What? Science? Who Needs Science?

On Monday, we wrote our analysis of the disastrous 5-4 Supreme Court decision in Burwell v Hobby Lobby, which gives greater religious freedom rights to closely held for-profit corporations and less religious freedom rights to natural persons (their words). We also urged you to express your dissent by signing on on to support Planned Parenthood in its defends health care access for women.

Flickr/creative commons

Flickr/creative commons


“The decision now says people have the right to ignore science; humans can ignore facts. Science can be contested, disproven, and proven, with experimentation, and the advancement of knowledge. But Hobby Lobby just got a religious exemption from the health care law and basically all science!” — Michelle Garcia at the Advocate 

Closely held for-profit corporations comprise 90% of American companies and millions of workers, and companies are now empowered to intervene in the health care access for women and the men that love them by denying coverage for commonly used, FDA-approved pregnancy prevention pills and devices, such as an IUD (intra-uterine device). We fully agree with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who wrote the dissenting opinion, warning that the Court is about to enter “a minefield.”

The New York Times previously tried to explain this, and VenusPlusX, Mother Jones, and others such as Garcia do very well in unpacking the bad science behind the decision. These 5 white men in the majority are uniformed and/or intentionally in denial by misunderstanding that the birth control methods they feel are so at odds with their religions interfere with embryo implantation when in fact they simply prevent fertilization.

These science-deniers and extreme-right wing nuts have driven down the Court’s favorability to 30%, and threaten the balance of government. Last month, VenusPlusX, discussed the impeachment of certain Supreme Court Justices, and this should add more fuel to the fire.

Garcia also makes another very good point of why this decision should worry every lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) person. Generations of LGBT activists have always understood that when it comes to progress, equality rights follow women’s rights. Legislation and lawsuits favoring LGBT people are based on this fact, and shows the two movements have be (and should be) inexorably linked for decades.

As a queer woman, it makes me want to shake every LGBT person who doesn’t see the broader implications of this. What if a company could tell employees that they won’t pay for insurance that covers HIV treatment or health care to transgender people because of owners’ “sincerely held religious beliefs”? Justice Samuel Alito, in writing the majority opinion, promised its scope was “very specific.” Still, some of us side with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and foresee a potential onslaught of legal challenges testing the limits.

When I unfurl my brow and relax to get a good night’s sleep I think about the upside of right-wing theocratic extremism — it brings out the voters. The more desperate the right-wing nuts are and the more sloppy they become help focus progressive action. In America, we can use the issues where Republicans fall short (women’s rights, immigration rights, LGBT rights, immigration rights, workers rights, and on and on) to vote them out in November, insuring a super-majority in the Senate will be available there to appoint new progressive Justices as maybe needed in the next few years; and, regaining the House to replace the do-nothing bunch there now.

291679976_f8e1803bf5_oIt’s the political season. Put your boots on the ground to stand up for those whose human rights are under attack. We have to get our own house in order before we can affect similar changes in trouble spots across the world. Two follows one, three follows two, and so on and so on so just take that first step towards change.

See A Manifesto for The New Age of Sexual Freedom to understand why VenusPlusX believes issues like these are of supreme importance.


United Nations Fails to Protect All Families

UN Human Rights Council Adopts Non-Inclusive Protection of the Family Resolution

“It should not be up to an accidental majority of states
to define what does and what does not
constitute a family. I urge all states to respect,
protect and fulfil the human rights
of all individual members belonging to all
different types of families, including same-sex families.”

— Sirpa Pietikäinen, MEP
(Member of the European Parliament (MEP)
Vice-President of the LGBT Intergroup


Photo by Elvert Barnes Flickr/Creative Commons

Photo by Elvert Barnes
Flickr/Creative Commons

A few years ago the United States crossed a meaningful threshold with respect to untraditional families. For the first time, untraditional families surpassed the number of traditional families. It’s a fact now that fewer families are “nuclear” families, a man, a woman, and children. Same sex parents, single parents, grandparents raising grandchildren, co-parenting among divorced couples, co-parenting with sperm donors, and polyamory families with children are some of the trends that created this statistical change, which we can see in other countries as well.

