In Virginia, a Victory for Youth

January 11, 2012

By Liz Seaton
NCLR State Policy Director

Yesterday, the Virginia Board of Juvenile Justice voted 5-1 to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation in the juvenile correctional facilities over which it has broad oversight.  Eight percent of boys and 23 percent of girls in juvenile detention identify their sexuality as other than heterosexual, so this is an important step forward to protect their rights.

This is the second time that the Board has voted this way over the advice of Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who argues that no one other than the legislature has the power to designate protected classes, including for purposes of administrative agency non-discrimination policies.  Cuccinelli has made it his business to do everything he can to block steps towards equality under the law for LGBT people, and to roll back even minimal protective policies where they have existed, such as at state colleges and universities in the Commonwealth.

The Board’s action is significant not just because more than 800 youth are detained in these facilities, many of whom are vulnerable and in need of protection, but because the Board has stepped up to assert through its actions that the Attorney General is simply wrong in his opinion.  Nothing in Virginia law prevents state agencies from adopting regulations and policies of non-discrimination.

NCLR and others made this same argument in a different context just a few months ago when we advocated for the Virginia Board of Social Services to adopt policies of non-discrimination in regulations governing child placement agencies. Cuccinelli, telling the Social Service Board that it did not have the authority to tell state-licensed agencies that they may not discriminate against children in need of parents and prospective parents who are willing to give them forever homes.  Despite the clear needs of children waiting for homes—and in light of the news that there are people willing to foster and adopt them—the Social Service Board members appear to have been cowed by Cuccinelli. 

The next steps in Virginia?  Governor Bob McDonnell’s office says it is reviewing the Juvenile Justice Board’s actions.  On the child placement front, anti-LGBT groups hope to have state legislation introduced to enshrine the right of child placement agencies to discriminate in the state code.  If you, like me, are sighing in disgust, I will tell you that a bright ray of hope is available through the stalwart work of Equality Virginia.  Executive Director James Parrish is fighting back, explaining in a recent article exactly how Virginia law needs to change for the better.

At NCLR, we will do all we can to help Equality Virginia and other Virginians continue to seek equality under the law.  For the children who need safe care, for the kids who need forever homes, for our families to be able to love and protect each other, we need to help states and localities to fight bad measures and advance good ones. It’s time to make the Commonwealth of Virginia a safer and more just state for LGBT people.

Media Contact:

NCLR Communications Director Erik Olvera | Office: 415.392.6257 x324 | EOlvera@NCLRights.org


Outsports Names NCLR Sports Project Director Helen Carroll and GLSEN’s Pat Griffin “Persons of the Year” for 2011

January 5, 2012

(San Francisco, CA, January 5, 2012)—National Center for Lesbian Rights’ Sports Project Director Helen Carroll and Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network’s Changing the Game Project Director Pat Griffin have been named by Outsports readers as the 2011 “Persons of the Year.”

Outsports made the announcement today, noting that Carroll and Griffin’s joint efforts to advance equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender athletes is unparalleled and much of the progress that has been made in athletics can be traced to the work the pair have done over the years.

According to Outsports: “You’d be hard-pressed to name two people who have collectively had a stronger impact on the gay-sports movement than Pat Griffin and Helen Carroll. These two pioneers have been working toward equality for the better part of 30 years. They’ve visited high schools. They’ve talked to colleges. They’ve waged legal campaigns. They’ve educated educators. And with more incredible work in 2011, our readers have named these two women our ‘Persons of the Year.’”

Outsports readers were asked to vote on the finalists, who, in addition to Carroll and Griffin, were: high school bloggers, sports teams that participated in the “It Gets Better” project, Golden State Warriors President Rick Welts and the Golden State Warriors, New York Rangers player Sean Avery, and out professional soccer player Anton Hysen.

Carroll and Griffin won by 53 percent of the vote, “a testament to their work in what has been dubbed the ‘gayest year in sports.’ ” High School bloggers and “It Gets Better” teams tied for second with 11 percent each. Welts and the Golden State Warriors earned 10 percent. Avery received 9 percent of the vote, and Hysen got 7 percent.

Prior to joining NCLR in 2001, Carroll had earned respect in the sports world as an acclaimed national championship basketball coach for the University of North Carolina-Asheville and had been a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Athletic Director for 12 years. She now devotes all her efforts to fighting homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in sports by directing NCLR’s Sports Project, where she works closely with major national sports organizations including the San Francisco 49ers and the NCAA.

In 2011, Griffin launched GLSEN’s sports project, Changing the Game, which is providing resources and training to end homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in kindergarten-12th grade school-based sports programs. Prior to Changing the Game, Griffin  was the Director of It Takes A Team! Education Campaign for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Issues in Sport, an initiative of the Women’s Sports Foundation.

Together Carroll and Griffin published “On the Team: Equal Opportunity for Transgender Student Athletes” that has become the NCAA’s de facto policy on trans-athlete participation.

Read more about the honor.

Media Contact:

NCLR Communications Director Erik Olvera | Office: 415.392.6257 x324 | EOlvera@NCLRights.org


Olympic Athlete Johnny Weir Is Married!

January 3, 2012

By Helen Carroll
NCLR Sports Project Director

Though most followers of Olympic figure skater Johnny Weir knew he was gay, he did not officially come out until a year ago.  Why?  Perhaps because the international world of judges have been known to be harsh in their scoring of LGBT skaters.

That’s just one of many reasons why Johnny’s announcement of his marriage to Victor Voronov in a New Year’s Eve ceremony on Saturday is exciting on multiple levels. Johnny is quoted as saying “I’m very happy with my personal life and also my professional life, and I thank God I can be exactly where I’m at.”   His experience, unfortunately, is still a rarity in sports, especially professional sports. 

Johnny tweeted the news to his nearly 103,000 Twitter followers.  Thank you, Johnny, as your actions show that we do not have to keep our private lives separate from our sports careers any longer.

At NCLR, we know that Johnny is opening the door as a role model for many, many LGBT sports participants.  Congratulations on your marriage, Johnny and Victor.

Media Contact:

NCLR Communications Director Erik Olvera | Office: 415.392.6257 x324 | EOlvera@NCLRights.org


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