One Step Forward And One Step Backward On State Identification Cards For Trans People

Back in the seventies, California passed legislation regarding identification cards that was truly progressive; I personally benefitted from the activism of Californian transsexual women that did work long before I was out of the closet. Transsexual Californians have relatively simple and accomplishable procedures for changing one’s gender marker on California state identification cards (which include drivers licenses), and sometimes I find it too easy to take for granted.

Thumbnail Link: Equality Pennsylvania's Press Release 'Equality Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Reach Breakthrough Agreement on Gender Marker Policy'Well, Pennsylvania has just changed their policy on gender markers for their state identification cards. From the Equality Pennsylvania press release Equality Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Reach Breakthrough Agreement on Gender Marker Policy:

Harrisburg:  After several months of positive and thoughtful discussion, Equality Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) today announced that they have successfully reached agreement on a change in gender marker policy.  ”Gender Markers” refer to those ways in which individuals present themselves mostly on official documentation.  For example, on a driver’s license your “gender marker” would refer to your name and photograph.

“I want to applaud the Department of Transportation for the careful and intelligent way they have handled this discussion,” remarked Equality Pennsylvania Executive Director, Ted Martin.  ”From the very beginning, they recognized what the American Psychological Association, over 25 other states and the U. S. Department of State has been realizing all along; that this just makes sense and is the right thing to do. This simple and cost-free change in policy will make lives better and that’s really the most important point in all this.”

Under previous policy, transgender individuals looking to be represented on their driver’s license as their presenting gender were forced to prove that sexual reassignment surgery had occurred.  With the newly adopted policy, transgender citizens of Pennsylvania will be permitted to change the designated gender on their driver’s license when they are living full-time in their new gender and it can be verified by a licensed medical or psychological caregiver.

One step forward in Pennsylvania…

…and a step backward is occurring in Michigan’s race for Secretary of State. Now two Republican primary candidates for the office have made rolling back transsexual/transgender gender marker policies to one similar to Pennsylvania’s recently changed policy. In other words, as we’re watching many Republicans on the national stage making a wedge issue of Muslims, at least two Republicans in Michigan have made a wedge issue of transsexual and transgender people. Apparently, we don’t have enough minorities in the United States to express despite towards.

Thumbnail Link: Republican Candidate Paul Scott for Michigan Secretary of StateI already wrote about Republican Candidate Paul Scott, who in his letter announcing he was running for Secretary of State, he only had four campaign issue talking points — and trans discrimination was point number three:

There are also policies that I will work to change:

• I will stand strong against illegal immigration by verifying a valid social security number before issuing anyone a driver’s license, an issue Representative Dave Agema has been pushing for 3 years.

• I will actively push to encrypt the traceable RFID chip in the enhanced driver’s license.

I will make it a priority to ensure transgender individuals will not be allowed to change the sex on their driver’s license in any circumstance.

• I will work tirelessly to repeal the over 0 million dollar tax increase on drivers in the form of driver responsibility fees.

After traveling around the State the past few months, I have not heard any of the other candidates for Secretary of State addressing the serious issues mentioned above.

Thumbnail Link: Republican Candidate Ruth Johnson For Michigan Secretary Of StateNot to be outdone, Republican Candidate for Michigan Secretary of State, Ruth Johnson, has announced that she too is embracing changing policy for transsexual Michiganites. From the Michigan Messenger‘s Johnson Takes Hard Right Turn On LGBT Issues In GOP Primary:

Republican candidate for Secretary of State Ruth Johnson has issued a statement denying support for lesbian, gays, bisexuals and transgender people and disavowing her 2002 endorsement by the statewide gay rights group Triangle PAC.

In a move meant to match the political stance of opponent Rep. Paul Scott of Genesee County, Johnson also issued a statement saying, “No I do not support allowing people to change their gender on their license as a result of surgery or lifestyle.”

Scott entered the race in February with a great deal of attention on his announcement that he would not allow transgender residents to change their gender markers on their state ID cards.

