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From the desk of Kate Kendell, Esq.
Dear Friend of NCLR,
At NCLR we are ending 2009 with a roar. In the past week, we won a landmark Title IX case, secured asylum for a transgender client from Guatemala, helped launch a White House family visibility campaign and played a key role in mobilizing our community to fight for passage of ENDA.
This past year has been filled with gut wrenching highs and lows. We began 2009 with a new administration that has given us unprecedented access and an ability to help move and shape policies that affect our lives. We saw the California Supreme Court uphold Prop 8, in a tortured and deeply regrettable ruling. We rejoiced as legal rulings and legislative wins made marriage a reality in four more states.
We lived through the stutter-steps of the Obama administration on our most important issues, all the while proclaiming his abiding support for our equality. We endured the kick-in-the-gut ballot loss in Maine, reversing the legislature’s vote on marriage (for the time being), even as we saw voters support transgender rights in Kalamazoo, Michigan and Gainesville, Florida, and domestic partner protections in Washington state. We held our breath and felt that same sucker punch again when a marriage equality bill was voted down in New York, and those brave Senators who stood with us reignited our hope and belief that equality may be a dream deferred, but never denied.
In short, we went through the normal roller coaster ride that is part of any active, dynamic, and expanding civil rights movement. For every step forward, it can appear that there is a counter-step backward. But after 14 years at NCLR, and with the perspective of our thirty-two years to draw on, it is clear to me that our arc of history is indeed bending to justice. We are in a particularly perilous moment now precisely because we are so close to achieving our goal of equality. Our opposition has ramped up as never before, and on every issue of social justice, inclusion, and individual liberty, we see the rancor and intolerance of those who want to deny all progress and turn back the clock on all the gains every movement for justice has made.
But we know how the story ends, if we continue to hold up our end and push with all our might for the basic dignity and equality that we all deserve. Justice, truth, and love will win out. Yes, it has been a hard year. That is the point. Fighting for what is right, standing up and telling the truth to power, struggling to win equality and to change hearts and minds is never easy work.
All of us at NCLR wish you and those you love a safe, joyous, and peaceful holiday season. We will do the same. We will then begin 2010 resolved to keep doing all we can to propel our movement forward. We are deeply grateful for the opportunity we have to do this work. To be a part of this inspiring human rights movement is privilege. We will not rest so long as any person in our community is denied safety, equality, and basic rights. Our commitment is to get to that final chapter sooner rather than later.
Victory! NCLR Wins Landmark Title IX Retaliation Lawsuit
For six years, Lorri Sulpizio served as the Head Women’s Basketball Coach at San Diego Mesa College (Mesa), and her domestic partner, Cathy Bass, assisted the team as assistant coach and Director of Basketball Operations. As a coach, Lorri put the welfare of her student-athletes first, encouraging them to succeed both on the court and in the classroom. Her dedication to her students created an atmosphere in which they thrived. Many of Lorri’s players received Scholar-Athlete awards. None of her athletes ever became ineligible due to grades, and many advanced to four year institutions and received athletic scholarships.
In 2006, Lorri repeatedly raised concerns about inequities in Mesa’s treatment of female student-athletes in violation of Title IX, a federal statute prohibiting sex discrimination in any federally funded education program or activity. Instead of correcting those problems, Mesa officials discharged both Lorri and Cathy – despite their dedication and demonstrated track record of success. Lorri should have been able to advocate for equal treatment of women, student-athletes, and faculty without retaliation. Instead, Mesa removed her from her position as Head Coach.
On the day she was discharged, Lorri wrote, “I would not be a proper leader for the many players I have coached, if I walked away from this situation as if it was fair and just. I would not be a good role model for the many young ethnic minority lesbians who are working hard to go through school and overcome their minority status in the efforts to succeed in life if I just walked away.”
