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Maryland To Provide Trans Health Coverage

As a result of a settlement to a legal claim filed on behalf of Sailor Holobaugh, the state of Maryland will now provide nondiscriminatory health coverage for its transgender employees. Holobaugh, a transgender man and neurological clinical research assistant at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, filed a lawsuit against the State with the help of FreeState Legal after being denied a medically necessary breast removal.

1280px-Flag_of_Maryland.svgAccording to FreeState Legal the denial of Holobaugh’s surgery resulted in language within Maryland state law allowed for the exclusion of coverage “for any ‘procedure or treatment designed to alter an individual’s physical characteristics to those of the opposite sex.’”

Maryland, in response to the lawsuit, not only removed the explicitly discriminatory provision from the books but also added a “gender dysphoria benefit” designed to cover the cost of hormones and certain medically necessary surgeries.

"This is basically a fabulous shift in policy," Holobaugh told the Baltimore Sun. "I think this will affect a large number of people, especially now that children can stay on their parents' plan until age 26 under the Affordable Care Act.”

Maryland is the third state in the country, following Oregon and California, to provide nondiscriminatory health coverage to its employees, but Maryland’s fight for trans-equality is far from finished, says Jer Welter, Managing Attorney of FreeState Legal:

“[T]here is still work to be done, including the elimination of similar transition-related care exclusions in the Maryland Medical Assistance (Medicaid) program and in policies issued by private insurers regulated by the Maryland Insurance Administration. FreeState Legal will continue to work diligently on these issues to further ensure that equal and fair health care coverage is a staple for all LGBTQ Marylanders.”

Read FreeState Legal's full press release AFTER THE JUMP...

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Monday Speed Read: Illinois, Maryland Trans Rights, Obama Pride, Gallup, Afghanistan

BY LISA KEEN / Keen News Service

IllinoisILLINOIS LAW ENACTED: 

Several county clerks around Illinois opened their offices Sunday so that same-sex couples could obtain marriage licenses on the first day the state legislature’s new marriage equality law went into effect, June 1. Clerks in 16 counties have been issuing licenses to same-sex couples since February, when a federal district court judge ruled the state’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. The Chicago Sun Times reported yesterday that 1,635 same-sex couples had married by the close of business Friday.

MarylandREFERENDUM FAILS IN MARYLAND:

Equality Maryland leaders were at the Maryland Secretary of State’s office until midnight Saturday, waiting to see if opponents of a recently signed law protecting transgender citizens would be subjected to a referendum. But midnight came and opponents delivered no signatures, so there will be no referendum this year. A message posted on the group’s website indicates it came up 1,000 signatures short of the number it needed to proceed to the ballot. Carrie Evans, executive director of Equality Maryland, credited her group’s aggressive approach to stopping the referendum. “We had supporters across the state standing right next to petition gatherers and we saw first-hand voters change their minds and not sign the mean-spirited petition,” said Evans. “While some criticized our approach, we felt an obligation to the thousands of transgender Marylanders and the people who love and support them to do everything in our power to defend it, not just be quiet and wait to see what happens.” The new law is due to take effect October 1.

Blue_obamaPRESIDENTIAL PROCLAMATION:

President Obama issued a presidential proclamation of June as LGBT Pride Month, noting “As progress spreads from State to State, as justice is delivered in the courtroom, and as more of our fellow Americans are treated with dignity and respect, our Nation becomes not only more accepting, but more equal as well.” It also noted that “we recommit ourselves to completing the work that remains.”

NO HINT OF EXECUTIVE ORDER:

Any hope that some might have harbored that President Obama would take the opportunity of Pride Month to issue an executive order prohibiting discrimination by federal contractors appeared to be dampened by the president’s Pride Month proclamation. “LGBT workers in too many states can be fired just because of their sexual orientation or gender identity;” the proclamation says, adding, “I continue to call on the Congress to correct this injustice by passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.”

PUBLIC SUPPORT GROWING:

A Gallup Poll released Friday indicates that 63 percent of Americans support the right of gay couples to adopt children. And a separate Gallup Poll Saturday showed 58 percent consider “gay and lesbian relations” to be morally acceptable. Gallup noted that, when the adoption question was first asked in 1992, only 29 percent supported the right of gay couples to adopt. “Americans have reached consensus faster about same-sex couples adopting children than about support for gay marriage in the last 20 years,” states Gallup, noting that only 55 percent of the public supports allowing same-sex couples to marry.

