Friday, June 29, 2012

PFLAG Celebrates Kickoff of 40th Anniversary Year!

This week, PFLAG is kicking off its 40th Anniversary celebration! You heard right, just 40 years ago Jeanne Manford marched with her gay son Morty at the 1972 Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade in New York City. It was during this march that the world first saw her now-famous sign which read: “Parents of Gays: Unite in Support of Our Children.” 

“As we marched the parade route, so many people came up and hugged me and cried and talked about their own parents.” 
                                                                            –Jeanne Manford
Due to the encouragement she received when she came out as a straight ally, the first to publicly do so, Manford decided that parents of gay and lesbian children needed a support group to help them come to terms with their children’s sexuality. After writing a letter that appeared in the New York Post on April 29, 1972 declaring her support of her gay son, Manford organized the first formal meeting of PFLAG, which took place in 1973 at a local church. Approximately 20 people attended. From there, the group drastically expanded, emerging as a resource of education, advocacy, and outreach for educational institutions and communities of faith all across the country. PFLAG’s role as a resource of education has remained constant throughout the past four decades and has helped inspire PFLAG’s current initiatives such as our “Care with PRIDE” partnership with Walgreens and Johnson & Johnson and our “Cultivating Respect: Safe Schools for All” campaign.
To help bring our anniversary celebration to all of our members nationwide, we are launching a new campaign: PFLAG Then & Now…40 Years of Family and Ally Voices. Each month for the next year, we will look at a different timely piece of subject matter and highlight the differences PFLAG has made in 40 years of moving equality forward. 

For the month of June, we are releasing our Hate Crimes Guide & Toolkit, which will educate the public about the importance of addressing hate crimes, what they are, and how to report and prevent them.

Aside from PFLAG’s own efforts to spread the word about our 40th Anniversary, we have also received a vast amount of support from our friends. Check out the cover of the Huffington Post Gay Voices vertical today for a story all about Jeanne Manford’s iconic march with her son, an exclusive interview with Jeanne Manford’s daughter, Suzanne, and some never-before-seen Manford family photos. We also hope you didn’t miss the love letter to PFLAG released by Ms. Magazine on Wednesday and our blog post just yesterday about the Congressional Anti-Bullying Caucus’s Launch Event, in which PFLAG’s very own Executive Director, Jody Huckaby, moderated a panel that provided an overview on bullying behavior and power dynamics.
In 40 years, we have seen vast strides made in the fight for LGBT equality. Just 40 years ago, Jeanne Manford learned that New York City police stood idly by as her son was brutally beaten by homophobic bigots. Today, in that same city, her son could marry his same-sex partner. Jeanne Manford laid the foundations for a more accepting society in which families and allies can proudly stand up for their LGBT loved ones and fight for their equality. We certainly cannot forget that the United States still has a long way to go, but we must also not forget to stop every now and then to look back at how far we have come. Thank you, Jeanne Manford. You truly are the mother of the straight ally movement.
Please click here to visit Jeanne’s page and share your thanks, as well as your insights into how she—and PFLAG—has made a difference in your life, and the lives of your LGBT loved ones.

For a moving article about Jeanne Manford and her historic step, click here.

For a complete overview of PFLAG’s remarkable history and growth, 
click here.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Affordable Care Act Upheld! - A Win for LGBT People and their Families


Today the Supreme Court, in 5-4 decision, voted to uphold the key ACA provisions, limiting only the federal government to terminate states' Medicaid funding. This decision is a huge victory for LGBT communities. We celebrate this historic decision and the progress it provides for LGBT people, their families, and the nation. This law will hugely benefit LGBT people and over 30 million Americans in the coming years. 

Today’s decision reflects PFLAG’s mission to promote the health and well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons, their families and friends. By prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and preexisting conditions, the ACA enhances the quality of life for LGBT people and their families. Quality and affordable health care for all promotes the integral and basic human rights that all people deserve. While we celebrate this ruling, we look towards continued PFLAG support, education and advocacy for LGBT equality that will lead to a society in which all people may enjoy full civil and legal equality.

As Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sebelius noted, “the Affordable Care Act may represent the strongest foundation we have ever created to begin closing LGBT health disparities.” The law works to close financial barriers to insurance coverage and prohibit discrimination in the insurance market. For the first time, the ACA will ban gender-based discrimination by most health care providers, providing essential protection for LGBT people. The law will also prohibit insurers from denying or canceling insurance because a person is transgender or has HIV or another medical condition. It requires plans to cover a range of key services, and prohibits co-pays for many routine tests and other preventive care. And the law has tremendous potential to impact the fight against HIV/AIDS by expanding access to testing and treatment and supporting community prevention efforts.

Take Action. Under the Affordable Care Act, it is illegal for any health program or organization that is funded or administered by the federal government to discriminate against you because you are or are perceived to be LGBT. Additionally, this law offers the Patient’s Bill of Rights that puts an end to a number of unfair insurance practices, including dropping enrollees from coverage once they get sick and refusing to offer people coverage because of pre-existing conditions, which may be particularly important for transgender and gender non-conforming people. If you have endured healthcare discrimination, you can file a claim with the federal government’s Office for Civil Rights at HHS by filing online: www.hhs.gov/ocr/civilrights/complaints/discrimhowtofile.pdf and sending to the appropriate regional office, or emailing it toOCRComplaint@hhs.gov

New Congressional Caucus Begins National Dialogue Around Bullying

Later today, members of the newly formed Congressional Anti-Bullying Caucus (CABC) will launch their efforts to address the issue of bullying nationwide. Their Caucus Launch Event will include a press conference, a round table discussion, and an evening reception that will kick off this afternoon at 1:00 p.m. EST at the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C.

Over 30 Representatives are currently members of the Caucus. Chaired by Congressman Mike Honda (D-CA), the CABC will be a premier forum for individuals and advocates from private sector organizations and non-profit agencies to proactively respond to issues of bullying—both offline and online. This bipartisan caucus aims to provide educators, students, and everyday individuals, along with Members of Congress, with the tools and knowledge to not only address incidents of bullying effectively but to prevent them from occurring in the first place.

The round table discussion will consist of three panels. The first, moderated by PFLAG National’s very own Executive Director, Jody Huckaby, will provide an overview on bullying behavior and power dynamics. The second, moderated by Eliza Byard, Executive Director of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), will discuss the roles and responsibilities of adults in preventing bullying. And finally, the third panel, moderated by Rep. Mike Honda himself, will look towards the future with the hope of finding tangible ways to eradicate bullying once and for all. The round table will then be followed by an evening reception and a screening of the film Bully, which profiles the lives of several young teenagers and their families as well as their intimate experiences with bullying.


The importance of hosting such a caucus can be seen in the Chairman’s Message on the Caucus’ website. Here, Rep. Honda discusses how: “Every year, millions of Americans are physically or psychologically attacked on the basis of their skin color, ethnicity, physical or mental abilities, sexual orientation, sex, gender identity, religion, or age. Addressing the bullying epidemic—in our schools, in the workplace, in assisted-living facilities—is a concern very close to my heart. It is our responsibility as human beings to empower the individuals who are discriminated against, scapegoated, and silenced by society.”

Take Action: As PFLAGers, we all agree with Rep. Honda that bullying is a concern very close to our hearts. Here are steps that you can take:

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.

Thanks!

Ryan
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
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!

Friday, June 22, 2012

FMLA Webinar May Clear Up Employees’ Confusion Regarding Rights


Have you ever heard of the Federal and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)? No? Well don’t worry, you are not alone. Millions of Americans don’t know that this piece of legislation exists. What’s even more problematic is that millions of American employees don’t know that this piece of legislation grants them certain rights.

According to the United States Department of Labor’s website: “The FMLA entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons with continuation of group health insurance coverage under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave.” Under the FMLA, eligible employees are entitled to twelve workweeks of leave in a 12-month period for various health-related situations in which the employee must either care for him/herself or a spouse, child, or parent with a serious health condition.

Sadly, millions of Americans are unaware of their rights and have not taken necessary leaves of absence as a result. Even worse, for LGBT Americans, the same rights do not always apply. The FMLA does not cover same-sex partners or spouses, meaning some employees have been denied the right to take time off from work to be with their spouse during a time of need.  This is why the Family and Medical Leave Inclusion Act (H.R. 2364; S. 1283) was introduced last year. This new bill would expand the FMLA to permit an employee to take leave to care for a same-sex spouse or domestic partner who has a serious health condition. Unfortunately, the bill is still in an early stage of the legislative process and does not seem to be progressing due to continued confusion over the FMLA.

