NCLR, Equality California Applaud New Federal Report Urging Researchers to Collect LGBT Health Data

March 31, 2011

(San Francisco, CA, March 31, 2011)— A groundbreaking report released today by the Institute of Medicine urges medical researchers to include the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities in health studies to gain a better understanding of their lives and unique health care needs at different stages of life.

Authored by leading experts on LGBT health, “The Health of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender People: Building a Foundation for Understanding” concludes that the lack of sufficient health care data about LGBT people has resulted in an incomplete picture of the community’s overall health needs. The report is the first to comprehensively analyze the LGBT community’s health needs, providing a thorough compilation of existing data, and providing researchers with guidance about how to effectively continue to collect LGBT health data to fill in critical gaps.

One of the report authors, Family Acceptance Project Director Dr. Caitlin Ryan, a leading researcher on LGBT youth, has worked closely over the years with the National Center for Lesbian Rights and Equality California. She is a member of Equality California Institute’s LGBT Health and Human Services Network, and has been a vital part of the Network’s statewide efforts.

In discussing the report, Dr. Ryan said: “This report provides a roadmap for addressing the unmet health needs of LGBT people from childhood through later years. It legitimizes LGBT health research for the scientific community and academic institutions, and will change the way that LGBT health issues are talked about, taught about, studied and addressed in practice. It’s the key to open institutional closet doors to reduce serious health disparities and to promote the well-being of LGBT people.”

Said National Center for Lesbian Rights Executive Director Kate Kendell: “This groundbreaking report documents the urgent need for researchers to include LGBT people in all aspects of health care research. Without this data, our community will continue to face obstacles accessing health care and will continue to be underserved.”

In California, Senator Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego) has introduced the Survey Data Inclusion Act (SB 416), sponsored by Equality California, which would require the state to add questions about sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, domestic partnership status and the gender of a spouse as part of the voluntary demographics sections in California’s government surveys. Such data is already collected for other groups.

“We call on the California Health and Human Services Department to strengthen its efforts to eliminate health disparities for LGBT communities, and we applaud Senator Kehoe and the Institute of Medicine for their leadership in recognizing that investment in LGBT health is a crucial part of ensuring that LGBT people and families can contribute fully to our state’s future,” said Equality California Interim Executive Director Jim Carroll. “In a time of highly limited resources it is paramount that decision makers have relevant data to allocate those resources to achieve the greatest good. The lack of data about LGBT people and families continues to have a detrimental impact on the health of millions of people, particularly our most vulnerable community members whose unique health needs are invisible and literally uncounted in the state systems of care.”

Equality California Institute has launched a variety of initiatives to address LGBT community health needs, including the LGBT Health and Human Services Network, which focuses on LGBT inclusive health data and the Reducing Disparities Project, to assess the mental wellness needs of LGBT communities across the state.

Read the report.

Media Contact:

NCLR Communications Director Erik Olvera | Office: 415.392.6257 x324 |

NCLR Applauds the Reintroduction of the Fully Inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act

March 30, 2011

(San Francisco, CA, March 30, 2011)—Today, U.S. Representative Barney Frank, D-Mass., announced that he will reintroduce the fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would prohibit most employers across the country from discriminating against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender workers. The bill, known as ENDA, would make it illegal under federal law for employers with at least 15 employees to discriminate against, harass, or fire anyone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Surveys show that Americans overwhelmingly support workplace protections for LGBT people, and many states have enacted LGBT workplace non-discrimination laws. But Congress has lagged behind. As a result, employees and job applicants in more than half the country have no protection against discrimination based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.

Frank, the longest-serving openly gay member of Congress, has pledged to work with other bill sponsors and the LGBT community and allies to build congressional support for the bill.

President Obama has voiced strong support for ENDA and urged Congress to pass it.

A Statement by NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell:

“For far too long, LGBT people have had to endure the stress and uncertainty of knowing they can be fired at any time simply because of who they are. Enough is enough, and it’s time that the lawmakers we voted into office pass the fully inclusive ENDA and put an end to this appalling injustice. We have to ensure that every member of Congress hears from LGBT people every day about the stress and indignity of not having basic workplace protections. We can’t let a single one of these elected officials off the hook. They have a duty to represent all Americans, and that includes LGBT people.”

Media Contact:

NCLR Communications Director Erik Olvera | Office: 415.392.6257 x324 |

NCLR Responds to Ninth Circuit Decision to Deny the Motion to Lift the Stay of Decision Striking Down Proposition 8

March 23, 2011

(San Francisco, CA, March 23, 2011)—Today, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied the plaintiffs’ motion to lift the stay in the case challenging Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot measure that stripped the freedom to marry from same-sex couples in California. That ruling means that the district’s court decision striking down Prop 8 remains on hold, and same-sex couples in California will be denied the right to marry while the litigation continues.

