No, LGBT Rights Are Not and Should Not Be Dependent on Census Questions

No, LGBT Rights Are Not and Should Not Be Dependent on Census Questions

by Scott Shackford Full Feed / 2017-03-31 11:45

Census 2010This week in ginned-up Donald Trump administration outrage that distracts from actual issues: The census will continue to not ask questions that they haven’t been asking about LGBT people. This in some quarters has been presented as some sort of LGBT "erasure." It’s not.

At least when activists within the LGBT and progressive community freaked out about the possibility of an anti-gay executive order coming from President Donald Trump’s administration, there was actual documentation. It turned out that Trump was not interested in signing such an executive order and it never came to be. But at least there was smoke to be concerned about if not an actual fire.

Such is not the case with this week’s LGBT anti-Trump outrage, which turns out to fundamentally be less about gay and transgender rights and more about organizations who want a slice of the great federal spending pie.

To explain: The U.S. Census put out a proposal earlier in the week for questions it may ask during the 2020 census. Sexual orientation and gender identity were among the potential discussion topics. This was not something the Census had asked previously, which you know if you’ve participated in a census, ever.

Then, the Census quickly explained that it had not intended to include the questions about sexual orientation and gender identity this time and withdrew the topics. So the Census, which had never asked people if they were LGBT before, is not planning to ask in the 2020 Census either.

Cue the outrage. The first headline I saw came from Out Magazine, a top gay-targeted publication. The headline read "Trump Administration Omits LGBTQ People from the 2020 Census." My initial reaction was "Woo hoo! I don’t have to participate in the census!" But even before reading I suspected that wasn’t what the story actually meant.

The Trump administration is not omitting LGBT people from the Census, and a writer actually analyzing how the announcement played out notes that the Trump administration might not have even played any role in the consideration of the questions at all. Even Snopes has gotten into the act with an explainer.

What actually happened is that the National LGBTQ Task Force, an activist group with an open, stated agenda of having these questions added to the Census, put out a press release declaring their unhappiness in seeing the questions get deleted. I don’t use "agenda" as a negative here, and I don’t necessarily see an issue with the Census asking people their orientations for demographic purposes, as long as it’s made very, very clear that answers are completely voluntary.

But there is a deliberately misplaced outrage here that wants to trick LGBT people into thinking that their rights and equal protection under the law is dependent on whether the federal government knows that they’re gay or transgender. This is a seriously unsettling proposition. Here’s a quote from Meghan Maury, criminal and economic justice project director of the National LGBTQ Task Force:

"Today, the Trump Administration has taken yet another step to deny LGBTQ people freedom, justice, and equity, by choosing to exclude us from the 2020 Census and American Community Survey. LGBTQ people are not counted on the Census—no data is collected on sexual orientation or gender identity. Information from these surveys helps the government to enforce federal laws like the Violence Against Women Act and the Fair Housing Act and to determine how to allocate resources like housing supports and food stamps. If the government doesn’t know how many LGBTQ people live in a community, how can it do its job to ensure we’re getting fair and adequate access to the rights, protections and services we need?"

What does demographic inclusion in a study have to do with whether LGBT people are treated equally under the law? Nothing. The Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage, for example, is a ruling precedent that makes it clear that rights and privileges extended by the government are to apply equally. It doesn’t actually matter how many gay marriages there are (which, interestingly enough, is the one area that will be counted in the Census). Rights and freedoms are not based on head counts or a demographic analysis of where people live.

This isn’t about rights. It’s about money. This is about organizations and activists who are hoping to use this demographic data to get a bigger slice of federal funding. And that’s infuriating. Even were I to accept that the federal government is a good mechanism for filtering money down to local charitable non-profits (and it’s typically not—check out the problems with Community Development Block Grants here), this is a clear attempt to try to use demographic-based funding as a replacement for funding mechanisms based on actual customer bases.

Using myself as an example: I’m a gay man living in Los Angeles. I am fortunate enough (thanks to Reason’s many supporters) to live comfortably enough to not need these government welfare or health services. But if these services could include me demographically as a potential customer then they could lobby for more money. That I might never set foot in these places is not relevant. These are organizations that serve gay people, and I’m a gay person, so give them money.

