You’ll also see that we added a History section this week, because so many significant past events marked an anniversary in June.
You’re receiving this issue of Policy Matters a day early in honor of the July 4th holiday on Thursday. Regularly, you can expect to see a new issue of Policy Matters on the first and third Thursday of every month. It’s our goal at PFLAG National to bring you newsworthy local, state, and federal policy and legislative items to keep you informed and prepared.
Got a policy or legislative question for Policy Matters? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org with “Dear Policy Matters” in the subject line.
So please enjoy, and we welcome your feedback and inquiries any time!
Front Page Headlines
Marking an historic first-ever Senate voting action on the inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and the first since 2002 for the bill at all, Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee announced on July 2 that the bill will be marked up next Wed., July 10 at 10 a.m. in 430 Dirksen Senate Office Building, and if passed, the inclusive bill would be taken to the full Senate floor for a vote. PFLAG National will issue an action alert next week about ENDA, a bill to prohibit job discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2013 would prohibit employers from firing, refusing to hire, or discriminating against those employed or seeking employment, on the basis of their perceived or actual sexual orientation or gender identity. These protections already exist to prohibit discrimination based on race, religion, gender, national origin, age, and disability. More than 85 percent of Fortune 500 companies already extend workplace protections based on sexual orientation and more than one-third on the basis of gender identity as well. For now, read the breaking news here.
Marriages in California Resume on June 28, First in San Francisco, Second in Los Angeles
City Halls across California kept late hours beginning June 28 and throughout the weekend to permit same-sex couples to receive marriage licenses and wed. This followed within hours the Ninth District U.S. Court of Appeals dissolving its stay in the case Kristin Perry, et al v. Edmund G. Brown, Jr., et al. This dissolution was in accord with the SCOTUS decision on June 26, two days before. The four plaintiffs in the California case challenging Prop 8 were the first married -- Kris Perry and Sandy Stier presided by California Attorney General Kamala Harris in San Francisco and shortly afterwards Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo presided by LA Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa in Los Angeles, which aired live on MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show.
Colorado Civil Rights Division Rules In Favor Of Six-Year-Old Transgender Girl Coy Mathis In Non-Discrimination Bathroom Access Dispute
The Colorado Civil Rights Division ruled on June 24 that a suburban Colorado Springs school district discriminated against six-year-old transgender girl Coy Mathis by preventing her from using the girls' bathroom. School officials at Eagleside Elementary in Fountain, Colorado granted Coy access only to the restroom in the teachers’ lounge or nurse’s office. The Mathis family attorney Michael Silverman of the New York-based Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund joins others in flagging this case as potentially among landmark and groundbreaking cases under consideration in several states now. Read a touching on-the-ground story of Coy’s and her family’s victory in the Denver Post here, or in this month’s PFLAG Voice.
Boy Scouts of America Organization Prohibits Scouts from Donning their Uniforms for Pride or Pride Flag-Raising Ceremonies
Only a month ago, The Boy Scouts of America’s National Council voted to end its ban on openly gay scouts. But Buzzfeed obtained a June 24 memo sent by Gary Butler, the assistant Chief Scout Executive for council operations, which told all Scout executives and area and regional directors that “members of the BSA are not permitted to be endorsing a position or advancing a social issue while they are in uniform.” The memo continues, “From time to time, Scouts and leaders have been asked or encouraged to participate in flag ceremonies, parades and other community events aimed at advocating for personal, social or political agendas. Doing so in uniform is a violation of the Scout Oath and Scout Law [and] a violation of BSA’s rules and regulations. Participation in a Gay Pride parade or other similarly sponsored event would fall under this policy.” Read Buzzfeed’s report here.
SCOTUS “Decision Day” Rallies Nearly 150 Events, People Vow to Work MoreOn June 26, The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruled that Section Three of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA, the part of the 1996 federal law that defined marriage to be exclusively between opposite-sex couples) is unconstitutional and dismissed the appeal in the challenge to the Proposition 8 marriage amendment, (letting stand the original trial court decision in 2010 that sought to strike down the California amendment as unconstitutional). People across the nation gathered at nearly 150 events with two purposes: to celebrate the decisions as just, historic and positive steps toward full equality for all, including LGBT people, and second, to carry forward the message that there is work left to do. PFLAG National is a member of the United for Marriage Coalition, which convened a variety of national organizations to work for marriage equality and offered its website to be a repository for the vast, jubilant victory gatherings.
