Georgia senator introduces trans housing bill


Transgender Protections in Georgia

ATLANTA – A bill allowing for fair housing and counteracting discrimination in Georgia, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, was introduced into the Georgia General Assembly by State Senator Lester Jackson on Feb. 2, 2017.


Citizens rallying outside Georgia State Capitol (Photo by Jessica Fisher)

The legislation, called SB 119, had a two percent of passing according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Georgia Legislative Narrator, with that percentage dropping to zero after Crossover Day.

Chanel Haley, with Georgia Equality, said that things are not going well, politically, for transgender people in Georgia.

“There are just no protections,” Haley said.

Twenty percent of transgender people in the U.S. have “been discriminated” against when looking for a home, according to The National Center for Transgender Equality. More than ten percent have been “evicted from their homes because of their gender identity,” the center states.

Haley said that Atlanta is the only city in the state with protections for LGBTQ citizens.

“Other cities and counties have protections for their employees, but only for city employees,” Haley said. “We’re probably the worst in the south, or even the whole country.”

Despite this, Haley said she believes that a “positive” does exist in the fight for transgender rights among the national conservative political climate.

“We haven’t had any issues around legislation forcing trans people to use specific bathrooms here in Georgia,” Haley said.

Transgender Politics and the Federal Government

Haley said she believes that everything is a little unclear right now regarding the federal cabinet secretaries and transgender policies and regulations.

“I can assume the Department of Education won’t support transgender students,” Haley said. “You can assume that Housing and Urban Development will reverse its equal access rule. Funding can expected to be cut at Housing and Urban Development, as well as with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.”

The Department of Education, or DOE, released a “Dear Colleague” letter under the Obama administration which encouraged public schools and universities to allow transgender students to use restrooms and locker rooms that were “consistent with their gender identity.”

That letter was, recently, revoked under Secretary Betsy DeVos’ DOE.

Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, released a press release in September 2016 which announced their intention to implement a new “Gender Identity Rule” which changed HUD’s definition of gender identity.

This regulation protecting transgender individuals has not been revoked under the Trump administration or under Secretary Ben Carson’s Department of Housing and Urban Development.

However, according to the New York Times, the federal regulation protecting trans individual’s rights to use the bathroom of their choice was revoked on Feb. 22, 2017 under Trump’s administration.

No Bathroom Bill in Georgia

Hope Jackson, a regional field organizer with the Human Rights Campaign, or HRC, for the Southeast said she believes that there are definitely policies that need to be changed in Georgia.

“Transgender and LGBQ communities just don’t have any rights here in Georgia,” Jackson said, adding that housing was an area where transgender people tend to have a “harder time.”

According to the ACLU, Georgia has no laws which prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity at the state level. The Transgender Law Center gives the state of Georgia a negative score on their Gender Identity Policy Tally.

“No one wants an anti-LGBT fight in Georgia,” Jackson said. “It’s bad for the economy.”

In fact, Jackson said that anti-LGBT bills like North Carolina’s HB2 cost North Carolina $630 million.

Jackson said that the reason these bills and laws can cost states so much money is because corporations are made up of diverse employees and when states pass these laws they inhibit employees from bringing their best work and their best self to the job.

According to Business Insider, losses for North Carolina in response to HB2 included $91 million in revenue from the NCAA and $100 million when the NBA decided to move its 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte to New Orleans.

Last year when HB 757 was passed by the Georgia General Assembly and went to the desk of Governor Nathan Deal, the HRC and Georgia Equality, delivered 75,000 petitions to the governor’s office in opposition to HB 757 through a coalition known as Georgia Unites Against Discrimination.

When looking at the state of the federal government, Jackson said that what may happen by the end of the legislative session is still unclear.

“At a federal level, we’re still kind of waiting to see what will happen, if maybe there will be an executive order,” Jackson said. “At the state level, with SB 119, we’d see a shift in the mindset for civil right protections for the transgender community.”

About SB 119

Jackson said that SB 119 will help us see the need for more legislation that protects against discrimination and hate crimes against trans people.