Imagine if public schools could get funding based on how many school-age children live in their district instead of actual attendance? The corrupt consequences would make the school system an even bigger disaster than it is now. They would care less about outcomes. They would care less if students even went to school.

This incident of phony outrage is particularly offensive because it takes the goals of certain social and political organizations with agendas that not all LGBT people share and attempts to argue that this is a mechanism to protect our rights and freedoms. And furthermore, they’re arguing that we should be giving up our privacy as gay people in order to do so! Maybe ask some Japanese-Americans how that worked out for them during World War II? (Spoiler: It didn’t end so well.)


Venezuela Opposition Calls For Military Intervention After Supreme Court “Coup”

Venezuela Opposition Calls For Military Intervention After Supreme Court "Coup"

by Tyler Durden

Zero Hedge / 2017-03-30 15:56

The leader of Venezuela’s coalition of opposition forces and the president of the National Assembly, Julio Borges, said President Nicolas Maduro had staged a coup and called for a military intervention.

Borges remarks followed a decision by the Supreme Court to take over legislative powers from the National Assembly for being in contempt of court. As the BBC reports, the charge stems from alleged electoral irregularities by three opposition lawmakers in the country’s elections 2015. The power struggle between President Maduro and the main opposition coalition (MUD) has been ongoing since the government lost its majority in the National Assembly in 2015. Since then, the top court which is allied with Maduro, has annulled many of the assembly’s decisions. But it had not directly taken over the assembly’s functions.

That changed on Wednesday when the court gave President Maduro the authority to create joint oil ventures without congressional approval, by-passing the assembly.

The government-stacked Supreme Court argued that the Congress is in contempt of court for swearing in three – opposition – lawmakers from the state of Amazonas who have been accused of electoral fraud. The court said it will take over all “parliamentary capacities” until the conflict is resolved.

"As long as the National Assembly’s contempt of court and invalidity persist, parliamentary powers shall be exercised directly by (the Supreme Court’s) constitutional chamber or by the body it stipulates to safeguard the rule of law," the high court said in the ruling.

And, in what has been called a point of no return, Wednesday night’s ruling effectively shuts down the opposition-controlled Congress or National Assembly, as it is called in Venezuela.

The reaction from the opposition was swift, with Borges appealing to the public that "we have to call on the National Armed Forces (FAN), they cannot remain silent, they cannot remain silent in the face of the violation of the Constitution."

Quoted by El Nacional, Borges said that "we know that FAN officers are also going through drama caused by the high cost of life. We want to make a call on them to be the first guardians of democracy and the Venezuelan Constitution and that they become part of the solution," Borges said in a press conference.

Borges also called on the international community to “sound the alarms” and help pressure the socialist government of Nicolas Maduro to respect the Constitution and call for elections.

"This is a dictatorship and the world has to help Venezuelans to sound all the alarms,” Borges said. “We need the solidarity of all countries to continue the pressure (…) to carry out this year, as it is mandated by law and by the Constitution, elections for governors, mayors and also a general election," he said.

Borges also called for a national protest this weekend and urged Venezuelans to raise their voice. "We know there is fear, there is repression, but it is time to stand up," he said at a press conference.

Borges was joined by assembly’s Vice President Freddy Guevara who said earlier the ruling “marks a point of no return for the dictatorship.” Many are comparing it with the so-called “Fujimorazo” of April 1992, when Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori shut down Congress.

“It is no longer just a question of annulling everything that the National Assembly does,” Guevara said, “but of usurping all its powers, allowing them to approve new ‘sentencing laws’ that give more power to the dictator to continue hurting the people.”

Maduro has jailed scores of opponents ever since the opposition swept congressional elections by a landslide in 2015 and immediately set out to remove the socialist leader from office through a recall referendum. The high court a year ago issued an order automatically nullifying all legislation coming out of Congress, and earlier this week it moved to limit lawmakers’ immunity from prosecution.

