UPDATE: Justice Department releases new policy to curb police profiling

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Update:

The Justice Department released today, Dec. 8, new policies aimed to curb profiling by law enforcement based on sexual orientation, gender identity, religion and national origin, expanding on a 2003 decision to bar profiling based on race and ethnicity. You can read the new policy here.

“As Attorney General, I have repeatedly made clear that profiling by law enforcement is not only wrong, it is profoundly misguided and ineffective – because it wastes precious resources and undermines the public trust,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement.

Holder said the policy is necessary especially in light of numerous recent incidents involving police brutality. “It brings enhanced training, oversight, and accountability to federal law enforcement across the country, so that isolated acts of discrimination do not tarnish the exemplary work that’s performed by the overwhelming majority of America’s hard-working law enforcement officials each and every day.”

The new guidance also applies to state and local law enforcement law officers who participate in federal law enforcement task forces.

The National Center for Transgender Equality in a statement welcomed the extension but criticized its numerous loopholes. “Discrimination is not something we need to keep us safe— it’s bad police work, it’s unconstitutional, and it makes us all less safe,” said NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling.

According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 46% of transgender people say they would feel somewhat or very uncomfortable seeking police assistance, while only 35% said they would feel comfortable doing so. 22% of all trans people and 38% of Black trans people report experiencing transphobic police harassment—while 6% of all trans people, 9% of trans Latinos, and 15% of Black trans people report having experienced a transphobic assault by police.

Holder announced his resignation last month. President Obama nominated federal prosecutor Loretta Lynch of Brooklyn to replace him.

Original story:

Attorney General Eric Holder is set to announce today, Dec. 8, a new policy barring law enforcement officials from profiling based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, national origin and religion, The Washington Blade reports.

The policy expands a 2003 decision to bar profiling based on race and ethnicity.

The policy has been in five years in the making.

“With this new guidance, we take a major and important step forward to ensure effective policing by federal law enforcement officials and state and local law enforcement participating in federal task forces throughout the nation,” Holder said in a statement.

—  James Russell

Pack your bags and head for Ole Miss to git hitched later this week. Maybe.

mississippi-flag-e1387132309472“Gay couples could start obtaining marriage licenses in Mississippi as early as this week if the predictions of at least six top legal scholars nationwide hold true,” according to the Jackson Clarion-Ledger.

That’s Jackson, MISSISSIPPI.

Mississippi with the Confederate flag in its state flag. Yes, the state that beats Texas with worse healthcare and a worse education system. Looking at a map, it’s the one two states to the right. Mississippi might beat Texas to marriage equality by 15 states.

And Mississippi was our only real competition in the race to be last in equality. A Mississippi victory positions Texas nicely to be last.

However, the 5th Circuit, one of the most conservative courts in the country, would almost certainly stay a decision to allow marriage equality. Wouldn’t they?

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves heard the case on Monday, Nov. 17. He was appointed by President Barack Obama. No Obama or Clinton appointee has ruled against marriage equality since the Windsor decision in June 2013. A quick decision is expected. Like this week. And they just might sneak in a few marriages before the 5th Circuit stays any ruling.

The 5th Circuit is scheduled to hear appeals of Texas and Louisiana cases on Jan 5. If this ruling is issued quickly, it could be heard then as well.

—  David Taffet

AMPA issues Veteran’s Day challenge to VA’s discrimination against LGBT vets

AMPAFor Veteran’s Day, The American Military Partner Association, the nation’s largest organization for the partners, spouses, families, and allies of America’s LGBT service members and veterans, once again called on the Department of Veterans Affairs to grant full and equal benefits to legally married LGBT veterans and their spouses.

“This is completely unacceptable and must be fixed now,” said Gene Silvestri, a U.S. Army veteran and AMPA’s Veterans Affairs Coordinator. “It’s unconscionable that legally married LGBT veterans are still being denied their full veterans benefits if they happen to live in a state that doesn’t respect their marriage. These are earned federal benefits, not benefits from the state.”

“How much longer do these families have to wait for the benefits they’ve sacrificed for and earned serving our nation?” asked Ashley Broadway, spouse of a U.S. Army officer and AMPA’s Director of Family Readiness. “More importantly, why does no one seem to care that these families are being treated differently? Where are the members of Congress who are supposedly champions of our veterans and their families?”

Even after the fall of the Defense of Marriage Act that prevented the federal government’s recognition of same-sex marriages, the Department of Veterans Affairs continues to follow discriminatory language in Title 38 section 103c when determining the validity of marriages for veteran benefits purposes. As service members transition from active duty, same-sex couples in non-marriage equality states are denied full and equal access to many earned veterans’ benefits from the VA. Legally married active duty service members living in non-marriage equality states are also denied access to the full backing of VA home loans.

