July/August 2007 Newsletter
Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act
(HR 1592) (S 1105)
A vital breakthrough in federal legislation could happen this year as Congress considers the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act. The bill was introduced in the House of Representatives earlier this year and was passed. It was recently introduced in the Senate and action on the bill is expected this fall. The Senate may consider it as an amendment to another bill.
The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act could make it easier for law enforcement to investigate violent, bias-motivated crimes against transgender people and others. This law would extend existing federal protections to include “gender identity, sexual orientation, gender and disability.” It would enable the Justice Department to take the lead when local authorities are unwilling or unable to investigate or prosecute violent hate crimes It would also mandate that the FBI begin tracking hate crimes based on gender identity.
The LLEHCPA does not restrict freedom of speech in any way. This legislation only applies when an attempt is made to cause bodily harm to someone because of their actual or perceived identity. Thoughts or speech, even violent thoughts or hateful speech, would not be made illegal by the LLEHCPA.
In 2002, the country was shocked to learn of the brutal murder of Gwen Araujo, a 17-year old transgender student, who was beaten to death with a by four of her male classmates at a house party. The four men had discovered that Gwen was born with a male body and responded by brutally taking her life.
But Gwen’s story is just one example of the widespread hate-motivated crimes faced by trans people—the vast majority of which go unreported and unprosecuted. On average, one transgender person in the US is murdered every month. The number of other types of violent assaults committed against transgender people is exponentially higher. Sadly, law enforcement is sometimes unwilling or unable to fully investigate and prosecute these crimes.
Every act of violence is tragic and harmful, but not all crime is motivated by hate. Hate crimes occur when the perpetrator chooses the victim because of who the victim is or appears to be. Crimes motivated by hate are typically more violent and brutal, often involving attempts to dehumanize and ridicule the attacked individual. The affects of the intentional selection and violent attack of an individual because of their real or perceived identity are widespread. This type of violence not only terrorizes the individual and their family but also intimidates the community that the attacked is a member of, causing divisiveness and antagonism between different groups. It is vitally important that America strives to protect individuals from such biased hatred.
NCTE and our coalition partners are working with allies in Congress to pass the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act. NCTE has also worked to educate members of Congress about transgender issues, and works to train and empower local activists to communicate with their local senators and representatives and keeps the community informed with legislative updates.
What can you do? Contact your Senators and encourage their support of the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act. To find your Senators and for information on how to contact them, go to www.nctequality.org/visit_legislators.html.
Employment Non-Discrimination Act (HR 2015)
Currently, there is no federal law prohibiting employers from discriminating against transgender people. Only 12 states have passed workplace protections that cover both sexual orientation and gender identity. The National Center for Transgender Equality and our coalition partners are working to end the pervasive employment discrimination faced by trans people across the US by urging Congress to pass the much-needed Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).
ENDA would extend fair employment practices under federal law to all LGBT employees. Similar to other federal employment laws already in place such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans With Disabilities Act, ENDA would add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the list of characteristics explicitly protected from workplace discrimination. Corporate America is already leading the way. Hundreds of companies have already adopted policies protecting their LGBT employees. ENDA would extend similar protections banning discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation throughout the country.
ENDA would prevent employers from making decisions about hiring, firing, promoting, or compensating an employee based on sexual orientation or gender identity or expression, as well as protecting employers from discrimination and harassment on the basis of gender identity or expression in a hostile work environment. ENDA does not apply to the Armed Forces or religious organizations whose primary purpose is a religious ritual, or companies with less than 15 workers.
Workplace equality is not a "special right." Every American should be evaluated on the basis of his or her ability to contribute in the workforce, not sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.
We are optimistic that the House of Representatives could vote on ENDA this fall, and that the Senate version of the bill will be introduced soon.
Your voice is needed now! Call your senators and representatives and show your support for ENDA. What can you do? Contact your members of Congress and encourage their support of the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act. To find your Representatives and Senators and for information on how to contact them, go to www.nctequality.org/visit_legislators.html.
