President Obama Unveils Inclusive Immigration Plan

January 29, 2013

(Las Vegas, NV, January 29, 2013)

—Today, President Obama laid out a broad proposal for legislation that will overhaul U.S. immigration policy and replace it with a humane and workable system. In a much-anticipated address in Las Vegas, President Obama announced general principles he would like to see included in forthcoming legislation. The White House subsequently released a factsheet containing additional information and more detailed proposals, including a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and the substance of two pieces of legislation that have been particularly important for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) immigrants.

In the factsheet, the President included the principles of the DREAM Act, which is legislation that provides a streamlined path to citizenship for young people who came to the country as children and are going to school or serving their country. LGBT DREAMers have played a crucial role in the DREAMer movement. The President’s factsheet also included the principles of the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), which gives U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents the right to sponsor their same-sex permanent partners to immigrate to the United States.

NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell attended the address.

Statement by NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell, Esq.:

“It is clear that after long suffering we may finally see true progress on meaningful immigration reform. In a historic speech today, President Obama made clear that he supports an accessible and straightforward path to citizenship, recognition of  ALL families and a process for keeping those families together, including same-sex couples and families headed by LGBT parents, and citizenship for DREAMers. This is what we must see. As the process continues, we are committed to assuring that reforms truly provide the dignity, recognition, and fairness the President suggested. We need a plan animated by humanity, not punishment.”


LGBT Rights Groups Release Joint Statement on Immigration Reform as U.S. Senators Release Set of Principles for Comprehensive Immigration Reform

January 28, 2013

(San Francisco, CA, January 28, 2013)—National lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights organizations, including the National Center for Lesbian Rights, today released a joint statement reiterating the call for a comprehensive immigration policy that ensures fair and just treatment for all those currently impacted by our failed immigration policy. It comes as a bipartisan group of U.S. senators today released a set of principles for comprehensive immigration reform, and as President Obama prepares to announce his own immigration plans tomorrow.

The full text of the LGBT groups’ joint statement is below:

“We are fully committed to and deeply understand the need for this nation to adopt a humane and effective comprehensive immigration policy which places a premium value on justice, dignity, respect and opportunity. 

Any legislation must include the ability of couples in same-sex relationships to sponsor their spouse or permanent-partner in the same way opposite-sex couples have long been able to under current immigration law.

We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with those striving for and dreaming of a nation that embraces all who come here seeking a better life. We look forward to working with Congress, the White House and every community harmed by our broken immigration system to finally achieve the comprehensive reforms we all so desperately need.”

Signatories:

  • National Center for Lesbian Rights
  • Human Rights Campaign
  • Immigration Equality Action Fund
  • National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund
  • National Center for Transgender Equality

Media Contact:

NCLR Communications Director Erik Olvera | Office:415.365.1324 | EOlvera@NCLRights.org


Celebrating Roe v. Wade and Keeping Its Promise

January 23, 2013

By NCLR Law Students for Reproductive Justice Fellow
Laura Nixon

The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) joins our allies in the reproductive health, rights, and justice movements in celebrating the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.  In this landmark decision, the Supreme Court held that state abortion bans were unconstitutional—putting an end to the shameful era in which countless women risked their health, lives and freedom to obtain abortions.

Strong Families image for Roe Blog Post

But too many women are still prevented from accessing safe and legal abortions or experience severe hardship trying to obtain them.  This is due in part to an aggressive right-wing effort to chip away at the right to reproductive freedom by imposing unnecessary restrictions on abortion care, which reached an unprecedented level in 2011 and 2012.  It is also due to the Hyde Amendment, which bans the federal Medicaid program from covering abortion care with very narrow exceptions.  Because of the Hyde Amendment, every year thousands of low-income families, including a disproportionate number of women of color, must risk eviction or utilities being cut off or sell  basic household items to afford an abortion

Because of such injustices, NCLR recently signed on to a letter from more than 70 diverse organizations to the Obama administration, asking him to omit all restrictions on coverage and funding for abortion services in his proposed 2014 budget.  We joined our colleagues in the reproductive health, rights, and justice movement in opposing these funding bans because we know that reproductive freedom is an important issue for LGBT people.  For example, due to the pressures created by  discrimination, which may lead young lesbian and bisexual women to have unprotected heterosexual sex in order to hide their sexual orientation, studies show lesbian youth are significantly more likely to experience an unintended pregnancy than their straight peers. In addition, women who identify as lesbian or bisexual may have sexual relationships with men and are also just as vulnerable to sexual assault and exploitation as other women.  

