Achieving LGBT Equality Through Litigation, Legislation, Policy, and Public Education

We’ve Reached the Tipping Point, But Not the Finish Line

Kate Kendell, Esq.Dear Friend of NCLR,

In my almost 18 years at the National Center for Lesbian Rights, I’ve seen a lot. I’ve seen political changes, cultural shifts, and countless stories about the lives of our bright and vibrant community, but it’s fair to say that we are now in utterly uncharted territory.

In the past few months, we have seen a President who supports the full range of what it means for us to be embraced as fully equal, a Congress with more openly lesbian, gay, and bisexual members than ever before (and make no mistake, we are not long away from our first transgender member), our first lesbian in the Senate (we LOVE you Tammy!), unprecedented wins at the ballot box on marriage, the best polling numbers we have ever seen in support of the freedom to marry (61% in California!), and, of course, oral argument in TWO landmark cases— challenges to California’s Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)—before the U.S. Supreme Court. In BOTH cases, the Obama administration filed friend-of-the-Court briefs in support of a ruling that would invalidate Prop 8 and section 3 of DOMA. Major briefs were also filed by all the leading civil rights organizations, almost 100 influential Republicans, and almost 300 major corporations and businesses.

I have never seen anything like this. Many talk about this moment we are in as a “tipping point,” and I think they are right. It seems to me that when events overtake our wildest hopes, we have hit a tipping point. Of course, let’s be clear, a tipping point is not the end, or even close to it. Clearly we see every day that we are some distance away from a nation where EVERY member of our community feels valued, supported, and accepted. But surely, the wind is at our backs in a way we have never seen before.

It is clear to me we still have long, hard work ahead. Since the New Year, we are all feeling the press and pressure of this moment. I feel at once incredibly grateful to be alive to see this and daunted by the enormous responsibility to ensure that no one is left behind in our quest for justice, opportunity, and equality for all. The gratitude I feel for you in making this moment possible is boundless. We would not be at this transformative moment if it weren’t for you—your support, your courage, and your unfailing belief. We must keep the momentum going, and make sure that whenever we are done, we all finish together. But for now, enjoy this moment.

In solidarity,
Kate Kendell, Esq., NCLR Executive Director
Kate Kendell, Esq.
Executive Director

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Get Your 36th Anniversary Celebration Tickets Now!

NCLR GalaDon’t miss the party of the year! Get your tickets now for NCLR’s 36th Anniversary Celebration—May 18, 2013 at the City View at Metreon in San Francisco—where we will honor heroes in the movement for LGBT equality … and have a darn good time too!

NCLR’s Anniversary Celebration attracts a sell-out crowd of 1,500 people from across the country to celebrate victories in the movement for LGBT equality and to honor those who have become role models for thousands of people through their unfailing commitment to justice.

Our honored award recipients, presenters, and special guests include:

Shannon Price Minter, NCLR’s own Legal Director and counsel in California’s landmark marriage equality case, will receive the Founder’s Award in recognition of his 20 years at NCLR.

  • LGBT DREAMers, represented by four young people directly impacted by the DREAM Act, will receive the Courage Award.
  • Jennifer Tobits, an NCLR client in a victorious relationship recognition case in Illinois, will receive the Justice Award.
  • And Sharon Smith, former NCLR client and longtime friend of NCLR, will present the Justice Award!

Our other favorite Kate, as in political humorist Kate Clinton,will return yet again for a command performance as emcee.

The Anniversary Celebration is NCLR’s signature event. This year’s Presenting Sponsor is Wells Fargo. The Gold Sponsor is American Airlines.

Buy your tickets now for the event, which begins at 8 p.m. on May 18, 2013.

Learn more about the 2013 Anniversary Celebration.

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SCOTUS Roundup

By Shannon Price Minter, Esq.
NCLR Legal Director

13331On March 26th and 27th, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear two of the most important cases in the history of the movement for LGBT equality. One may put an end to California’s constitutional amendment banning marriage for same-sex couples, also known as Proposition 8, and the other may strike down the so-called federal Defense of Marriage Act, known as DOMA. NCLR filed friend-of-the-court briefs in each case.