Julie Nemecek made a comment in the Michigan Messenger article that sums up why this reversal of policy, apparently endorsed by Scott and Johnson, isn’t sound policy:

To not allow a transgender person to change their gender marker on a driver’s license is to ignore the advice of the AMA [American Medical Association], APA [American Psychological Association], WPATH [World Professional Association for Transgender Health], and other healthcare organizations that understand this medical condition. The U.S. State Department allows changes on a passport even without surgery.

One step backward in Michigan to go with our one step forward in Pennsylvania.

On the state level, we have one state take a step forward regarding gender markers on atate identification cards, and in another state we one step backward in the use of trans people as a wedge issue…specifically regarding gender markers on state identification cards.

It’s certainly an interesting time to live as a transgender and/or transsexual person in the United States.

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Further reading:

* TransGriot: Pennsylvania Changes Trans DL Rules and Another Michigan GOP Candidate Plays The Transphobia Card

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Related:

* Running On An Antitrans Hate Platform In Michigan
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  John Wright

California’s Civil Marriage Religious Freedom Act (SB 906) A Step Away From Governor’s Desk

Opponents of marriage equality have falsely claimed that allowing same-sex couples to marry will force clergy to violate the tenets of their faiths. This bill should alleviate any concerns that restoring marriage equality will require clergy to perform weddings inconsistent with their faith.

~Geoff Kors, Executive Director of Equality California, regarding the Civil Marriage Religious Freedom Act (SB 905).

Oh, those optimists at Equality California.

Last week, the California State Assembly voted to approve the Civil Marriage Religious Freedom Act (SB 906). Thumbnail Link to Equality California's webpage for the Civil Marriage Religious Freedom Act (SB 906)Since the California State Senate voted to approve the bill in late May, this bill one State Senate vote away from heading off to Governor Schwarzenegger’s desk.

What is SB 906 designed to do? Per the State Senate’s webpage for SB 906:

This bill distinguishes between civil and religious marriage by clarifying that a civil marriage is established pursuant to a State of California marriage license, to which the consent of the parties capable of making that contract is necessary. This bill specifies that no priest, minister, rabbi, or authorized person of any religious denomination would be required to solemnize a marriage that is contrary to the tenets of his/her faith. This bill additionally states that any refusal to solemnize a marriage under that provision shall not affect the tax exempt status of any entity.

One might think most, if not all, social conservatives would be for a bill that specifically guaranteed their First Amendment freedom of religion protections, especially when it came to specific protections for ministers who don’t want to solemnize marriages that they believe are immoral. That, of course, is so not so.

The Baptist Press’s Innocent-Sounding Calif. Bill Could Help Legalize ‘Gay Marriage’, Some Say quotes the California Family Council‘s past Legislative Coordinator, Everett Rice, said this regarding the evils of SB 906.

The concern is over the specific changing of the California statute to create a new class of civil marriage. We are concerned that that’s going to become another avenue of actually changing the definition of marriage itself. That’s been pretty much the focus of Sen. Leno’s and those who support homosexual marriage. Our concern is that the bill incrementally begins the process of doing that. What we’ve seen in the past is that measures like these incrementally try to change whole institutions.

The California Family Council website itself states that their organizationopposes this legislation. This organization — an organization which identifies itself as being associated with Focus on the Familystates why they oppose SB 906:

Existing law defines marriage as a personal relation arising out of a civil contract between a man and a woman, to which the consent of the parties capable of making that contract is necessary.

This bill would instead define the term civil marriage as a personal relation arising out of a civil contract between a man and a woman, established pursuant to a State of California marriage license issued by the county clerk, to which the consent of the parties capable of making that contract is necessary.

The bill would also make conforming related changes by changing certain references to marriage to civil marriage.

