Media Trail: February 28, 2020

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Governor makes history by attending gay rights rally

  The Washington Post reports Gov. Andy Beshear, during a historic appearance at a gay-rights rally Feb. 19 at Kentucky’s Capitol, spoke against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and supported a ban on conversion therapy for LGBTQ youth.

  Beshear became Kentucky’s first sitting governor to attend a rally staged by the Fairness Campaign in the Capitol Rotunda, a few steps from the governor’s office. The rallies by gay-rights supporters date back to the 1990s, activists said.

  The Democratic governor received loud cheers from the crowd.

  “Diversity and inclusion, they aren’t buzz words,” Beshear said. “They are values. And they are keys to making Kentucky stronger. Kentucky cannot reach its full potential if all of our people don’t feel supported to be themselves.”

  Beshear’s appearance was politically courageous, said Chris Hartman, executive director of the Fairness Campaign.

  “To have support in the highest office in the commonwealth of Kentucky is so meaningful for so many LGBTQ people who have never felt seen by lawmakers who can make a difference,” he said.

  Beshear spoke in favor of a so-called “statewide fairness” measure. It would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations.

  Beshear also endorsed legislation to ban conversion therapy, which attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. He denounced the practice as hurtful and dangerous.

  Both proposals face long odds in the Republican-controlled legislature.

Michigan teacher won’t let student write about gay marriage

  Detroit News reports a Michigan teacher has denied a request from a student with two mothers to write about same-sex marriage for a class assignment.

  Destiny McDermitt, a junior at Hill McCloy High School in Montrose, was given an assignment earlier this month to write a speech discussing an issue she felt strongly about and to take a stand for or against it.

  The teacher, who the district is not naming, allegedly told McDermitt she couldn’t write about same-sex marriage because the topic could offend someone in the class, according to McDermitt and other students in the classroom at the time.

  McDermitt wanted to ask her classmates if the topic offended them, but the teacher allegedly said no. The student wrote a complaint letter to school administrators and later moved to a different class.

  “(It) offended me because I have two moms (who) are married and I really thought it was inappropriate,” McDermitt wrote.

   Linden Moore, Montrose Community Schools superintendent, said the district investigated the incident and concluded McDermitt’s topic was not the only one denied and that the teacher needed to be more clear about the perimeters of her assignments.

   “The teacher was thinking smaller and the kids were thinking bigger,” Moore said.

   In the description of the “Take a Stand Speech” assignment, there were no restrictions that applied specifically to same-sex marriage. The only topics banned from being picked were issues written about in another class or “anything that is awkward or inappropriate for a school audience.” Abortion was listed as an example.

   A section of the school policy titled “Controversial Issues” states the Montrose Board of Education believes that the consideration of controversial issues have a legitimate place in the instruction in schools.

Parents sue Madison schools over transgender policy

   A group of parents filed a lawsuit Feb. 18 alleging that the Madison school district’s transgender policy, part of which allows students to pick new names and pronouns to use at school regardless of whether they have a parent’s permission, is unconstitutional because it prohibits teachers and staff from informing parents that their children want to switch sexes.

   Conservative law firm Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty filed the lawsuit on the parents’ behalf in Dane County Circuit Court.

   According to the lawsuit, Madison schools adopted a policy in 2018 that states a person’s gender identity can be male, female, a blend of both or neither and is determined by a person’s sense of self. The policy states that the district is committed to affirming each student’s self-designated gender identity and the district will strive to “disrupt the gender binary” with books and lessons stating that everyone has the right to choose their gender. 

The district requires parental consent before students can change their name and gender in official district records. All teachers and district staff must refer to students by their chosen names and pronouns even though the names aren’t official in district systems.

   The policy also prohibits teachers and staff from revealing a student’s gender identity, including any new names or pronouns, used at school to parents or guardians, according to the lawsuit. The policy goes on to state that staff must use the child’s legal name with family.

   The parents argue the policy violates the state constitution’s due process clause, which protects parents’ right to raise their children according to the parents’ beliefs.

   District spokesman Tim LeMonds said Tuesday that the district had not been served with the lawsuit and could not comment until it had a chance to review it.

   But LeMonds said the district stands by its guidance on transgender and nonbinary students. He said the district recognizes its tremendous responsibility to uphold the right of every child to be educated in a safe, inclusive and nondiscriminatory environment. 

Reporting via Associated Press