Monday, April 30, 2012

Safe Schools Alliance Youth Committee Shares Message of Hope with “40-Year-Old” Self

The Illinois Safe Schools Alliance’s Youth Committee has created a short video called “Dear 40-Year-Old Me” in which the young students share their feelings about high school, coming out to their parents, and the future. “Dear 40-year-old me,” the students begin. “Do you remember high school? ...You went to a school that wasn’t used to people like you, wasn’t used to change, wasn’t used to people being different....high school was rough.”

“As the young people in this video share personal, raw anecdotes about their lives, a universal theme emerges: change is both possible and empowering,” says David Fisher of the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance. And these students have witnessed real change, first hand.

In 2010, the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance’s Youth Committee was involved in the passing of the Prevent School Violence Act. “You got to meet with the CEO of the Chicago Public Schools,” one young man reminded his 40-year-old self. “You helped create a toolkit that would inspire youth to change anti-bullying policies at their schools,” another student proudly expressed. As one girl smiled, she told her future self, “I bet you had something to do with that.”

The Youth Alliance’s emotional and honest video is one of hope, inspiration, and motivation for all youth who are struggling with their middle and high school years and want to get involved in making schools better for LGBT students. Not only does “it get better” in the future, it can get better today.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Department of Education Re-Launches Bully Prevention Site


On PFLAG National blog’s Policy Matters we recently posted a brief summary of the updated federal bully prevention site, StopBullying.gov. The newly revised website is a result of a partnership between the Department of Education, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the White House , and emphasizes how individuals can take action against bullying in their local schools and communities.

"Bullying is not just an education or health problem, it is a community problem," said Secretary Kathleen Sebelius of the Department of Health and Human Services. "We are committed to working together at the federal level to help communities, schools and families address it as a single problem."
This impressive and informative site provides information covering a wide range of topics, and even dedicates an entire section to “Bullying & LGBT Youth.” 

On their homepage you will find a variety of tools which you can use to learn about, understand, and help prevent bullying:

An especially useful feature is the interactive map which allows you to view anti-bullying laws and policies by state. Here you can see what language is used in your state’s anti-bullying legislation, which groups are protected under the law, what key components are covered, and follow links which allow you to read each law for yourself.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced the re-launch of the site, and issued a strong statement against bullying: “Bullying can no longer be seen somehow as a normal rite of passage...voices from across the nation have started speaking out about bullying. I want to thank all of you for elevating bullying as an issue that must be addressed. But we all know talking about simply is not enough. We must work together, take action, and make things better.” 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

EEOC Issues Historic Ruling: Transgender Americans Protected Under Title VII


In an unprecedented federal ruling, the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) determined earlier this week that workplace discrimination on the basis of a person’s gender identity or expression violates the federal prohibition on sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  The EEOC’s ruling states, “intentional discrimination against a transgender individual because that person is transgender is, by definition, discrimination ‘based on … sex’ and such discrimination … violates Title VII.”

The EEOC decision was a response to a discrimination complaint filed by the Transgender Law Center on behalf of their client, Mia Macy. Macy was passed over for a job with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) for which she was uniquely qualified after her future employers learned of her gender identity.

In a recent statement, Macy expressed her feelings about the case: “Although the discrimination I experienced was painful both personally and financially, and led to the loss of my family’s home to foreclosure, I’m proud to be a part of this groundbreaking decision... No one should be denied a job just for being who they are.”

EEOC’s decision gives the reassurance of federal protections to a reported 90% of transgender and gender non-conforming people who reported experiencing at least one form of harassment, mistreatment, or discrimination on the job because of their gender identity in 2011. The ruling is binding on all federal agencies, EEOC’s 53 offices nationwide, and public and private employers, including those in the 34 states with no laws protecting gender identity and expression.

To learn more about this historic ruling, and what it means for trans rights, please be sure to join our friends at the Transgender Law Center tonight at 5:30 PT/8:30 ET, for a celebratory community conference call. Special guest, Mia Macy, whose case was the reason for the ruling will be featured on the call, and legal experts will share what this ruling means for transgender and gender non-conforming people and their families nationwide. To register, click here.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Issues New Policy for Transgender Immigrants


Last Friday, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released a Policy Memorandum to update the Adjudicator’s Field Manual’s guidelines on transgender immigrants’ documentation and marriage recognition. The new policies are binding for all agency staff overseeing U.S. immigration procedures.

The first policy pertains to the multitude of documents that USCIS issues regularly, including Employment Authorization Documents, Refugee Travel Documents, Permanent Resident Cards, and Naturalization Certificates. As per Friday’s change, applicants who seek to change their gender on any USCIS identification documents may do so without proof of sex reassignment surgery.

