Friday, December 16, 2011
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
After only a few short days, the three-judge panel on Tuesday unanimously upheld the 2010 ruling which stated Glenn was wrongfully fired. The panel concluded that the Equal Protection Clause was violated, stating that Glenn was discriminated against on the basis of gender stereotyping: “The question here is whether discriminating against someone on the basis of his or her gender non-conformity constitutes sex-based discrimination under the Equal Protection Clause…We hold that it does.”
The decision is a powerful one which may allow for more sex-based discrimination cases in the future. As the panel stated in their written statement:
An individual cannot be punished because of his or her perceived gender non-conformity. Because these protects are afforded to everyone, they cannot be denied to a transgender individual. The nature of the discrimination is the same; it may differ in degree but not in kind, and the discrimination on the basis is a form of sex-based discrimination that is subject to heightened scrutiny under the Equal Protection Clause.The panel included a diverse group of judges: Senior Judge Phyliss Kravitch was the first woman appointed to a federal bench in the Southeast, Judge William H. Pryor has been known for his notoriously anti-LGBT court decisions, and Judge Rosemary Barkett, dubbed the “activist judge,” was the first female, first Hispanic, and first Arab-American judge within the Florida Supreme Court. These unique backgrounds make the unanimous decision especially note-worthy.
Though the state could still appeal Tuesday’s decision to the full 11th Circuit Court of the Supreme Court, Glenn feels “giddy” about the 3-0 vote in her favor and believes the “end of the tunnel is in sight.”
Friday, December 9, 2011
Many of you already know that Policy Matters is a blog series which summarizes the most recent breaking headlines on all things related to LGBT policy and answers questions from PFLAG members with in-depth answers. The National blog also includes breaking news, information on new PFLAG National events, and special interest articles, like this weekend’s post which reported on the discrimination facing an HIV-positive student in Pennsylvania.
Here are the top “Policy Matters” headlines for 2011:
January 11, 2011: President Obama Signs DADT Repeal
February 1, 2011: Veteran LGBT Advocate Appointed to U.S. Commission on Civil Rights
April 12, 2011: Secretary Sebelius Announces Important Health Improvements
June 14, 2011: Illinois Begins Issuing Civil Union Licenses; Williams Institute Studies LGBT Employment Discrimination
June 28, 2011: NY Senate Passes Marriage Equality Bill; CA Prop. 8 Ruling Upheld
July 11, 2011: Federal Health Survey to Cover Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity; CA LGBT History Bill Passed
July 26, 2011: LGBT Hate Crime Increases; Obama Supports Respect for Marriage Act
September 19, 2011: Transgender Woman Attacked in McDonalds; NCAA Adopts New Transgender Athlete Policy
October 4, 2011: Social Security Ends Gender “No-Match” Letters; Revised “Standards of Care” for Transgender Individuals
October 28, 2011: SLDN to Sue Over Military Benefits for Spouses of Gay Troops; No Child Left Behind Act and Anti-Bullying Language
November 15, 2011: Medical Schools Admit Neglect on LGBT Health Issues; New Campaign Strategy for Marriage Equality
December 1, 2011: Gender Identity Bill Signed in Massachusetts; Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act Re-Introduced to Congress
Wondering what else happened in 2011? Curious about what the headlines were in June 2009? PFLAG National’s blog archives every post that has been written since it began in 2008! Readers can browse through the blog archive by month or year and catch up on the most important LGBT news.
Visit and subscribe to PFLAG National’s Blog today and make a resolution to be on-top the latest headlines during the New Year. We'll see you in 2012.
Thank you for moving equality forward!
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear two motions pertaining to Proposition 8 this Thursday, December 8 at 2:30 pm (PST) in San Francisco, California. The hearing is expected to take two hours and will be broadcast on a delay in Pasadena, CA, Portland, OR, and Seattle, WA. The trial can also be followed via live twitter updates from the American Foundation for Equal Rights.
Hour One: Motion to release the Prop 8 trial video.
The first motion seeks to release Prop 8 trial tapes to the public. Ted Olson and David Boies of the American Foundation for Equal Rights will be arguing on the behalf of the motion, stating that the “public has a First Amendment right to see video footage of the historic Prop 8 trial.” Opposition to this motion fears that witnesses will be targeted for harassment because of their testimony if the tapes are released. AFER argues that supporters of Prop 8 oppose this motion because they “don’t want anyone to know that they failed in court.”
