#AM_Equality Tip Sheet: January 22

DEPT. OF VETERANS AFFAIRS FINALIZES SAME-SEX SPOUSE BENEFITS POLICY: Military veterans with same-sex spouses can now receive equal veterans benefits after a policy was finalized by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA). This policy brings the department in line with last summer’s Obergefell ruling. Prior to the Supreme Court’s historic decision, Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit against the VA on behalf of the American Military Partner Association in August 2014 on the basis that denying full and equal benefits to veterans with same-sex spouses based on their state’s recognition of same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. More here: bit.ly/1lAewgi

RUBIO DIGS HEELS INTO ANTI-LGBT STANCE: When questioned about Religious Freedom Restoration (RFRA) legislation and non-discrimination protections at a campaign event this week, Senator Marco Rubio boldly doubled down on his belief that religion can be used as an excuse to discriminate against LGBT people. Rubio went even further--defending Indiana Gov. Mike Pence’s disastrous RFRA push last spring, saying he didn’t believe it put LGBT people at risk of discrimination. As a reminder, the vast majority - 70 percent - of Hoosiers along with over 100 members of the business community disagree with Rubio on that point. So for those keeping track, Rubio has now reaffirmed his intent to appoint Supreme Court Justices who would overturn Obergefell v. Hodges, threatened to roll back President Obama’s LGBT non-discrimination protections, bizarrely vowed to never change his position on marriage equality, and voiced his support for anti-LGBT RFRA bills - and that’s just in the past few months. Listen to his comments here: bit.ly/1SA1E8f

NEW YOUTH LEADERSHIP FELLOWSHIP TO FOCUS ON FIGHTING HIV: HRC’s HIV 360° Fellowship program, which is made possible by the tremendous support of the Elton John AIDS Foundation, will provide training and support for innovative young professionals and nonprofit leaders as they tackle the challenges facing communities hit hardest by HIV, including Black and Latino gay and bisexual men, transgender women of color, and LGBT people living in the South. “We all must act with renewed urgency to combat this epidemic and invest in emerging leaders on the frontlines of the most impacted communities,” said Mary Beth Maxwell, HRC Senior Vice President for Programs, Research and Training. “Young leaders bring with them the creativity, passion, and ingenuity that is necessary to help the most underserved and vulnerable communities. This program will help support these advocates critical to ending the HIV epidemic. ” The fellows’ experience will also include training and coaching in communications, grant writing, fundraising, and other aspects of successful nonprofit management -- all focused on strengthening their own community organizations. More here: bit.ly/1Vc62Za

HEARTWARMING MUST-WATCH VIDEO: A mother of five, Jodie noticed from an early age that her third child, Penelope, would study and imitate the actions of his father and brothers. Penelope – or Penel for short – was assigned female at birth but was certain of his true identity as early as he was able to express it. After Penelope seemed withdrawn and angry for a period of time, Jodie realized something was wrong. When she pulled Penelope aside and questioned his behavior, Penelope responded matter-of-factly, “Because everyone thinks I’m a girl.” Jodie swiftly made the important decision to empower and support her child unconditionally. Read and watch here: bit.ly/1SA2aDt


ANTI-LGBT ILLINOIS LAWMAKER TARGETS TRANSGENDER STUDENTS: Illinois state Rep. Thomas Morrison (R-Palatine) filed legislation this week seeking to prevent transgender students from using restrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity. The discriminatory legislation is part of an onslaught of attacks by anti-equality activists around the country pushing measures in state legislatures targeting LGBT people and their families. HRC is tracking over 100 of these anti-LGBT bills in 26 states. More here: bit.ly/1S9s8fA

WE’RE RUNNING OUT OF ‘MOORE’ PUNS: Advocate reported that at least 11, and up to 15, counties in Alabama are refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The Campaign for Southern Equality says that, after calling each county probate office, 11 offices have shut down their marriage licenses offices to avoid issuing licenses to same-sex couples, and four offices refused to say if they are issuing licenses or not. This comes after staunchly anti-LGBT Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore ordered state probate judges to refuse licenses to same-sex couples earlier this month. Several counties have, rightfully so, ignored this order. Chief Justice Moore and his ridiculous proclamations have been in the national spotlight, even getting the attention of President Obama. Moore here: bit.ly/23hDseO