"It brings USCIS in line with DOS [the Department of State] in its guidance for updating gender markers on identity documents -- no longer requiring any specific surgery, but instead allowing a doctor to certify the individual's gender,” says Victoria Neilson, Legal Director for Immigration Equality. She adds, “This Guidance is an important step forward for transgender immigrants and their families.”

The second policy addresses marriage between a transgender individual and an individual of the other gender. Under the new USCIS memorandum, a couple’s marriage is valid if:
·         A transgender individual legally changed genders and subsequently got married to a person of the opposite gender.
·         The marriage was recognized as a legal heterosexual marriage where the marriage took place.
·         The law where the marriage took place does not bar marriage between a transgender individual and a person of the opposite gender.

The policy does not require a transgender individual to present proof of surgery unless the place of marriage required it explicitly. Because of this change, transgender immigrants will be able to file a “Petition for Alien FiancĂ©(e)” or allow American citizens to petition for a green-card for their transgender spouses.

"Today's announcement is another example of the Obama Administration's long-term commitment to equality," NCTE Policy Counsel Harper Jean Tobin said Friday. "These revisions mean that trans people and their families can obtain accurate identification while maintaining their privacy. It'll also reduce bureaucratic delays, intrusive questions, and wrongful denials of immigration benefits."

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Student Non-Discrimination Act and the Safe School's Improvement Act Get Official Endorsement from President Obama

Late Friday afternoon the White House announced that President Obama will endorse two pending Congressional anti-bullying bills, the Safe Schools Improvement Act (S. 506) and the Student Non-Discrimination Act (S. 555), which help to make schools safer for LGBT students. The news came on the same day the White House’s Office of Public Engagement held a screening of the movie Bully.  

“The president and his administration have taken many steps to address the issue of bullying,” said Shin Inouye, Director of Specialty Media, speaking on behalf of the administration. “He is proud to support the Student Non-Discrimination Act, introduced by Senator Franken and Congressman Polis, and the Safe Schools Improvement Act, introduced by Senator Casey and Congresswoman Linda Sanchez. These bills will help ensure that all students are safe and healthy and can learn in environments free from discrimination, bullying and harassment.”

SSIA currently has 39 Senate co-sponsors and 147 House co-sponsors. SNDA has 37 co-sponsors in the Senate and 157 co-sponsors in the House. 

"I'm extremely pleased that President Obama has endorsed my Student Non-Discrimination Act, which will help ensure that LBGT students can attend school free of harassment, discrimination and violence,” said Rep. Polis in a statement following the President’s endorsement. “This endorsement is an enormous step forward for equality, but on a human level it is about the right of any student in America to attend school and learn without the fear of being bullied.”

Take Action: Take a few minutes to contact your own Congressmembers to urge them to support these two critical bills. SSIA will ensure all public schools have bullying and harassment prevention programs, and SNDA will add sexual orientation and gender identity federal protections for LGBT students to ensure a safer learning environment for all. Tell your Congressmembers to join our president and stand up for the rights for all youth nationwide!





Read more here: http://miamiherald.typepad.com/gaysouthflorida/2012/04/obama-supports-acts-to-target-school-bullying-and-discrimination-based-on-sexual-orientation-gender-identity.html#storylink=cpy

Thursday, April 19, 2012

New Study: LGBT Tolerance Higher than Expected in Hispanic Community


The National Council of La Raza, The Arcus Foundation, and the public opinion research firm Social Science Research Solutions recently released a study of Hispanics in America and their opinions on LGBT issues.

The study was conducted in 2011 and surveyed 1001 participants of Latino origin or descent, age 18 or older. The study’s key finding was this: “Hispanics are as open and tolerant, if not more tolerant, than the general population.” As their first graph shows, Hispanic support for same-sex marriage is higher than that of the general American population.


In addition to this major finding, the NCLR study found that 64% of Latinos support civil unions; no less than 83% of Latinos support legal protections for hate crimes, job discrimination, housing discrimination, and support for healthcare and pension benefits for same-sex couples; 78% of Latinos support being “out” during military service.

However, the report goes on to state that “…There are nevertheless Hispanic segments at odds with legal [same-sex] marriage.” Those who are least accepting of marriage equality are men (half as supportive as women), Hispanics who go to church with “anti-gay” messages (four times less supportive), and Protestants, weekly churchgoers, and “literalists.”

And yet, “the road to acceptance for Hispanics is the same road used by other groups: association creates acceptance.” In this NCLR graph, we can see that when respondents knew “a lot” of “gay people” as opposed to “none,” positive sentiments increased by 20%,  support for legal adoption increased by 38%, and fear of the societal impact of LGBT rights fell by 33%.


You can find the full report and all of its illuminating findings here.




