Groundbreaking Meeting Addressing Issues Facing LGBT Elders of Color

July 27, 2012

On Thursday, July 26th, NCLR’s Elder Law Project and the San Francisco Human Rights Commission organized a groundbreaking meeting that brought together representatives from nearly two-dozen government agencies and organizations to discuss key issues and obstacles that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender elders of color face each day.

LGBT elders of color not only face the ageism, homophobia, and transphobia that all LGBT elders face, but also discrimination based on race, religion, and national origin. San Francisco Supervisors Christine Olague and Scott Wiener opened the meeting and shared important information about the newly formed San Francisco LGBT Elder Task Force, which is now accepting applications.

For more on the particular issues facing African-American LGBT elders, check out this article from Aging Today co-written by NCLR attorney Daniel Redman and DC-based scholar and activist Imani Woody.

Read the press release.

Media Contact: NCLR Communications Director Erik Olvera | Office: 415.392.6257 x324 |

NCLR Elder Law Project, San Francisco Human Rights Commission Co-Host Groundbreaking Meeting Addressing Issues Facing LGBTQ Elders of Color

July 27, 2012

(San Francisco, July 27, 2012)—Yesterday, the National Center for Lesbian Rights Elder Law Project and the San Francisco Human Rights Commission co-hosted “Setting the Agenda: Issues Facing LGBTQ Elders of Color,” a groundbreaking meeting that brought together representatives from nearly two dozen government agencies and organizations to discuss key issues and obstacles facing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer elders of color.

The goal of the event was to provide a forum for LGBTQ elders of color to talk about their experiences and issues in advance of the appointment of 15 members to the newly formed San Francisco LGBT Elder Task Force. The Board of Supervisors will appoint the members to the Task Force in September. The Task Force will be empowered to make recommendations directly to the Board on housing, social services, legal equity, research and demographics, and building intergenerational bridges within the LGBTQ community.

More than 70 people attended the meeting, including San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener, Supervisor Christine Olague, Human Rights Commissioner Michael Pappas, Department of Aging and Adult Services Deputy Director Shireen McSpadden, and Tom Nolan, who will oversee the Task Force, and who is the former executive director of Project Open Hand, a major elder service provider organization. Many elders, activists, and service providers also participated.

Organizers will compile the information gathered into a report that will be submitted to the Board of Supervisors, the Human Rights Commission, and the members of the Task Force.

“This event was truly historic, and we are thrilled to partner with the Human Rights Commission on this effort,” said NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell. “Supervisors Wiener, Campos, and Olague have done a great service by sponsoring legislation to establish a Task Force on LGBT elder issues in San Francisco. With this meeting, NCLR is helping to ensure that the issues affecting LGBTQ elders of color will be at the top of the new Task Force’s agenda when it meets this fall.”

Media Contact: NCLR Communications Director Erik Olvera | Office: 415.392.6257 x324 |

Obama Administration Takes New Steps to Protect Children of LGBT Federal Workers

July 25, 2012

By Ashland Johnson
NCLR Policy Counsel

Last week, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) took a major step towards ensuring family equality for its federal employees. In the Administration’s continued efforts to provide equal benefits to LGBT federal employees, OPM proposed a rule that will extend important benefits to children of same-sex couples.

OPM’s proposed rule will allow federal employees who receive health care insurance though the federal government to cover their partner’s children even if the partner is not a legal parent. After a 60 day comment period, OPM will move to finalize and then publish the final regulation, which will become effective 30 days after it is issued. Once the rule goes into effect, children of same-sex partners will be eligible to receive coverage under their parent’s federal health, dental, and vision plans. This is a major shift from the current practice, which allows coverage for a partner’s child only if the employee legally adopted the partner’s child or is otherwise a legal parent.

Given the systemic legal barriers that many LGBT families face, this rule will be a major victory for LGBT family equality. Many of the children of same sex couples live in states that do not legally recognize their parents’ relationship to each other or their parents’ relationship to their children. Consequently, these children have far fewer protections than children of different-sex parents, especially in terms of benefit-eligibility. OPM’s proposed rule will rectify this inequity for LGBT federal workers and their families. These parents will no longer have to worry about their children being denied health coverage because their parents are a same sex couple.

