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From the desk of Kate Kendell, Esq.
Dear Friend of NCLR,
As we charge full-steam ahead into election season, I’m inspired and awed every day by the commitment and passion I see in our community. The level of engagement is unparalleled. Our staff has given 110% in order to get you the latest news and information, campaign leaders are working around the clock to educate voters, and NCLR supporters are stepping up and speaking out against harmful initiatives that would deny members of our community the fundamental freedoms to which everyone is entitled.
click here to read more from Kate's Blog: Out for Justice
This November, a number of states face harmful ballot initiatives and the stakes have never been higher. NCLR is involved with various efforts across the country to help ensure that the civil and human rights of LGBT people in this nation are protected—regardless of what happens at the ballot box.
There is good news in Oregon, but voters in Arizona, Arkansas, California, and Florida will face ballot initiatives which would strip away rights and protections for LGBT people. Defeating these initiatives will require all of us working together across the nation to educate and rally voters to vote for fairness and against discrimination. Click here to get the latest news and most up-to-date information on what is going on in your state this fall.
And if you know of an effort that should be listed here, please let us know!
Arkansas, Unmarried Couple Adoption Ban:
Arkansas voters must defeat a far-reaching “Unmarried Couple Adoption Ban,” which would ban adoption or foster care by any individual cohabiting outside of a recognized marriage. This means anyone who cannot or chooses not to get legally married, regardless of sexual orientation, would not be able to provide a loving home to the many children in Arkansas who are desperate for one.
Opponents have until August 21, 2008 to submit enough signatures to qualify the ban for the November ballot. We don’t yet know how many the proponents submitted, nor whether they will be found valid. Sign up with Arkansas Families First to get the latest news, to learn more about this potential harmful ban, and what you can do to help defeat it.
To volunteer or host a house party to support this effort, please get in touch with Campaign Manager Brett Kincaid at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Arkansas Campaign News: Arkansas Families First
Arizona, “Marriage Protection Amendment”:
In 2006, Arizona voters voted against writing discrimination into their state constitution. Two years later, the same discriminatory amendment is back on the ballot. If passed, Proposition 102 will deny LGBT individuals their fundamental right to marry. Arizona voted NO in 2006 and we hope that, with your help, they will vote NO again in 2008.
Find out more about the effort to defeat the so-called “Marriage Protection Amendment” (which would ban marriage for same-sex couples) with Equality Arizona and Vote No on Prop 102.
Arizona Campaign News: Equality Arizona and Vote No on Prop 102
California, Prop 8:
On May 15, 2008, the California Supreme Court ruled that denying same-sex couples the right to marry violates the promise of equal protection in the California Constitution and that loving and committed couples have a fundamental right to marry the person of their choosing regardless of sexual orientation. This historic victory is now being threatened by Proposition 8—the marriage ban—which will be on the California ballot this November.
Defeating Prop 8 will require passionate and committed people working together across California to educate and rally voters to Vote No on Prop 8. Fundamental rights are at stake. We need you now more than ever! Click here for more ways to take action.
California campaign news: No on 8 and NCLR’s Social Justice Fund
Florida, Prop 2:
Florida voters must defeat Amendment 2, which would not only ban marriage for same-sex couples, but would also take away important family protections, health care insurance, hospital visitation and medical decision-making authority, from all unmarried couples, same-sex and opposite sex. It permanently bans civil unions and dismantles domestic partner benefits.
What is most needed now is people to volunteer at the polls on Primary Day—Tuesday, August 26th—and help defeat Amendment 2, the deceptively named "marriage protection" amendment. Of course this amendment wouldn’t protect anyone's marriage. What it would do, however, is take away protections and benefits—like healthcare—from all unmarried couples, LGBT and straight alike.
Primary Day, Tuesday, August 26 offers one of the best opportunities to educate voters. The campaign needs widespread participation by you, your friends, and family, in order to take full advantage of this chance to talk to voters face-to-face about the harmful consequences of Amendment 2.
Florida Campaign News: Fairness for All Families and Say No 2
On August 14, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled to protect Oregon's domestic partnership law. There will be no anti-LGBT referendum on the ballot this November!
