WHITE HOUSE MAKES HISTORY BY APPOINTING FIRST TRANSGENDER WOMAN AS LGBT LIAISON: Yesterday, President Obama appointed Raffi Freedman-Gurspan as the White House’s LGBT liaison--making her the first transgender person to hold the position. Freedman-Gurspan, formerly of the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), was appointed as Outreach and Recruitment Director for Presidential Personnel in the White House Office of Presidential Personnel in August 2015. “We believe it is a tremendous decision by the White House to recognize Raffi’s leadership as well as the importance of having transgender leadership in an important role for the community,” HRC Senior Vice President of Policy and Political Affairs JoDee Winterhof told Buzzfeed News. President Clinton created the role in 1995, but it was not continued during the Bush Administration. Other leaders who served in the role under the Obama Administration include Aditi Hardikar, Gautam Raghavan and Brian Bond. The appointment comes at a significant point for the transgender community. While leaders, advocates and celebrities are breaking barriers and creating visibility like never before, many trans Americans--particularly trans women of color--continue to experience high levels of violence and discrimination, both in the United States and around the world.. HRC congratulates Raffi on this immense honor, and we look forward to working with her!
EQUALITY PAC ENDORSES HILLARY CLINTON FOR PRESIDENT: Yesterday, Hillary Clinton received the endorsement of the Equality PAC. Recently formed by the House LGBT Equality Caucus, the PAC is dedicated to increasing LGBT representation in federal elected positions, and also supporting straight and cisgender allies working to advance LGBT equality. Rep. Mark Takano said in a press release, “Under President Obama, LGBT Americans have learned how important it is to have a president who will stand with us against those who would deny us equality. We will have the same sort of advocate in President Hillary Clinton, and so we are proud to endorse her in this campaign.” Since launching last month, the Equality PAC has endorsed in the race of Minnesota congressional candidate Angie Craig, who is running to represent Minnesota’s 2nd District in the U.S. House, as well as the reelection campaigns of Rep. Kyrsten Sinema and Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney. Chaired by Rep. Jared Polis and Rep. Mark Takano, the Equality PAC’s board of directors is comprised entirely of LGBT Equality Caucus members. More here: bit.ly/1P9nPeB and here: bit.ly/1RKH0gB
FIRST OPENLY GAY PLAYER TO COMPETE IN MARCH MADNESS: Twenty-four year old athlete Derrick Gordon will soon make history as the first openly gay basketball player to compete in the NCAA tournament. Gordon is the senior guard for New Jersey’s Seton Hall University, which will play Gonzaga University this Thursday. Gordon first came out in 2014 while playing for University of Massachusetts-Amherst. "When kids aren't able to come out, I know why," Gordon told ESPN in April 2014. "It’s a scary thing. That's one of the reasons I’m doing this." Over the past few years, more and more notable athletes, including Michael Sam, Jason Collins, Robbie Rogers, Orlando Cruz, Megan Rapinoe, Lori Lindsey and Tom Daley have made the brave choice to live openly and authentically. Whether it's for the first time ever or the first time today, the experience of coming out and living openly covers the full spectrum of human emotion, and we commend athelets like Gordon for showng LGBTQ youth around the world that they can do anything: usat.ly/1prgZfT
DEATH OF GENDER FLUID TEEN HIGHLIGHTS CONTINUED VIOLENCE AGAINST LGBTQ YOUTH AND ADULTS: The family and friends of 16-year-old Kendarie Johnson are still searching for answers after Johnson’s body was found in an alley in Burlington, IA. Johnson, who was shot to death, lived with his mother in the community. Those who knew Kendarie described both his sexual orientation and gender identity as fluid, saying that although he mostly presented as male, he sometimes wore hair extensions and went by the feminine name Kandicee, and he expressed interest in people of different genders. It isn’t clear yet as to whether his sexual orientation, gender identity or expression were factors in his death. Kendarie’s death is one in a series of violent deaths suffered recently by members of the LGBTQ community. In addition to the killings of Monica Loera, Maya Young and Demarkis Stansberry, advocates and community members have recently learned of the death of Jasmine Sierra, a transgender woman of color who was found dead on January 22, but was misgendered in early reports. Violence claimed at least 21 transgender victims in the U.S. last year, the vast majority of whom were transgender women of color. Kendarie’s death also highlights the vulnerability of many LGBTQ youth, who often face bullying, harassment and even violence from peers and adults at disproportionately higher rates than their peers. Bisexual Alabama teen Nick Hawkins was killed on February 13 on his way home from a beauty pageant, after telling his mom, “Someone is trying to kill me.” Six individuals have been charged in his death. For more information on addressing anti-transgender violence, visit hrc.org/trans-violence.
ALL EYES ON TENNESSEE AS LEGISLATIVE ASSAULT ON TRANS CHILDREN RAMPS UP THIS AFTERNOON: Today, at 3:00 p.m. CT, the Tennessee House Education Administration & Planning Subcommittee is expected to hear HB 2414 – an outrageous bill targeting transgender students in public elementary, middle and high schools, as well as those in public universities. Although the bill’s ardently anti-LGBT sponsor ridiculously calls the proposal “very friendly”, the measure will force transgender students to use restrooms and other facilities inconsistent with their gender identity. Fair-minded Tennesseans; major national child welfare, medical, and education groups; the Tennessee Equality Project and HRC have all pleaded with lawmakers nationwide to abandon the discriminatory measure. The proposal is even more egregious than the appalling law vetoed by Republican South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard just last week. Ahead of the vote this afternoon, HRC has compiled a list of what you need to know about the bill which can be found here: bit.ly/1p3NgJl.
