Community Palette

The Hobby Lobby Contraception Case and the Rights of LGBT Individuals

April 3, 2014

While it may not be obvious at first glance, there is a clear intersection between the Hobby Lobby case on contraception now being decided by the Supreme Court and the rights of LGBT individuals. If the Supreme Court accepts that a business owner has the right to pick and choose what contraception they will cover for their employees based on their own religious beliefs, the obvious next step is to allow that business owner to determine which customers they will serve based on their religious beliefs.

One person making these arguments in the name of "religious freedom" and supporting ultra-right wing organizations that are promoting them is University of Virginia Law Professor Douglas Laycock. The simple form of the argument that appeals to some is if you don't like the health care your employer is offering, work somewhere else; or if the business doesn't want to serve you, just shop somewhere else.

One would have thought that we settled the issue of whether a business could serve you with the public accommodations decisions related to the United States Constitution. However, Laycock was one of the signers of a recent letter to Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona asking her to sign SB 1062, the bill that was considered to be rabidly anti-gay and would have allowed businesses to not serve gay people. The Bill Laycock support was opposed by, among others, both of Arizona's Republican United States Senators, and even some of those in the Arizona legislature who admitted they didn't understand the bill and its ramifications when they passed it. The letter Laycock signed supported the purposeful misreading of the bill stated in the sentiment of Alliance Defending Freedom senior Council Doug Napier who said:

The government has no business telling its citizens what they can't say or what they must say, and it must be prevented from punishing its citizens for their ideas and beliefs as has occurred to people in other states. That's all SB 1062 is about.

Laycock is a supporter of both the Alliance Defending Freedom -- a right-wing, anti-gay organization that helped craft Arizona's SB 1062 bill, as well as being one of the top lawyers for The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a right-wing group supporting the owners of the Hobby Lobby store and their court case. In that case what Laycock is supporting while he may couch his views in fancy legal terms is the right of the owners of Hobby Lobby to determine which contraceptive devices they will include in the health insurance they are making available for their employees in contrast to the requirements of the Affordable Care Act, which guarantees access to coverage for all approved FDA contraceptive devices. Walter Dellinger, acting Solicitor General in the Clinton administration explains in an op-ed in the Washington Post that the result of what the owners of Hobby Lobby are asking to do is, "Selectively denying insurance coverage for contraceptive methods an employer considers sinful effectively makes the employer a party to a woman's medical consultations."

Individuals like Laycock are often insidious. They claim to want people to have rights such as marriage-equality, and then at the same time attempt to create a legal loophole for discrimination to thwart full equality for LGBT people. They use a freedom of religion argument to create the legal opportunity to undermine the fight for full and inclusive equality for LGBT people in our society. It is clear that the use of these legal loopholes must concern both the LGBT community and those who support a woman's right to control her own health care.

There is another issue that needs to be focused on with regard to Laycock. He happens to be the husband of University of Virginia (UVA) President Teresa A. Sullivan. I support his right to his views. But some consider his efforts to be questionable because he is paid by the University of Virginia, a public university using taxpayer dollars. Be that as it may what I want to know is where the president of the University of Virginia stands on these issues that her husband is a leading spokesperson for. The University of Virginia continues its effort to promote an "LGBT friendly" brand for the university and campus. In recent years, efforts at UVA to hire a full-time LGBT program coordinator have increased the university's standing to 3.5 out of 5 stars on the Campus Pride organization's "LGBT friendly equality ratings index." It is my understanding that the university has yet to speak out on the efforts of the president's spouse to promote these anti-LGBT and anti-woman positions. It would be appropriate for President Sullivan to separate herself and the University from her husband's positions if she doesn't agree with them or feels that the university must not be attached to such positions.

If she doesn't do that one has to question her values and how they impact the students at the university and it is something that donors and alumni should be made aware of.

This article was first published in Huffington Post.


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The Alexandria Harmonizers Chorus: A Wonderful Surprise

March 23, 2014

The Alexandria Harmonizers Chorus is a chapter of the Society for Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America. Like me, before I went to their performance, I am sure this description may have already turned you off. I used to equate barber shop quartets with four guys singing old songs in colorful jackets and straw hats.

The Alexandria Harmonizers (Photo by: Peter Rosenstein) The Alexandria Harmonizers

Then I want to the A CA Challenge last Saturday night at the Lincoln Theatre and I will never think of them the same way again. Six a cappella groups competed for a $1,000 cash prize and it was one of the most fun times I spent in the theater in a long time. The first half of the show was the competition and the second half was a stunning performance by the Alexandria Harmonizers. Over the years this group has won regional championships 24 times and Gold medals in International Championships four times. They are the best of the best at what they do and they keep you mesmerized with their singing. Great credit must be given to their director Joe Cerutti who is also musical director and president of the board of “No Borders Music Consort” which has organized a 100 person youth chorus from around the world to sing at New York City’s Carnegie Hall each year on December 26th.