Getting the world to accept and welcome these variations, however, will be problematical. This week, we saw that the United Nations Human Rights Council passed a resolution on the “Protection of the Family.” On its face perhaps innocuous but the resolution urges the High Commissioner for Human Rights to sponsor a panel discussion on “the issue of the protection of the family.”

Whereas the resolution does not define ‘family’, the reference to a singular ‘family’ could be used as precedent to oppose rights for same-sex couples, single parents, and other forms of families in future UN negotiations.

An amendment tabled by Chile, Uruguay, Ireland and France, which underlined that “different cultural, political and social systems various forms of the family exist,”was not discussed after Russia brought a “no action” motion which was adopted by a 22-20 majority.

Ulrike Lunacek MEP, Co-President of the LGBT Intergroup, reacted: “I am shocked by the tactics used by Russia and 21 other governments to avoid a discussion on the diversity of family forms. In a shameful manner they used a procedural motion to avoid talking about content.”

“Referring to family, without recognising the existence of more types of families, is to look away from reality where we find families in all forms and shapes.”

This turn of events is particularly vexing since the UN’s own Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 16) gave us the right to family since 1948 but, intentionally or not, doesn’t itself define what a family is.

Article 16.

  • (1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
  • (2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
  • (3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State

(The Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

The only conclusion, therefore, is that this new resolution is rooted in discrimination politics rather human rights.


The Sexual Freedom Project: ‘Escorting’ v. ‘Prostitution’

We’re talking another look at this Sexual Freedom Project video in light of our recent post, “Voluntary sex work is destined to evolve into a legitimate Sexual Healing Industry.” Regardless of what money exchanges whose hands, sex work is a legitimate part of our culture in that it is, with the exception of forced prostitution, an expression of comfort and love however foreign that idea may sound to some people.

What do you think?

Is there a difference between between what “escorts” are paid to do, and what “prostitutes” are paid to do?

Is sex work labeled differently depending upon the socioeconomic status of the person performing it? Or the status of the person paying the sex worker?

Why do legal authorities round up prostitutes who work on the streets, while looking the other way when it comes to escorts who find their clients online and in other invisible ways? Is this a legitimate distinction or just another form of discrimination based on wealth and status?

Again, let us know what you think. Make a video, write a poem, song, or an essay — or even create an original work of art — and express your thoughts on this and other topics that people like you have recorded for the Sexual Freedom Project. If we feature your contribution on the site, we will send you a free VenusPlusX t-shirt to thank you.

Click here for more videos.


Super-hero Holder calls out Boy Scouts

Boy Scout Ceremony Flickr/creative commons

Boy Scout Ceremony
Flickr/creative commons

Last week, we lamented the flagrant hypocrisy of newly appointed Boy Scouts President, Robert Gates (former Bush and Obama Defense Secretary) in failing to step up to resolve the organization’s dislocation when it comes to accepting gay scoutmasters.

Last year, after public pressure, the Boy Scouts finally reversed a century of discrimination against gay people with a new policy allowing young, openly gay boys to participate. The organization’s failure, however, solidified with the hiring of Gates, lies with continued discrimination against adult scoutmasters. They couldn’t justify excluding gay scouts, and they will not be able to justify excluding gay scout leaders, and until they do they are systematically removing positive gay role models from the gay scout’s experience while sending the opposite message that there is a serious problem when gay adults fraternize with young people.

For example, what to do with gay Eagle Scouts who at age 18 or subsequently want to continue their involvement as a scout leader? Or what about a gay parent who wants to share the Boy Scout experience with their (straight or gay) children?

Now, at Monday’s 14th Annual Lambda Legal Reception in Washington, DC, Eric Holder, the most progressive Attorney General we have been so lucky to have, has stepped into the breach.

And in far too many organizations, policies and practices that discriminate against LGBT individuals remain persistent concerns. Lambda Legal is among the groups that have led efforts to address these conditions – for instance, through your work in 1992, in Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, to challenge the termination of an Assistant Scoutmaster when the organization found out he was gay. Unfortunately, the continuation of a policy that discriminates against gay adult leaders – by an iconic American institution – only preserves and perpetuates the worst kind of stereotypes.