In the case challenging Prop 8, the ballot measure that stripped marriage equality from same-sex couples in California, the Court may rule on whether all state marriage bans are unconstitutional. But the Court could strike down only Prop 8 on more narrow ground, based on the unprecedented circumstances under which Prop 8 was enacted. NCLR was lead counsel for several of the plaintiff couples who courageously sought the right to marry in California. That case resulted in the first state Supreme Court decision to hold that government discrimination based on sexual orientation must be given the same strict level of judicial scrutiny applied to race, gender, or religion.

NCLR and other groups challenged Prop 8 in state court, arguing that California law did not permit a simple majority of voters to change the California Constitution to discriminate against a minority group

The California Supreme Court upheld Prop 8 under state law. But it also made the remarkable ruling that Prop 8 literally created an “exception” to California’s own equal protection clause. In our friend-of-the-court brief in the U.S. Supreme Court challenge to Prop 8, NCLR argued that permitting a state to amend its constitution to create an “exception” to the requirement of equal protection for one group violates the federal Equal Protection Clause in the most literal and basic sense. You can read our brief here.

In the DOMA challenge, NCLR is honored to join the law firm of Fulbright & Jaworski in representing an unprecedented coalition of the nation’s leading human and civil rights organizations. These groups include the Leadership Council for Civil and Human Rights, the NAACP, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the National Council of La Raza, the Hispanic National Bar Association, and many others. This powerful brief urges the Supreme Court to strike down DOMA and to provide LGBT people with the highest level of constitutional protection. By joining together on this brief, these groups are sending the message loud and clear that they agree with President Obama’s historic statement in his inaugural address that “our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law—for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.”

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NCLR Defends Groundbreaking Law Prohibiting Therapists From Trying to Change Minors’ Sexual Orientation or Gender Expression

By Chris Stoll, Esq.
NCLR Senior Staff Attorney

19127On September 29, 2012, California Governor Jerry Brown signed the first law in the nation prohibiting state-licensed therapists from trying to change the sexual orientation or gender expression of a patient under 18 years old.

Every leading medical and mental health organization in the country has warned that these practices do not work and put young people at risk of serious harm, including depression, substance abuse, and suicide. NCLR and Equality California were the primary organizational sponsors of the law, which was authored by Senator Ted Lieu.

Anti-LGBT legal groups immediately filed two lawsuits challenging the law on behalf of a group of plaintiffs who wish to permit licensed California therapists to engage in the prohibited practices. NCLR and the law firm of Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP, representing Equality California, filed a successful motion to intervene in one of the cases to defend the law alongside California Attorney General Kamala Harris.

In December, a federal district judge denied a request in one of the cases to stop the law from going into effect. The judge ruled that the plaintiffs have no chance of succeeding on their claims that the law is unconstitutional. In the other case, a different district judge entered an order temporarily preventing the law from being enforced against the three plaintiffs in that case.

Both orders were appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. NCLR’s Ninth Circuit briefs argue that the law should be upheld because it is a valid regulation of medical treatment that protects youth from long-discredited and harmful practices. A diverse group of prominent mental health professional organizations and social services providers and scholars, including the California Psychological Association, the California Division of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, the National Association of Social Workers, the City and County of San Francisco, and others, also urged the court to uphold the law.

The court will hear arguments on April 17 to determine whether to temporarily block the law from going into effect while the therapists’ lawsuits proceed.

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A Look at the Year Ahead for NCLR’s Youth Project

By Shannan Wilber, Esq.
NCLR Youth Project Director

Shannan WilberThe mission of NCLR’s Youth Project is to secure safety, equality, and opportunity for all LGBT youth—particularly those who are most marginalized and vulnerable.

I joined NCLR in January as the project’s new director, and I have been busy working to provide LGBT youth with the essential support they need to make a successful transition into adulthood.

In keeping with NCLR’s commitment to protect youth who are especially vulnerable to harm, we are challenging hurtful practices, such as subjecting LGBT youth to unnecessary isolation, requiring them to undergo “treatment” to change their sexual orientation or gender expression, and schools failing to intervene to prevent anti-LGBT harassment or abuse. We are also working with our allies in the child welfare and juvenile justice professions to develop and implement standards of care, nondiscrimination policies and community-based services that affirm and support the healthy development of LGBT youth and promote family acceptance.

In the coming year, the Youth Project will expand and deepen its work to ensure that LGBT youth receive equal educational opportunities in safe and supportive schools, and will work work alongside national education advocates to promote positive school environments in which LGBT youth are free from harassment and bullying.