NEW LAWSUIT CHALLENGES MARRIAGE EQUALITY IN TENNESSEE: Well, that didn’t take long. Just one day after the abhorrent Natural Marriage Defense Act was killed by a House Committee, David Fowler of the conservative Tennessee Family Action Council is back in full force. Fowler filed a lawsuit which contends that the state legislature must enact a new statute regarding marriage since the Obergefell decision invalidated Tennessee’s discriminatory marriage law. According to the Commercial Appeal, “Fowler...said that the lawsuit is essentially a means to return the same-sex marriage issue to the courts where he hopes it will eventually work its way back to the U.S. Supreme Court and create an opportunity for the high court to reverse its June 26 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges.” It’s highly unlikely this will go anywhere but their persistence is remarkable. More here: bit.ly/1RDjxCW and bit.ly/1OC2ZYg

“AND YOU WILL LOSE”: Earlier this week, a Dallas, Ore. school board hosted a meeting attended by 250 students, teacher and concerned citizens to address the needs of transgender students to use school accommodations, including bathrooms and locker rooms. This comes after a decision by the school last year to allow a transgender child to use the accommodations consistent with their gender identity. When one school board member flirted with the idea of discriminating against transgender students and forcing them to use accommodations associated with the gender they were assigned at birth, a lawyer attending the meeting had a few choice words. “You will be sued as a district and perhaps as individuals. You will spend six figures fighting it -- hundreds of thousands of dollars that should be spent in classrooms. And you will lose.” More here: bit.ly/20j09g1


NEW VOICES FOR EQUALITY: Botswana’s first president Festus Mogae is joining the chorus of advocates for LGBT equality. As Botswana continues to criminalize same-sex relationships, Mogae spoke out in support of LGBT equality, and against certain other leaders (here’s looking at you Mugabe.) From Malawi to Mozambique to Botswana, it seems like the voices for equality are sweeping across the African continent. More here: bit.ly/1Pn6B3W

ANTI-LGBT AMENDMENT INTRODUCED TO ITALY’S CIVIL-UNIONS BILL: With Italy’s Parliament gearing up for a battle over civil unions for same-sex couples, a group of senators has thrown some anti-LGBT amendments into the ring. A new proposal would imprison couples who use overseas surrogates to have children, forcing couples to prove otherwise or face up to two years or fines up to one million euros. This amendment would apply regardless of the legality of the issue in the overseas country. Luckily, other high-ranking Italian officials are more supportive of same-sex couples, like Italian Justice Minister Andrea Orlando. More here: bit.ly/1ZPhS21

OLYMPICS RELEASE TRANS POLICY: The International Olympic Committee will allow transgender men to compete in men’s Olympic sports without requiring them to transition, says a new report obtained by OutSports. The policy will begin to apply to Olympic athletes starting with the upcoming Summer games. This is a big win for transgender athletes; however, the new guidelines to do not change the requirements for trans women, who have a mandatory waiting period of two years after surgery to one year after the start of hormone replacement therapy (HRT). To date, no transgender person has competed in the Olympic games while they were living openly. More here: bit.ly/1RZ49kY

DO SVIDANIYA, GAY FISH: In an act seemingly ripped from a South Park episode, Russia has banned locals from celebrating gay fish. Local authorities have banned a rally in Arkhangelsk honoring gay smelt fish on January 25. This celebration was banned alongside three other LGBT events, including a march for LGBTI victims of Isis and two Pride celebrations. Local activists are using the ban to point out the ridiculousness of the gay propaganda ban in Russia. More here: bit.ly/1nq33Sv


The Washington Post shares a heartwarming story of a mother celebrating her son’s coming out… Pulitzer Center looks at rising HIV rates in the Philippines… The Washington Blade explores a report highlighting transgender acceptance in religion… Bustle highlights four issues still affecting the LGBTQ community post-marriage equality… Metro Weekly looks at the GOP presidential candidate’s hidden anti-LGBT viewsbit.ly/1Pn6B3W… and Foreign Policy interviews two artists on documenting the stories of LGBT communities in Africa

Have news? Send us your news and tips at AMEquality@hrc.org. Click here to subscribe to A.M. Equality, and follow @HRC for all the latest news. Thanks for reading!


HRC staff

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