U.S. Opens Path to Asylum for Victims of Sexual Abuse

July 15, 2009

by Julia Preston | The New York Times

The Obama administration has opened the way for foreign women who are victims of severe domestic beatings and sexual abuse to receive asylum in the United States. The action reverses a Bush administration stance on an issue at the center of a protracted and passionate legal battle over the possibilities for battered women to become refugees.

In addition to meeting the existing strict conditions for being granted asylum, abused women need to show a judge that women are viewed as subordinate by their abuser, according to a court filing by the administration, and must also show that domestic abuse is widely tolerated in their country.

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Making Gay Couples Count

July 13, 2009

Editorial | The Los Angeles Times

The Obama administration believes the Defense of Marriage Act doesn’t prevent their number from being reported in the census. That’s fine, but Obama should push for the repeal of the law.

Counting married same-sex couples should be easy; there aren’t that many of them. Instead, the federal Defense of Marriage Act:H.R.3396.ENR: has forced lawyers to jump through legal hoops so this country can obtain a more realistic picture of the diverse families within its borders. And even when the U.S. census count begins in 2010, it won’t provide useful information about the marital status of gay and lesbian couples. Nor is it likely even to call them married.

The Obama administration has delivered a logic-defying interpretation of the act, which prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage: It does not stop the Census Bureau from reporting the number of married gay couples, the president’s lawyers said. Yet isn’t counting these marriages the purest form of recognizing them?

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Under Pressure

July 9, 2009

Posted: 07.09.09

We all know that the President has a lot on his plate—some very weighty issues, and many of his priorities we support wholeheartedly—but LGBT equality cannot wait to be the dessert course on even the most carefully planned four or eight-year presidential menu.

This administration prides itself on being “the most open and accessible administration in American history,” and the White House website invites us to make our voices heard. Visiting http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/ shows us the great variety of ways to speak up—by phone and TTY/TDD, e-mail, fax, and by old-fashioned snail mail (which takes even longer than just mailing because of print mail security screening). Let’s take President Obama and his administration at their word and do exactly that: make our voices heard.

I promised I would provide concrete steps for keeping the pressure on the President and his administration, and here are five items that need action from this President NOW. You get a gold star and my unending esteem if you do all of them!

Please contact the President and urge him to:

  1. State now that he is ready to sign the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) as soon as Congress passes it. His public support of this bill will help get it passed in Congress. Please also contact your Representative in favor of swift passage of an ENDA that covers both sexual orientation and gender identity, which is long overdue and still needed. ENDA is pending in the House.

  2. Make good on his promise that passage of the Uniting All Families Act (UAFA) is one of the top priorities for the Department of Justice. UAFA is a proposed bill that would provide same-sex couples with the same immigration benefits as opposite-sex couples. If passed, UAFA would allow U.S. citizens and permanent residents to file a visa petition on behalf of their foreign national same-sex permanent partners, allowing them to immigrate to the U.S. and adjust their status to become lawful permanent residents. The Obama Administration has explicitly stated that it supports passage of this bill. Please also contact your Representative in favor of passage of UAFA.

  3. Use his presidential “stop-loss” power to halt discharges under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” military policy, and do all in his power to press for passage of the legislation to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” that is now pending in Congress.

  4. Do everything in his power to repeal the nefarious and so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA), including supporting congressional repeal and instructing the Department of Justice to stop defending this unconstitutional law which harms families.

  5. Continue to press for health care reform—and we need to strongly urge President Obama to ensure that any reform that occurs does not discriminate against LGBT people. Politics should not trump the health of the American people.

As we have all seen in recent weeks, there are numerous ways to hold President Obama and his administration accountable for providing the leadership and visionary change that was promised throughout his campaign. In the past few weeks, many of us have done all of these: taking action with our wallets and our voices, in the press, on the web, in our communities.

Let’s keep that up so that our voices swell in unison and cannot be mistaken for anything other than the cry for equality that we deserve.

In solidarity,

kate signature

Veterans Call Out Obama On ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

July 9, 2009

Morning Edition, July 9, 2009 ·

In 1948, President Harry Truman signed an executive order ending racial segregation in the armed forces. In the 2008 presidential campaign, candidate Barack Obama promised to end another kind of discrimination in the military: the long-standing ban on gay service members. But nearly six months into his presidency, he has yet to make good on that promise. Congress also has taken no action.

Now the latest push is coming, at least in part, from elsewhere. Former Army linguist Jarrod Chlapowski told reporters in Washington on Wednesday that he and others hope to make a national cause of repealing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which prohibits openly gay people from serving in the military. The Clinton-era law has led to the dismissal of more than 13,000 gay service members.

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One Birthday, One Reception and Some Very Hard Work

June 30, 2009

Julian, Kate, and Shannon

I am back at my desk after a whirlwind—and pretty much last minute—trip to Washington, DC with my 13-year-old son, Julian. When an invitation to attend a reception at the White House arrived last week, my spouse Sandy and I talked and agreed that Julian—whose 13th birthday was on Saturday, June 27—should be the one to accompany me. Some months ago, Julian had said that for his “milestone 13th birthday” he wanted to do something he had never done before. (To which I raised an eyebrow of parental concern and figured I’d better take the lead in planning such adventures.) But never in our wildest dreams did we imagine what that adventure would turn out to be.

