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From the desk of Kate Kendell, Esq.
Dear Friend of NCLR,
March 31st is the day we honor the struggle and work of César Chávez, someone who knew first-hand the discrimination and ostracism that accompany living as a minority in this country. It was his determination to achieve fairness, equality, and justice for his people that kept what seemed like a hopeless fight alive for many years. He understood that all our struggles—whether for economic and racial justice, immigrant rights, or LGBT equality—are all interconnected and as people of this nation, we must fight for indivisible justice.
At NCLR, we are proud to carry on his legacy in opposing persecution, oppression, and discrimination in all its forms. Since 1994, NCLR’s Immigration Project has provided free legal assistance to thousands of LGBT immigrants nationwide—the first such project in the country. As immigrants here, their lives are often precarious and endangered, and U.S. immigration laws unfairly discriminate against LGBT people and people with HIV and/or AIDS. NCLR is committed to helping overcome the many hurdles and hardships faced by LGBT immigrants.
Each day we receive phone calls, letters, and emails from men and women, parents, grandparents, and young people who are desperate for help. They have been harassed and persecuted in their country of origin because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Their stories are heartbreaking, and unfortunately too often, there is little we can do to help. Our broken immigration system desperately needs reform, and we are doing all we can to help those directly affected by its bad policies.
Under the leadership of Project Director Noemi Calonje, we work to improve the lives of LGBT people, not just in our own country, but in others as well. We understand that our immigration system is failing, and have dedicated a program to working in partnership with others for broad immigration reform, advocating for the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) and providing help to individual clients.
We have witnessed incredible successes. In the past year alone, NCLR has successfully secured asylum for six clients, many of whom faced unthinkable discrimination, harassment, and violence in their country of origin. This work has not been easy, but it is crucial. And it is in the legacy of César Chávez, who taught us that all battles require resolve and strength, and that we must continue to fight against injustice. Today we remember our responsibility to keep fighting, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles, so that this battle might be easier for others in the future.
SI SE PUEDE! SI PODEMOS!
Asylum Granted for Honduran Lesbian Activist
This month, NCLR, along with pro bono attorney Robin Nunn, helped to successfully secure asylum for A.C., a prominent lesbian activist for LGBT rights and women’s rights in Honduras. Because she was a vocal and visible proponent of LGBT and women’s rights, A.C. was often a target for violence and harassment. Eventually, a paramilitary gang of masked, armed men attacked A.C. and sexually assaulted her while making derogatory comments about her sexual orientation. A.C. did not report the sexual assault to the Honduran police, fearing that the police would subject her to further harassment or violence. After the attack, A.C. received a series of threatening phone calls that also used derogatory terms to describe her sexual orientation. She eventually fled to the United States and filed for asylum. Because she was a vocal and visible proponent of LGBT and women’s rights, A.C. was often a target for violence and harassment. A paramilitary gang of masked, armed men attacked A.C. and sexually assaulted her while making derogatory comments about her sexual orientation. A.C. did not report the sexual assault to the Honduran police, fearing that the police would subject her to further harassment or violence. After the attack, A.C. received a series of threatening phone calls that also used derogatory terms to describe her sexual orientation. She eventually fled to the United States and filed for asylum.
The immigration judge granted A.C. asylum, but the Department of Homeland Security appealed that decision to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). The BIA affirmed the grant of asylum, noting that it is well established that human rights violations against LGBT people are pervasive in Honduras and that the Honduran government cannot be relied upon to protect LGBT people against such harm.
NCLR's full Case Docket
Proyecto Poderoso Staff Lisa Cisneros and Diana Oliva Featured on NPR’s “The California Report”
In 2007, NCLR and California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA) launched Proyecto Poderoso (Project Powerful) to provide affordable legal services to low-income LGBT people in rural California. Through litigation, public education, technical assistance, and training, Proyecto Poderoso improves access to LGBT-specific legal services and improves the way rural communities treat LGBT people.
On Friday, March 27, National Public Radio’s “California Report” featured Proyecto Poderoso’s innovative work and profiled attorney Lisa Cisneros, community worker Diana Oliva, and a recent case. The piece sheds light on the problem of discrimination against low-wage LGBT workers in rural California, and the efforts of Proyecto Poderoso to ensure equal treatment of LGBT workers.
