NCLR Files Federal Lawsuit Against Indianapolis Public Schools For Failing to Protect Gay Student

August 31, 2012

(Indianapolis, IN, August 31, 2012)—Today, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and the law firms of Kirkland & Ellis LLP and Waples & Hanger filed a federal lawsuit challenging Indianapolis Public Schools’ (IPS) discriminatory treatment and failure to protect an openly gay former student who faced severe and relentless harassment at Arsenal Technical High School (Tech) throughout the 2011-2012 school year. Rather than address the constant harassment and abuse suffered by 17-year-old Dynasty Young, school administrators blamed the harassment on Young’s gender nonconforming clothes and “flamboyant” behavior. Ultimately, IPS expelled Dynasty instead of taking effective measures to protect him from the harassment.

Before moving to Indianapolis in 2011, Dynasty was a happy, outgoing student who loved school and never had any major problems. But immediately after beginning classes at Tech High School, he encountered constant abuse from students who harassed and threatened him because of his gender nonconformity and perceived sexual orientation. Students called Dynasty a “fag,” spat at him, and threw rocks and glass bottles at him.

Dynasty and his mother, Chelisa Grimes, repeatedly reported the harassment to Tech administrators, but the school administrators took no effective measures to protect him, and the abuse continued. Administrators, including Tech Principal Larry Yarrell, responded to the requests for help by blaming Dynasty for being gender non-conforming. In May 2012, Yarrell told the Indianapolis Star: “If you wear female apparel, then kids are kids and they’re going to say whatever it is that they want to say.”

As the 2011-2012 school year progressed, the harassment worsened, and Dynasty fell into depression. He was unable to eat properly, lost a great deal of weight, and dreaded going to school. Increasingly fearful for her son’s safety, Grimes gave her son a self-protection flashlight, a small device that emits a loud noise, a light, and a weak electric charge. On April 16, 2012, six students surrounded Dynasty to attack him. He held the device in the air and activated it. The noise caused the aggressors to leave without assaulting him. But instead of locating the students who had threatened to attack Dynasty, Tech administrators suspended Dynasty for trying to prevent the attack and later expelled him.

In addition to the physical and emotional harm he experienced as a result of the bullying and the discrimination he experienced from IPS administrators who refused to take any meaningful steps to protect him, Dynasty was unable to complete the spring semester of his 11th-grade year at Tech High School, and will need to make up any necessary credits to graduate on time in 2013. He has recently enrolled in Indianapolis Metropolitan High School, a charter school not affiliated with IPS, where he is taking extra classes in an effort to try graduate on schedule.

“All students should be able to get an education without fearing for their physical safety, and they should be able to rely on school administrators to protect them when abuse does occur,” said NCLR Senior Staff Attorney Christopher F. Stoll, one of the attorneys representing Dynasty and his mother. “It is outrageous that school officials who were entrusted with their students’ safety and education blamed Dynasty for the abuse he suffered, and eventually expelled him from school, instead of accepting their responsibility to protect him from harm.”

The lawsuit asserts claims for violations of federal civil rights law and the U.S. Constitution based on IPS’s deliberate indifference to the harassment and abuse Dynasty experienced and its discriminatory treatment of him based on his gender and sexual orientation.  The suit further alleges that IPS punished Dynasty and failed to address the harassment in part due to his failure to comply with Tech officials’ demands that he change his appearance and style of dress, in violation of his rights to freedom of expression and liberty under the First Amendment and the federal Due Process Clause.  The suit also challenges IPS’s failure to consider Dynasty’s appeal of his expulsion as required by its own internal procedures and the Constitution.

“I want to make sure no other student in the Indianapolis Public Schools ever has to go through the kind of abuse that I went through,” said Dynasty. “I am hoping this will get IPS to start treating kids like me with respect and really do something to protect their students.”

Grimes added: “It’s important to get justice for Dynasty for the damage that IPS did to him, but it’s even more important that IPS make some real changes in the way it deals with bullying and harassment. We hope IPS will be willing to sit down and talk with us soon about ways they can improve their policies and training so that kids like Dynasty can feel safe in IPS schools.  My son is a wonderful, sweet, talented young man.  He deserves a chance to attend school and learn without being terrorized by other students and told that the school will not protect him unless he changes who he is.”

