Over 300 names were read at the Transgender Day of Remembrance.
WRITTEN BY READING EAGLE
READING, PA —
The names of more than 300 transgender people from around the world who were killed in the last year were read Tuesday night at Calvary Reformed United Church of Christ in Reading.
Dozens of people turned out for the ninth annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, a nationwide event held to commemorate transgender men and women killed.
Ben M. Renkus, president of the Reading PRIDE Celebration, said this year's remembrance has taken on an even greater importance locally because groups have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to halt the Boyertown School District's transgender bathroom and locker room policy.
“Now is not the time to sit back and accept what is happening,” Renkus said. “Now is the time to be visible and active.”
Tuesday's event highlighted the names and faces of 22 transgender people killed in the United States this year.
Among the victims remembered was Shantee Tucker, 30, who was shot and killed in Philadelphia on Sept. 5.
Two organizations want the high court to hear an appeal of a prior ruling upholding the rules allowing students to use bathrooms and locker rooms of the gender with which they identify.
WRITTEN BY HOLLY HERMAN
Two groups representing former and current Boyertown High School students asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday to halt a policy allowing transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms of the gender with which they identify.
Alliance Defending Freedom, an Arizona-based advocate of the Christian right, and Independence Law Center, a Harrisburg civil rights legal organization, asked the nation's highest court to hear an appeal of the federal court ruling upholding the Boyertown School District's transgender policy.
The U.S. District Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit in July denied a request for the entire court to rehear a case in which three members of the appeals court upheld Boyertown's transgender policy.
The landmark case began in March 2017 when a Boyertown High School student and his parents filed a federal lawsuit accusing the school district of violating the student's privacy rights when he was involuntarily exposed to a transgender student who was born female undressing in the boys locker room.
The student said that on Oct. 31, 2016, he witnessed a transgender female without a shirt on in the boys locker room. Five other students and their parents joined the case.
In August 2017, a federal judge upheld the policy, rejecting arguments by six current and former Boyertown students that the policy violates a legal right to privacy.
Attorney John Bursch, an Alliance Defending Freedom lawyer representing the students, on Monday said that the 3rd Circuit appeals ruling should be reversed.
“Everyone should be able to agree that students struggling with their beliefs about gender need compassionate support,” Bursch said. “But there are sound reasons why schools have always separated male and female teenagers in showers, restrooms and locker rooms.
“No student's recognized right to bodily privacy should be made contingent on what other students believe about their own gender.”
After a 90-minute hearing in May, the three-judge panel ruled from the bench that the Boyertown policy to allow transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice was in accordance with law.
After the ruling, Ria Mar, an ACLU attorney representing the Youth Congress, a Harrisburg nonprofit that advocates for LGBQ youth, said the decision was correct.
“I think the court recognized that inclusion of transgender students is not only the right thing to do, but it's the legally correct thing to do,” Mar said. “We're thrilled.”
On Monday, Randall Wenger, chief counsel of the Independence Law Center, countered that students should not be required to use bathrooms with students of the opposite sex.
“No student should be forced into an intimate setting — like a locker room or shower — with someone of the opposite sex,” Wenger said.
Saturday November 17, 2018
Agency that aids ex-inmates has its work cut out for it.
Thank you for the article on Berks Connections/Pretrial Services ("Agents of change," Nov. 15). The organization has an uphill battle. In Michelle Alexander's masterful 2010 book "The New Jim Crow," she explains how the war on drugs has created a new caste system, noting, "More African Americans are under correctional control today than were enslaved in 1850."
Those imprisoned for even minor drug law infractions can become an outcast for life: losing voting rights and unable to get housing or employment or to serve on juries. And the war on drugs is directed squarely at minorities in urban centers, though drug use is evenly spread across racial and economic lines.
An important victory in the 2018 elections was the success of the massive project led by Desmond Meade of Orlando, Fla., for the Voting Rights Restoration for Felons Initiative movement, also known as Florida's Amendment 4. It was passed, which means citizens released from incarceration now can vote in Florida.
The Washington Post reported that overall, about 13 percent of African-Americans in the United States are locked out of the voting booth, though they are eligible to vote in Pennsylvania.
More must be done for former prisoners
Saturday November 17, 2018
Columnist wrong about what the people want in a leader.
Hugh Hewitt's Nov. 12 column ("Our combatant in chief") was way off-base. Hewitt argues that President Donald Trump will win re-election because nobody is better at "combative" than Trump.
If the midterm elections taught us anything, it's that voters want civility and compromise, not combativeness, conspiracy theories, lies and fear.
The Republicans would be wise to take a step back from Trump's approach to politics. After the midterms, a national survey included a list of issues that should be the Democrats' top priorities for 2020. It included health care, the environment, judicial nominations, civil rights and democracy.
The top priority on that list was democracy. Any Democrat considering a 2020 run for president should be working on a pro-democracy agenda. The United States has a low voter turnout for a reason. Our system - with workday elections, long voting lines and cumbersome registration rules - is designed to discourage mass participation. That same system once barred women, African-Americans and 18-year-olds, among others, from voting.
The system has changed before, and it can change again. But it won't change by combativeness.
Richard A. Weiherer
America doesn't need a combative president
Tuesday November 13, 2018
Promise to revoke birthright citizenship makes other abuses of power seem possible.
