Jeff Sessions, Joe Biden and a Chance for History

Declining Opposition to Religiously Based Service Refusals
Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ ‘Religious Liberty Task Force’ has been “widely seen as an extreme anti-LGBT gesture—a continuation of the Trump administration’s use of ‘religious liberty’ as a way to push back on growing public support for LGBT equality,” reports Samantha Allen for The Daily Beast. However, a new PRRI poll indicates that Americans may actually be growing more sympathetic to arguments for religiously based service refusals. Less than half (48 percent) of Americans say that wedding-based businesses such as caterers, florists, and bakers, should be required to serve same-sex couples if doing so violates their religious beliefs; this is a five percentage-point drop from 2017. “The real difference is that we had this Masterpiece cake case in the intervening period that got a fair amount of press and publicity,” PRRI CEO Robert P. Jones told The Daily Beast. “This is an issue that I think a lot of people haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about in general. So, when it gets a lot of national press and comes to the fore, that may be accounting for some of the tightening here.”
Biden Foundation Announces New Initiative to Help LGBTQ Youth
On Tuesday, former Vice President Joe Biden, a possible 2020 presidential candidate, announced a new campaign to help LGBTQ youth. #AsYouAre looks to support young LGBTQ people, particularly in the area of family acceptance, as they grow up. “By sharing your stories — your stories — we can work together to change the culture and ensure a bright future for the LGBTQ young people in America,” Biden says in a video accompanying the project launch. The Biden Foundation has partnered with The Trevor Project, the Matthew Shepard Foundation, and the True Colors Fund for this endeavor.According to recent PRRI data, there is near consensus (81 percent) among young people (age 18-29) in their support same-sex marriage.
Municipalities Struggle to Decide Fates of Removed Confederate Monuments
More than 45 Confederate monuments across 27 cities have been removed since last summer’s white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA, report Noah Caldwell and Audie Cornish for NPR. Now cities must decide where to put the controversial statues. Many are currently hidden in temporary storage locations while municipalities—such as Memphis, TN, which recently removed a monument to Ku Klux Klan leader and Confederate soldier, Nathan Bedford Forrest—decide their fates. Many museums are unwilling to accept monuments due to maintenance costs, size constraints, and the difficulty of contextualizing powerfully and controversially symbolic statues. Some Southerners say the statues should be donated to local Confederate organizations that, in many cases, initially funded the statues. Others say the monuments should be disposed of permanently. According to a 2017 PRRI survey, nearly six in ten (58 percent) Americans say that monuments to Confederate soldiers are symbols of Southern pride, while three in ten (30 percent) say they are symbols of racism.
‘Spiritually Homeless’: Black Evangelicals in the Age of Trump
According to the latest PRRI polling, 73 percent of white evangelical Protestants continue view President Trump favorably. But for many of the 46 percent of evangelical Protestants who are not white, Trump’s ascendancy to the presidency and the incessant coverage of the evangelical base who placed him there, have alienated them from their faith communities. For Nikki Toyama-Szeto, an evangelical of color and executive director of Evangelicals for Social Action, the election results were like an attack on her religious community and individual faith. “A lot of folks [of color] are saying that ‘If this is what evangelical means, then I’m not that.’ So we are becoming spiritually homeless,” she explains.
Transgender Woman Could Become Next Governor of Vermont
Three years after starting her transition, Christine Hallquist is positioning herself to become the next governor of Vermont. If elected, Hallquist would become the first openly transgender person to hold that office. In a recent interview with Politico,Hallquist opened up about her fears during the transition process. “I was sure I was going to lose my job and I was going to lose everything I worked for, but the truth was more important for my children, because they didn’t really know,” she says. Throughout her campaign, Hallquist has focused her positions on the issues more than her personal background. Ben Shreckinger describes her in Politico as a “wonky technocrat,” whose main issue “is a plan to revitalize rural Vermont by laying high-speed fiber optic cable statewide.” According to a recent PRRI survey, Americans are less likely to believe that transgender individuals face discrimination than they did just a few years ago. In 2013, 71 percent of people surveyed said that transgender individuals face a lot of discrimination in the U.S. today, compared to 59 percent in 2018.