“Make no mistake, Immigration Reform is an LGBT issue!”
That was one of the core messages highlighted by Equality California Executive Director John O’Connor at the Los Angeles Equality Awards on October 5 – the day Governor Jerry Brown signed the historic TRUST Act.
With federal efforts at immigration reform stalled, California is taking proactive steps to move it forward, at least in the Golden State. Gov. Brown’s signature will prohibit law enforcement officials from detaining an individual on the basis of a United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) hold after that individual becomes eligible for release from custody, unless specified conditions are met.
“While Washington waffles on immigration, California’s forging ahead. I’m not waiting,” said Gov. Brown in a statement.
What’s the connection to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Californians? We know that LGBT people are more likely to be accosted, harassed and arrested by police for minor charges (including one case last year for riding a bicycle on the sidewalk), but that LGBT people are also more likely to be victims of crimes, including assault and domestic violence. In a recent survey of 220 transgender Latinas by the Williams Institute, 60 percent believed they had been stopped by law enforcement in the last year without breaking any law.
By ensuring that undocumented LGBT people won’t necessarily face deportation from routine, low-level law enforcement interaction, that means that LGBT people who are undocumented are more likely to report serious crimes, cooperate with law enforcement investigations and testify in court cases. It’s a victory for public safety and equity among a traditionally marginalized segment of California’s population.
The law, authored by Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, is similar to one vetoed by Gov. Brown last year, but this version makes more explicit which crimes qualify as violent or serious, making the detainee ineligible for release. Some law enforcement officials, like Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, opposed the bill last year but supported it after Ammiano made changes.
The bill is a success for the increasingly collaborative coalition work between advocates of LGBT equality, immigrant rights and economic justice; organizations signing a letter of support included EQCA, Lambda Legal, the Transgender Law Center, Gender Justice LA, Immigration Equality, National Center for Lesbian Rights, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Out 4 Immigration, and the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence. (more…)
100 days ago, the Supreme Court struck down the central portion of the Defense of Marriage Act, and dismissed the last gasp appeal of the Prop. 8 supporters, returning the freedom to marry to California. Across the country, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people cheered along with allies who supported the vision of an America where everyone could marry the person that they love.
Since then, we’ve seen a parade of victories at the federal level, from the Department of Homeland Security allowing same-sex spouses full immigration privileges to the IRS issuing new rules to make sure loving same-sex couples are recognized, to the first same-sex weddings on U.S. military bases. We’ve seen big marriage victories in New Mexico and New Jersey, and we’ve seen the roll-out of the biggest advance in LGBT healthcare in our lifetimes with the Affordable Care Act.
Here in California, we’ve seen the federal courts uphold SB 1172, which ended the psychological abuse of LGBT youth by licensed therapists, we’ve seen transgender students win both with the passage and signing of the School Success and Opportunity Act (AB 1266), which ensures that transgender students can participate as their authentic selves in school, and at the Arcadia Unified School District, which settled a lawsuit and implemented policies to ensure transgender equality. (more…)
Remember Ashton Lee, the 16-year-old boy from Manteca who delivered 5,700 signatures to Governor Brown asking that he sign the School Success and Opportunity Act, which clarifies protections for transgender students?
Monday, Ashton and his mother, Catherine Lee, filed a complaint with the California Attorney General’s office, asking for an investigation into the Capitol Resource Institute, a fringe anti-LGBT group dedicated to undermining protections for LGBT people. They were behind Prop. 8, as well as the failed attempts to remove LGBT history from public schools. Now they’re back, attempting to repeal the School Success and Opportunity Act. Specifically, they’re fundraising for a repeal effort.
But the IRS yanked CRI’s tax-exempt status back in February because the CRI hadn’t filed any paperwork in over three years. Oops.
In a press release, Ashton said: “It troubles us that this group, which is sending out emails asking for money to overturn a law, the School Success and Opportunity Act, that just makes sure students like me can participate in school, is doing so illegally. Our lives are directly harmed on a daily basis by the work they are doing to attack our rights and opportunities.”
Upon hearing about Ashton’s empowering advocacy, EQCA executive director John O’Connor said: “After years of failing to defeat other LGBT nondiscrimination protections, it is sad that these fringe groups are using their resources — illegally — to target vulnerable students. It is an inspiration to see that Ashton is not so vulnerable and has taken great initiative to organize and take action with his heroically supportive mother.”