As described on the California Report website, “Many California farmworkers are so desperate to keep their jobs that they rarely complain when there's a problem at work. When those farmworkers are gay, lesbian, or transgender, they may face harassment or even earn less pay because of their sexual orientation. Now, a new project is helping them learn about their rights under California law.” You can view the photo slideshow here and listen to the audio here.
LGBT people are becoming increasingly visible in rural California. A Williams Institute analysis revealed that about 136,000 self-identified gay, lesbian, and bisexual people reside in rural counties. Rural gay, lesbian, and bisexual communities reflect tremendous racial and ethnic diversity, and about one-third of the population struggles with poverty. The population suffers pervasive discrimination and higher rates of unemployment, disability, and psychological stress compared to their heterosexual counterparts. Though the size of the rural transgender community is still being measured, CRLA has served a growing number of transgender clients. CRLA's transgender clients often encounter the most egregious discrimination.
Proyecto Poderoso will continue to improve access to justice. Please check our website to follow our work and cases.
Prop 8 Legal Challenge Update
On March 5, 2009, the California Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the Prop 8 legal challenge—NCLR’s case that challenges the validity of Proposition 8, which eliminated the right of same-sex couples to marry in California.
During a three-hour oral argument, NCLR’s Legal Director Shannon Minter argued that the initiative process can not be used to take away a fundamental right only for one group of Californians.
NCLR, along with our co-counsel Lambda Legal and the ACLU, filed the legal challenge on November 5, after Proposition 8 was approved by just 52 percent of the voters. The Court now has fewer than 90 days to decide whether the majority can vote to take away the rights of a vulnerable minority group. The Court will also rule on whether the more than 18,000 same-sex couples who married in 2008 will continue to be legally married.
An unprecedented 43 friend-of-the-court briefs were filed in support of our case, representing hundreds of religious organizations, civil rights groups, and labor unions, and numerous California municipal governments, bar associations, and leading legal scholars urging the Court to strike down the initiative. The breadth of our support—not just among members of our LGBT community, and not just in California—was truly historic. NCLR also saw a flood of community support with over 17,000 of you on Facebook joining our Online Rally to Overturn Prop 8.
NCLR wants to make sure that you are kept as up-to-date and informed as possible about our cases, including our Prop 8 legal challenge.
Here are some ways you can stay involved:
NCLR's full Case Docket
NCLR Victory in Case Challenging UC Hasting’s Law School Non-Discrimination Policy
This month, NCLR helped to beat back a dangerous challenge to non-discrimination laws in a case that is part of the national effort on the part of right-wing religious groups to undermine basic civil rights protections. In this case, the Christian Legal Society (CLS) filed a lawsuit challenging the ability of a state school—the University of California - Hastings College of the Law—from enforcing it's non-discrimination policy to require publicly funded student groups to refrain from discriminating against any students.
CLS argued that the non-discrimination policy violated the group's First Amendment right to discriminate against LGBT and non-Christian students.
NCLR represented OutLaw, the LGBT student group at Hastings, which intervened to defend the non-discrimination policy.
On March 17, 2009, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled in favor of Hastings and OutLaw, rejecting CLS's arguments that the school's policy violates its rights to freedom of speech, religion, and association.
The Ninth Circuit's decision affirmed an earlier ruling by United States District Court Judge Jeffrey White upholding the non-discrimination policy against CLS's First Amendment challenge.
Hastings is represented by Ethan Schulman of Folger Levin & Kahn, LLP.
read the decision (pdf)
read the Truth v. Kent School District et. al petition for writ of certiorari (pdf)
NCLR's full Case Docket
Victory in Gainesville, Florida!
On March 24, 2009, Gainesville voters resoundingly rejected Amendment 1, that would have repealed anti-discrimination protections for Gainesville’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community.
Charter Amendment 1 posed a serious threat to the LGBT community and was an egregious attempt by our opponents to strip away protections for our community. If passed, it would have eliminated protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, and would have robbed the City Commission of its ability to prohibit this kind of discrimination. Led by Equality Is Gainesville's Business, a coalition of local, state, and national organizations that worked together to stop discrimination from being legalized in Gainesville, the measure was defeated with 58% of the vote.
