Komen controversy alarms LGBT health orgs

Dallas-based breast cancer agency funds many gay-related projects, centers; some leaders fear cuts after Planned Parenthood decision

SAYING GOODBYE  |  Karen Handel, shown waving to supporters during her 2010 Georgia gubernatorial campaign, resigned Feb. 7 as senior vice president for public policy at Susan G. Komen for the Cure. (Associated Press)

SAYING GOODBYE  | Karen Handel, shown waving to supporters during her 2010 Georgia gubernatorial campaign, resigned Feb. 7 as senior vice president for public policy at Susan G. Komen for the Cure. (Associated Press)

DANA RUDOLPH  |  Keen News Service

As the dust settles on the controversy over a decision by the nation’s largest organization fighting breast cancer to withdraw grants from the nation’s largest provider of services regarding reproduction, the LGBT community is taking stock of the damage and the potential damage.

Dallas-based Susan G. Komen for the Cure announced Jan. 31 that it would no longer provide grants to Planned Parenthood. Then, four days later, after being hit with a harsh public backlash, it reversed that decision. But the controversy has raised questions about the relationship between politics and philanthropy, and about whether LGBT health services could be the next to see their funds cut.

In response to a request for comment about LGBT health services, Komen’s media office said, “We are not doing media interviews at this time.”

Komen’s relationships with LGBT health organizations are long-standing and extensive. The Komen website lists more than 30 grants in total for LGBT-related breast health projects between 2007 and 2011. And Komen and its local affiliates help fund many major LGBT health centers, including the Mautner Project, a national lesbian health organization; the Howard Brown Health Center (Chicago); Lyon-Martin Health Services (San Francisco); the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center (New York City); the LGBT Community Center (New York City); Fenway Health (Boston), and the Mazzoni Center (Philadelphia).

Komen said it withdrew the Planned Parenthood funding because it has a policy of not funding organizations under congressional investigation.

Last fall, U.S. Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., began an investigation into whether Planned Parenthood has illegally used federal money to fund abortion services. Stearns has long been known for his anti-abortion views. And many suspected Komen’s decision was less motivated by the “investigation” than for the politics, and they said so, loudly. Their suspicions were made all the stronger because Komen had hired Karen Handel as its senior vice president for public policy last April. Handel, during her unsuccessful run for Georgia governor in 2010, had promised to defund Planned Parenthood in that state, if elected. Handel also stated during her campaign that she opposed same-sex marriage, domestic partner health benefits and gay adoption. By Feb. 7, Handel had resigned from Komen, citing the controversy. But some have argued since then that Handel was just a symptom of the Komen board and CEO, Nancy Brinker, who hired her.

Lorri L. Jean, CEO of the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, the largest LGBT community organization in the country, was one of the first to issue a statement on Feb. 1, saying Komen “has stunningly decided to shun its mission by siding with right-wing extremists rather than with low income women — including large numbers of lesbians and transgender women — at risk of breast cancer.” Many other groups and individuals criticized Komen’s decision, too, some vowing to withhold contributions and participation in Komen’s highly popular “Race for the Cure” events.

Liz Margolies, executive director of the National LGBT Cancer Network, said her group has never received Komen funding but said the defunding of Planned Parenthood would have been “a blow to the health of the LGBT community.” LGBT people, she said, experience “increased obstacles in accessing care and difficulty finding culturally competent providers,” along with lower rates of health insurance coverage. Planned Parenthood filled this gap for many LGBT people.

The Komen controversy raised additional concerns about future funding for LGBT health services.

The Mautner Project, a national lesbian health organization, currently has a $200,000, two-year grant from the central Komen organization’s National Capital Area Grants Program in Washington, D.C. The money forms approximately 10 percent of Mautner’s total budget. Leslie Calman, executive director of the Mautner Project, said in an interview that Komen has been an “extremely generous donor.” Mautner received a $500,000, two-year, capacity-building grant between 2008 and 2010 that “saved the Mautner Project” when it had been in danger of going under, she said.

In Chicago, Howard Brown Health Center received a $75,000 grant from Komen’s local affiliate in 2010 to support its Breast Health Awareness Peer Educator Project, “designed to encourage breast health conversation and education among sexual minority women of color over 40.”

Cindi Creager, a spokesperson for New York City’s LGBT Community Center, said the Center has received “varying levels of funding” from Komen Greater NYC since 2004, most recently, an $80,000 grant in 2010. The Center has a grant application pending for 2012.

Nurit Shein, executive director of the Mazzoni Center in Philadelphia, said her center has received $30,000 this year from Komen’s Philadelphia affiliate to do “education, clinical breast exams, and referrals to mammograms,” and has received similar grants for several years.

