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From the desk of Kate Kendell, Esq.
Dear Friend of NCLR,
Could 2008 be any more electrifying? And nerve-racking, and thrilling, and worrisome…. These days it feels like we are all living on a roller coaster, caught somewhere between the sweet delight of hope, possibility, and promise, and the deep fatigue of fear, cynicism, and resignation to the status quo. And still, the Earth keeps turning and with it, NCLR’s docket and the need for our life- and law-changing work presses on.
I hope you’ll take a minute to read on for brief updates on our work and a snapshot of what the next few months hold for NCLR and our entire community.
I have to say that it is comforting to know, in the midst of so much uncertainty that no matter what happens, NCLR will keep fighting for justice.
Through the highs and the lows,
Kate Kendell, Executive Director
California Marriage Case Update
On March 4th, NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter argued before the California Supreme Court in our landmark marriage equality case, In re Marriage Cases, representing 15 same-sex couples. The only thing left to do now is…wait. And hope.
The California Supreme Court has until June 2 to announce their decision in one of the most prominent and important marriage equality cases in the nation; it could come sooner, but definitely no later than June 2nd. You can be sure that NCLR will bring you the news as soon as it is announced. And with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s recent public remarks opposing efforts to amend the California Constitution to bar LGBT couples from marriage, we are more hopeful than ever for permanent, legal justice for our families.
Should the court rule in our favor, California will join Massachusetts and a number of other countries in permitting all of its citizens to marry the person they love.
Stay tuned for this historic decision, and keep doing all you can to educate your friends, family members, and colleagues about why our families need and deserve full equality under the law!
Fight Against Anti-Marriage Ballot Initiative in California
In addition to making the case for marriage equality in the courts, NCLR is also part of a coalition of organizations which are fighting the efforts of extremist anti-LGBT groups to defeat a hateful constitutional amendment banning marriage for same-sex couples on the California November 2008 ballot.
Recently, these anti-gay groups announced they have submitted over 1.1 million signatures supporting this proposed amendment to our state constitution. This means that in November, voters in California likely will have to decide whether or not excluding LGBT couples from marriage should be written into the constitution.
NCLR has been an active part of this battle since the beginning, partnering with Equality for All to help wage a strong “Decline to Sign” campaign. Thousands of volunteers helped with the effort to stop this discriminatory initiative from qualifying for the November ballot. If you were one of those volunteers, NCLR extends our sincerest gratitude. Your efforts made it extremely difficult for our opponents to operate and we fought a tough battle. But that was just a taste of what’s to come. Our efforts in the past several months send a message loud and clear that we are going to fight this proposed amendment every step of the way. It’s now time for us to buckle down and strap in for the long road ahead of us.
We must stop discrimination against LGBT people from being written into the California Constitution. This is a fight for basic humanity, fairness, and indeed the future of California.
Case Highlight: L.E. v. K.R.
NCLR is working to help L.E., a client in Florida, whose family has been torn apart. L.E. and her partner, K.R., dreamed of creating a family together. As part of their plan, each gave birth to a child, and became legal parents of each other’s biological child through second-parent adoptions in Washington, where they lived. The family eventually moved to Florida, and the couple’s relationship ended several years later. After the couple broke up, L.E.’s ex-partner did the unthinkable: she unilaterally decided that each parent should raise her own biological child and simply disregard the second-parent adoptions.
Since then, our client has been denied all contact with one of her children, whom she parented for 6 years. Perhaps the saddest part of this situation is that the relationship between the two sisters has been completely severed.
NCLR, along with local family law attorney Leslie Talbot, of Leslie M. Talbot, P.A., represented L.E. in her suit for custody and visitation in the trial court in Florida. Unfortunately, in February, the court ruled against our client. It refused to recognize the second-parent adoptions the couple had completed in Washington, and held that L.E. has no legal relationship to her older daughter. But we are fighting on. Along with pro bono appellate attorneys from Carlton Fields, we are appealing the decision.
A few weeks ago at the NCAA women’s basketball Final Four in Tampa, NCLR’s Sports Project Director Helen Carroll participated in a groundbreaking panel discussion entitled “Seeking Common Ground in Athletics: A Conversation Among Lesbians, Christians, and Lesbian Christians.” This discussion, held at the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association National Convention, addressed some of the most taboo topics in sports: religion and homosexuality, and finally got people talking openly and honestly about these issues. The speakers included:
- Pat Griffin, It Takes a Team! Education Campaign from LGBT Issues in Sport and the Women’s Sports Foundation
- Deborah Haliday, Fellowship of Christian Athletes
- Donna Noonan, Fellowship of Christian Athletes
- Lea Robison, a queer-identified African American student athlete
- Tracey Wolff, Athletes in Action and the former Assistant Women’s basketball coach at Marquette University
- and our very own Helen Carroll.
These women from very different backgrounds brought their unique perspectives on athletics to the discussion with the aim of finding common ground while still respecting and appreciating diversity.
The group discussed how athletes and coaches who have different or conflicting views on religion and homosexuality can still come together to create a successful team grounded in respect and tolerance. They also worked to identify specific strategies to create a positive team dynamic.
According to Helen Carroll, “This was an incredible opportunity to talk about the things that people don’t ever mention, especially in athletics. We were all there because of our mutual love of sports, and we found more in common than we thought possible. It was truly a success!”