In August, AMPA filed a lawsuit against the Secretary of the VA challenging the VA’s regulations.

“Having weathered the federal government’s past, longstanding discrimination against them, lesbian and gay veterans and their families find themselves once again deprived of equal rights and earned benefits by the government they served and the nation for which they sacrificed.”

The challenge is now pending in the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit [AMPA v. McDonald, No. 14-7121 (Fed. Cir. 2014)].

—  David Taffet

This Week in Marriage Equality: Kansas poised to become No. 33

PrintKansas

Kansas officials asked the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals to place a stay on marriage equality while its case works its way through the courts. Either Kansas officials are just dumb or they’re looking for ways to delay equality.

The 10th Circuit already ruled that marriage bans in Oklahoma and Utah violate due process and were created out of animus toward gays and lesbians. Why Kansas officials think that same court would rule the Kansas law doesn’t violate due process and there’s no animus there because, well, Dorothy is from Kansas, is anyone’s guess.

The court gave the state a one-week stay. That stay ends on Tuesday, Nov. 11, unless Justice Sonia Sotomayor grants a stay. However, even though the U.S. Supreme Court stayed the 8th Circuit’s Utah and Oklahoma rulings, they’ve already said they didn’t want to hear those cases. There’s no reason to stay the Oklahoma and Utah rulings for Kansas.

Mississippi

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves will hear a challenge to Mississippi’s marriage ban on Wednesday, Nov. 12. Reeves was nominated to the court by President Barack Obama. Bye bye Mississippi marriage ban.

A decision would be appealed to the 5th Circuit, which also includes Texas and Louisiana and which has not yet weighed in on marriage equality. That court is considered among the most conservative and could come down on the side of discrimination. The 5th Circuit will hear the Louisiana and Texas appeals in January.

Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee, Kentucky

Plaintiffs in the cases in the four states in the 6th Circuit — Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee and Kentucky — whose marriage bans were upheld last week will all appeal directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In any of the cases, plaintiffs could have asked for an en banc hearing in which all of the 6th Circuit judges would have heard the case. Instead, rather than delaying the case and hoping for a nationwide resolution of the issue by the end of June 2015, they each decided for a direct appeal.

Because of the split among circuits, the U.S. Supreme Court is compelled to take a marriage case, but could delay hearing a case until next session. Since the 6th Circuit issued just one decision for all four states, the court could decide to hear from all states or could choose just one appeal.

—  David Taffet

Oral arguments set in Texas and Louisiana marriage cases

Attorney General Greg Abbott

Atty. Gen Greg Abbott pandering in front of the 11 Commandments monument at the Texas Capitol. Yes, I know there are 10, but look closely at the monument and you’ll find 11 listed, which makes this among my favorite fake religion monuments.

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans will hear the Texas and Louisiana marriage equality cases on Jan. 5.

In September, Judge Martin Feldman in Louisiana became the first federal district court judge to uphold a state’s marriage ban since the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act last year.

Texas’s marriage ban was ruled unconstitutional by San Antonio District Judge Orlando Garcia in DeLeon v. Perry. His decision is stayed pending appeal.

In his appeal, Atty. Gen. Greg Abbott resorted to using the “pedophile, incest and marrying farm animals” defense. Because underpopulation has been a worldwide plague, Abbott uses the responsible procreation defense that’s been thrown out by court after court.

What we found most interesting was his inclusion of a story from Dallas Voice written by Anna Waugh about a case from Fort Worth that is still pending before a trial court. Two Fort Worth men who claim they are heterosexual would like to get married in Texas.

From the brief (pages 23-24):

Not all persons who wish to marry a same-sex partner will have a homosexual orientation. The plaintiffs in McNosky v. Perry, No. 1:13-CV-00631-SS (W.D. Tex.), have publicly admitted that they have a heterosexual orientation and plan to marry each other as a statement of solidarity with same-sex couples. See Anna Waugh, Tarrant County Marriage

 

—  David Taffet

Know Your Rights at Work

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Greg Nivens

As we get ready to celebrate the Labor Day weekend holiday, Lambda Legal is launching the newest section of its “Know Your Rights” information hub, this time focusing on workplace rights for LGBT and HIV-positive people.

Greg Nevins, a Lambda Legal counsel and Workplace Fairness Project strategist based in the agency’s Atlanta office. said that workplace issues continue to be a major concern among those who call Lambda Legal’s Legal Help Desk. The new Know Your Rights Workplace site “will help people advocate for themselves as well as assist them if issues arise,” Nivens said.

He said the hub will soon be mobile-friendly and translated into Spanish. It includes legal and advocacy guidance on a wide array of issues, including what to do if you experience discrimination, what laws protect you, HIV discrimination in the workplace, what to do if you are fired, gender identity discrimination. job searches, immigrant rights, good company policies, how unions can help and same-sex spousal and partner benefits.

