Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Utah Picked the Wrong Crisis: Porn

A Utah state senator is grabbing conservative attention by reiterating its (predominantly) Mormon religion's stance against pornography. Governor Gary Herbert signed a bill just this week that took only a couple months from announcement to unanimous approval in the house, to signing.

The bill merely declares pornography a "public health crisis", and will issue requests to businesses to block pornographic sites on their public internet Wifi. Supporters of the bill wish to decry the "evil, addictive, and harmful nature" of porn, and protect children from coming across it.

This move is ironic considering the other major sex-related problems in the state: STDs are on the rise hitting records, and public school sex-education is opt-in only--something Mormon parents in Utah wouldn't do.

Related is BYU's Honor Code policy that essentially punishes students that wish to file a claim for rape or sexual assault. A student may confide that he/she was assaulted, but almost all claims are forwarded to the Honor Code Office. And the Honor Code office almost always punishes the victim for violating the Honor Code, even if the assault is investigated. The strict policies can kick out students that are found having the opposite gender in their living areas after curfew, having sex before marriage, or using drugs or alcohol. For fear of punishment for participating in any of these unrelated activities before the assault, victims are usually dissuaded from reporting the crime--emboldening assailants.

Kids in Utah--if they're lucky enough to have parents sign the permission slip that lets them enter the sex-education class--are subjected to an "abstinence-based" curriculum. Abstinence has been long known as the worst method of conveying sexual safety. Utah teachers are not allowed to mention condoms (let alone provide them), methods of contraception, or bring up anything related to homosexuality or transgender.

With no formal discussion on how to prevent teenage pregnancies or STIs, and with only the statement "don't have sex" looming in a teen's mind, all a kid can do is contemplate doing exactly what they are told not to.

Harmful forms of pornography are rare--by harmful, I mean promotes violent and unsafe sexual activities. At least viewing pornography is the one sexual activity that does not have any chance of contracting an STI or impregnating a woman. The ROOT of the problem (teen pregnancies, STIs, harmful porn) is a lack of comprehensive sex-education. Why doesn't Utah have it? The state legislature thinks it's icky, and parents are not doing a proper job preparing their children for potential sexual activity.

Morals and standards aside, most kids will dabble in something sexual before getting married. Without the knowledge that condoms and contraceptives are safe practices to avoid getting pregnant or an STI, kids are going to get pregnant and STIs. This isn't just kids either. The lack of education carries on into adulthood. It would take "learning the hard way" for many adults to realize how to prevent such unwanted consequences.

Parents in Utah are usually Mormon, and usually hammering on their kids to not have sex--sex is bad, and only "just ok" after marriage. Even then, it's only purpose is to make babies. When a kid has questions about sex, it's usually a conversation that begins and ends with "don't do it--stay abstinent". Such sheltering and suppression in teens that have unbearable sexual feelings almost always end in an all-out rebellion. Finding the raunchiest porn (since it's the least "sinful" sex action), to masturbation, to sexual experimentation without protection.

The crisis here is not pornography. It's only a result. And not even the big issue. Parents are the issue. Parents and the Utah legislature are preventing the only known methods of statistically reducing the chances of unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections. And what happens when there are fewer unwanted pregnancies? Fewer abortions! If a conservative hates abortions so much, then it would seem reasonable to support education that helps reduce the pregnancies that usually result in abortions.

But again, the Mormon ruled land will do as the Mormon leaders say without thinking for itself. Declaring porn as a public health crisis will give people a few warm fuzzies. But it won't solve anything, and certainly doesn't address the root of the problems that the LDS culture continues to ignore.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

SLC Mayor Biskupski Bans City Travel to NC, MS; Invites Business to Relocate to SLC

Newly elected SLC Mayor Jackie Biskupski has issued an executive order banning any newly planned city sponsored trips to either Mississippi or North Carolina, both states who have signed in laws that have banned protections for LGBT, emboldened discrimination in the workplace, or force trans individuals to use the public bathrooms of their gender at birth.

Biskupski states that SLC is inclusive, and the Utah's anti-discrimination law passed last year has the backing of the LDS church, known for its anti-LGBT policies. The mayor says she wants to lead cities for change in providing equality and safety. Any measures against this cause, like in MS and NC are for political reasons and aren't good for those states.

Biskupski invites businesses in those states to move to Utah, and has or will send specific invites to particular major companies, like PayPal. Although these anti-gay laws are unfortunate, Biskupski says that our forward thinking in Utah will give us an economic advantage.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Tennessee Trying to Mimic NC's Bathroom Bill

Tennessee has on Gov. Bill Haslam's desk a new legislation that would be similar to the "bathroom bill" of North Carolina. Under everyone's noses, and expedited with special sessions, North Carolina became one of the first states to undermine LGBT progress with a sweeping bill that eliminates all local conflicting laws. But North Carolina's law didn't stop there--in addition to requiring all citizens to use the bathroom of their birth gender (no neutral bathrooms allowed), it "Trojan-horsed" wording that prevents employees from using state courts to battle discrimination laws. Employees can still use the federal courts, but access to them is much more difficult. The result is less protections from discrimination for LGBT, race, religion, etc.

Before signing the bill, Gov. Haslam of Tennessee is considering the warnings of his Attorney General--those of losing federal funds for public schooling since the bathroom bill would undermine federal law that protects LGBT people. In addition, like in many other states, several large companies, like Disney, Delta, NFL, and Coca-Cola have threatened boycotting a state that induces discrimination by law.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Mississippi Signs in Next Anti-LGBT Law

Mississippi governor's mansion

Mississippi Governor Bryant signed a new law "protecting the already existing rights of religious people to express their deeply-held beliefs". The new law prevents the government from punishing religious organizations, charities, and private business owners for denying employment, products or services to people that disagree with their religion.

The law also permits religious people to cite their religion as a reason to discriminate any person.

From Gov. Phil Bryant:
“I am signing HB 1523 into law to protect sincerely held religious beliefs and moral convictions of individuals, organizations and private associations from discriminatory action by state government or its political subdivisions, which would include counties, cities and institutions of higher learning. This bill merely reinforces the rights which currently exist to the exercise of religious freedom as stated in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This bill doe snot limit any constitutionally protected rights or actions of any citizen of this state under federal or state laws. It does not attempt to challenge federal laws, even those which are in conflict with the Mississippi Constitution, as the Legislature recognizes the prominence of federal law in such limited circumstances.The legislation is designed in the most targeted manner possible to prevent government interference in the lives of the people from which all power to the state is derived.”
From the American Civil Liberties Union:
"This is a sad day for the state of Mississippi and for the thousands of Mississippians who can now be turned away from businesses, refused marriage licenses, or denied housing, essential services and needed care based on who they are. This bill flies in the face of the basic American principles of fairness, justice and equality and will not protect anyone's religious liberty. Far from protecting anyone from 'government discrimination' as the bill claims, it is an attack on the citizens of our state, and it will serve as the Magnolia State's badge of shame."