Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Policy Matters 4/11/2012

Front Page Headlines   

University of Pittsburgh Imposes Anti-Trans Bathroom Policy: Higher education has increasingly become an environment where resources like gender-neutral bathrooms and “safe space” training programs allow young people to explore their gender and sexuality in safe and healthy ways. The University of Pittsburgh, however, took a defiant step in the opposite direction, dictating last month that transgender students could only use bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond to the gender on their birth certificate. [Think Progress]

Study Examines the Roots of Homophobia:  Acceptance of lesbians, gays and bisexual people has never been higher, but anti-LGB bias still exists. A new study suggests intense hostility toward LGB people may be linked to repressed same-sex attraction, combined with an authoritarian upbringing. The study did not examine the root of transphobia and how it negatively impacts transgender and gender non-conforming individuals. [USA Today]

Catholic Charities’ Board Member Resigns in NYC: The head of New York City’s Roman Catholic Archdiocese faces a challenge to his stance on LGBT rights: the resignation of a church official who says he’s “had enough” of the Cardinal’s attitude. Joseph Amodeo told The Associated Press on Saturday that he quit the junior board of Catholic Charities after the Cardinal, Timothy Dolan, failed to respond to a “call for help” for homeless LGBT youth. [Washington Post]

Schools Hear Critics When Filters Block Pro-LGBT Sites: Gahanna-Jefferson school officials thought they were blocking pornography from the district’s computers when they banned a category of websites that their filtering software classifies as 'gay and lesbian issues’. But when a student was blocked from a blog about marriage equality, administrators realized that the “gay and lesbian” category had nothing to do with pornography, and instead was blocking websites like PFLAG National’s, which provide important information to LGBT young people and their families. [Columbus Dispatch]  

Mr. Gay World Comes to Africa: New Zealand's Andreas Derleth, a 32-year-old manager for a chain of stationery stores, was named Mr. Gay World. A disappointed contestant said he would nonetheless return to his native Namibia to fight "for gay rights and human rights." South Africa is the first African country to host Mr. Gay World, which debuted in 2009 in Canada. The bill of rights, adopted after apartheid ended in South Africa in 1994, explicitly bans discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation. Same-sex couples can marry and adopt children in South Africa making it an ideal host for the Mr. Gay World Competition and setting an example for other African countries to follow their lead in LGBT rights. [Associated Press]

Op-Ed: The Importance of Marriage Equality to Transgender People: Marriage for same-sex couples can be a divisive issue not only for straight people, but among LGBT communities. While many LGBT people were thrilled when Maryland and Washington joined the growing list of states affirming marriage equality, others continue to question the logic of spending so much time and money on the marriage effort when other issues, like health care access and economic inequality, are more pressing for the community. This is especially true for transgender people, some of whom are at greater risk to be living in extreme poverty, to be under- or unemployed, to be denied healthcare and housing, and to be harassed in schools and elsewhere. [The Advocate]

Policy Watch

Anchorage Voters Reject Extension of Rights Protections to Gay Residents: On Tuesday in Anchorage, Alaska, voters overwhelmingly rejected a city wide ballot measure, known as Proposition 5, that would have added protections for people regardless of “sexual orientation or transgender identity” to the city’s civil rights laws. [New York Times]

The Department of Education Refreshes Anti-Bullying Website: The Department of Education re-launched their impressive, and informative bullying prevention site StopBullying.gov. It provides information from various government agencies on what bullying is, what cyber-bullying is, who is at risk, and how you can help prevent and respond to bullying[Stopbullying.gov]

Same-Sex Benefits Denial is Ruled Discriminatory: The denial of insurance coverage to the same-sex spouse of a federal court employee in San Francisco was ruled an act of discrimination. The 1996 Defense of Marriage Act had prohibited same-sex couples from federal marital benefits. The court's chief judge has now ruled in an order that entitles the employee to compensation for the costs of private insurance since there had been a violation of the federal courts discrimination-free workplace guarantee. [SF Gate]

Same-Sex Couples Can’t Wed in RI, But Bill Would Allow Divorce: Rhode Island does not recognize same-sex marriage, nor does allow resident same-sex couples married in other states to file for divorce. New proposed legislation in the Rhode Island General Assembly would allow same-sex couples who have been legally married outside Rhode Island to file for divorce without being forced to leave the state. [Boston]

Appeals Court Hears Arguments on Marriage Equality Law: A federal appeals court panel heard arguments Wednesday on whether to uphold a lower court’s finding that a section of the 1996 law banning federal recognition of same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. The case is the first challenge to the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, to reach a federal appeals court. In July 2010, Judge Joseph L. Tauro of the United States District Court in Boston sided with the plaintiffs in two separate cases brought by the state attorney general and a gay rights group. [New York Times]

Question from the Field

Dear Policy Matters,

I am from Anchorage, Alaska where voters considered, and overwhelmingly voted down, Prop 5, a ballot measure that if approved would have added sexual orientation and gender identity to the City’s existing anti-discrimination laws. I know that similar attempts to extend these protections to LGBT people have failed in Anchorage, but this time around the measure had very strong bipartisan support including both Senator Murkowski and Senator Begich. What is the current status of the outcome for the measure, and what can I do to help ensure that LGBT people living in Anchorage are protected from discrimination?

Thank you,

Thomas
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Dear Thomas,

Thanks for the question! Extending protections to LGBT individuals in Anchorage has been and ongoing battle for advocates both for and against these protections. In fact, a bill meant to protect against discrimination for sexual orientation was vetoed 35 years ago by Mayor George M. Sullivan (R) after it passed the City’s Assembly. In 2009, his son and the current Mayor, Dan Sullivan (R), vetoed a similar bill that had passed the Anchorage Assembly also regarding protections against discrimination for the LGBT community. Different from the legislation being considered by the assembly, when it comes to ballot measures, it is difficult to know how the public will react and who will show up to vote or even vote at all on the initiatives presented on the ballot.

Despite a significant amount of community education conducted by One Anchorage and its partners and the fact that proponents outspent the opposition 4 to 1, it appears that the measure lost by a 9 percent spread, even though many ballots are still unaccounted for. Several factors could have led to this outcome. A possible explanation could be what happened at many of the polling stations. Many locations ran out of ballots because of the unprecedented number of voters that came out for the election. Many people filled out sample and copied ballots or event went to other precincts to vote. It is a great possibility that these votes have not yet been counted and would add up to about 9% of the ballots. Without these ballots it appears that about 58% of voters voted no while 42% voted yes, meaning that the ordinance did not pass and the anti-discrimination law will not be extended to include protections for LGBT people living in Anchorage. The ACLU is calling for a review of the election to make sure that the outcome is fair.

Even though the election is over, it is still possible to work towards ending discrimination of our LGBT loved ones in Alaska. Education is a very effective tool to let people know about subjects that they don’t understand. All the work the groups like One Anchorage did was not done in vain. These issues were brought into the public and started many conversations which is a small victory in itself. It is important to lay the ground work for the future so that the next time such a measure appears on the ballot, City residents will be more informed and willing to vote for equal protections against discrimination.

Thanks for the great question! 

Policy Matters

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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 Friday, April 20, 2012.



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