminating against people: homophobia is perfectly acceptable because of someone’s religious beliefs. However, the Supreme Court ruled that sexual orientation is “immutable” like race. So, if it is illegal to refuse service to someone based on the color of their skin, why is it acceptable to refuse service to someone based on their sexual orientation? Logically, under the current laws in the US, the government cannot give civil rights protection to one group and deny another group the same rights. Clearly, this is not an issue of religious freedom, but one of deep-seated and long-lasting bigotry and homophobia.

Originally posted 2017-10-05 07:19:44.


Also published on Medium.

Writer, editor, actor, musician. Steve was born in northern New Jersey in 1994. Being raised by accepting parents, he was comfortable enough with his sexuality to come out at twelve. Steven writes about the struggles and accomplishments of the LGBTQ community and his goal through writing is to educate people on the plights and achievements of the LGBTQ people.

48 Hours In...

48 Hours in Honolulu

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Why Go?

How about sparkling azure ocean, white sand beaches, surfers, hula dancers and swaying palm trees for starters? Throw in the opportunity to enjoy some world-class shopping/dining experiences and a laid-back aloha vibe. There’s no doubt where in the world you are when you hit the hedonistic streets of Waikiki. Before heading out to the other islands, make sure you take a couple of days to soak up the delights of this dynamic Hawaiian city.

Getting There

All flights arrive at Honolulu International Airport, from where you can take a taxi to Waikiki Beach about nine miles away. The other alternative is a shuttle bus. If you haven’t got too much luggage, you could take the airport bus, which is the cheapest option by far.

Most tourists stay in Waikiki. This is where the beach and most of the attractions are located. They are all within easy walking distance of one another. Honolulu’s downtown area is three miles from Waikiki.

Checking In

Although it is possible to seek out a bargain, hotels in Waikiki are on the expensive side. One of the most iconic places to stay is the romantic and luxurious Royal Hawaiian Hotel, located on the beachfront. Easily recognisable by its pink exterior, it has been used in many TV shows and movies. At the other end of the scale, check out the quirky Royal Grove Hotel, a great budget option and only a block away from the beach! http://www.royalgrovehotel.com

Day One

Before you head to the beach, enjoy a relaxed breakfast at Lulu’s http://www.luluswaikiki.com. While you tuck into local specialties Loco Moco or Longboard Benedict, check out the stunning views of Diamond Head and Waikiki Beach.

Waikiki is probably the most famous beach in the world, and deservedly so. Where better to learn to ride the waves than the birthplace of surfing? If you don’t bring your own board, you can rent one – the waves are perfect for beginners. As well as being incredibly warm, the ocean is the most sublime turquoise you will ever lay eyes on. If you prefer a more sedate experience, rent a sun lounger and simply chill in paradise.

Hit the waves! Many establishments hire out boards or give surf lessons

If you can tear yourself away from the beach, check out Waikiki Aquarium, which has a vibrant display of native fish, turtles and two Hawaiian monk seals. http://www.waikikiaquarium.org.

For the ultimate Hawaiian shopping experience, make tracks to Ala Moana Center https://www.alamoanacenter.com/en/events.html, a sprawling mall chock-a-block with stores and restaurants. There are regular Hawaiian music and dance events on the stage and lots of opportunities to buy souvenirs or sample local delicacies.

Make your way back to Waikiki Beach, with a pause at Moose’s (310 Lewers St. Honolulu) for Happy Hour and a bite to eat. The cocktails here are great value. You will soon be feeling the aloha spirit and  be ready to hit the beach again, this time to watch the sun sink over the ocean. The torch-lighting and hula show takes place on the beach most evenings, and crowds gather to watch the entertainment in the fading light. It’s a magical time of the day in Waikiki and the atmosphere is mellow as everyone enjoys the vibe and beautiful setting.

If you are in the mood to party, you can’t go wrong at Hula’s Bar & Lei Stand, Honolulu’s longest established LGBTQ venue. It’s a friendly spot, where both locals and tourists congregate. There are views over the ocean and live entertainment most nights of the week. The cocktails are potent and the staff welcoming https://www.hulas.com.

Day Two

Start the day energetically with a hike to the summit of Diamond Head, the dramatic volcanic crater which overlooks the city. Take some snacks and plenty of water. if you head out early, you will avoid the intense midday heat. The trail is steep and a little uneven, but the hour’s climb is worth it for the sweeping views of the ocean and city skyline.

After building up an appetite on the trail, enjoy a lunch buffet at the famous Duke’s www.dukeswaikiki.com. Duke’s Barefoot Bar is right on the beach and serves up a buffet featuring locally grown produce and an abundance of tempting accompaniments. Alternatively, try the fresh fish dishes or burgers. There is often live music, and a visit to Duke’s is a quintessential Hawaiian experience not to be missed.

The Barefoot Bar at Duke’s

After some more beach time, stroll along to the historical Royal Hawaiian Hotel https://www.royal-hawaiian.com and take in the traditional ambiance. Treat yourself to a delicious cocktail at the Mai Tai Bar, a mere few steps away from the sand.

The Royal Hawaiian

Next up, take the elevator to the Top of Waikiki https://topofwaikiki.com. The revolving restaurant offers spectacular views, especially at sunset. Appetizers and cocktails are available during Happy Hour, which goes from 5.00pm-9.30pm. The perfect ending to two blissful days in Honolulu!

View from Top of Waikiki

 

 

Originally posted 2017-08-24 18:54:31.

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Getting Lost the Right Way (and Avoiding the Wrong)

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Road trips are magical. The open road, the endless possibilities. But you know what isn’t so magical? Getting lost in the middle of nowhere (read: out in the boondocks where not even the coyotes know where the closest gas station is). That being said, there is a right way and a very, very wrong way to get lost on a trip.

