Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Policy Matters: July 25, 2012

Front Page Headlines

Transgender Advocates Seek New Diagnostic Terms: For the first time in nearly two decades, the APA is overhauling its diagnostic manual and rewriting the categories typically used to diagnose transgender people. One of the most symbolic changes in the new manual thus far is the removal of Gender Identity Disorder and the introduction of “Gender Dysphoria,” a term that comes from the Greek word for emotional distress. [ABC].

Police Practices Fuel HIV Epidemic: A recent Human Rights Watch report reveals that police in New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. and San Francisco are “confiscating condoms from sex workers and transgender women, undermining health department campaigns to reduce HIV.” [Human Rights Watch].

California Democrats Urge DNC to Adopt Marriage Equality Platform: California Democrats are calling for their party to include marriage equality on its convention platform. Thirty of the 34 California delegates back the initiative, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. In a letter to the Democratic Party Platform Drafting Committee, the California congressional delegation asked the drafting committee to “assert support for the Respect for Marriage Act, the elimination of the Defense of Marriage Act and opposition to efforts to prevent or curtail the rights of same-sex couples.” [Los Angeles Times].  

Alabama Bishop Won’t Allow Blessing of Same-Sex Unions: Bishop Kee Sloan, who leads the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama, voted in favor of blessing same-sex unions at the national level, but is now refusing to allow priests in his diocese to perform such blessings. “Theology is an ongoing revelation,” Sloan said when asked about his decision. [Gadsden Times].

Law Pushes Married Lesbian Couple Out of U.S.: Francesca Martin and Gudrun Scheffler have been together for 12 years. The couple got married in Connecticut in 2009 and is among the 36,000 same-sex couples nationwide that face expulsion because of DOMA. Scheffler is from Germany and may be forced to leave the U.S. in September when her work visa expires. [New Haven Independent].

Military Marchers Wear Uniforms in Pride Parade: On July 21st, more than 350 Servicemembers wore their uniforms in San Diego’s LGBT Pride Parade. This is the first time the Defense Department gave an exception to a policy that bars military troops from wearing uniforms in public, non-partisan parades. [Military Times].

Boston Mayor is Blocking Chik-fil-A’s Expansion: After Chik-fil-A’s president expressed his views against marriage equality, Mayor Thomas M. Menino is vowing to block Chik-fil-A from bringing its chain to Boston. “You can’t have a business in the city of Boston that discriminates against a population. We’re an open city, we’re a city that’s at the forefront of inclusion,” said Mayor Menino. [Boston Herald].

Letters Against the Boy Scouts’ Exclusion of LGBT People: Letters from the public express the hurt and disappointment felt by many Americans after the Boy Scouts voted to uphold their discriminatory policy against gay members and LGBT leaders. [New York Times].

Difficulties of Coming Out in Workplace without Anti-Discrimination Policies: LGBT individuals discuss their struggles in coming out in their workplace. Without a federal law that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, many workers fear they could lose their job because of who they are. [Houma Courier].

Rep. King Tries to Ban Same-Sex Marriages on Military Bases: “Rep. Steven King (R-IA) introduced an amendment [on July 19th] that would ban same-sex marriage on any military facility and prohibit military chaplain from performing gay marriage ceremonies.” Opponents of the amendment, such as Rep. Norm Dicks (D-WA), say that rather than implementing this discriminatory amendment, legislators should examine the effects of DOMA on service members and their families. [Politico].

Policy Watch:

Minnesota Marriage Equality Supporters Ahead in Fundraising: Minnesotans United for All Families, an advocacy group that opposes a proposed state constitutional amendment banning marriage equality, has raised nearly $5.4 million for its campaign. Minnesota for Marriage, those in favor of the amendment and against marriage equality have raised almost $1.5 million. Political scientist Larry Jacobs estimates that about 20% of Minnesotan voters have not made up their mind of how they will vote on the amendment. [Associated Press].

Strategist Central Figure Against Marriage Equality: Frank Schubert, an anti-equality activist who led the 2008 campaign to repeal marriage equality in California, is currently heading campaigns against marriage equality in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington – four states with a voter referendum on marriage equality this November. Schubert also led campaigns to ban same-sex marriage in 31 states since 1998, and successfully strategized to overturn marriage equality in Maine and North Carolina. However, as public opinion shifts in favor of marriage equality, it waits to be seen if Schubert’s winning streak is over. [Associated Press].

Group Spent $160K to Bring Marriage Equality to a Referendum: The Maryland Marriage Alliance spent over $160,000 on collecting signatures to force a vote on Maryland’s new marriage equality law. The Maryland State Board of Elections approved more than 109,000 signatures, about twice as many as were needed to bring the law to a referendum. [Herald-Mail].

