Proposed rule under Affordable Care Act would bar discrimination based on gender identity

Posted on 04 Sep 2015 at 10:09am

2000px-US-DeptOfHHS-Logo.svgNew rules released today by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights would protect from discrimination based on gender identity in healthcare and insurance.

The regulations include everything from routine medical exams to transition-related care.

Many health system voluntarily cover these services already, but the proposed rule would fill a crucial need in healthcare for transgender individuals, said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality.

“The Department of Health and Human Service’s proposed rules have the potential to be life-saving for transgender people. The medical and scientific consensus for years has been that transition-related care is medically necessary and should be covered by insurance,” she said.

National LGBT groups praised the proposed rule.

Julie Gonen, policy director the National Center for Lesbian Rights, called the rule a bold move.

“We applaud the agency for taking such a strong position and developing regulations that are consistent with the goal of Section 1557, which is to eradicate discrimination in healthcare. The protections outlined in the proposed regulations would ensure that transgender people —including youth — who are routinely denied this care despite decades of clinical experience and medical literature demonstrating its medical necessity can get the healthcare they need to live full, authentic, and healthy lives,” she said in a statement.

“LGBT people have too often faced healthcare and coverage systems that provide inequitable and hostile treatment on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” said David Stacy, government affairs director the Human Rights Campaign. “This proposed regulation will help address some of these disparities and is vitally important to help end discrimination against transgender and gender nonconforming people in healthcare and insurance.”

Both, however, urged the department to also banning discrimination based on sexual orientation by health providers and insurance as well.

“We are pleased the administration has finally proposed these critical protections, and we urge HHS to fully implement the promises of the Affordable Care Act by including both gender identity and sexual orientation as protected characteristics in the final rule,” Stacy added.

President Obama signed the ACA into law on March 23, 2010. Included in the sweeping law was Section 1557, the first federal civil rights law to prohibit sex discrimination in health care.

Public comment period closes Friday, November 6.


Justice Department urged to ensure same-sex couples receive marriage licenses

Posted on 04 Sep 2015 at 9:59am

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis.

Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., urged Attorney General Loretta Lynch to ensure same-sex couples face no barriers to receiving marriage licenses. The statement came after Kim Davis, a Kentucky county clerk, has denied issuing marriage licenses on religious grounds.

“The Supreme Court once again demonstrated marriage equality is the law of the land,” Pocan said in a statement. “The unconstitutional actions by this county clerk underscore the need for the Department of Justice to take any and all necessary steps to ensure same-sex couples have immediate and complete access to their fundamental right to marry. States and localities failing to comply with the Constitution should be met with swift action by the federal government including the loss of federal dollars.”

Pocan, who is gay, was one of 56 members of Congress to send a letter to Lynch in July requesting her office take any necessary actions to ensure couples are not denied marriage licenses.

Davis, a Democrat, was jailed on contempt of court charges after refusing to allow her deputy clerks to issue licenses after calls by Kentucky’s governor and attorney general to issue licenses. A same-sex couple that has continuously been denied marriage licenses by her office filed the latest lawsuit yesterday.


Hey from San Francisco and the NLGJA convention

Posted on 03 Sep 2015 at 7:12pm

Lobby of the Westin St. Francis

So, today I am in San Francisco. I have never been here before, and I would LOVE to have a chance to spend the next three days wandering this city with my camera. BUT such is not to be.

I am here to attend the 25th anniversary of the National Gay and Lesbian Journalist Association’s National Convention and LGBT Media Summit. That’s LGBT journalists working in mainstream media and in LGBT media.

The convention is taking place at the Westin St. Francis Hotel, in Union Square in downtown San Francisco. It is gorgeous, by the way. And right now it is full of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender journalists.

This, as I said, is the 25th anniversary, and the convention has returned here to San Francisco, where the first NLGJA Convention was held way back in 1990. So this year’s theme is Coming Home. And a lot of folks have “come home” to the convention this year. There are some big names in the journalism biz here for this event.

coke.webThe first NLGJA convention I attended was back in the early-mid-1990s in New York City. The next year (I think), I went to Miami for the convention. This is the first one I have been to since then. And let me tell you, things have changed.

There are all kind of corporate sponsors this year. Toyota. Nissan. And, my favorite, Coca-Cola.

Anyway. I am in San Francisco this weekend. So watch for updates and photos and anything I decide to share. Because I am in San Francisco. And the weather is wonderful; wish you were here.


Davis mug shot from Carter County, Ky. jail

Posted on 03 Sep 2015 at 4:48pm

Davis mug shotRowan County Clerk Kim Davis’ mug shot taken at Carter County jail.

Carter County is about 30 miles from Ashland, where the federal court is located.

In sending her to jail, U.S. District Judge David Bunning said, “Oaths mean things.”


A defiant Davis is going to jail after refusing plaintiffs’ compromise

Posted on 03 Sep 2015 at 3:26pm

kim-davis-barsCounty Clerk Kim Davis refused to tell U.S. District Judge David Bunning that she would allow her deputy clerks to issue marriage licenses, so she is going to jail.