Most recently, President Maduro accused opposition lawmakers of treason, after they asked the Organization of American States to consider suspending Venezuela for violating democratic norms.

But foreign governments are increasingly decrying the shift toward authoritarian, one-party rule. Earlier this week, diplomats from the hemisphere gathered at the Organization of American States in Washington to debate whether to punish Maduro for breaking the democratic order and rule of law.

Meanwhile, the Venezuela hyperinflating economy continues to disintegrate, and as reported yesterday the country with the world’s largest proven petroleum reserves ran out of gasoline for its citizens, ahead of billions in upcoming bond payments to be made by the state-owned PDVSA energy company, which instead of providing supplies is saving every dollar to avoid a default.

California Politician Seeks To Radically Curtail Free Speech To Combat “Fake News”

California Politician Seeks To Radically Curtail Free Speech To Combat “Fake News”

by jonathanturley

JONATHAN TURLEY / 2017-03-30 10:34

Chau_headshotCalifornia Assemblyman Ed Chau (Democrat, Monterey Park) appears to be finally running into opposition over one of the most chilling, anti-speech pieces of recent years. Chau is trying to criminalize “fake news” and in the process would curtail free speech for everyone from parodies to comedies to opinion writers. He is the latest example of how some of the greatest threats to free speech around the Western world today appears to be coming from the left of the political spectrum from speech restrictions on campuses to new criminal laws on inciteful or intimidating speech.

Chau has pulled his bill shortly before a hearing after long ignoring the outcry for civil libertarians that he was threatening core free speech value with his poorly drafted and poorly conceived measure.

Known as the California Political Cyberfraud Abatement Act, Chau heralded his efforts as “an important step forward in the fight against ‘fake news’ and deceptive campaign tactics.” The Act would make it “unlawful for a person to knowingly and willingly make, publish or circulate on an Internet Web site, or cause to be made, published, or circulated in any writing posted on an Internet Web site, a false or deceptive statement designed to influence” an election. The wording is shockingly broad and ill-defined. It is would impact a great variety of opinions and parodies. What Chau considers “deceptive” or influential on an election is anyone’s guess. Hyperbole could then be prosecuted as well as Onion-like publications.

Surprisingly, Chau is a lawyer who appears to have missed basic constitutional law as a course at Southwestern University School of Law.

As ambiguous as his law may have been, one thing is clear: constituents should think very hard about their decision to return Chau to the state legislature after the introduction of such a dangerous and reckless piece of legislation. Politicians have a host of areas that they can use to pander to voters, but they should at least leave our core freedoms alone. Chau’s “important step forward” was in fact a huge step back to criminalized speech and government enforcement of speech limitations. To proudly proclaim such an anti-speech measure raises serious questions of Chau’s commitment to basic constitutional values.

SCOTUS Agrees That a Ban on Credit Card Surcharges Regulates Speech

SCOTUS Agrees That a Ban on Credit Card Surcharges Regulates Speech

by Jacob Sullum Full Feed / 2017-03-30 07:31

The state of New York forbids merchants to impose a surcharge on customers who use credit cards rather than cash, checks, or debit cards, but it allows them to offer a discount for cash. That amounts to the same thing economically but not psychologically: Calling the difference in price a "surcharge" draws attention to the fact that credit card companies charge merchants a fee (typically 2 percent to 3 percent) for each transaction, and it probably is more effective at encouraging cash purchases, since people tend to feel losses more than gains. Since the surcharge ban restricts the way retailers communicate prices, five New York businesses challenged it on First Amendment grounds, and yesterday the Supreme Court gave their case a boost by agreeing that the law regulates speech…….

New Mexico student loses free speech appeal over anti-lesbian essay | Reuters

A former University of New Mexico student failed to persuade a federal appeals court that the school violated her free speech rights by rejecting an essay containing anti-lesbian remarks that she had written for a film class.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday said the university had legitimate pedagogical concerns when its professors refused to grade Monica Pompeo’s critique of a film about a lesbian romance and suggested that she rewrite it, prompting her withdrawal from the class in the spring of 2012……