Tuesday, April 17, 2012

North Carolina: Vote NO on Amendment One on May 8th

Last month, President Obama made it clear that he opposes Amendment One. The President’s leadership on this issue further demonstrates the growing number of state and community leaders, along with average constituents, who recognize the alarming harms Amendment One would pose to children, families and single women throughout North Carolina.

We were also encouraged by announcements from both the North Carolina Libertarian Party and Governor Bev Perdue who underscored the bi-partisan nature of the opposition to the amendment by expressing their strong desire to see the amendment defeated.

The Governor said, “Would you ever have thought that North Carolina in 2012 would be focused on something as bad for our economy as the amendment? … I’ll do everything I can to defeat it.”

Take Action Today!

As early voting begins on April 19, leading up to the May 8 primary election, we must continue to work tirelessly to defeat this far-reaching constitutional rewrite, protect ALL NC families, and keep our state on the right side of history.

We have fact sheets, yard signs, Facebook and Twitter icons and more, all available online at Protect All NC Families’ website. What’s needed the most—right now—is to make your voices heard throughout North Carolina every single day between now and Election Day.


If you live in North Carolina, please take action today by doing at least one of the following between NOW and Tuesday, May 8:
  • Pledge to Vote No. If you live and vote in North Carolina, pledge to vote no to Amendment One on May 8th – it’s the first step to defeating this amendment.
  • Get out the Vote (GOTV). It’s important to encourage community members to begin voting early on April 19, 2012 – keep encouraging people to vote between this time and May 8th.
  • Educate Communities across the state to VOTE AGAINST the amendment. PFLAG memberscan help educate their neighbors, friends, work colleagues, and fellow parishioners to VOTE AGAINST the ballot measure by talking about the harms it poses to our families and loved ones.
  • Forward this message to five of your friends and encourage them to VOTE NO. Commit to forwarding this message to five of your friends who may not be informed about the harms this proposed amendment would have on your loved ones and you.

Thank you for moving equality forward for ALL families living in North Carolina!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Camdenton School District Required to Remove LGBT Web Filters


In August 2011, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the ACLU of Eastern Missouri organized a lawsuit against the Camdenton R-III School District on behalf of a Camdenton High School student and PFLAG Nationalthe Matthew Shepard FoundationCampus Pride, and DignityUSA. The lawsuit was filed after multiple warnings that the district’s website filtering software discriminated against LGBT content, including the websites of the plaintiffs. If a student tried to access a site related to LGBT support such as gay-straight alliances or local PFLAG chapters, they were treated as if they were attempting to access explicit material. However, anti-LGBT sites such as the National Organization for Marriage were allowed to be viewed.

The ACLU then insisted that “the district must either unblock the discriminatory “sexuality” filter or obtain other filtering software that is capable of filtering content in a viewpoint-neutral manner.”

This week, the ACLU and the school district came to a settlement agreement. LGBT supportive websites will be unblocked, and the district will submit to an 18 month monitoring period to ensure they comply. “The district will also have to pay $125,000 in costs and the market value of our attorneys’ fees in bringing this case,” said ACLU Staff Attorney Joshua Block, “The fee award is particularly important because it will help deter other schools from engaging in similar censorship.”

Anthony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Eastern Missouri, added that “students will [now] be free to search for resources for their gay-straight alliance, seek support against bullying and research history as it pertains to LGBT people, just as they would for any other subject.”

We’d like to pause and thank our friends at the ACLU for scoring a huge victory and helping us move equality forward for our LGBT family and friends. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

PRESS RELEASE: Advocacy Groups to Distribute Nearly 50,000 Flyers Countering Anti-LGBT Propaganda to Montgomery County Public High Schools

***FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE  

April 11, 2012

Advocacy Groups to Distribute Nearly 50,000 Flyers Countering Anti-LGBT Propaganda to Montgomery County Public High Schools
  
Contact: David S. Fishback, Advocacy Chair, Metro DC PFLAG, fishbackpflag@gmail.com, 240-605-3243

Beginning this morning, PFLAG, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the Equality Maryland Foundation will distribute nearly 50,000 flyers in all 25 Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) high schools. The flyer addresses issues raised by dangerous anti-LGBT materials previously circulated to students, and will be distributed to all high school students within MCPS as part of the school system’s flyer distribution program.[1]

The flyers provide schools with resources for LGBT students, and also counter misinformation spread by a group known as Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays (PFOX), which recently distributed flyers in some MCPS high schools asserting that gay people "can seek help and information on overcoming their feelings." The PFOX flyers also urge readers to go to the PFOX website, which directs readers to therapies that purportedly can change one's sexual orientation.[2]

“It is vital for young people in Montgomery County to have access to accurate information,” said Christine P. Sun, the director of SPLC’s LGBT rights project. “While spreading this kind of misinformation is dangerous to the well-being of LGBT youth, not having the facts is a threat to all students.”

