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

Board_ KateKendell _photoFrom the Desk of Kate Kendell, Esq.

Dear Friend of NCLR,

I often tell people who ask me about NCLR’s work that “we are never bored.” This statement usually follows with them replying “wow” to my listing of what we have been up to lately. This newsletter illustrates that point perfectly. Here you will read about cases, victories, policy work, and collaborations that give you only a snapshot of what our staff is up to at this moment.

The reason for such a breadth of work is not because we cannot make up our minds about what to tackle first. The reason we do the range of work we do is because we believe that liberation of LGBT folks does not happen in a silo. Our issues and our lives and our concerns cross identities, geography, ideology, and every other boundary. The slogan “We are everywhere” is not simply a truism of our movement, but an animating value for all of our work.

So take a deep breath and dive in. When you’re done, I hope you share my pride in our staff and Board who make this work happen. And I hope you feel the embrace of my gratitude for your support. Without you, this range of work could not happen, and believe me, you don’t want to see me bored.

In solidarity,

Enews_KateSig

 

 

 

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NCLR Wins Asylum for Ugandan Gay Man and Urges Congress to Condemn “Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Last month, the State Department released a report to Congress which examined worldwide human rights abuses, including specific, detailed analysis of abuses directed at LGBT people across the globe. In many areas of the world, LGBT people live under threats to their safety, and even their lives, simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. NCLR is a member of the Council for Global Equality, a coalition effort that encourages a clearer and stronger American voice on international LGBT human rights concerns.

Part of the Council’s recent work has been to give visibility to the alarming “Anti-Homosexuality Bill” that is currently pending in the Ugandan legislature. If enacted, this bill would impose the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality” and even imprison citizens for three to seven years for failing to report perceived gays and lesbians to the authorities. Uganda already has an anti-gay law in place that could imprison lesbians and gay men, in certain cases for life. President Obama condemned the bill as “odious” and “unconscionable” and two resolutions condemning the Uganda bill were introduced in the United States House and Senate in February. House Resolution 1064 (pdf) was introduced with bipartisan support from more than three dozen members of Congress. A Senate resolution (pdf) was introduced with bipartisan support from Senators Feingold (D-WI), Coburn (R-OK), Cardin (D-MD), and Collins (R-ME).

Given the current climate in Uganda, NCLR’s latest victory is especially sweet. We represent E.G., a young gay man from Uganda who came to the United States in order to pursue higher education. As a child and young adult, he was often verbally abused by his family members for behaving in a way that seemed too different from other boys. As he grew older, he learned to hide his sexuality for fear of being arrested by the police on the basis of his sexual orientation. E.G. hid from government operatives who hunt down men who are suspected to be gay, and then once arrested, are often tortured.

Fearful for his safety and life, E.G. suppressed his feelings and dedicated himself to his studies. When an opportunity to come to the United States on a scholarship arose, he immediately accepted. This scholarship meant everything to him, not only because of the opportunity to pursue higher education, but also because he knew that he would be free to live openly as a gay man. He arrived in the San Francisco Bay Area, went to school, met someone, and fell in love.

When a family friend in the U.S. found out about his sexual orientation, the acquaintance proceeded to tell E.G.’s family in Uganda, who summoned him home to face the consequences. E.G.’s attempts to explain his feelings to his family have been met with rejection, and all means of communication have been closed for almost two years. In addition to rejecting him as their son, his parents have reported E.G. to the police, and as a result, the police have questioned and intimidated his siblings and old friends in order to find out when E.G. would be returning to Uganda. Upon his return, he would be arrested and face jail time, torture, humiliation, and possibly death.

NCLR is both relieved and thrilled to announce that E.G.’s asylum was granted this March.

Read more about NCLR’s asylum work.

Read more about NCLR’s federal legislation work.

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NCLR’s Anniversary Celebration: A Special Invitation from Jane Lynch and Lara Embry

NCLR is delighted that Jane and Lara will be at this year’s Anniversary Celebration. We’re equally delighted to announce that Constance McMillen and Ceara Sturgis will be there as well! Constance wasn’t able to attend her prom after her school canceled it rather than let her attend in a tux with her girlfriend. And as our event is commonly known as the LGBT prom, it seemed only fitting that she get to attend a prom after all—only much, much better. Constance will be attending with her friend Ceara, whose school refused to publish a photo of her in a tux in their school yearbook last year.

Jane, Lara, Constance, and Ceara will join us on May 1st to celebrate our 33 years of fighting for equality and to honor Vicki Randle and Will Philips for their contributions to the history and future of LGBT rights. Find out more about our 33rd Anniversary Celebration and special guests—and buy your tickets—at www.nclrights.org/2010ann.

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A Devastating Loss: Clay and Harold and the Rights of LGBT Elders

California | Pending
Greene v. County of Sonoma et al.

Enews_ClayHaroldClay and his partner of 20 years, Harold, lived in California. As long-time partners, they had named each other beneficiaries of their respective estates, agents for medical decisions. As 2008 began, Harold was 88 years old and in deteriorating health. Clay, 11 years younger, was physically strong, but beginning to show signs of cognitive impairment. The two men lived in a country home with too many steps that required much work to keep up, but the men loved the views and being surrounded by nature and living a quiet life with each other and their cats. As Harold’s health declined, it became apparent that they would need assistance, but the men resisted outside help.

One spring day, as the men were preparing to go out, Harold fell down the front steps of their home. Clay immediately called the ambulance and Harold was taken to the hospital. There, the men’s nightmare began. First, county and health care workers refused to allow Clay to see Harold. Then, while Harold was hospitalized, Deputy Public Guardians went to the men’s home, took photographs, and commented on the desirability and quality of the furnishings, artwork, and collectibles that the men had collected over their lifetimes.

