Same-Sex Couples Ask New Mexico Supreme Court to Protect Their Right to Marry

July 3, 2013

(Albuquerque, NM, July 3, 2013)—Late Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico, ACLU national, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), Albuquerque law firm Sutin, Thayer & Brown PC, and Albuquerque attorneys Maureen Sanders, Kate Girard, and Lynn Perls filed a writ of mandamus with the New Mexico State Supreme Court seeking a ruling on the issue of whether same-sex couples can marry in the State of New Mexico. The writ also asks the court to clarify that New Mexico respects the marriages of same-sex New Mexico couples who married in another state, which is necessary to ensure that those couples qualify for all of the federal programs that are now available to married same-sex couples as a result of the United States Supreme Court decision last week invalidating the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

“The United States Supreme Court’s decision to overturn DOMA has increased our sense of urgency to clarify the ability of same-sex couples to marry in New Mexico,” said ACLU-NM Executive Director Peter Simonson. “With all barriers to federal recognition removed, our State cannot stand by as thousands of same-sex couples, many of whom were married out of state, continue to be denied those protections.”

There are more than 1,100 places in federal laws and programs where being married makes a difference, including eligibility for family medical leave, social security survivor’s benefits, and access to health care for a spouse. With DOMA now overturned, same-sex couples could immediately become eligible for these federal benefits and protections, as well as all of the protections given to spouses under state law, if the New Mexico Supreme Court rules that New Mexico law permits same-sex couples to marry and also requires that the state respect the marriage of same-sex couples who have married out-of-state.

“Every day that goes by, same-sex couples and their families are being harmed by not being able to protect their families through marriage,” said NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell. “The fall of DOMA has greatly upped the stakes for loving, committed same-sex couples in New Mexico. Now more than ever, we urgently need guidance from the courts on whether these couples can access the protections and societal recognition of marriage.”

A writ of mandamus is a special legal action that permits the New Mexico Supreme Court to resolve an issue without waiting for the lower courts to rule. The New Mexico Supreme Court is not legally required to accept writ petitions, but it may do so when presented with an issue of great public importance.

The ACLU of New Mexico, ACLU national, NCLR, Sutin Law Firm, and Albuquerque attorneys Maureen Sanders, Kate Girard, and Lynn Perls filed an earlier lawsuit seeking the freedom to marry on behalf of same-sex couples in the Second Judicial District Court on March 21, 2013. If the New Mexico Supreme Court declines to hear the writ petitions, that lawsuit, Griego v. Oliver, will proceed and will determine whether same-sex couples have a constitutionally protected right to marry in the state.

Media Contact:

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

ACLU-NM Media Contact Daniel Williams | Office: 505.266.5915 x1016 |
DWilliams@ACLU-NM.org


CA Senate Passes Bill Supporting Transgender Student Success

July 3, 2013

(Sacramento, CA, July 3, 2013)— Today, the California State Senate passed the School Success and Opportunity Act (Assembly Bill 1266), sending the bill that ensures transgender students have the opportunity to succeed in school to Governor Jerry Brown for signature. Authored by Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, the bill passed the Senate with a 21-9 (unofficial). The bill passed the California State Assembly last month with  46-25 vote.

AB 1266 will ensure that California public schools understand their responsibility for the success and well-being of all students, including transgender students, and will allow transgender students to fully participate in all school activities, sports teams, programs, and facilities in accordance with their gender identity.

Co-authored by Senators Mark Leno and Ricardo Lara and Assemblymember Toni Atkins, the bill is backed by a coalition of leading organizations, including Transgender Law Center, Gay-Straight Alliance Network, Gender Spectrum, Equality California, ACLU of California, National Center for Lesbian Rights, statewide teacher and parent organizations, and dozens of other organizations.

“I’m so happy the state is taking action to make sure I have the same opportunity as everyone else to go to school and graduate,” said Ashton Lee, a 16-year-old transgender boy from Manteca who came to Sacramento with his mother to testify before the Senate Education Committee last week. “I just want to be treated the same as all the other boys, but my school forces me to take P.E. in a class of all girls and live as someone I’m not. I can’t learn and succeed when every day in that class leaves me feeling isolat-ed and alone.”

In 2005, the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second largest school district in the country with more than 670,000 students, successfully implemented a policy nearly identical to AB 1266 to ensure that no student is left out.

“Families matter in LAUSD. We’ve worked closely with students and families to ensure that our policies related to gender identity are successful, welcomed by students, and supported by parents,” said Judy Chiasson, Program Coordinator for Human Relations, Diversity and Equity at the Los Angeles Unified School District. “In addition to longstanding policies banning bullying, harassment, and discrimination, LAUSD has had specific policies banning discrimination based on gender identity for nearly a decade. We have firsthand experience recognizing and valuing the diversity of school communities, which ultimately enhances and enriches the lives of all our students.”

