Thursday, August 21, 2014
It’s Still August: Legislators are Back Home; Visit and Lobby Them This Month!
Want to advocate for yourselves and your loved ones? Your role at home in your congressional district is important! Your legislators are back home with you for these last days in August, home for what is called a recess but generally reserved for people from their District or state to drop by and visit directly–and for town halls nearby you. Make an appointment to meet with your two Senators and one U.S. Representative. Click here to find their local offices nearest you.
Prepare your two-minute family story about the issues that are important to you, such as workplace fairness, student safety and bully-free schools, and equal access to adoption and foster care for LGBTQ parents. If your legislators are already on board with ENDA, SSIA, SNDA and ECDF, then please thank them, and urge them to invite their colleagues to sign on as cosponsors, too. You are the best messenger for these important asks! Summer is rapidly coming to a close, so please act soon!
Supreme Court of the United States Puts Same-Sex Marriages On Hold In Virginia
The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) on Aug. 20th issued an order that will stop same-sex couples in Virginia from being able to marry starting Aug. 21st. SCOTUS, responding to an application filed with Chief Justice John Roberts that he referred to the whole court, issued a brief that puts on hold the lower court ruling striking down the ban, until the Supreme Court decides whether it will hear an appeal of the case. SCOTUS stated that the stay will “terminate automatically” if it does not take and denies certiorari in the case–which is the process by which the court formally takes cases. If it grants certiorari, then the stay ends when it “send[s] down…the judgment of this Court.” Read more about this developing story by clicking HERE.
Soon-to-Retire Tennessee Judge Upholds TN State Ban on Same-Sex Marriage
Ninth Judicial District Circuit Court Judge Russell Simmons Jr. of Kingston upheld the Tennessee same-sex marriage ban in a seven-page decision issued on Aug. 5th, breaking a string of at least 30 court victories in favor of marriage equality. Simmons upheld both Tennessee’s ban on same-sex marriage, approved by voters as part of the state constitution in 2006, and the state’s Anti-Recognition Law prohibiting recognition of same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. A ruling from an appellate court may come soon now that a three-judge panel on the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has heard a federal challenge to Tennessee’s ban on same-sex marriage. A decision from the court is expected in September or October. According to SCOTUSblog’s Lyle Denniston, the Tennessee ruling marks the first time in the 14 months since the Supreme Court ruled against DOMA that a court has determined a ban on same-sex marriage is constitutional. Read more about this decision by clicking HERE. Marc Solomon, national campaign director for Freedom to Marry, said the loss for supporters of marriage equality in this court is an isolated one. The decision comes several months after Simmons, 70, announced he would retire from the bench after completing his eight-year term this year.
Veterans Administration Sued for Same-Sex Spousal Benefits
Lambda Legal and Morrison & Foerster LLP filed suit on Aug. 19th against the Secretary of Veterans Affairs on behalf of the American Military Partner Association (AMPA) arguing that the denial of benefits to same-sex spouses of veterans living in states that refuse to recognize their marriages is in violation of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision striking down Section 3 of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act. Read more about this lawsuit, and see a copy of the actual petition to the court by clicking here.
PFLAG National Signs Letter of Solidarity with Michael Brown’s Family
The actions and outcomes in Ferguson, Missouri have led LGBT organizations to sign a letter of solidarity with Michael Brown’s family. The letter remains active for national groups’ signatures. The letter in its entirety, including a current list of the organizations that signed on, can be found online here.
Campus Pride Announces 2014 List of 50 Best LGBT-friendly U.S. Colleges and Universities
Campus Pride doubled the number to 50 this year, announcing on Aug. 15th the annual Campus Pride 2014 Top LGBT-Friendly Colleges & Universities. The listing highlights the positive efforts to improve safety and academic life for LGBT students as well as the top institutions leading the way. The list is based on the final responses to the Campus Pride Index, a national benchmarking tool which self-assesses LGBT-friendly policies, programs and practices. The tool is free of charge and can be found online at www.CampusPrideIndex.org. The Campus Pride Index has more than 425 campuses featured online and for the first time ever there are 56 campuses that achieved the highest 5-star-rating overall, the largest number to date. Read more about these top-rated colleges and universities by clicking HERE. Each college listed on the Top 50 has a profile page with more details about the campus ratings online.