Wendy Stark, executive director of the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center in New York City, said the Komen affiliate has funded that Center for over 10 years. Dr. Anita Radix, director of research and education at Callen-Lorde, sits on Komen’s National Multicultural Advisory Board. Among other things, Komen money supports the “very critical position” of a case manager in women’s health at Callen-Lorde. “We’ve found them to be very supportive of LGBT health,” said Stark.

The L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center has not received grants from Komen, but Jim Key, chief public affairs officer for the Center, said that, even though Komen reversed its decision regarding Planned Parenthood, the L.A. Center still “[finds] it distressing that the foundation was so willing to play politics at the expense of vital services such as breast cancer screenings.”

“If pro-choice organizations are first, we can’t help but wonder if LGBT organizations are next,” he said.

Nurit Shein in Philadelphia agreed, saying that Komen’s hiring of the anti-gay Handel made her wonder, “Are lesbians next?” after the defunding of Planned Parenthood.

Shein also sits on Komen’s National Multicultural Advisory Board, which addresses issues of the LGBT community, among others. She said in an interview that she has been “sharing our disappointment and concerns” with Komen officials about the controversy. But she said the situation also indicates a “disconnect” between Komen’s local affiliates and its national headquarters. The Philadelphia affiliate “has been a true partner with us,” she asserted.

In Massachusetts, the state Komen affiliate in 2011 funded the annual Audre Lorde Cancer Awareness Brunch at Boston’s Fenway Health. Audre Lorde was a lesbian activist and writer who died in 1992 from breast cancer.

Boston’s Fenway Health Center spokesperson Philip Finch said, “We’d certainly be receptive to their funding it in the future, as long as they have policies which are supportive of women and women’s health,” such as the policy to fund Planned Parenthood again.

In a statement Feb. 3, Komen’s Brinker said, “We have been distressed at the presumption that the changes made to our funding criteria were done for political reasons or to specifically penalize Planned Parenthood. They were not.” She added that Komen will amend its grantmaking criteria “to make clear that disqualifying investigations must be criminal and conclusive in nature and not political.”

And the Maunter Project’s Calman said Komen had been “scrupulously apolitical” until the Planned Parenthood defunding, even though Brinker is a Republican and served as a presidential appointee under President George W. Bush. Calman noted that Mollie Williams, Komen’s managing director of community health programs, who resigned in protest at the defunding of Planned Parenthood, sits on the Mautner Project Technical Advisory Council and has been “a good friend to the Mautner Project.”

Calman said she had been “alarmed and dismayed” at Komen’s decision to defund Planned Parenthood, and characterized it as “a huge misstep.” But she said that, going forward, she looks forward to “continued support” from Komen.

Shein of Philadelphia said she would like to hear “a stronger statement” from Komen about “mixing politics and philanthropy,” but is “glad” the national organization reversed its decision.

Creager, of New York’s LGBT Community Center, said the center will continue to “pay attention to new developments,” but added, “We hope and believe Komen will continue to address the needs of LBT people with breast cancer by continuing to partner with the Center and other LGBT organizations.”

The situation with Planned Parenthood may even have made that more likely. The L.A. Center’s Key noted that, “Komen knows the world is watching — and there will be an immediate outcry over any decision that prioritizes politics over lives.

© 2012 by Keen News Service. All rights reserved

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 17, 2012.

—  Michael Stephens

‘I suspect that no LGBT group will want to come to Dallas when they learn of the mayor’s position’

Cece Cox

Resource Center Dallas Executive Director and CEO Cece Cox issued a statement this afternoon, criticizing Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings for failing to sign a pledge in support of marriage equality this week.

“As the executive director and CEO of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community center in the sixth largest LGBT community in United States, I am concerned that Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings is not supporting marriage equality alongside other big-city mayors,” Cox said. “Legally recognized marriage is a civil rights, an economic and a legal issue that directly affects the members of the LGBT community where he serves as mayor and who call Dallas home.

“In the last two years, two major LGBT conferences (Creating Change and the Out & Equal Workplace Summit) have visited Dallas, bringing millions of dollars in local economic impact. I suspect that no LGBT group will want to come to Dallas when they learn of the mayor’s position,” Cox wrote. “LGBT families are shut out of the legal protections granted with marriage. The result is that couples and children in LGBT families are precluded from legal health benefits, economic benefits and the safety and security that so many others enjoy because the laws automatically protect them. I urge Mayor Rawlings to revisit and reconsider his decision.”