California law already prohibits discrimination in education, but transgender students are often still unfairly excluded from physical education, athletic teams, and other school activities and facilities be-cause of who they are. This exclusion negatively impacts students’ ability to succeed in school and grad-uate with their class. For example, physical education classes help students develop healthy fitness hab-its and teach values like teamwork and fair competition – and P.E. credits are required, so students can-not graduate without them.

Under AB 1266, California’s public schools would be required to respect a transgender student’s identity in all school programs, activities, and facilities. The bill will provide guidance to district and school leaders about how to meet their obligations to protect the safety and well being of all students, including those who are transgender.

“This law is necessary to ensure that California schools do not discriminate against transgender stu-dents,” said National Center for Lesbian Rights Legal Director Shannon Minter. “California is falling be-hind other states on this important issue, and this law is urgently needed to ensure that all California stu-dents have an equal chance to thrive and succeed.”

Media Contacts:

Erik Olvera, National Center for Lesbian Rights, 415.365.1324, EOlvera@NCLRights.org
Jesse Melgar, EQCA, 323.848.9801, Jesse@EQCA.org
Rebecca Farmer, ACLU of California, 415.621.2493, x374, RFarmer@ACLUNC.org
Jill Marcellus, GSA Network, 516.313.9659, Jill@GSANetwork.org
Mark Snyder, Transgender Law Center, 415.865.0176, x310, Mark@TransgenderLawCenter.org


LGBT DREAMers Join President Obama to Celebrate Pride Month

June 13, 2013

(WASHINGTON, D.C., June 13, 2013)—Today, four LGBT DREAMers, who were recently granted work permits under the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, traveled from across the country to attend a White House reception in honor of Pride month.

The four DREAMers—Carla Lopez and Luis Liang of San Francisco, Jose Mendoza of Los Angeles, and Alejandra “Ale” Estrada of Las Vegas—met one-on-one with President Obama, sharing their personal immigration stories and thanking him for the DACA program. June 15 marks the one-year anniversary of the DACA program, which gives young undocumented immigrants the opportunity to legally work in the U.S. and no longer live under a threat of deportation.

These four LGBT DREAMers—who received grants through the LGBT DREAMers Fund created by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), the LA Gay & Lesbian Center, and the Evelyn & Walter Haas, Jr. Fund to pay for their DACA fees—are actively engaged in the fight for immigration reform. Their commitment to reform reflects the commitment of the larger LGBT community to pass common-sense, compassionate reform that puts our nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants, including 267,000 LGBT immigrants, on a path to citizenship.

“It was just a few months ago that I lived my life by a simple rule—don’t do anything to attract attention and never mention my immigration status,” said Carla, who immigrated to the United States from Mexico with her parents as a toddler to pursue a better life. “I never could have dreamed that in just six months’ time I would be approved for the DACA program, invited to the White House and meeting the President of the United States.”

Ale expressed her appreciation for the President’s support of comprehensive immigration reform during. “I am eternally thankful to President Obama for creating the DACA program, and I stand in support of the next step—compassionate, comprehensive immigration reform that will allow more LGBT immigrants and all immigrants—to live their lives with Pride,” she said.

The delegation that visited the White House includes:

Alejandra “Ale” Estrada (Las Vegas)      
Ale was three months old when her mother brought her and her sister across the U.S.-Mexico border. From the time she was old enough to talk, her father instructed her to tell people that she was from Nevada, not Mexico. Her mom, dad and older sister are also undocumented, and her parents lived in constant fear of her family being torn apart. Ale, who started a housecleaning business, has struggled with both the challenges presented by her undocumented status and the challenges of being LGBT.

Jose Mendoza (Los Angeles)
Jose excelled in high school, but he couldn’t apply to top colleges. They were too expensive, and because of his undocumented status, he couldn’t apply for financial aid. In 2011, his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. His dad worked construction in another state to pay the bills, and Jose became his mother’s primary caregiver, as well as the caregiver of his three younger brothers. Jose’s mother is now in remission, and Jose has enrolled in the nursing program at Santa Monica College, and is on the way to fulfilling his dream of becoming a nurse. Jose is excited to be in Washington, D.C. during Pride month where he can celebrate being both a member of the LGBT community and a DACA recipient.

Luis Liang (San Francisco)
After arriving in the U.S. when he was 14 years old, Luis worked hard in high school and was eventually awarded a full scholarship to U.C. Berkeley in 2009. When he arrived on campus, the university informed him that his undocumented status prohibited him from receiving the publicly funded scholarship. Luis returned to Orange County, where he went to community college and worked two jobs to save money. He started a support organization, the Fullerton College DREAM Team, and learned about various private scholarships available to DREAMers. When he re-enrolled in Berkeley, Luis met other double minorities like himself, LGBT students who were also undocumented. He graduated in May 2012 and, last month, he received his DACA application approval and began interviewing for jobs. He wants to start a nonprofit that will help students from immigrant and low-income families gain access to higher education.

