Every PA Republican voted to keep depictions of 'homosexuality' in state obscenity law.
Title 18, Section 5903 of the Pennsylvania criminal code makes it a crime to give or sell material containing "sexual conduct" to people under 18. And "sexual conduct" means
acts of masturbation, homosexuality, sexual intercourse, sexual bestiality or physical contact with a person's clothed or unclothed genitals, pubic area, buttocks or, if such person be a female, breast.
Yeah, it's always a good thing when homosexuality appears in the same sentence as bestiality. (And we don't want to go into a whole rabbit hole about "showing a person under 18 a movie with a boob-touching in it is a crime," but, well, we just did.)
After discovering Pennsylvania's disgusting and archaic obscenity law made it illegal for LGBTQ kids to have materials about LGBTQ people, this session, Democrats introduced bills into both chambers of the General Assembly — House Bill 1279 and Senate Bill 609, respectively — to remove it. And you already know what happened next!
In a memo accompanying HB 1279, state Rep. Mike Zabel wrote,
Did you know that one of our current state laws still prohibits the distribution to minors of materials such as books, pictures, and videos which depict "acts of homosexuality," classifying homosexuality as obscene? Recently, one of the municipalities I represent, Upper Darby Township, repealed a similar decades old ordinance and, upon further review, it was discovered that Pennsylvania has such a statute still on the books.
Under existing law, "acts of homosexuality" are classified as "obscene" in Title 18 (Crimes and Offenses), Section 5903 (Obscene and Other Sexual Materials and Performances). My legislation would rectify this injustice by amending this section to remove the term "homosexuality" from the state obscenity clause.
The fact that bigoted, offensive language is still listed in our state's law is unacceptable. Please join me in bringing Pennsylvania into the 21st century by supporting this commonsense measure that will help promote equality and inclusion within Pennsylvania.
This week, another opportunity to repeal this disgusting law presented itself when the House considered House Bill 231, a human trafficking bill, and Rep. Zabel offered an amendment to stop making gayness a crime.
Every single Democrat in the House voted to remove homosexuality from the criminal code. Every Republican voted to keep it in.
This week's vote is a clear attempt to stifle LGBTQ content, making it inherently dirty, different from straight/cis content, and even illegal. When LGBTQ kids can't access materials about the things they are dealing with, they just feel more alone, isolated, and depressed. Books can literally save lives. And it is beyond abhorrent, though entirely expected, that Republicans would put their own bigotry above the lives of their children.
For their part, Rep. Zabel and his Democratic colleagues have made it clear that they are going to keep fighting the good fight.
Rep. Brian Sims, Pennsylvania's first openly gay state legislator and a current candidate for lieutenant governor, also took to Twitter with outrage at his Republican colleagues' "rampant homophobia" and "cowardice."
Compounding the rampant homophobia of the Republican caucus with this type of aggressive cowardice is so painfully… https://t.co/O2phrU7HHb— Brian Sims (@Brian Sims)1621883202.0
The only thing this is, is hatred. If a criminal case were actually brought against a same-sex couple for something like displaying a kissing picture where children can see it, I can't imagine a court holding up such a conviction. But sure, keep unconstitutional bullshit in our laws just to make a point about what a bigoted piece of shit you are.
This isn't the only part of Pennsylvania's laws that discriminate against the LGBTQ community. According to the Movement Advancement Project,
- Pennsylvania doesn't have adoption or foster care nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ parents.
- The state's family-leave laws don't include LGBTQ-inclusive definitions of spouse, partner, children, or parents.
- There is no nondiscrimination policy for state employees.
- The state's broad religious exemption law allows businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ people.
- Pennsylvania's hate crimes law doesn't cover LGBTQ people.
- PA's anti-bullying laws don't cover anti-LGBTQ bullying, and
- There aren't protections for LGBTQ children in the child welfare system.
Shit like this is a stark reminder that, even in 2021, homophobia, transphobia, and assorted anti-LGBTQ bigotry are still all too common — both in people's hearts and in our laws.
Let's do better.
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Three bills in one week!
Earlier this year, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee was on quite a roll with some of the worst anti-abortion laws we've seen, including one that would allow rapists to sue their victims in order to force them to have their child and another for forced abortion funerals. For the last week, however, he took a break from all of that and set his sights on the trans community, signing three new shit-stirring bills targeting them.
The first two were bathroom bills, because of course they were. People like Bill Lee are historically very concerned about restricting access to bathroom facilities and/or making the use of public restrooms as uncomfortable and humiliating as humanly possible for those they dislike.
On Friday, he signed a bill that would make it so public schools and other state-owned entities can actually be sued if they allow transgender people to use bathrooms, changing rooms, or similar facilities consistent with their identity. Like, some crappy Karen mom can actually get in a huff over a trans kid in her kid's school being allowed to use the bathroom and then sue the school and collect actual money. Taxpayer money, in fact. He wants the people of Tennessee to actually pay bigots for being bigots.
Under the bathroom measure, a student, parent or employee could sue in an effort to claim monetary damages "for all psychological, emotional, and physical harm suffered" if school officials allow a transgender person into the bathroom or locker room when others are in there. They also could take legal action if required to stay in the same sleeping quarters as a member of the opposite sex at birth, unless that person is a family member.