Luckily, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) has realized that the FMLA—even for those who do know it exists—has its ambiguities and downfalls. Consequently, WHD will host a webinar on June 27, 2012 at 2:00 p.m. EST that will discuss the basic provisions of the FMLA using the new FMLA Employee Guide. This webinar, which is open to the public, is aimed to answer the public’s general questions regarding the FMLA and its enforcement.

Take Action: Registration is required to participate in the webinar. Please click here to register today and tell your friends and family members to register as well. To order a printed copy of “Need Time? The Employee’s Guide to the Family and Medical Leave Act,” please click here and search for “FMLA Employee Guide” in the list of publications provided. In the meantime, contact your members of congress and tell them that you support the Family and Medical Leave Inclusion Act because LGBT employees deserve the same benefits as their straight counterparts. Together, we can ensure that every employee is aware of their rights.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

New California Bill Aims to Protect LGBT Youth in Foster Care


Once again, California is leading the nation in the fight for LGBT equality with a new bill that would protect LGBT youth in the state’s foster care system. The bill, AB 1856, would extend the existing training required of foster youth caregivers as mandated by the California Community Care Facilities Act. Although California passed the Foster Care Non-Discrimination Act in 2003, which prohibits the harassment of foster care youth on the basis of various enumerated categories, of which sexual orientation and gender identification are listed, the new bill would take the state’s non-discrimination initiative one step further. Rather than just prohibit discrimination, AB 1856 would provide a means to ensure that discrimination against LGBT youth in foster care does not occur.

According to aroundthecapitol.com, an online portal to California political news, opinion, laws, and legislation: “The bill would require the training for an administrator of a group home facility, licensed foster parent, and relative or nonrelative extended family member caregiver, to also include instruction on cultural competency and sensitivity relating to, and best practices for, providing adequate care to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth in out-of-home care.”

Authored by Representative Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), the bill addresses a huge injustice in the treatment of LGBT youth, who are disproportionately the victims of harassment and discrimination in the foster care system. According to a recent publication released by the National Center for Lesbian Rights, LGBT youth account for between 5 and 10 percent of the national foster youth population of approximately 260,000 individuals. Out of this 5-10%, “as many as 78% […] endure further harassment or abuse after being placed in out-of-home care.”

To garner support for the legislation, Equality California released a video that features personal statements from LGBT youth who have been subject to discrimination in the state’s foster care system. One transgender youth’s story stands out in particular. He describes his experience, saying: “It affected me negatively over time and it made me feel worthless, made me feel like I was nothing. There were times when I was ignored […] left out, I didn’t get the same opportunities as other kids because […] I was a wrong, people looked at me like I was a wrong child.” Stories as heartbreaking as these highlight the need for this legislation not only in California, but in states nationwide.



Take Action: On June 26, 2012, the California State Assembly Committee on Human Services will hold a hearing on AB 1856. If you live in California, it is imperative that you express your support for AB 1856 by contacting your local representatives.

And if you don’t live in California, you can work to make changes in your own state and across the whole country. First, contact your members of the state congress and tell them that you support the creation of LGBT cultural competency standards in your own state’s foster care system.

Second, learn more about the Every Child Deserves a Family Act. All children deserve to feel safe and secure. With your help, we can make a difference!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Historic Senate Hearing on Solitary Confinement May Result in Improved Living Conditions for LGBT Inmates


On Tuesday, June 19th, the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights held the first-ever hearing on solitary confinement. Presided over by Senate Majority Whip and Subcommittee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-IL), "Reassessing Solitary Confinement: The Human Rights, Fiscal and Public Safety Consequences" investigated the psychological and mental impact of solitary confinement on inmates during their imprisonment and after their release. More specifically, the hearing highlighted the human rights abuses faced by prisoners in solitary confinement as well as state reforms that have been undertaken in an attempt to improve prisoners’ living conditions.