This is Lambda Legal’s third Know Your Rights hub. The other two are Know Your Rights: Teens and Young Adults, and Know Your Rights: Transgender.

—  Tammye Nash

Ask Lambda Legal: The Executive Order and You

A few details may have gotten lost in all the hoopla surrounding the executive orders President Obama signed last month prohibiting employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. So here’s some info from Lambda Legal that may help clear up some questions:

By Greg Nevins, counsel for Lambda Legal

Question: I work for a local social service agency and read about President Obama’s executive order protecting LGBT workers. What does this mean for me?

Answer: President Obama’s historic executive order banning employment discrimination against LGBT employees of federal contractors and protecting transgender federal government employees was a needed step towards equality.

The executive order will provide explicit protection against sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination for millions of hard-working, tax-paying Americans, and Lambda Legal applauds President Obama for taking this important action.

The order is very important because federal statutes concerning job discrimination don’t explicitly use the words “sexual orientation” or “gender identity.” This leaves vulnerable to discrimination those workers in states that don’t provide separate legal protections.

With a stroke of his pen, the president changed the legal landscape for employees of federal contractors, especially those in states without LGBT-specific protections, but also for those workers in states that already have good non-discrimination statutes, because, to use a football analogy, discrimination now doesn’t result in just a penalty but may get a contractor tossed out of the game.

One of the major advancements of equality contained in the executive order is that it also will make explicit the protection against gender identity discrimination for federal government employees. This will clarify that executive branch policies are consistent with federal court decisions and the position of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Clarity and consistency about non-discrimination requirements are crucial. It is important that employees have a policy and remedy in place that protects them when they endure discrimination. But what we all really want is for the discrimination not to occur in the first place, and the executive order’s clear language furthers that goal.

Unfortunately, the order does not protect all employees of private companies and businesses, and explicit protections for LGBT workers in the private sector vary from state to state. We have increasing recognition and obvious momentum towards nationwide workplace fairness, but there is still a ways to go.

Over the last several years, the EEOC has ruled that employees alleging anti-LGBT discrimination had legitimate Title VII sex discrimination claims; similar rulings have come from federal district courts in cases involving lesbian or gay workers, and from numerous federal district and appellate courts in cases brought by transgender workers.

Additionally, 18 states, the District of Columbia, and more than  200 jurisdictions — from small towns to large cities — have inclusive non-discrimination laws that prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

In the meantime, we are deeply grateful to President Obama for continuing his administration’s progress toward full equality for LGBT workers, and Lambda Legal will continue to fight to expand protections for LGBT employees across the country.

If you have any questions, or feel you have been discriminated against because of your sexual orientation or gender identity, contact Lambda Legal’s Help Desk by calling 1-866-542-8336 go online to www.lambdalegal.org/help.

—  Tammye Nash

Kirven: Benny Longoria death certificate never signed

Benny Longoria

Benny Longoria

Dallas activist C.d. Kirven told Dallas Voice today, via email, that efforts to get Tulsa police to investigate the death of gay man Benny Longoria are moving forward.

A friend found Longoria, 40, dead in his apartment on June 20. But the man’s family said police did not contact them until a month later, that police had Longoria’s body cremated without notifying them and that police have refused to return his possessions, including his cell phone.

A representative of the company that manages the apartment complex where Longoria lived said that the apartment and most of his possessions were covered in blood when his naked body was found. Police have refused to investigate the case as a suspicious death.

Kirven learned of the situation earlier this week when Dallas City Councilman Adam Medrano contacted her and asked if she could help the Longorio family find answers.

Today, Kirven said the case is being investigated as possible HIV/AIDS-related discrimination, and that she has helped the Longoria family filed a complaint with the U.S. Justice Department alleging a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Kirven also said she is helping the family file a complaint with the Internal Affairs division of the Tulsa Police Department.

Tulsa Police Sgt. Dave Walker reportedly told the family that Benny Longoria’s doctor verified that he died of a combination of ethanol abuse and HIV/AIDS. But Kirven said that when she contacted the office of Longoria’s physician, Dr. Frances Haas, she was told that Dr. Haas had not confirmed any cause of death and had not signed a death certificate.

Kirvin said today that she has obtained a copy of Longoria’s death certificate, which has not been signed by any doctor. She said Dr. Haas is mailing Benny Longoria’s medical records to his family and “wants nothing to do with Benny’s death.”

She also said that Capt. Alexander has said that because the doctor has not signed the death certificate, by law Longoria’s death has to be investigated as a suspicious death.

A memorial in celebration of Benny Longoria will be held Saturday at 5 p.m. at Compadres Mexican Grill, 7104 S. Sheriden Rd., in Tulsa. For information contact C.d. Kirven at 972-533-1593.

