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March 3, 2014 0

The Arizona Effect

Josh Deinert

AP Photo/Matt York

Last week Ari­zona Gov­er­nor Jan Brewer vetoed the State’s now infa­mous “reli­gious free­dom” bill. 

The clear intent of the SB 1062 was to effec­tively allow per­sons and busi­nesses to dis­crim­i­nate against the State’s LGBT com­mu­nity by pro­vid­ing a pow­er­ful legal defense based on asser­tion of a “sin­cerely held reli­gious belief.” 

Due to its expan­sive nature, how­ever, the leg­is­la­tion would have broadly sanc­tioned religious-based dis­crim­i­na­tion whether the vic­tim was Jew­ish, Mus­lim, Protes­tant, Catholic, Mor­mon, Hindu or of no faith.   And the Anti-Defamation took a lead­er­ship role in defeat­ing this dis­crim­i­na­tory legislation.

Gov­er­nor Brewer ulti­mately vetoed SB 1062 under fierce pres­sure from the State’s civil rights and busi­ness communities.

But what hap­pens in Ari­zona does not stay in Ari­zona.  Prior to Gov­er­nor Brewer’s veto, at least twelve other states, includ­ing Geor­gia, Mis­sis­sippi, Ohio and Okla­homa, were actively con­sid­er­ing sim­i­lar leg­is­la­tion.  Due to the back­lash against SB 1062, how­ever, Geor­gia, Mis­sis­sippi, Ohio, and Okla­homa tabled their bills.  So the new talk­ing point in oppos­ing such leg­is­la­tion should be “fol­low the lead of the Ari­zona leg­is­la­ture at your peril.”

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February 28, 2014 0

U.S. Highlights Anti-Semitism as a Human Rights Concern

Yes­ter­day Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry released the 2013 Coun­try Reports on Human Rights Prac­tices, a com­pendium of the world’s worst human rights vio­la­tions, includ­ing Bashar Al-Assad’s bru­tal­ity against his own peo­ple in Syria and crack­downs on fun­da­men­tal free­doms in places like Rus­sia, Egypt, and Ukraine.

The report high­lighted another major human rights con­cern that man­i­fests in just about every region: the per­sis­tence of anti-Semitism, whether pro­moted by offi­cial media, polit­i­cal par­ties, or ped­dled on the streets in the form of graf­fiti or harassment.

 

Anti-Semitism also remained a sig­nif­i­cant prob­lem in 2013. Accord­ing to a sur­vey of eight Euro­pean mem­ber states by the Euro­pean Union Agency for Fun­da­men­tal Rights, harass­ment of Jews con­tin­ued, with one-quarter of respon­dents stat­ing they expe­ri­enced some form of anti-Semitic harass­ment in the 12 months before the sur­vey. In the Mid­dle East, media occa­sion­ally con­tained anti-Semitic arti­cles and car­toons, some of which glo­ri­fied or denied the Holo­caust and blamed all Jews for actions by the state of Israel.

Threats to reli­gious prac­tice also emerged dur­ing the year. For exam­ple, the Par­lia­men­tary Assem­bly of the Coun­cil of Europe passed a non-binding res­o­lu­tion imply­ing that reli­gious male cir­cum­ci­sion – as prac­ticed by Jews and Mus­lims, and other reli­gions – is a human rights violation.

 

These reports are cause for con­cern but they also point to the increase in U.S. report­ing on anti-Semitism as a human rights prob­lem.  ADL has called for rig­or­ous U.S. mon­i­tor­ing as an indis­pens­able tool in spot­light­ing the prob­lem and sup­ported enact­ment of the law requires U.S. embassies to report trends in anti-Semitism as part of their core human rights work.

Today, the num­ber of coun­tries in which the State Depart­ment is doc­u­ment­ing inci­dents of anti-Semitism has more than dou­bled since that new law was enacted.  The increased cov­er­age of anti-Semitism in these annual reports reflects a greater aware­ness of what anti-Semitism is and how it threat­ens human rights.  Indeed, the reports have grown increas­ingly atten­tive to the issue of how anti-Semitism in the pub­lic dis­course puts Jews at risk, as well as how hos­til­ity toward Israel and Jews is too fre­quently commingled.

