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Thursday Speed Read: Title IX, Rea Carey, Asylum Seeking, Ohio, Colorado, Maryland

BY LISA KEEN / Keen News Service

PROTECTION FOR NON-CONFORMING:

EducationThe U.S. Department of Education (ED) on Tuesday released guidelines to clarify for schools receiving federal aid that Title IX of the Civil Rights Act’s prohibition against sex discrimination “extends to claims of discrimination based on gender identity or failure to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity.” The DOE’s guidance makes clear that its Office of Civil Rights “accepts such complaints for investigation.” The guidance requires school officials to “investigate and resolve allegations of sexual violence regarding LGBT students using the same procedures and standards that it uses in all complaints involving sexual violence.” National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey called it a “giant leap forward” toward “staggering rates of discrimination” against students who are transgender or non-conforming to gender role expectations.

NGLTF LEADER ARRESTED AT RALLY: Carey

NGLTF Executive Director Rea Carey was one of 27 people arrested for blocking an intersection on Capitol Hill Wednesday in a protest against the refusal of the Republican-led U.S. House to take up an immigration reform bill. The Fair Immigration Reform Movement organized the protest. NGLTF estimates that more than 250,000 of the nation’s estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants are LGBT.

FOCUS ON ASYLUM:

Immigration Equality held a press conference in front of the White House Tuesday afternoon to urge President Obama to provide relief to LGBT people seeking asylum in the United States. The group says it has more than 300 clients in need of asylum. According to the organization’s website, persecution based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and HIV status can be a basis for the Bureau of Immigration Appeals to grant asylum.

OhioNEW OHIO LAWSUIT:

Ohio civil rights attorney Al Gerhardstein has filed another lawsuit in federal court in Cincinnati seeking to strike down that state’s ban against issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The lawsuit filed Wednesday, Gibson v. Himes, is being brought on behalf of six same-sex couples. Earlier this month, another Gerhardstein lawsuit won a ruling from a federal district court judge in Cincinnati to recognize the out-of-state marriages of four same-sex couples and put the names of both parents on the birth certificates of their children. That case is now on appeal to the Sixth Circuit.

ColoradoCOLORADO POLLS RISING?

A poll by Quinnipiac University of 1,298 registered voters this month found a whopping 61 percent support allowing same-sex couples to marry. Last December, Public Policy Polling surveyed 928 Colorado voters and found only 48 percent said they would support allowing same-sex couples to marry. The December poll, however, gave voters a choice of allowing gays to marry or have civil unions. Thirty-two percent were OK with civil unions. In terms of voters opposed, 18 percent said that in December there should be “no” legal recognition of same-sex relationships, 32 percent said they “oppose” allowing them to marry.

MarylandMARYLAND BALLOT BATTLE BREWING:

A Republican-led group announced Tuesday that it will seek a referendum this November on a bill passed by the Maryland legislature to prohibit discrimination based on gender identity. The governor has not yet signed the bill, the Fairness for All Marylanders Act, but is expected to. The group, MDPetitions.com, is referring to the measure as “The Bathroom Bill,” a moniker frequently used by opponents of gender equality to stir fears that the non-discrimination law will enable men to enter women’s restrooms to harass or attack them.” The group must first collect 55,736 signatures by June 30, including one-third of those by May 31.

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


Maryland Trans Rights Bill to Become Law

A bill that would outlaw discrimination on the basis of gender identity in education, housing, and public accommodations has passed the Maryland House and has gone to Governor Martin O’Malley, who is expected to sign the bill into law. 

Maryland"After more than 15 years of advocacy for trans Marylanders, the tremendous work by all of our legislative champions, and the solid support of the leadership in Annapolis, history was made today. The House of Delegates sent the same loud and clear message the Maryland Senate did: Every Marylander deserves equal rights under the law. We welcome the Governor’s promised signature and the full and successful implementation of this bill," said Jenna Fischetti of TransMaryland, an MCTE coalition member.

The Advocate reports that opponents of the bill often derogatorily referred to it as a “bathroom bill,” playing on unfounded fears of men pretending to be transgender in order to access women’s facilities. Republican delegates unsuccessfully attempted to delay the bill through procedural motions and multiple amendments that would have removed all references to public accommodations.

A campaign to repeal the law through public referendum is also expected, according to Metro Weekly.


Maryland State Delegate Says Trans Rights Bill Would 'Normalize Abnormal Behavior'

AfzaliIn a recent letter to her constituents, Republican Maryland State Representative Kathy Afzali said that she is “completely and unequivocally opposed” to the “Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2014" (aka House Bill 1265) — a bill which would prohibit gender identity discrimination in all housing, employment and public accommodations — because it “doesn’t aim to end discrimination, but to normalize abnormal behavior.”