The proposal says schools must try to offer a bathroom or changing facility that is single-occupancy or that is for employees if a student or employee "desires greater privacy when using a multi-occupancy restroom or changing facility" designated for their sex at birth.
Lee, who is up for reelection next year, has said the bill promotes "equality in bathrooms," despite the prohibition against transgender people using multi-person facilities that don't align with their sex at birth. The legislation takes effect July 1.
For the second, a little twist on the classic bathroom bill. Private companies, such as restaurants and shops, will be "allowed" to decide their own bathroom policies, but if they do decide to let trans people pee, they have to put up some truly offensive signage.
This facility maintains a policy of allowing the use of restrooms by either biological sex, regardless of the designation on the restroom.
The sign idea is bad enough on its own, but that wording really drives it on home. It's almost as if the main point of it is to take pot shots at trans people by trying to insinuate that they are not actually the gender they are. The only thing that could possibly make it worse was if it were required to be written in Rae Dunn pottery font.
The ACLU has since responded by stating that the law is "impermissible compelled speech, in violation of the First Amendment, and raises substantial due process and equal protection concerns."
For the record, I do not think single stall bathrooms should be gendered to begin with — both because we should have moved on from that by now and because it is super freaking annoying to stand in line for five minutes in front of the women's restroom when there is no line in front of the men's.
The third bill, signed on Wednesday, is a ban on any and all medical gender-confirming treatment to young minors, specifically prohibiting puberty blockers and hormones to prepubescent trans children. However, there is no evidence that any doctor in Tennessee is even doing this.
These are not the only anti-trans bills he's signed, of course. Earlier this year he signed a bill prohibiting trans athletes from competing in girls sports. This April, he signed a bill requiring teachers and schools to give parents 30 days notice before any lesson that might, in some way, acknowledge the existence of LGBTQ+ people and allow parents to opt their children out if they so choose.
The two bathroom bills are the first bathroom bills that have been signed in any state for several years, as every time some state has tried to pull that nonsense, they end up getting screwed economically by companies that don't want anything to do with a state that supports discrimination. No major boycotts have been announced yet, but courting them when he's up for reelection next year might not be the smartest move Bill Lee has ever come up with.
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Now, that’s gross indecency!
Randall Menges has had to live as a registered sex offender for more than 20 years. The status has cost him jobs and friendships. He's even considered suicide. You're probably tempted to assume Menges deserves his fate. After all, sex offenders are terrible people who exploit minors and sometimes willingly associate with Matt Gaetz. However, Menges's situation is more complicated.
From the New York Times:
In 1993, Mr. Menges was living in a foster program at a ranch in Gem County and stayed on as an employee when he turned 18. Two months later, the police learned that he had had sex with two other teenagers, both 16, at the ranch. The age of consent in the state was 16.
State prosecutors charged Menges with "crimes against nature," an over-the-top term for engaging in sodomy and oral sex. The Supreme Court ruled sodomy laws unconstitutional in 2003, but Menges was sentenced to seven years in prison. Once he was released, he was placed on the sex offender registry in Idaho and Montana, where he eventually moved.
Menges sued the Montana attorney general in December over the state's requirement that he continue registering as a sex offender, and last Tuesday, a federal judge ruled in his favor.
From Daily Montanan:
In his ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Dana Christensen said Montana was forcing Menges to register as a sex offender "because he was convicted of engaging in oral or anal sex with a person of the same sex, not because he had oral or anal sex with a minor or because such contact was nonconsensual. In sum, Montana has no rational basis for forcing Menges to register as a sexual offender."
US District Court Judge Dana Christensen's order gives the state of Montana until Friday, May 21, to “remove Menges from Montana's Sexual or Violent Offender Registry; expunge all records indicating Menges was ever required to register; and alert all agencies, such as courts, police departments, sheriff's departments and the FBI, that Menges' registration information is no longer valid."
This is a correct and just decision that should help the now 45-year-old Menges get his life back on track. But Montana Attorney General, Austin Knudsen, a Republican of course, won't accept defeat and said he planned to appeal the ruling.
Knudsen's spokesperson, Emilee Cantrell, said the attorney general is going full Javert because he thinks Judge Christensen's decision "weakens our state's sex-offender registry law, making kids and families less safe." This is an absurd argument, considering that Menges's “crime" was consensual sex with teenagers who'd reached the age of consent. Even in states such as Texas with pretty strict statutory rape laws, there are so-called Romeo and Juliet exceptions so an 18-year-old high school senior isn't sentenced to two years hard labor because they had sex with their prom date. (Slight digression: Although Juliet is “not yet 14" in Shakespeare's play, there's no evidence that Romeo himself is 18 or older.)
Cantrell declared that "Montana law is clear: If you are required to register as a sex offender in another state, you must also register here." It seems as if Knundsen wants to trap Menges in an infinity loop of injustice. He was unfairly placed on a sex offender registry and he must remain on it until he dies.