This vote was a stark reminder of what’s at stake for the LGBT community across the country. Our opponents are working vigorously to strip away our basic rights—but we can stop them. This recent victory in Gainesville shows us what can happen when we all do the hard work required to put a personal face to the issue and educate those around us. With the great work of allies like Equality is Gainesville’s Business, we can make sure that our hard-earned rights and protections are not stripped away.
Read more about Gainesville’s Charter Amendment 1 from Equality is Gainesville’s Business here.
Federal Legislation Update
NCLR is committed to ending discrimination for all LGBT individuals, which is why we have long supported federal legislation designed to end both discrimination by the government and discrimination by private employers and businesses. Today, more than ever before, federal bills provide an opportunity to improve the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people nationwide.
Many of these bills are both much-needed and long overdue. We have been working with our allies in Washington, DC on several bills and have created a new resource page on our website dedicated to our federal legislation work.
Currently, we’re working with our allies to pass these very important bills:
Uniting American Families Act (UAFA)
Congress is currently considering a bill that would grant U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents the right to sponsor their same-sex permanent partners to immigrate to the United States. The Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) is a proposed bill that would provide same-sex couples with the same immigration benefits as opposite-sex couples. NCLR also supports comprehensive immigration reform.
Hate Crimes Legislation
Hate violence on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression is a serious national problem that should be addressed by Congress, and passage of a federal hate crimes act that covers sexual orientation and gender identity is long overdue. Federal statistics consistently show that sexual orientation remains the third highest recorded bias crime in the country, and anti-transgender hate violence occurs frequently, especially against transgender people of color.
The Employment Non Discrimination Act (ENDA) is a bill to create a federal law, which would prohibit discrimination in employment based on sexual orientation or gender identity, defined to include gender expression. It would provide critically-needed protection for people at serious risk of job discrimination. After years of hard work and thousands of conversations with law and policymakers, we are poised to pass an ENDA inclusive of gender identity in this Congress.
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NCLR Sports Project Issues a New Report Focusing on Eliminating Negative Recruiting in Sports
NCLR is proud to announce the publication of “The Positive Approach: Recognizing, Challenging, and Eliminating Negative Recruiting Based on Actual or Perceived Sexual Orientation,” (pdf) authored by Helen Carroll, NCLR Sports Project Director, and Dr. Pat Griffin, Director of It Takes a Team! Education Campaign for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Issues in Sport, an initiative of the Women’s Sports Foundation.
The publication provides a comprehensive analysis of negative recruiting based on actual or perceived sexual orientation, and recommends practices and policies to eliminate it. Negative recruiting refers to the practice of using homophobic stereotypes to deter recruits from attending rival athletic programs by alleging or implying that a rival coach or team members are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT). Sexual orientation is irrelevant to coaching, leadership, and athletic abilities. Negative references to the actual or perceived sexual orientation of any coach or player should not be part of the recruiting process.
In the first NCLR Sports Project Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Think Tank convened by NCLR and co-sponsored by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in October 2006, top sports leaders from across the country, including NCAA leaders, athletic directors, coaches and athletes, attorneys, conference commissioners, college presidents, researchers, and executives of national coaching organizations, came together to discuss the impact of negative recruiting based on actual or perceived sexual orientation. This report is a result of the strategic discussion at the Think Tank. It defines the problem, outlines practical steps for reducing and eliminating this harmful practice, and includes a forward-looking model policy to eliminate negative recruiting based on both sexual orientation, and gender identity and expression.
The Positive Approach is available for download free of charge in PDF format at: http://www.nclrights.org/sports.
NCLR Family Protection Project Releases Two New Publications for LGBT Families
NCLR is proud to announce the release of two new publications on parentage and custody issues in Wisconsin (pdf) and Texas (pdf). The publications were created for attorneys working with LGBT clients in cases involving custody, parentage, or visitation specifically in those states.
NCLR’s Family Protection Project improves access to family law services for low-income LGBT people and their families, with a focus on serving families of color. The project provides free representation and legal information to low-income LGBT parents and their children; trains and supports attorneys providing free and low-cost services to these families; provides free technical assistance to attorneys representing LGBT parents; and works in coalition with organizations serving communities of color to provide culturally competent services to families of color.
