Joint Statement on ENDA Introduction

April 25, 2013

The bipartisan introduction of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) today reflects the strong national consensus that workers should be evaluated on their merits, not sexual orientation or gender identity. As organizations that have, for decades, challenged LGBT workplace discrimination in the courts and worked for passage of inclusive non-discrimination laws at the local, state, and federal level, our commitment to the passage of a robust ENDA remains absolute and resolute. The continued need for this legislation is clear and it is of vital importance to LGBT people across the country.

Despite the remarkable progress cultural, political, and legal that LGBT people have made in recent years, there are currently 34 states that lack workplace non-discrimination laws that are fully inclusive of LGBT people. This patchwork of protection continues to leave LGBT people vulnerable to workplace discrimination. We hear the stories every day from our clients and the tens of thousands of LGBT people who contact LGBT legal organizations like ours every year. In a country that values fairness and equal treatment under the law, we believe the current situation is unacceptable.

We greatly appreciate the efforts of Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Reps. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) in making a number of significant improvements to ENDA. These include removing language that would have reaffirmed the discriminatory and unconstitutional Defense of Marriage Act.

While we applaud the progress that has been made, we stand united in expressing very grave concerns with the religious exemption in ENDA. It could provide religiously affiliated organizations far beyond houses of worship with a blank check to engage in employment discrimination against LGBT people. Some courts have said that even hospitals and universities may be able to claim the exemption; thus, it is possible that a religiously affiliated hospital could fire a transgender doctor or a religiously affiliated university could terminate a gay groundskeeper. It gives a stamp of legitimacy to LGBT discrimination that our civil rights laws have never given to discrimination based on an individual’s race, sex, national origin, age, or disability. This sweeping, unprecedented exemption undermines the core goal of ENDA by leaving too many jobs, and LGBT workers, outside the scope of its protections.

We are fully committed to continuing to work for the passage of ENDA and an appropriate exemption for religious organizations. We remain hopeful that our allies in Congress will agree that singling out LGBT people alone for this kind of unequal and unfair exemption to otherwise applicable non-discrimination laws has no place in this historic legislation.

 

American Civil Liberties Union

Lambda Legal

National Center for Lesbian Rights

Transgender Law Center

 

Media Contact:

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


NCLR Applauds Introduction of Bi-Partisan Student Non-Discrimination Act

April 18, 2013

Statement by NCLR Policy Director Maya Rupert

(Washington, D.C., April 18, 2013)—Today, Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) announced the bi-partisan reintroduction of the Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA).

Despite the frequency with which youth are targeted for harassment based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity in schools, there are currently no federal comprehensive anti-bullying protections. This legislation would protect students from bullying, violence, and harassment based on actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity. The bill enjoys significant support and is being introduced with over 100 original co-sponsors.

Being targeted for harassment at school can have serious negative effects on a young person’s long-term opportunities for success and well-being. It has been linked to poor academic standing, truancy, and multiple adverse health consequences, including depression.

Statement from NCLR Policy Director Maya Rupert, Esq:

“SNDA is a crucial piece of legislation to ensure that all young people have access to a safe and healthy learning environment. All students have the right to go to school free from fear of violence and harassment. We look forward to working with congressional leaders on this legislation and to raise awareness of this serious issue.”

Media Contact:

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


NCLR Responds to Introduction of Federal Immigration Reform Legislation

April 17, 2013

(San Francisco, CA, April 17, 2013)—Today, a bipartisan group of Senators who have been working on a plan to fix the current broken U.S. immigration system released their long-awaited proposal for comprehensive immigration reform legislation. The bill, called the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, presents a massive overhaul to many aspects of our current approach to immigration. The plan provides a pathway to citizenship for undocumented people, including an expedited process for DREAMers, creates new types of visas, and requires the government to clear the high backlog for family-sponsored visas.

There are nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, including at least 267,000 who are also lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT). The legislation introduced by the Senate has a number of provisions that will dramatically improve the system and provide a path forward for undocumented immigrants, including those who are LGBT.

The legislation creates a 13-year pathway to citizenship for undocumented people currently in the U.S. People will be able work while they access this path, which includes a three-year application process and a 10-year waiting period. The legislation includes a streamlined, five-year process for DREAMers.

The legislation also puts an end to the draconian requirement that asylum-seekers must file asylum requests within one year of entering the U.S., which has had a particularly negative impact on LGBT asylum seekers.