The United States incarcerates more individuals than any other democracy in the world. With less than 5% of the world’s population, the U.S. is home to almost a quarter of the world’s prisoners. Statistics from the International Center for Prison Studies at King’s College London show that the U.S. has nearly 2.3 million people behind bars. Although many prisoners are subject to various degrees of safety risks during their incarceration, LGBT prisoners in particular face an even greater threat. In fact, 67% of LGBT prisoners in California alone have been assaulted while in prison, as reported by Just Detention International (JDI), the only organization in the U.S. with the sole goal of ending sexual abuse in detention facilities. As a result, many LGBT persons are placed in solitary confinement as a means of “involuntary protective custody.”

The economic costs of placing a prisoner in solitary confinement are expansive. A July 2011 Advocacy Toolkit prepared by the ACLU National Prison Project showed that the annual cost of placing an individual in solitary confinement in the state of Arizona in 2007 was approximately $50,000 per year compared to only about $20,000 per year for the average prisoner. “In Maryland, the cost of housing a prisoner in the state’s segregation units is on average three times greater than a general population facility; in Ohio it is twice as much and in Texas the costs are 45% greater.”

With statistics as shocking as these, it comes as no surprise that—as the parents and friends of LGBT individuals—this hearing was so groundbreaking. Not only is solitary confinement taking a toll on our nation’s economy, it is taking a major toll on our morale as well. This was best illustrated by Anthony Graves’ testimony, in which he recounted his story of spending 18 years in prison for a crime that he did not commit, 10 of which were on death row in solitary confinement. Now a criminal justice reform advocate and founder of Anthony Believes, Graves detailed the dehumanizing treatment of prisoners and the “degrading” conditions of his living environment while in solitary confinement, conditions that “break a man’s will to survive.” By the end of his account, Graves’ words had new meaning: “Solitary confinement makes our criminal justice system criminal.”


Take Action: Congress must act as quickly as possible to protect both LGBT and straight inmates from the injustices they often face if placed in solitary confinement. Yesterday’s hearing was a monumental first step in accomplishing this goal but the fight is not over. Please take action now and express your concerns about solitary confinement to your members of Congress. With your help, Chairman Durbin may just be able to garner enough support to draft legislation that would force the Federal Bureau of Prisons to change its attitude regarding solitary confinement’s pitfalls. After all, as Chairman Durbin pointed out in his opening statement, “America leads the fight for human rights throughout the world.” It is time to alter the way our country treats its prisoners so that such practices align with our national values. Let’s make it happen.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Updates on Jacksonville’s Proposed Anti-Discrimination Ordinance


The City Council of Jacksonville, Florida is currently considering Human Rights Ordinance 296, a provision which would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The ordinance would alter the wording in an existing anti-discrimination bill to include LGBT people and protect them from discrimination in housing, employment, and access to private business. The provision has been debated in Jacksonville City Council meetings, but has not yet been voted on. 

Opponents of the law say that it would jeopardize the liberty of business owners and faith leaders. Attorney Roger Gannum claims that the law would force people to give “their stamp of approval for a behavior that they have a disagreement with.” Other opponents, including District 4 Senate candidate Aaron Bean, say that the bill would open up companies to a flood of lawsuits.

Despite these claims, businesses have expressed their support for the ordinance. The Jacksonville Civic Council, composed of 55 corporations and about 41,000 employees in the city, took out a full-page ad in the Florida Times-Union in support of the bill and commented that the provision will create a “business-friendly” environment in Jacksonville. Also, 87-percent of Fortune 500 companies have policies which ban discrimination based on sexual orientation, and 46-percent also prohibit discrimination based on gender identity. Major businesses seem to agree that anti-discrimination policies increase productivity and foster economic growth. Jacksonville remains the largest city in Florida without an anti-discrimination ordinance that includes protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and people are worried that this will hinder economic investment.

In addition to businesses, 25 religious leaders in Jacksonville have also expressed their support for Human Rights Ordinance 296. The coalition sent a letter to Mayor Alvin Brown urging him to support the provision. “We believe that it is inherently unfair to leave a segment of Jacksonville’s citizens open to being fired, denied housing, or denied services in public venues based solely on the fact that they are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender,” the letter said.

