Friday, October 4, 2013

Policy Matters: October 3, 2013

Take Action:

PFLAGERS, Please Call or Email your Senators Today, Oct. 3 about Workplace Equality

Contact your U.S. Senators today, October 3rd, as part of the ENDA Coalition and Americans For Workplace Opportunity Campaign’s National Call-In Day, and tell them to vote YES on ENDA when it comes up for a vote, and to thank them if they are already co-sponsors of this important bill for workplace equality.  Take action on ENDA today by clicking here.

Your PFLAG message:As your constituent and as a member of PFLAG (name of your chapter), I’m asking you to vote YES when ENDA comes to the Senate floor for a vote because discrimination in the workplace is not a family value.”

In the News:

U.N. Hosts Historic First Meeting on LGBT Rights as Part of Its General Assembly
Ten Foreign Ministers of 10 UN member nations convened to discuss LGBT rights as part of its United Nations General Assembly in September.  This marked the first time that LGBT rights were discussed as part of the UN’s global human rights discussions. Earlier this year, the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights launched a global LGBT rights campaign.  Learn and see video of this historic event here.

Exxon-Mobil to Offer Spousal Benefits to Employees in Same-Sex Marriages Effective Oct. 1, 2013
Citing that it is adhering to federal law as it does across the world, Exxon-Mobil announced that it will recognize same-sex married employees’ relationships as equal as the company says it does in 30 other countries.  Exxon cited the U.S. federal government’s actions as its catalyst.  Read more here.

New Jersey Judge Rules for State to Allow Same-Sex Couples to Marry
On Friday, Sep. 27, a New Jersey judge ruled that the state must allow same-sex couples to marry. The decision, which the Christie administration immediately vowed to appeal, is the latest development in a 2011 suit which the plaintiffs revived after the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) on June 26, 2013. Read about this ruling and the case's history here.
Pennsylvania Transgender Boy Denied Request to be Placed on Homecoming King Ballot
Kasey Caron, a Johnstown, PA high school senior who intends to have gender confirming surgery in the future, lost his bid to be placed on his school’s Homecoming King ballot because his school administration considered his birth certificate, citing him as female, as binding even though his driver’s licence has been corrected to reflect his identifying gender as male.  The school board declined to hear his appeal and deferred to the school’s earlier decision.  Read more about this story here.

Cassidy Campbell, Transgender Girl Crowned Homecoming Queen, Overcomes Adversity Royally The Huntington Beach, CA transgender teen, historically crowned Homecoming Queen over nine competitors, heard cheers from her peers after being crowned, but in the immediate social media aftermath Cassidy Lynn Campbell said that she'd been deluged with "negative," "judgmental," "mean," "hateful" and "ignorant" comments, including some claiming that she is pretending to be a female. However, after documenting on video the pain she felt, she posted an update several days later sharing that things had gotten better. The uplifting update is that Cassidy has found tremendous social media and in-person support and this week posed as a model in the anti-bullying “NoH8” campaign.Read about Cassidy's courageous story here.
On Policy, Legislation and Litigation:

PFLAG National Opposes Bill That Seeks to Harm Legally Married Same-Sex Couples

Congressman Raul Labrador (R-ID) recently introduced the "Marriage and Religious Freedom Act" (H.R 3133) in the U.S. House of Representatives.  The bill has 62 cosponsors including 2 Democrats, Reps. Dan Lipinski (D-IL) and Mike McIntyre(D-NC).

PFLAG National opposes and will work to defeat this bill which would permit individuals, institutions, and government contractors to discriminate against legally married same-sex couples by simply asserting religious opposition, even while receiving federal funds.  H.R. 3133 would authorize discrimination against married same-sex couples by recipients of taxpayer-funded grants and contracts, and through the threat of costly lawsuits, would tie the hands of the government in remedying discrimination.  

Some of the most damaging effects that this bill that purports to protect religious freedom include:
  • Allowing businesses to refuse to provide Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave for the same-sex spouse of an employee to care for a sick loved one and to deny pension protections to married same-sex couples.
  • Allowing federal employees to refuse to process the tax returns or Social Security claims of married same-sex couples.
  • Allowing individuals to decide whether they wish to comply with federal laws, simply by invoking religious views.

The bill has been referred to Oversight and Government Reform and Ways and Means and is endorsed by Focus on the Family, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the National Organization for Marriage, Heritage Action, Family Research Council and the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of Southern Baptists Convention.

Read more about the bill here, and stay tuned to Policy Matters and PFLAG National action alerts for more information and upcoming actions.

Medicaid Issues Equal Treatment Guidance for Same-Sex Married Couples; States Can Opt Out
Same-sex married couples will now have the same eligibility opportunities for Medicaid coverage as all other married couples in certain states following the Supreme Court decision striking down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, according to new guidance from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) of the Obama administration issued on Sep. 27, 2013.