2016 LEGISLATIVE UPDATES: LOUISIANA STATE LEGISLATIVE SESSION BEGINS AS MORE STATES ADJOURN: As we mark the eleventh week of the 2016 legislative session, an increasing number of legislatures are adjourning, just as Louisiana’s session kicks off this week. While newly elected Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards has committed to issuing an executive order that would protect LGBT state employees and government contractors from firing, discrimination and harassment, it is likely that religious refusal legislation will be introduced in Louisiana this year. While nearly 200 anti-LGBT bills were introduced across 32 states this year, just over 100 bills are still active. These bills are part of an onslaught of anti-LGBT bills being pushed this year by anti-equality activists around the country. The types of legislation vary from targeting the rights of transgender people, to eliminating local non-discrimination protections, to explicitly authorizing anti-LGBT discrimination by individuals, businesses and even taxpayer-funded agencies.
MASSACHUSETTS EDUCATION GROUPS COME OUT FOR PRO-TRANS LEGISLATION: According to the Boston Globe, education groups in the state of Massachusetts including the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents, the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, and two large teachers unions -- the Massachusetts Teachers Association and the American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts -- are set to come out in support of legislation that would ban discrimination against transgender people in public places such as parks, restaurants, libraries and other public accommodations in Massachusetts. “We’ve done it in the schools, and I think that it can be done outside the schools,” said Tom Scott, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents. Though the bill has support from the majority of the state Senate, House Speaker Robert DeLeo is working to secure the two-thirds vote that is required to override a potential veto from Republican Governor Charlie Baker, who has yet to take a position on the bill. While opponents such as the Massachusetts Family Institute have already been peddling the ridiculous, offensive myths that seek to vilify the transgender community, support for the bill is only growing. The legislation is backed by New England’s professional sports teams, U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh, Attorney General Maura Healey, as well as the Editorial Board of the Boston Globe. There is already a law in the state protecting transgender people from discrimination in employment and housing. More here: bit.ly/22gH13v
PRO-EQUALITY GROUPS SET TO DISCUSS THEIR PATH FORWARD FOR INDIANA TODAY: The Associated Press reports that Freedom Indiana and Indiana Competes will host a press conference today where they will lay out a plan for advancing LGBT equality moving forward in the Hoosier State. Indiana’s legislative session adjourned last week without lawmakers passing critical protections for LGBT residents and visitors, despite the robust support from businesses, fair-minded Hoosiers, and community leaders to do so. By failing to address the need for real non-discrimination protections, lawmakers ignored the damage to Indiana’s economy and reputation that was caused by last year’s damaging RFRA fight. bit.ly/22h1R64
OHIO SUPREME COURT ADOPTS GENDER NEUTRAL LANGUAGE: Starting today, in response to the Obergefell ruling that brought us nationwide marriage equality, the Ohio Supreme Court will begin using gender-neutral language in family court cases. This change will come in cases dealing with divorce, guardianship, adoption, child support and more. Ohio’s ban on marriage equality was adopted in 2004 before it was ruled unconstitutional last year. More here: strib.mn/1prawS9
GOV. CUOMO STEPS UP; ADVOCATES ASK HIM TO DO MORE: In December, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a plan to spend an additional $200 million to battle HIV/AIDS over the next five years. In a letter to Governor Cuomo this week, actors Cynthia Nixon, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Cherry Jones joined LGBT and AIDS activists asked him to boost funding for ending HIV even further -- by $70 million this year. With the tools to end HIV and AIDS at our fingertips, advocacy organizations are pushing lawmakers to seize the moment. More here: nydn.us/1M4Dkd3
AROUND THE WORLD
UP AND UP, DOWN UNDER: As though a upwards of 70 percent approval rating for marriage equality was not enough, polls are showing that that number has increased by an additional 5 percent. These new reports come as the Australian Parliament plans on debating marriage equality on Thursday. But don’t get too excited. Though support for marriage equality is through the roof, the parliamentary bill is unlikely to pass because…well, politics. Apparently politicians think it is easier to waste, we mean spend, an estimated $525 billion on a plebiscite (Australian for referendum,) than to #dotheirjobs. More here: bit.ly/1QUPm9e
FIFTY SHADES OF INDIA: The Gay Star News reports on LGBT activists in India’s latest grassroots campaign to face homophobia head on. Titled “Fifty Shades of Gay,” the initiative hopes to change the perception of LGBT people by drawing attention to Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalizes same-sex relations between adults. Section 377 was found “unconstitutional” in a landmark ruling in 2009 by the Delhi High Court, but in a cruel twist in 2013, the Supreme Court overruled that decision, making consensual same-sex relations again a criminal act punishable with up to a life sentence. “Fifty Shades of Gay” was founded by journalist and filmmaker Shubham Mehrotra and uses photos to feature the stories of LGBT people from all different backgrounds. More here: bit.ly/1LnpJ0m
Broadly opens up about the health care struggles of the non-binary community… Cosmopolitan speaks to LGBTQ Christian school students and advocates about the pressure to be closeted… WELD for Birmingham points out the irony of the Alabama Childcare “Inclusion Act” which excludes LGBT people… Associated Press applauds the opening of a rare LGBTQ domestic violence center in Kansas City… RT shares a story of love conquering hate in Russian… Reuters profiles a lesbian hip hop duo in Cuba, using their music to fight homophobia... and the Desert Sun highlights the first same-sex couple to be wed at an immigration detention center.