And the Gay-Straight Alliance Network, who were first approached by the Lees: “We are so proud to see Ashton, a young person who legally and honestly fought for the opportunity to succeed in school, stand up to these fringe groups who have lied to the public in their attempt to bully him and transgender students across the state,” said Carolyn Laub, Executive Director of Gay-Straight Alliance Network.
New Jersey Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson granted a summary decision today in favor of plaintiffs, represented by Lambda Legal, seeking the freedom to marry in New Jersey.
The decision rests on two points: First, the New Jersey Supreme Court decided in the 2006 Lewis v. Harris case that New Jersey’s constitution requires same-sex couples be granted the same rights as opposite-sex couples, something that had until now been resolved with civil unions.
But given the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Windsor, which overturned the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, same-sex couples who are married are now entitled to the same federal rights and benefits as any other married couple, which does not apply to civil unions.
Given that, Jacobson held that in order for same-sex couples to have the same protections and rights, the current ban on same-sex marriage could not be constitutional. She ordered that marriage licenses for same-sex couples are to be granted starting Oct. 21.
Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican who will likely seek the Presidential nomination in 2016, had held that it was constitutional to exclude same-sex couples from marriage, and will likely appeal.
On October 1, California’s online health insurance marketplace, known as Covered California, will open enrollment and begin connecting residents with new, affordable health insurance options. This marketplace was created as a result of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, and has the potential to drastically improve health disparities among the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
Equality California Institute educates LGBT people and the public at large about issues impacting our community, and barriers to health care has been one of the Institute’s central focuses this year. That’s why we launched our “Health Happens with Equality”/”La Salud Ocurre Con La Igualdad” campaign to connect thousands of LGBT Californians with the resources needed to make informed health insurance decisions.
Click here to sign-up to receive reminders about enrollment or to get enrollment assistance. (more…)
After a 3-2 city council vote, Virginia Gurrola and Pete McCracken, former Porterville mayor and vice-mayor respectively, were removed from office and replaced by other members of the council. Former councilmember Cameron J. Hamilton now serves as mayor.
The three-member majority of Hamilton, Brian Ward and Greg Shelton are the same three-member majority who voted in July to rescind Gurrola’s proclamation of June as LGBT Pride Month in Porterville.
Porterville was the only city in California to issue an official resolution of support for Prop. 8 in 2008. Cameron Hamilton and Brian Ward were on the council then and voted in support of that resolution.
The three council members who voted to remove Gurrola and McCracken have not stated why they removed the mayor and vice-mayor, though Hamilton denies it had anything to do with LGBT issues. “If the LGBT community thinks that, then that’s just what they’re going to have to think,” Hamilton told ABC Action News.
Mayor Gurrola believes that the underlining issue was the LGBT proclamation.
“To remove somebody from a position is in effect saying you aren’t doing the job we want you to do…they need to clearly say why they’re removing you,” said Gurrola.
EQCA thanks Gurrola for standing up in support of the city’s LGBT community and acknowledging their vast contributions. We are closely monitoring the situation.
In a move that signals softening of the Vatican rhetoric on the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, Pope Francis has spoken out about the “obsessive” focus of the Catholic church on abortion and LGBT issues.
“A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality,” he said to Jesuit priest Fr. Antonio Spadaro, who conducted the interview for La Civilta Cattolica. “I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person.”
This holistic approach has annoyed some hardline conservative Catholics, including Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, R.I., who said he was “disappointed” because Pope Francis hadn’t spoken out about abortion or marriage for same-sex couples.
The Pope’s new statements come a few months after, when asked about gay priests, Pope Francis said, “Who am I to judge?”
DignityUSA, an organization that represents LGBT Catholics, took his earlier comments as a step forward toward the respect for all members of the Catholic community.
We here at EQCA hope that the Pope’s shift toward tolerance and away from restrictive doctrine finds a way to Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone’s heart; Cordileone is an arch conservative and major proponent of both Prop. 8 and DOMA.
We know from various studies that health disparities impacting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are real, but we cannot work to address those health disparities effectively until we begin collecting data about who we are and what unique health challenges we face. Last week, the California legislature took an important step to help correct this shortfall by advancing Assembly Bill 1208, an LGBT data collection bill authored by Assemblymember Dr. Richard Pan and sponsored by Equality California.