These publications were specifically designed to aid our ever-growing network of LGBT-friendly lawyers throughout the country. Visit our website to find out more information about our cooperating attorneys.
Learn more about our Family Protection Project here.
Debora Ortega Joins NCLR’s National Advisory Board
NCLR is delighted to welcome Debora Ortega, Ph.D., Director, University of Denver Latino Center and Associate Professor, Graduate School of Social Work, University of Denver to the NCLR National Advisory Board.
Dr. Ortega holds a doctoral degree in Social Welfare from the University of Washington, Seattle, a master degree in Social Work from Portland State University, and a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies from the University of San Diego. Her areas of expertise include child welfare, foster care, culturally-responsive practice, race-related stress, and family therapy. In addition, Debora has extensive experience as the principle investigator of many grant funded projects including child welfare private provider training, training professionals who assist youth transitioning from foster care, evaluation of juvenile mediation project intervention projects, and a three-year effort to develop models of effective child welfare practice with Hispanic families. She was a two-term governor’s appointee to the Kansas Advisory Board for Hispanic Affairs and is currently serving as a board member for the Council on Social Work Education and serves on the Denver Mayor’s Commission on Early Childhood Education.
“Deb’s unique experience and perspective as director of the University of Denver Latino Center will be extremely valuable as NCLR responds to the growing demand on its services in Colorado and across the country,” said Kate Kendell.
Because of Debora’s long-standing and unwavering public leadership role in the academy and in the community not only on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people but of all vulnerable and marginalized people, and especially Latinos, we are delighted to welcome her on board.
Senior Staff Attorney, Southern Regional Office (Miami, Florida)
The National Center for Lesbian Rights seeks a highly skilled, enthusiastic, articulate, and motivated Senior Staff Attorney to lead and manage its Southern Regional Office located in Miami, Florida. Read more here.
Public Interest Associate (San Francisco, California)
NCLR is now welcoming applications from current or incoming law firm associates who have been offered a "deferral" to work in public interest law for a period of time with financial support from their employer. The public interest associate would assist with all aspects of NCLR's national impact litigation, public policy, and educational work, acting in a role similar to that of NCLR staff attorneys at a level commensurate with the applicant's experience as a practicing attorney.
They will also be participating in NCLR's wide-ranging litigation docket, including, performing legal research, drafting pleadings, motions, briefs and other case-related documents, investigating and developing potential new matters; and participating in all aspects of NCLR’s legal advocacy work.
Some of the public interest associate’s time will also be devoted to providing legal information about LGBT civil rights issues to members of the community who contact NCLR’s legal information helpline.
Candidates must be current or incoming associates at law firms who will receive financial support and employment benefits, including health coverage, from their employer to work in-house at NCLR. Read more here.
For more information, please visit: www.nclrights.org/jobs.
We're Almost There—Help Us Reach Our Goal!
On March 5, we asked you to donate in honor of our legal challenge to Prop 8 and NCLR’s work for justice for all LGBT people—with a special $25,000 dollar-for-dollar matching gift from the Gill Foundation.
Today, we have received 184 gifts totalling $18,302—or $36,604!
Now, we need your help to get us over the line to our goal of $25,000—please help us reach the remaining $6,698, especially if you haven’t yet given. Remember, a gift of $25 from you becomes $50 with Gill’s match!
Every dollar—up to $25,000—given between now and the day the California Supreme Court issues their ruling will be matched dollar-for-dollar by the Gill Foundation.
Donate now and double your impact!
Anniversary Celebration: Get Your Tickets Now!
San Francisco, CA
NCLR’s 2009 Anniversary Celebration
Saturday, May 30, 2009 - 8:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m.
If there was ever a time when we all needed a party, it’s now. We’ve been through a lot this year and for the past 32 years and we need to come together. NCLR couldn’t have made it this far without you, and we hope to salute you and your support.
NCLR is celebrating 32 years of fighting for LGBT civil and human rights with a fun, energetic community party for our entire family of supporters and friends. The Kates (Kendell and Clinton) will be there, and there will be plenty of noshing, drinks, and dancing, along with 1,499 of your closest friends. Special guests to be announced soon!
Tickets are on sale now—get yours before they sell out!