NCLR and our phenomenal co-counsel, Leslie Levy of the law firm Boxer & Gerson, LLP and Mattheus Stephens of Stock Stephens, LLP, represented Lorri and Cathy in their lawsuits against the San Diego Community College District. 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 at major colleges and universities. This is one of the first cases to expose issues of retaliatory conduct under Title IX within California’s community college system, the largest community college athletic conference in the country.
On September 8, 2008, the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) of the United States Department of Education, found “disparities with respect to the scheduling of games, the provision of locker rooms, practice and competitive facilities, and the provision of medical and training facilities.” The OCR concluded that those disparities had “a disparate, negative impact on female athletes” and “collectively established a violation of Title IX.”
Cathy Bass settled her suit with the District, and on December 3, NCLR secured a favorable jury verdict on behalf of Lorri for her retaliation claims under Title IX and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act. The California State Court jury awarded her the equivalent of one year’s salary in damages, finding that the District had retaliated against her.
Lorri and Cathy brought this case because they are dedicated to equality in sports, and to leveling the playing field for women in college athletics. By standing up to discrimination and retaliation, they sent the important message that retaliation and discrimination will not be tolerated. Schools must comply with the law, and ensure that women coaches and women athletes have the same resources and opportunities as their male counterparts. NCLR is deeply honored to represent Lorri and Cathy. NCLR thanks Cathy and Lorri for their courage to fight for the greater good at the risk of sacrificing so much.
read more about this case and our victory
read more about NCLR’s Sports Project
NCLR Launches From Our Family to Yours Campaign, Bringing Visibility to LGBT Families
Happy Holidays! Please join us in wishing the First Family holiday greetings while introducing them to images of thousands of LGBT families. NCLR is partnering with fellow national and regional LGBT family groups throughout the country in launching the From Our Family to Yours Campaign. In addition to spreading holiday cheer, the campaign will increase visibility and awareness about the need for federal protections for the LGBT community.
In this season of peace and generosity, let’s introduce the First Family to ours. In order to succeed in winning federal protections for our families, we must put real names and faces to the people in our community.
This campaign is simple. Just mail a copy of your family holiday card, or if you don’t have one, then send a family photo to the First Family with this message:
Season’s Greetings, from our family to yours.
May the next year bring peace and equality for all.
We encourage you to send your holiday cards as soon as possible. Please send your holiday cards and photos to the Family Equality Council, P.O. Box 206, Boston, MA 02133, or send a digital photo to Tina Walker-Morin at email@example.com. We will compile all of the images into a holiday package to be delivered to the First Family.
Participating organizations include Center Kids: A Program of the New York Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center, COLAGE, Equality California, Equality Federation, Family Equality Council, Family Matters: a Program of the San Diego LGBT Community Center, Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center Families Services Program, Lesbian and Gay Family Building Project, the Mega Family Project, National Center for Lesbian Rights, Our Family Coalition, Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), and the San Francisco Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Community Center.
For more details on the participating organizations and information on how your organization can join, please visit http://fromourfamiliestoyours.wordpress.com.
Thank you and may the peace and joy of the holidays be yours.
Pass this along to your friends and family to ask them to join the campaign!
NCLR Wins Asylum for Transgender Woman from Guatemala
Carolina, a transgender woman, was born in Guatemala as Antonio. At a young age, she came to the United States with her mother, but after struggling for five years in the U.S., they were forced to return to their home country. As Carolina grew up in Guatemala, she had very feminine mannerisms, and by the time she reached the age of ten, she started experiencing serious harassment. For the following ten years, she suffered verbal abuse at the hands of schoolmates, neighbors, family members, and gang members who would often terrorize her. Despite the many difficulties she encountered at school, she graduated with an education degree and the dream of teaching at the elementary level. However, when she was still a minor, Carolina’s mother passed away, and Carolina lost the only person who showed her affection and acceptance. Without her, Carolina was alone and rejected.
As Carolina looked for work, she experienced harassment and humiliation because she was transgender, and she was repeatedly denied employment. At one job interview, a school principal mockingly asked, “How do you expect to teach like that? Why would we want you near our children? You have nothing to teach! Get out!” Heart broken, she gave up her dream of teaching and pursued work in food service. She found a job at a fast food restaurant, but coworkers and customers alike harassed and humiliated her regularly.