Take Action: Current City Council President Stephen Joost says that he expects the ordinance to be voted on in the next two weeks, though he has not stated his opinion for or against the ordinance. If you live in Jacksonville, it is critical that you express your support for Human Rights Ordinance 296 by clicking here, and let the City Council know that you are against LGBT workplace discrimination.

The debates surrounding Human Rights Ordinance 296 resemble similar arguments for the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which was presented in front of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Tuesday. ENDA would prohibit employment discrimination against LGBT people across the nation. Please read more about ENDA today, and tell your Members of Congress that you support equality in the workplace by clicking here.

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Human Rights Campaign Publishes Survey Illustrating the Lives of LGBT Youth


On Thursday, June 07, 2012 the Human Rights Campaign released Growing up LGBT in America, a report on the experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) youth. Their findings invite both hope and concern about the circumstances that many LGBT youth face. The survey found that, in the 13-17 year old age group, LGBT individuals were twice as likely to be verbally harassed, physically assaulted, and regularly excluded, leading to a higher instance of drug and alcohol usage than non-LGBT students. This prevalence of anti-LGBT bullying was also shown by a Government Accountability Office Report on School Bullying (released June 7, 2012) that pressed the need for LGBT students to be given clear legal protections against the debilitating harassment they face in the school environment.

Almost one-third of LGBT youth said they had no adult in their life they could talk to, and only 21% felt there was a safe place for them in their communities. Dishearteningly, over 90% reported hearing negative messages about being LGBT, with 46% saying the place they most often heard these messages was in their own homes. More than half of LGBT youth now believe that in order to be happy, they will have to leave their family and community.

Despite the often dismal circumstances of LGBT youth that this report illustrates, it also shows the strength and hope vested in these young adults. Even though they endure bullying, harassment and exclusion in many communities, 83% said they truly believed it would someday get better, and they would be happy in the future.

These statistics show how important it is that, as parents, family members, friends, and allies, we offer the greatest support and community possible to LGBT youth and give them a safe space to be themselves. PFLAG’s unique family and ally voice is crucial to showing LGBT youth our enduring support.

Take Action: Contact your Elected Officials and urge them to support legislation that ensures that all youths have a safe and loving environment to grow up in. This legislation includes the Student Non-Discrimination Act, the Safe Schools Improvement Act and the Every Child Deserves a Family Act. Click here to find your elected officials by entering your zip code, and encourage them to create safe and supportive communities for everyone in the PFLAG family.  

Thursday, June 14, 2012

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 the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (S. 811): the critical need for the legislation, its intended role in workplace discrimination, and the likely effect of such legislation regarding workplace discrimination based on perceived or actual sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. The hearing included testimony from experts in several fields, including Kylar Broadus, Founder of Trans People of Color Coalition, and the first transgender individual to testify before the U.S. Senate. Kylar’s presence represented an historic step forward in the recognition of the need for LGBT equality, and was echoed by many Senators’ statements and the testimony of others on the panel.

The rest of the hearing showed how ENDA would promote American values and economic growth. Senator Harkin, the Committee Chairman, opened the discussion with a clear and simple statement: that “…it is long past time to eliminate bigotry in the workplace and ensure equal opportunity for all Americans. [LGBT] Americans are first-class citizens. They are full and welcome members of our American family. And they deserve the same civil rights protections as all other Americans.”

Lee Badgett, a noted Williams Institute researcher and public policy expert, explained that employment discrimination is a national, pervasive problem that causes incredible harm to its victims. Too many LGBT individuals all across America lose not only their jobs, but lifelong careers, simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. Badgett also testified how passing ENDA would help businesses become more competitive, in contrast to what many of ENDA’s opponents have stated. Other testimony came from Ken Charles, VP of Diversity and Inclusion at General Mills, who testified that implementing full LGBT equality and workplace protection at their company, far from incurring costs, has increased their productivity and competitiveness. This statement was supported by a letter from over 90 major corporations declaring their support for ENDA and the economic value it possesses, as well as statistics from the Human Rights Campaign that show that 87% of Fortune 500 companies have workplace protections for sexual orientation, and 41% include gender identity protection. Charles called the absence of protections “a tax on American productivity” and emphasized how important it is for employees to be able to bring their full selves to work and not have to spend energy on protecting their true identities. American values should focus on an individual’s talent, work ethic and equality of opportunity, not the way they choose to express their gender or who they choose to love.