Changing the constitutional protection of birthright citizenship by executive order would be the work of a despot. What's next in the mind of President Donald Trump? Suspend habeas corpus so he can lock up Hillary Clinton and other political opponents? Forced relocation to internment camps of naturalized American citizens and legal immigrants of non-European descent? Reinstitute the old sedition laws so he can prosecute individuals who voice or print what may be deemed to be malicious remarks about the president or government of the United States?
After his last press conference, we should not be surprised.
Editor's note: Frank is a Reading native.
Nothing Trump does should be a surprise
Monday November 12, 2018
Difficulties faced by Kutztown University students raise concerns.
It was frustrating to read "KU students say they were barred from voting" (Reading Eagle, Nov. 9). Whether the problem was the result of an error on the part of election officials or a voter suppression scheme, it illustrates why Pennsylvania needs to reform its voter registration and election systems. It should not be this hard to vote.
Our elected officials must make every effort to simplify the voter registration and election processes. Every eligible citizen should be allowed to cast a ballot without complications.
Election laws should promote voter engagement with no-excuse absentee ballots, early voting and same-day voter registration. The League of Women Voters of Berks County encourages everyone to contact their state legislators to demand a simplified registration and election system.
We feel for the students whose right to vote was denied on Election Day, and we feel their frustration about the confusing and complicated process. The league remains committed to its mission to assist and educate Berks County's voters. Kutztown University officials who acknowledge gaps in voter education can help by requiring that all students take a course in U.S. history or American government. We encourage all Berks colleges and universities to do the same.
Editor's note: Greene is president of the League of Women Voters of Berks County.
Registering, voting must be made easier
Friday November 9, 2018
Employers must do better at treating sexes equally when it comes to wages.
U.S. businesses can be very unfair when it comes to wages for men and women. Men and women should receive equal pay if they do the same work right. But according to the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality, men get paid about 20 percent more than women for doing the same work. According to nationalpartnership.org, women in Pennsylvania on average are paid 79 cents for every dollar men earn. Women of color get paid even less. For every dollar a man would earn on average, a Hispanic woman would get 56 cents, and African-American women would earn 68 cents to the dollar.
Women should earn the same amount as men. It is unfair that women who have children and families are not given the equality to provide for them. If the wage gap didn't exist, women who are employed would have an easier time living and being able to provide for themselves and their families.
America falls short on pay for women
Wednesday November 7, 2018
Slogan can be frightening or inspiring depending on how it is used.
Before he became the beloved Dr. Seuss, Theodor Geisel was a political cartoonist. A poster he created in 1940 depicts a fat man joined by a common beard to a thin man. On the fat man's chest is a swastika. On that of his twin is the motto "America First," a political movement that had as its figurehead Charles Lindbergh, a notorious anti-Semite and Nazi sympathizer.
The slogan "America First" has been used in various contexts for more than a century. At its best, it can reflect the noblest aspirations of our nation. At its darkest, it denotes xenophobia, racial hatred and white supremacy. It was used in the 1920s by President Warren G. Harding, who created the most corrupt regime in American history. Until now.
Now President Donald Trump's regime mixes corruption with cruelty. His "America First" is one of political tribalism and assault on the rule of law and the free press. He bellows this in a toxic stew of racially charged rhetoric and lies. His authoritarian traits can be found in abundance in the works of William Shakespeare. Read Stephen Greenblatt's book "Tyrant: Shakespeare on Politics." With such traits, fascism cannot be far behind.
We must affirm "America First" at its best. It must be America first in benevolence, in embracing the stranger, in welcoming the asylum seeker, in defending the rule of law and the press, in celebrating the rich, multicultural dimensions of American society. Only then can we make America great again.
Thomas B. Souders
Make America first in all the right ways
Tuesday November 6, 2018
Barrier unlikely to dissuade people from coming to U.S. for a better life.
Construction of a border wall is a beacon, not a barrier, to refugees and emigrants seeking a better life in America. It will stand as a compass heading to our neighbors. For me it symbolizes the ongoing dysfunction in neighboring countries and at home. I suggest that the millions spent on building walls and deploying troops does nothing permanent to address the needs of many seeking solace under the flag of our country.
We need to facilitate a conversation that seeks corrections that will rejuvenate our neighboring countries. We must remember that we are a nation built on immigration. The message is engraved on a plaque at the Statue of Liberty: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free."
There are so many stories of families whose call was answered by our nation's promises. So, let's not be the sad generation. Let's invest in understanding how all nations can be great and a home for those in need.
The Cold War was symbolized by a great wall dividing East and West Germany. As the Soviets found out, this was not a sustainable solution against those yearning for freedom and prosperity.
Wall is not solution to immigration issue
Friday November 2, 2018
Many make clear that they stand against hate.
Words alone cannot express the Jewish community's gratitude to the broader Berks County community for their support and presence at Tuesday evening's prayer vigil for the victims of the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. More than 800 people came out to express their shock and revulsion at this terrible hate crime. Today, when all too often, people are divided, it was amazing and of great importance to see our community stand united. The outpouring of support and comfort was a reminder that the Jewish community of Berks County does not stand alone.
On behalf of Reform Congregation Oheb Sholom, Kesher Zion Synagogue, the Chabad Center of Berks County and the Jewish Federation of Reading/Berks, may Tuesday's service be the last one necessary in any house of worship in our community or our world.
Rabbi Brian Michelson
Editor's note: Michelson is spiritual leader of Reform Congregation Oheb Sholom, Wyomissing.
Jewish community grateful for support