#AM_Equality Tip Sheet: February 29, 2016
ALL EYES ON SOUTH DAKOTA: As the clock ticks down to tomorrow’s midnight deadline, South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard has not hinted at whether he will sign or veto the state’s draconian proposal to bar transgender children from accessing restrooms in public schools. Over the last two weeks, Governor Daugaard has heard from 80,000 people opposed to the bill -- as the result of a call to action by HRC, ACLU SD, NCTE and other groups. Businesses across the state and national children’s advocacy organizations have chimed in urging the Governor to reject the bill. National and state editorial boards have added their pleas for Governor Daugaard to veto. The governor has even met with transgender children in the state who are imploring him not to add to the daily challenges they face.
Last week, HRC reported on the dozens of proposed bills targeting transgender people nationwide. South Dakota -- the first state to advance such a hateful measure all the way to the Governor’s desk -- could either pave the way for other mean-spirited bills or help stem the tide.
TRANS UNITED FOR HILLARY: Ahead of the 2016 election, more and more transgender advocates and leaders are announcing their support for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Trans United for Hillary, a volunteer effort dedicated to mobilizing transgender people and their allies, launched last week. “During the course of the 2016 election, Trans United for Hillary will provide volunteer opportunities, host events, and release resources for transgender people and their allies to show support for Hillary Clinton,” the group explained. With dozens of anti-transgender bills pending nationwide, and so much at stake for the transgender community, it’s clear why we need a champion like Clinton, who stands in stark contrast to her republican counterparts, in the oval office. She has prioritized and embraced the needs of the community more than any other presidential candidate in history. More here: bit.ly/1n2oDLy
NYT SPOTLIGHTS HIV’S DISPROPORTIONAL IMPACT ON BLACK AND LATINO MEN: In their editorial today, the New York Times takes a look at the latest sobering statistics from the CDC that have found that one half of black gay and bisexual men, and one quarter of Latino gay and bisexual men will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime if current rates persist. The board highlights the need to address the enduring stigma against men who have sex with men in the black and Latino communities, and expand access to PrEP, a once-daily pill to prevent HIV. Despite the challenges outlined, it’s clear that we have the tools to curb the HIV and AIDS crisis, but must better work to employ them to help the most vulnerable communities. As Dr. Jonathan Mermin of the CDC says, we must let this be “a call to action.” Read the editorial here: nyti.ms/1QnRthS
NHLA RELEASES LGBT-INCLUSIVE POLICY BLUEPRINT: Yesterday, the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA), a coalition of the nation's 40 preeminent Latino advocacy organizations, released their 2016 Hispanic Public Policy Agenda. This blueprint details the coalition’s policy concerns and priorities and explicitly includes a number of recommendations that impact the LGBT community. “Our coalition’s intention has always been to advance the well-being and dignity of all Latinos,” Hector Sanchez, NHLA Chair and Executive Director of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, explained in a press release. “This Includes our LGBTQ brothers and sisters, with whom we proudly stand shoulder-to-shoulder in unity to overcome the particular challenges people face because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.” This policy blueprint makes clear that LGBT equality is an important concern of not just LGBT Latinos, but also of the wider Latino community. More here: bit.ly/21xSHyn
MYA TAYLOR MAKES HISTORY AT SPIRIT AWARDS: On Saturday night, Mya Taylor won Best Supporting Female at the 2016 Film Independent Spirit Awards, making her the first transgender actress to win a major film award. Taylor played Alexandra in “Tangerine,” a critically acclaimed film on the enduring friendship between two transgender women on the streets. While accepting her award, Taylor called on the industry to support more transgender talent. “There is transgender talent,” said Taylor. “There’s very beautiful transgender talent, so you better get out there and put it in your next movie.” Check out HRC exclusive interview with Taylor here: bit.ly/1ldYHvH
82 ORGS CALL FOR GOP JUDICIARY MEMBERS TO UPHOLD THE CONSTITUTION: Last week, a broad coalition of 82 organizations sent a letter to Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and the 10 other GOP members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, condemning them for their unprecedented obstruction of the nomination process for the vacancy on the Supreme Court of the United States, and for their refusal to hold a hearing on or even meet with any potential Supreme Court nominee. The letter reads in part: “Our legal system is based on the rule of law and requires stability and certainty. The course you have charted would mean that a new justice would not be confirmed until well into 2017 at the earliest. Shackling the court for two terms would undermine the rule of law, leave legal questions unresolved, and hamper the administration of justice across our nation. Refusing to consider any nominee, without due evaluation of his or her merits, credentials, and experiences, is a direct repudiation of your constitutional duties. We believe in upholding the Constitution. So should you.” Read the full letter here: bit.ly/1QfFCF0