Samuel Bagenstos, a law professor at the University of Michigan Law School, explained that ENDA would simply add sexual orientation and gender identity to employment discrimination using the framework already upheld by courts for other protected classes. He also emphasized key points about ENDA’s religious exemptions, facts that were misconstrued by Craig Parshall, an opposition panelist. Bagenstos explained how ENDA’s religious exemptions are broader than any other civil rights legislation, and that no company, organization, or institution would be required to hire LGBT employees against their faith.  Senator Harkin emphasized this issue, pointing out that strict protections for religious liberty were already clear and in place for anti-discrimination laws, and that business owners and corporations shouldn’t let false fears about religious liberty undermine workplace fairness and safety. 

As PFLAGers, it’s clear to us that ENDA is life-saving legislation, as it would allow hard-working Americans to rise to their full potential and productivity instead of having to live in fear of being harassed or fired. This message was illustrated by Kylar Broadus’ story, in which he told of his own harassment and career loss due to his decision to transition, harassment so severe he suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and crippling financial effects that are still pervasive 20 years after the fact.

Take Action: Congress must pass ENDA as soon as possible to implement necessary workplace protections for LGBT Americans and help American businesses reach their full potential. Please take action now and tell your members of Congress that you support ENDA. Discrimination in the workplace is morally wrong and bad for business. It’s time to ensure that all Americans have the right to work and showcase their talents, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Gay-Friendly Colleges Receive Well-Deserved Spot in the Limelight


With Gay Pride Month in full swing, Bestcollegesonline.com just released an article that recognizes various gay-friendly colleges and universities throughout the country. Entitled “10 Colleges With a History of Gay Pride,” the article highlights the top 10 educational institutions in the U.S. that are leading the way to equality with their LGBT-focused academics and student life. The top 10 colleges with a history of gay pride stretch from coast to coast. The list includes public schools with enrollment numbers upwards of 30,000 students as well as small private universities and well-known Ivy Leaguers.

City College of San Francisco (CCSF) took the number 1 spot on the list. Its Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Studies Department, established in 1989 as the first of its kind in the United States, has truly laid the foundations for future developments in queer studies. Furthermore, CCSF has taken advantage of its prime location by encouraging the diverse populace of the San Francisco area to participate in and provide input for student-led projects and initiatives. All of this, combined with a staff of more than 200 out individuals, has played an integral role in helping students feel more comfortable on campus while empowering them to create change in the process.

As Americans gradually begin to accept and embrace their LGBT counterparts, colleges and universities have emerged as a hub of tolerance and understanding for the gay community. Some colleges, like CCSF, have adopted academic programs dedicated to promoting LGBT equality. Others, however, have created LGBT-friendly student groups to accomplish similar means. Take in point Indiana University: in the fall of 1995, the university established the Lambda 10 Project, which aims to increase the visibility of LGBT members of the campus Greek Life community. Even today, “it exists as the only nonprofit fully dedicated to making fraternity and sorority houses safe spaces for LGBT students.”

So whether it be through academics or student life, it is clear that American colleges and universities have experienced vast strides in improving the quality of life of LGBT students. With the education of American youth at the core of our nation’s potential for future growth, such strides cannot and will not go unnoticed. These 10 colleges and universities must serve as an example for not only other educational institutions but for businesses, corporations, and work places nationwide as well.

To see how your child’s college compares to these top institutions, check out Campus Pride’s LGBT-friendly Campus Climate Index. To read more about discrimination against LGBT students and to learn what you can do to help create a more LGBT-friendly atmosphere in your child’s school, please visit www.pflag.org/safeschools

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Policy Matters 6/6/2012


Front Page Headlines

First Openly Gay Cadets Graduate from Air Force Academy: The first openly gay cadets graduated Wednesday, May 30th from the U.S. Air Force Academy, eight months after the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy took effect.  President Obama, in his address, focused on the “new feeling about America” that has been generated around the world during his term. He stated that “we can say with confidence and pride: The United States is stronger, safer and more respected in the world. There’s a new feeling about America. I see it everywhere I go, from London and Prague, to Tokyo and Seoul, to Rio and Jakarta. There’s a new confidence in our leadership.” [Advocate]