If you want to get lost and enjoy yourself, it’s best to have a plan in place. Seems counterintuitive, yes. But getting lost on purpose is more organized than it sounds. To start, know the highways nearby and keep in mind that the point of getting lost on purpose is to see new things. When lost the right way, it’s certainly not about the destination, which is good to keep in mind. For one, make sure your tank is completely full. Nothing is scarier than getting lost in the countryside with only a quarter tank and no sign of civilization in sight.

Don’t trust that GPS will always be there for you. Like that one friend, it probably won’t be (Totally not something that happened to me recently in rural south Georgia, not at all). Depending on your carrier, data connection and location services can be spotty at best and nonexistent at worst. Don’t be like me, who learned this the hard way.

Use GPS even if you think you remember the way back. The last drive I went on, I followed directions very carefully getting there and believed that I would be able to remember the turns in reverse going home.This resulted in what I like to call: a disaster. What I didn’t consider was the fact that rural Georgia looks completely different at night, when every tree looks the same and you have the added hazard of deer all over the roads. I knew I was lost after twenty minutes, but I kept driving, foolishly positive I’d eventually find the right road again.

Maps are your friends. Remember how your parents always told you to keep a map or atlas in your glove box? They weren’t just being old-fashioned. When GPS has failed and you longer recognize any landmarks, a map is your only hope (barring meeting a friendly stranger or an extra cell tower magically constructing itself in the next open field).

Print out directions beforehand. I know, I know. Printing out directions Google Maps is almost as dated as paper maps. But believe me, it can’t hurt. Even if you don’t print them, the screenshot feature on smart phones exists for a reason. Before you hit the road, coffee and snacks stocked and ready to go, pull up GPS while you have bars or Wi-Fi, and find the turn-by-turn directions. Screenshot them. And then, when you inevitably lose service at some point in your voyage, you still have access to your route. I didn’t do this, and by the time I had service again, I was two and a half hours away from home, when the drive should’ve taken an hour. (Do as I say, not as I do, my friends).

If you realize you’re lost and know where you took the wrong turn, GO BACK ASAP.

There comes a moment when you’re lost when you can usually pinpoint where you went wrong. When that happens, turn around as soon as you realize, despite the hope that maybe you’ll find a familiar street. Realizing you took a wrong turn is a sign from the universe that you need to go back, rather than trusting your foolish instincts. It’s a losing battle, and you will get more lost. It’s practically the law of the universe.

Just ask for directions, no matter how much you hate doing it.

This applies to everyone, and I’m ignoring the stereotype because it really isn’t just men. If you see a gas station or a small business, just stop. It’s almost guaranteed that someone will know how to get back to where you were headed, and you might stumble upon a cool store or attraction or monument that you wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

The moral of the story, friends, is that getting lost can be an adventure. You learn things about the area, about yourself as a navigator (this could be good or bad) and best of all, you have a story to tell at the end of it. Just remember that if you’re gonna get lost, try to do it on purpose.

 

Originally posted 2017-08-24 17:57:03.


Also published on Medium.

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Metalhead Transgender Woman is Making Political History

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As a long-time fan of metal music and an advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, I am ecstatic that Danica Roem, band member of her band Cab Ride Home and transgender woman won a four-way Democratic primary on June 13th. In addition to being a musician in a metal band, she was also an experienced journalist in Prince William County, which is the county she wishes to represent if she wins the position a seat in the House of Delegates in Virginia.

However, while Roem has won the battle, she’s still fighting a war. In order to gain a seat in the House of Delegates, she will have to defeat Republican Bob Marshall who is currently serving his eleventh term. Bob Marshall supports one-man, one-woman marriage, believes that same-sex marriage has a negative effect on heterosexual marriage, introduced the Physical Privacy Act which would have prevented transgender individuals from using the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity (luckily this bill failed), supports the idea that employers can fire someone based on sexual orientation and gender identity, has a weak idea of what equality means and twists around words to fit his agenda,

“There never were ‘heterosexual’ only water fountains in Virginia or other Southern states.  Separate elementary or secondary schools were not built for GLBTQ children.  Homosexuals and lesbians could sit anywhere they wanted on buses, trains and other public transportation.  Homosexuals were never enslaved as a class or brought to America in chains.  Homosexuals never were forbidden from ‘marrying’ heterosexuals.  Homosexuals did not have to engage in nationwide ‘sit ins’ at restaurant lunch counters to be served a meal.  Lesbians did not have to take “Literacy” tests as a condition for voting.” 

and many more discriminatory ideas. In comparison, Roem supports adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the Prince William School system’s nondiscrimination policy, protecting transgender students, and values people individually, not by what religion they belong to or what sexual orientation they may have.

With the current presidency comes a resurgence of ultra-conservative ideas and, because of that, it is a possibility that Bob Marshall will serve a twelfth term. However, Roem is off to a good start. By winning the Democratic primary, she is showing the US that even the most conservatives of states can switch courses and realize that members of the LGBT community deserve the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.

Since 1991, when Marshall was elected, Prince William County has become more left-leaning as the population grows. It was one of the Republican-controlled counties that voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump which shows that the district leans more toward to progressive side, which is definitely good news for Danica Roem. Because of this, Roem has a real chance of winning a seat in the House of Delegates. Even if she does not earn the position, by running and winning the Democratic primary, Roem set the stage for future transgender individuals to run for a position in the government.

Originally posted 2017-08-24 11:48:44.


Also published on Medium.

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