The plaintiffs in the case, gay and straight couples who were refused marriage licenses by Davis, suggested to Bunning that they would be happy with the result if she simply didn’t interfere with the deputy clerks issuing marriage licenses. Some might call that very Christian of them.

Rather than return to court, she sent a message to the judge through her attorney, refusing to authorize any of her deputies to issue marriage licenses in her absence.

Instead, she continued to sin by contradicting the oath of office she took on a Bible, and told the judge she would prevent her deputies from issuing the licenses.

So she’s off to jail, according to CBS affiliate WKYT.

Davis’ attorney’s questioned whether licenses issued in her absence would be legal without her signature. Bunning said couples applying for a license through her office would have to take the risk.

Court stands adjourned, so Davis will spend at least one night in jail. The longest anyone was ever held for contempt was 14 years. Davis could remain in jail for the next 3 1/2 years when her term as county clerk is up, if she doesn’t agree to do her job.


Davis returns to court for one last chance

Posted on 03 Sep 2015 at 3:08pm

kim-davis-barsU.S. District Judge David Bunning ordered County clerk Kim Davis back to court one last time.

Plaintiff’s attorney’s suggested she could be released from jail if she agreed not to interfere with her deputy clerks issuing marriage licenses. The judge agreed that was a fair settlement.

We’ll update when we hear whether she’s decided to martyr herself or keep her ass out of jail.


Five of six deputy clerks say they will issue licenses

Posted on 03 Sep 2015 at 2:36pm

kim-davis-barsOne of County Clerk Kim Davis’ deputies is apparently as pigheaded as she is. Five, however, told the judge they are ready to return to the County Clerk’s office and begin issuing marriage licenses. The only holdout, according to, is Nathan Davis, Kim’s son.

While Davis is a Democrat, Bunning is a Republican. He told her during the hearing that as a Catholic, he had his own religious beliefs, but public officials must uphold the law. Bunning was appointed to the bench by George W. Bush.

Next issue: doesn’t Kentucky have any laws about nepotism?




Hearing resumes for deputy clerks

Posted on 03 Sep 2015 at 2:26pm

kim-davis-barsU.S. District Judge David Bunning gave six deputy Rowan County Clerks an hour to meet with public defenders. Apparently, Liberty Counsel isn’t interested in defending the clerks who were simply obeying County Clerk Kim Davis’ orders.

CBS affiliate WKYT reports that in her 20 minutes of testimony, Davis was emotional as she talked about becoming a Christian. Apparently, her four marriage and out-of-wedlock children happened before that. However, her swearing on a Bible that she would uphold the U.S. Constitution took place afterwards, and going against her sworn oath doesn’t offend her version of God as much as gays and lesbians do.

Davis will return to the courtroom at 2:30 Central Time to tell the court if she’s willing to allow her deputies to obey the law over her objections. If not, she’ll return to jail, according to Bluegrass Politics.


BREAKING: Kim Davis held in contempt of court and is in custody

Posted on 03 Sep 2015 at 12:17pm

Davis.KimRowan County, Ky., Clerk Kim Davis was found in contempt of court this morning by U.S. District Judge David Bunning. She is currently the custody of U.S. Marshals.

Bunning ordered her to remain in jail until she agrees to sign marriage licenses.

The couples suing Davis asked for a fine, but in his order, Bunning said he didn’t do it lightly, but in her case, jailing her was necessary. He said he couldn’t fine her, because someone would pay the fine.

She was led out of the courtroom by marshals, but was not in handcuffs. She will be taken to either Greenup or Carter county.

Davis thanked the judge as she was leaving and said she was prepared to go to jail to continue her fight against the constitution that she swore on a Bible to uphold.

Under Kentucky law, the county’s executive may issue marriage licenses. Since she’s been jailed and is not present to issue, the county may issue licenses from a different office.

No word, yet, on the fate of her six deputy clerks.


GEAR awards more than $10,000 in scholarships

Posted on 03 Sep 2015 at 12:09pm



Top photo from left: Ben Sagan, Bryn Long, Vanessa McCoy, Paula Ellis, Olivia Tomkins and Serena Smuckers. Bottom photo, from left: Ben Sagan, Bryn Long, Jaek Avants, Paula Ellis, Olivia Tomkins and Serena Smuckers. (Photos courtesy Roger Lippert)


GEAR increased the number of scholarships awarded this year from five to 15.

Pictured with GEAR leadership are Vanessa McCoy and Jaek Avants who were awarded scholarships to pay for top surgery — one for MTF and one for FTM — is for “top” surgery.

Also three awards were given for hormone replacement therapy, two for name and gender marker change and two for what GEAR calls “presentation starter kits” which allow for $500 to purchase for MTF — wigs, breast forms, bras, makeup and FTM — binders and for both a suit for job interview.

“We have given out other scholarships throughout the year totaling approx $10,000,” Bryn Long, who runs the men’s program, said. “These were for legal fees for name/gender marker change, hormone replacement therapy, electrolysis and counseling for the Transgender community.”