NEW STUDY: TRANS KIDS ALLOWED TO LIVE OPENLY FARE WELL: A new study published Friday in the journal Pediatrics found that transgender children who were allowed to live openly as the gender with which they identity are just as well adjusted as their cisgender counterparts. Lead author Kristina Olson, from the University of Washington, told the Associated Press that “it's the largest study to examine the psychological health of transgender youth who have socially transitioned.” The study also found that success of transgender children socially is linked very closely to parental support and affirmation during the transition process. More here: abcn.ws/1oSqjcA
SALESFORCE, AT&T, COCA-COLA, HOME DEPOT AND MORE DENOUNCE GEORGIA’S RELIGIOUS REFUSAL BILL: Once again, business leaders have joined together to show their dismay at proposed religious refusal legislation. Following the passage of a First Amendment Defense Act (FADA) in the Georgia Senate, Marc Benioff, CEO of San Francisco-based Salesforce, announced that the company would decrease its investments in Georgia. The anti-LGBT bill would allow individuals to use religion as an excuse for discrimination. Benioff and Salesforce join several Georgia-based high-profile businesses in opposition of the bill: AT&T, Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc., The Home Depot Inc., SunTrust Banks Inc., and United Parcel Service Inc. (UPS). Earlier this month, the Georgia Senate passed HB 757, which was amended in the Senate to include the language of SB 284, the FADA. The dangerous legislation goes far beyond protecting the right of free exercise of one’s religion. While falsely framed as prohibiting the state government from making funding or tax status decisions based on an organization’s views on marriage that are driven by religious belief, in reality it threatens to create a breakdown of state government services, opening the door to discrimination against same-sex couples, their families, and those who love them.Taxpayer-funded adoption and foster care agencies could refuse to place children who are in desperate need of loving and caring homes with LGBT couples. State-funded homeless shelters could turn away unwed couples and their families. Government employees could even refuse to file tax forms for same-sex couples or provide state benefits to single mothers. More here: bit.ly/215Tzbs
UTAH LGBT-INCLUSIVE HATE CRIMES BILL GETS INITIAL APPROVAL: On Friday, the Utah Senate gave preliminary approval to a bill that would amend the state’s hate crimes law to make it LGBT inclusive. Not only does the current law not enumerate protected characteristics, but it has been difficult to enforce. Republican State Sen. Steve Urquhart, who sponsored the legislation, was pleased that the bill survived this first vote, particularly because the Mormon church recently weighed in warning that the legislature should not upset the balance between religion and LGBT rights. The final vote on the bill will be sometime in the next two weeks. Utah is one of fifteen states that do not currently have hate crimes laws that protect LGBT people. More here: hrld.us/1KXx6vh and here: bit.ly/1XUPWoF
DANGEROUS ANTI-LGBT BILLS PENDING IN MISSOURI: Extreme legislators in the Missouri General Assembly have introduced a series of anti-LGBT joint resolutions in both the House and Senate. If passed, these three resolutions, particularly SJR 39, would put dangerous religious refusals on the ballot in Missouri. The Missouri Senate could vote on the resolution as early as today. SJR 39 would create a ballot initiative to amend the Missouri state constitution and enshrine state-sanctioned discrimination against LGBT people and their families into law. If passed at the ballot, SJR 39 would explicitly allow individuals and businesses to pick and choose which laws they will follow, and wield their religious beliefs as a sword of discrimination against LGBT people. Taxpayer-funded adoption and foster care agencies could refuse to place children who are in desperate need of loving and caring homes with LGBT couples. State-funded homeless shelters could turn away LGBT couples and their families. Government employees could refuse to file tax forms for same-sex couples or provide state benefits. Businesses could turn away a same-sex couple shopping for wedding dresses. PROMO, the ACLU of Missouri and HRC are sounding the alarm on the resolution that could have far reaching consequences for Missouri’s citizens and the state’s economy. These bills are a part of nearly 200 anti-LGBT bills across 32 states that have been introduced this year. Learn more here: hrc.org/2016legislature
WV SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE ADVANCES ANTI-LGBT RFRA BILL: Late Friday evening, the West Virginia State Senate’s Judiciary Committee voted to advance HB 4012, shameful anti-LGBT bill that would put LGBT people -- and West Virginians of all walks of life -- at risk for discrimination. The committee vote came one week after new polling from the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute, found that a 54 percent majority of West Virginians oppose Religious Freedom Restoration Act bills (like HB 4012) that could allow small business owners to deny service to LGBT people -- even for so-called religious reasons -- and that a 60 percent majority of West Virginians support protecting LGBT people against discrimination in employment, housing and access to public places and services. HB 4012 would allow any person to claim their religious beliefs excuse them from following any state or local law. Not only could the bill allow a business owner or employee to refuse service to LGBT people, the broadly-written bill would go even further, putting all minority communities at risk for discrimination. Cities and Chambers of Commerce across West Virginia, leadership at West Virginia University and local business groups across the state -- Generation West Virginia and the Charleston Regional Chamber of Commerce -- have all spoken out against the bill, saying that it would hurt the state's economy and expose businesses to unnecessary lawsuits. Employers like AT&T, Marriott and the NCAA have also signaled their opposition to the bill. And newspapers like the Charleston Gazette-Mail and Register-Herald have editorialized against HB 4012. More here: bit.ly/1RzxdfI
