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

Board_ KateKendell _photo
Dear Friend of NCLR,
We’re now only days away from our biggest event of the year, and everyone at NCLR could not be more excited.

NCLR’s Anniversary Celebration, set for May 5, 2012 in San Francisco, is even more special because it celebrates our 35th year—a milestone that we couldn’t have achieved without you by our side. You have helped us change the legal landscape for every lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender person in this country, and for that, we are forever thankful.

The Anniversary Celebration is a time for us to reflect on how far we’ve come and to celebrate individuals who had the courage to stand up and speak out for justice, becoming role models and examples of true leadership and strength.

We’re pleased to honor six amazing young students who were our clients in a lawsuit challenging a Minnesota school district policy that stigmatized LGBT students and made it hard for teachers to protect them. Just last month, the district agreed to sweeping changes that will make schools safer and prevent the kind of bullying and harassment that Brittany, Damian, Dylon, Ebonie, Kyle, and Kyrstin endured for far too long. You can read more about the victory below.

We will also be honoring the one and only Jane Lynch, who has used her fame as a platform to speak out for LGBT equality, and has blazed a path not only for artists who follow in her footsteps, but for young people everywhere who look up to her.

I especially want to thank you—our champions, the women and men who stand up for equality each day by living your lives authentically and by walking with us in the march toward full justice.

Whether you are able to join us on May 5th or not, you are a part of our 35th anniversary and a part of our celebrations, and I can’t wait to mark this moment!

In solidarity,
Enews_KateSig

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35th Anniversary Celebration Around the Corner

Enews_35AnnCelebYou don’t want to miss the party of the year. Get your tickets now for NCLR’s 35th Anniversary Celebration—set for May 5, 2012 at the City View at Metreon in San Francisco—where we’ll honor seven heroic individuals.

The Anniversary Celebration—often called “the party of the year”—attracts 1,500 people from across the country who gather 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 and their presenters include:

  • Jane Lynch, of “Glee” and “Julie & Julia,” will receive the Vanguard Award.
  • Six student plaintiffs—Brittany, Damian, Dylon, Ebonie, Kyle, and Kyrstin—from NCLR’s case against Minnesota’s Anoka-Hennepin School District, will receive the Courage Award (Read more about their victory below).
  • Wilson Cruz, of “My So-Called Life” and Broadway production of RENT, who will present the Courage Award

And of course the one and only Kate Clinton will return for a command performance as emcee.

The Anniversary Celebration is NCLR’s signature event. This year’s Premiere 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 5, 2012.

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Photos to the “I am NCLR … ” Campaign

ENews_IAMNCLRTime is running out for you to submit your photos to the “I am NCLR … ” photo campaign.

We’re accepting photos through April 27, 2012 for our photo campaign, launched to reflect and showcase the LGBT community we fight for each day.

We would like your photos—portraits, snapshots, and special moments—featuring you and a homemade poster or sign in which you fill in the sentence, “I am NCLR, and I am … ,” saying how you reflect NCLR’s groundbreaking work.

The best images will be showcased at NCLR’s 35th Anniversary Celebration.

Learn more about the “I am NCLR …” campaign, and submit your photos to Media@NCLRights.org.

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Tweet at the Anniversary Celebration for a Chance at an Autographed Copy of Jane Lynch’s Book

Want to have even more fun while you’re at the 35th Anniversary Celebration?

Three partygoers with the best tweets will get an autographed copy of superstar Jane Lynch’s fascinating and inspiring new book, “Happy Accidents.”

All you need to do is tweet @NCLRights to tell us all the fun you’re having during the Anniversary Celebration, and be sure to use the #NCLR35 hash tag.

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NCLR Wins Historic Agreement for Anoka-Hennepin Students

Enews_AHSDSix students from NCLR’s federal lawsuit against Minnesota’s Anoka-Hennepin School District made history last month when the district agreed to make sweeping changes to settle the students’ sexual orientation and gender discrimination claims.

The students filed the suit against the district nearly a year ago, claiming that a district policy banning the discussion of LGBT issues also prevented staff from protecting them from relentless bullying and harassment.

The students—Brittany, Damian, Dylon, Ebonie, Kyle, and Kyrstin—faced daily torment in their schools, with other classmates calling them “fag,” “dyke,” “he-she,” and physically assaulting them, including pushing them into lockers and punching them.

School staff could do little to protect the students, fearing that intervening could violate a policy that prohibited staff from addressing LGBT issues, including if they heard or saw the issue happen firsthand.