While this rule is indeed a major step in the right direction, the effort to ensure the full protection of LGBT federal employees and their families is far from over. When enacted, OPM’s rule will only extend coverage to the children of federal employees in same sex relationships. Their partners, however, will remain uncovered. This is why NCLR will continue to encourage Congress to enact comprehensive legislation, such as Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act, to ensure that same-sex partners of federal employees are eligible for a broader range of federal benefits. We will also continue to work with the Administration in their efforts to provide their federal LGBT employees with equal access to benefits and protections.

Media Contact: NCLR Communications Director Erik Olvera | Office: 415.392.6257 x324 |

LGBT Legal Groups Support Undocumented Law Graduate, Urge California Supreme Court to Grant Law License

July 18, 2012

(San Francisco, CA, July 18, 2012)—Today, the National Center for Lesbian Rights filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of itself and Lambda Legal urging the California Supreme Court to grant the application of a California law school graduate who is also an undocumented immigrant to become a licensed attorney in California. The brief was filed in support of Sergio C. Garcia’s application to become a member of the State Bar of California. The Board of Examiners of the California State Bar has already determined that Mr. Garcia is qualified and should be admitted to the State Bar.

Garcia was born in 1977 and brought to the United States by his parents when he was just 17 months old. His family applied for an immigrant visa on his behalf in 1994, and he has been waiting in an undocumented status for nearly 18 years for the visa to become available. Garcia went to college and law school and passed the California bar examination. The Committee of Bar Examiners concluded that he had met all the requirements for admission as a licensed attorney and recommended that the California Supreme Court, which controls attorney licensing in the state, admit him to practice before the California courts.

Because it had not previously considered whether an undocumented person may be admitted as an attorney, the California Supreme Court requested briefing concerning whether federal or state law prohibits Garcia from obtaining a license to practice law. Both Garcia and the Committee of Bar Examiners of the State Bar of California filed briefs urging the Court to admit Garcia, citing the Court’s 1973 decision permitting legal residents who are not United States citizens to become licensed attorneys in California.

“The California Supreme Court should affirm the State Bar’s determination that Mr. Garcia should be licensed to practice law,” said NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter. “Being undocumented has no more bearing on a person’s moral character or fitness to be a lawyer than a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Penalizing qualified individuals who are a vital part of our society and want nothing more than to contribute to California’s progress is discriminatory, short-sighted, and wrong. We salute Mr. Garcia for his willingness to be the public face of this issue and for showing such great courage and perseverance.”

Shelbi Day, Staff Attorney at Lambda Legal’s Western Regional Office in Los Angeles, added, “Bias is bias. Reasons formerly used to exclude LGBT people from practicing law and pursuing other professions that have since been discredited and renounced should not be a basis for discriminating against immigrants like Mr. Garcia.”

The brief filed by NCLR and Lambda Legal focuses on the historical similarities between Garcia’s case and the denial of professional licenses to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. The brief observes that the past denial of bar membership and other professional licenses to LGBT individuals was rooted in biases and stereotypes that are similar in many ways to attitudes faced by undocumented people today, such as the idea that individuals in both groups are criminals or do not share the same moral values as other Americans. The brief argues that just as these rationales for denying professional licenses to LGBT people are no longer accepted today, the Supreme Court should reject any such arguments for preventing an undocumented person from obtaining a law license.

Read the brief.

Media Contact: NCLR Communications Director Erik Olvera | Office: 415.392.6257 x324 |


Family Protection Project Director Cathy Sakimura Named as One of this Year’s Best LGBT Lawyers Under 40

July 18, 2012

(San Francisco, CA, July 18, 2012)—The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) is proud to announce that Cathy Sakimura, NCLR’s Family Protection Project Director, was named one of this year’s Best Lawyers under 40 by the National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Bar Association.

Since joining NCLR in 2006, Sakimura has worked to improve access to family law services for low-income LGBT parents and their children, with a focus on increasing comprehensive and culturally competent services to families of color. Sakimura’s recent victories include winning adoption rights for a lesbian mother whose petition to adopt was previously rejected by a Family Court in Hawaii, and co-counseling one of the first successful custody cases on behalf of the parent of a transgender child.

Sakimura’s recent precedent-setting court decisions include Chatterjee v. King, in which the New Mexico Supreme Court established crucial new protections for non-biological mothers raising children with a same-sex partner, and E.C. v. J.V., in which California’s 3rd District Court of Appeal affirmed that legal recognition of parentage is dependent upon the relationship between parent and child and not upon sexual orientation, gender, or marital status.