An Advocate for Proyecto Poderoso
Recently The Advocate featured an article on NCLR’s newest project, Proyecto Poderoso, or Project Powerful. The article highlights one of our cases on behalf of a transgender farmworker, and gives a great overview of the serious issues and problems Proyecto Poderoso is working to address on behalf of rural LGBT workers, and the ways in which its director, Lisa Cisneros, who grew up in rural California, is exactly the right woman for the job.
Proyecto Poderoso is designed to improve legal services for low-income LGBT residents of rural California, many of whom are agricultural workers without access to basic services. In rural communities across the country, cross currents of poverty, racism, homophobia, transphobia, and immigration status have marginalized LGBT people. Low-income individuals in rural communities struggle to find affordable, local counsel with expertise in LGBT-related law. This is why NCLR and Project Director Lisa Cisneros have partnered with California Rural Legal Assistance to create Proyecto Poderoso and to protect the rights of LGBT people in small towns and communities across California.
Click here to read more about Proyecto Poderoso.
Kate Kendell Named One of 21 Leaders for the 21st Century
NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell has been named by Women’s eNews as one of the 21 Leaders for the 21st Century because of her commitment to justice and equality through her work at NCLR. Women’s eNews is dedicated to covering news stories and issues of particular concern to women, as well as providing women’s perspective on public policy issues. They have held their 21 Leaders for the 21st Century Gala for eight years now, honoring individuals for the risks they have taken in order to create change and celebrating their hard work on behalf of women worldwide. Kate is among good company; check out some of the other honorees this year.
If you’re in the New York City area on May 21, we invite you to check out the gala honoring Kate and other leaders.
Click here for more information.
ESPN Takes On Negative Recruiting
On March 23rd, ESPN tackled the issue of negative recruiting on an episode of Outside the Lines. Negative recruiting occurs when coaches or other school representatives make negative comments or inferences about other schools and athletic programs based on the actual or perceived sexual orientation of coaches or players, rather than focusing on the positive qualities of their own school.
In October 2006, NCLR co-hosted the first LGBT Sports Think Tank with the NCAA, which was designed to examine ways to address negative recruiting and sexual orientation. Following the success of that Think Tank, NCLR Sports Project Director Helen Carroll, along with Pat Griffin, the Director of the "It Takes a Team!" Educational Campaign for LGBT Issues in Sport, began calling for a national dialogue concerning the impact of negative recruiting based on perceived sexual orientation. Since then, NCLR has worked closely with the producer of Outside
the Lines on the difficult task of convincing coaches and athletes to break the silence around this harmful practice. The result was an episode dedicated to the issue of negative recruiting and sexual orientation which aired on March 23rd, as well as an NCAA fact sheet providing more information for coaches, administrators, and athletes.
Click here to download the NCAA's Positive Recruiting Resources fact sheet for more information on negative recruiting (pdf).
NCLR to Honor First and Only Openly Lesbian Congresswoman at 2008 Anniversary Celebration
NCLR will host its 31st Anniversary Celebration in San Francisco on May 31, 2008. It promises to be an amazing evening—as always—celebrating the past year of NCLR’s legal successes. This year, NCLR is thrilled to honor Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) with the 2008 Community Vision Award for her commitment to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights advocacy in Congress.
Baldwin’s leadership in support of an inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would include protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation as well as gender identity, is exemplary of her lifelong pursuit of justice and equality for all Americans. In the last Congressional session in 2007, Congresswoman Baldwin took a strong stand in favor of preserving protections for gender identity and expression in ENDA, including submitting an amendment to restore those protections after they were stripped from the bill. In pushing for a fully inclusive bill, she represented more than 300 LGBT groups across the nation, including NCLR, and became a celebrated leader in the LGBT community. We are looking forward to giving her a hero’s welcome when we honor her on May 31st.
“It is an extraordinary honor to have Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin as our guest of honor at our 2008 Anniversary Celebration,” said Kate Kendell, Executive Director of NCLR. “Her courageous leadership in Congress for an inclusive ENDA was a battle cry for LGBT organizations nationwide to remain steadfast in their commitment to an inclusive bill.”
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!
Don't Forget: Bush Stimulates NCLR!
Want to do something really stimulating with your tax rebate check?
Want to undo some of the damage from the policies of the Bush White House?
Want to do a small part to truly help make change in 2008?
Here’s a thought: sign your 2008 rebate check over to NCLR. We’ll make sure you see the real value in the stimulus package plan. As a token of our appreciation, we'll sign your name (with your approval, of course) to a card to President Bush and the House and Senate leaders, thanking them for thinking of us.
Most of us actually need this money to take care of bills, debt, and daily necessities. But for those of you who might be considering putting it towards your daily latte intake or that fabulous outfit you saw in the Bloomingdale’s window, please consider fueling the fight for justice instead.
In this year of great peril and promise, your rebate check will go a long way towards further energizing NCLR’s always cutting-edge legal work. Not to mention, you get a tax deduction to boot.
Are You Out for Justice? Shop and Wear NCLR!
No matter the occasion—or for no occasion at all—giving the gift of NCLR is always in fashion. What else says “I love you” like the gift of civil rights? To celebrate Earth Day every day, what about using your own NCLR tote bag at the grocery store?
You can wear your pride and support the fight for justice all at the same time. A portion of all proceeds from the NCLR shop goes directly to our legal work.
You can see all the merchandise in the NCLR online shop here. Keep checking back in with our shop—we’re always adding new items!