NCLR Responds to King & Spalding Withdrawal from Defending the Defense of Marriage Act

April 25, 2011

(San Francisco, CA, April 25, 2011)—Today, King & Spalding LLP, the law firm hired earlier this month by the House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group to defend the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, announced it is withdrawing its representation because the vetting process was “inadequate.” The move prompted the lead King & Spalding lawyer in the case, Paul Clement, to resign from his position at King & Spalding.

A Statement by NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell:

“The Defense of Marriage Act is indefensible and King & Spalding’s withdrawal from its defense is a clear illustration that on occasion a law is so repellent and contrary to our values and ideals, no self-respecting lawyer or law firm can defend it. DOMA does not deserve a lawyer. The Sixth Amendment guarantee of the right to counsel applies to individuals in criminal cases. That critical right assures that when individuals face a loss of liberty through imprisonment, they are entitled to an attorney to argue their defense.  But this guarantee has no application to unjust laws. The withdrawal of King & Spalding is a critical tipping point in the legal fight to win freedom and equality for LGBT people.  It is now clear that no law firm deserving of the respect and support of the mainstream legal and political community will stand on the side of discrimination. We applaud the decision to withdraw and mark this day as a landmark moment in the history of our nation’s commitment to realizing the democratic ideal of equality under the law.”

Media Contact:

NCLR Communications Director Erik Olvera | Office: 415.392.6257 x324 |

Uniting American Families Act Introduced in both Chambers of Congress

April 14, 2011

(Washington D.C, April 14, 2011)—Today, Congress members in both the upper and lower chambers introduced the Uniting American Families Act of 2011, which would grant United States citizens and lawful permanent residents the right to sponsor their same-sex permanent partners to immigrate into the country.

Representative Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., introduced the bill in the House, where it has more than 90 co-sponsors. Senator Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., introduced it in the Senate, where it has more than a dozen co-sponsors.

Statement by NCLR Federal Policy Director Maya Rupert:

“Committed same-sex bi-national couples are being forced to make the unconscionable choice between being forced into exile or being split apart by discriminatory immigration laws. Our immigration policy should aim to keep families together, not tear them apart. We will fight for the passage of UAFA, and for broad and humane immigration reform that ensures equal respect and dignity for all families.”

Media Contact:

NCLR Communications Director Erik Olvera | Office: 415.392.6257 x324 |

NCLR Applauds Senate Introduction of Fully Inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act

April 14, 2011

(San Francisco, CA, April 14, 2011)—Today, U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., Mark Kirk, R-Ill., Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, announced that they introduced 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 due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. While surveys show that over 60 percent of Americans overwhelmingly support workplace protections for LGBT people, it still remains legal in more than half the country for employees and job applicants to be discriminated against based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Last week, U.S. Representative Barney Frank, D-Mass., the longest-serving openly gay member of Congress, introduced ENDA in the House, and pledged to work to build congressional support for the bill.

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

Statement by NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell:

“Congress has waited far too long to pass an inclusive bill that would provide basic workplace protections for LGBT people, and we must fight for this legislation’s passage. We don’t have the luxury of waiting any longer—too many people are at risk, too many people are being discriminated against each day, and too many people need these basic workplace protections. We must hold our elected officials accountable to their duty of protecting each and every single one of us until a fully-inclusive ENDA is signed into law.”

Media Contact:

NCLR Communications Director Erik Olvera | Office: 415.392.6257 x324 |

Seth’s Law Passes Key California Legislative Committee

April 13, 2011

(San Francisco, CA, April 13, 2011)—Today the California Assembly Education Committee passed Seth’s Law in a 7-3 vote. AB 9, also known as Seth’s Law, is a comprehensive bill that addresses 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.

The bill is named “Seth’s Law” in memory of Seth Walsh, a 13 year-old gay student from Tehachapi, California, who took his life in September 2010, after facing years of relentless anti-gay harassment at school. Wendy Walsh, Seth’s mother, provided powerful testimony in support of the bill today.

“I can’t bring my son back,” said Wendy Walsh. “But the California legislature can make a difference today to protect young people across our state just like Seth, who are or are thought to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Schools need to take harassment and bullying seriously when parents or students tell them about it, and when they see it and hear it on the school campus.”