The LGBT Bar Association established the annual Best LGBT Lawyers under 40 award to recognize outstanding lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender legal professionals under the age of 40 who have distinguished themselves in their field and demonstrated a profound commitment to LGBT equality.

Media Contact: NCLR Communications Director Erik Olvera | Office: 415.392.6257 x324 |

DREAMers Get Clarification on Applying for Deferred Action

July 13, 2012

By NCLR Immigration Project Director Noemi Calonje
and NCLR Summer Law Clerk Olga Tomchin

Noemi CalonjeFor the first time since President Obama’s momentous announcement that undocumented youth will now be protected from deportation and granted work permits, the Department of Homeland Security has shed more light on the program’s implementation. This “deferred action” policy will take away some of the fear of deportation for many LGBTQ undocumented youth who are impacted by homophobic and unfair immigration laws.

One of NCLR’s Immigration Project clients, Jaime*, is a young gay man who was born in Mexico and has lived in California since he was a small child. He’s a college student in a committed relationship with a U.S. citizen. Because of Proposition 8, Jaime and his partner cannot legally marry in California. Even if they were legally married, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) would block Jaime’s partner from sponsoring him for permanent residence. If Jaime were to return to Mexico, he would be at high risk of homophobic violence and harassment. But he cannot even apply for asylum because U.S. immigration law says that immigrants can only apply for asylum within one year of entering into the U.S.

While requests for deferred action may not yet be submitted, undocumented youth should begin collecting necessary documentation to prove that they (1) were under the age of thirty-one on June 15, 2012, (2) entered the U.S. when they were younger than sixteen, (3) have been continuously in the U.S. for at least five years as of June 15, 2012, (4) are in school, have a GED/high school diploma, or are an honorably discharged veteran, and (5) have not been convicted of a felony, serious misdemeanor, or three or more minor misdemeanors. The USCIS website provides updated official information on the application process, and youth thinking of applying for deferred action should first consult with a reputable immigration lawyer.

This new policy was made possible through the tireless activism and courage of undocumented youth, including many LGBTQ youth in organizations such as DreamActivist’s LGBTQ Student Caucus, United We Dream’s Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project, the Campaign for an American DREAM, CHIRLA, and the National Immigrant Youth Alliance’s UndocuQueer project.

Thanks to President Obama and countless young activists, Jaime and thousands of other LGBTQ undocumented youth like him will be protected from being torn away from their partners, lives, and homes as we fight for the repeal of DOMA, the passage of the DREAM Act, and comprehensive immigration reform.

*Not his real name

Media Contact: NCLR Communications Director Erik Olvera | Office: 415.392.6257 x324 |

Transgender Non-Discrimination Law Now in Effect in Massachusetts!

July 3, 2012

Connie UtadaBy Connie Utada
NCLR State Legislative Director

It’s hard to believe that many people think the law of the land already protects LGBT people from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. In reality, not only are there no federal protections regarding employment discrimination for the LGBT community, only 16 states and the District of Columbia have laws that explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Without these crucial protections, the transgender community remains especially vulnerable to discrimination. According to a national survey on transgender discrimination, 90% of the respondents reported experiencing harassment, mistreatment, or discrimination on the job, or took actions like hiding their transgender identity to avoid it. The report also noted that an alarming 47% responded that they had either been fired, not hired, or denied a promotion because of being transgender or gender nonconforming. Additionally, 71% attempted to avoid discrimination by hiding their gender identity or delaying gender transition.

So it’s no small achievement that the Massachusetts Transgender Equal Rights Act went into effect on July 1, 2012. This monumental victory was only possible because of the work of countless advocates in Massachusetts, like the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition (MTPC) worked tirelessly to get this bill put into effect after it was first introduced five years ago.

According to Gunner Scott, Executive Director of MTPC, the bill has already made a difference in the lives of Massachusetts’ transgender community. Since its passage, discrimination complaints have almost quadrupled. This mirrors the trend for the 165 cities and counties in the country that have passed non-discrimination ordinances that include gender identity.  Complaints tend to rise following implementation of non-discrimination policies because individuals feel empowered and now have a mechanism to challenge unfair workplace discrimination.

We applaud this tremendous victory for the residents of Massachusetts and congratulate all of those individuals who fought to get this law passed.  We hope that the continued passage of state protections for the LGBT community will urge the federal government to pass similar legislation.

Media Contact: NCLR Communications Director Erik Olvera | Office: 415.392.6257 x324 |