That said, the California Southern Baptist Convention stated they believe the SB 906 to be “good legislation.” From the San Francisco Chronicle‘s Bill Would Let Clergy Refuse To Marry Gays:

Several religious organizations support the measure, including the California Southern Baptist Convention, which supported Prop. 8. Terry Barone, spokesman for the convention, called it “good legislation.”

“That certainly would seem to add protections for a clergy member who, for whatever reason, might be hesitant to perform a marriage ceremony,” he said.

So, where do you think California Republicans stand on this bill? Per California’s State Senate website, voting against this were Republican assemblymembers Anthony Adams (59th Assembly District), Joel Anderson (77th Assembly District), Bill Berryhill (26th Assembly District), Tom Berryhill (25th Assembly District), Connie Conway (34th Assembly District), Paul Cook (65th Assembly District), Chuck DeVore (70th Assembly District), Jean Fuller (32nd Assembly District), Gaines (4th Assembly District), Martin Garrick (74th Assembly District), Danny Gilmore (30th Assembly District), Curt Hagman (60th Assembly District), Diane Harkey (73rd Assembly District), Kevin Jeffries (66th Assembly District), Steve Knight (36th Assembly District), Dan Logue (3rd Assembly District), Jeff Miller (71st Assembly District), Brian Nestande (64th Assembly District), Roger Niello (5th Assembly District), Jim Nielsen (2nd Assembly District), Norby (72nd Assembly District), Jim Silva (67th Assembly District), Cameron Smyth (38th Assembly District), Audra Strickland (37th Assembly District), Van Tran (68th Assembly District), and Mike Villines (29th Assembly District) all voted against the bill — That’s the entirety of the California Assembly Republican Caucus. The votes from California State Senate Republican Caucus on this bill are in the same vein as the California Assembly Republican Caucus, with the exception of two Republican State Senators (Dave Cox and Tom Harman) who did not have votes recorded on the bill.

One only can wonder how one could actually have worded the freedom of religion protections of SB 906 to satisfy the most right wing portion of the religious right and California’s Republicans. I have a feeling one couldn’t design language that would be satisfactory to these folk.

My personal opinion on this is that the Republican politicians and the furthest right of the religious right would rather hold onto their false freedom of religion and freedom of speech arguments regarding any legislation that remotely deals with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. In my opinion, these folk want to make those arguments into the future, even when legislators are trying to directly address those concerns head on.

Mario Guerrero, the Government Affairs Director for Equality California, asked the question Will California’s Republicans stand for religious freedom? We now know the answer to that question, and the answer is “No.”

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Further Reading:

* Equality California: California Passes Legislation Strengthening Religious Freedoms

* BCNN1.com: New California Bill Protects Pastors from Performing Homosexual Marriages; but It Could Legalize ‘Homosexual Marriage’ by Calling All Marriages Civil Unions

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Related:

* Equality California Sponsors Bill Strengthening Religious Freedoms for Clergy
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  John Wright

Guest column by David Mixner: Mr. President, Enough Of The Politics, Step Up To The Plate

Mr. President, Enough Of The Politics, Step Up To The Plate

by David Mixner, Live from Hell’s Kitchen

After the Proposition 8 historic decision came down on Wednesday, my email box was flooded with people from every walk of life issuing press releases praising the victory. The Republican Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger couldn’t be more excited for the LGBT community in our victory. Justice and equality was having a good day and everyone was basking in it.

Well, not quite everyone. Our President, our fierce advocate, continued with a game of giving us begrudgingly congratulations in a tepid unemotional and uninspired statement while sending his minions out to make sure the entire country knew that he was against marriage equality. If there was anyone that should sit down and read this opinion it would be this son of an interracial couple who had to go to Supreme Court to obtain marriage equality.

Unfortunately, he didn’t even mention the court case in his two line statement. However, David Axelrod found plenty of time to go on national television to make sure the country knew that Obama was against marriage equality. Then there was the cowardly “nameless source” who said the President would only deal with those actions at the federal level such as benefits and things.

