Ask me if I’d rather have the bad or good news first and I’ll pick the bad, every time. (Hello and welcome to the Evening Wrap.) I just prefer to deal with the worst bits of my day before I enjoy the better ones, you know? But I’m flipping the script today. Even the gloomiest among us need a respite from the deluge sometimes.
The Big Takeaway
So here’s the good news: Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Thursday signed a bill expanding the state’s civil rights law to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The ceremony capped decades of work by advocates and lawmakers, who began trying to enshrine LGBTQ+ rights in the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act when it was first enacted in 1976, the Michigan Advance reported.
“This moment is so long overdue, and too many suffered on the journey to get here,” said state Sen. Jeremy Moss, a Democrat and the lead sponsor of the bill. “For them and for us, this day has finally arrived: Equal protection under the law.”
The legislation, approved with bipartisan support in both the state House and Senate, essentially codifies a 2022 decision from the state Supreme Court that deemed discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity as unconstitutional. Whitmer’s signature ensures that LGBTQ+ protections will never depend on the whims of the judiciary, according to Attorney General Dana Nessel, the first openly gay official elected to statewide office in Michigan.
“We’re … well aware that court decisions can change depending on the composition of the jurists,” she said. “They can change at any time, and the LGBTQ+ community deserves to — at long last — see the words ‘sexual orientation, gender identity and expression’ printed in black and white in our statutes.”
The day unfolded very differently in Iowa as Republicans approved a bill to prevent transgender students from using school bathrooms and locker rooms that align with their gender identity. Five Republicans joined with Democrats to vote against the measure, which cleared the House just eight days after a proposed ban on gender-affirming care for minors. Both passed by the same margin: 57-39, per the Iowa Capital Dispatch.
“When will this relentless attack on transgender children end?” asked Courtney Reyes, executive director of One Iowa Action. “It wasn’t enough to strip them of medically necessary care or prevent teachers from talking about them; now, the House has decided to police their restroom usage via the attorney general. We think the attorney general has better things to do than check up on children’s bathroom habits.”
The bill is the same old story — a discriminatory measure that vilifies transgender children in the name of protecting cisgender children. Schools can theoretically provide alternative accommodations for students who don’t feel comfortable using the bathroom that aligns with their sex assigned at birth, but the legislation requires parents to initiate that step, effectively leaving no option for trans kids who aren’t out to their families. It’s an extreme remedy for an imaginary problem that depicts transgender kids as some sort of inherent threat to their classrooms, said state Rep. Elinor Levin, an Iowa City Democrat.
“We are accepting the false narrative that there is a problem, so that we can sweep in and be heroes — all the while disregarding that our trans kids are the ones who face harassment, and even violence, as a result,” she said.
Republicans said they feel for any transgender kids who feel uneasy using a bathroom that doesn’t correspond to their gender identity. They just don’t care quite as much about that as they care about the potential uneasiness among other children — specifically, the ones in “at least” six different school districts whose parents all called the same state lawmaker to demand legislative action. That coalition is the reason that state Rep. Steven Holt introduced the bill in the first place, according to state Rep. Steven Holt.
“Now, I do understand and empathize with a child who may not feel comfortable using a bathroom of their biological sex,” said Holt, a Republican who probably does not understand the definition of “empathy.” “Accommodations should be made when possible to keep that child comfortable as they change or use the restroom. However, that cannot be done, or should not be done, at the expense of the privacy and safety of our daughters.”
Besides, he added, just because something hasn’t happened doesn’t mean it won’t happen. Sure, no one’s ever accused transgender Iowans of inappropriate bathroom conduct — but who’s to say they never will? Not you! Not even parents of children in “at least” six different school districts!
“I’m not interested in waiting until the child is raped in a restroom by someone pretending to be transgender,” Holt said. “I think it is important that we get this done.”
Kentucky Republicans were even more useless on Thursday, rejecting a scaled-back version of an anti-trans bill in favor of an expanded, extra-bigoted edition they’d cobbled together last-minute in a hastily convened committee meeting. The legislation bans all gender-affirming care for minors, prohibits all classroom discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity, gives teachers permission to misgender their students, and requires schools to enact policies to prevent transgender kids from using the restroom that corresponds with their gender identities, among other things, per the Kentucky Lantern.
Republicans plowed ahead with the bill despite testimony from physicians, experts, mental health professionals, parents and transgender people, who explained repeatedly and at length the many ways the policy would harm children across Kentucky. They pushed the policy even though the vast majority of their constituents had no interest in the policy. (Doesn’t matter — it’s “the right thing to do,” said state Rep. David Meade.) Their shamelessness withstood protesters in the Senate gallery Thursday, who cried, “You’re all murderers!” after the vote; it did not waver despite repeated pleas from state Sen. Karen Berg, a Louisville Democrat whose transgender son died by suicide in December.
