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Mississippi governor signs same-sex discrimination into law

Just days after a federal judge handed down a decision that overturned the ban on adoptions for same-sex couples in Mississippi, the Governor signed HB 1523 in law. This bill allows private businesses, religious organizations, and government employees to deny services to same-sex couples based on their religious beliefs.

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“To prevent prosecution”

Just days after a federal judge handed down a decision that overturned the ban on adoptions for same-sex couples in Mississippi, the Governor signed HB 1523 in law. This bill allows private businesses, religious organizations, and government employees to deny services to same-sex couples based on their religious beliefs. Proponents of the bill state that it was necessary to prevent prosecution, but critics argue that it will make it easier to discriminate against the LGBT community.

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What’s in the bill?

According to Governor Phil Bryant the bill simply prevents government interference when people of faith exercise their religious beliefs when it comes to marriage. HB 1523 does not let a private business refuse normal services to individual who are LGBT. What it does is deny services in the performing of a wedding ceremony.

But the bill does go on to say that services can be denied in the celebration or recognition of any marriage based on religious belief or moral conviction. This includes all types of celebrations related to marriage, including anniversaries and engagement parties.

In addition, HB 1523 allows government employees to sidestep their duties when it comes to serving the LGBT community. They do have to allow another staff member to provide services. Schools and business owners now have the right to establish policies concerning student and employee dress and grooming, by sex-specific standards. Doctors can deny fertility services to same-sex couples. Gay couples can now be denied housing, if it is against the landlord’s religious beliefs. To be fair, straight couples who are unmarried could also be denied housing based on religious beliefs.

Concerns about the law

The ACLU is against the bill, believing that it could allow homeless shelters and healthcare facilities to turn away single mothers, transgendered people, and same-sex couples. The former Governor Ronnie Musgrove stated, “The more I read the Constitution, the clearer it became that you just can’t deny rights to a specific class of people just because some are uncomfortable with what they do not understand.” The Family Research Policy stands behind the Governor in signing the bill, but Nissan, a key manufacturer in Miss. opposes it. The Mississippi Manufacturers Assn. was much more neutral, stating that there is concern about the bill and its potential to “conflict with…policies of diversity and inclusion. However, the MMA respects the wishes of the legislature and Governor.”

Although HB 1523 specifically is geared towards the activities surrounding marriage, once you’re married, it permeates your entire life. This bill is set to go into effect July 1, 2016. It’s hopeful that it will be quickly challenged in the courts to determine its Constitutionality.

#HB1523

Dawn Brotherton is a Staff Writer at The American Genius, and has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Central Oklahoma. Before earning her degree, she spent over 20 years homeschooling her two daughters, who are now out changing the world. She lives in Oklahoma and loves to golf. She hopes to publish a novel in the future.

Politics

The White House pushes for $450 per week return to work bonus

(POLITICS) The Trump administration wants people off the unemployment $600 per week, and they want people getting back to work with a $450 per week bonus.

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In an update to our previous story on the next piece of proposed stimulus legislation, the White House is looking at options for a return-to-work bonus, making clear their preference for incentivizing reopening the economy rather than extending unemployment benefits for the time being.

CNBC reports that the Trump administration has, according to Larry Kudlow, voiced their disapproval of the proposed extension of the extra $600 per week for families on unemployment, opting instead for a smaller temporary weekly sum for people returning to work.

To recap, the current bonus of $600 per week for those on unemployment is scheduled to expire after July 31st, but the HEROES Act from House Democrats proposed extending it through the end of the year; the notion attracted criticism for several reasons, the most notable of which included waning unemployment numbers and some viewing the idea as an incentive to continue collecting unemployment rather than actually stimulating the economy.

An ancillary proposition to decrease the amount of extra aid per week incrementally as unemployment numbers fall was mentioned, but the Trump administration appears to stand firm on their counterproposal involving the aforementioned return-to-work bonus.

It’s not unreasonable for this administration to want to incentivize those who are reluctant to return to work, especially when unemployment numbers in the last few months have been the highest since the Great Depression; in any event, it seems that, whether or not the HEROES Act passes, folks on unemployment will most likely stop receiving that extra $600 per week at the end of this July.

We recognize that a little over a month isn’t a supremely generous amount of time with which to prepare for a sharp cut in income, and there are only a few things you can actively do to ensure that you’re adequately prepared for the proposed incentive.

Firstly, if you’re furloughed for now, there isn’t much you can do other than wait for your place of occupation to open; however, if you were laid off, actively seeking a job opening in your field–or any field, at this point–will be enough for you to qualify for the bonus.