No young person should ever be treated differently because of who they are, yet everyday, transgender young people face unequal treatment—something we are working to change by developing policies that ensure full inclusion of transgender youth, and protect their right to equal access to sports and other school activities.

Dismantling the school to prison pipeline will continue to be a priority, and we will work with our movement colleagues to challenge and break down the unfair and overly punitive treatment of youth in our community.

There’s much work ahead, but with momentum on our side, we aren’t looking back. Our eyes are on the many meaningful opportunities for progress ahead.

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Public Policy Wrap Up

By Maya Rupert, Esq.
Policy Director

18044NCLR’s Washington D.C. team has been working nonstop advocating for the policies and legislation that impact you, and we’re excited to share with you some of our work.

  • Passage of an LGBT-inclusive VAWA!NCLR was a lead organization in the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. For the first time, this legislation included LGBT-inclusive provisions that explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in VAWA-authorized services and programs. This tremendous victory will eliminate barriers to accessing services like legal aid and domestic violence shelters for LGBT victims of domestic and intimate partner violence and will make organizations that specifically serve LGBT victims of this violence eligible for certain grants and other resources.
  • We Told the Administration What #MattersToUs! NCLR partnered with the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health and the DC Abortion Fund to host a State of the Union Viewing Party and TweetUp. We brought together community members to watch the State of the Union and tweet about how issues impacted our communities, integrating perspectives on LGBT equality, racial justice, women’s issues, and reproductive justice. Using the hashtag #MattersToUs we engaged policy and lawmakers and urged them to include our communities in the way they approach policy and legislative priorities.
  • We Talked About What’s at Stake for LGBT Immigrants! NCLR has been actively involved in working to develop and pass comprehensive and humane immigration reform legislation that is conscious of the needs of the LGBT community. In addition to advocacy around inclusion of protections for same-sex binational couples, NCLR has tried to ensure that other priorities for LGBT immigrants will be addressed by this legislation, including ending the one-year filing ban and improving detention conditions to increase safety and privacy for LGBT detainees. NCLR also joined with the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center and the Haas Jr. Fund to co-found the LGBT DREAMers Fund, a fund that has raised $100,000 to help LGBT DREAMers offset the cost of fees to pay for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) applications. Learn more about the fund and read about recipients at www.LGBTDREAMersStories.com.

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NCLR is Hiring!

Looking for your dream job? Look no further! NCLR is hiring for three positions in our San Francisco-based development department. The positions are:

  • Director of DevelopmentThe Director of Development provides the leadership, strategic direction, management, and coordination for expanding NCLR’s fundraising efforts, with a special emphasis on developing individual donors.
  • Development Manager for Data SystemsThe Development Manager for Data Systems is responsible for creating, documenting, maintaining, and monitoring all data systems for the development department, including our donor database (Raiser’s Edge) and online giving systems (Salsa, WordPress).
  • Development Manager for EventsThe Development Manager for Events is responsible for overseeing a comprehensive calendar of events—including planning, coordination, and implementation—that engages various audiences and builds key relationships with prospective donors, existing donors, supporters, board members and new and untapped audiences.

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Shop for the Cause

17673So you think NCLR is the best, but after you make your annual membership contribution, you don’t have anything left to give, even though you’d love to. Here is an easy way to support NCLR with the shopping you are already doing: eScrip!

eScrip is a simple way for you to support NCLR at no cost to you. All you have to do is register your credit/debit cards and ATM cards with eScrip—then any time you use one of them to shop with a participating merchant, the merchant will donate up to 8% of the purchase amount to NCLR. That’s right: you pay for only what you’re buying, and the store is the one who donates. Perfect!

NCLR’s Group Name: “National Center for Lesbian Rights” or “NCLR”
NCLR’s Group ID #: 500022336

Over 150 merchants at which you already shop participate, including Whole Foods, Wild Oats, Andronico’s, Mollie Stone’s, Bristol Farms, Working Assets, Sharper Image, Round Table Pizza, Chevron, OfficeMax, Budget Rent-A-Car, Payless Shoes, Orchard Supply Hardware, and many more. Check out the full list of participating merchants.

Register with eScrip online now! Under “Make a difference in 4 easy steps,” click on “Sign up, it’s free!” Your credit card information will only be used for this purpose and is guaranteed to be safe and secure.

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Get Your NCLR Gear!

red_heart_map_finalCheck out our newest designs in our shop! Support the fight for justice with one of our new “love” designs on a shirt or water bottle.

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