Friday, September 28, 2012

DC Launches America’s First Transgender Respect Ad Campaign


Last week the Washington, DC Office of Human Rights unveiled its Transgender Respect Ad Campaign, which will be featured on public transportation buses and vehicles around the city. The ads feature gender non-conforming DC residents, and implore the population of DC to create a culture of respect and appreciation. Each ad, after noting several of the locally based interests of the individual, such as shopping on H street, or playing basketball with friends, ends with the same sentiment—“Treat me the way any person would want to be treated: with courtesy and respect.” 
 The ads are meant to increase awareness throughout the city and share that discrimination based on gender identity or expression is illegal in the city of DC. Along with depicting strong gender non-conforming individuals and calling for a culture of respect, the ads also provide a phone number and website for any DC resident who wants more information or has experienced discrimination.

You can learn more about the DC Transgender and Gender Identity Respect Campaign by visiting their website at http://ohr.dc.gov/transrespect or by following on twitter at #transrespect.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Marriage Equality at the Ballot: Take action to change hearts and minds!

We are at a watershed moment in the freedom to marry. This November, marriage for same-sex couples is on the ballot in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington. This means that, for the first time ever, we have the opportunity to win marriage at the ballot, sending a message to everyone that love is love, and family is family.

PFLAGers in those four states--36 chapters in all--are mobilized, energized, and working hard to support these campaigns. And not surprisingly, as is always the PFLAG way, many of you from our other 332 chapters and all of our supporters around the country are asking, “What can I do and how can I help?”  

Now is the time to take action! Between now and November, PFLAG is joining with the United for Marriage coalition to mobilize, creating a simple process for individual PFLAGers and chapters to organize. With Election Day around the corner - and the proven effectiveness of the PFLAG voice to change hearts and minds - you can support the effort in these four states to get election results on the right side of history.

WAYS TO HELP:

MAKE CALLS! The United for Marriage staff will connect you to a state campaign so you and your group can make phone calls from where you are through virtual phone banks.

TRAVEL!  United for Marriage will help you plan a Volunteer Vacation to one of the four states or a Drive for Marriage weekend road trip to a state near you. Volunteer vacationers travel to Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, or Washington, where they receive a full orientation and training, and then work with a dedicated team on the marriage equality campaign. United for Marriage will work with you and your group to find free housing, and will help you make your travel arrangements and are also working to match people with need with donated airline miles.

Do you live in one of the ballot measure states? You can help by offering to house Volunteer Vacationers! 

DONATE AIRLINE MILES! United for Marriage will help you, your fellow chapter members, and your community supporters donate frequent flyer miles so Volunteer Vacationers can fly to a ballot state for a week…or longer.

TAKE ACTION! SIGN UP TO VOLUNTEER TODAY!
This is a pivotal moment in the movement to win the freedom to marry for all loving and committed couples…and our chance to send a strong message that all couples should be able to make a loving and legal commitment to each other and their children.   

Join other PFLAGers: take action now and help all our families win on Election Day.

Thank you for taking action today!

The Department of Justice Urges the Supreme Court to Review DOMA

On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) asked the Supreme Court to consider two additional legal challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a 1996 federal law that defines marriage as between a man and a woman, after submitting similar cases in July. DOJ urged the Supreme Court to consider at least one marriage equality case to establish whether Section Three of DOMA violates married same-sex couples’ rights by regarding them differently than heterosexual couples, reports Reuters.

Edie Windsor of New York is the plaintiff in one of the cases submitted Tuesday. Windsor married her partner of forty years, Thea Spyer, in Canada in 2007. After Spyer died, Windsor received a bill from the federal government for $363,000 in estate taxes, as reported by Reuters. Windsor said that if “Thea had been Theo,” she would have obtained her spouse’s estate without taxes, states the Huffington Post.

A U.S. District Court judge in Manhattan agreed with Windsor and ruled that Section Three of DOMA discriminated against married same-sex couples. This decision joins federal court rulings in California and Massachusetts that also decided the law unconstitutional.
In addition to Windsor’s case, DOJ also submitted a case regarding six same-sex couples and one widower who have been deprived federal benefits because of DOMA. A district judge in Connecticut ruled in their favor in July, and the Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, a legal rights organization, filed a request in August that the Supreme Court takes the appeal, reports Reuters.
These cases are the third and fourth that have been submitted by the U.S. government requesting the Supreme Court to review DOMA’s constitutionality.
The Obama Administration announced in February 2011 that it would no longer defend DOMA because it did not believe the law to be constitutional. The Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives thus appointed the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group to defend the law.
Take Action: Please click here to tell your representatives that you support marriage equality. It is imperative that more states grant equal rights to same-sex couples. As equality is broadened throughout the nation, it is our hope that federal district courts will continue to rule DOMA unconstitutional and the Supreme Court will feel increased pressure to review the law’s constitutionality.