 The competitors in the A CA Challenge (Photo by: Peter Rosenstein) The competitors in the A CA Challenge

I was invited to the show by the producer, Ken Rub. Ken is a longtime friend, member of the Harmonizers, and a well-respected realtor in what some call his full time job. But clearly producing this show was full-time. The six groups competing ranged from college groups like the GW Vibes and UMW Symfonics to the Chromatics who are older and part of a group that first began as the OK Chorale formed at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. They were all incredibly talented and but even though they came in 3rd it was the lead singer in the last of the three songs performed by the GW Vibes that brought the house down. She clearly should try out for the VOICE or American Idol.

If you are like me and were tuned out to a group like the Harmonizers I urge you to take either a first or second look at them. They perform around the metro area, have performed around the world and have been invited to perform at the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day landings on the beaches of Normandy. Take a look at their website for more information.

There are so many things to do in D.C. these days that it is hard to keep up. We have become a great award-winning theater town and a wonderful music venue. The Lincoln Theater is now going through another renaissance along with ‘U’ street and is being run by the same group that manages the 9:30 Club. We can look forward to a lot more great music and other productions being presented there.


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Routeam Helps People Live Healthier, More Well-Balanced Lives

March 4, 2014

A new online company designed to help you get fit, eat healthier, and in general live a more well-balanced life has emerged in the D.C. Metro area. It is called Routeam and is the brainchild of two young healthy-lifestyle fanatics and entrepreneurs Dustin Canter and Andrew Conklin. I chatted with them and learned they began exploring the idea in 2011 and its taken time to get it up and running. They experimented with different options to make it easier for clients to connect with opportunities to make their lives better.

They now have the formula for success. Routeam works with both individuals and businesses and the goal is the same; helping people live healthier, happier lives. The genesis of Routeam was understanding that many people in D.C. don’t have the connections or a plan to achieve that healthier life. They may not have a circle of friends who work out at a gym or a partner to go to yoga classes with. Routeam can connect you with people who share your goals and their coaches will help you achieve them.

It’s easy to join Routeam as an individual and at no cost answer a number of questions about yourself and what you think your fitness and life goals are. If you are simply looking for a fitness program or instructor then can connect you. Dustin explained they can help “Those who want a heavy duty workout that causes them to sweat and others who maybe just want to glisten”. Routeam understands that often people who want to live better and healthier lives need that little bit of help and encouragement and their coaches are there to do that.

Currently over 500 individuals have set goals on Routeam and there are numerous trainers, yoga instructors, gyms, and other facilities and individuals who are part of Routeam ready to help them achieve those goals. Richard Blumenreich, a principal with KPMG said, “I love Routeam. I have lofty health and fitness goals, but not the drive to get there by myself.  After wasting money on many unused gym memberships, I turned to Routeam and finally I am attaining my goals. Routeam is the best health and fitness organization I have ever belonged to.  I plan to continue my relationship with them for a long time.”

Routeam also works with businesses to help their employees’ live healthier lives which in turn make them more productive employees. A real win-win situation.  They develop classes for employees at lunch or other convenient times and then encourage those employees to use their website to find additional classes and activities outside of the office.  One employer that found Routeam productive for them and their employees is the Kaiser Medical Center on Capitol Hill. Marta K. Cookson, the Manager of Regional Wellness Programs in the regional office of Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Mid-Atlantic States, Inc. said,"Routeam positively impacted our Capitol Hill Medical Center staff to become healthier employees and I have now decided to share with our other Mid-Atlantic worksites this workplace health program.”

This could be a great opportunity for the many businesses in the District. Law firms or other stress inducing businesses could join with Routeam to provide something positive for their employees at really minimum cost. They can track the increased productivity and satisfaction of their employees. Routeam is all about making people’s quality of life better.

Their approach isn’t to build another brick and mortar place but to connect people with the facilities that already exist in every neighborhood. They help make the connections you want and need to achieve the level of fitness you want that will ultimately help you reach your goals in life. Joining a gym is great for many people and we have some of the best in the nation including options like VIDA and the LA Connection. But those gyms aren’t the place for everyone and Routeam wants to help each person to develop the fitness routine and healthy lifestyle that suits them best. That could be anything from a morning dance or yoga class near work to a personal trainer on weekends. They can help you find a group to go hiking or swimming and do it at times convenient to you. To find out more about Routeam you can go to their website or email dustin@routeam.com.


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