Thursday, June 25, 2009

PFLAG to Play Key Role in New Beginning Initiative

Earlier today, Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) National along with the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and a collaboration of other expert organizations announced the New Beginning Initiative, a project designed to push for concrete federal administration policy and regulatory changes directly benefiting the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and eliminating discrimination from federal policies.

The initiative, which is an outcome of the National Policy Roundtable with organizations opting into the initiative, began more than a year ago in preparation of a more LGBT-favorable administration. The more than 80 initial policies identified and recommended for changes span the authority of the White House and more than 30 federal agencies. The recommendations focus on pro-LGBT public policy changes the Obama administration can implement without legislative action. The New Beginning Initiative is the first time such a coalition of LGBT and allied organizations has come together in this way to affect administration policy. Organizations participating in the initiative can be found here.

For the first time ever, PFLAG, along with other LGBT organizations, has the ability to aggressively advance equality by working with the federal government to implement policy changes that will directly improve the lives for our LGBT loved ones and their families. Working together with so many other expert organizations will empower PFLAG to advocate for long-overdue changes in the federal government, breaking down institutionalized discrimination and barriers to federal services. Already, PFLAG is making progress, in areas surrounding safer schools and housing along with comprehensive LGBT healthcare.

The New Beginning Initiative, funded through the generous support of the Open Society Institute, includes concrete policy changes written by the respective participating organizations. Each organization will identify the strategies for accomplishing the respective policy changes it is working on in the coming months and years. The 80-plus policies represent an initial view of the opportunities for federal funding and programmatic attention; additional policy changes will be identified over time.

Examples of our recommended policy changes include:

Acknowledge and Address LGBT Health Disparities. Ensuring LGBT people are recognized as a population marked by health disparities for appropriate inclusion in federally funded studies.

Reduce Violence in Schools. Funding to reduce violence in schools, including preventing bullying and harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Recognize and Address Needs of Homeless LGBT Youth. Requiring the office of Housing and Urban Development to recognize unaccompanied homeless youth as a special-needs population requiring the development of targeted youth housing models.

Ensure Equal Access to Employment Opportunities. Amending the nondiscrimination guidelines for the federal civilian workforce to include gender identity and expression.

Copies of the initial policies identified and recommended for changes were provided to the Obama transition team in November 2008 for inclusion in agency memos for incoming administration personnel. Copies have also been provided to key White House staff in the process of identifying administration and agency staff with authority to change policies and to educate White House staff on the issues facing LGBT people and families.

PFLAG, along with other organizations have already begun meeting with administration officials to pursue some of the policy changes. A meeting with other participating organizations will be held over the summer to map out plans for each recommended policy. As the collaborating organizations succeed in changing policies, press releases will be sent out notifying the LGBT community and broader public about progress made. Additionally, the New Beginning Initiative’s web page features an electronic scorecard to track progress as policy changes are achieved.

Organizations participating in the initiative launch (listed alphabetically): Council for Global Equality; Family Equality Council; Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders; Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network; Immigration Equality; Lambda Legal; Mautner Project; National Black Justice Coalition; National Center for Lesbian Rights; National Coalition for LGBT Health; National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce; National Gay and Lesbian Task Force; National Youth Advocacy Coalition; Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays; Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE); Servicemembers Legal Defense Network; The Trevor Project. Disclaimer: Each policy proposal should be considered the proposal of the organization(s) responsible for drafting the proposal. There should be no assumption that all organizations adopt, agree with or would prioritize the policies in the same way.

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