Below is video from this morning’s press conference in Washington, where Freedom to Marry formally launched the Mayors for the Freedom to Marry campaign. According to the press release we’ve posted after the jump, 80 mayors from across the country have now signed the pledge in support of marriage equality. Among those who spoke at the press conference was Houston Mayor Annise Parker, who is co-chairing the campaign.

“Everyone here believes in the vital importance of marriage to our constituents, to our communities, and to our country,” Parker said. “Together, we will work to ensure that our cities have what they need to thrive – and in order to keep our cities competitive in business and welcoming in culture, we will work hard to win the freedom to marry everywhere and end federal marriage discrimination once and for all.”

—  John Wright

Upstate NY newspaper runs trans-tastic series

A view of Downtown Albany from the Hudson River

My college town newspaper, the Albany Times Union, is running an awesome series of articles about the transgender community this week that I wanted to share.

When I was in school, the Times Union was the conservative newspaper and the now-gone Knickerbocker News was the liberal paper. But the surviving paper knows its audience and Albany is liberal. No, that should read LIBERAL.

This whole series is worth a read. But not only are the articles good, so are the comments. The biggest complaint is that the LGBT community is getting too much coverage. Imagine that in the local Dallas newspaper. I expect more negative comments right here in a Texas LGBT newspaper than an Upstate New York mainstream paper is getting.

Here’s an article filled with statistics. They claim more than 8 million LGBs in the U.S. and 700,000 transgenders. There’s no census count so I’m not sure where the numbers come from.

Here’s the main page — Transgender: A Special Report. The online version begins with 75+ photos.

People just know me as Pat

The long, difficult journey of how a man became a woman

Surgery, pain, humor and no turning back

Going from Kenny to Kym was no easy road

For Drew, nothing is written

‘I like my fluid identity’

A little about Albany

Albany is a small city of about 100,000 people. The capital of New York, it’s about 150 miles north of New York City, north of the Catskills, south of the Adirondacks and where the Mohawk River empties into the Hudson River. Where the northbound New York State Thruway makes a sharp left turn to head west to Buffalo — giving the city its nickname — the armpit of New York.

Oh, and Albany is a very liberal city. So it’s not surprising they’d run this series. I just don’t know when another mainstream daily has devoted this much space at one time to transgender issues.

Albany is home to the first LGBT community center ever created in the country. Located in a brownstone a few blocks the Capitol, it’s now called the Capital Pride Center. The building was purchased in 1974 by a professor at my school and a group of us helped renovate the building. That was the first time I ever helped build stairs. Hopefully they’ve been rebuilt since then.

And Sen. Gillibrand — who represented Albany before becoming senator — was a leader in getting rid of “don’t ask, don’t tell” and pushed for marriage equality along with Governor Andrew Cuomo.

—  David Taffet

Congress raises debt ceiling, avoids default

But agreement on spending cuts without more revenue splits Dems, worries LGBT and AIDS groups

Rep. Tammy Baldwin
Rep. Tammy Baldwin

Lisa Keen  |  Keen News Service

lisakeen@mac.com

The U.S. Senate gave final Congressional approval Tuesday, Aug. 2, to a bill raising the nation’s current $14.3 trillion debt ceiling by $2 trillion. But the bill also calls for $2 trillion in federal spending cuts, that worries LGBT and AIDS organizations concerned about the survival of safety nets and programs of specific interest to the LGBT community.

“When I hear these numbers, I worry what it will mean for the social services safety net all over the nation, including LGBT organizations that are serving the most needy in our community,” said Lorri Jean, executive director of the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, the largest LGBT community center in the country.

“And when I hear talk of striking a deal that includes no new taxes, at a time when taxes are already at their lowest, it seems clear that poor and vulnerable Americans of all sexual orientations and gender identities are being sacrificed,” Jean said.

That has been the reaction of many to the debt ceiling agreement this week, including two of the four openly gay members of Congress.

The final agreement, called the Budget Control Act of 2011, raises the nation’s debt ceiling enough to enable the government to borrow the money it needs to pay its obligations through 2012. But it also requires the government to cut its deficit by that same amount — $2.1 trillion — over the next 10 years.

The legislation also places caps on discretionary spending and allows “adjustments” to those caps only for “emergency appropriations, appropriations for the global war on terrorism and appropriations for major disasters.”

Funding to fight bullying in schools, to prosecute hate-motivated crimes or to increase research to fight breast cancer or AIDS would not seem to fall in the categories allowing for adjustments.