NCLR is proud to partner with the growing number of organizations who recognize the connection between reproductive justice and LGBT rights. For example, NCLR is a member of Forward Together, an organization dedicated to bringing together a diverse network of organizations to transform policy and culture to empower all people to make decisions about their lives, bodies, and families.  The reproductive justice movement has given us critical new insights about the relationship between gender, race, class, sexual orientation, and reproduction. This includes recent essays and reports about trans women of color organizing for reproductive justice; the reproductive profiling of women of color; and the relationship between reproductive justice and voter suppression for women of color.

We are also proud to support our friends at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, who in honor of Roe’s  40th anniversary, are hosting an event focused on achieving health, dignity and justice for Latinas, titled: “Yo Te Apoyo” (“I Support You”).  

Other champions in this work include Dr. Willie Parker, an abortion provider who has movingly written of how his conscience compels him to travel long distances to provide abortion care at the last abortion clinic in Mississippi, and Aspen Baker, who after having an abortion, discovered that there were very few resources for post-abortion emotional support (aside from those with anti-choice political agenda).  Dr. Parker has described how he became an abortion provider by reflecting on the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose legacy we also celebrate this month.  Baker founded Exhale, a national, multilingual after-abortion talkline that provides support for people who have had an abortion to discuss their feelings.    

We are also proud to support the D.C. Abortion Fund, which was founded by volunteers at a rape crisis center who helped one of their clients raise money for her abortion.  They used the leftover funds to provide financial assistance to more women who could not afford the full cost of an abortion (eventually joining the National Network of Abortion Funds).  Now, the D.C. Abortion Fund—powered only by volunteers—raises and distributes more than $100,000 every year to women in the DC region who are unable to afford abortion care.    

We celebrate Roe v. Wade and the extraordinary commitments that people have made to keep abortion safe, legal, and accessible.  We also celebrate the everyday acts of empathy support that can be extraordinarily meaningful to people who need, or have had, an abortion—such as the Fargo, North Dakota art student who provides every patient at the Red River Woman’s Clinic with a handmade ceramic planter and a note from a supporter with messages like, “You are loved. You are beautiful. Today might have been a tough day for you, or it might have been a blessing. Just take it easy for a while.”

We applaud all those who do these things so that everyone who needs an abortion is fully loved and supported through the experience.

What will do to support someone this year?

Media Contact: NCLR Communications Director Erik Olvera | Office:415.365.1324 | EOlvera@NCLRights.org


NCLR Condemns Attempt to Deny Birthright Citizenship

January 9, 2013

By NCLR Policy Director Maya Rupert

Maya Rupert

Maya Rupert

The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) was outraged by the recently introduced “Birthright Citizenship Act of 2013,” discriminatory legislation that seeks to obliterate the 14th Amendment by denying birthright citizenship to the children of some immigrant parents.

This legislation, which has thus far garnered little attention or support, comes amidst momentum for Congress to take up the issue of comprehensive immigration reform. Reform to the immigration system is urgently needed to create a safe, humane, and inclusive immigration policy that aims at strengthening—not weakening—all families. NCLR is proud to be a part of efforts advancing this vision for immigration reform as a member of National Coalition for Immigrant Women’s Rights (NCIWR), the leading national coalition focusing on women’s and gender issues in immigration policy and public discourse.

Immigration reform is crucial to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. Currently, our immigration system doesn’t allow citizens to sponsor their same-sex foreign partner for citizenship. While the outline for immigration reform recently laid out by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus includes provisions that would create a category for sponsorship for same-sex partners, efforts like H.R. 140 threaten those principles of fairness and inclusion.

Moreover, our community consists of immigrants—both documented and undocumented—who need comprehensive and humane immigration reform, including a pathway to citizenship and birthright citizenship in order to participate as full and equal members of society without the fear of discrimination, detention, or deportation because of their country of origin or their race.

H.R. 140 represents an attack on the fundamental principles—one of the core tenets both of U.S. immigration policy and of the LGBT movement—that law and policy should work on behalf of all families, not some. The effort to deny birthright citizenship to the children of some immigrant parents is a direct attack on the legitimacy and equality of some families. It is a legislative vilification of immigrant mothers and families, and a terrible betrayal of the commitment that legal institutions should aim at making us live up to our most cherished ideals as a country, not undermine them.  NCLR looks forward to working with our partners at NCIWR and the broader immigration community to combat efforts like H.R. 140 and advocate for a fair and humane immigration policy.