Said Indianapolis attorney Richard A. Waples, the former legal director of the ACLU of Indiana, who also represents Mr. Young:  “It is important that someone steps forward to stand up for these students who are harassed and discriminated against. Too many of these kids feel no one is there for them and lose hope. We want to help put a stop to this type of harassment and get our schools to protect these children.”

Dynasty and Grimes are represented by the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Kirkland & Ellis LLP, and Waples & Hanger.

Read the complaint.

Media Contact: NCLR Communications Director Erik Olvera | Office: 415.365.1324 |

CA State Assembly Passes Landmark Bill to Protect LGBT Youth From Dangerous Psychological Abuse

August 28, 2012

(San Francisco, CA, August 28, 2012)—The California Assembly today voted 52 to 21 in favor of a bill that will protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth from dangerous and abusive treatments by mental health practitioners who falsely claim to be able change their sexual orientation or gender expression. Authored by Senator Ted Lieu, Senate Bill 1172 is co-sponsored by Equality California, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Gaylesta, Mental Health America of Northern California, Lambda Legal, and the Courage Campaign. The bill will return to the Senate for a vote to concur in amendments made in the Assembly before proceeding to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk.

This bill prohibits state-licensed mental health practitioners from engaging in abusive treatments that fraudulently claim to stop a young person from being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Some of the techniques used by these practitioners include the use of shame, verbal abuse, pornography, and even aversion training.  These practices are not only ineffective but extremely dangerous, and can lead to anxiety, depression, feelings of worthlessness, and even suicide. They have no scientific basis and have been rejected as ineffective and potentially harmful by medical, mental health, and child welfare organizations.

Ryan Kendall was subjected to these treatments by a licensed California therapist as a teenager and testified about his experiences during the 2010 Perry v. Brown legal challenge to Proposition 8. Earlier this year, Kendall told the California Legislature that this experience “destroyed my life and tore apart my family. In order to stop the therapy that misled my parents into believing that I could somehow be made straight, I was forced to run away from home, surrender myself to the local department of human services, and legally separate myself from my family.”

By the time Kendall was 16, the damage inflicted by these abusive treatments and being rejected by his family drove Kendall to the brink of suicide.  For the next ten years, he struggled with depression, periods of homelessness, and drug abuse.

It was only as an adult that Kendall, now 29, was able to get his life back on track. He is now a student at Columbia University in New York City, with plans to study law and become a civil rights attorney.

“I wish the law had protected me and my family from this abusive practice when I was a teenager,” said Kendall. “I am lucky that I survived, but I will never be able to recover the years I lost to feeling worthless and suicidal because a state-licensed therapist convinced my family that being gay is a mental illness and that who I am is shameful and wrong. These practices are child abuse, pure and simple, and I look forward to seeing Governor Brown sign this bill into law.”

In 2009, the American Psychological Association reviewed published reports about treatments that claim to change a person’s sexual orientation and issued a report concluding that there is no evidence that these practices work and that they are based on a false belief that being gay is an illness or disorder. The report also concluded that based on the harms reported by survivors these practices may pose serious health risks, including confusion, depression, guilt, helplessness, hopelessness, shame, social withdrawal, suicidality, substance abuse, stress, disappointment, self-blame, decreased self-esteem and authenticity to others, increased self-hatred, hostility and blame toward parents, feelings of anger and betrayal, loss of friends and potential romantic partners, problems with sexual and emotional intimacy, sexual dysfunction, high-risk sexual behaviors, a feeling of being dehumanized and untrue to self, a loss of faith, and a sense of having wasted time and resources.

Also in 2009, the American Psychological Association issued a statement advising “parents, guardians, young people, and their families to avoid sexual orientation change efforts that portray homosexuality as a mental illness or developmental disorder and to seek psychotherapy, social support, and educational services that provide accurate information on sexual orientation and sexuality, increase family and school support, and reduce rejection of sexual minority youth.”