The bill was authored by Assemblymember Tom Ammiano and 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.

“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. Seth’s Law 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.

AB 9 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.

“Children should never experience fear each time they walk onto their school campuses, dreading harassment and bullying by others—yet, this is the reality for thousands of kids,” said National Center for Lesbian Rights Executive Director Kate Kendell. “Schools should be safe environments for children, and everyone should look forward to the day that Seth’s Law goes into effect, providing educators and parents the tools they need to establish a school-wide culture of respect.”

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.

“We thank Wendy Walsh for her courageous advocacy to make schools safer for all young people,” said Equality California Interim Executive Director Jim Carroll. “No child should ever fear for their safety at school simply because of who they are. Seth’s Law will ensure that all students and school officials have the knowledge and tools they need to protect against bullying, harassment, assault and intimidation. We commend the legislators who supported this vital piece of legislation.”

GSA Network reviewed the websites of every school district in California and found that only 34 percent post their Student Non-Discrimination Policy. Of those, only 84 percent include sexual orientation and only 4 percent include gender identity and gender expression. Furthermore, only 24 percent of school district websites in California provide information for students and parents on where and how to file a complaint.

“Public schools have tremendous power and responsibility to protect students from bullying and harassment,” said Elizabeth Gill, Staff Attorney with the California Affiliates of 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 more likely than their heterosexual peers to seriously consider suicide.

Under Seth’s Law, every school district in the state 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.

“Seth’s Law will ensure that students know their rights and schools understand their obligations to project youth from bullying and harassment,” said Gay-Straight Alliance Network Executive Director Carolyn Laub. “Student activists in Gay-Straight Alliance clubs across the state are working hard to make their schools safer for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students and lawmakers owe it to them to do their part by supporting Seth’s Law.”

Media Contact:

NCLR Communications Director Erik Olvera | Office: 415.392.6257 x324 |

NCLR Applauds HUD’s LGBT-Inclusive “Live Free” Campaign

April 8, 2011

(Washington, D.C. April 8, 2011)—The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) this month launched an innovative multi-media campaign to raise awareness about housing discrimination against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community.

The yearlong campaign, called “Live Free” includes images of LGBT people in online and print advertisements, with the headline: “Should Gender Stereotypes Influence Where You live?  Learn More.” Since President Obama took office, HUD has taken a number significant steps  to ensure that LGBT people have equal access to fair housing and HUD services and programs.

In February 2011, HUD issued a proposed rule that will provide equal access for LGBT people and families to a number of HUD programs and services. NCLR has repeatedly partnered with HUD to assist with this work.  Most recently, NCLR was the lead drafter for comments submitted by a coalition of over 30 groups to provide comments on the proposed new rule.

A Statement by NCLR Federal Policy Director Maya Rupert:

“The Live Free campaign sends a powerful message that housing discrimination against the LGBT community is wrong and deserves national attention.  We are particularly excited to see the campaign reflect the diversity of the LGBT community. Studies have shown that LGBT people of color are disproportionately targeted for housing discrimination, and we applaud HUD for its tremendous leadership in reaching out to LGBT people of color in this groundbreaking campaign.”

Media Contact:

NCLR Communications Director Erik Olvera | Office: 415.392.6257 x324 |

New Report Shows Long-Term Care Facilities Aren’t Safe for LGBT Elders

April 5, 2011

By Daniel Redman, Esq.
NCLR Elder Law Fellow

Without traditional support systems in place, many lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender elders end up relying on nursing homes or other institutions providing long-term care. Today, the National Senior Citizens Law Center—along with the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Lambda Legal, National Center for Transgender Equality, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE)—released a report showing that LGBT elders are often not safe in these facilities. Nearly eight hundred LGBT elders, service-providers, friends, and family of LGBT elders from across the country responded to the survey.

The numbers are disturbing. Nearly nine in ten said that they thought long-term care staff would discriminate against someone who came out in a facility. Eight in ten responded that they would expect mistreatment or bullying from other nursing home residents.  One in ten reported that nursing home staff had disregarded a medical power of attorney when it was assigned to a resident’s partner. Transgender elders, in particular, reported that they experienced isolation and staff refusal to recognize their gender identity.

