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.” 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Policy Matters 4/26/2012

Front Page Headlines  

In Anoka-Hennepin, Minnesota Teacher Silence is Broken: In years past, teachers wouldn't have been allowed to show their support to students protesting anti-LGBT bullying. Now they can. School was no different than it's been every year in the past decade. 85 students wore placards that explained they were muting their voices to draw attention to the plight of young people silenced by the threat or reality of anti-LGBT bullying. What was different this year. Their teachers were able to support them, out loud. [Star Tribune]

Command Sergeant Major Allegedly Assaults Lesbian Captain at Military Ball: A soldier in the United States military wrote on Facebook, "I was just shoved across the dance floor by my command sergeant major for being gay...lovely end to my active duty career." While dancing with her girlfriend at the Cavalry Squadron Ball, the soldier’s Squadron Commander took her girlfriend aside and told her, "You [both] need to get off the dance floor." [Huffington Post]

The Anti-LGBT Base Is Shrinking: Last summer, Freedom to Marry hosted a National Press Club briefing to showcase a message to candidates of both parties from lead pollsters for President Obama and George W. Bush. The pollsters agreed: the political equation has shifted dramatically – with accelerating momentum and growing intensity in favor of the freedom to marry. [New York Times]

IRS Makes Same-Sex Parents 'Lie,' Shortchanging 2 Million Children: Tom Bourdon and his husband Jimmy are legally married and are raising two children in a home they jointly own in suburban Massachusetts. As they finished up their taxes, filing a joint state return as a married couple, they had to essentially lie to Uncle Sam about the most important aspects of their life. They filed two separate tax returns and "divided up" their two children so that they could claim child-related exemptions, deductions, and credits. [ABC News]

Policy Watch

U.S. EEOC Issues Landmark Ruling for Transgender Employees: In what has been hailed a “landmark” move, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled Monday that employers that discriminate against an employee or potential employee based on their gender identity are in violation of Title VII of the Civil rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on sex. [Huffington Post]

“God Shows No Partiality,” Says Minister in Support of Fairness Amendment: A Lincoln, Nebraska minister and several local business owners offered their support for what is being called the fairness ordinance. The proposal would extend legal anti-discrimination protection in Lincoln to LGBT people in housing, employment, and public accommodations. [Journal Star]

City of Eau Claire, Wisconsin OKs Benefits for Same-Sex Couples: The Eau Claire City Council debated the cost versus the fairness of allowing domestic partnerships to qualify for the same health plans married couples can receive. The council ultimately voted 10-1 in favor of extending benefits, after almost two hours of debate. [Leader Telegram]

'Don't Say Gay' Bill Advances in the House: Tennessee’s elementary and middle school teachers could face more pressure not to talk about LGBT issues with their students next year after the so-called Don’t Say Gay bill cleared a House education committee. [Tennessean]

Question from the Field

Dear Policy Matters,

The media continues to cover the importance of anti-bullying protections in schools across the country. Personally, I am relieved by the increased visibility as I don’t believe there is enough acknowledgment of the severe and pervasive bullying, harassment, and discrimination that many LGBT students endure. As we learned from the Anoka-Hennepin case, many education professionals are explicitly prohibited from portraying LGBT people and issues in a “positive light,” due to neutrality laws and/or policies, which are also known as “no promo homo” laws. Can you please explain share with me more about the impact of these laws and policies. How pervasive are they, and how can we as PFLAGers work to eradicate them to prevent future incidents like what occurred in Anoka-Hennepin from occurring again?

Thank you,

Emily
---------------

Dear Emily,

Thanks the great question!  Bullying, harassment, and discrimination is a major problem for all youth today, including LGBT youth. A recent study found that nine out of ten LGBT students report being bullied in their schools. Bullied youth will often miss school because they don’t feel safe, their grades and interest in learning may decline, and some students resort to self-harm.

Clearly the landscape of legal protections for vulnerable LGBT students is incredibly rocky. In fact, only 13 states offer explicit protections for LGBT students. Moreover, a wave of laws, policies, and proposed legislation aims to prohibit educators from adequately addressing LGBT targeted bullying, harassment, and discrimination due to the presence of “No Promo Homo” policies. “No Promo Homo” policies are local or state educational policies that restrict or eliminate any school-based instruction or activity that could be interpreted as presenting LGBT individuals or topics from a positive perspective. These policies are founds across the country in school districts like Merrimack, New Hampshire, or before a recent court decision, Anoka-Hennepin, Minnesota, and they have a chilling silencing effect over educators fearing that if they speak about anything LGBT related, even to stop bullying, that their job security will be jeopardized.

This year alone seven states are considering such laws, and thanks to the efforts of many PFLAG Chapters, the majority of these state laws were amended to remove such explicit “No Promo Homo” prohibitions. Beyond talking with your elected officials about the harms of such misguided public policy, you can get involved by attending school board meetings, calling your Superintendent, or writing letters to the editor, reminding these stakeholders that public schools should be institutions that celebrate free speech and a healthy exchange of ideas. As the United States Supreme Court observed, “Teachers and students must always remain free…to study and evaluate, to gain new maturity and understanding; otherwise our civilization will stagnate and die.” Keyishian v. Board of Regents, 385, U.S. 589, 603 (1967).

For more information, please visit our Cultivating Respect - Safe Schools website to learn more about the many different ways you can help build safer schools for ALL students in your own communities.  

Thanks again 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!

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, May 4, 2012.



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

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
---------------

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

---------------

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!

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.



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