First Transgender Athlete to Compete for a U.S. Olympic Spot: A central question of gender and sports is facing officials as they prepare for London’s Summer Olympics: In a system that segregates athletic competition by sex for reasons of fairness, where do transgender athletes fit? Keelin Godsey is the first openly transgender contender for the U.S. Olympic team. Last month, Godsey qualified for the women’s track and field Olympic trials in the hammer throw. Godsey was born female, identifies as male, and has to compete in the female division—a situation that has attracted much attention. [NPR]

Transgender Candidate Elected in Thailand: Thai political history turned a new page on Sunday, May 27th when Nok Yonlada, who is openly transgender, won a provincial election. She stated that “Nan people voted for me, showing that Thai people respect human rights.” Nok is also president of the Trans Female Association of Thailand and a well-known activist for LGBT rights. She became well-known for her work starting the Sister’s Hand Project which offers free surgery for transgender and gender non-conforming patients. [Jakarta Post]

Erie, IL School Board Bans Anti-Bullying Materials: At last month’s school board meeting, the district decided it would ban elementary school resources that teach respect for all families and address the anti-gay name-calling that has been documented in Erie schools.  The ban includes The Family Book by Todd Parr and anything associated with the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), including the proven bullying prevention program No Name-Calling Week (endorsed by over 50 national education and youth organizations such as Big Brothers Big Sisters of America) and Ready, Set, Respect, lesson plans created in partnership with the National Association of Elementary School Principals and the National Association for the Education of Young Children. A petition has been started to urge the School Board to reverse its decision. [Change.Org]

Policy Watch

Illinois Senate Rejects Anti-Bullying Bill:  The Illinois Senate again rejected legislation that would require Illinois schools to create anti-bullying programs and fully explain how they would investigate bullying instances on Tuesday, May 29th, after an initial vote stalled the bill last week.  The legislation fell one vote short of passage amid concerns raised by anti-gay lobbyists that it could be used to promote acceptance of homosexuality. [Chicago Phoenix]

Bill Introduced in the House of Representatives to Ban Discrimination Against LGBT Jurors: The bill, introduced on May 18th by Representative Steve Rothman (NJ-9), follows an American Independent investigation documenting numerous state and federal cases in which LGBT individuals may have been removed from juries based on their sexual orientation or gender identity—a practice that federal courts have repeatedly declined to prohibit. This bill would “prohibit the exclusion of individuals from service on a Federal jury on account of sexual orientation or gender identity. It would amend a federal statute that currently bars discrimination based on “race, color, religion, sex, national origin, or economic status” in jury service in federal courts.[Colorado Independent]

Federal Appeals Court Rules Against DOMA: A Federal Appeals Court ruled unanimously on Thursday, May 31, that Defense of Marriage Act, passed by Congress in 1996, discriminates against married same-sex couples by denying them the same federal benefits afforded to heterosexual couples. The decision will have no immediate effect because it anticipates an appeal to the United States Supreme Court, which is the only court that can overturn an act of Congress.  In upholding an earlier decision by a lower court, Thursday’s ruling, by a three-judge panel of the First United States Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston, is the first time an appeals court has declared the federal law unconstitutional. [New York Times]

Federal Appeals Court Refuses to Review Prop 8 Decision: Marriage equality took another step forward on Tuesday, June 5th, on its march to the U.S. Supreme Court, when a federal appeals court that struck down California’s ban on marriage equality refused to reconsider the ruling. Now that the case has run its course in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the measure’s sponsors “absolutely” plan to take the case to the high court, said Brian Raum, a lawyer with the Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian legal defense group. Backers of the ban, known as Proposition 8, now have 90 days to petition the Supreme Court to review the finding that the ban violates the civil rights of LGBT citizens in California. [Huffington Post]

NCTE Publishes Policy Recommendations for Transgender Elderly: Aging poses unique challenges for transgender adults. They came of age during decades when transgender people were heavily stigmatized and pathologized. Some came out and made gender transitions during these years, while many others kept their identities hidden for decades. With a growing older transgender population, there is an urgent need to understand the challenges that can threaten financial security, health and overall well-being. Improving the Lives of Transgender Older Adults, the National Center for Transgender Equality publication, responds to these concerns by examining the social, economic and service barriers facing this population. The report includes profiles of experiences, a literature review and more than 60 concrete recommendations for policymakers and practitioners. [NCTE]

