Author: Michael Vargas (Michael Vargas)

Vargas: Lessons from the Rittenhouse and McMichael trials

On Feb. 23, 2020, Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael and William Bryan, Jr. hunted and killed Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man out for a run in a small Georgia town. The three white men, with no evidence, believed him to be a man who broke into a nearby construction site. On Aug. 25, 2020, Kyle Rittenhouse...

Vargas: Public employees, private speech

The First Amendment guarantees the right of “free speech” to every American, however, that promise is often more secure for some than others. In Citizens United v. FEC, the Supreme Court (in)famously held that a corporation could not be singled out as a “disfavored speaker,” but in the same opinion, the court expressly approved a...

Vargas: Reforming the recall process

With the attempted recall of Gov. Gavin Newsom now an absurdly expensive footnote in the pages of history, the question of reform looms large. Demands for reform began almost immediately, as the magnitude of the recall’s failure—and the waste of more than a quarter of a billion dollars—became apparent less than an hour after polls...

Vargas: The misguided movement to categorize queer people

In 2021, the newest fad in mainstream queer politics was the raising of the “progress” rainbow flag, which incorporates black and brown lines for people of color and pink, light blue and white lines for transgender people. San Francisco had a bit of a harder time with this change, being the birthplace of the original...

Vargas: The case for celebrating queer failure

“If at first you don’t succeed, failure might be your style.” —Quentin Crisp Pride has become a fierce celebration of progress and the success of the mainstream LGBTQ+ rights movement. Consider New York Pride’s 2021 theme “The Fight Continues,” and the corresponding news release that can’t help but sound a note of optimism: “We acknowledge...

Vargas: The Supreme Court takes another step toward legalizing discrimination

On June 17, the Supreme Court issued their opinion in Fulton v. Philadelphia, a case involving an adoption organization, Catholic Social Services (CSS), that refused service to LGBTQ+ prospective parents. Under Pennsylvania law and Philadelphia ordinance, such discrimination was unlawful, and Philadelphia exercised its right to terminate its relationship with CSS, meaning that the city...

Vargas: California’s experiment with direct democracy has failed

For more than a century, California has been an experiment in a form of direct democracy, giving “the people” unparalleled and extensive power to shape their laws and rebuke their politicians through initiatives, referendums and recalls. Just 5% of Californians working together can force a proposition onto the ballot, a referendum on a piece of...

Vargas: How will the new police chief engage with the LGBTQ+ community?

San Jose officials in March appointed Anthony Mata to be the new chief of police. His selection became controversial almost immediately, as community leaders raised concerns about his involvement in a police shooting and his treatment of a transgender officer. LGBTQ+ people have always had a difficult relationship with the police. The most famous LGBTQ+...

Vargas: Anti-trans laws miss the point of school sports

This year, more than 20 bills have been introduced attacking the right of transgender children to participate in school sports. These bills aim to either add to or supplant laws in 11 states that already unlawfully discriminate against transgender student-athletes. This is nothing new. Transgender athletes have faced discrimination for decades. In 1976, Renee Richards,...

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