Openly Gay Servicemember Promoted to Acting Secretary of The U.S. Air Force, Supports Trans Service in the Air ForceOpenly Gay Servicemember Eric Fanning was Senate-confirmed in April as Undersecretary of the Air Force. When Air Force Secretary Michael Donley retired, Fanning was promoted to be the civilian head of The Air Force and is the highest-ranking openly LGBT person in the Department of Defense. He will continue in his dual roles (holding his prior and current jobs) until President Obama nominates Donley’s replacement and a nominee is confirmed by the Senate.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel Is First To Speak Live At a Pentagon Pride EventMaking history is no stranger to the U.S. Department of Defense, and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel carved his own emblem of history to honor Pride month at the Pentagon by making a live appearance at its annual Pride event. During his remarks, Sec. Hagel called gay and lesbian service members and LGBT civilian employees "integral to America's armed forces." DOD’s LGBT affinity group, DOD Pride, organized the festivities, the Pentagon’s second Pride event.
Elaine Kaplan, Acting Director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) issued a memo to federal employees on June 28 advising that the agency will now be able to extend benefits to federal employees, annuitants (including retirees) and their families, including only those employees and annuitants who have legally married a spouse of the same sex. Benefits include health insurance (FEHB), life insurance (FEGLI), dental and vision insurance (FEDVIP), long-term care insurance (FLTCIP), retirement and flexible spending accounts (FSA). Acting Dir. Kaplan assured that OPM is committed to working with the Department of Justice to ensure swift and seamless implementation of the Supreme Court’s ruling.
Legally Married Gay Couple in Florida Becomes Nation’s First to Receive Green Card Approval: Follows Landmark DOMA Ruling by SCOTUS
The first green card petition approved in the U.S. affecting a same-sex married couple was granted by The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to a Ft. Lauderdale couple married in 2012 in New York. Traian Povov from Bulgaria is legally married to his husband Julian Marsh, a popular DJ in the gay dance scene, and Julian’s petition was granted at 3:45 p.m. on Friday, June 28, according to Lavi Soloway, the couple’s lawyer and founder of The DOMA Project. Florida has a state constitutional ban preventing same-sex couples from marrying. Read more here.
SCOTUS Strikes Down Section Four of Voting Rights Act of 1965 in 5-4 Ruling: Risks Silencing Voices of Those Who Fought and Fight Hardest to Have A Voting Voice
“What the Supreme Court did was to put a dagger in the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965,” legendary civil rights leader Congressman John Lewis told ABC News. “This act helped liberate not just a people but a nation.” The Supreme Court struck down Section Four of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965 as unconstitutional on June 25 in the 5-4 ruling of Shelby County v. Holder. This decision frees nine mostly Southern states to change their election laws without advance federal approval and heightened concerns among people active in civil rights equality about current and prospective efforts at racial and other, including LGBT, discrimination. Section Four sets a “coverage formula” which identifies which states’ and municipalities’ governments fall under Section Five, requiring them to secure approval before their voting laws can be altered. Striking down Section Four means that the formula cannot be used by states or municipalities for their voting laws to be cleared by the federal government or in federal court. The Court left open the opportunity for Congress to update the formula (which although called outdated, was most recently updated in 2006). The implications of the ruling most directly affects the most marginalized Americans because Sections Four and Five drive states’ requests for both voter identification requirements and redistricting (how a state is divided into voting districts). Read more here.
US Senate Passes Bill That Would Give 11 Million Undocumented Immigrants a Pathway to Citizenship, Other Positive Measures and the Compromise Granting of Increased Border Security; Next Step is House of Representatives after July 8
It’s a positive first step. While the Senate passed its comprehensive immigration reform bill on June 27 with a sweeping vote of 68-32 (called a supermajority because affirmative votes exceeded 60) that includes a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants, the DREAM Act, family unification measures and a last-minute compromise of sending $30 billion to fortify border security, action in the House is expected upon Members’ return on July 8. The House has a version of the bill but will be urged to act on the Senate-passed bill. We will continues to advocate strongly for an accessible path to citizenship, the ability for families to be or remain together (family reunification), humanitarian detention with restrictions on solitary confinement and the elimination of a deadline to apply for asylum. Read more here.
Michigan Partner Benefits Ban Halted by Federal Judge Applying SCOTUS DOMA RulingThe constitutionality of Michigan Public Act 297, restricting public employee partner benefits from any couple that is not legally married, was questioned in a case brought by the ACLU and ACLU of Michigan. On June 28, U.S. District Court Judge David M. Lawson ruled to place on hold that act, applying the reasoning of equal protection constitutional guarantees. That reasoning that the judge applied as guidance is at the core of the Supreme Court of the United States ruling on June 26 that struck down Section 3 of DOMA as unconstitutional. Michigan Public Act 297 “prohibits public employers from providing medical and other fringe benefits to any person cohabitating with a public employee unless that person is legally married to the employee, or is a legal dependent, or eligible to inherit under the State’s intestacy laws.” Judge Lawson’s preliminary injunction ruling puts a hold on Michigan Public Act 297 from being in place until a final decision can be reached in the case.