More importantly, however, is that you start looking at how the lack of funding will impact you in the short-term. Remember, 63 percent of Americans on unemployment were actually making more money with the bonus $600 per week than they were while working, so while the impact of losing that bonus come August won’t be negligible, hopefully unemployment is enough to cover the necessities.

Unfortunately, aside from “go back to work”, there isn’t a whole lot to do besides hurry up and wait. We’ll know more about this round of proposed stimulus activity in the coming weeks.

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Why DID Gorsuch uphold Title VII for the LGBTQ+ community?

(POLITICS) Conservative SCOTUS justices rely on textualism to hand down landmark ruling in favor of LGBTQ rights in Bostock v. Clayton County

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Title VII LGBT equality

I have to admit that my liberal proclivities were offended when Neil Gorsuch was confirmed to the Supreme Court. But the notoriously conservative Justice has followed his professional training to hand down a clear, concise, and logical landmark decision this week in Bostock v. Clayton County. The 6-3 ruling is a major win for the LGBTQIA++ community. Gorsuch is an unexpected champion of the landmark case as the author or the majority opinion.

The case concerned instances of employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and sex identity. In Bostock v. Clayton County, Gerald Bostock asserted he was fired for expressing interest in a gay softball league. The case called into question whether sexual orientation was a protected classification under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The Eleventh Circuit – which hears cases for districts in Alabama, Georgia, and Florida – had relied on a precedent that sexual orientation is not protected by Title VII. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits an employer from discriminating against an employee, “because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.”

Gorsuch’s opinion relies on “textualism,” which is the interpretation of the law based strictly on the written language of a law. This approach to the justice system does not consider the original intentions of the law’s authors, therefore rendering irrelevant whether or not the authors intended to exclude sexual orientation from the list of protected traits. Based on the language of Title VII, the opinion is clear:

“In Title VII, Congress outlawed discrimination in the workplace on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Today, we must decide whether an employer can fire someone simply for being homosexual or transgender. The answer is clear. An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex. Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids.”

Gorsuch also provides examples to illustrate how discrimination against sexual orientation falls under discrimination based on sex:

“Consider, for example, an employer with two employees, both of whom are attracted to men. The two individuals are, to the employer’s mind, materially identical in all respects, except that one is a man and the other a woman. If the employer fires the male employee for no reason other than the fact he is attracted to men, the employer discriminates against him for traits or actions it tolerates in his female colleague.”

A clear example of discrimination on the basis of sex. RBG must be proud.

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HEROES Act could increase unemployment stimulus benefits, add return to work bonus

(POLITICS) Because of the pandemic many peoples lives took a step back, by loosing their job. New unemployment benefits encourage you back to work.

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If you’re a citizen who has been laid off due to Coronavirus and filed for unemployment in the meantime, you may find yourself receiving a “back-to-work” incentive once you return.

According to the HEROES Act, workers who received unemployment benefits would receive $450 per week upon returning to work–this, of course, in addition to their take-home pay–rather than receiving the $600 per week that complements whatever their unemployment benefits amount to.

While the HEROES Act also proposes extending the current bonus of $600 per week for those receiving unemployment into 2021, some argue that this would incentivize remaining on unemployment checks rather than stimulating the economy–hence the $450 weekly bonus for returning to work when possible.

These fears aren’t without support. As Newsweek points out, the American Action Forum shows that “about 63 percent of Americans who are out of work as a result of the pandemic earn more with the enhanced unemployment benefits than they do from their normal wages”–a somewhat comforting statistic that still evokes relative unease when one considers the ramifications of attempting to reopen a reluctant country.

While it is unreasonable to assume that all 63 percent of those people would elect to remain on unemployment benefits rather than going back to work, the $450 bonus may ensure that all of these workers do, in fact, return in a timely manner.

Some may argue that Americans don’t (or shouldn’t) need an incentive to return to work and begin cranking the cogs of the economy once we’re in the clear, but such opinions are fairly short-sighted and largely dismissive of the economic strife many Americans face, especially in poorer regions.

Additionally, many workers will be required to take pay cuts upon rejoining the workforce, which makes the additional $450 per week much more attractive without eliciting criticism of American motivations and values.

As of this writing, Newsweek reports that the White House is “very carefully” considering the HEROES Act–a process that, given the proposed bill of $3 trillion, will take some time. It’s a colossal proposition that covers everything from the aforementioned weekly bonuses to a second round of stimulus checks, and even a form of student loan forgiveness, so keep your eye on this one.

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