Thursday, July 18, 2013

Policy Matters: July 18, 2013

In the News:
First-of-its-kind Trans Life Center Opens in Chicago
On July 15, Chicago introduced to the nation Chicago House’s Trans Life Center (TLC), a standard-bearer in residence and holistic care for transgender people.  The four-story newly renovated house will host nine trans people and provide a variety of needed services including medical care, legal assistance and employment support.  The facility and supported services were funded by a national grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and private donors. TLC is one component of new transgender initiatives at Chicago House, traditionally an HIV service organization and the first HIV/AIDS housing provider in the Midwest. TLC formerly served as a hospice for people dying of AIDS, but as the death toll dropped, so did the need for the house.  Chicago House began work on transgender issues in recent years after Trisha Holloway, a transgender community advocate who was using Chicago House services, reported that the agency needed to do better on trans issues. The house is intended to be a home base for transgender services for Chicago House, but will primarily function as a transitional home for nine residents. While Trans Life Center proclaims to be the nation’s first to provide all-encompassing housing and support exclusively for at-risk trans youth, a few others have served a broader part of the community for more than a decade.  For example, New York City’s Ali Forney Center (AFC) has offered safe home-like housing and nourishment for homeless LGBTQ youth since June 2002.  Also, the Home for Little Wanderers’ Waltham House in Massachusetts is New England’s first group home of its kind since October 2002.  It offers a full scope of independent living, family unification, mentoring, tutoring, vocational education, and complete medical and mental health services provided by a 24-hour staff for 12 LGBTQ youth aged 14-18.

PA Attorney General Will Not Defend State’s Ban on Same-Sex Marriage
Pennsylvania’s Attorney General Kathleen Kane will not defend the state’s ban on same-sex couples marrying.  After the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 26 decision striking down the definition of marriage as defined in the Defense of Marriage Act’s (DOMA) Section 3, she told BuzzFeed, “I cannot ethically defend the constitutionality of Pennsylvania’s version of DOMA.  I believe it to be wholly unconstitutional.” The state’s ban on same-sex couples marrying was challenged in a lawsuit filed by ACLU.  

Lambda Legal Names Transgender Rights Project, Launches First-of-its-kind Online and Mobile Phone Resource, Appoints Dru Levasseur Director
Lambda Legal has formally named its legal and advocacy work for transgender and gender non-conforming people as the Transgender Rights Project and appointed Dru
Levasseur Director.  Dru is a trans-identified attorney who had led legal LGBTQ work including for trans people at Lambda Legal.  The Project added an online and mobile phone resource dubbed "Know Your Rights: Transgender."  The fortified program will help transgender and gender non-conforming people of all ages be aware of and quickly assert their rights in a variety of situations familiarly encountered, whether being harassed by law enforcement officials or discriminated against at work.


Queen Elizabeth Gives Royal Assent to Same-Sex Marriage Bill for the U.K.; Marriages Begin in 2014
On July 17, Queen Elizabeth affirmed into law by Royal Assent (the formal approval of the sovereign required for all legislation) the same-sex marriage bill for England and Wales after the House of Commons-passed bill included friendly amendments by the House of Lords, making way for same-sex marriages to begin in Spring or Summer of 2014.  The British House of Lords wore pink carnation boutonnieres representing their support for marriage equality as they passed the bill on July 16 with an unopposed third reading voice vote. The Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill passed the House of Commons on a second reading vote of 400-175 and a third reading of 366-161.  Under the terms of the bill, religious organizations will have to “opt in” to offer same-sex weddings, and the Church of England and Church of Wales are banned from doing so.   However, ministers said that they were prepared to look at eliminating any difference in the treatment of same-sex couples when it came to pension plans.  Read a handy Q&A from the BBC here.  


Cameroonian LGBT Rights Advocate Murdered, Found Dead in His Bed at Home
The U.S. State Department issued a statement condemning the act and urging the Cameroonian authorities to thoroughly and promptly investigate and prosecute those responsible following the murder of prominent LGBT rights advocate in Cameroon Eric Ohena Lembembe, whose body was found at home on his bed after fellow advocates could not reach him for two days.  According to Human Rights Watch, his neck and feet appeared to be broken, and an iron was reportedly used to burn his face, hands and feet.  Lembembe was the executive director of the Cameroonian Foundation for AIDS, worked with Human Rights Watch and with two other LGBT advocacy groups in the country: Alternatives-Cameroun and the Association for the Defense of Homosexuals.  He was also a contributor to Erasing 76 Crimes, a blog that documents efforts to report efforts to decriminalize homosexuality globally.  His death coincides with ongoing anti-LGBT persecution and violence in the country, which its government says has been subsiding.   The Washington Blade’s Mike Lavers met with Cameroonian activists in Washington, DC in February 2013 and issues a thorough and informed report of this incident and the issue here.