Basic Rights Oregon spent the last year working tirelessly to secure the victories won in the 2007 legislature. For nearly a year, they organized community support and spoke out about the real impact of Oregon's nondiscrimination and domestic partnership laws. They held vigils, rallies, press conferences, and celebrations. They said all along that they believed in the fundamental fairness of Oregonians and they put their trust in the rule of law. NCLR salutes Basic Rights Oregon’s extraordinary work.
NCLR Files Brief to Protect Gay, HIV+ Pakistani Refugee
LGBT immigrants face specific and varying challenges that other immigrants don’t, and U.S. immigration laws unfairly discriminate against LGBT people and people with HIV and/or AIDS. As immigrants, their lives here are often precarious and endangered. In light of these difficulties, NCLR created our Immigration Project in 1994 with the goal of providing free legal assistance to thousands of LGBT immigrants nationwide. Most recently, NCLR and Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) filed an amicus brief on behalf of S.K., a gay Pakistani man seeking asylum in the United States because he fears persecution based on his sexual orientation and HIV status. Under Pakistani law, being gay is punishable by death and LGBT people are forced to live in secrecy and constant fear of exposure.
The immigration judge ignored the serious risk of persecution that S.K. faces and denied his application for asylum. The judge held that S.K., who has HIV and was in a committed relationship with a man in Minnesota, could avoid persecution by hiding his sexual orientation, marrying a woman, and having children. The immigration judge also failed to recognize that S.K.’s diagnosis of HIV, which had progressed to AIDS, understandably delayed his filing.
The Board of Immigration Appeals originally upheld the immigration judge’s decision, and S.K. appealed those initial rulings to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. After reading briefs submitted to the Eighth Circuit by S.K. and NCLR, the government took the unusual step of requesting that the case be remanded back to the Board of Immigration Appeals so that the Board could clarify its decision.
NCLR helped to organize a number of other LGBT, HIV/AIDS, and immigrant-rights groups, including the National Immigrant Justice Center, Immigration Equality, the ACLU, AIDS Legal Council of Chicago, and International Association of Physicians in AIDS Care to submit a joint amicus brief in support of S.K. to the Board of Immigration Appeals on July 31, 2008.
click here to read more about In re S.K.
click here to read NCLR’s press release
click here to read more about NCLR’s Immigration Project
NCLR secured a precedent-setting victory in Florida, overturning a disturbing trial court ruling. Seventeen-year-old J.W. and eighteen-year-old D.A. had been dating for almost six months when J.W.’s mother, Ms. W., learned about their relationship. Because she disapproved of her daughter dating another young woman, Ms. W. petitioned a Florida court to get a restraining order to prohibit any contact between the two girls. Ms. W. admitted in court that she sought a restraining order only because she disapproved of her daughter’s relationship with D.A. and wished to end it.
Even though it was undisputed that there was no violence in the girls’ relationship, the trial court issued the injunction by finding that the consensual relationship between D.A. and J.W. constituted “dating violence” under Florida law. In January 2008, NCLR filed an appeal on behalf of D.A. asking the court to dismiss the injunction arguing that it was legal error for the trial court to issue an injunction where there were no allegations of violence. In June 2008, the appeals court reversed the trial court’s decision and dismissed the injunction.
The Law Offices of Therese Truelove served as co-counsel on the appeal.
click here to read more about D.A. v. J.W.
NCLR Files Title IX Retaliation Lawsuit
Last month, NCLR filed a lawsuit in San Diego, California on behalf of Lorri Sulpizio, the former Head Coach of the women’s basketball team at San Diego Mesa College (Mesa), and Cathy Bass, the former Director of Basketball Operations at Mesa. Despite Sulpizio’s and Bass’s dedication and leadership of the women’s basketball program at the community college, Mesa officials unlawfully fired both coaches at the end of the 2007 academic year.