Legislative Update from Around the Country
California – The California State Assembly passed AB 394, the Safe Place to Learn Act, which would help schools enforce anti-bias laws to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students. This bill provides clarification and guidance to school districts and the California Department of Education regarding what steps should be taken to ensure compliance with the California Student Safety and Violence Prevention Act of 2000. The bill passed by a 47-31 vote. The California Senate also passed SB 518, the Juvenile Justice Safety and Protection Act, which would create a Youth Bill of Rights to protect all young people from harassment and discrimination in state and county juvenile justice facilities, including youth who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. The bill passed by a 22-12 vote
Pennsylvania – Legislation has been introduced into the Pennsylvania House of Representatives which would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the areas of housing, employment, and public accommodations. A version of the bill was introduced into the Pennsylvania Senate in April 2007. Current Pennsylvania law provides basic legal protection against discrimination on the bases of race, color, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, handicap or disability, education and the use of a guide dog. Pennsylvania residents can find more information about how to support this bill by going to http://eqfed.org/pagala/alert-description.tcl?alert_id=8824578 or http://www.equalitypa.org/
Ohio – Ohio Governor Ted Strickland signed an executive order that bans discrimination in state employment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Strickland, a Democrat, wants to restore the specific protection for sexual orientation removed by Gov. Bob Taft in August 1999 several months into Taft's first term. The executive order also adds gender identity as a protected category.
Transgender advocates have been busy in Florida. Three municipalities in Palm Beach County, Florida, have added gender identity and expression to their non-discrimination policies, a move inspired in part by the February firing of Largo City Manager, Susan Stanton. On May 7, 2007, the West Palm Beach City Commission voted unanimously to expand non-discrimination laws to include gender identity and expression. The bill covers housing, public accommodation and employment. West Palm Beach was the first city in Florida to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation (in 1991) and to approve domestic partnerships (in 1992). The village of Tequesta followed on May 10, also unanimously voting to add sexual orientation and gender identity to existing non-discrimination laws. Lake Worth, FL followed July 17, 2007 with a 5-0 vote also adding gender identity and expression protections to the books. In the community of Oakland Park, Florida, city commissioners voted on August 1 to protect city workers from discrimination based on gender identity and gender expression.
In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the Common Council voted to amend city ordinances to include gender identity and expression as protected categories, barring discrimination on those bases. The new law also adds military service members as a covered by the non-discrimination laws and prohibits anyone holding a city license from discriminating. The law covers housing and employment. The vote was unanimous, 13-0 in favor of the bill, on July 31, 2007.
AMA Adds Trans-Inclusive Policies
The National Center for Transgender Equality applauds the American Medical Association for its vote earlier this week to amend its nondiscrimination policies to include transgender people. AMA nondiscrimination policies already include sexual orientation.
The new policies address a wide range of contexts, including discrimination against patients, medical students and physicians as well as insurance policy. Of particular note, the AMA policies call for an end to the discriminatory insurance policies that trans people often face-policies that disallow coverage for transition related care, sex specific care and even exclude all care for some trans people.
The Gay and Lesbian Medical Association was instrumental in making this change happen. The Executive Director of GLMA, Joel Ginsberg, is committed to working on transgender health issues and is an excellent ally to the trans community. It is extremely significant and important that GLMA is engaged in trans health issues and we here at NCTE look forward to working closely with them in the future.
Mara Keisling, Executive Director of the NCTE, called the new AMA policies “a great step in moving the American healthcare system in a direction of more fairness for transgender people.”
Mara Keisling on CNN
NCTE’s Executive Director, Mara Keisling was recently interviewed by Rick Sanchez on a CNN program called “Living from the Inside Out.” The program covered a number of trans-related topics, such as relationship dynamics, spirituality, and transgender youth. Mara spoke about the inequalities transgender people face and the courage and tenacity that it takes to be trans in today’s world. When Mara was asked whether being transgender was the result
of “nature or nurture,” she stated that it doesn’t matter; transgender people deserve the same rights and protections as everyone else, regardless of what makes them who they are. Watch Mara’s segment on CNN.
