Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Policy Matters - October 19, 2010

Front Page Headlines
EDITORIAL: Don’t Stay the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Ruling. The New York Times editorial board urges the Justice Department not to challenge Judge Virginia Phillips' ruling that ordered the military to suspend discharges and investigations under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell": "Judge Phillips has hit on a simpler, more equitable solution: just stop enforcing 'don’t ask, don’t tell.' It has done more to harm military readiness than her injunction possibly could." The injunction was issued on Tuesday by Judge Virginia Phillips, of the Federal District Court in central California, who had ruled that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was an unconstitutional infringement on the rights of due process and free speech. The law has been used to drum out some 13,000 service members in the past 17 years.

Offering Support and Hope for LGBT Students Facing Bullying. Lornet Turnbull of the Washington Post writes about advocates who are taking measures to support LGBT students who face bullying. She reports on the recent suicides of LGBT young people along with the increased attention to anti-LGBT bullying in its many forms. She also reports about the launch of at least two online video projects - including the It Gets Better project by Seattle’s Dan Savage, a sex columnist and the editorial director of the Stranger weekly newspaper - intended to give hope to LGBT students who face harassment. She also writes about the Make It Better Project, which allows students and adults to upload video messages describing what they are doing now to prevent suicide and make things better for LGBT students.

Facebook Works to Remove Anti-LGBT Hate Speech. Facebook is working with the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) to reduce the amount of hate speech and bullying on the online social hub. GLAAD reached out to Facebook last week after Internet bullies flooded a page set up to honor students who recently killed themselves in response to anti-LGBT hate. The page, set up by a Facebook user, asks supporters to wear purple in memory of the students. Facebook said that its policies prohibit hateful content and that it has systems in place to take down such posts as soon as possible. But the company also said it wants its users to be able to express unpopular opinions and as such must strike a careful balance between removing harmful content and letting people speak freely.

Public Policy Watch
Justice Department Appeals Ruling to Suspend “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” The Obama administration has asked Judge Virginia Phillips to suspend her rulling stopping investigations under the don’t ask, don’t tell policy pending an appeal by the administration. The government made clear in its filing that it doesn’t disagree with the substance of Judge Phillips’s ruling and that the military is seeking an orderly end to the don’t ask, don’t tell policy. However, it argues that an immediate termination would be chaotic for the military and for gays now serving. The Justice Department said it was defending existing law, as it traditionally does when acts of Congress are challenged. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Wednesday that President Obama continued to believe the don’t ask, don’t tell policy was “unjust, detrimental to national security and discriminates against those willing to die for the country,” but the President preferred that the policy be repealed by legislation. Such a process would give the military time to review its options and set up a system to integrate openly gay service members into its ranks.

New Report Reveals Rampant Healthcare Discrimination. Transgender and gender non-conforming people face rampant discrimination in health care settings, are regularly denied needed care, and experience a range of health risks because they are transgender or gender non-conforming, according to a report of more than 6,450 transgender and gender non-conforming people. The National Transgender Discrimination Survey: Report on Health and Health Care was released last week by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality. The report includes critical public policy recommendations, such as the urgent need to train medical professionals about how to effectively and respectfully treat transgender and gender non-conforming patients; an end to the discriminatory practice of transgender exclusion from health care coverage; the development transgender-specific programs to address suicide; the spread of HIV, and other health risks; and increased research that focuses specifically on health needs of the transgender population.

Possible Hate Crime Investigated in Rural North Carolina. Police have arrested one man in connection with a potential anti-gay hate crime and assault on two women on the campus of East Carolina University (ECU). Investigators are also looking for a second man they think was involved in the incident, which occurred early Friday morning outside of a campus dormitory. Two women, 18 and 19 years old, were exiting the dorm when a group of men allegedly began hurling anti-LGBT slurs at them. One woman was spat on when she confronted the group and was later hit by Bryan Berg, 18. “We have to look at all the elements of the incident to see if they meet the federal requirements to be classified as a hate crime, including what was said and the actions that occurred. At this time, we believe it was an isolated incident,” Assistant ECU Police Chief Dawn Tevepaugh told The Daily Reflector. Aaron Lucier, director of ECU’s LGBT Union, told the daily paper he’s confident police will conduct a fair investigation. “Hate crime or not, it was a violent act, something we don’t want on our campus,” Lucier said. “We have a campus here that celebrates diversity on all levels. Our students find an educational campus here that is welcoming, but also learning, so it is a space that our students will find supportive and welcoming.”

A Question from the Field
Dear Policy Matters,
In the past, I have unfortunately experienced workplace discrimination on several occasions because of my gender expression. I live in an area that has no workplace protections for LGBT employees and my employer has no written policy in place. Due to the absence of such protections, I want to continue volunteering in my community to help pass a fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act. With the midterm elections approaching, what can I do to help keep the pressure on Congress to address the problems of job insecurity for far too many LGBT people like me?
Thanks so much,

Dear Sonia,
Thank you so much for your question. With the mid-term elections rapidly approaching, campaigns – and candidate promises – are in overdrive. We need to take advantage of the visibility of Congressional candidates by asking tough questions about legislation like ENDA that will reveal their level of commitment to equality for all.

The passage of ENDA will benefit LGBT Americans just like you by providing long-overdue workplace protections for LGBT employees. Shockingly, it is still legal to fire someone on the basis of their sexual orientation in 29 states and it is legal to fire someone on the basis of their gender identity in 38 states.

Passage of ENDA will deliver a federal remedy to outlaw these forms of discrimination and provide the long-overdue job security that so many LGBT individuals desperately need – today more than ever. It is finally time that people are judged on the merit of their work and accomplishments – not what people think about who they are.

The candidates’ answers – and, more importantly, their actions that follow their words – could provide meaningful solutions for millions of LGBT individuals and their families struggling to make ends meet in these tough economic times.

Candidates are looking for our support, but we need to know that they’ll work for equality for our families if they’re elected. So we need you to take action today!

Here are five ways you can volunteer in your community to help talk about ENDA this fall and keep the pressure on Congress to remedy the problems of workplace discrimination:
1. Schedule an in-district lobby meeting. It’s important to talk with your Members of Congress about the importance of ENDA and why it should be a priority for them to address this remedy to discrimination on the campaign trail.
2. Attend a Candidate Forum. Be sure to attend a candidate forum and ask participants a question related to ENDA. Something as simple as, “Do you support equal opportunity for all people in the workplace – and do you support the passage of ENDA to ensure that this is the case for all Americans?,” will help you get a better sense as to where the candidates stand on issues most important to you.
3. Host a Candidate Forum. If your chapter plans to host a candidate forum, be sure to include ENDA on the agenda. Ask each candidate about the legislation, their positions, and their thoughts on how they would help advance this legislation should they be elected in November.
4. Tell 3 People About ENDA. In the days leading up to the election, be sure to tell 3 people about the importance of ENDA, why the bill must remain trans-inclusive, and why it’s critical in these tough economic times. To learn more about ENDA, please click here.
5. Share this Alert with Your Friends and Family. While you talk with those most important to you about ENDA, be sure to share this action alert with them and encourage them to pass it along to people they care about to help spread the word today!

If you have additional questions, please be sure to contact Rhodes Perry, Associate Director of Policy and Programs at rperry@pflag.org or (202) 467-8180.
Warmest regards,
Policy Matters

P.S. Have you downloaded your new edition of Bringing the Message Home yet? Get your 2010 version of the how-to guide to PFLAG advocacy now and share it with your chapter. Visit. www.pflag.org/btmh for more information now.

Please note that Policy Matters will return on October 19, 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 October 15, 2010.

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