“These dangerous, unscientific practices have caused too many young people to take their own lives or suffer lifelong harm after being told, falsely, that who they are and who they love is wrong, sick, or the result of personal or moral failure,” said Clarissa Filgioun, Equality California board president. “We applaud the legislature, and in particular, Senator Ted Lieu, for putting a stop to the psychological abuse these misguided practitioners have inflicted on vulnerable youth and families.”

Said therapist Ben Caldwell, chair of the legislative and advocacy committee for the California Division of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy: “California’s lawmakers should be praised for moving to protect children from the serious and lasting harm that comes from this illegitimate and unsupported ‘therapy.’   Senator Lieu and his staff have worked tirelessly for months with major professional associations to ensure that this bill would protect children from the damage that can result from so-called reparative therapy while ensuring that it would not interfere with appropriate, legitimate therapies that provide understanding and support to LGBT youth.  As a result of this process, numerous mental health organizations and associations have lined up to proudly support SB1172.”

Added NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell: “The time is long overdue for the legislature to take action to stop the severe harms being inflicted on young people and their families by these dangerous practices. These practices have been thoroughly discredited, and yet every day in California state-licensed therapists abuse their professional authority to deceive parents and wreck the lives of youth who deserve nothing but protection and support. This bill will literally save lives. California youth deserve protection from this terrible abuse.”

Senate Bill 1172 is supported by the National Association of Social Workers, California Chapter, the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, California Division, the American Psychoanalytic Association, and the California Board of Behavioral Sciences, among others.

Media Contact: NCLR Communications Director Erik Olvera | Office: 415.365.1324 |

CA Senate Approves Bill Ensuring Equal Access to Fertility Services for Same-Sex Couples

August 28, 2012

(San Francisco, CA, August 28, 2012)—The California State Senate today voted 26 to 10 to approve a bill that would ensure that women in same-sex relationships and single women can access fertility services on the same terms as women in different-sex relationships. Assembly Bill 2356, authored by Assemblymember Nancy Skinner and co-sponsored by Equality California (EQCA) and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), would allow women using known donors to access certain fertility procedures that are less expensive and more effective. Previously approved by the Assembly, the bill will proceed to the Governor’s desk after a routine vote in the Assembly to concur in amendments made in the Senate.

“I’m proud to author AB 2356, legislation that removes barriers to women seeking fertility services,” said Assemblymember Skinner. “AB 2356 will end the unequal access to fertility services that LGBT women or single women confront when trying to conceive.”

Said Equality California Board President Clarissa Filgioun: “Same-sex couples face many barriers in forming families, including unequal access to fertility healthcare. This unequal treatment has, heartbreakingly, denied many couples the opportunity to conceive a child of their own. AB 2356 helps to remedy that disparity, putting the joy of having a child and building a family within the reach of all loving families. We thank Assemblymember Skinner for her leadership on this bill and advocacy on behalf of thousands of same-sex couples and their families in California.”

Added National Center for Lesbian Rights Family Protection Project Director Cathy Sakimura: “Women using known donors are currently unable to access a more affordable and effective fertility procedure because donor testing laws don’t address this situation. This bill makes a small change in the law that will greatly benefit many families who would otherwise be unable to conceive.”

Increasingly, same-sex couples and single women are asking trusted friends to be donors to help them conceive a child. Currently, women in different-sex relationships who seek fertility services with a male partner are able to utilize fertility procedures that are less expensive and increase the chance of conception, while women who seek fertility services with a known donor who is not their partner are subject to time-consuming and costly repeat testing that decreases the chance of successful conception.  This bill will allow women who have unsuccessfully attempted to conceive at home with a known donor to access the same fertility services available to different-sex couples.

Media Contact: NCLR Communications Director Erik Olvera | Office: 415.365.1324 |

Geoff Kors Joins NCLR as Senior Legislative and Policy Strategist

August 28, 2012

(San Francisco, CA, August 28, 2012)—The National Center for Lesbian Rights is pleased to announce that Geoff Kors, a long-time leader in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender movement, has joined NCLR’s staff as Senior Legislative and Policy Strategist. Kors will work with NCLR State Legislative Director Connie Utada and NCLR Policy Director Maya Rupert to strengthen and expand the organization’s advocacy on national, state, and local legislative and policy initiatives.  