One night, after leaving work, Carolina was chased by a group of four men. One man carried a switchblade and managed to grab Carolina’s purse, causing her to trip and fall. When the man saw that Carolina was a transgender woman, he attacked her with the knife and would have killed her if he had not been interrupted by a passersby. Carolina could not go to the police for protection and so lived in a constant state of fear.
With her life in danger, she fled to the United States to live with her sister, who did not accept her as their mother had. Carolina was forced to live on the streets, and she turned to drugs and alcohol to cope with her pain. It wasn’t until she found help at EL/LA Para Translatinas, an organization serving transgender Latinas in the San Francisco Bay Area, that Carolina found the support that she had been needed for so long. EL/LA Para Translatinas referred her to NCLR and her asylum application was filed in September 2009. We are very happy to announce that Carolina was granted asylum on December 2, 2009.
read more about NCLR’s Immigration Project
NCLR & CRLA Hold Inaugural Proyecto Poderoso | Project Powerful Leadership Conference
On January 23, 2010 NCLR’s Proyecto Poderoso | Project Powerful will host a first-of-its-kind bilingual LGBT leadership conference, Orgullo y Poder | Pride and Power, in the heart of California’s Central Valley. The conference will train LGBT leaders and allies, in particular those who speak Spanish, to built understanding and support for LGBT people and their families in rural California. The central theme of the conference is “Your voice is your power.” Trainings will be held in both Spanish and English.
Proyecto Poderoso is NCLR’s joint effort with California Rural Legal Assistance
to improve LGBT-related legal services and advocacy in rural California. The Orgullo y Poder | Pride and Power conference is an important opportunity to
strengthen and expand our network of supporters in the most conservative and difficult to reach regions of the state. Please visit http://www.crla.org/orgullo-y-poder-latino-conference for further details.
read more about Proyecto Poderoso | Project Powerful
ENDA Now! No More Delays!
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) has been delayed in Congress and it is absolutely critical to be more vocal and visible than ever to pass ENDA. On December 4, our movement’s largest national organizations came together to call on Congress for the immediate passage of ENDA. Now, just a week later, that list has more than doubled with more organizations joining every day.
To keep the heat on Congress, NCLR and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, members of the United ENDA Coalition, are hosting phone banks in Washington, D.C. ENDA would ban employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, making it illegal to discriminate in the workplace against people who are or who are perceived to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. ENDA was first introduced in 1994 and this legislation is long overdue. The time to pass ENDA is NOW.
Everyone should be judged on the basis of their work and not who they are. Help pass ENDA; contact your own Representatives and, if you are in the Washington, D.C. area, come phone bank for equality and help pass ENDA. Click here to get involved. These are easy and fun calls to LGBT people and LGBT supportive voters that will make the difference in passing this critical piece of legislation.
read more about ENDA and NCLR’s work on the federal level
NCLR Seeking Senior Attorney for Federal Policy
The National Center for Lesbian Rights seeks a Senior Attorney for Federal Policy in our Washington, D.C. Regional Office.
The Senior Attorney for Federal Policy will take the lead on bringing NCLR’s legal expertise to Washington and on increased efforts to change federal law, regulations and policy to end discrimination against LGBT people and to ensure equal rights and benefits for LGBT individuals and their families under federal law. This is a new position with a two-year term. Click here to apply.
As you make your list of gifts for loved ones near and far, we hope you’ll include NCLR this year. Every donation from supporters like you makes a difference and will go directly to fighting for our civil and human rights.
Now more than ever, our fight for justice needs you.
Whether it’s in honor of NCLR’s recent victory on behalf of Lorri Sulpizio, the 13 asylum cases won this year, or the successes yet to come, please give a gift to NCLR today.
Gifts of Stock: Don’t Forget!