While this legislation makes many significant improvements to the system, there are also serious shortcomings with the plan. The bill does not contain the crucial principles of the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), which would provide a mechanism for U.S. citizens to sponsor their same-sex foreign partners for citizenship. It also makes several significant cuts to the family sponsorship visa process, including eliminating F4 visas, which allow U.S. citizens to sponsor their siblings for citizenship. While an exception exists that will allow current citizens to continue the process to sponsor their siblings, eliminating this category will make it harder for immigrants to keep their families together, and will have a disproportionate impact on Asian-American and Latino families. Additionally, while the bill provides a pathway to citizenship, the path laid out in this legislation is unnecessarily long and tied to an overly harsh enforcement plan that is unnecessary in light of our current border security. Finally, this proposal creates inexcusable barriers to accessing healthcare. Under this plan, immigrants and their families would be unable to access subsidies and tax credits to purchase healthcare coverage through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or receive benefits through Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) during the 10-year waiting period. The result is that low-income immigrant families would be unable to get any health coverage for at least 10 years.

NCLR has joined other organizations in a campaign endorsing principles in support of humane and meaningful immigration reform.  Learn more about the principles and the organizations that have signed on so far at LGBTDREAMersStories.com.

Statement by NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell, Esq.:

“It is very gratifying to finally see movement toward an overhaul of our broken immigration system. Many elements of immigration reform that are crucial for fixing our immigration system are part of this bipartisan proposal. We are pleased that this proposal includes a pathway to citizenship, strong protections for DREAMers and their families, and important changes to the asylum process. However, several key provisions miss the mark or are missing entirely from the draft bill.

It is unacceptable that low-income immigrants and families will be barred from accessing the benefits of the ACA, Medicaid, and CHIP for 10 years. Access to healthcare is a crucial right, and barring people from affordable care will cost lives. No one should have to wait 10 years to see a doctor.

Further, we believe that family unity must remain at the heart of the immigration system and are disappointed that this bill falls short of protecting that core value. While we are extremely troubled that the current bill excludes UAFA principles, we remain confident that we will be able to add protections for same-sex binational couples to the final version of the bill. We will continue to work closely with equality movement leaders and Senate members to improve the current draft plan, and to protect the ability of citizens to sponsor their same-sex foreign partners, siblings and other family members for citizenship so that immigration remains a way to keep families together and not tear them apart.”

Media Contact:

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


On National Immigration Day of Action, Nation’s Leading LGBT Advocacy Organizations Stand in Solidarity for Immigration Reform

April 10, 2013

“LGBT people are immigrants and immigration is an LGBT issue”

(Washington, D.C., April 10, 2013)—Today, national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) advocacy organizations join local, state and national immigration, civil rights and LGBT groups and advocates marching for justice for all immigrants on National Immigration Day of Action.

Standing in solidarity with the immigration movement in calling on Congress to do the right thing and pass fair and humane comprehensive immigration reform are the 26 undersigned groups, including the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force; GLAAD; the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR); the Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project (QUIP), a project of the United We Dream Network; National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA); and Immigration Equality.

“LGBT people are immigrants and immigration is an LGBT issue,” said Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, who spoke from the stage on the West Lawn of the Capitol representing a broad range of allied organizations at the march.

The groups also call on media to tell the stories of undocumented people that shed light on the many ways the broken immigration system harms millions of Americans, including through family separation and inhumane conditions and abuse in detention facilities.

“Federal immigration reform is about respecting the humanity in each and all of us, including DREAMers and our families, migrant farm workers, LGBT binational couples, and transgender people in need of asylum,” said Jorge Gutierrez, project coordinator of the Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project (QUIP), a project of the United We Dream Network. Gutierrez is openly gay and undocumented.

“As a transgender woman who was detained by immigration authorities, I have first-hand experience with the inhumane treatment and abuse in detention facilities that for years have threatened the health, safety and even lives of millions of immigrants,” said Bamby Salcedo, president of the Trans-Latin@ Coalition. “I was sexually assaulted when I was forced to be housed in a dorm with about 100 men in a detention facility, and I was denied adequate access to HIV medication and hormone treatment. These are the harms countless transgender detainees face; we must put an end to these atrocities. We all deserve a chance to live with dignity, to pursue our dreams, and to work for a better future and better quality of life.”