Kirven said that several TV stations have said they will be covering the memorial service and vigil, and that she was faxing a copy of the death certificate to KRMG radio in Oklahoma City, which is planning coverage of the case. She has also talked to a reporter with Vice.com.

Tulsa-based reporter Richard Fricker called Dallas Voice today in an effort to contact Kirven, and said that he knows of similar cases that have happened in Tulsa.

Dallas Voice will, of course, continue to follow this story as it unfolds, and will have a representative at the memorial service in Tulsa on Saturday.

memorial-flyer-Benny_Longoria

—  Tammye Nash

Obama signs executive order banning discrimination

Barack ObamaPresident Barack Obama signed an executive order this morning barring federal contractors from discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The Williams Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law estimates that the order would protect nearly 34 million employees nationwide, or about one-fifth of the nation’s workforce.

A fact sheet provided by the White House cites wide-ranging public support for barring discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

You can read the full text of the order here.

Check out the video here:

—  James Russell

Transgender news briefs

Trans woman murdered in Baltimore

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Mia Henderson

Baltimore City Police announced July 16 that they are investigating the murder of trans woman Mia Henderson, sister of NBA player Reggie Bullock. Henderson, 26, is at least the second trans woman killed in Baltimore in as many months. According to a press release from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, her murder is “the latest in a string of Baltimore area homicides in the last two months in which transgender women have been killed.”

Baltimore police Investigators said officers serving a warrant just before 6 a.m. in the 3400 block of Piedmont Avenue found Henderson’s body in an alley. They said the victim had “suffered severe trauma.”

Police said it was too early to tell if the case is related to a similar one a month ago in which another transgender woman was killed. The body of 40-year-old Ricky Hall, known as Kandy, was found stabbed on June 4 in a field near Coldstream Park Elementary-Middle School in northeast Baltimore, according to reports by WBALTV News 11.

 

USDA adopts trans protections

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has added gender identity protections to its federal nondiscrimination regulations regarding programs or activities conducted by the department. This makes USDA is the first federal agency to issue regulations banning gender identity discrimination in all activities conducted by any employee of the department, according to an NGLTF press release issued today.

“Fifteen years ago, the USDA paved the way on federal rights for LGBT people by becoming the first agency to add sexual orientation nondiscrimination protections. Yesterday, the USDA once again demonstrated their leadership and commitment to equality by extending nondiscrimination protections to transgender people in every program the department operates,” NGLTF Executive Director Rea Carey said.

 

Report: Nearly two-thirds of Massachusetts trans people suffer discrimination

The Fenway Institute and Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition have released their Project VOICE report on transgender discrimination in public accommodations, which found that nearly two-thirds of trans residents of Massachusetts have experienced discrimination in a public accommodation setting in the last 12 years. Those experiencing discrimination were nearly twice as likely to report adverse physical and mental health outcomes, the report indicated.

The state’s Gender Identity Nondiscrimination Act, passed in 2011 and implemented in 2012, does not cover public accommodations.

Other findings reported in the study include:

• Overall, 65 percent of respondents reported discrimination in one or more public accommodation settings in the past 12 months.

• The five most prevalent settings in which discrimination was experienced were transportation (36 percent), retail (28 percent), restaurants (26 percent), public gatherings (25 percent) and health care facilities/services (24 percent).

• Those reported incidences of discrimination had an 84 percent increased risk of adverse physical symptoms, such as headaches, upset stomach or pounding heart, in the last 30 days and 99 percent increased risk of emotional symptoms in the past 30 days.

• 28 percent of respondents reported they had not seen a doctor in the last year.

• 29 percent reported having to teach their health care provider about transgender health issues in the last year.

The Massachusetts Legislature is currently considering passage of the Equal Access Bill, which would improve access to public accommodations for trans people there.

Download a copy of the complete report here.

 

European Court of Human Rights rules against trans woman in marriage case

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that the country of Finland did not violate the human rights of a trans woman by requiring that her marriage be downgraded to a registered partnership in order for her to be legally recognized as a woman.

Before gender reassignment surgery, Ms. Hamalainen had married a woman, and Finnish authorities argued that legally recognizing her gender as female without ending her marriage would result in a same-sex marriage, which is not allowed under Finnish law.

Evelyne Paradis, executive director of ILGA-Europe, said: “The Finnish authorities argued and the European Court agreed that Ms Hamalainen’s family did not suffer disproportionately by their marriage being downgraded to a registered partnership as a registered partnership is almost identical to marriage in terms of rights and protections. Nevertheless, the court missed an important opportunity to condemn humiliating and discriminatory practices across Europe requiring trans people to end their existing marriage to obtain legal gender recognition.”

Trans people must end existing marriages to partners of the same-gender as they are post-transition to obtain legal gender recognition in 32 of 49 European countries.

—  Tammye Nash