Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Top Ten Ways to Make Schools Safe For Kids

For too many of our children, the thought of heading back to school in the fall can be a frightening experience. A recent GLSEN study found that eight out of ten lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students experience some form of mistreatment in school. LGBT youth, and those perceived to be LGBT, endure constant bullying, harassment, and discrimination: in the classroom, hallways, locker rooms and on the bus. 
Visit www.pflag.org/safeschoolsfor more information
But bullying is more than disturbing; it is also dangerous and disruptive. When students feel unsafe at school, they are also unable to learn. And that means that this isn't just an issue for the parents of LGBT kids , but for ALL families. Bullying disrupts classrooms, prevents learning...and creates an atmosphere that is unhealthy for all kids.
As parents, families, friends, and allies we need to do something to make schools safer for ALL students.


How does PFLAG make a difference? By working directly with schools in communities all over the country, providing support, resources, training, model policy and creative programs to create an environment of respect that makes schools safe for all children.


How can you help? Here are the top ten ways you can find support, get education, and become an advocate for safe schools:

  1. Learn the Facts - Students who are, or are perceived to be, lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender—LGBT—are at a higher risk for depression, self-harm, and dropping out of school.
  2. Understand the Language - Using respectful and appropriate language is an important benchmark to set a tone of respect and understanding.
  3. Stop Bad Behavior - Don’t ignore or excuse discriminatory behaviors or harassment, and don’t be immobilized by fear: Not taking action can endanger students and make the classroom unsafe.
  4. Set the Policy - A strong and inclusive anti-harassment policy not only protects students; it also protects the school.
  5. Plan School-Wide Activities - Showing films, reading books, and planning schoolwide activities offers opportunities for everyone to learn and participate. These programs help build community, empathy and understanding.
  6. Be Public - Adults should go public with their support for diversity, and oppose bullying and harassment. Signs, stickers and other public displays tell youth that their diversity is welcomed, supported, and protected.
  7. Address Cyber Bullying - Take cyber-bullying seriously. Add cyber bullying to existing anti-harassment or bullying policies, and help provide training and education for students, teachers and parents.
  8. Train and Educate Everyone - It is imperative that every adult—parents, teachers, administrators—is trained to respond to bullying in ways that support every student.
  9. Work for Comprehensive Health Education - Youth must have a clear understanding of their bodies, and health, in order to respect themselves and their classmates.
  10. Provide Resources - Learn more about our partners and resources.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

PFLAG National Statement on House Decision to Drop Defense of DOMA

PFLAG National Executive Director Jody Huckaby had the following to say, regarding the news that House Leaders would no longer seek to defend DOMA or similar statutes in court:
"PFLAG National applauds the decision by House leaders to drop their defense of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, and similar statutes. Equality doesn’t require a particular political affiliation, and making a legal commitment to the person we love isn’t a partisan issue. Love, family, commitment - these are human values, rooted simply in the desire to make a deep, lasting, committed connection to another human being.  Coupled with the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in U.S. v.Windsor, this is a huge step toward equality for our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) loved ones and their families."

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.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

PFLAG National Statement on ENDA's Passage Out of Senate HELP Committee


"Today we are one step closer to seeing our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) loved ones protected in the workplace. Whether it is the opportunity to interview and be hired, retain a job, or be afforded the opportunity for a promotion, this first step towards passage of the inclusive Employment NonDiscrimination Act (ENDA) will ensure that our families are protected. We thank those Senators who worked so diligently to pass ENDA out of committee today, and look forward to working with our elected officials who believe in fairness to get this legislation passed when it comes to the Senate floor." 

- Jody Huckaby, Executive Direction, PFLAG National 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

ENDA Mark-Up Tomorrow!

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (S. 815) (ENDA) is being marked up and voted on in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee tomorrow!Wednesday, July 10.

Please call or email your U.S. Senators today to urge them to cosponsor and vote for this important piece of workplace legislation, which was introduced in the Senate on April 25, 2013 by Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Mark Kirk (R-IL).

Courtesy of PFAW.org
This bipartisan, bicameral bill prohibits discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, and would give all Americans the same workplace protections. The bill includes business-friendly exemptions for small businesses, while many larger companies today are already implementing protections similar to or the same as ENDA.

Everyone in our families--whether, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or straight--should have the same opportunities to be interviewed, hired, employed, and promoted based exclusively on merit; this is what ENDA would deliver. The President agrees and has said, on the record, that he will sign ENDA into law.

Find out if your Senators are already cosponsors. Thank them if they are! If they haven’t yet signed on, invite them to cosponsor.

Regardless, urge them to vote for ENDA when presented for a vote, both as a HELP Committee member and later this year when the full Senate votes.

And to learn about all of the amazing work that PFLAG is doing in companies and corporations across the country, visit www.straightforequality.org/workplace.  

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Policy Matters: July 3, 2013

Dear PFLAGers:

What an exciting Pride Month 2013 delivered!  While everyone is still freshly celebrating the historic SCOTUS rulings that make Section Three of DOMA unconstitutional and give way to revive same-sex marriages in California (by allowing to stand the court ruling determining Prop 8 unconstitutional), there was plenty more afoot at record pace in the past two weeks.  

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 dsanchez@pflag.org with “Dear Policy Matters” in the subject line.  

So please enjoy, and we welcome your feedback and inquiries any time!


Front Page Headlines

Inclusive ENDA To Get First-Ever Senate Committee Mark-Up and Vote Next Wednesday, July 10
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.


Policy News

Federal Government Begins Extends Benefits to Legally Married Same-Sex Couples
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:
  1. An October state legislative hearing,
  2. State polling that showed 78% of respondents’ support,
  3. 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),
  4. An endorsement from New York City Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly,
  5. 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

1969 Stonewall Riots in Greenwich Village Sparked Today’s LGBT Movement 44 Years Ago
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:

In June I noticed news items, social media attention, bus billboards and TV PSAs about HIV/AIDS in connection with something called National HIV Testing Day.  What was National HIV Testing Day, what happens during an HIV test, how long does it take, and what is the state of HIV/AIDS in America?

Signed,
Aware and Unaware


Dear AAU:

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:

  1. You privately complete a brief confidential form given by a trained professional counselor and tester to assess risk behavior;
  2. You open your mouth, and they swipe inside one cheek with a quick oral swab (that’s the test!);
  3. 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.

New Testing Guidelines about Who Should Get Tested:

In April, the CDC’s U.S. Prevention Services Task Force updated its HIV screening guidelines to recommend that: 
  1. all persons aged 15-65 get screened for HIV infection at least once as part of routine healthcare, regardless of risk;
  1. people younger or older than that age range with increased risk also get screened;  
  1. people with increased risk be screened more frequently.  
In the U.S., approximately 1.2 million people are living with HIV infection, with about 50,000 new infections each year.  The estimate is that 20% of people who are infected don’t know that because they haven’t been tested.

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:
  1. To reduce new infections by 25 percent;
  2. To increase from 79 to 90 percent how many people know their HIV status;
  3. To reduce HIV transmission rate of HIV by 30 percent;
  4. To increase from 65 to 85 percent the percentage of newly diagnosed people connected to care within three months and;
  5. 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.

People getting tested and knowing their HIV status is a cornerstone to achieving the National HIV/AIDS Strategy’s goals.  We hope that people, even at lowest risk, will get tested each year as part of their general health regimen, whether on National HIV Testing Day or any other, both as a point of personal care and also as an example to those who we love.