ASU’s Edward “Chip” Sarafin is First Openly Gay Active NCAA Division I College Football Player
Arizona State offensive lineman Edward “Chip” Sarafin leads and follows in the footsteps of former Missouri defensive lineman Michael Sam, who informed his teammates of his sexual orientation while still playing at Missouri, but did not come out publicly until after the 2013 season had ended, and before the NFL Draft. Sarafin leads because he is still an active roster-listed football player at Arizona State University (ASU), a NCAA Division I University, and the first to come out as gay in active Division I status as a player. Read more about this historic news by clicking HERE.
Ugandan President Halts Anti-Homosexuality Bill; Signs Law Criminalizing HIV Transmission
Following the African Summit hosted by President Obama in Washington, DC, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni instructed the attorney general to drop its appeal of a ruling to strike down the Anti-Homosexuality bill, but instead signed into law a harmful bill that criminalizes HIV. Read more about this developing story by clicking HERE.
FEDERAL POLICY AND LEGISLATION MATTERS
Julian Castro Sworn in As New HUD Secretary by Vice President Joe Biden
On Aug. 18th, Vice President Joe Biden swore in new Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Julian Castro, former Mayor of San Antonio, Texas. Sec. Castro was joined by his wife, daughter, mother, father-in-law and brother, Congressman Joaquin Castro. HUD has been and remains a leader in idenfitying and addressing housing needs of LGBT people. In 2010, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development launched a ground-breaking national study of housing discrimination against members of the LGBT community in the sale and rental of housing, led by its Office of Policy Development and Research. In 2012, HUD announced work to address the housing needs of LGBT people and prevent homelessness among members of the LGBT community. Read more about HUD programs for LGBT people by clicking HERE. HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) administers and enforces federal laws and establishes policies that make sure all Americans, including LGBT people, have equal access to the housing of their choice.
U.S. Department of Labor Extends Employment Protections to Transgender Workers
The Department of Labor issued guidance on Aug. 19 stating that transgender federal employees and employees of federal contractors are covered under nondiscrimination protections that apply to sex. It follows an executive order President Obama issued earlier this summer specifically extending employment protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Read more about this development by clicking HERE.
STATE POLICY AND LEGISLATION MATTERS
Arkansas – Fayetteville Historic LGBT Nondiscrimination Ordinance Passes 6-2
On Aug. 19th, Fayetteville City Council voted 6-2 to pass an historic civil rights ordinance that protects LGBT in the city’s umbrella of employment, housing, and accommodation protections. The history-making proceedings concluded with Fayetteville Mayor Lioneld Jordan’s emotional remarks supporting freedom and equality for all. Read a chronological account by clicking HERE.
Montana – Billings LGBT Non-discrimination Ordinance Bill Fails to Pass over Public Accommodations Inclusion
Billings Mayor Tom Hanel cast the conclusive vote on the City Council which thereby defeated the city’s proposed Non-Discrimination Ordinance on a vote of 6-5. Mayor Hanel said he doesn’t believe that Billings is ready for a non-discrimination ordinance, that he was not opposed to a majority of the ordinance, but that he did oppose a section that would have prohibited discrimination in public accommodations, namely, restrooms and locker rooms. Read more about this news story by clicking HERE.
Oregon – Medicare Overseer of Medically Necessary Healthcare Priorities Historically Approves Including Transgender People, Starting in 2015
Oregon’s Health Evidence Review Commission (HERC), which oversees the prioritized list of services in the state’s Medicaid program, the Oregon Health Plan, voted on August 14 to approve the coverage of medically necessary healthcare for Transgender people, including physician-prescribed hormonal and surgical healthcare, starting in 2015. This marks the first time in Oregon’s history that its state Medicaid plan will provide a comprehensive continuum of care for the treatment of Gender Dysphoria. It will include psychotherapy, puberty suppression (for youth), medical visits, hormones, androgen blockers and gender reassignment surgery (GRS or SRS). Read more about this historic news by clicking HERE.