The legislation does not specify where the cuts are to occur but rather sets up a special 12-member bipartisan joint Congressional committee to propose them. If that committee fails to identify cuts of at least $1.2 trillion by Nov. 23, then a “trigger” kicks in and across-the-board cuts are made in all programs to the tune of $1.5 trillion.

Various political analysts say the legislation is addressing the immediate, urgent need to fund the government. The debt ceiling issue has been an urgent focus of Congress and the White House for the past several weeks, with a looming threat that the government might not be able to send out checks to Social Security recipients, military personnel and creditors.

“Our country was literally on the verge of a disaster,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., Tuesday, just before the Senate voted 74 to 26 on the measure.

The president signed the measure into law within hours.

But many political analysts this week were also saying the agreement’s proposed cuts in spending could stall economic recovery from the three-year-old recession. Among other things, the cuts will likely mean no efforts to relieve the 9.2 percent unemployment rate and it will mean reduced federal funding to already-strapped state and local budgets.

Although treated as a routine procedure by previous administrations — including that of Republican President George W. Bush — raising the ceiling on how much the nation can borrow to pay for its expenses became a volatile political struggle for Democratic President Barack Obama.

Republicans have largely pushed for cuts in spending, while Democrats have largely pushed for increasing revenues. Most analysts say the agreement — which identifies no increased revenues — is largely a political victory for Tea Party Republicans whose mantra is “Taxed Enough Already.”

Sen. Reid criticized Tea Party members, saying their insistence on no new taxes — also referred to as revenues — was “disconcerting.”

“The richest of the rich have contributed nothing to this,” said Reid. “The burden of what has taken place is on the middle class and the poor.”

Even the four openly gay members of the House were split on the agreement this week. Veteran Reps. Barney Frank, D-Mass., and Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., voted no, and newcomer Reps. Jared Polis, D-Colo., and David Cicilline, D-R.I., voted yes.

Baldwin issued a statement saying the bill amounts to playing “political games” that “threaten to set back our fragile economic recovery.” While the bill needs to lower the deficit, said Baldwin, it also needs to create jobs and protect the middle class “through shared sacrifice.”

Frank said he opposed the bill primarily because it did not include cuts in war spending. As for harm to funding for LGBT-related concerns, Frank said funding to enforce hate crimes and bullying programs is relatively small and unlikely to be affected, but he said cuts would hurt funding for bigger expenditures, such as research to fight breast cancer.

Cicilline issued a statement following his vote for the agreement, saying he did so “to prevent a first-ever default on our nation’s obligations, and to avoid the very real potential of an economic catastrophe.”
“To be clear,” added Cicilline, “there’s a lot about this bill I don’t like, but my prerequisite for voting in favor of this bill was that we avoid a default and we protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, which this bill does.

“There’s no question that the single biggest job killer for our country would have been a default,” said Cicilline. “In the coming months Congress must build off of this compromise legislation to pursue a balanced approach to reduce our nation’s debt and redouble our focus on putting people back to work.”

AIDS United, a coalition of hundreds of local groups working to help people with HIV and AIDS, says the agreement is not a balanced approach and does “little to remove the cloud of potential, devastating funding cuts to non-defense domestic programs, including HIV-related programs, funding to implement health care reform, and low-income safety net programs.”

AIDS United said it fears programs for people with HIV “could be affected adversely by the harsh spending caps in FY 2012 and following years.”

And groups serving LGBT youth are worried, too.

Eliza Byard, executive director of the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLESN), said she thinks it’s too early to know the specific impact.

But “there is no doubt,” she said, “that the hard spending caps created by the agreement will have a serious impact on K-12 education and youth services, effecting all LGBT youth in this country.

“Advocates for youth, LGBT and otherwise, will need to be extremely vigilant about the emerging details of the initial cuts and the further reductions to spending to be recommended by the Congressional panel,” said Byard. “As a member of the National Collaboration for Youth, the America’s Promise Alliance, and the Whole Child Initiative of ASCD, GLSEN will continue to advocate for LGBT youth in the context of protecting the interests of all children in on-going budget debates.”

R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of the national gay Republican group Log Cabin Republicans, credited Republican leaders with setting “a clear goal” and refusing to give President Obama “a blank check” for spending.

But he added, “Nobody should believe that this is more than a stopgap measure.”

“The culture of spending in Washington must fundamentally change going forward,” said Cooper. “This is only the first step in a course that will dramatically alter how our government approaches the budget and will provide fiscal stability for Wall Street and Main Street.”

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force warned last year that deficit reduction measures would almost certainly mean “key safety-net programs [would] be caught in the political crossfire….”

The Human Rights Campaign had no comment on the debt ceiling bill by deadline.

© 2011 by Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 5, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens