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From the desk of Kate Kendell, Esq.
Dear NCLR Friends and Supporters:
What a year it has been already, and what a year we have ahead of us.
More than 50% of the presidential primaries and caucuses have taken place. For the first time ever, a woman and an African American man are the top candidates vying for the Democratic nomination. Nearly every election has had record voter turn-outs, with some polling places running out of ballots. Oregon’s domestic partnership law, which was set to take effect January 1, was challenged by national anti-gay groups, initially stayed by a federal judge, and then permitted to go into effect last Monday. A similar law is now before the New Mexico Legislature. In Tennessee and Arkansas, LGBT advocates are fighting to defeat anti-gay adoption measures. In California, the California Supreme Court has scheduled oral argument in NCLR’s marriage case for March 4. A decision on whether all Californians will finally be free to marry the person they love will come by June 2. In the meantime, anti-gay groups are furiously gathering signatures to put an anti-marriage ballot initiative in California, and have already done so in Florida. Also in California, anti-gay groups are gathering signatures to strip away SB 777, the Students Civil Rights Act, basic anti-discrimination protections in publicly-funded schools. In Connecticut, LGBT people are waiting for a decision in GLAD’s marriage case, which was briefed and argued last year. The Democratic and Republican conventions take place in August and September. And we all know what happens the first Tuesday in November.
I’m tired just reading that list. Is it 2009 yet?
But no matter how tired we may be or become, we simply do not have the option to sit this one out.
read more from Kate's latest blog!
Kate Kendell, Executive Director
Oral Argument in Marriage Cases Set for March 4, 2008
California is poised to make history! The California Supreme Court has scheduled oral argument in the historic marriage case for Tuesday, March 4, 2008. NCLR is at the forefront representing 15 same-sex couples, Equality California, and Our Family Coalition. NCLR Legal Director, Shannon Price Minter, will argue before the Court.
In April 2005, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Richard A. Kramer ruled in favor of the couples, holding that California's exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage discriminates on the basis of sex and violates the fundamental right to marry. On November 13, 2006, the California Court of Appeal overturned Judge Kramer's ruling in a 2-1 decision, saying that California may continue to bar same-sex couples from marriage. On December 20, 2006, the California Supreme Court unanimously granted review.
California’s marriage cases are among the most heavily briefed cases in the history of the state’s Supreme Court. Late last year, more than 20 counties and municipalities filed a friend-of-the court brief in support of marriage for same-sex couples, including some of the most populous cities in California: Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose, Long Beach, Sacramento, and Oakland. Also registering their support for marriage equality were numerous legal and bar associations, including the Los Angeles County Bar Association. In addition, many of the state’s leading constitutional law scholars and family law professors filed briefs urging the court to permit same-sex couples to marry. More than 250 religious and civil rights leaders and organizations, including the California NAACP, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, California Council of Churches, Asian Pacific American Legal Center, and National Black Justice Coalition, also filed briefs supporting same-sex couples seeking the right to marry.
2008 marks the 60th anniversary of the California Supreme Court’s historic 1948 ruling that found it unconstitutional for the state to restrict access to marriage based on the race of the spouses. That ruling was the first of its kind in the nation’s history, and is now the law of the land across the country. Again, all eyes are on California, and we are poised to make history. If California ends marriage discrimination based on sexual orientation, the impact on future generations of LGBT people will be profound.
NCLR’s co-counsel are Lambda Legal, the ACLU, Heller Ehrman LLP, and the Law Office of David C. Codell.
Anti-Gay Groups Threaten Marriage Ban Amendment
After failing multiple times to qualify an anti-marriage equality measure for the California ballot, conservative organizations are now utilizing paid signature gatherers in another attempt to put this discriminatory constitutional amendment on the November 2008 ballot. Equality for All, the statewide campaign to defeat such measures, has confirmed that an out-of-state organization is backing this effort to permanently deny loving and committed California couples the right to marry. An amendment of this type would have long-term and damaging repercussions for Californians.
In 2006, California became the first state where an effort to qualify such a discriminatory amendment failed. We will need to band together to make another attempt fail. We ask you to stay informed, stay engaged, and support Equality for All.
NCLR Defends Crucial School Protections
In December, two anti-gay organizations, Advocates for Faith and Freedom and the Alliance Defense Fund, filed a lawsuit in federal court in San Diego attempting to prevent enforcement of SB 777, California’s Student Civil Rights Act, and other laws that protect students from discrimination, harassment, and bullying in publicly-funded schools. These laws protect all Californians against hate crimes based on sexual orientation and gender. Equality California and the Gay-Straight Alliance Network (GSA Network) sought to intervene to defend the validity of the challenged laws. NCLR, Lambda Legal, the Transgender Law Center, the law firm Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP, and the Law Office of David C. Codell are representing Equality California and GSA Network.
California law has prohibited hate crimes and discrimination based on religion, race, disability, gender, and sexual orientation for several years. SB 777, which was passed in September 2007 and signed into law by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on October 12, 2007, clarified and reinforced existing laws designed to protect youth in public schools, and updated the education codes to clearly reflect current law. In an attempt to overturn those basic legal protections, the anti-gay groups have launched a misinformation campaign about the purpose and effect of SB 777—particularly targeting protections for transgender students. In February 2008, after NCLR and our co-counsel filed a brief supporting the California Attorney General’s motion to dismiss the case, the two anti-gay groups dismissed their case in federal court and announced their intention to re-file in state court.
According to the 2001 California Healthy Kids Survey, more than 200,000 California students were harassed because they were gay or lesbian, or perceived to be. Nearly one-third of students in 7th to 11th grade report having been harassed or bullied based on their actual or perceived race, ethnicity, religion, disability, gender, or sexual orientation. The survey found that kids who face harassment are more likely to drop out of school.
NCLR is working hard to defend California’s civil rights protections and to keep our schools safe for every student.
In Memory of Friebe Legacy Circle Member, Debra Kent
To the many who knew Debra Kent, she was a shining star and a force in the LGBT and AIDS fundraising worlds. To those who never got to know Debra, she was an NCLR member like many: a lesbian mom, a staunch supporter of NCLR since the early 1980’s, and someone who knew all too well the importance of fighting for civil and human rights for LGBT people and families. Debra passed away on December 21, 2007, but her legacy lives on.
Debra lived and worked in San Francisco for many years. She got to know NCLR well through her work as a fundraiser, and, true to form, she became a monthly donor. She gave to NCLR because, in her words, “of NCLR’s amazing and sustaining work, your passion, and your overall commitment. And because I know my money will be used wisely to continue your great work.”
Debra moved to Durham, North Carolina several years ago, and continued to support NCLR generously and host events to benefit NCLR. When she needed to find an LGBT-friendly-and-knowledgeable attorney for a friend in Durham, she knew where to turn: she called NCLR immediately.
When Debra was diagnosed with ovarian cancer nearly two years ago, she knew that of utmost importance was to immediately put together her estate plans to make sure her beloved daughter, Sofie, now seven years old, would always be well taken care of. Debra felt it was important to also make sure NCLR could continue its work long after she was gone to ensure a better future for her daughter. She included NCLR as a beneficiary of her estate and joined NCLR’s Friebe Legacy Circle.
All of us at NCLR who knew and loved Debra feel her loss. We are beyond grateful for her vision and generosity. Debra’s daughter, Sofie, and Sofie’s other mom, Jamie, are in our thoughts and prayers as they move through this difficult time. And NCLR is determined to continue to do everything necessary to ensure Debra’s legacy of a dream for a future of justice for LGBT and HIV+ people is fulfilled.
You can read Debra’s obituary in the San Francisco Chronicle here.
No matter how hard we work every day for your civil and human rights, nobody can accuse us of being all work and no play! We definitely know how to have a good time, which is why you don’t want to miss the 2008 Anniversary Celebration on May 31st. This is sure to be an unforgettable night of delectable delights and drinks, dancing, your favorite Kates (Clinton and Kendell), and a sell-out crowd of supporters from across the country. This is the night to celebrate the groundbreaking work of all associated with the organization: donors, corporate sponsors, staff, volunteers, allies, and, most importantly, the clients who have had the courage to revolutionize LGBT civil rights. Click here for more information and to purchase your tickets.
Give us some sage advice... For SAGE
NCLR is partnering with SAGE - Services and Advocacy for LGBT Elders in advancing protections for LGBT elders. SAGE wants to know what you think about aging and the LGBT community, as well as services and programs currently offered or potentially offered by SAGE.
It takes about 7 minutes to tell SAGE what you think in this confidential electronic survey. You'll be participating in the SAGE strategic planning process and you will help determine the future of services for LGBT elders across the country. Whether you consider yourself old, middle-aged, or young, age doesn't matter in this survey. So click here and take it right now—before February 19th! It's easy and confidential.
If you are unable to use the link, please copy this address (http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=Vi4RDwQNwZP9d7sXC0OkSg_3d_3d) into the address line of your web browser.
Thank you for helping SAGE!
A Revealing Picture of LGBT Charitable Giving
How many of your fellow LGBT friends and colleagues join you in giving to LGBT causes? The answer to this question might surprise you.
A recently released report by the Horizons Foundation entitled, LGBT Giving to LGBT Organizations: Building a New Tradition of Philanthropy, (click here to download the pdf) provides new and illuminating data about LGBT charitable giving in California’s Bay Area and, in turn, the challenges that many LGBT organizations face in delivering consistent, high-quality services over a sustained period of time.
The most striking figure in the report is that fewer than 5% of California’s Bay Area LGBT people make a financial gift to a local, regional, statewide, or national LGBT organization.
The first survey of its kind, this report includes data from 38 LGBT and HIV organizations that have a significant presence in the Bay Area. This report is the first of a two-part series, the second of which will focus on what motivates the LGBT community to give and what inhibits giving. The second part of the report will be released in March of 2008.
A Special Kind of Election!
Are you a member of Working Assets or CREDO Mobile? Then take a moment to VOTE!
For the first time, the National Center for Lesbian Rights has been chosen as a Working Assets donations recipient. We are one of only 50 non-profits across the country that will receive a portion of the donations that Working Assets raises from its customers.
By filling out the 2008 Donations Ballot, you can vote to allocate this year’s funding to NCLR. The distribution of funds is determined solely by how many votes we receive. The more votes we get, the more funding we get. It’s that simple.
Voting is easy. Simply go to http://www.workingassets.com/vote.
Since 1985, Working Assets members have raised over $50 million for worthy groups like ours. Working Assets offers mobile, long distance, and credit card services that donate a portion of customers’ charges to progressive organizations, at no extra cost.
If you’re not a member of CREDO Mobile, join today by going to http://www.credomobile.com so you can help increase donations to NCLR. Thanks for participating!
You may have already seen NCLR at 30, the ten-minute short film that showcases the breadth of NCLR’s work and captures the struggles and victories of the organization and the larger LGBT civil rights movement. If you haven’t, not to worry! Our short documentary is being featured in She Likes Girls 2, an anthology produced by Wolfe Video, of eight lesbian short films. This incredible collection features Sundance Film Festival selections and winners from a variety of independent film festivals like the PlanetOut Short Movie Awards and the Independent Black Film Festival. Wolfe Video is a leading distributor of gay and lesbian films and is committed to creating social change through the entertainment industry. We are grateful to Wolfe Video for the opportunity to be included among the best lesbian short films of 2007.