Court of Appeals Rules Against Christian Legal Society, Denies Request to Reopen Challenge to University’s Non-Discrimination Policy

November 17, 2010

Today the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit denied the Christian Legal Society’s request to present additional evidence in Christian Legal Society v. Wu, a case challenging a California law school’s policy that student groups may not discriminate based on sexual orientation, religion, or other bases. Today’s ruling brings an end to six years of litigation in this case, which began in 2004 when the Christian Legal Society (CLS) sued the University of California Hastings College of the Law because CLS wished to exclude gay and non-Christian students. In June, the Supreme Court of the United States rejected CLS’ challenge and held that public universities are free to require funded student groups to comply with non-discrimination policies. The Supreme Court sent the case back to the Ninth Circuit to determine whether any additional issues remained to be resolved in the case. The Ninth Circuit ruled today that the case is over and that the Supreme Court’s opinion upholding Hastings’ policy stands as the final judgment in the case.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights, along with cooperating counsel Paul Smith of Jenner & Block LLP, represents Hastings Outlaw, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender student organization at Hastings, which intervened in the case to defend the constitutionality of the non-discrimination policy. Hastings College of the Law is represented by Gregory Garre of Latham & Watkins LLP and Ethan Schulman of Crowell & Moring LLP.

Statement by Shannon Minter, Esq., NCLR Legal Director:

“Today’s ruling brings a welcome close to six years of intense litigation, including a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court affirming that colleges and universities may adopt non-discrimination policies that protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students. Hastings Law School did not adopt its non-discrimination policy to suppress any group’s freedom of speech, but only to ensure that all campus organizations are open to all students. Now that the Supreme Court’s decision is final, colleges and universities have a green light to ensure that all students have an equal opportunity to participate in student activities, without fear of being threatened with litigation by anti-gay groups.”


New GLSEN Project to Improve Climate for LGBT Students in Elementary and High School Sports

October 27, 2010

The Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) announced on October 25, 2010 that Dr. Pat Griffin, former Director of It Takes A Team! Education Campaign for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Issues in Sport at the Women’s Sports Foundation, has joined GLSEN to develop and direct a program to address LGBT issues in youth and high school sports. The GLSEN Sports Project, which will launch in 2011, will help elementary schools and high schools create and maintain athletic and physical education climates that are based on the core principals of respect, safety, and equal access for all students and coaches regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity and/or expression.

Statement by NCLR Sports Project Director Helen Carroll:

“This is a great opportunity for collaborative work in advocacy and education between the NCLR Sports Project and the GLSEN Sports Project. With Pat Griffin directing the GLSEN Sports Project to lead the way for high schools and NCLR’s Sports Project covering the legal landscape, I see a brighter future for our LGBT student athletes and their leaders.”

Griffin and Carroll recently authored On the Team: Equal Opportunity for Transgender Student Athletes. The report is the first ever to thoroughly address the complete integration of transgender student athletes within high school and collegiate athletic programs.


NCLR Applauds Florida Officials’ Decision Not to Appeal Adoption Ban Ruling

October 22, 2010

Today Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum announced that he would not appeal last month’s ruling by the Third District Court of Appeal striking down Florida’s anti-gay adoption ban as unconstitutional. Florida Governor Charlie Crist and the state’s Department of Children and Families had already announced that they would not appeal the ruling. The ruling will become final after today, and will be binding on courts across the state.

A statement from NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell:

“It is truly heartening that Florida’s elected leaders have stepped up to the plate and finally agreed to put this offensive law to rest once and for all. We are thrilled that the Florida Department of Children and Families will never again have to waste its time rooting out ‘homosexual’ and bisexual people who apply to become adoptive parents—instead, it can now focus on making sure that children who desperately need homes can find the very best loving, devoted parents to adopt them. This is a great day for the state of Florida and for LGBT families everywhere.”


NCLR Applauds Senate Inclusion of Same-Sex Couples and Relief for Youth in Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill

September 30, 2010

Today, Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2010. This legislation, which provides many urgently needed changes to our national immigration law, protects same-sex couples by incorporating the substance of the Uniting Americans Families Act (UAFA), which would grant U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents the right to sponsor their same-sex permanent partners to immigrate to the United States. UAFA has been introduced as a stand-alone bill in both the House and the Senate, and currently has 161 co-sponsors. The bill also incorporates the DREAM Act, which would provide a pathway to citizenship for young people who have lived their entire lives in the United States and who are currently subject to deportation.

Statement from Federal Policy Attorney Maya Rupert, Esq.:

“We support the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2010 and applaud its inclusion of protections for same-sex binational couples. For decades, U.S. immigration law has refused to provide any way for citizens and residents who are in a committed relationship with a same-sex partner from another country to stay together in the United States. This bill would bring the United States in line with the many other countries that recognize same-sex relationships for immigration purposes. We also applaud the inclusion of the DREAM Act, which provides critically needed relief against deportation for young people who have spent their entire lives in the United States. Both of these provisions are critical to repairing our current policy and establishing a humane immigration system that creates engaged and contributing citizens. We commend Senators Menendez and Leahy for introducing an immigration reform bill that is fully inclusive and comprehensive.”