LGBT Bar Target of Drive-By Shooting, Possible Hate Crime: An Indianapolis bar that serves LGBT people was the victim of a possible drive-by shooting. The bar’s owner believes that the bar’s blown out window is likely a hate crime. No bullet was found and no one was injured. A police report characterized the incident as “vandalism.” [Indianapolis Star].

Jacksonville City Council President Urges Council to Vote on LGBT Human Rights Ordinance: Jacksonville City Council President Bill Bishop expressed that he wants city council to vote on Human Rights Ordinance 296, which would add protections for LGBT people to the city’s existing anti-discrimination policy, before the council’s budget hearings in August. However, council members didn’t vote on the provision last week, which means the earliest the council could vote is August 14th, unless Bishop puts committee members onto the council floor for a vote. [Florida Times-Union].

Backlash Against Jennifer Carroll After Her Anti-LGBT Remarks: Sharon J. Lettman-Hicks, Executive Director of the National Black Justice Coalition, criticized Florida’s Lt. Governor Jennifer Carroll’s recent prejudiced and stereotypical comments about single, lesbian, and bisexual black women. The criticism referred to Carroll’s statements when she attempted to defend herself and deny accusations of being involved in a sexual encounter with a female subordinate. Carroll commented that based on her appearance and long-standing marriage, she could not have engaged in such extramarital relations. [Huffington Post].

Idaho Bar Stops Carrying Brands that Endorse LGBT Equality: Waha Bar and Grill in Northern Idaho has stopped carrying Miller Coors or Pepsico products because the companies support the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, an LGBT business advocacy organization. [KLEW].

Question from the Field:

Dear Policy Matters,

It has been frustrating to see well-known national organizations and companies express anti-equality views. When organizations like Boy Scouts of America and Chik-fil-A support anti-LGBT policies and views, it discourages me and my friends, but most importantly, it sends a message to LGBT youth that they are different and do not deserve the same rights as others. What can we do to counter these negative views to uplift all LGBT people and secure equal rights for all?

Thank you,
Deborah
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Dear Deborah,

Thanks for writing to Policy Matters! It is so important to discuss ways to empower LGBT youth in the face of prejudice and discrimination. These anti-equality views upset us as well and inspire us to unite to move equality forward.

By calling out these companies, we are taking the first step in standing up against injustice. We can also counter prejudice by endorsing businesses, individuals, and policies which promote equality.

When Boy Scouts upheld its anti-LGBT policy, many parents around the country wrote Op-Eds announcing their decision to remove their child from the organization, and some articles even told the story of Boy Scouts Alumni who returned their Boy Scout badges after hearing its prejudiced decision. Refusing to participate in an organization which embraces discrimination is a huge step LGBT individuals and allies can take. Soon after Chik-fil-A confirmed its anti-LGBT views, Mayor Thomas M. Menino of Boston vowed to block the food chain from opening in the city of the Freedom Trail. Similarly, the Jim Henson Company, creator of the Muppets, announced its decision to end its partnership with Chik-fil-A. Lisa Henson, CEO of the Jim Henson Company, even designated the payment received from Chik-fil-A to GLAAD. These groups not only support LGBT equality, but openly disassociate from corporations which do not.

It has also been great to see California Democrats urge the Democratic National Convention to include marriage equality in the party’s platform. Many other Democratic organizations have taken this stance, including state parties in Wisconsin, Texas and Pennsylvania, a group of former Democratic National Committee Chairs, and many national and local advocacy groups. This support comes after President Obama’s endorsement of marriage equality in May.

While we celebrate these strides towards equality, we must continue to look forward and work towards acceptance. One way to eliminate discrimination is through inclusive policies, such as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), federal legislation which would protect LGBT people from discrimination in the workplace. Through this bill, Congress could send a message to all organizations throughout the nation that discrimination will not be tolerated. Please click here to contact your local representative and express your support for ENDA.

There are also steps you could take in your community. PFLAG’s Straight for Equality campaign offers trainings to promote awareness, inclusion, and acceptance in your workplace. Straight for Equality also has a component for faith communities which aims to move the way we understand our beliefs and our relationships with LGBT people to a place where people can understand that you can be a person of faith, loyal to your religion’s teachings, and someone who supports your LGBT friends and family.

By denouncing anti-equality views, supporting progressive organizations, advocating for inclusive legislation, and building communities of acceptance, we are fostering a society which celebrates human diversity and embraces equality for all. Through these efforts, we can let LGBT youth know that they deserve equal rights and respect. It is through the efforts of committed citizens and PFLAG members like yourself which has brought equality this far, and will continue to move it forward.

Thanks for the great question!

Policy Matters

P.S. – Click here to join our PFLAG action e-list to stay informed of when your involvement can make a huge difference!

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