After months of discussions, on March 5, 2012, Anoka-Hennepin leaders agreed to major new protections to prevent harassment of students who are or are perceived to be LGBT and gender non-conforming, as well as those who have friends or parents who are LGBT.

The agreement includes a comprehensive plan to counter and prevent future harassment in district education programs and activities. Key features of the plan include a thorough evaluation of the district’s anti-harassment policies and procedures, and tailored actions to improve the school climate and enhance the training of staff and students.

No one should have to go through the kind of harassment that I did,” said Dylon, who faced a constant barrage of verbal and physical abuse at school. “I am happy this agreement includes real changes that will make our schools safer and more welcoming for other kids.”

The students were represented by NCLR, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the law firms of Faegre Baker Daniels LLP and Culberth & Lienemann LLP.

Watch their “It Gets Better” video
Watch a video featuring Ebonie and her mother, Quana.

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NCLR Represents a Widow Defending Her Marriage Against DOMA In Federal Court

Cases_Tobits_Tobits_marriageOn March 12, 2012, Federal District Court Judge C. Darnell Jones II held a hearing in the case involving the law firm Cozen O’Connor’s refusal to pay death benefits to Jennifer Tobits. Jennifer is the surviving spouse of Sarah “Ellyn” Farley, a lawyer who worked with Cozen for several years before succumbing to cancer at the age of 37.

NCLR represents Jennifer, along with Lewis, Feinberg, Lee, Renaker and Jackson, P.C. in Oakland and Jerner & Palmer, P.C. in Philadelphia.

The lawsuit came about after Ellyn’s parents, Joan and David Farley, contested Jennifer’s entitlement to her wife’s death benefit. The Farleys never accepted their daughter’s sexual orientation and refused to recognize her marriage to Jennifer. Rather than pay the benefit to Jennifer, Cozen filed the lawsuit, asking the court to determine whether Jennifer or the Farleys should receive it.

The Court’s March 12th hearing was to determine whether it should rule in favor of or against Jennifer. NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter and Teresa Renaker from Lewis, Feinberg, Lee, Renaker & Jackson argued that Cozen’s retirement plan entitles Jennifer to her wife’s death benefit as a surviving spouse, that DOMA does not prevent private employers from providing equal benefits to the same-sex spouses of their employees, and that it would be unconstitutional to apply DOMA to forbid private employers from providing equal benefits to same-sex spouses. No court has ever applied DOMA to prevent a private employer like Cozen from voluntarily providing benefits to married same-sex couples.

We are hopeful the Court will reject Cozen’s attempt to hide behind DOMA to justify its discrimination. Cozen’s position in this case, if adopted, would result in an unprecedented and dangerous extension of DOMA. While DOMA is a terrible law that has devastating effects on LGBT families, it’s clear that DOMA was not intended to force private employers to discriminate. The Court is expected to issue its ruling in the coming months.

Learn more about Jennifer’s story.

Then read a personal story written by Ellyn about her love for Jennifer.

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NCLR Helps Defeat a Homophobic Louisiana Law

NCLR and other groups filed a friend-of-the-court brief in a groundbreaking case that finally put a stop to Louisiana’s longstanding practice of imposing harsh criminal penalties on people accused of soliciting certain types of sexual conduct with a person of the same sex.

Before this victory, people charged under the state’s so-called “Crime Against Nature by Solicitation” (“CANS”) statute had to register as sex offenders, while people engaging in the very same behavior with a different-sex partner were charged with prostitution, a conviction that could never result in registration. Because prosecutors had total discretion to bring these charges, they frequently imposed the harsher CANS statute on LGBT people. In February of 2011, the Center for Constitutional Rights filed a federal lawsuit in the Eastern District of Louisiana on behalf of nine individuals who were registered as sex offenders after being charged under CANS.

NCLR, along with Lambda Legal, the Sylvia Rivera Law Project and Breakout!, a project of the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana, submitted a friend-of-the-court brief arguing that Louisiana unconstitutionally targeted LGBT individuals by frequently charging their alleged crimes under the CANS statute.

In a March 29, 2012 ruling, Judge Martin L. C. Feldman found that the sex offender registration requirement under CANS violated the Equal Protection Clause. Louisiana, wrote Judge Feldman, could not “credibly serve up even one unique legitimating governmental interest [to] rationally explain” why those convicted under the CANS statute were singled out for sex offender registration, while individuals convicted under the prostitution statute were not.

The Court’s ruling was a major vindication for the nine plaintiffs, many of whom were unable to secure work or housing, had been barred from homeless shelters or treatment facilities, or who had been threatened by neighbors because they were registered sex offenders.

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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

Check 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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