The Washington Blade has more of her remarks:

“HB 1265 seeks to create a new class of protected individuals in the state’s anti-discrimination statute… It is important that Maryland does not separate one’s ‘gender identity’ and their ‘assigned sex at birth’ as noted in the bill.

“Like the majority of Marylanders, I share the view that this redefinition rejects our society’s understanding of human nature. So ladies if you happen to see a guy in a dress in the restaurant bathroom, you’ll know the bill passed and that I voted no.”

Afzali's rhetoric uses the tired right-wing scare tactic of conflating transgender bathroom users to sexual predators and rapists even though such sexual assaults have never ever occurred, even in states that have passed similar bills.

The Blade also notes that Afzali has also said that gay men make bad parents and spoke at a rally where a pastor said that Superstorm Sandy struck New York City because then-mayor Michael Bloomberg donated $250,000 in support of Maryland’s same-sex marriage law.

Maryland House Bill already passed the senate on March 4th and has the support of 71 percent of all Marylanders.


Maryland Senate Passes Transgender Rights Bill in 32-15 Vote

Madaleno Maryland

The Maryland Senate voted 32-15 to approve a bill protecting transgender people from discrimination in housing, employment, and other areas.

SB212, the Fairness for All Marylanders Act, was introduced by State Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County) earlier this year.

The bill now moves on to the House.


'The New Black' Looks At How the African-American Community Grapples With Gay Rights: VIDEO

Screen Shot 2014-02-14 at 10.57.38 AM

A trailer has been released for The New Black, the upcoming documentary that tells the story of how the African-American community responded to Maryland’s marriage equality ballot measure back in 2012, as well as how the community continues to grapple with the broader push for gay rights nationwide. 

From the film's site:

The film documents activists, families and clergy on both sides of the campaign to legalize gay marriage and examines homophobia in the black community’s institutional pillar—the black church and reveals the Christian right wing’s strategy of exploiting this phenomenon in order to pursue an anti-gay political agenda.

Check it out, AFTER THE JUMP...

The film opened this week and is playing in NYC through Tuesday.

Continue reading "'The New Black' Looks At How the African-American Community Grapples With Gay Rights: VIDEO" »


Maryland Teen Makes History as Openly Gay Eagle Scout

Pascaltessier

Pascal Tessier was blown away last night when he became one of, if not the first openly gay youths to receive his Eagle Scout ranking. The resolution allowing gay scouts, which passed last May, went into effect on January 1st, and many people believe that Tessier, a member of Troop 52 in Chevy Chase, MD, is the first to achieve the prestigious ranking while being completely open about his sexuality.

Becoming an Eagle Scout is no easy task, requiring twenty-one merit badges, a community service project, and a meeting with a board of review, and Tessier's road was even more difficult to traverse. The teenager spoke, and was open about being gay, to media last year while participating in a demonstration prior to the Boy Scouts of America's vote regarding gay members. The outcome was positive, but Tessier easily could have jeopardized his standing with the Scouts, who still will not allow openly gay adults to participate.

The Washington Post reports:

“It’s just really amazing, and it honestly hasn’t really sunk in yet,” said Tessier, a senior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School. “We didn’t know if it was going to happen at all.”

Both Zach Wahls, outspoken executive director of Scouts for Equality, and Eric Andresen, father of Ryan Andresen, who was denied his Eagle Scout rank due to his sexual orientation just last year, commented on Tessier's achievement.

“I don’t know of any other Scouts out there who have said, ‘I am gay and I defy BSA to kick me out’ — and Pascal has done that,” said Eric Andresen...

“The fact that Pascal is now able to get his award is directly because of what Ryan unfortunately went though,” Andresen said...

“We certainly think this is a day to celebrate,” Wahls said. “As we see more Pascal Tessiers coming up though the program, getting their Eagle Scouts, other scouting parents and other scouting leaders who might be a little more conservative will see there is nothing to be afraid of, that Pascal is a phenomenal young man and people like him make scouting better.”

Tessier and his mother, Tracie Felker, were overjoyed at the news, but hesitant about the limitations still placed on gay scouts. And for good reason: Tessier's older brother, Lucien, is also an openly gay scout.

Even as he celebrated Monday night, Tessier was well aware of how the partial policy change could affect him. He will turn 18 in August.

“It’s kind of a backhanded acceptance: We accept you for now,” he said. “It says to you you’re a monster of some sort.”

...

Felker said the problem with the Boy Scout’s new policy is that it suggests something changes in her children once they hit 18.

“What no one really wants to talk about is the suggestion that gay adults are child abusers, and that is infuriating,” she said.

“It’s impossible to believe that the creme de la creme of the Scouts, just because they turn 18, are no longer suitable to participate in the programs,” Felker said.

For now, though, Tessier sets an amazing example of what openness and honesty can achieve. A formal ceremony will be held for him and other Eagle Scout honorees in June. Congratulations, Pascal! 


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