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Federal Court In Landmark Case Rules Sexual Orientation Discrimination Is Sex Discrimination



A federal court has issued a historic ruling, allowing victims of sexual orientation discrimination to sue under federal civil rights law.

A federal judge has ruled that “claims of sexual orientation discrimination are gender stereotype or sex discrimination claims” in matters concerning education.

The case involves two women plaintiffs, Haley Videckis and Layana White who are suing Pepperdine University, a private Christian college in California. They contend they were subjected to ongoing and repeated harassment and forced from the school’s basketball team, lost their scholarships, and ultimately withdrew from the school altogether.

The case reads like something out of the 1950’s.

The women allege their coach and other members of the school’s athletics department privately interviewed their fellow players, asking if any player were lesbian or bisexual, and asked players if the two women were dating. They were prohibited from playing in manners not applied to other students. And they suffered retaliation when they complained.

They charge they were “harassed and discriminated against in an effort to force [them] to quit the team.”

The women also claim one member of the school’s athletics coaching staff asked their fellow players “how close Plaintiffs were, whether they took vacations together, where they slept, whether they pushed their beds together, whether they went on dates, and whether they would live together.”

And there’s this stunning charge.

“On April 16, 2014, Coach Ryan held a team leadership meeting where he spoke on the topic of lesbianism. In the meeting, Coach Ryan stated that lesbianism was a big concern for him and for women’s basketball, that it was a reason why teams lose, and that it would not be tolerated on the team.”

There are other charges of harassment, including claims the coaching staff lied, changed their time sheets, and a claim that “Coach Ryan reached out to two of Plaintiffs’ teammates, recommended that the teammates not live with Plaintiffs, and stated that Plaintiffs were bad influences.”

This ruling is not the final ruling in the case, it merely allows the case to move forward, stating that under Title IX of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was amended in 1972, the plaintiffs are entitled to sue.

Title IX reads:

No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.

In his ruling last week, U.S. District Court Judge Dean Pregerson writes, 

“This Court, in its prior order … stated that ‘the line between discrimination based on gender stereotyping and discrimination based on sexual orientation is blurry, at best.’ After further briefing and argument, the Court concludes that the distinction is illusory and artificial, and that sexual orientation discrimination is not a category distinct from sex or gender discrimination. Thus, claims of discrimination based on sexual orientation are covered by Title VII and IX, but not as a category of independent claims separate from sex and gender stereotype. Rather, claims of sexual orientation discrimination are gender stereotype or sex discrimination claims.”

Judge Pregerson also writes that “the Court finds that sexual orientation discrimination is a form of sex or gender discrimination, and that the ‘actual’ orientation of the victim is irrelevant. It is impossible to categorically separate ‘sexual orientation discrimination’ from discrimination on the basis of sex or from gender stereotypes; to do so would result in a false choice. Simply put, to allege discrimination on the basis of sexuality is to state a Title IX claim on the basis of sex or gender.”


Image by CampusGrotto via Flickr and a CC license
Hat tip: Chris Geidner at Buzzfeed

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Eric Trump Has Been Refusing to Testify in Fraud Case – a Judge Just Ordered Him To



A judge has ordered Eric Trump, the middle son of President Donald Trump, to testify in the New York Attorney General’s fraud investigation into whether or not the Trump Organization improperly inflated the value of some of its properties.

Eric Trump has tried to delay his testimony until after the November 3 election. On Wednesday New York Supreme Court Judge Arthur Engoron ordered him to comply with a subpoena. He has two weeks to do so, CNBC reports.

“We simply can’t delay compliance for another two months,” a lawyer for the New York Attorney General’s office told the judge.

One of the properties under investigation is the Seven Springs estate in Westchester County, New York.

“The Financial Times last year noted that Trump purchased Seven Springs for $7.5 million in 1996, but valued it at more than $290 million in 2012. Forbes magazine in 2014 said that the entire property was worth less than $19.5 million, citing recent property sales and local realtors and assessors.”

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‘This Was a Black Lives Don’t Matter Ruling’: MSNBC’s Joy Reid Delivers Powerful Rebuke to Breonna Taylor Grand Jury



MSNBC anchor Joy Ann Reid slammed the grand jury decision in the Breonna Taylor killing, declaring it a “Black Lives Don’t Matter ruling.”

A Louisville, Kentucky grand jury charged former police officer Brett Hankison with three counts of wanton endangerment in the first degree. As Reid noted, none of the charges are related to Taylor’s killing.

What former Officer Hankison “is being charged with was having extreme indifference to the lives of everyone,” Reid noted, but he is not being charged with extreme indifference to the life of Breonna Taylor.

“So what they’re saying is, officers, ‘Aim at the people in the apartment. As long as you don’t wantonly aim, so that the neighbors are endangered, you’re good.'”

“There’s nothing in this charge that mentions Breonna Taylor. There’s nothing in this charge that accounts for her life or the value of it.”

“There’s no charge here that says, ‘You need to at least care about, in the conduct of your investigation, the lives of the people in front OF YOU.’ It’s saying, ‘Ignore their lives, care about the neighbors, care about what’s through the wall, don’t shoot around because you might shoot, you know, the postman or someone nearby. But don’t worry about the lives.'”

“Police officers are trained in a use of force matrix, in which they are allowed to use a certain amount of force depending on the situation. There’s verbal force that you use, there’s physical force, it goes all the way to deadly force.”

“What the law is saying,” Reid continued, “is that the matrix doesn’t have any concern for the life of the person in front of you. So long as you, as an officer can come up with a justification for firing your weapon, you can kill at will. We need to think about as a society: Do we want police officers to have the right to kill at will? Do we want to be safe in our own homes, and know that police cannot enter?”

“We fought an entire revolution saying we didn’t want the British to be able to bust into our homes and start shooting, or quarter themselves in our homes. There was a Castle Doctrine for a reason. We need to decide whether we feel comfortable giving an officer the ability to kill at will, anyone in front of them as long as he aims, and as long as they’re dead. Because you don’t get charged, otherwise, right?”

“We’re not charging these officers. It’s not just about punishing them. It’s about setting a public policy baseline that says you just can’t kill people. Period. But apparently, in the state of Kentucky today, you can.”


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Grand Jury Announces Charges Against Only One Louisville Police Officer in Killing of Breonna Taylor



A grand jury has announced criminal charges against a single Louisville, Kentucky police officer in the March 13 killing of Breonna Taylor. The charges are against former officer Brett Hankison and include wanton endangerment.

No homicide charges were announced.

The charges are being described as insufficient by MSNBC’s Al Sharpton.

“It feels to me like these charges entirely delete the murder” of Breonna Taylor, MSNBC’s Joy Ann Reid commented on the network after the charges were announced. “This was a Black Lives Don’t Matter ruling.”

“They can just shoot you,” she lamented.

“There’s nothing in this charge that mentions Breonna Taylor,” she continued. “There’s no charge that says you need to at least care” about the lives of others, Reid said.

The Nation’s Elie Mystal weighs in:

Live video:

This is a breaking news and developing story. Details may change. 

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