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Robert PittengerAn editorial in this morning’s Charlotte Observer shines a light on the noxious views of North Carolina congressman Robert Pittenger:

Is it OK for a company to fire someone solely because he is gay?

U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger of Charlotte thinks so. It’s one of “the freedoms we enjoy” as Americans, he says. Private employers should have the freedom to discriminate against employees based on their sexual orientation, Pittenger says, and government shouldn’t take that ability away.

After a town hall meeting in Ballantyne this month, a reporter from the liberal political blog ThinkProgress, Alice Ollstein, asked Pittenger if he supported laws to protect gays in the workplace. Pittenger compared the right to fire gay workers to smoking bans.

“Do you ban smoking or do people have the right to private property? I think people have the right to private property,” Pittenger told Ollstein….

In a statement to the Observer editorial board Tuesday, Pittenger stood by his comments. He emphasized that he does not discriminate in his hiring and firing, but said the question should be left to the free market.”

The editorial rightfully goes on to expose the congressman’s opinion as vacuous hogwash indistinguishable from the hateful attitudes of those who would discriminate against potential employees based on race or religion. The congressman needs to rethink his views on this matter and issue an apology ASAP.

Commentary

In case you missed it, Judge Richard Posner of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals — a conservative Reagan appointee who has frequently vexed progressive lawyers down through the years — said the following yesterday in what Esquire’s Charles Pierce aptly describes as (among other amusing characterizations) a “remarkably plain-spoken” ruling in favor of marriage equality:

“Heterosexuals get drunk and pregnant, producing unwanted children; their reward is to be allowed to marry. Homosexual couples do not produce unwanted children; their reward is to be denied the right to marry. Go figure.”

Click here to read the court’s ruling striking down Indiana and Wisconsin’s bans on same-sex marriage. Posner’s quote can be found on pages 19 and 20.

Commentary

Doesn’t it seem that the nation’s progress and momentum in implementing the Affordable Care Act (and, in particular, Medicaid expansion) is starting to resemble the slow but steady (and inevitable) progress on marriage equality?

Talking Points Memo has the story today of the latest conservative state to be talking openly of a plan to expand Medicaid — it’s our neighbor to the west Tennessee:

In a growing trend, Tennessee looks like it will be the next Republican-led state to move toward expanding Medicaid under Obamacare.

Right now, of course, North Carolina is in the “no” camp on both issues. The bet here, however, is that this won’t be the case come the 2016 election.

Click here and here to see two maps that reveal the trends.

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Lennie and Pearl

Lennie Gerber and Pearl Berlin — Photo credit: ACLU of North Carolina

Michael Biesecker of AP has a wonderfully heartwarming story this morning that’s available in several news outlets about one of the couples leading the legal fight for marriage equality in North Carolina. Pearl Berlin and Lennie Gerber have been together for 48 years and the notion that they might taste victory in the near future as Pearl battles health problems is a very cheering notion.

(As an aside, it should also be pointed out that, in addition to being a plaintiff in the legal challenge to North Carolina’s marriage discrimination amendment, Gerber (on the left) was once one of North Carolina’s finest consumer rights attorneys — she managed the Winston-Salem legal aid office for years and helped save countless people of modest income from various financial predators.)

All that said, it should also be noted that when marriage equality does come, the fight for justice will be far from over. As a our panelists eloquently explained at last week’s Crucial Conversation luncheon on the subject (watch the video here), LGBT North Carolinians can still be summarily fired by their employers because of who they are.  In other words, if same sex couples get the chance to be married in the near future, many will still have to remain in the closet for fear that placing their wedding photo on their desk at work will still get them fired.

And rest assured, even if the courts soon order marriage equality, Paul Stam and the other theocrats in the General Assembly will be doing their utmost to prevent passage of a law banning discrimination in the workplace and/or public accommodations. In other words, there’s a heck of a lot of work still to do.

 

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Governor McCrory approved a controversial charter schools bill today that some had speculated might be the only veto of the 2014 session. As NC Policy Watch reporter Lindsay Wagner reported last week in a story entitled “Less transparency, fewer protections hallmarks of latest charter school legislation,” the bill provides a means for supposedly public charter schools to keep compensation paid to employees secret and opens the door to discrimination against LGBT students.

In his signing message, McCrory said that the salary secrecy issue had been adequately addressed  in the bill.

“I am pleased the Legislature responded to my concerns and required full transparency for the names and salaries of all charter school teachers and employees. I have also asked Chairman Bill Cobey and members of our State Board of Education to ensure that contracts with private entities also provide transparency on salaries and other personnel information. Consistent with the State Board of Education’s authority to oversee the successful operations of public charter schools, Chairman Cobey has assured me that he will direct agency staff to collect information from charter schools, including all financial and personnel records, necessary to achieve that goal.”

As Wagner’s story noted, however, the Governor may be missing an important point:

“The bill, SB 793 Charter School Modifications, stipulates that the salaries of charter school teachers and those who sit on charter schools’ non-profit boards of directors are subject to public disclosure.

But many charter schools in North Carolina contract with for-profit companies that manage them—and the salaries of the employees of those private organizations would not be required to be made public.”

Not surprisingly, the Governor left the issue of discrimination against LGBT children completely unaddressed in his signing statement.

Read the rest of Wagner’s story – including critiques of the bill by various experts – by clicking here.