5 Things That Happened While You Were Out: June 15, 2020

It was a gorgeous weekend, wasn’t it CivMixers? I hope everyone got out and got to enjoy the beautiful weather a bit on either day. It should be nice for a bit longer before the upstate N.Y. heat and humidity of the summer returns full force.

We are halfway through June, and it feels crazy that is the case. I am glad, but also exhausted. My daughter and I are sick of each other at this point, having spent more time together than usual due to COVID-19. Also, with a lack of playground access – until now – there has been no reprieve from the stay-at-home-mom gig.

So, shout out to my stay-at-home moms, it has been a long and trying time for all of us.

As we advance through the Phases and more things open, I hope that it will continue to get better for everyone. As for the unrest throughout our nation that is ongoing – please know that in the iconic words of Lin-Manuel Miranda, “This is not a moment, it’s a movement.”

It is going to continue for a while until meaningful change occurs. If you are burnt out, take a break from social media, detox, chill, hang with your loved ones, but know that it is not going away anytime soon.

Let’s break down the news of the day.

1) The LGBTQ community won a significant victory from the conservative-leaning U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled 6-3 that the rights of gay and transgender people are indeed protected by Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

This ruling was a blow to the Trump administration, and one of the most significant verdicts in favor of equal rights for the LGBTQ community since SCOTUS ruled to legalize a nationwide recognition of same-sex marriage back in 2015. The four liberal judges were joined in the affirmative by two conservatives on the court, Chief Justice John Roberts and 2017 Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch. Gorsuch wrote the deciding opinion.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 Title VII protects employees from discrimination by employers based on race, color, national origin, sex, and religion. According to the decision, discriminating against a gay or transgender employee can not be done unless they are being discriminated against by sex as well, which is a listed protected class in Title VII.

The ruling stemmed from three separate cases – a gay rights case from Georgia, a gay rights case from New York, and a transgender rights case originating in Michigan – and it is the harbinger of new federal protections for LGBTQ workers. Twenty-eight states to this day lack any such protections, and it is legal in those states to discriminate against members of that community – until today, that is.

Gorsuch agreed with the opposition and the Trump administration, who claimed the authors of Title VII did not necessarily intend for it to protect members of the LGBTQ community.

However, Gorsuch wrote, intent did not matter in this case, and what has to be followed is the actual text of the law. According to the majority, any employer who discriminates against an employee because of certain traits/actions related to gender or sexual preference violates the heart of Title VII.

“An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex. Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids.”

-Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch writing for the majority

The opinion goes on to state that employers discriminating against gay employees are intentionally punishing them for their sexual preferences and judging them for acting in ways that would not be questioned if they were attracted to members of the opposite sex. It also clarifies that the same theory applies for trans employees, as it is judging them by the sex they were assigned at birth as opposed to the one with which they identify.

Dissenting were the conservative justices – Samuel Alito, Brett Kavanaugh (another Trump appointee), and Clarence Thomas. Alito, who wrote the dissent, claimed that with this ruling, the court was overstepping its boundaries by legislating and had effectively re-written the law.

Trump has spent much of his administration undoing the gains for which the LGBTQ community fought and won over the past decade. The latest attack came just last week when healthcare protections for trans people were lifted. Neither the U.S. Department of Justice nor the White House have commented on today’s decision yet.

2) There has already been a lot of drama in 2020 elections throughout the country, and we haven’t enough gotten through the primaries yet. We have seen long lines at polling places in Wisconsin and missing absentee ballots in Maryland and Pennsylvania, and even in the District of Columbia. Last week Nevada joined Georgia in experiencing long lines and many outspoken frustrated voters.

The primary process thus fas has shed light on the often outdated, always overtaxed system in the U.S. of voting, which was further exacerbated by the global coronavirus pandemic. It remains unclear how many of these problems can be fixed before the November general election.

In Georgia, some poll site workers – those who didn’t refuse to show out of fear of contracting COVID-19 – did not know how to operate new equipment, while others ran out of backup emergency ballots. Many who wanted to vote by mail, due to the ongoing pandemic, never got a ballot in the first place. Some people showed up only to be told they had already voted, but they had not.

At some Georgia poll sites, voters waited until after midnight to be able to vote. State officials say they expected more people to vote by mail than did, which added to the confusion.

Election officials across the nation are watching and hoping that they can fix some of these issues in the five months until Election Day 2020, but the major party leaders and lawmakers are fighting over the best way to do that. Generally speaking, the Democrats want to send everyone mail-in ballots, while the Republicans generally would prefer to only send the application for absentee ballots.

3) In East Syracuse, Spirit & Sanzone has been around for a century, and has grown to one of Central New York’s largest, oldest, and most popular beer distributors.

It has now shut down and sold its lines to the Onondaga Beverage Co. in the Onondaga and Cortland areas and to McCraith Beverage in Utica, Rome, the Adirondacks, and the Mohawk Valley areas.

On June 1, the state Labor Department received a notice from Spirit & Sanzone, stating that they had laid off 64 employees as a result of plant and warehouse closures.

4) The state Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association and the State Police are currently investigating an incident that occurred on June 5 in the Greene Correctional Facility, during which an inmate allegedly attackeda female officer.

The inmate is said to have trapped the officer in a supply closet, taking both her body cam and emergency radio so she could not call for help. The officer was then allegedly repeatedly punched in the face and thrown against the wall, as well as kneed in the inner thigh.

According to NYSCOPBA, other inmates overheard the attack and stepped in to stop it. The officer’s alarm did activate, which brought law enforcement to the scene as well. When they got there, the inmate would not comply with their demands and was detained after pepper spray proved ineffectual on him.

The inmate in question is now in a maximum-security prison. He was serving a five-year sentence after being found guilty for attempted murder in the Bronx.

The offer was treated for a cut that required stitches above her lip and severe bruising on her inner thigh. As of now, she is unable to return to work.

5) Bryn Phillips, 17, went missing from Rochester on Saturday. The teen, who has been diagnosed as autistic, was seen last at approximately 5:30 a.m. on Saturday, June 13, on Rosemount Street.

She is 5’6” and around 140 pounds. She has brown hair and eyes, and last was known to be wearing a teal sweatshirt (or fleece) and boots that were black and white with music notes on them.

If you have any information on Bryn Phillips’s whereabouts, please call 911 immediately. That is all for today. Stay steady, stay strong, stay safe.

Stay woke.

Photo credit: George Fazio.

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