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Updates Guidance to Assure Same-Sex Partner Access and Visitation at Long-Term Care Facilities is the Same as in Hospitals
In 2010, President Obama sent a memorandum guaranteeing that patients in hospitals can have their same-sex partner visit them in the hospital. CMS issued an updated guidance memo to states receiving payments from CMS on June 28. The CMS memo guarantees that residents in long-term care facilities can be visited by their partner, including their same- or opposite-sex spouse, same- or opposite-sex domestic partner, other family members or friends. The guidance requires that visitors are advised that they are granted 24-hour access and visitation, if that suits the preference of the resident, within safety measures established by the facility. This includes any long-term care facility that accepts residents whose insurance is Medicare and/or Medicaid.
New Williams Institute Report Addresses Gendered Restrooms, Minority Stress and How Public Regulation of Gender Impacts Trans and Gender Non-Conforming People’s LivesEverybody does it; few adults have to talk about it. Yes, the topic of non-discrimination including trans or gender non-conforming people too often zeros in on one topic of frequent objection and that is shared access to public facilities. The UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute has published a new report authored by Jody L. Herman titled "Gendered Restrooms and Minority Stress: The Public Regulation of Gender and its Impact on Transgender People's Lives" that applies a celebrated research authority’s survey findings on this topic in a scientifically studied way. The report’s data shows that 70% of transgender and gender non-conforming respondents experienced problems in gender-specific restrooms in Washington, D.C., with people of color and people who have not medically transitioned often faring worse than others. This report clarifies and denotes the urgency of this topic, noting that 54% of respondents reported adverse health effects from trying to avoid using public restrooms, including dehydration, kidney infections and urinary tract infections. Ten percent who attended school in D.C. reported a negative impact on their education, including excessive absences and dropping out of school due to issues related to restroom access, and 58% responded that they have avoided being in public due to the lace of safe public restroom facility access. The report not only reviews existing research, but it also points out gaps in research, including in the fields of Public Policy and Public Administration, in which there are no studies. The demographics of respondents to the survey include Blacks/African-Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, Native Americans/Americans and Whites/Caucasians and range in age from 18 to older than 65.
New Jersey Passes Bill to Ban Abusive Practices against LGBT Youth, Awaits Governor’s Signature
New Jersey’s Senate passed a bill on June 27 from the Assembly--28-9 that bans licensed state professionals from practicing against minors what is known commonly as “sexual orientation conversion efforts” (SOCE) or “conversion/reparative therapy.” The bill is headed for signature by Governor Chris Christie. Earlier this year, PFLAG Executive Director Jody Huckaby submitted and filed written testimony in support of this important bill as part of the legislative hearing process. In March, Gov. Christie said he is "of two minds" about the bill. Last week, the leader of Exodus International, the nation’s largest and longest-operating ministry dedicated to providing SOCE, apologized to the LGBT community for having provided such counseling and announced that Exodus would cease operating and close. PFLAG National will continue to monitor the rumored implications of Exodus closing and next steps that its leaders plan to implement. Stay tuned.
Supreme Court Nixes Arizona’s Effort to Halt Benefits for its Same-Sex CouplesOn June 27, The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) denied a request by Arizona’s Governor Jan Brewer. She questioned a U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that sustains family health coverage for state employees because it includes same-sex couples. SCOTUS ruled not to question the Appeals Court’s ruling and instead permit the ACLU’s legal case already underway. That case seeks to preserve permanently these benefits. Because of the SCOTUS ruling, these benefits remain in place for same-sex couples while the case continues through the court system. Lambda Legal represents multiple people employed by the state of Arizona who are challenging the effort by the state’s legislature to eliminate this coverage for same-sex couples. The coverage that includes same-sex couples was implemented in 2008 under then-Gov. Janet Napolitano, now U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security.
Michigan State Representatives Introduce a Four-Part Marriage Equality PackageState Reps. Sam Singh (D-East Lansing), Rudy Hobbs (D-Southfield), Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) and Kate Segal (D-Battle Creek) introduced on June 24 a four-part legislative package to make legal same-sex marriage in Michigan, where same-sex marriage was banned in 2004. The first bill is a house joint resolution that would amend Michigan’s constitution to permit marriage equality. The second amends the foreign marriage act by removing the prohibition against same-sex marriage, allowing marriages celebrated in other states to be recognized in Michigan. The third bill amends Michigan’s marriage laws authorizing who legally can marry. The fourth item is a resolution calling on the U.S. Congress to repeal DOMA and to respect equality for all U.S. citizens. On June 26, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional.