If this motion passes, the public and a selected media coalition will be allowed access to the Prop 8 trial video tapes. If not, the tapes will remain within the court. The losing side is likely to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Hour Two: Motion to throw out the case due to the judge’s undisclosed sexual orientation.
The second motion seeks to throw out the case because Judge Vaughn Walker did not disclose his sexual orientation at the beginning of the trial. Since Judge Walker is a gay man in a long-term relationship with another man, marriage ban supporters assert that he was unfit to issue a ruling on the Prop 8 trial and should have recused himself due to personal bias. However, AFER remains positive about the motion’s future ruling: “We are confident that the appeals court will affirm that being gay has no bearing on a judge’s impartiality, just as the courts have historically done with cases involving race, gender, and religion.”
If the three judges involved in this hearing rule in favor of this motion, the famous ruling which gave lesbian, gay, and bisexual couples marriage equality in California will be thrown out completely, and the marriage ban would stand. A ruling in favor of dismissing the case would also set an astonishing precedent, implying that a LGB judge should not preside over trials involving LGB rights. The decision could set the stage for similar motions for dismissal based on the sexual orientation or relationship status of a judge. Again, the losing side is allowed to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Future of Proposition 8
AFER anticipates a ruling before the end of the year or shortly after. The decisions made in this seemly short two hour hearing could possibly send the Prop 8 case to the U.S. Supreme Court, making California the first state to bring a proposed marriage ban to the federal appeals level.
Take Action: The fate of Proposition 8 is now in the hands of the court system. However, you can raise your voice in support of the federal bill called the Respect for Marriage Act (H.R. 1116/ S.598) which seeks to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act. Contact your members of congress today and encourage them to co-sponsor the bill—every person, regardless of their sexual orientation, deserves the right to express their life-long commitment to the one they love.
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
"This is a very happy day here in Howard County” said Heath Goisovich, Co-Chair of the Advocacy Committee of PFLAG Columbia-Howard County. “Our County Council has shown that Howard County is willing to lead in the state on civil rights issues. We have put a lot of work in on this and we are really pleased with the outcome.”
“Now, after much hard work, we have expanded protections in Howard and done so with a broad coalition of support. As a resident of Howard County I could not be prouder of my Council for taking this issue on. This event will yield great momentum in expanding these same rights throughout the state in 2012,” said Sharon Brackett, Board Chair for Gender Rights Maryland.
”Howard County will now join Montgomery County and Baltimore City as the third jurisdiction in Maryland supporting these rights. This is a clear sign of exciting and changing times in Maryland for advocates of civil rights,” added Brackett.
The bill will now be forwarded to County Executive Ken Ullman who is expected to sign it. The measure will take effect 61 days following the signing.
Monday, December 5, 2011
Sunday, December 4, 2011
This Thursday, countries across the globe acknowledged World AIDS Day, seeking to educate people about what the disease is, how it affects the lives of thousands, and what can be done to help prevent the spread of the virus.
Meanwhile, while the world re-dedicated to helping those affected by the virus,one American family challenged the legality of Milton Hershey School’s blatant discrimination against their HIV-positive child. The school has denied the young boy’s application for admittance due to his physical status as HIV-positive.
The Milton Hershey School is a cost-free boarding school which requires students to come from a low-income family, be between four and fifteen years old, be an American citizen, and be free of major emotional or behavioral problems. This student, who remains anonymous, meets every criterion. “He just also happens to have HIV which the school has determined is a ‘documented need’ it cannot meet,” said the AIDS Law Project Executive Director Ronda B. Goldfein, who is leading the student’s legal case.
Connie McNamara, a spokesman for the school, detailed the thoughts behind their decision: “The reason is simple. We are serving children, and no child can be assumed to always make responsible decisions that protect the wellbeing of others…We have to provide the proper protection for the health and safety of the students already on campus, and we believe we have made the right decision under the law.”