Monday, September 17, 2012

You Can Play Continues to Gain Support from Professional Athletes

Matt Hendricks, ice hockey center of the Washington Capitals, announced Tuesday that he and the franchise are supporting “You Can Play”, an initiative to foster equality, respect and safety for all athletes, regardless of sexual orientation. Hendricks and the Capitals join D.C. United, the George Washington University athletic department, and many other professional athletes and teams in supporting the project, reports the Washington Post.

“It struck a spot in my heart that we want equality throughout all sporting arenas … Parents need to be aware of how to teach their kids the proper way to talk in a locker room,” said Hendricks. The NHL player recorded a public service announcement, prominently displayed on You Can Play’s website, expressing the need for equality and inclusion in sports.

You Can Play was started in March by Patrick Burke, a scout for the Philadelphia Flyers who launched the project a month after his brother Brendan died. Brendan was gay and spoke out “courageously about his own sexuality in an environment that hasn’t traditionally welcomed such talk,” states the Washington Post. “The exciting thing for us has been the players and the schools and the teams that now are calling us,” Patrick said of the increased interest in You Can Play.

In expressing his support for You Can Play, Hendricks declared, “I think it’s important that [LGBT] players are able to speak freely about [their sexuality]. We’re moving on. We’re evolving as a society. I think it’s an important thing for sports, because sports should be a part of everyone’s lives, regardless of sexual orientation.”

Take Action: To learn more about You Can Play, click here. Also, for other programs for young athletes, visit Athlete Ally by clicking here and the GLSEN Sports Project by clicking here.

Friday, September 14, 2012

PFLAG National Mourns Death of Former President Elinor Lewallen


Lewallen, 93, Was a Longtime Champion of Civil Rights for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender People

WASHINGTON, DC - PFLAG National (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) - the nation's largest grassroots-based nonprofit for parents, families, friends, and straight allies of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people - today mourns the death of an early organization leader, Elinor Lewallen. Lewallen, President of PFLAG National in the late 1980s, was a longtime champion of equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people, and for over 30 years remained a passionate advocate for the cause.

Ms. Lewallen was a resident of Denver, Colorado and continued to attend local PFLAG meetings long after her tenure as National President had ended. As recently as last month, she attended a meeting of PFLAG Denver, where the members there celebrated her 93rd birthday.  At the event, in support of her excellent work over three decades, the Office of the Mayor of Denver proclaimed June 3, 2012 Elinor Lewallen Day.

Jean Hodges - PFLAG National Vice-President, Chairperson of the PFLAG National Regional Directors Council, and a longtime friend of Ms. Lewallen - recently spoke about the beloved leader’s accomplishments to Out Front Colorado, a Denver-based newspaper serving the LGBT community of the Rocky Mountains.

Ms. Hodges said, “Elinor personifies the legacy of caring and support of the founders of PFLAG National.  Her compassionate and consistent contributions over the years that support LGBT persons and their families have been my guiding light as I have grown into PFLAG leadership.”

PFLAG National Executive Director Jody M. Huckaby echoed Hodges sentiment, saying, “Elinor couldn’t help but fill a room with love.  She understood the power of family acceptance and the need for societal affirmation, and she helped to pioneer PFLAG’s mission of support, education and advocacy as the critical path to achieving both.  In getting to know her daughter Janet in this past decade, it is clear that the legacy she leaves started in her own family.”

Ms. Lewallen’s accomplishments as a civil rights leader had been previously recognized by the community. In May 2012, the Rocky Mountain Arts Association (RMAA) selected her as the recipient of the Robert Moore Community Award, recognizing Ms. Lewallen as a local and national PFLAG and civil rights icon.

Said PFLAG National President Rabbi David M. Horowitz, “So much of our of work today is possible because of pioneers and true champions like Elinor. Our hearts are heavy as we mourn her loss, and we celebrate the tremendous achievements she made throughout her life. ”

A celebration of her life will take place later this month. To learn more about those plans when they are finalized and Elinor’s place in PFLAG history, visit www.pflag.org/history.