Pennsylvania State Representatives Plan to Introduce Same-Sex Marriage BillOn June 27, the day after the Supreme Court of The United States (SCOTUS) rulings, Pennsylvania State Reps. Brian Sims (D-Philadelphia), the first openly gay member of the state’s General Assembly, and Stephen McCarter (D-Montgomery County) announced that they plan to introduce a statewide marriage equality bill, already asking legislators to cosponsor it. In a separate measure, Rep. Sims attempted to speak on the Floor about the Supreme Court’s previous day rulings regarding same-sex marriage. However, he was prevented from speaking by fellow member Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler) who, in accord with state House rules, withdrew his consent for Rep. Sims to speak. Rep. Metcalfe said that Sims’ comments would have been “open rebellion against God’s law,” stated to WHYY-FM and “There’s no free speech on the Floor,” told to The Associated Press. Rep. Sims is seeking a reprimand for Rep. Metcalfe’s action on the grounds that “His comments did not live up to the standards set by this body.”
New York Senate Again Fails to Vote on GENDA, the State’s Gender Expression BillDespite an apparent wave of positive momentum:
An October state legislative hearing,
State polling that showed 78% of respondents’ support,
A compromise agreement to add a Republican-driven amendment to address concern about shared facilities (stating that anything that is currently a crime would remain a crime),
An endorsement from New York City Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly,
11 years of grassroots and professional lobbying and advocacy by a broad-based coalition of organizations and people, and 6. lining up sufficient bipartisan legislators’ promises to vote “Yes” to pass, the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) could not surmount the final barrier to its passage in the legislative session that just ended: a Senate Floor vote. While supporters are disappointed, they are not dismayed. These courageous, fierce fighters for trans inclusion in New York’s non-discrimination legislation have demonstrated their resilience and fortitude for more than a decade, getting closer with each effort. Supporters remain hopeful about future efforts, and so does PFLAG National.
LGBT History News
The series of violent, unplanned demonstrations by transgender, gay and lesbian Americans triggered by an early-morning police raid on June 28, 1969 marked what is uniformly accepted as the catalyst for the launch of LGBT people forming a movement that has led us to the scores of inclusive victories we celebrate today, 44 years later. Read more about this historic part of history here.
The UpStairs Lounge Remembered: the Nation’s Largest LGBT Massacre, 40 Years Ago
“What do we bury them in?,” asked one on-air reporter. Another snickered, “Fruit jars.” Such was the tone of some talk-show hosts’ next-day discussion of the deadliest fire in New Orleans history when a heartless, hateful man set fire to an upstairs gay gathering spot and in which 32 of the 65 customers, including a mom Inez who was brought by her two gay sons, lost their lives on Sunday, June 24, 1973, 40 years ago. The facts are as bone-chilling today as then. Please read it here.
Celebrating 10 Years after Lawrence v Texas Landmark Decision by The Supreme Court
John Lawrence and Tyron Garner were arrested in 1998 in Lawrence’s home and and taken to jail overnight after police officers responded to a false report and found the men having sex. They were convicted of violating Texas’s “Homosexual Conduct” law, which made it a crime for two people of the same sex to have oral or anal sex. Interestingly, those sex acts were legal in Texas for people who engaged in them with people of the opposite sex. Lambda Legal represented them, and convinced the U.S. Supreme Court to take the case. The historic finding by SCOTUS was that the “Homosexual Conduct” law was unconstitutional. It also, for the first time, established that lesbians and gay men share the same fundamental liberty of the right to private sexual intimacy with another adult that heterosexuals previously exclusively claimed. Read Lambda Legal’s in-depth recount here.
Rainbow Flag Celebrates 35th AnniversaryOn June 25, 1978, 35 years ago, the inaugural rainbow pride flag flew in San Francisco’s Gay Freedom Day Parade. It was designed by San Francisco artist Gilbert Baker and today is the most celebrated symbol of LGBT pride. Today, it looks slightly different than when it was first adopted, originally adorning eight colors, removing pink and turquoise in 1979. While the colors are displayed in the sequence of a natural rainbow (ROY-G-BIV), most omit indigo. Each color in the rainbow flag represents its own expression: red (life), orange (healing), yellow (sunlight), green (nature), blue (harmony) and violet (spirit). The flag and related merchandise reflecting the color sequence is embraced and recognized globally as a symbol of LGBTQQI Pride.
