Matthew Easton, the Brigham Young University valedictorian who came out during his graduation speech last week sat down with Ellen DeGeneres in an interview that airs Monday. Easton told classmates, friends, family, and faculty, “I am proud to be a gay son of God.”
Easton, in a clip DeGeneres posted to Instagram (below) tells Ellen the reason he came out during his speech, and how one classmate’s tragic suicide, the result of anti-gay bullying, motivated him.
He tells Ellen that his Mormon university, BYU, has an honor code that he would have violated had he come out earlier.
“I chose to honor a student named Harry Fisher,” Easton says. “It was his last semester and he decided to come out on Facebook. And because of the rhetoric and sort of response that he got from our community, he actually ended up committing suicide,” Easton explains.
As he got choked up, Easton says Fisher sat right in front of him.
“I thought, ‘Is that my future? Is that what I’m headed toward?’ So I thought, if I came out at graduation, maybe a student like me, a freshman, could see, you know, my future is something brighter.”
“It’s something better. We can succeed. We can do what we want to accomplish, our dreams.”
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Biden Dept. of Justice Reverses Trump Order – Declares LGBTQ Students Are Now Protected by Law
In a major reversal of Trump-era legal policies the U.S. Dept. of Justice has issued a memo declaring that LGBTQ students are protected from discrimination under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits sex-based discrimination in schools.
It is a major win for some of the nation’s most vulnerable people, and an interesting twist for the history books.
The memo, dated March 26 but just reported today by The Hill and Law & Crime, was authored by the same attorney who argued part of a major LGBTQ case before the U.S. Supreme Court, and won. That case paved the way for this new memo.
Pamela Karlan (photo) in 2019 argued in the landmark Bostock case, telling the Court in no uncertain terms: “When an employer fires a male employee for dating men but does not fire female employees who date men, he violates Title VII. The employer has…discriminated against the man because he treats that man worse than women who want to do the same thing. And that discrimination is because of sex.”
The Court ruled 6-3 that anti-LGBTQ discrimination is sex discrimination and therefore illegal.
“After considering the text of Title IX, Supreme Court caselaw, and developing jurisprudence in this area, the Division has determined that the best reading of Title IX’s prohibition on discrimination ‘on the basis of sex’ is that it includes discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation,” wrote Karlan, who now serves as the Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ.
Karlan’s memo, along with a broader Biden executive order, reverses a Trump executive order specifically stating that the Bostock ruling was to be narrowly applied only to employment.
Karlan is also the same attorney who testified during Trump’s first impeachment, explaining why his actions constitute bribery.
As Slate’s Joseph Michael Stern notes, “Pam Karlan is one of very few people to win a civil rights case at the Supreme Court then implement that decision as a federal civil rights official. That’s gotta feel good.”
For her, and for millions of LGBTQ students.
Watch: Dr. Rachel Levine Becomes First Openly-Transgender Nominee to Be Senate Confirmed in Historic Vote
Dr. Rachel Levine has just been confirmed to be the Assistant Secretary of Health at the Dept. of Health and Human Services in a historic vote, making her the first Senate-confirmed openly-transgender nominee. The vote was 52-48, with all Democrats voting for her, and two Republicans joining the “yea” votes.
“At a time when hateful politicians are weaponizing trans lives for their own perceived political gain, Dr. Levine’s confirmation lends focus to the contributions trans people make to our nation and deflates absurd arguments calling for their exclusion,” Annise Parker, the former Mayor of Houston and now President of the Victory Fund and Victory Fund Institute said.
As The Washington Post notes, Dr. Levine will become the highest-ranking openly transgender official in U.S. history.
“I firmly believe that turning points, such as today’s Senate confirmation vote for Dr. Levine’s appointment, are powerful indications that this nation is truly heading down the pathway to lasting transgender equality,” former Obama administration official Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, who was the first openly transgender official to work in the White House, told the Post.
President Joe Biden nominated Dr. Levine, who serves as the Pennsylvania Secretary of Health and is a Professor of Pediatrics and Psychiatry at the Penn State College of Medicine.
Senate confirms Dr. Rachel Levine for Assistant Secretary of Health, 52-48.
She is the first trans person to ever be confirmed by the Senate. pic.twitter.com/fkmdbUbdYi
— The Recount (@therecount) March 24, 2021
US Senate Confirms Pete Buttigieg as Secretary of Transportation and First Openly-Gay Cabinet Member
The United States Senate has just confirmed Pete Buttigieg as Secretary of Transportation, by a large margin. Buttigieg, a former Democratic candidate for president who quickly won a strong following, along with the Iowa caucuses, becomes the first openly-gay Senate confirmed Cabinet member in U.S. history.
The bipartisan vote was 86-13, a large margin by any standard, but especially in these hyper-partisan times.
A Millennial, at 39 Buttigieg also becomes the youngest member of the Biden Cabinet.
Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) announced the Senate 86-13 confirmation vote of Pete Buttigieg to be President Biden's Transportation Secretary. pic.twitter.com/RuuAhL11bD
— Craig Caplan (@CraigCaplan) February 2, 2021
South Bend’s former “Mayor Pete,” now “Mr. Secretary,” says he is “honored and humbled.”
I'm honored and humbled by today's vote in the Senate—and ready to get to work @USDOT.
— Pete Buttigieg (@PeteButtigieg) February 2, 2021
Senate confirms Pete Buttigieg as secretary of transportation 86-13.
He becomes the first out LGBTQ Cabinet secretary confirmed by the Senate. pic.twitter.com/hx8ZNxImz5
— The Recount (@therecount) February 2, 2021
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