“It’s not that you haven’t had time to learn,” Berg said Thursday. “My child came up here 10 years ago. You had time to understand the science. You had time to get yourself educated on this subject. This is absolute, willful, intentional hate – hate for a small group of people that are the weakest and the most vulnerable among us.”
The bill heads next to Gov. Andy Beshear, who will likely veto it. (“I believe the medical decisions for all of our youth, including our transgender youth, ought to be made by their families,” he said this week.) But it probably won’t matter. Republicans have the votes to override him, and they’ll be back in session at the end of the month.
Something to look forward to: Georgia House OKs bill to limit transgender care for minors as GOP prevails in party-line vote … Kansas lawmakers classify women born with sexual development issues as disabled in revised bill … (New Hampshire) Senate passes controversial parental rights bill, sending it to House … Texas AG Ken Paxton pushes court to reconsider injunction halting investigations into affirming care
State of Our Democracy
Far-right Republicans in Arizona would like voters to reject a ballot initiative to implement ranked-choice voting because ranked-choice voting is way too complicated for those voters to understand. Also, it’s a scam. Also, it would delay election results, and those already take forever, which is a brand-new problem in Arizona!
“It makes no sense that we’d be moving towards such a complicated voting system at a time when confidence in our system is already, understandably, at a low,” said state Sen. Justine Wadsack, a Tucson Republican and, coincidentally, co-sponsor of a bill that would ban ranked-choice voting. “It’s already incomprehensibly and routinely taking some states, including Arizona, weeks to count votes and determine our winners.”
All right, let’s back up a bit. Arizona, like most states, uses a winner-take-all election system, where whichever candidate receives a majority of the votes is declared the winner, per the Arizona Mirror. (In Arizona, that victory also frees the candidate from the responsibility of disputing their loss via baseless lawsuits.) In a ranked-choice voting system, voters number the candidates in order of preference from 1 to 5. If a candidate receives a majority of first-place rankings, they win. If no one clears that threshold, the lowest-ranking candidate is dropped, and a second round of counting begins. In that round, voters who ranked the losing candidate first have their votes redirected to their second choice. The process continues until one of the candidates receives 50% or more of the first-place votes.
It takes too long to explain, but it’s not really that complicated, and it doesn’t really take longer than traditional ballot tabulation. But Republicans still think there’s something fishy about it. For example, posited state Sen. Anthony Kern, if voters don’t rank five candidates, how will their votes go to the candidate they really wanted to vote for? They won’t! And that’s election fraud and voter disenfranchisement and probably some other buzzwords he just did not get around to mentioning!
“Many voters in states where ranked-choice voting is allowed only rank their top two choices,” he said. “The reality is that ranked-choice voting is designed in such a way that it may not always result in the candidate with the most first-choice votes winning an election.”
Obviously, this makes no sense — if you rank a candidate first, that candidate gets your vote. But that doesn’t guarantee that your first-place candidate makes it past the first round, because you’re just one vote. (Election integrity!) And sure, voters can choose to rank less than five candidates — but that’s a choice, not disenfranchisement. When that happens, it’s usually because a voter doesn’t like five candidates, not because they can’t grasp the concept of ranking that many.
“It’s saying you can’t go to the grocery store and make a choice of five different products,” said Chuck Coughlin, head of a consulting firm that’s partnered with nonprofit Save Democracy Arizona, which is aiming to put the voting system on the 2024 ballot. “It underestimates how voters think.”
So what’s the real reason the far-right is so against ranked-choice voting? Politics, obviously. The far-right exists solely because of hyperpartisan primary contests, where candidates try to out-Trump each other in hopes of capturing the QAnon vote (an excellent political strategy, given the QAnon vote’s record in general elections). Ranked-choice voting dilutes that partisanship, thereby threatening the faction’s survival.
“They win in primaries,” Coughlin said. “And they want to keep it that way.”
Just let us win, geez: (Florida) House OKs massive voucher program; Dems call it a ‘huge privatization’ for FL’s education system … (Kansas) Senate Republicans, Democrats plunge into weeds for rules scuffle on education funding bill … (Maryland) Legislative roundup: Senate passes bill lifting restrictions on child sex abuse lawsuits, health subsidy and campus gambling bills advance … Jan. 6 attendee spends month in Wisconsin campaigning for Kelly … (Wisconsin) Bill removes ineligible voters from state database; clerks say it makes election security harder
From The Newsrooms
One Last Thing
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