PFLAG National: Policy Matters

Policy Matters from PFLAG National

In Case You Missed It

Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus forms first-of-its-kind Trans Equality Task Force. The Transgender Equality Task Force–the first task force formed by the Congressional caucus–was announced on November 17th at a press conference on Capitol Hill. Many of the caucus and task force members spoke at the conference, as did Leader Pelosi (CA-12), Chair Rep. Mike Honda (CA-17), and PFLAG National’s Director of Policy Diego M. Sanchez. Also part of the event was a forum discussion around violence against people who are transgender. PFLAG board member and volunteer regional director Catherine Hyde participated on the panel, speaking eloquently of her own personal story and the need for family support for people who are transgender, particularly trans youth. To watch her moving and powerful testimony, visit

Take Action

Make Your Trans Support Visible: Attend a Transgender Day of Remembrance Event.
The Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR), which occurs in cities around the world from November 20th through the end of the month, is set aside to memorialize those who were killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice. In the U.S. so far this year, more than 20 transgender people have been brutally murdered, mostly transwomen of color: it’s the greatest number of reported trans murders since tallying first began. To read further background on TDOR, click through to this article from last month’s PFLAG Voice.

A constant plea from trans people is for allies to show their compassion and solidarity by attending local TDOR events, and who better than PFLAGers to make the all-important ally presence known! Allies are welcome and celebrated for their presence and show of support at these events, which are held to remember our dead and celebrate the living.

Click here to find your nearest TDOR event, by location. TRIGGER WARNING: This link takes you directly to the list of TDOR events by city or town. Other links on the website, if you click through those, include a list and descriptions of reported violent murders of transgender people recorded since November 2014. Reading vivid details can be disturbing or retraumatizing.

Plan to attend an event? Click here to tell us more so that we can tally how PFLAGers respond to this annual request from the trans community.

Media Matters

University of Essex study says that no woman is totally straight. The new study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, measured the arousal of women using eye tracking devices and direct measures of physiological sexual response. Researchers asked 345 women about their sexual preferences and compared these with their arousal levels when shown videos of attractive men and women. They found 28% of straight women were mostly aroused by their preferred sex, compared with 68% of gay women.

Out 100 2015 Announced, list includes Obama, Jenner. President Barack Obama is featured on the cover as Ally of the Year, with Newsmaker honors going to Caitlyn Jenner. 98 others are highlighted on the annual Out Magazine list of 100 LGBTQ people–with inaugurally this year, an ally–noted across a variety of industries or categories as distinguished leaders.

Poz Magazine announces Poz100 for 2015, its sixth issue. Celebrating long-term survivors, Poz focuses on people who have been making a difference in the fight against HIV/AIDS and who have been living with the virus since 1995 or earlier. In the area of non-discrimination, PFLAG National continues to focus on issues related to HIV/AIDS.

Actor Charlie Sheen discloses as HIV positive; gives opportunity for education about HIV prevention and treatment. While some media are focused on ancillary points about this disclosure, Poz Magazine uses the window to put forth valuable information about HIV and AIDS. Read more: The Charlie Sheen Moment You Probably Missed.

Court Matters

U.S. District Judge in Manhattan says trans equal protection claim merits heightened scrutiny. On November 15th, for the first time in the U.S. Second Circuit, Senior Judge Jed Rakoff of the Southern District of New York ruled that a transgender person’s equal protection claim will receive “heightened scrutiny.” Heightened scrutiny is the standard used to evaluate sex discrimination claims, and it places the burden on the government to show that discriminatory treatment significantly advances an important  government interest.

SCOTUS Justices asked on November 16th to take up case of lesbian parent’s adoption rights. In September, the Alabama Supreme Court held that an adoption granted years earlier in Georgia to a same-sex couple was “void.” One of the women’s lawyers calls the decision “glaringly, clearly wrong,” and they are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to take up her appeal. Stay tuned to Policy Matters for future updates.

Utah Judge withdraws from lesbian couple’s foster care case. On November 16th, Judge Scott N. Johansen, a juvenile court judge in Price, Utah, announced in a brief order that he had disqualified himself and that a presiding judge would handle the case. He came under widespread criticism last week after he ordered the baby to be taken from the lesbian couple and given to a heterosexual couple, saying it was “not in the best interest of children to be raised by same-sex couples.” According to the couple, the judge said he has research indicating children don’t fare as well in same-sex households but didn’t produced his findings.

Oklahoma Supreme Court hands down landmark ruling on same-sex parenting. Issue on November 17th the landmark 9-0 ruling increased the rights of noncustodial parents who have been in same-sex relationships.The decision acknowledged the rights of a nonbiological parent, Charlene Ramey, in a same-sex relationship who has acted as a parent.

Federal Matters

Obama Administration endorses The Equality Act at White House press Q&A. PFLAG priority legislation to bring full equality for LGBT people was endorsed by President Obama on November 10th. Here is PFLAG National’s statement by Executive Director Jody Huckaby.

Senate confirms openly gay Michael Michaud to key Department of Labor position.  On November 20th, The U.S. Senate confirmed Micheau, by unanimous consent, as Assistant Secretary of Labor for veterans’ employment and training. Nominated in May by President Obama, Michaeu is a former Member of Congress.

State Matters

California – San Franciscan transgender woman attacked for second time this year. Samantha Hulsey, 25, had just caught a movie in the Mission and eaten dinner with her fiance when for the second time this year, the dangers of being openly transgender–even in San Francisco–were brought home to her in violent, random fashion. Hulsey was attacked on November 15th by a couple who threw hot coffee on her and repeatedly punched her in the face, police said. Officers arrested a man and a woman on suspicion of a string of hate-crime-related counts.