U.S. District Court Judge Vaughan Walker issued a decision in August 2010 holding that Prop 8 is unconstitutional. Before that ruling took effect, however, the Ninth Circuit put it on hold by issuing a “stay” while the decision is appealed.  At the same time, the Ninth Circuit put the case on a fast track. The plaintiffs who are challenging Prop 8 filed a motion last month asking the Ninth Circuit to lift the stay because the Ninth Circuit has asked the California Supreme Court to rule on an issue related to the case, thereby causing significant additional delay, and because same-sex couples in California suffer harm every day they are denied the right to marry. The National Center for Lesbian Rights, Equality California, Lambda Legal, and ACLU Foundation of Northern California filed an amicus brief with the Ninth Circuit in support of lifting the stay. The Ninth Circuit rejected that request in a very short opinion issued this morning.

A Statement by NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter:

“We are deeply disappointed by the court’s failure to lift the stay. A federal court held that Prop 8 is unconstitutional and that its continued enforcement causes serious harm to same-sex couples and their children. Without explanation, the Ninth Circuit’s ruling today allows that harm to continue. Every day that Prop 8 remains in effect, the state of California is harming families, sending a devastating message to LGBT youth, and perpetuating violence and discrimination against LGBT people.”

Media Contact:

NCLR Communications Director Erik Olvera | Office: 415.392.6257 x324 |


In Need of Respect: Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Youth Face Serious Abuse in Group Care Facilities

March 17, 2011

By Jody Marksamer, Esq.
NCLR Youth Project Director

Being a teenager in the juvenile justice system is challenging for any young person,  but as Cyryna can attest, being transgender adds an additional layer of fear.

Cyryna, a transgender girl, experienced the dark reality that most people don’t talk about while being housed in a juvenile correction facility for boys, where she was the victim of verbal, physical, and sexual abuse by many of the boys she was housed with.

Some of her abuse was witnessed by, and sometimes encouraged by, the facility guards, who saw her gender identity as a choice rather than an expression of her true self. Not surprisingly, Cyryna (pronounced Serena) never filed an official grievance about the harassment she endured, fearing that the guards would not help her and that the abuse would only get worse. Ultimately, Cyryna was left feeling isolated and defenseless in a place that should have provided her safety.

Transgender youth across the country face significant challenges in their day-to-day lives. Those challenges are multiplied for transgender youth who are living out of their homes in group care settings. Unfortunately, many youth service providers do not know how to provide transgender youth with competent, affirming care. Too often, providers even view transgender youth with hostility.

The lack of information and misinformation about people who are transgender or gender non-conforming causes many people—including those who work directly with youth in schools, community groups, foster care, and the juvenile justice system— to discriminate against these young people and violate their rights.

In 2004, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and the Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP) began noticing an increasing volume of legal inquiries from transgender and gender non-conforming youth in foster care and juvenile justice facilities. One such inquiry came from Mariah, a transgender girl, who was arrested and sent to juvenile detention. While there, the facility staff tried to force her to look like a boy.  They ripped her long weave from her hair, forced her to get a boy’s haircut, broke off her nails, prohibited her from wearing makeup, took away her bra and underwear, and forced her to wear male underwear and clothing.

NCLR and SRLP have spoken with many other teens who have endured similar abuses. Captain, a gender non-conforming youth, lived in a girls group home and was repeatedly reprimanded for his short hair cut and style of dress. Even his mannerisms got him into trouble. The staff would tell him he wasn’t “talking like a lady” or that he was being “too gentlemanly” when he opened doors for girls. Rosco, a transgender boy, was placed in isolation when he was honest about his male gender identity. The staff also forced him to wear girl’s clothes and refused to accept his male gender identity.

To help these youth, NCLR and SRLP teamed up to develop a comprehensive report that gives facility administrators the information to make effective policy decisions and adopt best practices for the treatment of transgender and gender non-conforming youth in their care. The report, A Place of Respect: A Guide for Group Care Facilities Serving Transgender and Gender Non-conforming Youth released today, March 17, 2011, helps facility staff understand the experiences and concerns of transgender and gender non-conforming youth and provides them the tools they need to create a safe and respectful space for all youth.

The report, which is the first of its kind, provides comprehensive solutions to problems that service providers may face, offering best practices that agencies can easily implement.  Additionally, it discusses the personal experiences of transgender youth, and provides information to help readers to better understand gender identity, gender non-conformity, and what it means to be transgender. The report also explains the legal requirements of each facility to treat transgender and gender non-conforming youth with respect and keep them safe.

