Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Policy Matters 6/27/2012

Front Page Headlines

LGBT Groups Raise Their Voice in the Protest Against NY Stop-and-Frisk Policies: Last year, the New York Police Department stopped more than 685,000 people, mostly black and Hispanic young men—up from 97,000 a decade earlier. About half of those stopped are frisked, and about 10% are arrested. “In most cities, when you ask who gets beaten up by cops, the answer comes back: black people, people of color, and the gay community,” said Benjamin Jealous of the NAACP. [Washington Post].

First Gay Judge Appointed in Virginia: An openly gay prosecutor has been appointed in Virginia to take the bench as a district judge, despite the General Assembly’s rejection of his nomination to the position last month. According to an order signed by Chief Judge of the Richmond Circuit Court, Tracy Thome-Begland’s appointment will begin July 1. Since the appointment, several VA Delegates have publicly rescinded their opposition to Thome-Begland’s position. [Politico]

Pentagon Salutes LGBT Servicemembers: The Pentagon marked June as gay pride month just as it has marked other celebrations honoring racial or ethnic groups. In the latest remarkable sign of change since the military repealed the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, the Defense Department held its first event to recognize gay and lesbian troops. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta honored the contributions of gay service members through several events and avenues. [San Francisco Chronicle]

Historic Senate Hearing on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act: On Tuesday, June 12th, the Senate Committee on Health, Education and Labor held a hearing on ENDA: the critical need for the legislation, its intended role in workplace discrimination, and the likely effect of such legislation regarding workplace discrimination. The hearing included testimony from Kylar Broadus, the first transgender individual to testify before the U.S. Senate. [PFLAGBlog]

Human Rights Campaign Report Shows Progress in LGBT Healthcare Equality: The number of American hospitals striving to treat lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) patients equally and respectfully is on the rise, according to a report released on Tuesday, June 19th, by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation with U.S. Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius at Howard University Hospital.  Much work remains to be done to end discrimination in America’s healthcare system, but the once invisible issue of LGBT healthcare equity is gaining national prominence, with healthcare facilities committing themselves to offering unbiased care. [Human Rights Campaign]

The Congressional Anti-Bullying Caucus Launches: The Congressional Anti-Bullying Caucus will be a premier forum for individuals and advocates from private sector organizations and non-profit agencies, educators, students, and everyday individuals, along with Members of Congress, to proactively respond to issues of bullying—both online and offline. PFLAG’s Executive Director, Jody M. Huckaby, will moderate a panel on “Bullying Behavior and Power Dynamics” at the Caucus Launch Event. [Congressman Honda]

Policy Watch

Jacksonville, FL Human Rights Ordinance Continues to be Controversial: The final vote was once again delayed on the proposed changes to Jacksonville’s Human Rights Ordinance, but a committee did rule on changes in the proposal’s wording. The most notable change is in the language: protection against discrimination based on “sexual orientation” was preserved, but the language protecting based on “gender identity or expression” was removed. A vote on the ordinance is scheduled for mid-July at the earliest. [WOKV]

ACLU Files Lawsuit against NC Adoption Ban: The ACLU filed a federal lawsuit on Wednesday, June 13th challenging North Carolina’s prohibition against same-sex couples adopting each other’s children. They hold that the ban on so-called second parent adoptions violates the constitutional rights of gay and lesbian parents and their children. Additionally, they want to expand the legal protections for gay and lesbian households to ensure that adoption decisions are made on a case-by-case basis based on what is best for the child, and that children aren’t left vulnerable by being denied a legally recognized parent. [Huffington Post]

Illinois Attorney General and Cook County State’s Attorney Refuse to Defend Marriage Equality Ban: The Illinois Office of the Attorney General and Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez’s office filed a motion on Thursday, June 14th, indicating that they agreed with two lawsuits challenging the marriage equality ban in Illinois. Alvarez’s office said it will “concede that the equal protection clause of the Illinois Constitution prohibits discrimination in the issuance of marriage licenses based upon sex or sexual orientation.” Her office also stated that they were “in agreement with the plaintiffs that Illinois laws that prohibit marriage equality are unconstitutional.” [Associated Press]

Controversy Erupts over the International Olympic Committee’s New Gender-Testing Policy: Last month, the IOC initiated a review process to test for testosterone levels in women in the wake of South African runner Caster Semenya’s gold-medal performance. Her victory led to widespread accusations that she wasn’t female, as critics attacked her unusually muscular body and deep voice. A new study showed that this sex testing policy was scientifically baseless, as testosterone isn’t an accurate marker of athletic performance, and would lead to a “witch hunt” of those who don’t conform to traditional notions of gender. [The Star]

Question from the Field:

Dear Policy Matters,

I’ve recently gotten involved with PFLAG and have participated in several Pride Celebrations in the past month. These festivals have been wonderful in the support and love they show and in encouraging everyone to be exactly who they are. However, in listening to the many stories of individuals involved, I also became more acutely aware of all of the work that’s left to be done. Pride has shown me how much stronger communities are when there is equality for every member involved. How can I not lose the momentum that Pride has given me and make sure that this energy for equality in the community doesn’t dissipate? I’m fired up for equality from Pride, but not sure how I can keep that energy strong within the community and continue on.


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Dear Ryan,

Thanks for writing to Policy Matters! We appreciate your getting involved and are glad that you were able to join in the wonderful celebrations of Pride month. It’s always inspiring to see so many from the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and straight ally community come together and strengthen the comfort and support that exists. Pride shows us how incredibly important it is to show our LGBT loved ones our full support and to keep up the fight for equality with full force. We share your belief that it’s essential to keep up the momentum and energy from Pride and translate that into action for support and equality.

There are many different ways that you can take your inspiration from Pride and put it to work. One of the most important things is to stay involved. Even though we focus on celebrating our LGBT family during Pride, there are movements to progress equality that happen every day. To make sure you know about everything that’s going on in your community year-round join your local PFLAG chapter. They will keep you up-to-date on all the opportunities to get involved in your community and the major actions that are being taken in your area and around the country to progress equality.

With your local PFLAG chapter you can also help to build and ensure that your community has a safe space for LGBT individuals to be themselves and enjoy a fully supportive atmosphere.  At PFLAG we believe it’s essential that everyone in our PFLAG family knows there are many people out there that accept them with open arms. Many individuals, especially LGBT Youth, need a place that they can simply relax and be themselves or have someone to talk to without fear or judgment. Put your energy to good use by coming out as a public ally and providing a safe space where everyone can be themselves.

Another way to help move equality forward year-round is to contact your elected representatives. There are many pieces of legislation in Congress right now that could greatly affect the lives of our LGBT loved ones. It’s important that your Congressmembers know how you feel about these bills and that they hear from constituents that want them to progress LGBT equality. Some of the bills that currently need you to show your support are the Safe Schools Improvement Act, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, the Student Non-Discrimination Act, and the Every Child Deserves a Family Act. If you want information about contacting your representative, click here to get everything you’ll need.

But most importantly, one of the greatest things we can do is Be Loud and Proud all year long. Pride doesn’t have to be just one month long. One of the most powerful actions we can take in the fight for equality is constantly raising our voice and showing that we’re here to stay. Make sure everyone in the PFLAG family knows that you are there for support and to fight for equality all year long.

Thanks for the great question!

Policy Matters

P.S. Have you signed up to participate in action alerts yet? Register to be on our PFLAG action e-list and receive a message when your involvement can make a crucial difference!

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