Goldfein plans to cite the Ryan White Care Act of 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and other anti-discrimination laws the school has allegedly broken in order to defend the student’s right to admittance. The act is named after Ryan White, a middle school student in the 1990s who was expelled from school because he was HIV-positive. The Ryan White Care Act was recently reauthorized by President Obama to end the ban prohibiting HIV-positive people from entering America; the law also provides funding for HIV medical clinics through the Ryan White Program. In honor of World AIDS Day President Obama announcedthat his administration is “committing an additional $15 million for the Ryan White Program…we want to keep those doors open so they can keep saving lives.” See a video of his speech here.
The school’s fear of this student spreading the virus is largely unsupported by the Center for Disease Control which states that the main avenues for transmission are sexual activity and sharing needles—“HIV is not transmitted by day-to-day contact in the workplace, schools, or social settings…HIV is not an airborne or food-borne virus, and it does not live long outside the body.” It is also not possible to become infected from “a toilet seat, a drinking fountain, a door knob, dishes, drinking glasses, food, or pets.”
“Like Ryan White, this young man is a motivated, intelligent kid who poses no health risk to other students, but is being denied an educational opportunity because of ignorance and fear about his HIV and AIDS,” Goldfein said. Despite these scientific facts and existing federal non-discrimination legislation, the school has no intention of reversing their decision.
Take Action: Visit change.org and sign the petitioned titled “Milton Hershey School: Stop Discriminating Against an HIV-Positive 13-Year-Old.” As of 3:33 PM (EST) the petition already has 2,097 supporters! Add your voice and stand up for the rights our children. No child should be discriminated against and denied schooling because of their health status.
Friday, December 2, 2011
Participants will learn how to:
- Employ effective ways to increase inclusion for LGBT people
- Approach LGBT inclusion through inviting, educating, and engaging straight allies at work
- Guide potential straight allies in their own “coming out” process on the way to being supportive of LGBT colleagues
- Help straight allies resolve their own conflicts around this topic and in finding workplace-appropriate ways to express support
- Align this effort with your larger diversity and inclusion efforts
As many of you already know, Straight for Equality is a national outreach and education project created in 2007 by Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) National to empower allies who don’t necessarily have a personal connection to the gay community. Our work with parents and families over the past 40 years has helped us learn that there is a ‘coming out’ process for straight allies that can and should not be ignored.
Since the launch of our Straight for Equality in the Workplace training program we have had the opportunity to train nearly 5,000 people and work with more than 50 companies nationwide. More than 12,000 people have signed the Straight for Equality Pledge. And we’re here to be sure that all straight allies have the opportunity to share their strong and powerful voice in support of equality. You can learn more about some of the training programs offered by PFLAG National and Straight for Equality here.
The personal stories of how and why we came to support equality for GLBT people are a significant advantage that straight allies possess. We would love to help you learn how to share that story. Please join us on December 8th!
Thursday, December 1, 2011
People around the world are raising awareness about the HIV/AIDS global epidemic which has killed over 575,000 citizens in three decades and infects more than 56,000 people in America each year. The infection has claimed over 30 million lives globally since the virus was first reported in 1981.
The United Nations AIDS agency released their annual report on the virus’ progress and found that the global epidemic has hit a plateau—2.7 million people have been infected each year for the past five years. According to the report, in Eastern Europe and Central Asia the total number of people living with HIV has risen 250% from 2001 to 2010.
The theme for this year’s World AIDS Day is “”Leading with Science, Uniting with Action,” which serves to highlight the successes in HIV/AIDS prevention over the last year. The phrase also re-establishes a commitment to working together with other countries in order to combat this viral threat. In 2010, Secretary Hillary Clinton and the Obama Administration issued the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS) for the United States which establishes an admirable and inclusive goal:
“The United States will become a place where new HIV infections are rare, and when they do occur, every person, regardless of age, gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or socio-economic circumstance, will have unfettered access to high quality, life-extending care, free of stigma and discrimination.”
Today, President Obama spoke at George Washington University during their World AIDS Day event, announcing the allotment of $50 million in existing federal funds to fight HIV/AIDS and established a new goal, aiming to treat 6 million infected people with medication by the end of 2013. “The fight isn’t over,” President Obama said. “Not for the 1.2 million Americans who are living with HIV right now. Not for the Americans who are infected every day. This fight isn’t over for them. It isn’t over for their families. It isn’t over for anyone in this room. And it certainly isn’t over for your President.”