In this new role, Kors will provide strategic support to state and local groups, including helping groups identify opportunities to make legislative and policy advances, develop messaging and public education campaigns, work with coalition partners, and build political support for specific initiatives. He will also support NCLR’s development team, and work with NCLR’s national partners to advance federal legislation and policy to protect LGBT people. 

“Few people have had a greater positive impact on the lives of LGBT people and their families than Geoff,” said NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell. “We are thrilled to have such an accomplished strategist and leader on our team. Geoff will play a pivotal role in providing support to state and local groups, with the goal of enacting laws that will benefit millions of people in states and localities across the country.” 
Kors is one of the most accomplished legislative and policy strategists in the LGBT movement. Over the past two decades, he has helped to enact scores of local and state laws, including helping to pass anti-discrimination laws protecting LGBT people and people with HIV/AIDS during his tenure as the Director of the ACLU of Illinois’ Gay and Lesbian Rights and Aids and Civil Liberties Projects from 1994 to 1995, originating San Francisco’s landmark equal benefits law as a board member of the Harvey Milk Club in 1996, and leading Equality California from 2002 to 2011 as the organization passed more than 70 pieces of LGBT equality legislation.

“Having worked closely with the terrific staff at NCLR for years, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to join the team and work in partnership with state and local groups that are on the front line fighting to advance equality,” said Kors. “While our movement has had amazing successes, there is a great deal of work to do, especially in states with limited or no rights.”

Said Equality Federation Executive Director Rebecca Isaacs: “NCLR has a long history of supporting the work of state and local groups. Geoff’s new position will build on that foundation and increase the capacity of state and local leaders to make real change. We look forward to working with him and the rest of the NCLR team.”   

Added Equality Florida Executive Director Nadine Smith: “Geoff is an extremely talented strategist who understands the importance of state and local advocacy and the challenges faced by state and local leaders. This type of strategic support will be a huge benefit to state and local groups across the country.”   

Kors, a member of Freedom to Marry Action’s Board of Directors, is a graduate of Union College and Stanford Law School. He begins his new role at NCLR today, August 28, 2012.

Media Contact: NCLR Communications Director Erik Olvera | Office: 415.365.1324 |

CA Bill to Advance Children’s Best Interests Passes State Assembly

August 27, 2012

(San Francisco, CA, August 27, 2012)—Today, the California Assembly voted 51-26 in support of Senate Bill 1476, which will allow judges to recognize the reality that some children have more than two parents.

This bill makes it possible for a third parent—such as a gay father who is raising a child with a lesbian couple—to have legal rights and responsibilities to protect and provide care for the child.

The bill provides that when more than two adults meet the criteria to be a legal parent under existing California law, a court has the flexibility to rule that a child has three legal parents. In order to do so, the court must find that recognizing three parents is required to protect the child’s best interests.

This bill is necessary because a recent California Court of Appeal case, In re M.C., ruled that courts can never recognize more than two legal parents, regardless of the situation and even if recognizing a third parent would protect the child from harm. The court agreed that there could be cases where recognizing more than two parents would protect a child’s best interests and called on the legislature to address this issue.

“We live in a world today where courts are dealing with diverse circumstances that have reshaped California families,” said Senator Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, who authored the bill. “This legislation gives courts the flexibility to protect the best interests of a child who is being supported financially and emotionally by those parents. It is critical that judges have the ability to recognize the roles of all parents, especially when a family is in distress and a child’s security is a concern.”

Added National Center for Lesbian Rights Family Protection Project Director Cathy Sakimura: “Families come in many forms, and all children deserve to have their families protected by the law. Legal recognition gives children tremendous legal, emotional, financial, and psychological benefits and helps them thrive.”

Said Ed Howard, senior counsel for the Children’s Advocacy Institute at the University of San Diego School of Law: “Everyone who places the interests of children first, and realizes that judges shouldn’t be forced to rule in ways that hurt children, should cheer this Assembly vote.”