“The current broken system hurts, scapegoats and vilifies all immigrants, including LGBT immigrants, and their friends and families. Comprehensive federal immigration reform is an urgent priority for our nation and the LGBT community,” said Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

“It is important for the LGBT and immigrants’ rights communities to work together and support one another. We’re all working to be treated equally and to be able to enjoy lives free of discrimination and fear, for ourselves and our families. We’ve seen the success of unity in places like Maryland, Colorado and Washington. In all of these places, our two communities prevented our opponents from pitting us against each other. We cannot stop now,” said Dave Montez, chief of staff of GLAAD, a member of the coalition.

Immigration Equality Executive Director Rachel B. Tiven said, “Immigration Equality helps thousands of LGBT immigrant families every year: undocumented families, mixed-status families, DREAMers, asylum seekers fleeing persecution, and detainees locked in immigration jail. LGBT people demand reform of a system in which our families are invisible. In the words of binational couple activist Pablo Garcia: ‘I want a path to citizenship. But I don’t want to wait 13 years to be a citizen. If I were straight I would be one already.’”

“At stake in the comprehensive immigration reform debate is our ability to keep our families together and to recognize the diversity of all our families. LGBT people are challenged across the entire spectrum of the broken immigration system and comprehensive reform is needed now,” said Ben de Guzman, co-director, National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA).

For more stories of undocumented people, please contact Erik Olvera at EOlvera@NCLRights.org.

National LGBT Organizations in Support of National Immigration Day of Action:

American Civil Liberties Union
Center For Black Equity
CenterLink: The Community of LGBT Centers
Freedom to Marry
Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC)
GetEQUAL
GLAAD
GLAD
GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network)
Human Rights Campaign (HRC)
Immigration Equality
Lambda Legal
National Black Justice Coalition
National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR)
National Center for Transgender Equality
National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC)
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
National Minority AIDS Council
National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA)
Out & Equal Workplace Advocates
PFLAG National
Pride at Work AFL CIO
Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project (QUIP), a project of the United We Dream Network
Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE)
The Trevor Project
Trans-Latin@ Coalition

Media Contact:

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


LGBT Groups Challenge Medicare’s Refusal to Provide Healthcare to Transgender Patients

April 2, 2013

(Washington, D.C., March 29, 2013)—Last week, several national LGBT groups and a cooperating attorney filed an administrative challenge to Medicare’s ban on medically necessary healthcare for transgender patients. Medicare, which provides healthcare to Americans ages 65 and older and younger people with certain qualifying disabilities, currently prohibits all forms of gender reassignment surgeries regardless of the individual patient’s diagnosis or serious medical needs.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), and civil rights attorney Mary Lou Boelcke initiated the challenge on behalf of Denee Mallon, a transgender woman whose doctors have recommended surgery to alleviate her severe gender dysphoria.

“Medicare’s categorical exclusion of this care lacks any scientific basis,” said Shannon Minter, the Legal Director at NCLR. “Study after study has shown that these surgeries are the only effective treatment for many patients suffering from severe gender dysphoria.”

Ms. Mallon joined the United States Army when she was 17 years old and worked as a forensics investigator for a city police department after she was honorably discharged from the Army. She was later diagnosed with gender identity disorder, a serious medical condition that is characterized by intense and persistent discomfort with one’s birth sex.

“The American Medical Association, the Endocrine Society, and the American Psychological Association all support these treatments for transgender patients,” said Joshua Block, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s LGBT and AIDS Project. “These procedures have been performed for decades and are proven to be safe and effective.”

Medicare adopted the ban, which is codified as National Coverage Determination (NCD) 140.3, more than thirty years ago. Decades of extensive scientific and clinical research since that time have established that these surgeries are safe and effective.

As a result of the administrative challenge, the Department Appeals Board (DAB) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) must review the ban, determine whether it is reasonable based on current standards of care, and reverse it if it is not. The DAB is staffed by career civil servants who have been tasked with providing an impartial independent review of disputes concerning Medicare and other HHS programs. Earlier last week, the HHS Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on its own initiative included a statement on its website that it would be reconsidering the ban. CMS subsequently withdrew its proposal to reconsider the ban and through a spokesperson explained that the ban would instead be reviewed through the independent DAB process.

“What matters to us is that there will be a fair and scientifically based review of the ban. We don’t think the medical data supports it and are hopeful that CMS will agree,” said Jennifer Levi, Transgender Rights Project Director for Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders.

Media Contact:

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


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