The bill, which earned bipartisan support, will result in valuable public health data by adding voluntary questions about sexual orientation and gender identity to the application Californian’s complete for insurance affordability programs. There is currently no way to gather demographic information about LGBT Californians on these forms.
“As a physician, health services researcher, and advocate for LGBT rights, I have striven to eliminate health disparities and expand access to health care,” said Dr. Pan. “I urge the Governor to sign AB1208 so California will have the data needed to inform efforts to improve access and assure equality in health care for the LGBT community.”
AB 1208 will help California lead the way in answering the national call for more information on disparities in access to health care for the LGBT community. By including optional questions on the standardized application Californians complete for insurance affordability programs regarding sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, new data will be collected that can help guide efforts to increase health care equality in California and nationally. This bill will also help reduce health disparities by allowing better tracking of populations who are not enrolling in subsidized and low-cost programs and targeting outreach and enrollment to them. If signed by the Governor, the bill will go into effect on January 1, 2015.
On Wednesday, September 18, health advocates including EQCA will hold a press conference at the State Capitol asking Governor Jerry Brown to sign this critical piece of legislation.
The Youth Equality Act, authored by Sen. Ricardo Lara, which would end a special sales and corporate tax exemption for youth groups that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or religious affiliation, will advance when the legislative session reconvenes in January.
“Let me be very clear, SB 323 is alive and well,” said Sen. Ricardo Lara. “As this is the first year to a two-year legislative session, we will be taking the next few months to work closely with all parties involved to address and refine this legislation. As session reconvenes in January, the passage of this bill will be my number one priority.”
Equality California’s executive director John O’Connor underscored the importance of the bill and the organization’s commitment to ensuring its advancement:
“The Youth Equality Act represents a critical step in the journey toward full equality, especially ending exclusion for LGBT youth and adults in youth organizations. This bill has wide support and in June, made history by advancing out of the Senate by a historic two-thirds vote. However, there is still work to be done for smooth and effective implementation and that is why EQCA remains committed to working with Senator Lara to ensure this bill’s passage next year.”
In the last few weeks, conversations with youth organizations that have inclusive policies have prompted further analysis of the bill to ensure effective implementation. While most youth organizations, including the Girl Scouts, 4-H, YMCA, YWCA, Young Explorers, Junior Achievers, Little League, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, already have explicit anti-discrimination policies, groups like Scouts for Equality are working with organizations that haven’t articulated a full anti-discrimination policy with respect to sexual orientation and gender identity. Scouts for Equality is collaborating with local scouting leaders to draft a proposed policy that would allow individual units to declare themselves open and affirming without running afoul of current National Scout policy.
“The Youth Equality Act has ignited necessary discussion and action around youth organizations and their anti-discrimination policies,” said Eric Andresen, who is working closely with Scouts for Equality. “The next few months will provide time to explore and draft model policies that organizations can implement once SB323 advances.”
Current California law prohibits discrimination based on a long list of protected classes, including sexual orientation, gender and gender identity.
The bill passed both the Assembly Tax and Revenue Committee and the Assembly Judiciary Committee with votes of 6-3. In June, the Youth Equality Act received a two-thirds vote in the Senate — the first time an LGBT bill received a two-thirds vote in the state’s history.
The bill has passed through the Assembly policy committees and is currently on the Assembly Floor. Session reconvenes January 2014.
In a letter (PDF, Washington Blade) issued today, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder informed Speaker of the House John Boehner that the Department of Justice would no longer be enforcing sections 101(3) and 101(31) of Title 38, which covers veterans’ benefits.
In plain English, that means that same-sex spouses of veterans are entitled to the same benefits as opposite-sex spouses.
Holder cites the Windsor case, where the Supreme Court ruled that treating married same-sex couples differently for tax purposes violated the Fifth Amendment’s due process clause, arguing that under the court’s decision, treating same-sex spouses differently in veteran’s benefits would violate the same due process protection.
He goes on to mention that the only reason why the Department of Justice was enforcing them was because the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group — the same folks who defended DOMA — were still defending them. Since BLAG recently dropped that case, Holder saw no reason to keep enforcing the discriminatory portions of the law even without having a clear court ruling on those portions specifically. Continuing to enforce those previsions would only have “tangible adverse effects” on same-sex spouses of veterans.
It’s a win, and one more stop on the road to full equality.