This game has to stop. The President is either with us or against us. If he is neutral, so be it but then stop hurting us by saying over and over how marriage equality is between a man and a women. He should pay close attention to the line in Judge Walker’s decision that says,

“Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite sex couples are superior to same-sex couples. ”

With this case he could no longer hide behind the fact that the Attorney General would have to intervene against us. The case does not involve the federal government. The issue is here to stay. As much as they wish, they can’t manage it politically for their convenience. Mr. President, that is no longer possible. The surge toward marriage equality is even going to be stronger in this coming Presidential election. In fact, the Supreme Court could even rule one way or another before the election.

For the President, an enormous amount is at stake surrounding this issue and it goes far beyond marriage equality. Is the President going to seize this moment in history and become a great leader or will others have to lead him? Is he going to be remembered as Harry Truman or more like those Senators in the 1960′s who walked a fine line attempting to appease all sides in that great epic struggle for civil rights?.

Now is the time, Mr. President for you to lead, not tomorrow but today. We want you by our sides. If not, you will be the one that will always be remembered for standing on the sidelines without courage. With or without your leadership, nothing is going to stop our inevitable march to freedom.

And in his earlier post about the Prop 8 decision, he shared this important point to underscore, given the historic decision brought to bear by allies from opposite ends of the political spectrum. That fact alone – that this marriage equality battle is not a conservative or liberal matter at all — it inoculates this decision from usual right-wing arguments.

My love, respect and honor always will be given to David Boies and Ted Olson. They have earned a place on the walls of our homes. These two straight men from different political histories have united in the cause of justice. They are true heroes. The American Foundation for Equal Rights will need our money and support to fight the appeals. Special thanks has to go to Chad Griffin who has been with this since day one.

You just click here right now and send them some money to make sure we have everything we need to win this case before the Supreme Court.

***

An aside — today I met up with David and former Clinton White House insider Richard Socarides for what I Tweeted snarkily as “At BlogHer, but leaving in a bit to meet w/Richard Socarides and David Mixner about next steps in The Homosexual Agenda and “There were evil laughs and Dr. Evil pinkies in full expression.”

I won’t disclose our secret plans, but David Mixner made a bold prediction for the record on the outcome of this Prop 8 case — he thinks it will be a SCOTUS win for us 6-3 (with the dissenters Scalia, Alito, and Thomas). Why? The key is Chief Justice John Roberts  – in the end he will vote with us because he doesn’t want “his court” to be on the wrong side of history. Bookmark this post so we can check back…in late 2011/early 2012. We all figure SCOTUS will get this case fairly quickly in the scheme of legal timetables.

That will be a boatload of trouble for President Obama’s current ridiculous position that this is a matter up to the states and that civil unions are an adequate separate-but-equal solution.
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  John Wright

DART accused of transphobia

Judge reversed order after transit agency fought longtime employee’s gender-marker change last year

John Wright | News Editor
wright@dallasvoice.com

TRANS FRIENDLY? | Judge Lynn Cherry, right, is shown alongside drag performer Chanel during Stonewall Democrats’ 2008 holiday party at the Round-Up Saloon. A few months later, Cherry ruled against a transgender DART employee and overturned a gender-marker change. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

DART stands accused of bigotry and transphobia after attorneys for the local transit agency intervened in family court last year to challenge a gender-marker change granted to an employee.

According to court records, a transgender DART employee obtained a court order in February 2009 directing all state agencies to correct their records by changing her gender-marker from male to female, including on her birth certificate.

As Dallas Voice reported last week, many Dallas County judges have been routinely granting gender-marker changes to transgender people who meet set criteria — including documentation from licensed medical personnel — since the Democratic sweep of 2006.

The DART employee, who’s name is being withheld to protect her anonymity, later presented the court order to the transit agency’s human resources department and requested that her personnel records be changed to reflect her new gender.

But DART’s attorneys objected to the gender-marker change and responded by filing a motion seeking a rehearing in court. DART’s objections prompted 301st Family District Court Judge Lynn Cherry to reverse her order granting the gender-marker change.