The complaint alleges that Mesa officials retaliated against Sulpizio and Bass for repeatedly raising concerns about Title IX violations and unequal treatment of female athletes and faculty, as well as discriminating against them—and ultimately firing them—based on their gender and sexual orientation. While at Mesa, these outstanding coaches put the welfare of student-athletes first. They coached successful student-athletes on the courts and in the classrooms. They should have been able to advocate for equal treatment of women, student-athletes, and faculty without retaliation. Instead, Mesa fired them for raising issues of unequal treatment and Title IX violations.
Recent high profile Title IX jury verdicts and settlements at Penn State, California State University, Fresno, and University of California, Berkeley have raised awareness about systemic gender inequities and homophobia at major colleges and universities. This case is a powerful illustration that similar problems pervade the athletic departments of community colleges as well.
NCLR and the law firms of Boxer & Gerson, LLP and Stock Stephens, LLP are representing Coach Sulpizio and Coach Bass in their lawsuit against Mesa Athletic Director Dave Evans, San Diego Mesa College, and the San Diego Community College District.
click here to read the complaint filed on 07.24.08 (pdf)
click here to read Coach Sulpizio's and Coach Bass's bios (pdf)
click here to read the case timeline (pdf)
Last year, NCLR and California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA) launched Proyecto Poderoso—Project Powerful with the goal of improving legal services for low-income LGBT people in rural California, particularly for LGBT farm workers. Under the leadership of Pride Law Fellow Lisa Cisneros, Proyecto Poderoso has increased public awareness of LGBT rights in rural California, trained CRLA attorneys to defend the rights of LGBT people, and expanded free legal services available to LGBT people in rural communities throughout the state.
As part of the Proyecto Poderoso initiative, CRLA successfully represented an openly gay dairy worker in California’s Central Valley. The workplace harassment suit was resolved this summer. Aggressive litigation is a crucial aspect of Proyecto Poderoso's work. Ultimately, prosecuting discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity sends a clear message that LGBT rights must be respected.
Another important aspect of Proyecto Poderoso is community education. By increasing awareness about LGBT issues and rights, Proyecto Poderoso empowers rural LGBT residents to protect their rights, and helps to change the way people think about all LGBT people. As part of this effort, Cisneros will join NCLR co-counsel David Codell at the Hispanic National Bar Association Annual Convention in Hollywood, California. Codell and Cisneros will participate in a panel discussion entitled “Marriage and the New Frontier of LGBT Latino Advocacy.”
Additionally, Proyecto Poderoso is announcing a new job opportunity for a full-time, bilingual community worker based in Salinas or Oxnard, California. The Proyecto Poderoso Community Worker’s role will be to increase community outreach on LGBT-related legal issues in rural California, and provide investigative support for Proyecto Poderoso cases. For more information about the position, click here (pdf).
click here for more information about Proyecto Poderoso.
NCLR’s Legal Director Gives Historic Testimony before Congress
On June 26, 2008, NCLR Legal Director Shannon Price Minter was among those who testified before Congress about the devastating and pervasive problem of gender identity discrimination. The hearing before the Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions Subcommittee was titled "An Examination of Discrimination Against Transgender Americans in the Workplace." This is the first time that a congressional subcommittee has taken up the specific problem of discrimination against transgender Americans, and NCLR is hopeful that this represents a significant step towards a federal solution to this nationwide problem. NCLR firmly believes that the LGBT community needs nothing less than a unified non-discrimination bill—one that covers both sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination—in the next Congress which begins in January, 2009 following the November elections.
To see the hearing line-up, watch an archived hearing webcast, or download witness testimony, click here.
Read Kate’s blog, Out for Justice, from the eve of the hearing.
NCLR’s Youth Project Director to Serve on California’s First State-run LGBTQ Advisory Committee
The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has formed a groundbreaking 20-member advisory committee for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Questioning (LGBTQ) Children and Youth in Child Welfare. This initiative, created in partnership with the Annie E. Casey Foundation, is the first of its kind, and will assist CDSS with policy analysis in order to improve the experiences of LGBTQ youth in the child welfare system throughout California’s 58 counties. NCLR Youth Project Director Jody Marksamer will play an instrumental role in the committee, working with CDSS to develop a model that identifies best practices and tools, and educate various entities serving California’s LGBTQ youth and families in the child welfare system. Over the long term, the Committee will formalize a plan to increase leadership throughout the state in order to integrate the needs of LGBTQ youth into current child welfare initiatives.