Take Action: For more information on what you can do to raise awareness of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, visit the World AIDS Day federal website. You can also find the U.N.AIDS annual report here, and watch a moving documentary called 30 Years From Here which details the evolution of this global epidemic.
Front Page Headlines
HUD Secretary Donovan Addresses NCTE: On Tuesday, November 15th, the Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary addressed the eighth anniversary National Center for Transgender Equality awards ceremony. The event, held at the Mayflower Hotel, drew a crowd that included many notable D.C. LGBT politicos and, according to NCTE, marked the first time a cabinet secretary addressed a transgender organization. Sec. Donovan discussed his commitment to obtaining housing rights for all Americans by fighting discrimination and LGBT homelessness. [Metro Weekly]
MLB’s New Collective Bargaining Agreement Adds “Sexual Orientation” to Discrimination Clause: The new collective bargaining agreement, released Tuesday, added the words “sexual orientation” to its section on discrimination. In the new agreement, the words “sexual orientation” were added to Article XV which originally stated “The provisions of this Agreement shall be applied to all Players covered by this Agreement without regard to race, color, religion, or national origin.” [NY Daily News]
Memorial and March in San Francisco Celebrates Activist Harvey Milk: On the 33rd anniversary of Harvey Milk’s assassination in San Francisco, residents filled the streets to remember the life of an inspirational LGBT activist and public official. Cleve Jones, a prominent LGBT and HIV/AIDs activist spoke at the rally, reminding participants of Milk’s legacy: “It’s been 33 years…[Harvey Milk] was not a saint, he was not a genius, he lived right up the street, his life was full of the humiliations and defeats and challenges that all of us endure in our lives. But he was an honest man, he had courage...he changed the world and so can all of you.” [2011 Memorial Video ]
St. Petersburg Prepares to Pass Anti-LGBT Ban on “Propaganda:” In November 2011, St. Petersburg shocked the world. The legislative assembly approved, in its first reading, a bill which outlawed the promotion of homosexuality, bisexuality, and transsexuality to minors and equates homosexuality to pedophilia (which the bill also lists as a banned category). If the bill passes individuals could be fined between $100 and $1,600 for “public activities promoting sodomy, lesbianism, bisexualism, and transsexuality.” [Radio Free Europe/ Guardian UK]
Gov. Patrick Signs Gender Identity Bill: Gov. Deval Patrick has signed a bill designed to protect transgender people from discrimination in Massachusetts. Some suggest this is a partial victory due to the agreement to drop public accommodations language that critics said would lead to a breakdown of privacy in rest rooms, locker rooms, and other gendered facilities. “It gave me pause,” Gov. Patrick said, “[But] after consulting with [advocates and transgender people] and my team and my own consciences, I wanted to sign this bill. And then, we’ll come back around to public accommodations.” [Boston Herald]
Gender Identity Bill Poised for Council Approval in Howard County: The County Council is poised to make gender identity a protected classification under county law. All four council Democrats sponsoring the bill confirmed their support for it after a public hearing Monday, Nov. 21st, that was filled with personal stories about transgender discrimination. The hearing drew more than 50 supporters of the bill, which aims to prevent transgender and gender non-conforming persons from being discriminated against with regard to employment, housing, and public accommodations. [Baltimore Sun]
Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act Re-Introduced to Congress: Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) and Representative Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) introduced legislation which would provide benefits for and require obligations for the domestic partners of federal employees, including benefits such as health benefits, family and medical leave, and federal retirement benefits. According to the William’s Institute, over 30,000 federal workers live in committed same-sex relationships with partners who are not federally employed. [US Senate Press Release]
Amid Battles to Protect Benefits, LGB Service Members Seek Equality: Lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members have begun to press for benefit equality. Advocates are lobbying the Department of Defense for regulation changes, filing challenges in federal court and pressing Congress to repeal the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which prohibits extension of federal benefits, including military allowances, travel costs and health care, to spouses in same-sex marriages. The Miller Institute Social Research Center estimates that these benefit issues impact as many as 66,000 LGB service members. [Military.com]
Question from the Field
Dear Policy Matters,
I am a Maryland advocate for the gender identity bill which our state lawmakers will once again consider in the 2012 legislative session. I read the news about Massachusetts’ new law last week and was again dismayed that protections for public accommodations were cut out of the legislation. I am concerned how Massachusetts’ new law will impact our work. As I talk to people from my neighborhood about our own pending legislation, I find myself faced with many questions about why public accommodations should be included in next year’s bill. Do you have any suggestions for how I can talk about this?
