(Note: I’ve received some great feedback that I should remove the analogy of the Green Book to a potential need for a future guidebook/spreadsheet to help LGBTQIA community and women avoid homophobic or misogynistic establishments or service providers. My critic is absolutely correct that despite the common religious tie-in, our current issues cannot be compared to the completely pervasive discrimination the black community suffered during Jim Crow, that it is not my story to tell and that people will not be familiar with this part of American history. All true. However, I personally find learning history to be a transformative experience, equally uplifting and horrifying, so I’m running it and letting you work your way through it with me.)
Does everyone recognize this? This is the 1940 cover of the “Green-Book“, a guidebook that was published between 1936 and 1966 by New York City mailman Victor Hugo Green, to help black Americans find food, gas and lodging as they traveled through a hostile countryside that could legally refuse them such services.
Why? Because the Supreme Court in 1883 struck down the Civil Rights Act of 1875, stating that, while the Equal Protection Clause prevented the government from discriminating against black citizens, it couldn’t prohibit such actions from private individuals and organizations.
OK, why are we talking about this now? Because one of the fundamental causes of this shameful period of American history, religious zealotry, has hitched itself to our current administration and is now targeting women’s rights and our LGBTQIA community, with the goal of making discrimination against these Americans completely legal, based on the personal religious or moral objections of others.Trump appointee Roger Severino, the hard-right opponent of same-sex marriage and abortion rights and now head of the HHS Office for Civil Rights, has announced that “conscience protection”, not patient rights, will be his agency’s highest priority. Today, Thursday, his office has announced new rules, including establishment of a new “Conscience and Religious Freedom Division”, and the continued erosion of Section 1557, to better “protect” health workers who don’t want to perform abortions, treat transgender patients seeking to transition or provide other services for which they have religious or moral objections.”
Women and our LGBTQIA community may very well need a guidebook of their own to avoid humilating or dangerous situations when they need care, prescriptions or any other health-care services. And not just medical issues are at stake. “If an LGBTQ couple drove from Maine to California today, their legal rights and civil rights protections could change more than 20 times at state borders and city lines,” Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said in a statement. They continue to suffer widespread discrimination. “The 2015 United States Transgender Survey found that, among transgender people who visited a place of public accommodation where staff knew or believed they were transgender, nearly one in three experienced discrimination or harassment—including being denied equal services or even being physically attacked.” The ACLU has published a paper detailing women’s rights after being denied birth control, including emergency contraception, at local pharmacies based on the religious objections of the employee.
We will be following the Health and Human Services proposed rule changes and will be publishing actions as soon as they come out. In the meantime…
1. Write a postcard to Roger!
Sample Text: All Americans, while in the vulnerable state of being a patient, should have the right to receive medical care or medications without fear of judgement or discrimination. Those who would put their personal religious or moral issues above the needs of their patients, shaming them or refusing them treatment, have, without any other effort, violated the first rule of doing no harm to the human beings in their care.
Director, Office for Civil Rights
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, SW
Room 509F, HHH Building
Washington, D.C. 20201
Toll-free: (800) 368-1019
TDD toll-free: (800) 537-7697
2. Help get this bill passed as quickly as possible.
S. 1006 – The Equality Act – amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity among the prohibited categories of discrimination or segregation in places of public accommodation. Find out if your senator has cosponsored this already here and if they’re on the Judiciary Committee here.
Minimum Script for Judiciary Committee member: I’m calling from [zip code] and I want Senator [___] to protect vulnerable Americans and pass S.1006 – The Equality Act through your committee.
Thank Senator Feinstein and ask her: DC (202) 224-3841, LA (310) 914-7300, SF (415) 393-0707, SD (619) 231-9712, Fresno (559) 485-7430
Thank cosponsors: I’m calling from [zip code] and I want to thank Senator [___] for cosponsoring S.1006 – The Equality Act.
Thank Senator Harris: DC (202) 224-3553, LA (213) 894-5000, SAC (916) 448-2787, Fresno (559) 497-5109, SF (415) 355-9041, SD (619) 239-3884
Minimum Script for non-cosponsors: I’m calling from [zip code] and I want Senator [___] to cosponsor S.1006 – The Equality Act.
More script if you want it: All Americans deserve to go to the bank, choose a home, keep a job, raise a child, and receive medical care without fear of discrimination.
Other Senator Contacts: http://www.phoneyourrep.com
3. Support and elect candidates who believe in equal rights for all Americans.
4. If you haven’t called about the anti-choice bills from yesterday, do it today. Or do it again. It’s that important.