Tennessee – Chattanooga and Shelby County Fail to Advance LGBT Protections
Chattanooga, TN voters rejected an ordinance on Aug. 8th that would have extended equal protections and benefits to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender city employees. In November, the Chattanooga City Council approved a measure to provide health benefits to city employees in domestic partnerships, including same-sex couples, and to enshrine non-discrimination protections for LGBT workers. Opponents of the measure, however, gathered enough signatures to force a referendum on it in Thursday’s elections. Read more about this news by clicking HERE. Separately, on Aug. 18th, Shelby County Commission failed to pass in a vote regarding an anti-discrimination ordinance for LGBT residents by a vote of 6-5. Shelby County LGBT and ally proponents of the anti-discrimination bill vow to continue their work forward.
Texas – Houston Equal Rights Ordinance Will Not Be on November 2014 Ballot
An effort to repeal Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance, which bans discrimination against LGBT people, won’t go before voters this year. The ordinance was authored by Houston Mayor Annise Parker and passed in May 2014. On Aug. 15th, a state district judge scheduled a trial for Jan. 19, 2015, to determine whether the petition has enough valid signatures to qualify for the ballot. Judge Robert Schaffer set the trial after opponents of the ordinance agreed to drop their request for an injunction that sought to force a public vote on the ordinance in November 2014, the Houston Chronicle reports. Opponents’ injunction request was also rejected by an appeals court, which said it would only consider the matter after the district court issues a decision. Opponents of the ordinance filed a lawsuit against Mayor Parker and the city after officials announced that the petition to repeal the ordinance didn’t have enough valid signatures. Mayor Parker and City Attorney David Feldman said Aug. 4th that only 15,249 of the signatures were valid — below the threshold of 17,269 needed to qualify to appear on the ballot. Mayor Parker suspended the ordinance’s enforcement pending the lawsuit’s outcome. Read about this news by clicking HERE.
DEAR POLICY MATTERS
Dear Policy Matters:
I was scheduled to travel to attend a meeting in Washington, DC at a federal office building, and I made sure I had my RMV/DMV operator’s licence ready to present as identification.
However, when I read the identity document requirements for my meeting, I noticed a new paragraph of instructions–not one I had seen before for my DC meetings in federal government buildings–that said my state’s driver’s license is no longer sufficient to enter a federal government building, effective July 21, 2014, in accordance with the REAL ID Act of 2005. Fortunately, I read the instructions and was able to bring my U.S. Passport, listed among accepted documents for entry. What is this about? What if I didn’t have a U.S. Passport?
ID Change Questioner
This topic is particularly important to us in our everyday lives, especially as citizen lobbyists for PFLAG. The changed requirement for identify documents affects EVERYONE–LGBTQ and allies–with identity documents from particular areas noted below.
To answer your first question, effective July 21, 2014, all visitors to federal government buildings in any location requiring definitive identity documents now require something different than a driver’s license. This is a result of the July 21 enactment date of part of The REAL ID Act of 2005. It requires that the residents of 11 states and American Samoa produce an identity document in lieu of a state driver’s license. These states and U.S. localities are:
Acceptable alternative forms of identification includes a Federal employee badge, passport, or military identification card. Individuals without acceptable forms of identification will be denied access to the building.
The REAL ID Act of 2005 was passed in the 109th Congress and became public law: P.L. 109-13 on May 11, 2005, moved swiftly through Congress after being introduced in January of that year as H.R. 418. You can read more about that bill, eventually linked to a military funding bill as it passed, by clicking HERE. You can read a more in-depth policy paper on The REAL ID Act of 2005 from The Cato Institute by clicking HERE.
To answer your second question, if someone does not have a passport or needs to renew it, we can help. As the most readily available document to replace driver’s licenses in previously noted states in order to be granted admittance in federal government buildings, a U.S. Passport is optimal. If someone doesn’t have one, they should consider getting one. If someone has one that’s expired, we suggest getting it renewed.
Each U.S. Representative has an expert staffer to help constituents process U.S. Passport applications and renewals, and these experts are usually located in the legislator’s back-home office.
Fortunately, in January 2011, The U.S. State Department issued a new policy that improved its former one issued in June 2010. Effective in 2011, transgender or gender non-conforming people can obtain a full 10-year passport with an updated gender if CLINICAL TREATMENT is determined by a doctor to be appropriate in the person’s case to facilitate gender transition.
Ttransgender or gender nonconforming people can learn details of the policy and how to secure proper documentation by reading this synopsis from The National Center for Transgender Equality.