This is a wake up call not only to long-term care providers, but also to the LGBT community as a whole. Contact NCLR, your local SAGE affiliate, your town’s LGBT community center, or your state’s equality federation organization to find out how you can help make long-term care facilities safer for all of us.

Read more about the report. Survey results, comments and personal videos from LGBT older adults can be found, as well as profiles of the authors, at

LGBT Elders Raise Serious Fears about Long-Term Care Facilities

April 5, 2011

(San Francisco, CA, April 5, 2011)—A majority of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) older adults who answered a national online survey believe that staff of long-term care facilities would discriminate against an LGBT elder who was open about his or her sexual orientation, and more than half believe that staff or other residents would abuse or neglect an LGBT elder.

Released today, the groundbreaking report—LGBT Older Adults in Long-Term Care Facilities: Stories from the Field—utilizes survey results for the first glimpse into some of the issues faced by LGBT older adults in long-term care facilities. Of the 769 individuals who completed the survey, 328 people reported 853 instances of mistreatment in such facilities.

The survey, conducted from October 2009 through June 2010, did not use a representative or scientific sample, but includes hundreds of personal comments offered by the respondents, ranging from reports of staff harassment to staff refusals to provide basic services or care. Of the 769 individuals who completed the survey, 284 identified themselves as LGBT older adults. Others said they were family members, friends, social service providers, legal services providers, or other interested individuals.

The survey, website, and the report were prepared by the National Senior Citizens Law Center in collaboration with Lambda Legal, National Center for Lesbian Rights, National Center for Transgender Equality, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE).

“Administrators and staff members at long-term care facilities should see this report as a wake-up call,” said National Center for Lesbian Rights Elder Law Project Fellow Daniel Redman, Esq. “An extraordinary 89 percent of respondents—from across the country, from a variety of backgrounds—assert that LGBT people cannot come out in a nursing home without risking their safety. Better policies, more comprehensive training, and an aggressive litigation strategy are all needed to bring the nursing home industry into the 21st century. As the report asserts, ‘Good care is possible.’ By following the report’s recommendations and taking affirmative steps to make facilities LGBT-inclusive, long-term care facilities can do a lot to make their services welcoming to all seniors.”

Said National Senior Citizens Law Center Executive Director Paul Nathanson: “Our hope is that this report provokes thought, raises critical questions, and compels future systematic research that can be used to dive deeper into the issues raised by these findings and the many personal stories we received.”

Some of the comments point to possible violations of federal nursing home law, while others signify that far more training and awareness by staff is needed, in addition to enhanced consumer awareness. The report also points to a wide array of policy remedies that could be enacted to support LGBT elders better and improve the facilities where they reside. The report’s recommendations are directed toward policymakers as well as long-term care providers.

“In SAGE’s experience, LGBT older adults often fear that they will encounter providers who might be uncomfortable with, or even hostile, towards them, untrained to work with them or unaware that they even exist,” said SAGE Executive Director Michael Adams. “Even when providers are supportive, fear of discrimination keeps many LGBT elders in the closet and prevents them from seeking the care they need. This speaks to a great need for training on cultural competency and LGBT aging issues, available through outlets such as the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging, for staff at long-term care facilities.”

Said Laurie Young, a specialist on aging and the Director of Public Policy & Government Affairs at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force: “Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender elders remain a highly vulnerable and largely invisible aging population. We know that invisibility leads to greater social isolation, which can lead to increased vulnerability in many areas, such as the discrimination faced in long-term care institutions. This report highlights the issues faced by LGBT older adults in long-term care facilities and offers concrete recommendations on how aging advocates, policy makers, providers and social service agencies can meet them.”

Added Lambda Legal Deputy Legal Director Hayley Gorenberg: “Unfortunately, we are hearing far too frequently, all across the country, from LGBT seniors who are forced into isolation for fear of being mistreated if they are out.  And from older LGBT couples who are forced back in the closet when one of them is in long-term care facilities. This report should shock our nation into action. As we continue to make great strides for equality, we cannot leave our elders behind.”

Survey results, comments and personal videos from LGBT older adults can be found, as well as profiles of the authors, at

Media Contact:

NCLR Communications Director Erik Olvera | Office: 415.392.6257 x324 |