‘A landmark moment’ for trans Americans, but there’s so far left to go

Screen shot 2015-01-21 at 1.00.32 PM

President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama made history Tuesday night (Jan. 20), when he actually said the words “lesbian,” “bisexual” and “transgender” during the his State of the Union speech. It was the first time those words had ever been uttered in a SOTU address.

President Obama said: “As Americans, we respect human dignity. … That’s why we defend free speech, and advocate for political prisoners, and condemn the persecution of women, or religious minorities, or people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. We do these things not only because they are the right thing to do, but because ultimately they will make us safer.”

It was, I think, an especially sweet moment for the thousands and thousands of transgender Americans. We are making progress toward full equality every day, but still, our trans brothers and sisters are the ones still being left behind. So hearing the president of the United States truly acknowledge them had to be a great moment.

The press releases and written statements I found flooding my email inbox this morning reinforced what I already believed:

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said: “What President Obama said about trans people last night … he actually said it. …. His mention of us [last night] let’s us know that whenever he’s spoken of children, he has meant transgender children too. Or when he’s spoken out about immigrants, he’s meant transgender immigrants too. And when he’s talked about service members and veterans, he meant transgender service members too.”

A statement from the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund called the mention “a landmark moment,” adding: “This is a moment of promise for transgender people, who before now, had never been mentioned in a State of the Union address. We are grateful to President Obama for including our entire community in his speech, and for highlighting and condemning the persecution of LGBT people. Through his stirring and heartfelt words, the president has again demonstrated his commitment to creating a world where people are treated equally regardless of who we are or who we love.”

As uplifting and empowering as that moment was, though, my email inbox also provided ample proof that we still have a very long way to go, especially in protecting transgender Americans — their rights, their freedoms and their very lives.

A press release from the National Center for Lesbian Rights notes that NCLR and the Human Rights Campaign on Tuesday filed a joint friend of the court brief in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, supporting a former Saks Fifth Avenue employee, Leyth Jamal, who says the company discriminated against her because she is trans.

Saks attorneys have asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit because Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not protect transgender workers.

I also had an email from a group called Care2, “a community of 27 million standing together for good,” taking to task InTouch Weekly for its horrendous cover story speculating on the gender identity of Olympic champion Bruce Jenner.

I saw that cover while standing in the check-out line at the grocery store; it made me sick, and it made me angry. It depicts a heavily altered photo of Jenner to show what he would look like as a woman. I didn’t read the article — although Care2’s statement says it was full of speculation and nothing else. Us Magazine reports Jenner himself is “upset” with the cover and story.

According to the press release, there is a new Care2 petition by Julie Mastrine demanding that “David Perel, editorial director of InTouch Weekly, be more sensitive to the struggles that actual transgender people face and refrain from gossipy speculation about someone’s gender identity.”

Mastrine said: “Publicly speculating as to whether or not someone will be coming out as transgender illustrates a flippant lack of empathy toward people who actually struggle with making a gender transition. It robs Jenner of his right to identify as he wishes.”

BuzzFeed says the magazine likely imposed Jenner’s face over British actress Stephanie Beacham’s body, and even comedian/actor Russell Brand condemned InTouch, calling it “bullying.”

 

—  Tammye Nash

Obama appoints gay former Plano man to Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board

Screen shot 2014-09-15 at 11.54.43 AM

Maneesh Goyal

President Barack Obama has appointed Maneesh K. Goyal to the board of the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board. Goyal is an out gay men who grew up and went to high school in Plano, where his parents, Madan and Sneh Goyal, still live.

The 12-member J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board oversees the U.S. State Department’s Fulbright Scholarship program. The board members also select students, scholars, teachers and others to participate in the Fulbright exchange program.

Goyal  is founder and president of MKG, an event marketing agency with headquarters in New York City. Started in 2001, the company now has offices in Los Angeles and Chicago. His clients include Delta Airlines, Evian, Chase Bank, JCPenney, Neiman Marcus and Levis. MKG was named as one of Crain’s New York’s “Fast 50″ companies in 2013, honoring companies that have found “unique methods for powering phenomenal growth.”

