Why raising the minimum wage is an LGBT issue

rustinHTThe U.S. Senate votes Wednesday on raising the minimum wage to $10.10, which may help lift a disproportionately high number of LGBT households out of poverty.

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights sent some statistics compiled by their LGBT partners, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality.

According to studies, a $10.10 minimum wage would mean higher earnings for 17 million workers with little to no effect on the employment rate, and could lift nearly five million Americans out of poverty.

While the perception is that the gay community is wealthy, raising the minimum wage will disproportionately help the LGBT households.

•  Household income among trans people is four times as likely to be below $10,000 per year.

•  While 5.7 percent of opposite-sex married couples live in poverty, 7.6 percent of lesbian couples live in poverty.

•  Same-sex African-American couples have twice the poverty rate of opposite-sex African-American couples.

Over the past decade, studies have compared wages earned by gay and bisexual men compared to straight men. Taking into consideration education, occupation and region of the country, gay and bi men earn 10 to 32 percent less.

The Minimum Wage Fairness Act would:

•  raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 by 2016, in three increments of 95 cents each

•  adjust the minimum wage each following year to keep pace with the rising cost of living

•  raise the minimum wage for tipped workers, which has been frozen at a $2.13 per hour for more than 20 years

—  David Taffet

Indian Supreme Court recognizes transgenders as ‘third gender’

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Rose, India’s first transgender TV anchor

In what is being called a landmark judgment, India’s Supreme Court on Tuesday created a “third gender” status for transgender people, granting the group formal recognition for the first time, The Washington Post reported.

“Recognition of transgenders as a third gender is not a social or medical issue but a human rights issue,” Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan said when he announced the ruling. “Transgenders are citizens of this country and are entitled to education and all other rights.”

He directed local governmental bureaucracies to identify transgender people as a neutral third gender, adding that they will now have the same access to social welfare programs as other minority groups in India, the world’s largest democracy and currently in the midst an election campaign.

The court’s decision would apply to individuals who have acquired the physical characteristics of the opposite sex or present themselves in a way that does not correspond with their sex at birth, the Associated Press said.

The Supreme Court specified that its ruling would apply only to transgender people and not to gays, lesbians or bisexuals. India’s LGBT communities have been protesting the court’s recent decision to reinstate a colonial-era law banning gay sex, which they say will make them vulnerable to police harassment.

The case was brought in 2012 when a group led by transgender activist Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, a Hindi film actress, sought equal rights for India’s transgender population.

On Tuesday, Tripathi was triumphant.

“Today, for the first time I feel very proud to be an Indian,” she told reporters gathered at the New Delhi court. “Today, my sisters and I feel like real Indians, and we feel so proud because of the rights granted to us by the Supreme Court.”

Across much of South Asia and Southeast Asia, the language of gender is substantially more ambiguous than it is in the West. In countries such as Thailand and Cambodia, transgender people aren’t usually referred to as either a man or a woman — but as kathoey. India’s decision follows other regional countries’ decisions to recognize a third gender. Last year, neighboring Nepal offered a third gender option on official documents for its transgender population.

The West has been a tad slower to adopt such measures. Last year, Germany became the first European country to recognize a third gender, allowing parents of newborns to mark “male,” “female” or “indeterminate” on birth certificates.

Across the rest of Europe, Spiegel Online reports, change has been more halting. “Things are moving slower than they should at the European level,” human rights activist Silvan Agius said. “Though Brussels has ramped up efforts to promote awareness of trans and intersex discrimination, I would like to see things speed up.”

Things in India sped up this year. For the first time, India’s Election Commission allowed a third gender of “other” on voter registration forms for this election. Nearly 30,000 people designated themselves as “other,” the Associated Press reported, and there are an estimated 3 million transgender individuals in India.

“The progress of the country is dependent upon [the] human rights of the people, and we are very happy with the judgment,” Tripathi said. “The Supreme Court has given us those rights.”

—  Steve Ramos

Trans teacher gets to keep job as substitute with Lumberton ISD

Laura.Klug

Laura Klug received news from the Lumberton Independent School District superintendent Friday morning that she’d be able to return to the district’s classrooms as a substitute.

Klug was suspended earlier this week after parents complained that a transgender woman was teaching their children, calling her presence a “distraction.”

Her fate with the district was discussed during a packed school board meeting Thursday evening, where people on both sides of the argument expressed their opinion, 12 News reports.

“She’s not transgender. She’s a woman,” LGBT advocate Christopher King said. “This is a constitutional issue. You have to ask yourself this question: Is there any rational basis for her termination?”

Others felt Klug shouldn’t return.

“It is time to stop catering to special interest groups who are bent on influencing our children in a negative way,” Lumberton parent Cyndi Crews said. “The transvestite sub teacher has caused distraction and disruption in the Lumberton schools.”