Recent Youth Suicides Show Urgent Need for Community and Public Leaders to Condemn Anti-LGBT Bias

September 30, 2010

Calls for Civility Not Sufficient

Today, the National Center for Lesbian Rights urged community and public leaders to condemn anti-LGBT bullying in response to news that four teenagers reportedly committed suicide after suffering bullying and harassment because they were gay or believed to be gay. The teenagers are: Seth Walsh, 13, of Tehachapi, CA; Billy Lucas, 15, of Greensburg, IN; Asher Brown, 13, of Houston, TX; and Tyler Clementi, 18, a college freshman from New Jersey.

In 1993, NCLR became the first lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender legal organization to launch a Youth Project. Since then, NCLR’s Youth Project has worked to ensure that all LGBT young people are safe and can live openly with the support they need to reach their full potential.

Statement from NCLR Youth Project Director Jody Marksamer, Esq.:

“The deaths of these teenagers are tragic and heartbreaking, and we extend our heartfelt sympathies to their families, friends, and communities. The deaths of Seth, Billy, Asher, and Tyler are a wake-up call that we must do more to stop the harassment and violence experienced on a daily basis by millions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth. While calls for increased civility in our schools are well-intentioned, they are woefully inadequate to the scope and severity of this problem. When adults express negative views of LGBT people, they are sending a dangerous message that leads directly to harassment, bullying, and violence against LGBT youth. It is time for every public official, community leader, educator, and clergy person in this country to unequivocally condemn the expression of negative views of LGBT people as biased, unacceptable, and wrong.”


NCLR Applauds Court Decision Reinstating Major Margaret Witt to the Air Force

September 24, 2010

Today, a federal district court judge in Tacoma, Washington held that the discharge of Air Force flight nurse Major Margaret Witt under the federal government’s policy barring lesbian, gay, and bisexual people from serving openly in the military violated the United States Constitution. Judge Ronald B. Leighton ruled that the government violated Major Witt’s constitutional rights by discharging her under the policy—popularly known as Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. The court held that the discharge of Major Witt did not advance the Air Force’s interest in military readiness, unit morale, and cohesion. To the contrary, the judge concluded, “it was Major Witt’s suspension and ultimate discharge that caused a loss of morale throughout [her] squadron.”

Judge Leighton ordered that Major Witt should be restored to her position as an Air Force flight nurse as soon as possible.

Statement by NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell:

“Today’s decision is the second within the past month to hold that the discharge of service members under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell serves no legitimate purpose and is blatantly unconstitutional. Major Witt’s victory underscores why Congress and the President must put a stop to this destructive and irrational policy. It is an outrage that the federal government continues to intentionally discriminate against thousands of dedicated service members based solely on anti-gay prejudice. We congratulate and thank Major Witt and her lawyers at the ACLU of Washington for bringing this landmark case.”


NCLR Applauds Court Ruling Striking Down Adoption Ban

September 22, 2010

Court Rules Florida’s Anti-Gay Adoption Law Is Unconstitutional

Today the Third District Court of Appeal in Florida unanimously upheld a 2008 Miami-Dade Circuit Court decision striking down Florida’s anti-gay adoption ban and permitting Martin Gill, a gay man, to adopt two foster children he and his partner had parented for years. Gill is represented by the ACLU of Florida. The plaintiffs presented numerous experts who testified that decades of research has proved that lesbians, gay men, and bisexual people are just as capable of being good parents as heterosexuals. The Court of Appeal agreed with the trial court’s finding that the state of Florida had failed to present any credible evidence to support the ban. The Court of Appeal held that the statute, which was adopted in 1977, violated the constitutional requirement of equal protection by categorically excluding lesbian, gay, and bisexual people from adopting.

In August, NCLR filed an amicus brief describing the history of the ban in an appeal of another Circuit Court decision granting an adoption to a lesbian foster parent and holding that the ban is unconstitutional. That case is still pending before the Third District Court of Appeal, which held a hearing in that case earlier this month.

In a concurring opinion in today’s decision in the Gill case, Judge Vance E. Salter also noted a decision earlier this year by the Second District Court of Appeal in Embry v. Ryan. In that case, NCLR represented Lara Embry, a lesbian mother, who asked Florida to recognize a second-parent adoption granted in Washington. The Second District held that Florida must recognize the adoption, despite Florida’s anti-gay adoption ban.

Statement by NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell:

“Today’s ruling, overturning the country’s only explicit ban on adoption by gay people, is long overdue. Thousands of children in the Florida foster care system need loving homes and families. This shameful law serves only to hurt children and discriminate against potential parents who can provide the love and care that all children deserve. We applaud the court’s ruling and congratulate the Gill family and our colleagues at the ACLU for this historic victory.”


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