“We’ll see that when they go to medical providers, that they aren’t being discriminated against, or being pushed toward conversion therapy,” Jackson said. “You’ll see more and more states that will be looking at North Carolina and asking, ‘What can we do to prevent this from happening?’ I think you’ll see legislators stepping out in support of civil rights protections.”

SB 119 has six co-sponsors, including Atlanta mayoral candidate Vincent Fort. For people like Jackson and Haley, the legislation could be a move in the right direction for Georgia.

The Georgia General Assembly legislative session, which almost immediately followed the 2016 presidential election, will be followed on the other end of its completion by the 2018 election.

For Georgia, the 2018 election means the election of new constitutional officers for positions including governor, attorney general and secretary of state, among others.

Whatever success SB 119 has, along with the outcome of the election to replace Secretary Tom Price, could prove to be indicators of what the 2018 election holds and what future legislative sessions mean for transgender people in Georgia.

Celebrities to flee US before Trump presidency


KENNESAW, Ga. — Hollywood, California, should be a ghost town after Donald Trump won the Nov. 9 presidential election given the number of celebrities who essentially denounced their U.S. citizenship.

The growing list includes Samuel L. Jackson, who said he’d move to South Africa; Raven Symoné, who said she already had her plane ticket to Canada ready; and Cher, who tweeted nowhere on planet Earth is far enough away from a Trump presidency, writing she’d be relocating to Jupiter.

A surge in panicked Americans expressing considerations to leave the U.S. if an unfavorable candidate is elected has become a hallmark of any election season. The difference is that the claims are bipartisan.

Looking at previous trends

Google Trends reported that searches of the phrase “leave the U.S.” saw dramatic spikes following the 2012 election of Barack Obama and March’s Super Tuesday primaries.

This rhetoric often targets Canada as a potential refuge, especially for those with liberal inclinations. Its single payer healthcare system, stringent gun laws and other comparatively liberal policies have led some Americans to view it as a liberal utopia.

Searches of the phrase “move to Canada” have skyrocketed by almost 3,000 percent immediately following Super Tuesday in March, the largest number of searches for that phrase in Google’s history. Actually, Canada’s immigration site crashed following Trump’s election.

This begs the question of whether the disenchanted electorate is actually following through with its relocation plans. The United States’s lack of record-keeping on emigration makes it difficult to say.

Heather Segal, an immigration lawyer based in Toronto, Ontario, says yes — sort of.

Moving to Canada

“I did see a slight increase in immigration to Canada after Bush was elected — both times,” she said. “Mostly, I get a number of calls of interest on what is required in order to come to Canada.  In those calls, around election time, people have indicated that it is politics that is motivating their choice to move.”

Shoshana Green, also an immigration lawyer in Toronto, said the majority of those calls don’t come from average U.S. citizens.

More often than not, Americans fleeing the U.S.’s political climate are families containing at least one Canadian citizen. These types of migrants are far more common because they have ability to sponsor their non-Canadian family members for legal residency status, which a privilege that makes the immigration process considerably easier.

“Over the years we, will receive inquiries from Americans who are interested in Canada when the political climate appears ripe for a move,” Green said. “What is more common are couples comprised of a Canadian and American where the couple decides that it would be better to raise their family in Canada versus the U.S. A move to Canada is then contemplated where the Canadian spouse would sponsor the U.S. spouse toward acquiring status in Canada.”

This doesn’t mean that Americans — sponsored or not — are flooding into Canada each election season. Data from Canada’s Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship suggests a much more moderate rate of migration.

Over at least the previous three election cycles, the number of U.S. immigrants gaining permanent residency status in Canada has remained somewhat stable, peaking slightly in 2008. Over the past decade, the number of annual immigrants has hovered between 7,000 and 10,000, which seems minuscule compared to the U.S.’s population of more than 318 million.

Because Canada doesn’t keep data on immigrants’s reasons for relocation, it’s difficult to estimate to what extent elections factored into these relocations, but most of the phone calls Segal and Green received remained just that — phone calls.