Carla Lopez (San Francisco)
Carla, who recently graduated from the University of California, Davis, came to the U.S. as a toddler, and spent years in constant fear that teachers or friends would find out she was undocumented. Her new DACA status lifted this shadow. “I grew up in a world where immigration raids were taking place at work, school, and even in the ‘safety’ of homes. For me, the time period between 5 and 6 a.m.—when immigration raids are usually conducted in homes—would be filled with much panic and anguish, as I lay awake in my bed—afraid that either my parents or I would be next.”

Media Contact:

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


Thirty-Five LGBT and HIV Advocacy Groups Mark Pride Month with Joint Statement on HIV/AIDS

June 3, 2013

Executive Directors Urge Broader LGBT Movement to Re-engage in Fight to End the Epidemic

(San Francisco, CA, June 3, 2013)—As the nation marks the opening of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month, executive directors from 35 LGBT and HIV/AIDS organizations from across the United States have released a joint letter  committing themselves and their organizations to re-engaging the broader LGBT community in the fight against HIV. While issues like marriage equality and employment protections for LGBT workers have taken center stage, HIV continues to ravage the LGBT community. Despite making up just two percent of the population, gay and bisexual men accounted for more than 63 percent of new HIV infections in 2010. In fact, gay men are the only group in which HIV infections are increasing.

“We are at an important crossroads in our fight against HIV,” said National Minority AIDS Council Executive Director Paul Kawata. “The evidence behind treatment as prevention, and expansions in health care coverage that will accompany implementation of the Affordable Care Act, have provided a unique opportunity to end this epidemic, which has ravaged our community for more than three decades.  But this will not happen without the full engagement of those most impacted by the disease, and no community has been more heavily affected than the LGBT community.  I am thrilled to be a part of this campaign to re-energize the LGBT response and work together to realize the vision of an AIDS-free generation.”

“As an organization that has been working to combat HIV discrimination since the beginning of the epidemic we are excited to see the LGBT movement re-commit to this work,” said Kevin Cathcart, Executive Director of Lambda Legal. “Because gay and bisexual men and transgender people are disproportionately affected by the epidemic and because we see the effects of discrimination and laws targeting people with HIV for criminalization it is incredibly important for the LGBT community to step up.”

Said National Center for Lesbian Rights Executive Director Kate Kendell: “The LGBT community always has been at the epicenter of the AIDS epidemic. As the community most impacted in the nation, we are the ones who must step-up and recommit to ending future transmissions. To have a new generation of LGBT young people grow up free from HIV and AIDS will be a fitting legacy to those we have lost to this disease.”

Below is an excerpt from today’s joint letter:

“Over the last 30 years, the [LGBT] community has seen great strides in the movement for full equality. Much of this success is the result of a concerted movement, which was galvanized in response to the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s… In the decades since our movement has seen incredible victories… Unfortunately, our community hasn’t maintained the same momentum in our fight against HIV… Each day, more than 80 gay and bisexual men become infected with HIV in the United States… Despite these alarming statistics, which have galvanized our community in the past, the HIV epidemic has seemed to fall by the way side. Many in our community have simply stopped talking about the issue. This must change.”

The entire letter and accompanying video can be viewed online here: www.WetheLGBT.org

Media Contacts:
Erik Olvera, National Center for Lesbian Rights, 415.365.1324, EOlvera@NCLRights.org
Lisa Hardaway, Lambda Legal, 212.809.8585 x.266, LHardaway@LambdaLegal.org
Kyle Murphy, National Minority AIDS Council, 202.803.8027, KMurphy@NMAC.org


Mama’s Day, Our Way!

May 6, 2013

The National Center for Lesbian Rights is excited to participate in a fantastic campaign to celebrate Mother’s Day. We are partnering with our friends at Strong Families, a national initiative dedicated to advancing the needs of all families, to celebrate Mama’s Day Our Way! Mama’s Day Our Way is a campaign celebrating and embracing the diversity of our families as they really are, not as any greeting card company thinks they should be.

These e-cards highlight families of color, LGBT families, immigrant families, multi-racial families, young families, and single parent families.  We know the true diversity of our families can’t be captured in a few dozen cards, but we hope you find these cards inspiring and moving, and that they illustrate something essential and familiar. Please join us by sharing these free, customizable ecards with those you love.

In addition to sending ecards to your loved ones, we are also urging people send a card to Senators, reminding them to consider the needs of all families, including same-sex binational couples, in the immigration reform fight.

NCLR has a long history working to protect and strengthen LGBT families. In fact, this work has been a cornerstone of our mission since we were founded, and we are proud to continue this commitment  through our Family Protection Project, our Immigration Project, and our growing reproductive justice work.

Please join us and Strong Families in celebrating Mama’s Day this year by highlighting our diverse and beautiful families.  Share an e-card with your loved one today.
Learn more about the campaign at www.MamasDay.org.

Happy Mama’s Day!

Media Contact:

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


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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