ANTI-LGBT CAMPAIGN UNDERWAY IN WASHINGTON STATE TO REPEAL TRANS-INCLUSIVE POLICY: An anti-LGBT group out of Washington State has launched a campaign to repeal non-discrimination protections for transgender people in places of public accommodation. The Family Policy Institute of Washington, who claims that the “transgender revolution” is a product of “hurt feelings,” is attempting to repeal the Washington Human Rights Commission’s regulations that ensure all people have equal access to public accommodations, regardless of gender identity. The group, which has ties to hate groups such as the Family Research Council and Alliance Defending Freedom, claims allowing LGBT people to use the bathroom is an invasion of privacy. Pretty ironic when you consider many anti-transgender laws across the country want to have someone in a position of authority literally look at a person’s genitals before allowing them into a sex-segregated space. Maybe someone should explain to these hate groups what ‘privacy’ actually means. More here: mm4a.org/1QmgR7V
TEXAS PUBLIC SCHOOL ATHLETICS ADD ANTI-TRANS POLICY: Texas’ school districts have made a disappointing decision to endorse a proposal barring transgender students from participating in sports consistent with their gender identity. The proposal, recommended by the legislative council of the University Interscholastic League (ULI) was adopted 409-25 by district superintendents and athletic directors in favor of using sex designated as birth as the determining factor of student athlete’s gender. This would force transgender students to amend their birth certificates - a costly process that may not be financially possible or appropriate for every child - to be able to try out for the school team consistent with their authentic self. This decision puts Texas schools at odds with the U.S. Department of Education, and ULI’s recommendation would seem to put the ULI in conflict with its own constitution - that prohibits the legislative council from conflicting with the University of Texas’ policies (which ban discrimination based on gender identity). The policy is set to go into effect in August - unless the school districts think better of it. More here: bit.ly/1LKhN43 and nyti.ms/21Dc09x
AROUND THE WORLD
UPDATES ON INDONESIA’S ANTI-LGBT MONTH: This has not been a good month for Indonesia’s LGBT community. After the government censored LGBT content on the popular blogging website, Tumblr, and LGBT-related emojis from messaging apps AND the leading psychiatric body declared transgender people “mentally ill,” Indonesia’s Defense Minister called the LGBT community a “threat” to the country. His ridiculous claims extended to saying the LGBT community has “brainwashed” others into agreeing with a pro-equality stance. While same-sex relationships remain legal in the country, Gay Times reports that MPs might be considering a anti-homosexuality bill. More here: ab.co/1oEQ5jL
KEEPING HOPE ALIVE IN SWITZERLAND: A sneaky national referendum yesterday failed in Switzerland. The vote, which would have made the road to full marriage equality even more complicated for LGBT Swiss. Hidden in a constitutional vote about tax relief, was the “Definition” of marriage as between a man and a woman. Luckily, the referendum failed with 50.8 percent of voters reading the fine-print. After this battle activists are hopeful that the Swiss hills will be alive with the sound of marriage. More here: bit.ly/1ScjgGM
ITALY SET TO UPDATE ADOPTION LAWS: Following the Italian Senate’s passage of a watered-down bill that would legalize civil unions, the Italian government has announced that they are working on a new adoption law that would grant adoption rights to same-sex couples and single people. Reform Minister Maria Elena Boschi said, “We are preparing a very complex law which does not only regard adoptions for gay couples….We need to get to grips with the entire adoption system, update it, review it, simplify it." Opponents are already speaking out against a bill that will likely allow for stepchild adoption. A similar provision was removed from the civil unions bills as many believed it would legalize surrogacy which is strictly banned in Italy. More here: reut.rs/1TMnxSn
BuzzFeed breaks down the anti-LGBT religious freedom bills across the states… ESPN praises the recent LGBT-inclusive moves by major athletic brands... Gay Star News profiles an openly-gay imam who wants to bring equality to the faith… The Huffington Post explores the false dichotomy that is religion versus LGBT equality…. The Washington Post shares the story of Thomas Lewis, a transgender high-schooler pushing back against South Dakota’s discriminatory bill… The Denver Post outlines 2 pro-transgender bills moving through the Colorado State Legislature…. and the New York Times comes out against Georgia’s First Amendment Defense Act.