Thank you so much,
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Thank you for writing to Policy Matters! As we all know many critics of gender identity protections are misinformed about why this legislation is so desperately needed. Thanks to the groundbreaking report, Injustice at Every Turn, we know the reality of what transgender and gender non-conforming people are up against in the absence of these lifesaving protections: double the rate of unemployment, widespread mistreatment at work, and a much higher risk of experiencing homelessness due to the loss of a job.
When advocating for gender identity protections, the issue of public accommodations— including gender segregated facilities like restrooms and locker rooms — is most often placed in the public eye, and is one of the most debated aspects of legislation that includes gender identity protections. Opposition groups dedicate a great deal of time and resources to misinform the public about how non-transgender people’s safety would be compromised in gender segregated facilities, and yet even with all that they invest in their lies they have yet to substantiate evidence supporting even one of their shameful assertions. The reality of the problem is that a majority of transgender people report being verbally harassed or disrespected in a place of public accommodation, including hotels, restaurants, buses, airports and government agencies. Widespread abuse in the public sector is also incredibly common for transgender people to experience, with abuse coming from the hands of “helping professions and government officials” being most often reported (see Injustice at Every Turn).
While it’s important to remind our communities about the realities of how unsafe transgender people truly are in the absence of legal protections, it’s also helpful to take a step back and think about what public accommodations actually include. “Public accommodations” is an umbrella term for the many public services and places we encounter on a day-to-day basis. They are: lodging establishments (hotels, motels) that have more than five rooms and are not actually occupied by the manager (for example, owners who live in their own “Bed and Breakfast”), restaurants, cafeterias, or any other place which sells food for consumption (like gas stations or retail food courts),movie theatres, concert halls, sports arenas, bars, public swimming pools, and any other place of entertainment, retail stores, banks, government agencies, hair salons, taxi cabs, food banks, shelters, shopping malls, dry cleaners, laundromats, doctors’ offices, hospitals, museums, libraries, parks, zoos, amusement parks, private schools, day care centers, health spas, bowling allies, and hospitals.
Within this list alone there are over 35 public places which fall under “public accommodations.” Only two of these affirmatively address gender segregated spaces: restrooms and locker rooms. And we know that in these spaces in particular, the reality is that transgender people endure the threat of physical violence, verbal harassment and disrespect. In fact, Marylanders are painfully aware of the very horrific and public beating of a young transgender woman who simply wanted to use the bathroom she felt safest using at a local McDonald’s in Baltimore County last spring. Unfortunately, several women challenged her choice by verbally humiliating and physically beating her until the point of her having a seizure and blacking out. Employees did nothing to intervene and it wasn’t until an older woman came to the scene of the crime that officials were called for help and assistance.
According to our friends at GLAAD, this incident is:
Evidence of a culture that still does not accept its transgender brothers and sisters. We need more public education around the everyday hardships that transgender individuals face, from using public transportation and showing identification to interviewing for jobs, filling out employment or housing applications, and obtaining medical care. Until more of the media stops under-representing or misrepresenting transgender people, none of this will change.
In addition to the public education that chapters like PFLAG offer, we need legislation that affirmatively protects transgender and gender non-conforming in the spaces where they are the most vulnerable. Until then, we are likely to hear of many more reports just like the incident that occurred in Baltimore County last spring. Let’s do the hard work now of letting our communities know the real facts—let’s get out and talk about the real challenges transgender people endure, and help pass laws like Maryland’s gender identity bill to ensure that our families and friends have a level playing field to a job, a house and yes—public accommodations.
Thank you for moving equality forward,
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P.S. Have you downloaded our new edition of Bringing the Message Home yet? Get your 2011 version of the how-to guide to PFLAG advocacy now and share it with your chapter. Visit PFLAG nationals' website for more information now!
If you would like to have a policy-related question featured in our next edition, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with your question no later than Friday, December 9th, 2011.