Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Representative Baldwin on Hate Crimes Bill Signed Today

Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (WI-02) lauds President Obama's signing the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law on October 28, 2009. read on

Joint Statement on Hate Crimes Act - History in the Making

It took much too long, more than a decade. And it came at too great a price: the brutal killings of Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. are just two among the thousands of crimes motivated by hate and bigotry.

But this week, the president put pen to paper and fulfilled a campaign promise, the signing of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, extending the federal hate crimes statute to include sexual orientation and gender identity along with race, religion, gender, national origin and disability. Our deepest hope and strong belief is that this new law will save lives. Now, lawmakers and the president have made an imperative statement to the country and the world: Our nation will no longer tolerate hate-motivated violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

We have worked long and hard for this and its passage is historic. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program, there are nearly 8,000 hate crime-related incidents annually, and more than 1,200 of those incidents involve violence based on sexual orientation or gender identity. And even more alarming, while the overall occurrence of hate crimes is declining nationally, hate crimes against LGBT people have been increasing. This year alone, we saw hate crimes trials in the brutal killings of two transgender women, Angie Zapata and Lateisha Green.

As a result of this legislation, if local jurisdictions are unable or unwilling to investigate or prosecute hate crimes based on sexual orientation or gender identity, the Justice Department can now step in. And that’s why the LGBT community never stopped working for this historic day.

This legislation not only has practical value, but is a symbol of our progress. It is the first time in the nation’s history that Congress has passed explicit protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. We could not have reached this moment without the powerful support of our allies who stood with us every step of the way. We are deeply grateful to civil rights, civic, faith and disability rights groups, as well as law enforcement and district attorney organizations that worked side by side with the LGBT advocates. We are equally thankful to Congress, President Obama and members of his administration for passing and signing this bill into law.

While today we celebrate this marker of progress, we must recognize it as only one of the building blocks to full equality and demand that it be just a first step toward equal treatment under federal law in all areas of our lives. And we must focus on the next step.

The passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act provides us with an opportunity. We must use this moment to educate and keep the momentum going so that we can continue to make progress on the local, state and federal levels. Yes, legislation takes a long time — often years of work. Yet, our community is on the cusp of passing much-needed protections.

This week, we call upon lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, families and allies to take this opportunity of increased media and public attention on hate crimes to educate co-workers, classmates, neighbors, family members and friends about our lives, and about why we need not only their friendship and love, but their vocal support for a more just and equal America for LGBT people. If your members of Congress voted in support of hate crimes legislation, call them and thank them. Then ask them to be there for us again when the vote turns to workplace nondiscrimination, military service and partnership rights.

With your help and our collective pressure, equality is within reach.

When talking about the need for hate crimes legislation, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said: “The time for debate is over.”

She was right.

Just as the time has finally come for stronger hate crime protections, it is also time to pass an inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act, repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, and ensure that health care, economic policy and immigration reform incorporate the needs of LGBT people.

The time for debate is over.

Signed by:

Jo Kenny, AFL-CIO Pride at Work
Terry Stone, Centerlink: The Community of LGBT Centers
Gabe Javier, Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals
Marianne Duddy-Burke, DignityUSA
Toni Broaddus, Equality Federation
Jennifer Chrisler, Family Equality Council
Evan Wolfson, Freedom to Marry
Lee Swislow, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders
Rebecca Allison, M.D., Gay & Lesbian Medical Association
Chuck Wolfe, Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund
Eliza Byard, Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network
Marjorie Hill, Gay Men’s Health Crisis
Joe Solmonese, Human Rights Campaign
Rachel Tiven, Immigration Equality
Earl Fowlkes, International Federation of Black Prides
Kevin M. Cathcart, Lambda Legal
Leslie Calman, Mautner Project: The National Lesbian Health Organization
Sharon Lettman, National Black Justice Coalition
Kate Kendell, National Center for Lesbian Rights
Mara Keisling, National Center for Transgender Equality
Justin Nelson, National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce
Rea Carey, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
Paul Kawata, National Minority AIDS Council
Kyle Bailey, National Stonewall Democrats
Greg Varnum, National Youth Advocacy Coalition
Sharon Stapel, New York Anti-Violence Project
Jody Michael Huckaby, PFLAG National
Aubrey Sarvis, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network
Michael Adams, Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE)
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Historic Hate Crimes Bill Signed Today

President Obama signed into law the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. It's taken a decade to get this law passed.Some wonder what difference it will make. NPR reported that one boon to local hate crime laws will be the availability of federal money for investigations. But the effect on states and municipalities without local hate crime laws isn't clear.

Equality Texas has an eloquent blog post up on this law that has been such a long time coming.
read on

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Midweek State Blog Round Up

Empire State Pride Agenda launches its click to call campaign for marriage equality.

Equality Florida raises an eyebrow at anti gay OK Rep. Tom Coburn's opinion piece in The Advocate and makes an important endorsement.

The Tennessee Equality Project reports on an important Federal bill that could remove hurdles to LGBT adoption.

GLSEN's new report on the experience of trans youth in schools reviewed by Equality North Carolina.

Fair Wisconsin travels to celebrate domestic partnership protections.