Hopefully, through this report, and through the greater knowledge it provides for facility staff, youth like Cyryna, Captian, and Myrah will never have to endure such terrible and demeaning experiences, and they’ll be able to live their lives proudly and with respect.

Download the report now!

Read the press release.

Media Contact:

NCLR Communications Director Erik Olvera | Office: 415.392.6257 x324 |

NCLR Applauds Reintroduction of Bill to Repeal the Federal Defense of Marriage Act

March 16, 2011

(San Francisco, CA, March 16, 2011)—Today, members of Congress reintroduced the Respect for Marriage Act, a bill to repeal the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act,” or DOMA, the 1996 law that prohibits the federal government from recognizing the marriages of same-sex couples and excludes same-sex couples from all marriage-based protections under federal law.

Representatives Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Barney Frank (D-MA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Jared Polis (D-CO), David Cicilline (D-RI), and John Conyers (D-MI), along with more than 100 co-sponsors, are the lead authors of the Respect for Marriage Act in the House of Representatives. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) are the lead authors of a companion bill introduced today in the U.S. Senate.

The introduction of the legislation comes three weeks after Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Department of Justice would no longer defend DOMA’s denial of all federal benefits to married same-sex couples in court.

President Obama has also stated that the Defense of Marriage Act is discriminatory and unfair, and he has pledged to work with Congress to overturn it.

A Statement by NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell:

“This long overdue legislation will correct a shameful low-point in our nation’s history.  DOMA was passed in a moment of ugly anti-gay bigotry. Every day that it stays on the books, DOMA harms families, stigmatizes our relationships, and perpetuates a climate of hostility for all LGBT people.”

Watch Kate’s video statement.

Media Contact:

NCLR Communications Director Erik Olvera | Office: 415.392.6257 x324 |

“Seth’s Law” Proposed to Make a Safer School Environment for California Students

March 14, 2011

(San Francisco, CA, March 14, 2011)—Today, California Assemblyman Tom Ammiano will introduce a comprehensive bill that tackles school bullying by providing California schools with specific tools to prevent and address the pervasive problem in order to create a safe school environment for all students.

AB 9, also known as “Seth’s Law,” would ensure that every school in California implements updated anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies and programs that include actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, as well as race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, disability, and religion. It would also empower students and parents to know what their rights are, and how to advocate for them.

AB 9 is named “Seth’s Law” in memory of Seth Walsh, a 13 year-old gay student from Tehachapi, California, who took his own life in September 2010 after facing years of relentless anti-gay harassment at school that school officials effectively ignored.

“Seth was a wonderful, loving child, and I loved him for who he was,” said his mother Wendy Walsh. “I can’t bring my son back. But schools can make a difference today by taking bullying seriously when students and parents tell them about it. It’s time for change. We have to create better schools for everyone.”

Schools often do not have the tools or knowledge to adequately protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students and others from bullying, which remains a serious issue across California and the rest of the nation. Students, parents, and school employees often don’t know what the rules are or what to do if bullying occurs.

“As a former teacher, I know how important it is for our students to feel safe at school. Each day throughout California, LGBT youth experience harassment. I am proud to introduce this bill in honor of Seth Walsh, which will give schools the necessary tools to prevent any young person from being bullied, harassed or worse because of their sexual orientation or gender identity and expression,” said Ammiano.

The bill is co-sponsored by a coalition of organizations advancing LGBT equality and justice, including the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Equality California, the ACLU’s California Affiliates, and Gay-Straight Alliance Network.

“No child should fear going to school, and yet that is the daily reality for thousands of California students who face relentless harassment and bullying,” said National Center for Lesbian Rights Executive Director Kate Kendell. “It’s our responsibility to make sure schools are taking active steps to address this problem and using the tools that we know will work to create true change.  It is not enough to punish students who bully. We must create a school-wide culture of inclusion and respect for difference.”

Said Equality California Executive Director Geoff Kors: “Everyday in California, many students go to school fearful of another day of harassment and intimidation with no hope of a better tomorrow. Seth’s Law will give all students the tools to seek the help they need to keep them safe and make sure that educators combat bullying in our schools.”

“Public schools have tremendous power and responsibility to protect students from bullying and harassment,” said Elizabeth Gill, staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union. “Better school procedures and policies to prevent and address bullying will make a safer environment for students who are suffering, and can even save lives.”

In a recent national survey, nine out of 10 LGBT students reported being harassed at school. The problem persists in California as well, with LGBT students reporting significant harassment. The California Safe Schools Coalition reported  in 2010 that 42 percent of California students who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual and 62 percent who identify as transgender reported being harassed at least once based on gender non-conformity.

