Media Trail: March 6, 2020

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South Carolina sued over its ban on LBGTQ sex education discussions

The Columbian reported it is against state law in South Carolina for public school sex education classes to mention anything other than heterosexual relationships, unless the talk involves sexually transmitted diseases. A federal lawsuit now aims to change that.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights and Lambda Legal said their lawsuit filed Feb. 26 seeks to overturn the Comprehensive Health Education Act of 1988 as an unconstitutional violation of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.

“The law singles out LGBTQ students for negative treatment,” a news release introducing the lawsuit said. “It prevents LGBTQ students from receiving any health education about their relationships except in the context of sexually transmitted diseases, without imposing any comparable restriction on health education about heterosexual people.”

The law also says that any teacher who allows “a discussion of alternate sexual lifestyles” including “homosexual relationships except in the context of instruction concerning sexually transmitted diseases” can be fired.

State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman, named as a defendant in the lawsuit, agrees that the law is on shaky ground.

She requested an opinion on its constitutionality from South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson. That opinion says, “a court would likely conclude” that the law violates the equal protection clause requiring that people in similar circumstances be treated the same under the law.

“I agree with the arguments and evidence presented in the opinion,” Spearman said in a statement cited by news outlets. “I also believe that parents should continue to have the final say in whether or not their child participates in health education curriculum.”

Parents can have their children opted out of the school sex education curriculum, said Ryan Brown, a spokesman for the state Department of Education.

Washington approves banning ‘gay panic’ defense of homicide

Time Magazine reported a measure prohibiting homicide defendants from claiming a defense based on panic over a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity has been passed by lawmakers in Washington State.

Nine states — California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Nevada, New Jersey New York and Rhode Island — have legislatively banned the use of gay or transgender panic as a legal defense.

The Washington measure, passed by the Senate on a bipartisan 46-3 vote Feb. 26, is named after Nikki Kuhnhausen, a transgender teen who was killed last year.

Kuhnhausen, 17, disappeared in early June and her remains were discovered Dec. 7, southeast of Battle Ground. A Vancouver man has been charged with second-degree murder and malicious harassment, which is a hate crime in Washington.

The bill, which passed the House earlier this month on a 90-5 vote, would block a defendant from using a defense based on discovery or disclosure of the victim’s actual or perceived gender identity or sexual orientation and would prevent a claim of “diminished capacity” because the defendant did not fully comprehend the nature and gravity of the alleged crime.

The legislation now goes to Gov. Jay Inslee for his signature.

Ohio bill would ban competition by transgender females

Transgender girls and women would be banned from competing in Ohio high school and college girls and women’s sports under a bill introduced Feb. 26 by House Republicans.

The legislation would apply to all public schools and colleges and any private schools or colleges that are members of a state or national athletic association.

The bill prohibits those assigned male at birth from competing in girls or women’s sports. It comes as three high school girl runners in Connecticut are suing to block a policy that allows transgender athletes to compete in girls sports.

Currently in Ohio, transgender girls can participate in sports after they have completed a minimum of one year of hormone treatment related to gender transition, under Ohio High School Athletic Association rules.

Alternatively, transgender girls can compete if they demonstrate to OHSAA officials “by way of sound medical evidence” that they don’t possess physical advantages over girls of the same age.

Similar bills have been introduced in Alabama, Arizona, Idaho and Mississippi. The Ohio bill sponsors are Rep. Jena Powell, of Arcanum in western Ohio, and Rep. Reggie Stoltzfus of Paris Township in northeastern Ohio. 

Puerto Rico mourns death of Alexa 

The recent killing of a transgender woman, Alexa Negrón Luciano, has shocked and angered many in Puerto Rico. Gov. Wanda Vazquez said it is likely a hate crime on Feb. 25.

While no one has been arrested, she said the investigation into the fatal shooting is being investigated.

“Everything points to this being a hate crime, and that’s how it will be treated,” she said.

Luciano was found dead Feb. 23 in the northern town of Toa Baja.

Police are investigating whether a video that was made public where at least two men are heard mocking and threatening a person believed to be the victim followed by gunfire is the actual killing.

Activist Pedro Julio Serrano said in a statement that he was outraged by the killing.

“There’s no doubt that transphobia and intolerance had much to do in this case,” he said.