Although the U.S. emigration rate to Canada has remained mostly stagnant, the number of Americans choosing to renounce their U.S. citizenship certainly has not. The number of annual expatriation from the U.S. skyrocketed from 439 in 1998 to 4,272 in 2015, according to data from the Department of the Treasury.

Troubles of leaving U.S.

Tax attorneys Andrew Mitchel and Ryan E. Dunn argue it’s unlikely these renunciations are politically motivated. Rather, they say it’s more probable that those who give up citizenship do it for tax reasons.

Many of those who choose to renounce their citizenship are already living abroad. The United States is one of only two countries in the world that taxes its citizens living abroad, with the other being the African country of Eritrea.

Many Americans living abroad are not are not aware of their tax obligations to the United States, which, according to Mitchel and Dunn, can be complex and burdensome. When they become aware of the cost and time required to complete the filing process, they opt to give up citizenship instead.

It’s reasonable to expect that most Americans’s panicked claims about relocating to Canada or elsewhere will not come to fruition this election season — and perhaps with good reason.

Reddit user MarburgDE, who moved from the United States to Germany to the Czech Republic, learned through experience that even an action as drastic as an international move might not be a guaranteed solution to political disillusionment.

“When I first moved away, I thought stupidity was only confined to the English-speaking world,” Marburg said. “Then, I learned more languages, and I learned that stupidity is everywhere.”

Let’s see whether the laundry list of celebrities promising to vacate the United States under a Trump presidency make good on their promises.

Protesters in Atlanta speak up about President-elect Trump

Some spectators join, others disapprove


ATLANTA — Thousands of protesters took the streets of Atlanta Friday night to voice their opposition of President-elect Donald Trump.

Click here for the video.

Many feel Electoral College should change


KENNESAW, Ga. — Controversies still arise when it comes to using popular vote versusin favor of the Electoral College, although the Electoral College’s structure roots back to the centurial assembly system of the Roman Empire.

How the Electoral College works

The Electoral College is a process that was established by the founding fathers — in the Constitution — as a compromise to elect U.S. presidents by a vote cast by Congress, and by a popular vote cast by qualified citizens. To win the presidency, a candidate would need to obtain 270 electoral votes. Donald Trump earned 279.

Each state is allocated a number of electors equal to the number of senators, which is always two, plus the number of its U.S. representatives. These numbers are subject to change over the years depending on the size of each state’s population as determined in the census.

Practicality of changing Electoral College

“I prefer to keep the Electoral College because it’s history,” said Kyle Williams, an insurance broker for Surance America. “It’s how our system in the United States has always worked, and I personally don’t see the point in changing our ways now.”

Many citizens feel the same way, and, as a product of habit, it’s hard for others to embrace change.

The defense for the Electoral College is that it protects American federalism, giving each state the ability to design its own system for how its picks electors without federal government interference.

Only twice in the last century has there been attempts to block the Electoral College and bring negotiations to the table on new ways to elect the president.

According to Fact Check, there have been four times in history that a president has won without also winning the popular vote.

According to the  U.S. Election Atlas, opponents of the Electoral College are concerned partially because they’re afraid it might decrease the voter turnout.

They argue there is no push to try to get voters out there to cast their votes since each state is entitled to a certain electoral vote number, regardless of voter turnout.

Defense of Electoral College

There are also opposing views and arguments against the popular vote.

“The danger of [national popular vote] is that it will undermine the complex and vital underpinnings of American democracy,” Curtis Gans wrote in a Huffington Post article.

There is also fear that small states would not benefit because the presidency would become a national campaign and the candidates would go towards bigger media markets and leave behind the small states and people.

Our founding fathers placed boundaries in an effort to balance power among the branches of federal government and the states. An action to redo our country’s election process would result in amending our constitution and a lot of people throw up fences to that idea.

A Gallup poll was done January 2013 to see whether citizens were in favor of abolishing the Electoral College, finding that citizens were in favor of abolishing it.

“I want to know that my vote matters and counts the way it should,” said Beth Norris, a native of Gwinnett County. “I rather know that the people chose, and not have electors and representatives ultimately determining the outcome once we’ve already voted based on the size of a state.”