The State Department’s Report details infringe­ments on human rights around the globe, includ­ing but not lim­ited to government-sponsored per­se­cu­tion, bias and big­oted por­trayal of minor­ity groups in the media, anti-Semitic inci­dents, attacks on the LGBT com­mu­nity, and the mar­gin­al­iza­tion of per­sons with dis­abil­i­ties. Sec­re­tary Kerry high­lighted, in yesterday’s press con­fer­ence, the nearly 80 coun­tries that crim­i­nal­ize homo­sex­u­al­ity around the globe, and the strug­gle that those of the LGBT com­mu­nity face to sur­vive, even in coun­tries where homo­sex­u­al­ity is not criminalized.

This rou­tinized and required scrutiny of anti-Semitism and the full panoply of rights vio­la­tions is accom­pa­nied by increased aware­ness and enhanced engage­ment by America’s diplo­mats.  And we know that under­stand­ing the nature and mag­ni­tude of a prob­lem  is an essen­tial jump­ing off point for pre­ven­tion. When there is data, there is aware­ness; where there is aware­ness, there can be action.

 

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January 21, 2014 0

That’s So Gay’: Language That Hurts, and How to Stop It

The phrase “that’s so gay” has per­sisted as a way for stu­dents to describe things they do not like, find annoy­ing or gen­er­ally want to put down, while it is promis­ing that fewer stu­dents are hear­ing homo­pho­bic slurs than in pre­vi­ous years.

The phrase is used so com­monly that many stu­dents no longer rec­og­nize it as homo­pho­bic because it is “what every­one says.” When edu­ca­tors and other adults inter­vene, com­mon stu­dent responses include “I was just jok­ing,” “I don’t mean actual ‘gay peo­ple’ when I say ‘that’s so gay’” and “My friend is gay, and she doesn’t mind.”

This year marks the 10th anniver­sary of the Gay, Les­bian & Straight Edu­ca­tion Net­work (GLSEN) No Name-Calling Week. In its 2011 National School Cli­mate Sur­vey, GLSEN’s find­ings remind us of the work that still needs to be done.

  • 84.9% of stu­dents heard “gay” used in a neg­a­tive way (e.g., “that’s so gay”) fre­quently or often at school, and 91.4% reported that they felt dis­tressed because of this language
  • 71.3% heard other homo­pho­bic remarks (e.g., “dyke” or “fag­got”) fre­quently or often
  • 61.4% heard neg­a­tive remarks about gen­der expres­sion (not act­ing “mas­cu­line enough” or “fem­i­nine enough”) fre­quently or often

These kinds of responses rep­re­sent the slip­pery nature of bias and how eas­ily youth can reflect larger social atti­tudes about dif­fer­ence. Biased lan­guage, when it isn’t checked, can esca­late to harsher behav­ior like bul­ly­ing, and may con­tribute to an emo­tion­ally, and poten­tially phys­i­cally, unsafe school environment.

Here are three things adults should con­sider when inter­ven­ing against biased language:

  1. Assume good will. Bias is per­va­sive, and in all like­li­hood a stu­dent is unknow­ingly reflect­ing a bias they heard from peers, the media or fam­ily mem­bers. The stu­dent will likely be open to feed­back and dia­logue. If they do not believe LGBT peo­ple should be mis­treated, their lan­guage should reflect that.
  2. Stay focused, and do not allow your­self to be immo­bi­lized by uncer­tainty or the enor­mity of the topic. Inter­ven­ing in homo­pho­bic remarks does not require a dis­cus­sion about sex­u­al­ity or the his­tory of anti-LGBT slurs. It is about using lan­guage appro­pri­ately and in a way that shows respect for diversity.
  3. Be clear about the bias behind the words. Good peo­ple some­times say cruel things. It doesn’t mat­ter if the stu­dent didn’t intend to be homo­pho­bic, because a neg­a­tive com­ment about any group has the poten­tial to hurt indi­vid­u­als and whole com­mu­ni­ties. While inter­ven­ing doesn’t require a dis­cus­sion about sex­u­al­ity or teach­ing about the his­tory of LGBT peo­ple and/or slurs, the teacher may decide that some class­room instruc­tion in these areas is useful.

 

For more resources, visit ADL’s addi­tional resource page and Cur­ricu­lum Con­nec­tions to down­load Unheard Sto­ries: LGBT His­tory cur­ricu­lum resource.

 

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