Ignoring Clay entirely, the County focused on Harold, going so far as to petition the Court for conservatorship of his estate. Outrageously referring to Clay only as a “roommate” and failing to disclose their true relationship, the County continued to treat Harold as if he had no family. The County sought immediate temporary authority to revoke Harold’s powers of attorney, to act without further notice, and to liquidate an investment account to pay for his care. Then, despite being granted only limited powers, and with undue haste, the County arranged for the sale of the men’s personal property, cleaned out their home, terminated their lease, confiscated their truck, and eventually disposed of all of the men’s worldly possessions, including family heirlooms, at a fraction of their value and without any proper inventory or determination of whose property was being sold.

Adding further insult to grave injury, the county removed Clay from their home and confined him to a nursing home against his will—a different placement from his partner. Clay was kept from seeing Harold during this time, and his telephone calls were limited. Three months after he was hospitalized, Harold died. Because of the county’s actions, Clay missed the final months he should have had with his partner of 20 years. Compounding this tragedy, Clay has literally nothing left of the home he had shared with Harold or the life he was living up until the day that Harold fell, because he has been unable to recover any of his property or his beloved cats—who are feared dead. The only memento Clay has is a photo album that Harold painstakingly put together for Clay during the last three months of his life.

With the help of a dedicated and persistent court-appointed attorney, Anne Dennis of Santa Rosa, Clay was finally released from the nursing home. Ms. Dennis, along with Stephen O’Neill and Margaret Flynn of Tarkington, O’Neill, Barrack & Chong, now have been retained to represent Clay and his partner’s executor in a lawsuit against the County, the auction company, and the nursing home, with technical assistance from NCLR. A trial date has been set for July 16, 2010 in the Superior Court for the County of Sonoma.

Read more about NCLR’s Elder Law Project.

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Legislative Update: No more Delays! Schedule ENDA Mark-Up Now!

The members of the House will return from their break on April 12, and Congressmembers Barney Frank and Tammy Baldwin have ENDA phonebankmade it clear they expect an immediate a House vote on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

After years of hard work and thousands of conversations with law and policymakers, we are poised to pass ENDA, ensuring critically-needed protection for LGBT people at serious risk of job discrimination. In order to achieve that, we, and our partners in United ENDA, have been working tirelessly to make sure that LGBT community and our allies have the resources they need to effectively advocate with their senators and representatives on these issues.

NCLR’s Jaan Williams, with the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, has been organizing phone banks to mobilize supporters in key Congressional districts. In addition to running phone banks in Washington D.C., Jaan has provided training and support for phone banks in California, Ohio, and Florida. These phone calls are vital to convince undecided legislators to move ENDA forward.

Read more about NCLR’s federal legislation work.

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Our Families Count: Census 2010

NCLR Proyecto Poderoso Community Worker Angeles Jimenez has been hard at work mobilizing rural LGBT participation in the Census 2010. Angeles’ outreach work capitalizes on recent efforts by the Census Bureau to include LGBT communities in the Census 2010. The Bureau has begun Census outreach targeting LGBT communities and for the first time: the Census will count same-sex couples, who may indicate that they are either married or unmarried partners. In the past, Census Bureau policy called for editing responses, changing same-sex couples into heterosexual couples. Additionally, the Census Bureau urges transgender respondents to mark the gender that matches with their identity.

To ensure that same-sex couples and LGBT people in California’s rural and farmworker communities are included, Angeles has organized bilingual LGBT census forums in Salinas, Fresno, and Tulare. She has sent letters to former clients and LGBT community members encouraging them to complete the census form. Angeles works closely with the Williams Institute, the Census Bureau’s LGBT partnership specialists, the National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce, and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund to ensure that the rural LGBT community is counted in the 2010 census.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights, and its partner in Proyecto Poderoso, California Rural Legal Assistance, are members of the Our Families Count coalition.

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NCLR Donor Profile: Yesenia and Veronica Olivera-Leon

Olivera-LeonYesenia and Veronica Olivera-Leon have been supporters of NCLR for quite some time. Yesi is a member of NCLR’s National Advisory Board, and they live in Miami and just recently became first-time mothers to twins! Before the twins arrived, we asked Yesi and Vero to take a little time out of their busy preparing-for-babies schedule to tell us about why they support NCLR.

When and how did you first hear about NCLR?

Vero: Yesi joined NCLR’s National Advisory Board several years ago.

Yesi: The event production company I work for, Pandora Events, was looking for a good charity to donate to. We found it in NCLR!

What inspired your first gift to NCLR, and is there anything in particular about NCLR that has motivated you to continue giving through the years?

Yesi: We found out about NCLR and the work they do and wanted to give to them as a beneficiary of our Girls in Wonderland events in South Florida. We’ve continued the tradition ever since. NCLR does such good work for our community.

What are your hopes for and expectations of NCLR and our movement in the next few years?

Vero: I know that NCLR will continue to lead the way towards equality and justice for ourselves and our families. And on a personal level, I hope for more Family BBQs hosted by NCLR in South Florida!

Yesi: I hope – and expect – that our families will finally get equal rights. And that adoption by LGBT people becomes legal in Florida.

What do you tell others about NCLR?

Vero: That NCLR has an amazing army of justice soldiers out there working on our families’ rights, including righting wrongs already committed against us.

Yesi: I tell people all about what NCLR does and how much they have helped all of us.

Support NCLR through eScrip

Enews_EscripsSo 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.

How about using eScrip?

What is eScrip? It’s 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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Shop at NCLR’s Store

New Shirt DesignCheck out one of NCLR’s favorite designs in our shop! Support the fight for justice with this great image of Lady Liberty and Lady Justice.

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