On Policy and Legislation:
Prop 8 Supporters Try, Try Again: California Supreme Court Denies Request
On July 12, Prop 8 supporters asked the California Supreme Court to halt same-sex marriages in California, which resumed on June 28, two days after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Prop 8 and Section 2 of DOMA.
On July 15, The California Supreme Court ruled to deny their request for an immediate halt to same-sex marriages.  The Court set a schedule requiring a full briefing on the Prop 8 supporters’ remaining request that the court declare that the trial-court ruling applies only to the two couples, the four plaintiffs in the litigation ruled by the U.S. Supreme Court.  The Supreme Court declined to review the Prop 8 case on its merit, ruling that it did not have the standing to present the case to them, which deferred to the appeals court’s ruling that Prop 8 is unconstitutional.  Prop 8 supporters argue that the trial court ruling cannot require state officials to stop enforcing Prop 8.  The opposition to the Prop 8 supporters must file in the California Supreme Court on or before Monday, July 22, 2013, and the Prop 8 supporters will have until Thursday, August 1, 2013, in which to serve and file a reply to that opposition.  Most legal experts agree that the Prop 8 supporters’ assertion has little merit.  


California Gov. Jerry Brown Still Has Not Signed into Law the Transgender Student Access Bill Passed by State Legislature on July 3
California PFLAGers mobilized with Tweets, phone calls and emails after July 3 when Gov. Jerry Brown of California did not sign into law Assembly Bill 1266, the School Success and Opportunity Act, which would afford transgender and gender non-conforming students the ability to access in accord with their gender identity or expression athletic teams and other separated accommodations in their schools. The bill passed the state assembly 46-25 on May 9 and passed the state Senate 21-9 on July 3. As of presstime, Gov. Brown had still not signed the bill.  


HRC Health Equality Index Shows Improvements by Providers Who Serve LGBT Patients
The Human Rights Campaign’s (HRC) Annual Health Equality Index for 2013 featured a record total of 718 participating health care facilities (hospitals and clinics), including 121 (of the nation’s 151) veterans’ medical centers, all of which pledge to provide equal treatment for LGBT patients.  The 718 participants represent a 153% increase over the number of participating facilities in 2012.  Survey findings include that 93% of HEI 2013 participants explicitly prohibit discrimination against lesbian, gay and bisexual patients and 87% (a survey record) ban discrimination against transgender patients.  Also, 90% of respondents explicitly grant equal visitation rights to same-sex couples and same-sex parents.  The 2013 requires participating facilities to document that employees in key work areas had received expert training in LGBT health needs, resulting in nearly 5,000 healthcare personnel participated in designated trainings.  The 2011 Institutes of Medicine (IOM) report showed that the LGBT community faces health disparities and healthcare discrimination disproportionately and that many LGBT Americans are concerned about experiencing negative healthcare bias.  Click here to read the report.