The Committee will meet quarterly over the next two years. John Wagner, Director of CDSS, is the Committee Chairperson.
Marksamer’s participation in the LGBTQ Advisory Committee is another facet of NCLR’s Youth Project, which advances the rights of LGBTQ youth through education, public policy, and precedent-setting casework. By bringing the issues faced by LGBTQ youth front and center, we are changing the legal landscape for all youth, and ensuring health and safety for the next generation of all young people.
NCLR Plays Crucial Role in National Prison Rape Elimination Commission
NCLR submitted comments in August, 2008, on behalf of the Equity Project, on the draft “Standards for the Prevention, Detection, Response, and Monitoring of Sexual Abuse in Juvenile Facilities“ released for public comment by the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission (NPREC) on June 16, 2008. NCLR has submitted our recommendations to these standards in an effort to ensure that they fully account for the needs of LGBT youth.
The NPREC is a bipartisan commission created by the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) of 2003. Under the law, the NPREC is in charge of developing standards for juvenile and adult corrections systems to address sexual violence behind bars. To help develop the standards, the NPREC held public hearings throughout the country and convened several expert committees in Washington, DC. In August 2005, Marksamer testified at the NPREC hearing in San Francisco about the sexual abuse LGBT youth experience in juvenile and correctional facilities and offered his expertise and recommendations to end rape and sexual assault against these youth.
The NPREC will finalize the standards, considering input it received from the public, and submit them to the Attorney General, who will have one year to ratify them. Once ratified, the standards will be binding immediately on federal facilities. States will have one year after ratification to comply with the standards, or they will lose a portion of their federal funds. NCLR is proud to be a part of this groundbreaking and crucial project to protect LGBT youth who are incarcerated across the nation.
click here to read more about NCLR’s role in the NPREC hearings
click here to read NCLR's and Equity Project's comments to the commission(pdf)
click here for more information on NCLR’s Youth Project
In Memoriam: Lynnly Labovitz
On August 4, 2008, NCLR lost a great friend, Lynnly Labovitz. A remarkable woman, a passionate NCLR supporter and an esteemed photographer, Lynnly documented many of our organization’s historic moments, from our annual galas to our headline-making cases. Her talent, spirit, and skill allowed us to capture the essence and impact of our work—and she made us look great while doing so. She will be deeply missed.
Lynnly’s interests as a photographer spanned everything from editorial and documentary to fine art, portraiture, and landscape. She explained that it was her vocation and avocation—in short, a compulsion and yearning to connect with the world around her. As she battled breast cancer, Lynnly exclusively devoted her craft to supporting causes, organizations, and artists which she felt were changing the world. She said, “I've always insisted that I've never been very interested in photographing subject matter that didn't have a pulse.” Indeed, she had a gift in capturing activism and art in a way that made it come alive, to humanize the abstract and make it accessible.
Lynnly demonstrated heroic courage and strength while weathering eleven years of cancer treatment. In between hospital stays and chemotherapy, she immersed herself in friendships and photography projects. She was an invaluable advisor to NCLR as we embarked on our 30th anniversary project of redesigning our website. Her insight and humor were boundless, even in the midst of such difficult times.
We ask you to join us in making a gift in Lynnly’s memory to Bay Area Young Survivors, a support and action group for women age 45 and under who are living with breast cancer.
please click here to visit our tribute page and view Lynnly’s work
click here to read Lynnly's obituary (pdf)
Support NCLR through The CFC
NCLR is thrilled that once again we’ve been admitted to the 2008 Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) as a member of Human & Civil Rights Organizations of America. The 2008 CFC will kick off around the country in September. If you’re a federal employee, we hope you’ll support civil and human rights for LGBT people and families by giving to NCLR through the CFC this year.
You can see NCLR’s listing for the 2008 CFC at http://www.hcr.org/members_cfc.html. NCLR’s 5-digit code this year is 11318.
Show The World You Stand for Justice
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?
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!