MaloneyMALONEY TRAVEL COMPANIONS:

Gay U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY) was part of a six-member Congressional tour of Afghanistan over the Memorial Day weekend with right-wing Republican Reps. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma. One of the three Democrats along for the ride was Rep. John Barrow of Georgia who scored a zero on the Human Rights Campaign’s Congressional scorecard.

© 2014 Keen News Service. All rights reserved.


Efforts to Repeal Maryland Transgender Rights Bill Fail

An effort to repeal Maryland's transgender rights bill has failed to collect enough signatures to qualify for the ballot, All Voices reports:

ParrottState Del. Neil Parrott (R-Hagerstown) began a petition drive in an attempt to block the Fairness for All Marylanders Act from taking effect. Parrott needed to collect a total of 55,737 signatures by June 30 in order for the measure to appear on the ballot in November. Opponents needed at least 18,579 signatures by May 31 for their campaign to continue.

Instead of using the formal name for the bill, Parrott chose to play to the fears of transphobic people by calling it “the Bathroom Bill.”

“As a parent, you should be able to send your children, your little girl, into the women’s bathroom and have the expectation that there will only be women or girls in that bathroom,” Parrott said April 29 when he announced his plans to launch the petition. “It opens the door for predators to take advantage of this bill. Predators will be able to go into the opposite gender bathroom, and proprietors would not be able to deny them access to that bathroom.”

Equality Maryland spread the good news last night:


Friday Speed Read: Idaho, Maryland, Marriage Anniversary, Houston, Michael Sam

DaleNINTH CIRCUIT STAYS IDAHO:

A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Thursday issued a temporary stay preventing Chief Magistrate Judge Candy Dale’s order striking Idaho’s ban on same-sex couples marrying from taking effect today. The stay will remain in place until the panel decides whether the state has state has met the requirements for a permanent stay while Judge Dale’s decision is on appeal to the Ninth. The state’s opening brief on appeal is due August 22. The National Center for Lesbian Rights then has until September 22 to file a response. The panel includes Reagan appointee Edward Leavy, George W. Bush appointee Consuelo Callahan, and Obama appointee Andrew Hurwitz.

OmalleyMARYLAND TRANS BILL SIGNED INTO LAW:

Democratic Governor and potential presidential candidate Martin O’Malley signed a bill Thursday that prohibits discrimination based on gender identity in employment, housing, public accommodations, and other areas. A press release from the governor’s office quoted Lt. Governor Anthony Brown as saying the bill is a “critical step forward in protecting all Marylanders from discrimination.” The law will go into effect October 1. Maryland will become the 17th and the District of Columbia to prohibit discrimination based on gender identity.

TENTH ANNIVERSARY OF MARRIAGE:

Saturday, May 17, marks the tenth anniversary of same-sex couples being able to legally marry in the United States. It was 2004 when Massachusetts began issuing marriage licenses, in response to a November 2003 decision of the state’s Supreme Judicial Court. It was another four years before the second state –Connecticut—did so, in response to a state supreme court decision, followed a year later by Iowa, Vermont, and Washington, D.C. New Hampshire was the fifth state, in 2010, and New York the sixth, in 2011. Then, in 2012, voters in Maryland, Maine, and Washington state approved marriage equality measures. Eight more states joined the list in 2013 –five of them through action by the state legislatures—and a federal court ruling in Utah striking that state’s ban down is on appeal. So far in 2014, 11 states (all but one through federal court ruling) have had their bans struck and are on appeal.

ParkerBATHROOM COMPROMISE IN HOUSTON:

The Houston City Council postponed its scheduled vote on Mayor Annise Parker’s proposed equal rights ordinance Wednesday. According to local television news reports, Parker told reporters she had the votes to pass a version of the bill that removed language ensuring that transgender people could use public restrooms based on their gender identity, but she wanted to give the public more time to understand the legislation and comment. Some church groups say they are still opposed to the bill. A vote is expected May 28.

OFT QUOTED LINE OF HISTORY:

Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, the LGBT legal group that won the historic state supreme court decision in Massachusetts which led the state to become the first to allow same-sex couples to marry, highlights this line from that famous decision, Goodridge v. Department of Public Health: “The Massachusetts Constitution affirms the dignity and equality of all individuals. It forbids the creation of second-class citizens.”

WELCOMING MICHAEL SAM:

Wade Davis, head of a group for LGBT athletes, told Associated Press he was invited by St. Louis Rams’ head coach Jeff Fisher to help the team prepare to welcome the NFL’s first openly gay football player, Michael Sam.