Media Contact: NCLR Communications Director Erik Olvera | Office:415.365.1324 | EOlvera@NCLRights.org


Congress Fails to Reauthorize Violence Against Women Act

January 3, 2013

By NCLR Law Students for Reproductive Justice Fellow Laura Nixon and NCLR Policy Counsel Ashland Johnson

The National Center for Lesbian Rights joins our colleagues at organizations allied against violence against women in their astonishment and outrage that for the first time since 1994, the United States House of Representatives failed to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act before the end of the 2012 congressional session. The House of Representatives’ failure to reauthorize this landmark legislation jeopardizes important preventative, legal, and support services (like rape crisis centers) for women who have survived the kinds of violence that were tolerated in our society for far too long.

The Violence Against Women Act (“VAWA”) is a federal law that allocates significant funds toward the investigation and prosecution of violent crimes that disproportionately impact women, imposes certain mandatory penalties on the offenders, and allows women and other victims access to civil remedies if their perpetrators are not criminally prosecuted. In addition, it established the Office of Violence Against Women in the Department of Justice. The Act was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994, and has been reauthorized without much argument in the years since then.

However, earlier this year, the United States Senate approved VAWA for reauthorization and included crucial new provisions to support communities that have been especially marginalized and have specific vulnerabilities to violence including LGBT, Native American, and immigrant victims of domestic violence.

The Senate’s version of VAWA reauthorization provided critical expansions and support for VAWA services for LGBT victims in recognition of the fact that intimate partner violence (IPV) significantly impacts the LGBT community. According to a recent survey, lesbians, gays, and bisexuals were more likely to experience intimate partner violence in their lifetime as compared to heterosexual women and men and LGBT people of color remain especially vulnerable to intimate partner violence as they are four times as likely to experience intimate partner violence. Further, in a recent survey conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, 19% of Transgender respondents reported experiencing domestic violence at the hands of a partner based on their gender nonconformity. NCLR has made efforts to bring attention to the devastating impact of this violence on the LGBT community. This October, we observed Domestic Violence Awareness Month by partnering with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to create a training on domestic violence in the LGBT community and its relationship to housing discrimination. We also created educational infographics about this important subject in partnership with our colleagues at the Human Rights Campaign.

The Senate’s reauthorization of VAWA contains other important provisions for underrepresented communities. It would support Native American women by closing a legal loophole that prevents non-Native American men from being prosecuted for domestic violence in most courts. In addition, it would support immigrant women by expanding the number of temporary visas for undocumented women who are victims of sexual abuse or domestic violence. However, because many members of the House of Representatives object to these new protections, the House failed to reauthorize the VAWA bill that passed the Senate before the end-of-the-year deadline.

To learn more about VAWA and how these important new provisions would support victims of violence who have suffered for far too long because failures of law and lack of support services through this most recent report at The Nation. Members of this new 113th Congress will now have to start from scratch to reauthorize VAWA, and we urge them to do so, keeping new protections for vulnerable people as a first priority.

Media Contact: NCLR Communications Director Erik Olvera | Office:415.365.1324 | EOlvera@NCLRights.org


HUD Enforces LGBT Equal Access Rule

January 2, 2013

(Washington D.C., January 2, 2013)—Today, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced a settlement agreement in a claim it brought against Bank of America for discriminating against a lesbian couple applying for a federally insured mortgage loan. This settlement marks HUD’s first enforcement action taken under its recently enacted LGBT Equal Access Rule.

The rule, which represents one of the most significant federal nondiscrimination efforts ever taken on behalf of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community, went into effect on March 5, 2012. It prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and marital status in public housing and HUD’s core housing programs, including eligibility determinations for mortgage loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). NCLR worked closely with HUD in the development of this rule, and has continued to partner with HUD on implementation of and education about the rule.

HUD brought the claim alleging that Bank of America’s denial of an FHA-insured mortgage loan from an otherwise eligible Florida lesbian couple because they were not married constituted discrimination based on sexual orientation and marital status. The agreement requires Bank of America to pay a fine of $7,500 and to notify its residential mortgage loan originators, processors and underwriters of the settlement agreement. Moreover, it requires Bank of America to take steps to re-train its employees that the Equal Access Rule prohibits discrimination against applicants based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and marital status.

Statement by NCLR Policy Director Maya Rupert, Esq.:

“Today’s announcement is a turning point for the LGBT community in its fight for equal access to fair and affordable housing. This settlement agreement shows how serious HUD is about working to ensure all people and their families can access public housing and crucial housing programs.

We congratulate Assistant Secretary John Trasviña and his staff on this important victory, and we look forward to continuing to work with HUD on its efforts on behalf of the LGBT community. We hope to work with entities like Bank of America as they bring their policies into compliance with the LGBT Equal Access Rule and train their staff to serve the LGBT community.”

Media Contact: NCLR Communications Director Erik Olvera | Office: 415.365.1324 | EOlvera@NCLRights.org

 


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