Also in 2013, Goyal co-founded “Live in Grey,” a resource and consultancy effort focused on workplace culture. And from 1999 to 2001, he was a program officer at Dyson Foundation where he built a national program to train pediatricians.

Goyal helped found and lead Duke University’s gay alumni network was a board member for Empire State Pride Agenda, a New York state LGBT rights organization. He has also established a gay entrepreneurs breakfast group in New York City and he  requires all his employees to spend five paid volunteer days and an annual fund on their favorite non-profit. He is on the U.S. Advisory Council for the American India Foundation, and has served on boards for LifeBeat, South Asian American Forum and Stonewall Community Foundation.

Goyal has a bachelor’s degree from Duke University and a master’s degree in public health from Yale.

—  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

Exxon will comply with executive order banning anti-LGBT discrimination

exxonmobil.si

In a statement to the Associated Press on Tuesday, officials with ExxonMobil said the company will “abide by the law” and comply with President Obama’s executive orders, signed Monday, prohibiting the federal government and companies with federal contracts from discriminating against LGBT employees.

ExxonMobil spokesman Alan Jeffers would not comment on whether the company will change its own policies to prohibit anti-LGBT discrimination. But he insisted ExxonMobil prohibits “discrimination on any basis.”

In May, shareholders for the company, headquartered in Irving, voted down a proposal to change its policies to explicitly prohibit anti-LGBT discrimination in employment. It was the 15th straight year shareholders have rejected the proposed changes, despite ongoing efforts of activists. When Exxon and Mobil were separate companies, Mobil had specific policies protecting LGBT employees and offered domestic partner benefits Once Exxon took over, though, those policies and benefits were abolished.

In May, Exxon shareholders voted down a proposal for the 15th consecutive year to add such language to its equal employment opportunity statement, maintaining that the business standards stated on a company web site ensure protections without having to specifically name them.

ExxonMobile began offering benefits to legally married same-sex couples among its employees in May 2013 after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a portion of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. But the company faces a discrimination complaint in Illinois where a group called Freedom to Work submitted two fictitious resumes to the company, which ignored a more qualified applicant identified in the resume as gay and responded to a less qualified applicant who didn’t identify as gay.

According to government records, ExxonMobil won more than $480 million in federal contracts in 2013 and more than $8 billion since 2006.

—  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

BREAKING: Obama will sign executive order banning discrimination

Barack ObamaPresident Obama announced today he will sign an executive order on Monday that bars federal contractors from discriminating against employees based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. The president said last month that he planned to sign the two orders.

The announcement follows the recent collapse of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act — ENDA — in Congress. LGBT groups withdrew their support for the bill in opposition to its sweeping religious exemptions, which many feared would basically gut protections  following the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision. The Huffington Post’s Gay Voices editor-at-large Michelangelo Signorile has more on the collapse here.

UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute’s research suggests that up to 34 million employees, or one fifth of the national workforce, will be included.

Senior White Officials noted that President Obama will not include exemptions for contractors based on their religious beliefs, as many activists initially feared. But he will keep intact an amendment signed by George W. Bush in 2002 allowing religiously affiliated contractors to discriminate on the basis of religion.

—  James Russell

Obama to sign order banning anti-trans discrimination

President Obama announced earlier this month that he intends to sign an executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating against employees on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Today, according to Politico.com, he President Obamaended National Gay Pride Month by announcing that the White House is also preparing an executive order banning job discrimination among federal employees on the basis of gender identity.

The president mentioned the second executive order during a Pride Month reception at the White House. Spokesman Shin Inouye said Monday he had no details on the second executive order.

—  Tammye Nash

Obama to issue executive order on workplace discrimination for government contractors

obamaBy Lisa Keen

Keen News Service

In a sudden but not necessarily unexpected gesture, the White House indicated today that President Obama has “directed his staff” to prepare an executive order to prohibit federal contractors from discriminating against employees on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

The White House official could not say how soon President Obama intends to sign the executive order. But the news comes during Pride Month and just two weeks before the White House hosts its annual reception in celebration of Pride Month. And it comes just one day before President Obama is scheduled to be at an LGBT-related fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee in New York.