Dear Policy Matters
Dear Policy Matters:
Aware and Unaware
Thank you for that very important set of questions; let’s walk through them.
Each year, June 27 in the U.S. is National HIV Testing Day when regular and special locations provide free, convenient, painless and confidential oral HIV tests that take fewer than 20 minutes in a private setting. Even though National HIV Testing Day was last week, let’s talk about testing, because people can get a free HIV test any time of year.
Getting tested is fast and easy:
- You privately complete a brief confidential form given by a trained professional counselor and tester to assess risk behavior;
- You open your mouth, and they swipe inside one cheek with a quick oral swab (that’s the test!);
- You get quick, confidential results privately on-site with a brief post-test check-out.
Regardless of whether you believe you need it, getting tested on National HIV Testing Day is a good way to model healthy behavior for others in your social or family circles as well as checking on your own status. So mark your calendar for next year.
In April, the CDC’s U.S. Prevention Services Task Force updated its HIV screening guidelines to recommend that:
all persons aged 15-65 get screened for HIV infection at least once as part of routine healthcare, regardless of risk;
people younger or older than that age range with increased risk also get screened;
people with increased risk be screened more frequently.
Last week, there were two fantastic National HIV Testing Day Initiatives, both nationwide.
First, "Together We Are Greater Than AIDS" and Walgreens teamed with health departments and local AIDS organizations for the “I Got Tested” campaign, offering free HIV testing at 175 Walgreens stores in 54 cities in 22 states from 3-7 p.m. on June 27 and 28 and from 9 a.m. - 2 p.m. on June 29. On June 27, Walgreens promoted Testing Day with special messages on its Times Square digital display in New York, the nation’s largest billboard of its kind.
And at Netroots Nation on June 20, several leading LGBT bloggers, HIV activists and LGBT journalists collaborated to encourage people in the U.S. to be tested on National HIV Testing Day and to urge them to use social media to talk about the experience and encourage others get tested, too.
The tremendously successful social media campaign that reached 1.5 million people was titled “TestMe” using the Twitter hashtag #TestMe and using @TestMeJune27 and the Facebook group Testme.
Some sample messages they prepared were:
Never been tested? GET TESTED!
Haven’t been tested since your last relationship ended? GET TESTED!
Dating? Make your second date a trip to your local testing center.
On June 27, GET TESTED! Blog about it, tweet about it, #tell10 #bringafriend #testme #June 27.
Why is this urgent for our LGBT loved ones and people of color overall? While gay and bisexual men of all races and ethnicities represent about two percent of the overall U.S. population, they accounted for 61 percent of all new HIV infections in 2009. By race, age and risk group, young, black gay and bisexual men (ages 13-29) are the only population in the U.S. in which new HIV infections increased between 2006 and 2009. African-Americans are the most affected, representing 14 percent of the U.S. population and 44 percent of new HIV infections in 2009, with an infection rate nearly eight times as high as that of whites, and among African-American women, it was 15 times higher than among white women. Hispanics/Latinos represent 16 percent of the U.S. population but 20 percent of all new HIV infections in 2009, representing an infection rate three times as high as that of white people. Among transgender people, studies from 2008 showed that on average, 28 percent of male-to-female women tested for HIV tested positive.
The issue of particular concern in the LGBT and Ally community because of recently released prevalence (cumulative infections) studies and predictions which show the current set of 20-year-old men who have sex with men (MSM) has an overall prevalence of 10 percent, and the African- American sub-set of 20-year-old MSM at 20 percent prevalence. The prediction from the Office of National AIDS Policy is that at current transmission trends, in 30 years, half of all MSM will be infected with HIV, while 70 percent of all black men who have sex with men will be infected.
Additionally, a 2010 study found that one in five gay, bisexual and other MSM in 21 U.S. cities was infected with HIV. Of those who were infected, 44 percent were unaware they were living with HIV.
The goal is for our nation to realize the five-point mission set out in The National HIV/AIDS
Strategy within five years:
To reduce new infections by 25 percent;
To increase from 79 to 90 percent how many people know their HIV status;
To reduce HIV transmission rate of HIV by 30 percent;
To increase from 65 to 85 percent the percentage of newly diagnosed people connected to care within three months and;
To increase the proportion of HIV diagnosed gay and bisexual men, African-Americans and Latinos with an undetectable viral load by 20 percent.
A National Institutes of Health-funded study has found that a person who is infected with HIV, but unaware of their infection, is 3.5 times more likely to transmit that infection.