Sex offender registries were created to warn communities about sexual predators after their release from prison. The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups, including actual criminologists, criticize the registries and claim they push people “to the margins of society while doing little to keep the public safe." That's a worthwhile debate but it doesn't really apply in Menges's case. He's the victim of homophobic persecution.
Elizabeth Ehret, one of Menges's lawyers, told the Times that the sex offender registry "thoroughly ruins someone's life to the point that it almost discourages rehabilitation for some folk, but in Randy's case it's been more horrifying."
"His life has been utterly destroyed by the homophobic laws that made gay sex illegal," Mx. Ehret added.
Of the eight states that still have anti-sodomy laws on the books, only Idaho, Mississippi, and South Carolina require sex offender registration for people convicted of sodomy. The age of consent was increased to 18 in Idaho since Menges's conviction, but it remains 16 in Mississippi and South Carolina, where we doubt many 18-year-old heterosexual white males are prosecuted for having sex with 16-year-old girls.
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No reason, just might be pertinent in the coming days.
OK, the other night, at the end of his big show about how Derek Chauvin's conviction was the end of civilization, Tucker Carlson had this super-weird moment where he seemed like he was nervously trying to take control of a news story about him that hasn't yet come out.
He said he had spent the day hearing from old college classmates because a "mentally unbalanced middle aged man," Erik Wemple of the Washington Post, who works for Jeff Bezos, had pulled out his "dusty college yearbook" and was looking into whether he had done something "naughty at the age of 19."
"That sounds like fun," Tucker added. "Let us know if you hear any good stories!"
Certainly sounds like Tucker is trying to get ahead of an embarrassing story here. https://t.co/l8LyLkMQRI— Justin Baragona (@Justin Baragona)1618967153.0
So because yearbooks are actually pretty easy to get, people started looking for Tucker's 1991 yearbook. What they found was this entry for Tucker, which has now been verified as being from his legitimate yearbook from Trinity College.
If you look at the highlighted section, you see what young Tucker S & M Carlson (Swanson and McNear) was into in those days. "History" and "Christian fellowship" are listed, as is the "Jesse Helms foundation," oh how surprising. But the one people really noticed was "Dan White Society." Dan White? Surely he couldn't be talking about that Dan White, the member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors who murdered Harvey Milk! Right? Surely not.
Unsurprisingly, "Dan White Society" was not an actual club at the school, but rather just one of those things kids put in their yearbooks as an attempt at a joke. (Note how the other kids on Tucker's page actually did things.)
We do not know if Tucker's "Dan White Society" actually has anything to do with admiration of the Dan White who murdered Harvey Milk, the pioneering openly gay politician, and also San Francisco mayor George Moscone. But this does seem like a good time to remind y'all of a story you as Wonkette readers should be aware of, because we bring it up from time to time.
In 2007, Tucker bragged on TV, in a discussion on MSNBC with Dan Abrams and Joe Scarborough, about that time he beat up a gay guy in the bathroom. It was around the time of that whole Larry Craig thing. Tucker started the story by saying "Let me be clear, Dan, I am not gay. I have never been gay. I overreacted and made a poor decision." Gotcha, Tucker.
Then he said:
CARLSON: Having sex in a public men's room is outrageous. It's also really common. I've been bothered in men's rooms."
The other guys were like HENGGGGH?
CARLSON: I have, I've been bothered in Georgetown Park. When I was in high school.
Tucker stated that he's not "anti-gay in the slightest," but a bit later he told the boys his version of the story he clearly wanted to tell:
ABRAMS: Tucker, what did you do, by the way? What did you do when he did that? We got to know.
CARLSON: I went back with someone I knew and grabbed the guy by the — you know, and grabbed him, and — and —
ABRAMS: And did what?
CARLSON: Hit him against the stall with his head, actually!
CARLSON: And then the cops came and arrested him. But let me say that I'm the least anti-gay right-winger you'll ever meet —
So that's Tucker assuring us he's not gay and he's not anti-gay, least gay and anti-gay person you'll ever meet, people can see that Tucker's not gay FROM SPACE, but one time he beat up a gay guy in the bathroom LOLOLOLOL. Hit him against the stall with his head, actually!
In an email sent to Media Matters, and after a hell of a lot of backlash, Tucker "clarified" by saying that he and his friend had "seized the man and held him until a security guard arrived," but said it was because he was a victim, and he was definitely not just beating the shit out of gay guys for fun and sport. No he never! Forget how he had just been bragging about smashing some guy's skull in a public bathroom on live television.
OK, Tucker. We weren't there, we dunno.
But now we know that when Tucker was at Trinity College, Tucker listed as one of his very few extracurriculars that he was part of the "Dan White Society," and if that's named after that Dan White ...
Hoo boy. How very on-brand that would be.
By the way, the only part of this story that was bugging us was the notion that a loser college version of Tucker Carlson would have even been in tune enough with current events to know who assassinated Harvey Milk in 1978, but Scott at Lawyers, Guns & Money reminds us that Tucker was born in San Francisco and grew up in La Jolla, and Rebecca says yeah, the "twinkie defense" was SUPER famous and she is almost Tucker's age of 51, gross. So that would make more sense.
Still on the lookout for that story from Erik Wemple.
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