Dear Policy Matters:
I was so excited when the inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) passed in the Senate Committee, the first time the inclusive bill was ever considered there, and now is possibly heading for a vote in the full Senate.  But I have read stories that oppose ENDA and say that the law would require companies to hire LGBT people.  Can you tell me what ENDA is and isn’t?  I want to talk about ENDA, but I’m not sure how to do that.
Excited but Confused
Dear EBC:
You’re asking what many people are probably wondering.  Let’s do a brief Q&A that should help you, and if you end up wanting more, let us know, and we’ll offer more detail in a broader Q&A on the PFLAG National website.
What is ENDA?
ENDA (H.R. 1397 and S. 811) is a bill that would prohibit discrimination on the basis of perceived or actual sexual orientation or gender identity for people who are private or public employees.
Is there a one-sentence statement that PFLAG National uses to state the case for ENDA?
Yes.  It is: All people, including LGBT people, should be evaluated exclusively based on merit for interview consideration, hiring, retention or promotion of a job.
Is ENDA similar to other exisiting laws?
Yes.  ENDA is similar to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which already provides non-discrimination in employment for workers on the basis of race, color, religion, sex and national origin.  It is also similar to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which provides non-discrimination in employment on the basis of disability.
Which employers are exempted from having to follow ENDA?
Employers with fewer than 15 employees, private membership clubs (not labor unions) and religious institutions are exempted from ENDA.  Quotas and preferential treatment are prohibited by ENDA.  And ENDA prohibits disparate impact lawsuits for interviewing, hiring or promotion consideration or implementation.  Under ENDA, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) will not compel employers to collect statistics on the sexual orientation or gender identity or expression of its employees or interviewees.
What is support for an inclusive ENDA like?
Support for ENDA is strong: 73% of voters support passing laws to protect LGBT people from workplace discrimination, and surveys show that 90% of people asked thought that workplace protections for LGBT people was already in place as law.  Support cuts across political party affiliation.  In support: 81% of Democrats, 74% of Independents and 66% of Republicans.
Who are ENDA’s key proponents?
Sponsorship is bipartisan (by Democrats and Republicans) and bicameral (in the House and Senate).  House leaders are Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO) and Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and in the Senate, Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Susan Collins (R-ME), Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI).  President Obama is on-the-record as a supporter who has promised to sign it into law if passed.  Large and Small Business owners (Business Coalition for Workplace Fairness), Corporations, Labor Unions (including SEIU and AFL-CIO), civil rights and faith organizations have all affirmed support for ENDA’s passage.
What do ENDA’s supporters say that it would do?
  • Support constitutional values such as equality, freedom and civil rights
  • Allow the U.S. to catch up the other modern democracies
  • Be good for business, the economy and employers
  • Ensure consistency for companies that operate globally
  • Simply be the right thing to do
What do ENDA’s opponents say that it would do?
While these are FALSE and unsubstantiated, here’s what they say.  ENDA would:
  • FALSE: Provide special rights to the LGBT community, as alleged discrimination does not existTRUE: Discrimination is disproportionately high – 48% of college-educated LGBT people are not out in their workplace, 15-43% of LGBT workers have experienced some form of discrimination on the job, 90% of transgender workers report experiencing harassment, mistreatment or discrimination on the job or took actions such as not disclosing who they are to avoid it; LGBT people are the sole community not covered by anti-discrimination laws relative to employment)
  • FALSE: Violate the religious freedom of business owners and employers TRUE: There is a religious exemption and companies with fewer than 15 employers are exempt.
  • FALSE: Hurt small business by creating excessive lawsuits and litigation TRUE: Disparate impact lawsuits are prohibited by ENDA
  • FALSE: Create comfort and safety concerns and disruptions in public facilities such as bathrooms and locker rooms TRUE: States, municipalities and companies already have similar protections in place without incident exceeding regular rate of concerns, and discomfort is not a legal rationalization for discrimination.)
What is the current landscape on anti-discrimination laws or policies in the U.S.?
  • 21 states plus DC and Puerto Rico ban discrimination based on sexual orientation
  • 16 of those plus DC and Puerto Rico ban discrimination based on gender identity
  • More than 240 municipalities have such protections in place
  • Fortune 500 companies: 88% have anti-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation and 57% have policies that include gender identity
What is PFLAG National’s History of Support for ENDA?
  • PFLAG National has formally advocated for ENDA’s passage since its initial introduction in 1993
  • 1998 addition of gender identity to PFLAG’s mission statement solidified support for advocacy around inclusive versions of the legislation
  • Since the early ‘90s, grassroots ENDA campaigns have existed in the chapter network (one adopted by National in 2007)
  • PFLAG led the fight in 2007 for the movement to support only the inclusive version of ENDA; PFLAG will only actively support inclusive versions of the bill
What is next for ENDA?
ENDA passed in the HELP Committee, and advocates are working diligently to secure the needed 60 “Yes” votes for ENDA so that it can be brought to the Senate Floor for a vote, the first ENDA vote in 17 years and the first-ever for an inclusive ENDA.  
PFLAG National strongly supports President Obama signing an Executive Order to prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity – and by definition, gender expression – for federal contractors.

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