Indiana – Republican legislators launch sexual orientation, gender identity bill with extreme religious exemptions and other burdens. The bill would also provide exceptions for churches and religious-affiliated institutions such as private universities, adoption agencies and daycares, and public accommodations for wedding services businesses with fewer than four employees. Schools, businesses and others would be allowed to determine their own policies regarding dress codes and use of bathrooms or showers based on sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

Texas – Same group that organized to topple Houston’s HERO takes aim at Dallas nondiscrimination ordinance, but face higher hurdle. Anti-LGBT groups that repealed Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance are now taking aim at Dallas’ nondiscrimination law, which the City Council unanimously amended on November 12th to strengthen transgender protections. But opponents to equality face a much higher bar for getting a referendum on the ballot in Dallas thanks to the city’s charter, which would give them 60 days to gather signatures on a petition from 10 percent of the city’s voters, or roughly 50,000 people.

Global Matters

Canada – Canadian Film Explores Criminalization of HIV Non-Disclosure. Consent: HIV Non-Disclosure and Sexual Assault Law looks at the effects of using Canada’s sexual-assault law to prosecute persons living with HIV who do not disclose their HIV status to sexual partners. The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network and Goldelox Productions produced the film after the Legal Network convened a group of feminist scholars, front-line workers, activists, and legal experts to discuss the issue of criminalizing HIV non-disclosure. The 27-minute film may be viewed online for free. The Legal Network is also producing a discussion guide that it expects will be available on the film’s website in the near future.

Cuba – United Nations says Cuba is the leading nation to eradicate HIV/AIDS. Cuba’s social model is an example for the world to follow on how to eradicate AIDS, the executive director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS said on November 13th. He further added that the U.N. will make the necessary efforts to assist Cuba in becoming the first country to completely eradicate HIV/AIDS.

Hong Kong – LGBTI rights advocates criticize local Catholic bishop who compared homosexuality to drug abuse. Auxiliary Bishop Michael Yeung Ming-cheung of the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong made the comparison on November 10 while defending Cardinal John Tong Hon, who heads the Roman Catholic Church in Hong Kong. Yeung made the comments after more than 9,000 people took part in Hong Kong’s largest-ever LGBT Pride march.

Ireland – As of November 16th, Ireland becomes first country with freedom to marry as a result of popular vote, now recognizes licenses from same-sex marriages that were legally performed in other jurisdictions. Last May, the people of Ireland voted in a referendum by a 62-38 percent margin in favor of the freedom to marry for same-sex couples.

Uganda – Some gay Ugandans regret fleeing to Kenya. Hundreds of people in Uganda’s LGBT community have fled the country to escape homophobia and persecution, but many report that fleeing to Kenya is yielding nearly equally dangerous prospects for their safety.

Ukraine – Ukraine passed protections for LGBT employees. On November 12th, Ukrainian parliament passed a law barring employment discrimination that includes protections for LGBT people, a step the European Union had made a condition of closer ties with the former Soviet country. This was the last of a suite of legislation required by the EU–which also included controversial laws against corruption–for Ukraine to qualify for a program allowing its citizens to travel to the EU without needing visas.

You’re Invited

And the Honorees are… LGBT Artists, White House “Champions of Change”. On Monday, November 23rd, The White House will honor its LGBT Artists Champions of Change at 1 PM eastern/10 AM pacific. You were asked to nominate LGBT artists.  Click here to watch live on Monday!

World AIDS Day is December 1st, themed in the U.S. as “The time to act is now.” Watch PFLAG National’s social media channels on December 1st when the Office of National HIV/AIDS Policy (ONAP) announces a new Federal Action Plan, which will include community engagement. For now:

For everything World AIDS Day, follow and use the hashtag #WAD2015 on social media.

Dear Policy Matters

Dear Policy Matters:

I attended Family Day of the Gender Conference East that PFLAG sponsored with Gender Spectrum and was able to find out information on identity documents that relate to my state. It was perfect for my gender expansive child and for me. My question is whether you know of any resources that list in one place a comparison of identity document laws and policies across all states?

How States Compare

Dear HSC:

Yes, we are pleased to tell you that on November 17th, The Movement Advancement Project (MAP) issued a new report titled LGBT Policy Spotlight: Identity Documents Laws and Policies which examines state laws and policies that govern the processes by which people who are transgender are able to correct the name and gender marker on their identity documents so that those documents match the gender the person lives every day. The report also makes policy recommendations to help ensure that transgender people can access accurate identity documents, no matter where they live or travel.

Key findings are:

  • Driver’s Licenses. While most states allow transgender people to change the gender marker on their driver’s license after presenting documentation such as a letter from a licensed medical professional, 14 states have burdensome surgical requirements that make it difficult or impossible for most transgender people to obtain an accurate license.

  • Birth Certificates. Birth certificates can be required for obtaining everything from Social Security cards, passports, driver’s licenses, and other identity documents. Updating a gender marker on a birth certificate can be very challenging, and only nine states and the District of Columbia allow individuals to change their gender marker on their birth certificate without surgical requirements or court orders.

  • Name Changes. While state laws generally allow individuals to change their name, many states maintain outdated and onerous requirements such as requiring a person to publish notice of their name-change application at the local courthouse or in a local newspaper. Currently, 10 states have explicit requirements for public name-change announcements, and an additional 27 states have publication requirements that are circumstantial or left to an individual court’s discretion. This poses significant privacy and safety concerns for transgender individuals who may face discrimination and violence if it becomes public that they are transgender.

According to the new report, although a growing number of states and agencies have taken steps to update their laws and policies, many maintain outdated regulations with intrusive requirements and excessive costs. As a result, only 21% of transgender people have updated all of their identity documents to reflect the gender they live every day, and that number is lower for low-income transgender people and transgender people of color.


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