In two separate pieces of guidance dated Sept. 27, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid outlines new policy bringing the agency in line with the ruling against DOMA. They're published in time for enrollment into insurance exchanges and Medicaid expansion under the health care reform law starting on Tuesday.
One guidance states that same-sex married couples will be eligible for a spousal tax credit under Code section 36B and cost-sharing reductions by signing up for a health insurance exchange — provided they submit a joint tax return for that year.  

Another more complex guidance says that DOMA is no longer a factor in determining the income-based eligibility of same-sex couples for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.  States where same-sex marriage is legal will have to adopt the new eligibility requirements, but since the Medicaid is jointly run by the states, CMS isn't requiring non marriage-equality states to recognize same-sex marriages for the purposes of the purposes of the program. States can elect to opt out of the new policy. Read more about CMS's new Medicaid guidance here.

Federal Judge Allows Ohio Same-Sex Marriage Case to Move Forward
In ruling on a case to dismiss a marriage equality suit brought by two Ohio couples, a federal judge on September 27 permitted two of case’s claims  --
violation of equal protection as well as due process—to stay (meaning to continue). The court will reconvene Oct. 8.  Follow Policy Matters to learn more as this progresses.  Learn more about this case's current status and details here.

Same-Sex Couples Sue For Marriage Rights Recognition In West Virginia
Three same-sex couples are suing the state of West Virginia, seeking to have the state’s law banning recognition of same-sex couples’ marriages struck down as unconstitutional. Lambda Legal, with support of Fairness West Virginia,  announced the federal lawsuit on Oct. 1 in West Virginia.  This suit signifies that lawsuits are pending in more than half of the 37 states that do not celebrate same-sex marriages, all filed since June 26 when The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) struck down Section 3 of The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).  States with pending litigation in federal court are Ohio, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia, and West Virginia and state lawsuits pending in Arkansas, Kentucky, Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico, and Texas. Read more about this news here.

Dear Policy Matters:

Dear Policy Matters:
While I can’t attend the 2013 PFLAG National Convention, I’m inspired by the theme, “One Voice Can Change the World,”  and want to honor Jeanne Manford’s PFLAG-founding legacy by talking to my U.S. Senators and Representative here at home about ENDA, SNDA and other bills important to my family. Even with the federal government shut down, I feel positive about possible advocacy opportunities with my  legislators on issues that affect LGBT people’s lives.
Here’s the problem: I get a little scared--and a lot intimidated--and could use some preparation and a pep talk.  Can you help me find some confidence as I reach out to my legislators’ offices to plan meetings?  I know the mechanics that PFLAG National has shared; I know what to do.  But can you fire me up?
Rarin’ to Go
Dear RTG:
Thanks for your brave question.  PFLAG National’s Lobby Day on Oct. 24 mobilizes PFLAG convention attendees and people like you back home alike.  This year, we have included a new section in Bringing the Message Home 2013 titled, “Psyching Up: Knowing How and Why Legislators Value PFLAGers’ Voices” that brings you just what you’re looking for.  Take a look at these tips, and know from them (and from your own experience once you make your first calls to legislators) that your voice is valued and wanted by those you have put in office.  
The new sections says:
Know your value to your legislators. As a constituent, you are the top priority to your legislators. They know it, and you will be well served to remember it, too. Legislators value your voice, need your vote and want your visit to learn what your family appreciates and what they need as we progress forward together toward full equality for LGBT people. Remember:
·       You and your legislators are neighbors. You live in the same state as your Senators and in the same District back home as your Representative. They and their staff work every day for the well-being of your family and also for your support and vote when election seasons arise.
For legislators, nothing weighs as much as a constituent’s request, need, or opinion. Research from this summer shows it: legislators are listening to constituents and vote on the Senate or House Floor with them in mind. And you are they, the attentive and active constituents who are paying attention to your legislators.
Legislators document constituents’ stories because they matter. They speak on the Senate and House Floor and reference letters they’ve received and conversations they’ve had with their constituents. This is true, for example, of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which became the first federal law that explicitly included gender identity alongside sexual orientation.
Legislators write bills when families tell them about their needs.  Here’s an example of that which is a priority for PFLAGers: the Every Child Deserves a Family Act (ECDF). A current experience of this occurred at the news conference to launch this important bill that gives LGBT parents equal consideration to adopt or foster youth—and LGBT youth to be adopted or fostered—by any public agency that received federal funds, Bill sponsors Congressman John Lewis (D-GA), Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) each accompanied a constituent family to tell the story of why this bill is needed now.
Legislators need to hear your family’s stories. They care. Legislators ask their staffers, “What are constituents saying?” You hold the answers that add value to the staffers’ jobs. Fewer than one third of constituents weigh in, so please, speak out.

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