Welcome to John Otto, Privacy and Documentation Program Manager
NCTE is pleased to welcome John Otto as Privacy and Documentation Program Director. As Privacy and Documentation Program Manager, John assists NCTE in our capacity to affect policy through superior knowledge of privacy and documentation issues impacting transgender people on the federal and state levels. John is our lead policy analyst and advocate on privacy and documentation issues. He is working closely with coalition members and key policymakers in order to impact policy decisions as an advocate for transgender people.
John is an experienced transgender activist with a strong background in information privacy issues. John has a B.A. from The Evergreen State College, and a Master of Library and Information Science from the University of Washington. He has experience as a librarian, a webmaster, a database administrator, an information services reference specialist, and an LGBT diversity consultant. You can reach John at email@example.com.
Your Help is Needed: Gill Foundation Grant
The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) was recently awarded a $50,000 grant by the Gill Foundation. The first $25,000 of the grant will directly cover general operating costs. The second $25,000 is being offered as a challenge grant. The foundation will match the contributions of new monthly donors who pledge between $10 and $100 per month. This is a great opportunity to amplify your support and make your contribution even more effective. You can find out more at www.nctequality.org/monthlygiving.html. Please help us reach this important challenge grant and make an investment in transgender equality today!
The Gill Foundation was founded in 1994 by Coloradan Tim Gill. The Gill Foundation strives to promote equality for all Americans, regardless of sexual orientation or gender expression. It is the nation’s largest private foundation focused on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights. In the last decade, the foundation has invested more than $110 million to support programs and non-profit organizations across the country.
NCTE listed in new book for teens
NCTE is listed as a resource at the back of a new book for teens. Ellen Wittlinger’s new book, Parrotfish, tells the story of Grady, a young FTM, as he comes out to and navigates the worlds of family, school and friendships. The book was published this summer by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. The author, a mother of two, has ten previous books to her credit as well as a number of awards; she began writing young adult fiction while working as a children’s libarian. The books title refers to the gender-changing characteristics of many species of reef fish, including parrotfish.
From the book: “Why can’t I act like a girl? I used to ask myself that question all the time. When the swimming teacher said, “Boys in this line; girls in the other,” why did I want so badly to stand with those rowdy, pushy boys, even though my non-existent six-year-old boobettes were already hidden behind shiny pink fabric, making it clear which line I was supposed to stand in? I wondered, even then, why I couldn’t be a boy if I wanted to. I wasn’t unhappy exactly; I was just puzzled. Why did everybody think I was a girl? And after that: Why was it such a big freaking deal what I looked like or acted like? I looked like myself. I acted like myself. But everybody wanted me to fit into a category, so I let them call me a tomboy, though I knew that only girls were tomboys, and I was not a girl. By high school I said I was a lesbian, because it seemed closer to the truth than giving everyone hope that I’d turn into a regular hairdo-and-high-heels female. I was just getting us all ready for the truth. I was crawling toward the truth on my hands and knees.
“I came out once, but that was just a rehearsal—now it was time for the real thing. Because I was tired of lying. And the truth was, inside the body of this strange, never-quite-right girl hid the soul of a typical, average, ordinary boy.”
In addition to the story of Grady’s coming out, the book includes reference and resources in the back for those who want to explore further.
Human Rights Calendar continues
You can find NCTE’s ongoing 2007 series on human rights for transgender people at http://nctequality.org/calendar.html. To download your free copy of this month’s calendar, which addresses the issue of violence against transgender people, go to http://nctequality.org/resources/ncteaugust.pdf
Where we are
NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling is taking a well deserved month off in August. Please contact the office at firstname.lastname@example.org if you need anything and we’ll be glad to help you.
Program Manager Justin Tanis will be at the Equality Federation meeting in Albuquerque, New Mexico, August 8-11 and will be on vacation from August 28 to September 15.