Holder went on to say . . .

Today – 45 long years after Stonewall – we can finally envision a day when the sun will rise on an America that sees LGBT individuals as full and equal citizens.

But that day has not yet arrived.  I firmly believe that the struggle to make it a reality constitutes a defining civil rights challenge of our time.  And that’s why President Obama and I are committed to standing shoulder-to-shoulder with everyone who has the courage to reach for the values of equality and opportunity.

We come together tonight at an important juncture – in a moment defined by challenge, consequence, and great opportunity.  Remarkable achievements stretch behind us.  Important, life-changing work lies ahead.  And I want the American people to know that this Administration – and this Department of Justice and this Attorney General – will never be content to be bystanders to the march of history.  We will march, we will fight, and we will work alongside you to help shape it.

Holder’s complete remarks can be found here.

Related: A Hypocrite the Boy Scouts can love



The Sexual Freedom Project: Freedom To Go

Have you ever been discriminated against or made to feel like an outcast because of your sexual beliefs, practices, or orientation? Are there certain cities or countries in which you feel more welcome to talk about or exercise your sexual freedom? If you felt like you didn’t fit in because of your sexuality, would you consider packing up and leaving the country of your birth, of your childhood? What can we do to help people who cannot move to a more progressive locale due to economic or other barriers? What concrete steps can we take as individuals and as a society to ensure sexual freedom for all people everywhere?

Let us know what you think. Make a video, write a poem, song, or an essay — or even create an original work of art — and express your thoughts on these topics. If we feature your contribution on the site, we will send you a free VenusPlusX t-shirt to thank you.

Video by Tiye Massey.

More videos.

The Sexual Freedom Project: Covert Inter-Communal Discrimination

También en Español

Why do you think discrimination remains so prevalent within our LGBTQ activist community?

Join The Sexual Freedom Project cast with your own video or essay (via columbia@venusplusx.org), and we will send you a free VenusPlusX t-shirt to thank you.

More videos here.

Video edited by Tiye Massey.

Pass This Test and Get Kicked Out of School

También en español

Delhi Charter School, in Louisiana, has a Student Pregnancy Policy that allows staff to force female students who are suspected of being pregnant to take a pregnancy test. If students are pregnant or refuse to take the test, they are kicked out and must undergo home schooling if they want to continue their education at the school.

Apparently, Delhi Charter School doesn’t believe that female students have a right to education free from discrimination, unlike the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance (Woodhull) as mentioned in my previous post, “Sex Education is a Human Right.” Moreover, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) published an article admonishing Delhi’s policy for its blatant violation of federal law and the U.S. Constitution. Specifically, the policy completely disregards Title IX of the Education Amendment of 1972, which prohibits sex discrimination in federal funded education programs and activities. Title IX explicitly mandates that schools cannot exclude any student from an education program or activity “on the basis of such a student’s pregnancy, childbirth, false pregnancy, termination of pregnancy or recovery therefrom.” Coupled with this offense is the policy’s violation of the Constitution’s due process right to procreate and equal protection by treating female students differently from male students.

Delhi Charter School’s policy is not only a violation of Title IX and the Constitution, but also the fundamental human rights of access to information, education, and sexual freedom.

Yet, approximately 70% of teenage girls who give birth drop out of school because illegal discrimination and the fact many schools fail to help pregnant and parenting teens stay in school: some schools even exclude or punish them. How could this be?

Well, let’s take a look at the educational system. As Woodhull’s State of Sexual Freedom 2011 report documents, the United States has high sexually transmitted infection (STI) rates and the highest teen pregnancy rate among industrialized nations. Woodhull highlights two important reasons for this: other developed countries have easier access to contraception and health care services, and there is more comprehensive sexuality education. So without access to both basic health care services, including contraception, and comprehensive sex education (in the U.S., more than half the states still don’t require sex education), it’s no wonder why almost 750,000 females between the ages of 15 and 19 become pregnant each year. Not only does this lack of sexual health education affect students, but also school administrators and staff. Without proper training and education, administrators and teachers are ill equipped to adequately deal with the needs of pregnant and parenting students’ situations.