Klug didn’t speak on her behalf but told 12 News  she should be able to return because being trans has no impact on her ability to do her job.

“I am capable of doing a job, and I was hired to do that job. And I would like to continue doing that job,” she said.

No decision was announced Thursday because the school board can’t vote on Klug’s situation since she is not a contract employee. The superintendent has the power to fire her, and he told her Friday morning she would be welcome as a substitute in the district’s schools.

—  Dallasvoice

Lumberton ISD suspends trans teacher after parents complain her gender identity is a ‘distraction’

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A substitute teacher was told this week she shouldn’t return to the fifth grade class she was teaching in after parents complained about her being transgender.

Laura Jane Klug was subbing at Lumberton Intermediate School, but told local news affiliate KBMT 12 News that she was told not to return after some of the students’ parents contacted the school.

Lumberton is a city north of Beaumont.

Klug met with a representative of Lumberton Independent School District’s Human Resources and Superintendent John Valastro Tuesday afternoon. The school board will discuss allowing Klug to return to substituting at its meeting Thursday.

Klug said they suspended her pending a decision by the school board on whether to continue using her as a substitute teacher.

It’s unclear how her gender identity became an issue. Klug said she’s never discussed it in front of students and has always done her job well without any previous complaints.

“I have always conducted myself in a professional manner and would never discuss my gender identity in school,” Klug said.

But some parents are now uncomfortable with her teaching their students.

Roger Beard, whose son was in the class Klug was subbing, said he thinks having a trans teacher to young students is “a very big distraction.”

“If it does affect my child and his ability to learn or if it causes questions that I don’t feel are appropriate then undoubtedly there’s an issue with having somebody transgender, transsexual or transvestite, to be teaching that age group,” Beard said.

Lumberton ISD doesn’t include LGBT protections in its Equal Employment Opportunity policy, but it does include sexual orientation and gender identity in a policy related to career and technical programs. However, in a federal 2012 ruling, it was determined that gender identity was considered discrimination on the basis of sex.

Watch the news report below.

—  Dallasvoice

University of Houston student Senate introduces bill to help trans community

Screen shot 2014-04-03 at 12.19.48 PMStudents at the University of Houston are considering a bill to help transgender students and staff better identify themselves as their gender identity on campus.

The bill, the Josephine Tittsworth Act, was introduced by the student Senate Wednesday and calls upon the university to “fulfill its existing nondiscrimination policy (of the UH Student Handbook)” in regards to LGBT students, the student newspaper The Daily Cougar reports.

The bill seeks to acknowledge that “gender expression is the external characteristics presented by an individual such as masculine or feminine features displayed in mannerisms, speech, social environments or attire,” and to formally acknowledge “the terms, gender identity and gender expression represented trans, transgender and gender-nonconforming students, faculty and staff” on all University documentation.

It would allow students to have their preferred name on rosters and other university documents.

“Honestly, this is a freedom of speech issue. It allows people to choose which box to check. Over the past few weeks, people had unfortunately misinterpreted (the bill). This bill is about respect and tolerance on this campus,” newly elected student body President Charles Haston told the paper.

The bill comes a few months after the student government at the University of Houston-Downtown approved gender-neutral restrooms.

UH students at the meeting Wednesday explained the bill would help address students who go by a name associated with their gender identity only to be outed as trans when the professor calls roll, revealing their legal name.

The bill cites “high rates of harassment, physical violence and sexual assaults” as a result of failing to acknowledge trans and gender-nonconforming identities.

“This bill will translate into people being open with their identity,” said Tanzeem Chowdhury, former undergraduate-at-large senator.

“I think it would create a safer campus. Currently, UH is the second-most diverse campus in the nation. We’re always making progress in acceptance, and this would be a strong move forward — it would create a safer campus not only for members of the LGBT community, but for the entire student body.”

A town hall meeting to discuss the act will be at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

—  Dallasvoice

Two lesbian couples — each with a trans partner — marry in Dallas courtroom

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JJ Larson and Dani Pellett

Two lesbian couples, each with a trans partner,  married in Judge Carl Ginsberg’s court Friday morning.

Genevieve Jonte and Ashley Boucher said they contacted every justice of the peace in Dallas County, but none would perform their wedding. Then they contacted other judges. Ginsberg was the only judge who responded affirmatively.

Dani Pellett and JJ Larson decided to join them.

Ginsberg asked which couple was going first after the 100 guests filed into the courtroom.

“Dibs,” Pellett said.

The couple’s mothers signed the marriage license and kissed the brides.

Jonte and Boucher’s two children, ages 3 and 5, dressed in top hats for the occasion and held flowers as their moms got married.

The courtroom erupted in a standing ovation after Ginsberg announced, “You are now a happily, lawfully wedded couple,” after each of the ceremonies.