The notion that sexual orientation can be changed has been rejected or highly criticized by every American mainstream medical and mental health professional association.[3]

For example, the American Medical Association "opposes the use of ‘reparative’ or ‘conversion’ therapy that is based upon the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder or based upon a prior assumption that the patient should change his/her homosexual orientation."[4]

The mainstream groups “have all taken the position that homosexuality is not a mental disorder and thus is not something that needs to or can be ‘cured.’” [5]

As the American Psychiatric Association explains, the “potential risks of reparative therapy are great, including depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior.”[6]

“There have been too many stories of suicide arising from such therapies for us to remain silent in the face of the PFOX flyers,” said Patrick Wojahn of the Equality Maryland Foundation.
MCPS Superintendent Joshua P. Starr has called the PFOX flyers "disgusting and reprehensible."[7]

“We applaud the superintendent’s position. But it is unfortunate that the MCPS health education curriculum does not address this issue, nor does it permit health teachers to convey to students the conclusions of the mainstream medical and mental health professional associations that being gay is not an illness–unless a student specifically asks,” said David S. Fishback, of Metro DC PFLAG. “Fortunately, the Board of Education's Citizens Advisory Committee on Family Life and Human Development and MCPS's health education advisors from the Maryland Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics have recommended the inclusion of this information in the health education curriculum, information that would counter the PFOX canards. We have urged MCPS to adopt these recommendations.”

The coalition formed by PFLAG, the SPLC and the Equality Maryland Foundation is distributing flyers with this information so that LGBT students will know they are being supported by the adults in the community, and to fill in the gaps currently existing in the health education curriculum. The absence of such knowledge contributes to bullying.

The coalition is working together to expose the dangers of conversion therapy and ensure that all LGBT youth are protected.

[1] The two-sided April PFLAG/TTP/EQMDF can be found here and here.
[2] http://media2.myfoxdc.com//documents/EinsteinPFOXLetter.PDF, http://www.metroweekly.com/news/?ak=7162 , http://pfox.org/Research-Treatment-Unwanted-Homosexuality-Beneficial.htmlhttp://pfox.org/therapist_parents.htmlhttp://www.pfox.org/Facts_on_full_sheet_Apr_1.pdf
[3] See Just the Facts About Sexual Orientation and Youth: A Primer for Principals, Educators, and School Personnel, developed by the American Psychological Association and endorsed by 13 other organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American School Counselors Association and the National Association of School Psychologists available at http://www.apa.org/pi/lgbt/resources/just-the-facts.pdf.
[4] AMA Policy Number H-160.991, Health Care Needs of the Homosexual Population, available at http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/about-ama/our-people/member-groups-sections/glbt-advisory-committee/ama-policy-regarding-sexual-orientation.page
[5] See n. 3, at p. 6.
[6] See n. 3, at p. 7.
[7] See http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/backpack-flier-prompts-montgomery-to-consider-banning-such-notes/2012/03/01/gIQAzzZZtR_story.html 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

New LGBT Toolkit Released for Healthcare Providers


This month the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, released a new resource guide for prevention specialists, healthcare providers, educators, and the public as a whole. The free kit provides information on current health issues affecting the LGBT community, and includes helpful terms related to gender identity and sexual orientation for health providers.

The Top Health Issues for LGBT Populations Information and Resource Kit contains seven fact sheets and PowerPoint slides which address gender identity and the top health issues for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. PFLAG National staff partnered with the guide’s authors during its development to help inform the resource. “It’s great to see the completed product,” said PFLAG National’s Director of Policy J. Rhodes Perry.

The guide can be ordered in hard copy for free, or obtained online as a PDF on SAMHSA’s website. 

Monday, April 2, 2012

Anchorage Anti-LGBT Ads Spread Misinformation

The Anchorage Equal Rights Initiative, Proposition 5, will be voted on next Tuesday, April 3rd. If this ballot measure is approved, LGBT individuals will be given basic non-discrimination protections in employment, housing, public accommodations, and credit.

As a part of a campaign against Prop 5, hateful misinformation has been spread by a local group called Protect Your Rights. The group boasts a total of 287 Facebook supporters, and has recently created TV ads which supposedly explain Prop 5 and its effects to the greater Anchorage population. Unfortunately, these so-called informative videos could not be further from the truth.

Trevor Storrs, a spokesman for the One Anchorage campaign in favor of the proposition, rightfully called the ads “offensive, stigmatizing and distorted.”

Fortunately there are voices of reason in Anchorage who are speaking out in favor of Prop 5. Drew, a supporter of One Anchorage, has released this video in response to the hateful ads:



This atrocious and fictitious ad series can only be refuted by the truth. If you live in Anchorage, spread the word about the truth behind Prop 5, and urge your friends to vote “YES” on this important non-discrimination proposition.