Pregnant and parenting teens are legally entitled to education and supportive services for themselves and their children. Click to find out more about the legal rights of female students in New York and Minnesota.

Hence, we need to education both students and school administrations about the procedures that are required by law to support pregnant and parenting teens that already face social stigma. Most importantly, as Woodhull posits over and over again, we need to educate teens about their basic human rights of sexual freedom and sexual health information. When students are knowledgeable about their sexual rights, whether pregnant, parenting, or not, they are better equipped to stand up for themselves, their education, and against the illegal, discriminatory practices and barriers within the education system.

If you want to find out more about the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance and their views on sexual health education and other key issues of sexual freedom, such as sex work and reproductive justice, you can visit their website. Also, you can attend Woodhull’s Sexual Freedom Summit (September 21-23), where Alison Gardner and Dan Massey, VenusPlusX’s founders who work closely throughout the year with Woodhull as members of its Advisory Council, will presenting their workshop session, “Sacred Sexuality and Erotic Communion, the Human Experience.”

Creative Commons Image Provided by: Center for Disease Control and Prevention
Creative Commons Image Provided by: Polina Sergeeva

Email Mistake Reveals Why MA Catholic Diocese Unwilling to Sell Property to Gay Couple

Creative Commons: Pauljoffe

“I just went down the hall and discussed it with the bishop,” Sullivan wrote to the broker, according to the Telegram. “Because of the potentiality of gay marriages there, something you shared with us yesterday, we are not interested in going forward with these buyers. I think they’re shaky anyway. So, just tell them that we will not accept their revised plan and the Diocese is making new plans for the property. You find the language.” (Advocate.com)

This damning excerpt was taken directly from an email Monsignor Thomas Sullivan sent to his diocese’s real estate broker. Unintentionally, she passed it on to her clients, the gay couple James Fairbanks and Alain Beret, revealing why it was that the diocese had been so intent on denying the two the possibility of actually purchasing the property. Somehow the unconnected ideas of gay marriage and these customers being “shaky” have been forged into a link that apparently justifies discrimination.

Though I recognize that discrimination over sexual preferences still exists, I am still surprised to see something like this occurring in Massachusetts, as Boston is ranked one of the top 10 most LGBT friendly cities in the country. This extremely liberal state generally allows for freedom and equality even as far as allowing same-sex couples to be married. Though not everyone is going to have the same opinion as the majority, the main reason that this seems to fit is its relation to the Catholic church.

I’ve heard enough about the Catholic church’s tendency to oppose most anything LGBT, but this situation is unusual even in that context. Preaching that acting on homosexuality is a sin is one thing, but to exclude a community based on this idea is another thing altogether. Freedom of speech is a right that they have, whether they say something that we agree with or not, but choosing not to sell to a client due to sexual orientation is illegal in Massachusetts (and should be everywhere else). How can something like this still be an issue in modern times?

Kentucky church bans interracial couples

News of Note: Kentucky church bans interracial couples

“A small church in Pike County, Kentucky has voted to ban interracial couples from most church activities “to promote greater unity among the church body…

“Parties of such marriages will not be received as members, nor will they be used in worship services and other church functions, with the exception being funerals. All are welcome to our public worship services. This recommendation is not intended to judge the salvation of anyone, but is intended to promote greater unity among the church body and the community we serve.”

Harville told The Kentucky Herald-Leader that the decision is an embarrassment to God, the church and the whole community.

“It sure ain’t Christian,” she explained. “It ain’t nothing but the old devil working.”

I’m absolutely dumbfounded that this type of discrimination still happens in America. Did we just take a step 100 years backwards? I don’t want this to be news. I don’t want to pay attention to this short of behavior, but we can’t just sweep it under the rug. It’s groups just like this that continue to embarrass America in front of the eyes of the world. These people even vote — how does that make you feel?