However, a court ruling in Corpus Christi on Thursday may affect the marriages. In that case, a judge ruled that a marriage between a man and a trans woman was legal. That overturns a 1999 case that prevented a trans person from having a heterosexual marriage, effectively legalizing same-sex marriage if one partner is trans.

The marriage licenses were issued to the two Dallas couples prior to the ruling, and it is unclear whether they remain valid under Texas law or whether Attorney General Greg Abbott will challenge their validity.

—  David Taffet

BREAKING: Texas appeals court rules in favor of trans widow Nikki Araguz

Nikki Araguz

Nikki Araguz

CORPUS CHRISTI — The 13th District Court of Appeals in Corpus Christi issued a landmark opinion Thursday in favor of Houston trans widow Nikki Araguz, ruling that Texas must recognize the marriages of trans people.

The opinion, written by Chief Justice Rogelio Valdez, reverses the 2011 ruling by Houston state district Judge Randy Clapp, who ruled that Araguz was born male and Texas’ 2005 marriage amendment doesn’t recognize her marriage to a man. Her 2008 marriage to her late husband, Thomas Araguz III, became invalid. Thomas Araguz was a volunteer firefighter in Wharton and was killed in the line of duty in 2010 and Nikki Araguz was denied his death benefits.

Clapp’s ruling hinged on the 1999 Texas Court of Appeals decision in Littleton v. Prange, which found that since a male who transitioned to female was born male, she was therefore still male. Her marriage to a male was therefore invalid because same-sex marriages are invalid under state law.

But the Texas Legislature opened the door for transgender marriage in 2009 when it added documentation of a sex change to the identification documents people can present to obtain a marriage license. Araguz’s appeal in September hinged on how the 2009 statute voids the Littleton ruling.

Houston attorney Kent Rutter, the lead attorney for the appeal, said the opinion marks the first time in Texas a court has recognized that trans people have the right to marry.

“What the decision today says is Texas law now recognizes that an individual who has had a sex change is eligible to marry a person of the opposite sex,” he said. “I think it’s a significant victory for trans people in Texas.”

Kent said that the ruling will result in further court proceedings to ensure Araguz receives her late husband’s death benefits.

 

—  Dallasvoice

Laverne Cox: Love for trans community will end injustices she, others face

Trans actress Laverne Cox addresses the crowd at Creating Change Thursday evening in Houston. (Jessica Borges/Dallas Voice)

Trans actress Laverne Cox addresses the crowd at Creating Change 2014 Thursday evening in Houston. (Jessica Borges/Dallas Voice) 

HOUSTON — Transgender actress and advocate Laverne Cox has learned to love herself and is pleased to see the rest of the country learning to love trans people.

Cox gave the keynote address Thursday evening at this year’s national Creating Change conference at the Hilton Americas–Houston.

She walked onstage to a standing ovation and loud cheers from the 4,000 people in the audience. But she admitted to them  she was “not used to receiving this kind of love.”

“I have to say that a black transgender woman from a working-class background raised by a single mother getting all this love tonight; this feels like the change I need to see more of in the country,” Cox said.

—  Dallasvoice

College offering course on RuPaul’s Drag Race

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RuPaul

You won’t find a class that analyzes RuPaul’s influence on culture at Bob Jones University, but head over to Occidental College, and you will.

The liberal arts institution in Los Angeles is offering a new course in the spring called “Reading RuPaul: Camp Culture, Gender Insubordination, and the Politics of Performance.” The class will study the LOGO television series from a gay and feminist perspective.

The course description notes:

While RuPaul’s show brings the art of drag performance and gay subculture issues to a wide audience, the course will consider how it addresses the history of drag and U.S. gay culture, as well as a broad range of issues such as transgender identity, HIV/AIDS, bullying and violence, racial identity, gender identity, body size, and LGBT political activism.

RuPaul’s Drag Race season 6 is months away, but you can see a short trailer here:

 

 

 

—  Steve Ramos

Jelly Belly chairman donates to anti-trans campaign

 

Herman Rowland Sr.

Herman Rowland Sr.

SACRAMENTO — A group whose sole purpose is to repeal California Assembly Bill 1266 received a $5,000 boost from Jelly Belly Chairman of the Board Herman Rowland Sr., according to the Advocate.

The bill, passed in August, guarantees transgender students have equal access to bathrooms, locker rooms, sport teams and other gender-segregated school facilities, and it was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown. Since then, Privacy For All Students has worked to have it overturned.

Frank Schubert, a well-known activist for the National Organization for Marriage, runs the group working to repeal the legislation. NOM also is actively working to stop same-sex marriage from being legalized.

Rowland’s donation triggered a Change.org petition from the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

“Jelly Belly Chair Herman Rowland Sr. is using some of his fortune to fund an effort to overturn California’s new School Success and Opportunity Act,” the petition reads. “This law ensures that transgender students are allowed to participate in school programs and activities just like every other boy and girl.”

—  Steve Ramos