We landed in DC late Sunday night, June 28, after a six-hour delay out of SFO. (Shout out here to the “family” we bonded with on the plane, Kathy and Laura and our fabulous flight attendant Matt.) We had a late dinner with Sandy’s long-time friend and Julian’s god-father Richard, and the next morning took the Metro to the Smithsonian and walked to the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. It was a beautiful day in DC, and Julian was pretty awe-struck by seeing these sights “for real.” After a quick lunch with Julian’s grandparents, Patsy and Andy, we went back to our hotel to get ready for the event that had brought us across the country.

With Julian in a borrowed suit and new tie and me in my dyke best, we arrived at the White House and met up with NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter and his wife Robin. We chatted with many of the other guests as we waited to pass through the security checks. I saw many old friends and current colleagues. As we stood in the East Room of the White House, I’m sure I speak for many when I say how incredible it felt to see first-hand the rooms and locations we had only ever read about or seen on the TV news.

Julian, based on his age and the generous spirit in the room, got a front-row spot, right next to the small stage and Presidential podium. When the President and First Lady emerged from the Green Room into the East Room, they made their way up the aisle shaking hands and greeting folks. As they stepped onto the stage they both saw Julian and shook his hand, the President saying “Hi there buddy, how you doing?”

I was struck by several things in the President’s comments. First, he acknowledged the frustration of our community at the pace of the Administration’s efforts on behalf of full equality and an end to discrimination. Second, he said that he expected to be judged on actions and not words—“not by the promises I’ve made, but by the promises that my administration keeps.” Finally, he committed to working with Congress to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and Hate Crimes legislation (Judy Shepard and her husband Dennis were in the room). He did not set a timetable for any of these commitments, and I deeply wish President Obama were just a bit less orthodox. He clearly wants a tipping point of consensus on these issues, and particularly with “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” his leadership now in at least issuing a “Stop-Loss” order would be entirely justified and a demonstrable action to back up his inspiring rhetoric.

It was clear to me that the President believes in full equality as a core value, a human value. That fact is reassuring. It is also clear that we as a community must continue a relentless drumbeat, insisting that the President act NOW to do all he can to make that commitment to equality a reality.

The work we do now will be every bit as important as the work of the Administration. Traveling to Washington reminds me that activism is the key to achieving civil rights in this country. The energy and time and money we all spent electing President Obama and a fair-minded Congress were only the first step. Now is the time to take the next activist step. We must dig in to do some work, for what we need done in Washington will not happen by magic, with this President or any other.

I am not talking about cocktail party activism or in-the-street activism, though I have done both and am not opposed to either.

Right now, this summer, constituent activism is key in Washington. We must press both the Administration and Congress to act swiftly to repeal laws that discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and our families, and to enact laws that treat individuals and our families fairly and with dignity and respect.

The pressure directed to the President over the past few weeks has been essential and in my view, quite frankly, we should keep that up. The Obama Administration needs to hear from us. Over the coming weeks, NCLR will help you make your voice heard—by the Administration and Congress. Next week I’ll give you specific action items to help move our President and members of Congress.
In the past couple of weeks we have already seen some small steps. By holding this event marking the 40th anniversary of Stonewall, the President conveyed to the nation that we are all engaged in a decades-long struggle for civil rights, for fair treatment, and equality under the law. The White House reception provided a platform for the President to reiterate that he is an advocate for our community, that he understands the pain and damage done by government-sanctioned discrimination. Now he must act—really act—to end that pain and insult.

My son is still basking in the glow of meeting the President and hearing him speak. He, as a 13-year-old bi-racial kid, with both an African-American and a white lesbian mom, believed the President’s words. He sees this man as a champion for his family and other families like his. I profoundly hope that my son’s image of this President will not be tarnished by half-measures and inaction. Right now Julian thinks he got about the best 13-year-old birthday any kid could ever get. Please Mr. President, honor his trust.


Seventy Seven Members of Congress Urge Obama to Suspend Gay Ban

June 22, 2009

New Strategy Links Immediate Executive Action Followed By Long Term Congressional Repeal

SANTA BARBARA, Calif., June 22 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — In a letter sent to President Obama today, seventy-seven members of Congress called on the White House to issue a moratorium suspending gay discharges from the military. The new strategy envisions immediate executive action, to be followed by legislative repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law at a subsequent time. The letter calls on the President “to exercise the maximum discretion legally possible in administering ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ until Congress repeals the law.”

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Holder Tells Senate Judiciary Committee Hate Crimes Legislation Is A DOJ Priority

June 19, 2009

US Attorney General Eric Holder recently announced that the passage of a federal hate crimes bill is one of the top priorities for the Department of Justice under the Obama Administration. He also expressed the support for the recent passage of the Federal Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevent Act in the House of Representatives which expanded the existing hate crimes legislation to include sexual orientation and gender identity and expression in its protections.

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