Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Policy Matters - April 20, 2010

Front Page Headlines
Finding a LGBT Friendly Campus. A growing number of college recruiters committed to diversity are participating in recruitment fairs specifically designed for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students. While Ivy League schools are often represented, the fairs also attract lesser-known institutions like Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. Scott A. McIntyre, associate director of admissions there, says that his university attends some 500 fairs each year, and that including one for LGBT students made sense. "The more I can help my institution be open to diversity of all different kinds," he says, "it's just going to make us a stronger university, and it's going to make our student body be more robust."

LGBT Activists Protest Turkish Minister. A handful of activists interrupted a meeting on gender equality last Thursday, demanding that a Turkish official apologize for saying recently that homosexuality is a disease. The minister, Aliye Kavaf, was giving a speech when the demonstrators began shouting slogans, asking her to apologize for last month's remark. LGBT people aren't criminalized in Turkey, but many pro-equality activists say they lack legal protections and face stigmatization in the predominately Muslim nation. LGBT groups have been calling on the government to amend the criminal code to state clearly that discrimination on basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is a crime.

Constance McMillion will Serve as NYC Pride Parade Grand Marshall. The lesbian teenager from Mississippi who challenged her school district's ban of same-sex prom dates will serve as grand marshal of the annual LGBT pride march in New York City. Organizer Heritage of Pride, Inc., announced Wednesday that Constance McMillen will appear in the parade on June 27. The event commemorates the 1969 Stonewall riots in which patrons at a Greenwich Village gay bar fought back against a police raid. The 18-year-old senior says she's honored to be part of the celebration.

Public Policy Watch
Employment Non-Discrimination Act to be Considered Soon. The House Democratic leadership had indicated that it intends to move forward on long-awaited legislation banning employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The inclusive measure offered by Representative Barney Frank (D-MA) already has 199 co-sponsors, including six Republicans. Seventeen more votes are needed to pass the bill and we are confident other lawmakers will sign-on in support. Please take action today and encourage your representative to vote for the bill by visiting our action alert center.

State Judge Overturns Ark. Adoption Ban Law. A state judge on Friday struck down an Arkansas law approved by voters that banned gay couples and other unmarried people living together from serving as adoptive or foster parents. A group of families, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, sued in 2008 to overturn the ban. They argued that there are too few families willing to adopt or foster in Arkansas, which has an average of 1,600 children on waiting lists, and that good homes were being arbitrarily cut from the list. The law effectively banned lesbian, gay and bisexual people from adopting or fostering children because they are unable to legally marry in Arkansas.

Obama Hospital Decision Helps Same-Sex Couples. On April 15, President Obama signed a directive that grants hospital visitation rights for same-sex couples, making clear that designated visitors, including individuals designated by legally valid advance directives (such as durable powers of attorney and health care proxies), should enjoy visitation privileges that are no more restrictive than those that immediate family members enjoy. The directive applies to every hospital across the country that accepts federal funding via Medicaid and Medicare.

Supreme Court Weighs College Non-Discrimination Policies. This week, the United States Supreme Court will hear arguments in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, in which it will consider whether a student organization has a constitutional right to obtain public funds and other government-provided benefits while reserving the right to exclude members on the basis of race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or any other factor. The case carries great implications for how public universities and schools must accommodate religious groups.

A Question from the Field
Dear Policy Matters,

I am so excited PFLAG is co-sponsoring the May 11th Veteran's Lobby Day. I live in Arizona, so I unfortunately won't be able to travel to D.C. to participate on the Hill. I am curious to know if there are other ways I can share my story as a veteran.

Thanks so much,
Samantha, Phoenix, Arizona

Dear Samantha,
Thank you so much for your question! As you know, we are encouraging PFLAGers from all across the country to participate in the May 11th Veteran's Lobby Day. We recognize that many members will not be able to travel to D.C. for the event, which is why we are encouraging folks to participate "virtually" by telling members of Congress and their staff that DADT needs to be repealed immediately. You can virtually participate in the lobby day by doing any (or all) of the following activities:

Share Your Story. If you are a veteran, the family member of a veteran, or an active duty service member, please consider sharing your story by contacting us. We would like to feature your DADT experiences on both our blog and in published op-eds.

Schedule an In-District Visit. On May 11th, you can make a difference by visiting the offices of both your representative and your senators. If you don't know who your member of congress is, please visit our action center, or if you need help in setting up an in-district of D.C. visit on the 11th, please contact us today, so that we can help set-up a meeting with your congress members.

Call Congress. Please visit our action center, and tell your elected officials that all patriotic Americans deserve the right to serve their country. Use the following (or similar) message when you call:

Hello, my name is ______. As a proud member of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) and as an active constituent in your district, I would like to take the opportunity to express my support of the Military Readiness Enhancement Act and ask that your boss pass this legislation without delay. The bill would repeal the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law, and it would implement a standard non-discrimination policy that would allow all qualified, patriotic Americans to proudly serve their country, freely and openly.

Thank you for your time.

Share this Information. Please forward this information to other veterans and their families, so we can grow the number of powerful voices we have lobbying and calling Congress on May 11th.

Please be sure to let us know how your experience of the May 11th Veteran's Lobby Day went. With your efforts, we will see the end of the discriminatory "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law once and for all.

Warmest Regards,
Policy Matters

Please note that Policy Matters will return on May 4, 2010. If you would like to have a policy-related question featured in our next edition, please e-mail rperry@pflag.org with your question no later than April 30, 2010.

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