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Founded in 1972 with the simple act of a mother publicly supporting her gay son, PFLAG is the original family and straight ally organization. Made up of parents, families, friends, and straight allies uniting with LGBT people, PFLAG is committed to advancing equality through its mission of support, education and advocacy. Now entering its 40th year, PFLAG has more than 350 chapters and 200,000 members and supporters crossing multiple generations of American families in major urban centers, small cities and rural areas in all 50 states. To learn more, please visit www.pflag.org

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Policy Matters: September 12, 2012


Front Page Headlines:

The Battle for Marriage Equality Gains Speed in Maine: After months of mostly one-on-one campaigning, gay marriage supporters are rolling out television advertising, bumper stickers, and yard signs as they seek to make Maine the first state to legalize same-sex marriage through a statewide vote. Opponents also are stepping up their efforts. Hundreds of gay marriage advocates gathered Monday at Portland City Hall to launch a “Yes on One” referendum push over the next eight weeks leading to the Nov. 6 election. Mainers United for Marriage will follow up with a $100,000, weeklong television campaign beginning Tuesday [Boston Globe]. 

“You Can Play” Movement for Equality and Respect in Sports Takes Off: Following the lead of several other major sports franchises, the Washington, D.C. Capitals announced that they are supporting a project called “You Can Play,” which endeavors to foster equality, respect and safety for all athletes, regardless of sexual orientation. The move by the Capitals follows local support for the movement by D.C. United, the George Washington University atheletic department, sport franchises across the nation. It comes not only during an election season when gay rights issues are on the ballot in four states, but also in a month when a pair of NFL (National Football League) players have come out vociferously in support of gay marriage rights [The Washington Post].

Recent Study Shows that the Repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Has Had No Negative Effects on the Military: The Palm Center, a UCLA School of Law-affiliated research center, released a study showing that ‘the repeal of DADT has had no overall negative impact on military readiness or its component dimensions, including cohesion, recruitment, retention, assaults, harassment or morale.’ Researchers released 12 total findings, including that ‘in no case did negative consequences outwieght benefits. In balance DADT repeal has enhanced the military’s ability to pursue its mission.’ Also, retention and recruitment were ‘unaffected’ by repeal, and the policy change did not lead to ‘any new wave of violence or physical abuse.’ [The Virginia Pilot]

Women Challenge Michigan’s Marriage Amendment: A lesbian couple already battling the state’s ban on adoptions by unmarried couples has expanded their legal fight to tackle Michigan’s marriage amendment. April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, who have three special-needs children, made the announcement Friday, September 7th, during a news conference with their legal team at the Penobscot Building. The couple is the first to challenge the state’s marriage amendment since it was passed in 2004. In the amended lawsuit filed Friday in federal court, the Hazel Park women are seeking to change the state’s laws that prevent same-sex couples from marrying and adopting children. [The Detroit News]

Policy Watch:

Non-discrimination Ordinance Will Be Put to a Vote in Salina, Kansas: Salina voters will decide in November whether to repeal the city’s new ordianance barring discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The City Commission rejected a motion Monday to roll back the protections that took effect in June. The panel then voted unanimously to put the proposal to repeal the ordinance on the Nov. 6 ballot. The commission approved the ordinance in May on a vote of 3-2. The local law bars discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people in housing, employment and public accommodations [Kansas City Star].

The Fight for LGBT Equality in Australia Faces Huge Obstacles: Senior Labor Party figures are pushing for a vote on gay marriage, possibly as early as next week, to oppose increased LGBT rights and clear the issue off the agenda. But as many as five government ministers argued in favor of legalizing gay unions in the parliamentary debate, and have hope that such an early vote would look like a ‘cynical move on Labor’s part.’ While campaigners say they are hopeful a majority of senators could be gathered, they admitted change was unlikely because the opposing coalition was bound to vote against it. [Sydney Morning Herald].

 Vermont Joins New York and Connecticut in Opposition to DOMA: Vermont’s Attorney General says the state is the latest to ask an Appeals Court to rule that the federal law defining marriage as between a man and a woman is unconstitutional. Attorney General William Sorrell said Friday that the Defense of Marriage Act deprives same-sex couples of federal benefits and unfairly discriminates against them. He says Vermont, New York and Connecticut, all states where gay marriage is legal, filed a brief in a case brought by a New York woman who had to pay $350,000 in estate taxes when her partner died [Huffington Post].

Question From the Field:

Dear Policy Matters,
           
            I’ve been paying attention to the state campaigns for marriage equality around the nation, and can see that they’re really starting to take off as we get closer to the election. It looks like its going to be a pretty tough fight, and I’m not sure what the best way is for me to help. Even though I don’t know any one in a marriage amendment state, ensuring equality for those folks who will be affected is still incredibly important to me. I want to help in whatever way I can, but am not sure how since I’m not connected to any of the marriage equality campaigns.