Although situations in which a child has more than two parents are unusual, the potential harm to children when courts are prohibited from recognizing the reality of the child’s family structure is great.  Several other states already recognize that a child may have more than two parents, including Delaware, Maine, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, and the District of Columbia.

The law will not change who can be a parent, and applies only when there are more than two people who meet the definition of a parent under existing California law. It will not give any new rights to people who are not parents—like stepparents, grandparents, babysitters, and other caretakers.

The bill, which was approved by the Senate earlier this year, will now return to its house of origin for a vote to concur in amendments made in the Assembly before moving to the Governor’s desk.

SB 1476 is sponsored by the Children’s Advocacy Institute and NCLR.

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

NCLR Co-Hosts Deferred Action Immigration Forum in San Francisco

August 27, 2012

(San Francisco, CA, August 27, 2012)—The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) is pleased to co-sponsor a community forum on the newly announced Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program on August 29, 2012 at 5:30 p.m. at the San Francisco Main Library’s Koret Auditorium.

On June 15, 2012, President Barack Obama announced that his administration would no longer deport young undocumented immigrants brought to this country as children and would enable them to work legally by granting them two-year work permits.

DACA, which went into effect on August 15, 2012, guarantees that up to 1.4 million undocumented youth will be protected from the risks of deportation and permitted to work in the United States, where many of them have spent the majority of their lives.

A panel of attorneys and experts will provide information—ranging from who qualifies for the program to how to apply—at Wednesday’s forum. Speakers include Victoria Argumedo, Esq., Sara Izadpanah, Esq. (Surowitz & Argumedo) and Martha Melendrez (Dream Team LA/United We Dream.) This event is co-sponsored by the Chicana/Latina Foundation and United We Dream.

Interested parties should RSVP as soon as possible as space is limited. Translation services will be provided. Please indicate your language preference when you RSVP to


What: Deferred Action Immigration Forum

When: August 29, 2012 at 5:30 p.m.

Where: San Francisco Main Library’s Koret Auditorium, 100 Larkin Street San Francisco, CA 94102


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

Joint Statement Regarding Shooting at Family Research Council (FRC) from LGBT Organizations

August 15, 2012

(August 15, 2012)—We were saddened to hear news of the shooting this morning at the offices of the Family Research Council. Our hearts go out to the shooting victim, his family, and his co-workers.

The motivation and circumstances behind today’s tragedy are still unknown, but regardless of what emerges as the reason for this shooting, we utterly reject and condemn such violence. We wish for a swift and complete recovery for the victim of this terrible incident.

Katie Belanger
Executive Director, Fair Wisconsin

Wayne Besen
Founding Executive Director, Truth Wins Out

Carly Burton
Deputy Director, MassEquality

Dr. Eliza Byard
Executive Director, Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN)

Jennifer Chrisler
Executive Director, Family Equality Council

Brad Clark
Executive Director, One Colorado

Emily Dievendorf
Director of Policy, Equality Michigan

James Esseks
Director, ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Project

Lynn A. Faria
Interim Executive Director, Empire State Pride Agenda

Jenna Frazzini
Executive Director, Basic Rights Oregon

Herndon Graddick
President, Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD)

Chad Griffin
President, Human Rights Campaign (HRC)

Jody M. Huckaby
Executive Director, PFLAG National (Parents, Families, Friends of Lesbians and Gays)

Mara Keisling
Executive Director, National Center of Transgender Equality

Kate Kendell
Executive Director, National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR)

Abbe Land
Executive Director & CEO, The Trevor Project

Ineke Mushovic
Executive Director, Movement Advancement Project

Darlene Nipper
Deputy Executive Director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

Donna Red Wing
Executive Director, One Iowa

Aubrey Sarvis
Executive Director, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network

Josh Seefried
Co-Director, OutServe

Lee Swislow
Executive Director, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders

Rachel B. Tiven, Esq.
Executive Director, Immigration Equality

Chuck Wolfe
President & CEO, Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund and Institute

Evan Wolfson
President, Freedom to Marry

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