It also comes as much of the nation’s attention is riveted to a escalating civil war in Iraq that threatens to provoke U.S. military response and to an “urgent humanitarian” crisis in which more than 1,000 unaccompanied minors are crossing the border from Mexico into the U.S. every day.

Word that President Obama plans to sign a federal contractor executive order to protect LGBT employees spread lightning fast yesterday.

The Human Rights Campaign called the news the “culmination of six years of advocacy by the members and supporters of the Human Rights Campaign, LGBT and civil rights leaders, and allies on Capitol Hill.”

It also comes after months of mixed signals from the White House. On January 31, John Podesta, the former chief of staff to President Clinton who had just joined the Obama White House as Counselor to the President, said an executive order was “under consideration at the White House –we’re looking at that.” But then White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, on that same day, said he didn’t have any updates on “a hypothetical executive order for LGBT non-discrimination” and added that it’s “the wrong approach.” He said the president thought ENDA is “the right way to go here.”

© 2014 Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

—  David Taffet

The moon shone red on Passover — Thanks Obama

MoonLast night was not just a full moon, but a blood red full moon, which brought the crazies out.

Right-wing website World News Daily headlined the event with the warning: Move over Obama: The ‘pen and phone’ that really count.

Here’s their problem. In his State of the Union address, the president said he would issue executive orders to break the deadlock in Congress. Well, God doesn’t like that. How does WND know? Because the moon was red last night in a totally predictable and explainable astronomical event that happens with some regularity.

And while we’re being bat-shit crazy, we might as well bring in the Jews, especially since this week is Passover.

WND quotes a Pastor Mark Blitz who said, “I believe the moons are like flashing red warning lights at a heavenly intersection saying to Israel as well as the nations they will be crossing heavenly red lines, and if they do, they will understand as Pharaoh did on Passover night 3,500 years ago that the Creator backs up what He says.”

So, I’m not sure if the good pastor is equating the lunar eclipse to one of the 12 plagues that is part of the story of Passover. If so, were any cattle or first-born harmed during this lunar eclipse? Or is he calling Obama the Pharoah and if so, why can’t the president just tell Congress to act or he’ll bury them in the pyramid he’s building for himself.

—  David Taffet

Obama administration diverts money from Uganda because of anti-gay law

Museveni

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni

The White house announced Tuesday it is stationing aircraft in Uganda to support the African Union efforts to save civilian lives in the Central African Republic and South Sudan from the Lord’s Resistance Army. Millions of dollars that was to go to Uganda will be diverted elsewhere, and invitations for Ugandan military and police to travel outside the country have been canceled.

“As we move forward with the deployment of the Ospreys to support the AU, we are cognizant that there are many who share our concerns about Ugandan President Museveni’s recent enactment of the Anti-Homosexuality Act,” the White House Office of Communications announced in a press release. “Ensuring justice and accountability for human rights violators like the LRA and protecting LGBT rights aren’t mutually exclusive. We can and must do both.”

To counter Museveni enacting the Anti-Homosexuality Act, several steps have been taken.

The Inter-Religious Council of Uganda will continue to receive $2.3 million for direct treatment of 50,000 people with HIV, but will lose $6.4 million in other funding, because its “public stance on homosexuality could foster an atmosphere of discrimination that runs counter to efforts to provide an effective and nondiscriminatory response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.”

The U.S. is suspending the start of a survey to estimate the size of key at-risk populations that was to be conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Uganda’s Makarere University. Proceeding with the survey could pose a danger to respondents and staff.

Because the law threatens the safety of LGBT tourists in Uganda and the liberty of those who show support for Uganda’s LGBT community, $3 million in funding designated for tourism and biodiversity promotion will be redirected to NGOs working on biodiversity protection.

The Department of Defense-sponsored Africa Air Chiefs Symposium and East Africa Military Intelligence Non-Commissioned Officer course will move to locations outside of Uganda. Invitational travel for Ugandan military and police has been suspended or canceled.

“We continue to look at additional steps we may take, to work to protect LGBT individuals from violence and discrimination, and to urge Uganda to repeal this abhorrent law,” the White House press release said.

—  David Taffet