Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Policy Matters - April 7, 2010

Front Page Headlines
DADT Discharges from Service Still Possible. The Army secretary, John M. McHugh, said Thursday that he had incorrectly stated that there was a moratorium on the discharge of lesbian, gay and bisexual members of the military. At a meeting with Pentagon reporters on Wednesday, Mr. McHugh said that it made no sense to pursue discharges of service members with whom he had initiated conversations about how best to carry out a repeal of the policy known as “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Mr. McHugh said it would be “counterproductive” to “take disciplinary action against someone who spoke with me openly and honestly.” On Thursday, Mr. McHugh issued a statement saying there was no moratorium on enforcing the law, though he said that recent changes by Defense Secretary Robert Gates apply the law in a fairer and more appropriate manner.

New York Transgender Woman Murdered. A transgender woman found dead in her Queens apartment was strangled, and detectives suspect she was killed by a man she had been dating. The 29-year-old victim, Amanda Gonzalez-Andujar, was likely killed late Saturday or early Sunday, police sources said. A neighbor reported hearing a loud fight at the time, but when officers arrived, there was no answer at the door. A police official said detectives now believe the killer had fled by the time cops showed up. There was no evidence that would have allowed police to go into the apartment, the official said. It’s unclear at this point whether local law enforcement officials will report Amanda’s murder as a hate crime.

Iowa Draws a Trickle of Marriages. Last year, when the Iowa Supreme Court released its unanimous decision overturning a 1998 law banning same-sex couples from marrying, county recorders from all of Iowa’s 99 counties felt nervous. They worried about when and how to begin issuing the new licenses in a way that would comply with Iowa law. When a flood of same-sex marriage applicants was predicted to be around 3,000, a level of applicants that would have almost doubled the state's annual volume of marriage licenses, concerns about workload arose. In the end, the first year of licensing for same-sex couples turned out to be a little like March; “in like a lion, out like a lamb.” In the first seven months of marriages for lesbian and gay couples, 1,783 same-sex marriages were recorded in the state, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health. Regardless of the predictions, out-of-state same-sex couples haven't made Iowa the marriage destination many either dreamed of or feared it would become. For 1,783 couples, it's still special. For county recorders, it's been just another year at work.

Public Policy Watch
CA Law Aimed at Curing “Homosexuality” in Question. Believe it or not, California law requires health experts to find a cure for homosexuality. This is no joke - Welfare and Institutions Code Section 8050. This 60-year-old relic was not some gay-baiting prelude to the McCarthy era. It came, rather, in response to public outcry over sex crimes in California, specifically the molestation-murder of a 6-year-old Los Angeles girl. The murderer was not a gay man. There was no connection between the crime and homosexuality at all. Even so, before the dust had settled, well-meaning California legislators passed a law that not only required health officials to seek "the causes and cures of homosexuality" but likened people who are gay to child molesters. Amazingly, it's still on the books, but thankfully Assembly Bill 2199, which faces its first hearing this week before the Public Safety Committee, would undo 60 years of libel and give California a set of law books that reflects science and values that were sadly absent in 1950.

Maryland Attorney General Faces Impeachment Threat. Don H. Dwyer, Jr., a Republican member of the House of Delegates, plans to bring impeachment charges on the House floor on Wednesday against the state’s attorney general, Douglas F. Gansler. Mr. Dwyer said that Mr. Gansler overstepped his authority in issuing a legal opinion last month saying the state would recognize same-sex marriages from other places and ordering state agencies to give gay married couples the same rights as heterosexual couples. Mr. Gansler’s opinion does not change the law, but it was meant to guide state officials. The impeachment matter is most likely to be dismissed by the House speaker, Michael E. Busch, a Democrat. If so, Mr. Dwyer has said he will probably call for a ruling from the full House, which is controlled by Democrats.

VA State Employee Argues He was Fired for Being Gay. A VA state employee contends he was forced to resign from his position as at the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville in 2006 because he is gay. The Virginia Supreme Court heard an oral petition from his attorney to review his case just this week. The facts of the claimant’s experience, as well as some of the legal arguments that have been made in the case by the attorney general's office, first under McDonnell and then under Bill Mims, would be interesting to those who have been closely following the discrimination issue. Virginia's Department of Human Resource Management found in January 2009 that Moore's sexual orientation was indeed a factor in the ending of his employment, but it found that other issues related to his job performance also played a role, and therefore he was not due back his job. You can read more about the department's finding here.

WI Law Denying Transgender Inmates Hormone Therapy Rescinded. A federal judge has struck down a unique Wisconsin law that prohibits transgender inmates from receiving medically necessary hormone therapy treatment. Lacking such medically necessary treatment could lead to severe health problems. While similar prison policies in other states have been challenged successfully, the ACLU and Lambda Legal said the law was the only one of its kind in the nation that denied such medical care to transgender inmates. The law was declared unconstitutional and unenforceable by U.S. District Judge Charles Clevert. Clevert ruled that the law violates the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment because it "results in the denial of hormone therapy without regard for the individual medical needs of inmates and the medical judgment of their health-care providers." He added "there is no rational basis" for the law, which he said also violates equal protection rights.

A Question from the Field
Dear Policy Matters,
As I’m filling out my 2010 Census form, I’m very curious about how my son and his husband can be counted. Could you please share any information I can pass along to him?
Thanks so much,
Doug

Dear Doug,

Thank you so much for your question! Earlier this week, the Census Bureau unveiled its historic outreach campaign to the LGBT community, strongly encouraging members of the community to fill out their Census forms. It’s important to encourage your son and his husband to fill out their form since that will help increase the visibility of LGBT families via Census statistics. The information gleaned from Census data will help guide many vital government decisions at the federal, state and local levels, meaning specific government funding for programs and resources to the most vulnerable members in the LGBT community; elders, those living with HIV or AIDS, people of color, transgender individuals and youth to name only a few. Identifying the number of LGBT people in America is critical when advocating for specific programs and investments addressing the community’s very specific needs.

Regarding particular guidance for your son and other LGBT families, please see these frequently asked questions we continue to receive from our members below:

• How does the 2010 Census count lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people? The 2010 Census does not ask about sexual orientation or gender identity. LGBT people living with a spouse or partner can identify their relationship by checking either the "husband or wife" or "unmarried partner" box.

• How do same-sex couples answer the relationship question? The 2010 Census will be the first to report counts of both same-sex partners and same-sex spouses. The person filling out the form (Person 1) is asked to identify how all other individuals in the household are related to him or her. Census data are based on how individuals self identify and how couples think of themselves. Same-sex couples who are married, or consider themselves to be spouses, can identify one other adult as a "husband or wife," Other same-sex couples may instead decide to use the term "unmarried partner." In general, people who identify as unmarried partners are in a close personal relationship but are not married or do not think of themselves as spouses. Census data is based on how individuals self identify, meaning that even in places where same-sex relationships are not recognized, if two people think of themselves as spouses, they can include that on their Census form.

• What about transgender individuals? The 2010 Census asks a question about each person's sex. Transgender respondents should select the sex they identify as and should mark only one box.

• Important note to bi-racial/ethnic couples. The Census reports some statistics on the race/ethnicity of the "household." Bi-racial/ethnic couples should note that this category is determined using the race/ethnicity of Person 1, the person who fills out the Census form for the household. Unfortunately, this method of assessing the race/ethnicity of a “household” skews the data for bi-racial/ethnic couples.

Please be sure to tell your son that the 2010 Census matters for every LGBT family in the United States. The visibility it continues to provide for our families will be enormously helpful as we continue to advocate for LGBT equality.
Warmest Regards,
Policy Matters

Please note that Policy Matters will return on April 20, 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 16, 2010.

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