Question from the Field

Dear Policy Matters,

I’m a mother of two high school students, and am concerned about the recent amount of negative action around anti-bullying policies. I want to be sure that my children are entering a safe environment when they go to school, and am having trouble understanding why schools wouldn’t do everything they can to stop bullying, harassment, discrimination and physical assault. What can I do as a parent and a community member to make sure that my children’s school promotes safety and respect?

Thanks!

Molly
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Dear Molly,

Thanks for writing to Policy Matters! Preventing anti-LGBT bullying in schools and creating safe learning environments is one of PFLAG and the LGBT community’s biggest priorities, and we share your concern for the health and well-being of our LGBT youth. The daily conditions that many of our children endure are astounding, and it’s up to parents, teachers and administrators to ensure that no child ever feels unequal, unsafe or unvaluable because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. That’s why PFLAG has created several resources to stop bullying and harassment in schools and recently launched the CARE with Pride Campaign to raise awareness about the prevalence and terrible consequences that severe bullying causes.

It’s impossible to deny that many LGBT youth are constantly and intensely bullied for their sexual orientation or gender identity; just look at the facts. According to the GLSEN National Climate School Survey, at least 84.6% of LGBT students reported being verbally harassed at school, while 40.1% were physically harassed and 18.8% were physically assaulted. These numbers are incredibly and disproportionately high in comparison with the average student body. Almost two-thirds of LGBT students said that they felt unsafe in their schools, a saddening statistic that we need to work hard to change.

LGBT students are bullied vastly out of proportion from the rest of the student body; this isn’t simple school-yard bullying, but harassment that is severely detrimental to these students’ health and well-being. 34% of LGBT students were threatened or injured at their school, compared with only 7% of straight students, and 45% attempted suicide, compared with 8% of straight students. It’s incredibly important that parents, teachers, educators, administrators and friends take action and ensure that these numbers are greatly decreased.

In order to protect students from anti-LGBT harassment, schools need to implement strict no-bullying policies and ensure that adults are trained in stopping and preventing these behaviors from taking place. By not ignoring these discriminatory behaviors, and making it clear that harassment and bullying will not be tolerated, we can change the environment for the students and give them a safe place to learn. Encourage your school administrators to implement a strong anti-bullying policy that spells out behaviors that will not be tolerated and endorses every student’s right to a safe education free from harassment.

As you’ve pointed out, there have been several recent instances of school boards shooting down anti-bullying policies because they believed they were too pro-LGBT. We believe that creating a safe learning environment and ending bullying, harassment, and discrimination for students is something everyone should be able to agree on. No one deserves to be bullied, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Preventing debilitating harassment and assault and ensuring the right to a safe education should be basic for every student. The actions of school boards to not implement anti-bullying policies out of a fear that they will “promote” an LGBT lifestyle are disheartening: they clearly don’t understand that our priority needs to be ensuring that every single student has an equal opportunity to learn and participate in a safe school environment.

The most important thing that we can do as parents or concerned community members is to advocate in every way for the students that have to suffer through this harassment every day. Raise your voice at school board meetings or with school administrators to ensure that protections are implemented and that they understand the seriousness of the problem. Come out as a public ally and help show kids that there is a whole world of love and support waiting for them. Stop discrimination when you see it and promote activities like films or community programs that encourage acceptance and respect. Educate as many individuals as you can, whether they’re your friends, neighbors, fellow parents, etc…about the issues facing LGBT youths in school and the need to take action. Sharing your concern is a great way to gather more supporters of anti-bullying programs and policies.

If you see a student in need of support, try to provide them with safe space where they are fully accepted for who they are. You can help them find support resources, such as the local PFLAG chapter or organizations such as the Trevor Project. You can also help support PFLAG’s anti-bullying efforts through the CARE with Pride Campaign, which is committed to creating safer schools around the nation and providing support and resources to those students in need. 

Thanks for moving equality forward,

Policy Matters

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