Any ideas for the best way to get involved?

Thanks,

Meredith
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Dear Meredith,

            Thanks so much for writing to Policy Matters! We’re thrilled that you’re so eager to get involved in the fight for equality, and there are many different roads you can take to helping ensure success for PFLAG families at the polls this November.
            You’ve already taken the first step by paying attention to what’s going on around the nation. As you may know, there are four different states (Maine, Maryland, Washington and Minnesota) that will have a marriage equality amendment on the ballot on November 6th. Each of these states have their own specific campaigns that are solely dedicated to making sure that November 6th is a successful day for equality. However, as you also pointed out, the road ahead is anything but free and clear. There are going to be a lot of obstacles, especially in states like Minnesota that are attempting ban marriage equality instead of affirm it, and we need all the help we can get to make sure every member of the PFLAG family gets the protection they deserve. That’s where you come in.
            If you live in or near one of these four states, you can get directly involved with their state marriage equality campaigns and offer them your time and energy. If you’re not sure how to get involved in these campaigns, simply contact your local PFLAG chapter, and they will have all the information you need. They’ll be able to tell you about all of the events going on to protect PFLAGers at the polls and the many different ways you can help out and get involved.
            If you don’t live near one of these states, you can still get directly involved in their campaigns through our Adopt-a-State Initiative. This includes calling any friends or family you may have in a ballot initiative state and encouraging them to vote or even get involved. If you don’t have any contacts, you can help out by staging letter-writing campaigns, completing phone banking for voters of that state, and many other activities. We promise you’ll find one that fits your skills and abilities, there are so many ways that you can help push equality forward through November. To get in touch with these campaigns, contact your local PFLAG chapter, and they'll be able to set you up. 
            Additionally, apart from your focus on marriage equality, one of the most important things you can do to help members of the PFLAG family is to be sure that you, your family and friends all get out and vote on November 6th. It’s one of the easiest and most powerful ways to raise our voices, and it’s important that every individual takes advantage of it.

Thanks for your enthusiasm in helping us move equality forward,

Policy Matters

Action Alert: Want to get more involved in the fight for equality this election season? Visit our PFLAG Take Action Center or contact your local PFLAG chapter to learn more about the many opportunities to get involved and raise your 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

HHS Affirms that Transgender People Protected Under the Affordable Care Act


 The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently released a letter clarifying that “provisions in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) prohibiting sex discrimination in health insurance apply to transgender people,” reports the Washington Post. This declaration means that it is discriminatory for employers and insurers to deny health insurance coverage or benefits based on “gender identity or failure to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity.” The letter was issued by the department’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) and joins recent court decisions that the Civil Rights Act’s prohibition against sex discrimination pertains to transgender people.

While this assertion is a step in the right direction, there is still much work to be done. “This is a population underserved and in need of a lot of health care,” says M. Dru Lavasseur, a transgender rights attorney at Lambda Legal. Insurers are not mandated to cover surgery related to gender transition and on the individual market insurers may deny coverage to transgender people altogether on the basis of a preexisting condition. In 2014, however, a provision of the ACA will prohibit insurers from denying coverage based on preexisting conditions.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) advocates are praising this letter and hope it will lead towards further equality in health care, which is gradually on the rise. “Although they are not required to do so, a growing number of employers provide health benefits that address the needs of transgender individuals,” states the Washington Post.

In our mission to promote the health and well-being of LGBT individuals, their families and friends, we at PFLAG are glad to see HHS stand up for quality, affordable, and equal health care for all people. However, we recognize the remaining inequalities in health care for LGBT people and aim to close the gap left by legislation.

This is why, five years ago, PFLAG National created the Straight for Equality project, starting with the Straight for Equality in Health Care initiative. We believe that by helping educate healthcare professionals about the challenges facing LGBT people and providing some basic ways to start addressing those challenges, we’ll be able to increase access to and the effectiveness of healthcare for our LGBT friends and family. Straight for Equality increases awareness of why equality should matter to all, fosters supportive environments, and allows everyone to contribute to equal, quality healthcare. As legislation increasingly mandates equal treatment of all, Straight for Equality fosters conversations that raise awareness and challenge assumptions about LGBT people. This civic engagement Straight for Equality facilitates compliments legislation and creates a society that embraces human diversity.