TransOhio cheers the NY State appellate judges who struck down "doctor's note" requirement for transgender name changes.
read on

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

LA Times Editorial Trivializes Harvey Milk Day Victory

reprinted with permission from the California Ripple Effect (EQCA's blog)

In the past our community has counted on the Los Angeles Times editorial board to have our back. Last year they calmly and rationally made the case against Prop 8 to their readers, but this morning we awoke to a shocking and inexcusable editorial criticizing Gov. Schwarzenegger’s historic signature making Harvey Milk Day a reality in California:

Meanwhile, Schwarzenegger's lame-duck status may have given him the courage to sign some controversial bills that we wish he hadn't...

…By taking a grown-up political fight to schoolchildren, Leno's bill will only add to the hysteria surrounding gay rights, proving to conservatives that proponents really are eager to teach homosexuality in the schools. Schools have an obligation to teach history, but they shouldn't be used as a platform for a political agenda. Although Milk deserves recognition as a gay-rights pioneer, there are more appropriate ways to honor him. At times like this, we miss the days when Schwarzenegger lacked a backbone.

Not only does this editorial miss the point of Harvey Milk Day, it’s insulting.

The only ones using schools as a platform for a political agenda are anti-LGBT extremists who try to make easy targets of our community’s most vulnerable, in this case LGBT students. These people have actually fought against anti-bullying and nondiscrimination protections for students, have tried to systematically erase the contributions of LGBT people from history books, have tried to clamp down on students’ free speech and association rights and have exploited student-led Day of Silence demonstrations to promote grown-up led, vicious hate rallies at public schools targeting LGBT students and allies.

Furthermore, Harvey Milk Day does not mandate any changes to the curriculum at all. It simply encourages schools to offer appropriate commemorative exercises. Let’s remember that California has some of the most generous parental opt-out laws in the country. Parents can take their children out of just about any lesson whatsoever they find objectionable. Let’s also remember that the campaign that passed Prop 8 routinely lied about this fact to scare parents into supporting a vile amendment that had absolutely nothing to do with our schools.

During that time period, the GSA Network documented a marked increase in anti-LGBT bullying. LGBT schoolchildren are already at much higher risk of bullying and suicide because anti-LGBT grown-ups have already taken this political fight to them.

With all due respect, members of the editorial board, we are not the ones trying to politicize classrooms. We are not the ones waging our battles on the backs of vulnerable youth. Harvey Milk Day, as well as a number of nondiscrimination and safe schools bills that EQCA has helped to pass, make sure that LGBT students are safe to learn, grow and be themselves and that other students learn the value of diversity and the cost of violence.

At a time when the same people who took away marriage in California are again using schoolchildren as pawns to further their anti-LGBT agenda in Maine, lying about anti-bullying curriculums in California and about the so-called “consequences” of the freedom to marry, we really should be able to count on one of the country’s most esteemed newspapers to cut through the spin and look at the facts.

You can share your opinion, too and send a letter to the editor.
read on

Basic Rights Oregon's New Campaign: Increasing Health Care for Transgender Oregonians

After months of careful research and analysis from our Trans Policy Working Group, and after hearing from transgender and allied Oregonians from across the state, the team of volunteers leading this effort has selected a campaign for transgender justice: increasing access to health care for transgender Oregonians.

Why health care? Because transgender, genderqueer and gender nonconforming Oregonians face serious barriers to accessing appropriate, affordable care:

* It’s common practice in Oregon to deny health care to transgender Oregonians just because of their identity. In fact, the vast majority of health care plans specifically exclude transition-related health care—so transgender Oregonians can’t access hormones, surgery, counseling and other critical care.
* Many health care providers have little or no experience treating transgender patients, making it extraordinarily difficult for many transpeople to find appropriate care—and leaving many doctors and nurses unsure of how best to treat their patients.

These factors leave many transgender Oregonians with insufficient health care, and with tens of thousands of dollars of medical bills to pay out of pocket—simply because of their gender identity. It’s tough enough for anyone to get health care. No one should be denied care just because of their identity.

That’s why Basic Rights Oregon will work to increase access to trans-inclusive health care plans, and work with health care providers to increase their knowledge and comfort in treating transgender, genderqueer and gender nonconforming patients.

For more about barriers to health care for transgender Oregonians, read Issues in Trans Justice: Health Care on the Basic Rights Oregon blog. And stay tuned to our blog & enews for updates and opportunities to get involved!
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Monday, October 12, 2009

Monday State Blog Round Up

The Tennessee Equality Project Foundation is rolling out several new initiatives.

Tampa Bay celebrates Coming Out Day and Equality Florida's own Tobias Packer inspires the crowd at the National Equality March.

Former Federation intern, Stephen Wiseman, blogs about ENDA for Equality North Carolina.

At Basic Rights Oregon, a benefit for Polk County Democrats, a rally for Immigration Reform, and BRO's new campaign for transgender justice.

And Geoff Kors, Equality California, calls this A Time for Action, read on

Friday, October 2, 2009

Friday State Blog Round Up

Basic Rights Oregon and other state groups are presenting The Laramie Project. BRO is also offering a Safe Schools Training and (psst) they're hiring.

Empire State Pride Agenda's Pride in My Workplace Coordinator reports on their recent Business Leaders for LGBT Equality Series

Equality California reminds us that October 15 is Latino AIDS Awareness day

Equality Florida invites you to meet their outspoken Congressman Grayson at their upcoming gala.

An ex-Equality Maryland intern talks about field work for No On 1.

Equality North Carolina does its own roundup of local and not-so-local news.

Equality South Dakota notes study showing gay parents are good parents (no surprise) and reports on organized labor's support for full inclusion (maybe a little surprise).

And the Tennessee Equality Project channels Morrissey as they think about approaching equality.
read on