First Same-Sex Wedding Held At US Naval Academy

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The very first gay wedding at the US Naval Academy took place yesterday afternoon in the school's famed chapel. The couple, David Bucher and Bruce Moats, were wed in front of 100 guests, including their own two children. Bucher graduated from the Maryland Academy over 20 years ago.

According to NBC News, even though the Academy did not oppose the ceremony, the two still faced some challenges. 

But Academy Chaplain Lt. John Connolly, who officiated the ceremony, said the run-up to the memorable day wasn’t all smooth sailing.

“Not everyone agrees that this should be happening and it took a significant amount of discernment on my own part as well as this couple’s as they were preparing for the day,” Connolly said.

But as he got to know Bucher and Moats, he understood how in love they were. “The more I met with this couple, the happier I was to be presiding today,” he added.

Said Moats about their decision to marry at the Academy: "The question was; should we do it, are we advocating, are we here to make a political message? We're not. We're here to break political barriers for sure, but it's also about taking advantage of the rights that we have."

Watch video of the ceremony and interviews with the happy new couple, AFTER THE JUMP.

Continue reading "First Same-Sex Wedding Held At US Naval Academy" »


Thursday Speed Read: Clay Aiken, Closeted on the Job, Heather Mizeur, Maryland, HIV Criminalization

BY LISA KEEN / Keen News Service

AikenAIKEN VICTORY STILL PENDING:

North Carolina election officials will review the outcome of the Congressional District 2 Democratic primary race on May 15, after they’ve had a chance to tally in absentee and challenged ballots. As of Wednesday afternoon, openly gay candidate Clay Aiken, of American Idol fame, held just over 40 percent of the vote with a 369-vote lead over businessman Keith Crisco.

53 PERCENT CLOSETED ON THE JOB:

A report released Wednesday by the Human Rights Campaign’s educational arm says that 53 percent of LGBT people keep their sexual orientation secret at their places of employment. According to the report, only 17 states and Washington, D.C., have laws that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Another four states prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation only. The report, “The Cost of the Closet and the Rewards of Inclusion,” surveyed 800 LGBT workers and an unspecified number of non-LGBT workers.

MizeurMIZEUR HANDLES FIRST DEBATE:

Openly lesbian Maryland gubernatorial candidate Heather Mizeur stayed above the fray and focused like a laser on the need to increase the minimum wage and the virtues of legalizing marijuana. Mizeur, a delegate in the state House, was participating Wednesday night in the first debate in the three-way race for the Democratic nomination June 24. Mizeur ranks behind both Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown and Attorney General Doug Gansler in polls. But a transcript of the debate published by the Washington Post, indicates Mizeur managed a solid performance.

MarijuanaMARIJUANA FOR CHILDREN?

At one point during Wednesday night’s debate, Maryland gubernatorial candidate Heather Mizeur was questioned about her support for legalizing marijuana. She noted, among other things, that legalization could provide tax revenue to pay for a universal pre-Kindergarten. Mizeur then added that it would send “an important message about the fact that this is a substance that is arguably less harmful to the body than alcohol and tobacco.” That awkward juxtaposition of pre-Kindergarten and marijuana being “arguably less harmful” apparently prompted this question from moderator David Gregory of Meet the Press: “Are you comfortable saying to the children of this state, ‘marijuana’s okay’?” “We’re not saying that to the children of this state,” replied Mizeur, noting that, in fact, her plan calls for spending $4 million a year to make sure children know marijuana is a “a very dangerous substance for a developing mind.”

HolderREPORT URGES DOJ ACTION:

A report Wednesday from a coalition of groups working on fair treatment of people by the criminal justice system recommends the U.S. Department of Justice amend its guidelines to stop profiling of LGBT people and people with HIV by federal law enforcement agents. The “Roadmap for Change: Federal Policy Recommendations for Addressing the Criminalization of LGBT People and People with HIV,” was developed by former NGLTF Executive Director Urvashi Vaid and former AIDS Project Director at Lambda Legal Catherine Hanssens and others. DOJ announced in January it would revise its rules for federal agents to prohibit the use of sexual orientation and other characteristics to prompt investigations. In April, Attorney General Eric Holder said the department would begin to collect data on people stopped or arrested to “reduce” the possible effects of bias. But he did not make specific mention of LGBT bias. In a preface to the coalition report, former NAACP President Benjamin Jealous notes that New York City police have used “stop and frisk” practices against LGBT people. Another of the Roadmap’s authors, Andrea Ritchie, co-coordinator of the LGBT group Streetwise and Safe, said the coalition members have spoken with DOJ about some of their recommendations and look forward to conversations in the future.

© copyright 2014 by Keen News Service. All rights reserved.


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