What’s more, young people often face bullying and harassment based on what their peers perceive to be their sexual orientation, regardless of whether they identify as being LGBT. According to the most recent California Healthy Kids Survey 12 percent of 7th graders and 10 percent of 9th graders reported being harassed based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation.

The consequences of bullying and harassment can include falling grades, depression, and risk of suicide. LGBT youth are three times as likely to seriously consider suicide as heterosexual youth.

“Bullying can have serious and tragic consequences, particularly for students who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender,” said Carolyn Laub, Executive Director of the Gay-Straight Alliance Network. “We must take pro-active steps to ensure that California’s schools are safe for every student. Seth’s Law will help schools protect students, and prevent and respond to bullying before a tragedy occurs.”

Under Seth’s Law, every school district in California would:

  • Create strong and clear anti-harassment policies and programs, if they don’t have them already.
  • Have a system in place to ensure that all reports of harassment are taken seriously, addressed quickly, and that parents and students understand the process of making these complaints.
  • Explain the harmful impact of bullying and discrimination to students and staff.
  • Provide ongoing professional development for teachers, school counselors and administrators about identifying and stopping harassment and discrimination and creating a school-wide culture of inclusion and respect for difference.


Media Contact:

NCLR Communications Director Erik Olvera | Office: 415.392.6257 x324 |

LGBT Groups Condemn Anti-Muslim Hearings in the U.S. House of Representatives

March 11, 2011

(San Francisco, CA, March 11, 2011)—Today, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Equality California, National Center for Transgender Equality, Transgender Law Center, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, and Lambda Legal  join together to express outrage over U.S. Representative Peter King’s ongoing “Muslim Radicalization” hearings—the first of which was held yesterday—in the House of Representatives.

The groups join Americans from many diverse backgrounds to condemn the scapegoating of Muslim people. As Floyd Mori from the Japanese American Citizens League has said, “We feel very strongly that it does point back to the time when just because we were of Japanese ancestry, people looked upon us with hate and terror.” The internment of Japanese Americans—one of our nation’s most shameful episodes—resulted from a similar attempt to cast an entire group of citizens as “un-American” and deny them their civil rights. As groups representing lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people of all faiths, races, national origins, and backgrounds, the organizations condemn these hearings, and urge our elected representatives to stand fast against anyone who would exclude any group from the American family.

“Representative King’s hearings only fuel the fires of unjust hatred and discrimination that Muslim, Arab, and Middle Eastern Americans of all sexual orientations and gender identities already face on a daily basis,” said National Center for Lesbian Rights Executive Director Kate Kendell. “As members of the LGBT community, which continues to fight for our equality and justice, we stand in solidarity with the growing chorus of voices condemning these shameful hearings and calling for an end to the politics of irrationality and fear.”

LGBT Americans are no stranger to this type of scapegoating.  In the 1950s, Joe McCarthy targeted LGBT people, and sought to portray them as dangerous and un-American.  In a report titled “Employment of Homosexuals and Other Sex Perverts in the U.S. Government,” a group of United States Senators concluded that “homosexuals and other sex perverts are not proper persons to be employed in Government” because “they are generally unsuitable, and they constitute security risks.”  Those hearings—like the “Muslim Radicalization” hearings—heard testimony from supposed experts that reinforced these prejudices.  In the years that followed, thousands of LGBT civil service employees were harassed, terrorized, or fired from their jobs.

“Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people know all too well what it means to be singled out, scapegoated, and persecuted simply because of who they are,” said Geoff Kors, Executive Director for Equality California. “The targeting of Muslim Americans is deplorable. It has no place in society and is un-American, un-democratic and unjust. We stand in strong solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters and condemn the marginalization of any individuals or groups based on age, religion, creed, race, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity and expression.”

Said Transgender Law Center Executive Director Masen Davis: “As minorities within the U.S. who are greatly underrepresented in government, our struggles for equality are all connected. All LGBT people, of all races and religions, must step forward to join other fair-minded people in creating a world where discrimination against Muslim, Arab, and Middle Eastern-Americans is no longer acceptable, in which we transcend ignorance and bigotry. As advocates who use the legal system to make positive change, it is deeply concerning and distressing to see government hearings twisted for such an unjust purpose.”

Added Lambda Legal Executive Director Kevin Cathcart: “Every American, regardless of ethnicity, religious belief or sexual orientation, should be asking ‘where does this lead?’ We’ve all been down this road before, most notably during World War Two and the Cold War, with tragic consequences for tens of thousands of American citizens. Singling any group out as a whole because of a suspected lack of loyalty on the part of a few of its members is wrong; doing it when the internment of Japanese-Americans and the spectacle of the McCarthy witch trials are still within living memory is simply repugnant.”