Take Action: HHS is now accepting and investigating complaints of sex discrimination under the health care law. If you or someone you know has been a victim of health care discrimination, it is imperative that you contact the Department of Health and Human Services by clicking here and explaining your case.
It is also important that you click here to tell your elected official why you believe in affordable and equal health care for all people.
To learn more about PFLAG’s Straight for Equality in Health Care initiative, please click here.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Democratic Platform Includes Marriage Equality



Since President Obama expressed his support for marriage equality in May, Democratic leaders have increasingly shared these views and pushed for same-sex marriages to be incorporated in the party’s platform. Opening the Democratic National Convention (DNC) Tuesday, First Lady Michelle Obama stated in her speech, “[Barack] wants everyone in this country to have that same opportunity, no matter who we are, or where we're from, or what we look like, or who we love.”


In addition to marriage equality, the Democratic platform also supports higher taxes on wealthier Americans, campaign finance reform, and abortion rights. The DNC will close Thursday evening.

While we are disappointed that equality for LGBT people was split down party lines at the convention stage of this election year, PFLAG, as a strictly nonpartisan organization, continues to work with representatives from all political parties to ensure that equality for our LGBT loved ones is not only furthered, but viewed as a basic right, not as a divisive partisan issue. As PFLAG members continue to change hearts and minds, creating a society that is healthy and respectful of human diversity, we look forward to all political parties embracing equality.

Take Action: We are pleased to see a major political party endorse same-sex marriage for the first time in the U.S., though we maintain that equality and love should not be dictated by partisan lines. Click here to let your elected official know why you believe in marriage equality.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Equality In The Workplace: Then and Now

In 1972, when PFLAG was first founded,  there was very little equality or protections for LGBT individuals in their workplace. They often experienced regular discrimination because of their sexual orientation, affecting their job performance and mental health. When PFLAG started it was still legal to prohibit LGBT individuals from working in the federal government, the military, and many other sectors of employment. However, today, thanks to the tireless work of PFLAG and other organizations, there are policies protecting LGBT people from discrimination in the federal civilian workforce, LGBT people can serve openly and proudly in the military, and 87% of Fortune 500 companies have workplace protections for sexual orientation, with 41% including gender identity protection.

When Jeanne Manford created PFLAG to show support for her son and advocate for his and others’ equality, there wasn’t any legislation that protected her son or LGBT Americans from workplace discrimination. However, through the efforts of many, many PFLAGers and our partner organizations, legalized workplace discrimination has slowly, but surely decreased. Over the past forty years, federal employment policy was extended to include workplace protections for sexual orientation and gender nonconformity, and many American companies now promote LGBT equality through offering domestic partner benefits, and adopting non-discrimination policies. These huge strides in demanding workplace protection for our LGBT loved ones and making sure employment inequalities are brought to the nation’s attention wouldn’t have been possible without the incredible work that PFLAG moms, dads, friends, families and allies have been doing for the past 40 years. 

However, there is still much more work to be done to reach full workplace equality for every member of the PFLAG family. It is estimated that 49% of the LGBT population live in states that allow employment discrimination, and there has yet to be comprehensive federal legislation prohibiting  workplace discrimination across the country. With its unique family and allied voice, PFLAG has been at the forefront of advocating for just such legislation, called the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). Even though ENDA has been introduced in nearly every Congress since 1994, yet has not been successfully passed into law. Thus, it is still legal in 28 states for an employee to be fired due to their sexual orientation, and legal in 33 states to be fired based on their gender identity or expression. As several supportive senators emphasized in June, the absence of non-discrimination policies is not only harmful to our LGBT loved ones, but also hinders the nation’s productivity. Preventing LGBT Americans from living up to their full employment potential prevents the nation from becoming as productive, efficient and competitive as it could be. 

Apart from federal legislation, PFLAG has also been working to ensure that the workplace is a supportive and inclusive environment for all employees. Our Straight for Equality campaign provides trainings to companies and businesses to help them break down the barriers and foster a welcoming community for their employees. It offers resources to facilitate an open and honest dialogue about the importance of being an ally, what it means to be an ally, and simple steps anyone can take to advocate and support equality in their community. These trainings have already made huge strides in about 60 corporations, reaching around 6,000 people, and have facilitated the implementation of equality guidelines and curriculums for companies to follow.

Over the last forty years, PFLAG members have led the way in securing acceptance and equality in the workplace for our LGBT loved ones. We can’t wait to see what the next 40 years will bring, and look forward to full equality for every single member of the PFLAG family. 

Take Action: Want to help ensure that Congress passes comprehensive legislation to prohibit workplace discrimination throughout the country? Please click here, enter your zip code to find your elected representative’s contact info, and tell them why you think it’s important for ENDA to be passed.

Then click here to learn more about PFLAG’s Straight for Equality project and take the Straight for Equality Pledge here.