“Where does this stop when an employer can start interfering with your personal life and family law decisions?” said longtime local transgender activist Pamela Curry, a friend of the DART employee who brought the case to the attention of Dallas Voice. “She was devastated. This should be a serious concern to a lot of people — everybody — and I just think this story needs to be told.”

Judge Cherry, who received Stonewall Democrats of Dallas’ Pink Pump Award for her support of the group last year, didn’t respond to messages seeking comment this week.

Morgan Lyons, a spokesman for DART, noted that Cherry reversed her order before the agency actually filed its motion for a rehearing. However, Curry alleges that DART’s attorneys met with Cherry privately and pressured her into reversing the order.

As is common with gender-marker changes, the case file has been sealed, but Dallas Voice obtained copies of some of the court documents from Curry.

In their motion for a rehearing, DART attorneys Harold R. McKeever and Hyattye Simmons argued that Texas law grants registrars, not judges, the authority to amend birth certificates. They also argued that birth certificates could be amended only if they were inaccurate at the time of birth.

“It’s not a DART issue, it’s a point of law,” Lyons told Dallas Voice this week, in response to the allegations of bigotry. “The lawyers concluded that the birth certificate could not be altered by law, unless there was a mistake made when the birth certificate was completed, and again, the judge changed the order before we even wound up going into court with it.”

Asked about DART’s LGBT-related employment policies, Lyons said the agency’s nondiscrimination policy includes sexual orientation but not gender identity/expression. The agency, which is governed by representatives from Dallas and numerous suburbs, also doesn’t offer benefits to the domestic partners of employees.

Lyons didn’t respond to other allegations made by Curry, including that the agency has fought the employee’s transition from male to female at every step of the way.

Curry, who helped the employee file her pro se petition for a gender-marker change, said the employee has worked for DART for more than 20 years and has an outstanding performance record.

The employee began to come out as transgender in 2003 and had gender reassignment surgery more than three years ago, Curry said. Curry said DART supervisors have at various times told the employee that she couldn’t have long hair, couldn’t wear skirts to work and couldn’t use women’s restrooms at work.

The employee has responded by showing up at work in her uniform so she doesn’t have to change and using public restrooms on her bus route, Curry said.

Supervisors have also told the employee she can’t talk to the media and can’t join political groups, such as Stonewall Democrats, Curry said.

“She’s intimidated and she’s scared,” Curry said. “One supervisor even suggested to her that if she doesn’t lay off it, they will mess up her retirement.”

Elaine Mosher, a Dallas attorney who’s familiar with the case, also questioned why DART intervened. Mosher didn’t represent the employee in the case but has handled gender-marker changes for other clients.

Mosher said the employee’s gender doesn’t have any bearing on her ability to do her job at DART.

“My argument in any gender marker matter is, the birth certificate was wrong, that’s why they had to go through the transition surgery, in essence to put them in the correct gender,” Mosher said. “All I can tell you is that it seems strange to me that DART would care one way or another what the gender marker of anybody that works for them is.”

Moster added that she believes someone at DART may have been “freaked out” by the employee’s transition from male to female and developed a “vendetta” against her.

“I wish I had a good explanation for why [DART got involved] other than the fact that I know there are people out there who are utterly blind and prejudiced for no other reason than they are,” Mosher said. “I compare it to some of the nonsense African-Americans had to live through in the ’60s.”

Mosher also said she’s “very surprised” that Cherry reversed the order granting the gender marker change.

Erin Moore, president of Stonewall Democrats, said she’s heard “bits and pieces” of the story but isn’t sure of all the facts.

Moore said in response to her questions about the case, Cherry told her she couldn’t talk about it because it’s still within the timeframe for a possible appeal.

“Lynn is a longtime supporter of Stonewall and I would think she would be fair in the case,” Moore said. “I’m confident she’s an ally to this community.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 19, 2010.

—  admin