sign up to...
Receive emails about our work, the latest news, and events in your area.
From the desk of Kate Kendell, Esq.
Dear NCLR Friends and Supporters:
It happens at this time every year. I feel like I could cry at the drop of a hat. Now, there is a real and not so happy reason for that: between October 31, 2003 and November 16, 2005, I lost my Mom, my Dad, and my brother, Bruce. The deaths of my parents were not completely unexpected, but I still miss them every day. My baby brother should still be here, plain and simple. So, there is a real reason why a tangible melancholy settles in around the holidays. But this year, my ease to tear is not because of sadness, but because I feel so incredibly grateful for all I have, and for the pretty much limitless joy in my life.
read more from Kate's latest blog!
Happiest of Holidays,
Kate Kendell, Executive Director
NCLR’s Latest Victory: Protecting Families in Times of Crisis
One night, when nine-year-old Desiree’s high fever wouldn’t break, her parents, Donna and Sharolyn, rushed her to the emergency room. What happened next is every parent’s nightmare. Donna was barred from staying with her daughter because, as a nurse told her, she wasn’t a “real parent” since she was the non-biological mother. At the very moment when her child most needed the reassuring presence of both parents, homophobia and ignorance prevented Donna from being by her daughter’s side.
After NCLR heard about this horrific incident, we took immediate action. With our co-counsel Stebner & Associates and Covington & Burling LLP, we contacted the hospital to ensure that no other family would experience this discriminatory treatment. The hospital agreed to revise its non-discrimination policies to include sexual orientation, to train its staff, and to issue a letter of apology to Donna, Sharolyn, and their daughter. The settlement requires that every employee of San Joaquin Community Hospital compete the training annually, and NCLR is working with the hospital to develop a comprehensive diversity training manual in order to ensure that this kind of abuse will never happen again.
California Marriage Case Update: Briefing Concluded!
Last month, we filed the remaining briefs in the California marriage case pending before the State Supreme Court. The briefing process was historic, and Chief Justice Ronald George said the case attracted more “friend-of-the-court” briefs than any other case in recent memory. More than 300 religious and civil rights organizations, including the California NAACP, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the California Council of Churches, the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, the National Black Justice Coalition, Legal Momentum, and dozens of other religious and civil rights organizations filed briefs in support of marriage for same-sex couples. It is now up to the California Supreme Court to issue a date for oral argument, expected sometime in 2008. Check NCLR’s website for breaking news about the case.
NCLR Named to Key Role in American Bar Association Committee
We are thrilled to announce that NCLR has been selected to participate in the American Bar Association’s (ABA) new progressive commission on sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination. The goal of the ABA commission is to increase awareness of the discrimination and biases faced by individuals within the legal profession and the justice system because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
NCLR will play an instrumental role in the commission with NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter and NCLR cooperating attorney Abby Rubenfeld participating as advisors. Minter and Rubenfeld both represent NCLR’s commitment to increasing diversity and acceptance for LGBT people in the legal profession, the justice system, and society-at-large.
“The ABA’s commitment to equality of opportunity is reflected in many policies opposing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in many contexts, including employment, housing, public accommodations, legal education, and child custody, adoption and foster care decisions,” said ABA President William H. Neukom of Seattle. “Although much progress has been made to reduce bias in this area, numerous studies demonstrate that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people continue to face pervasive discrimination within the legal profession, as they do in many other walks of life.”
NCLR’s Southern Regional Office attorneys, Karen Doering and Shelbi Day, have been busy fighting precedent-setting parenting and custody cases, battling a proposed amendment to the Florida constitution, and organizing public forums on Florida’s adoption ban.
In Wood v. Wood, NCLR successfully secured visitation rights for Hannah Wood, a non-biological mother. Two years ago, her former partner cut off all contact between Hannah and their daughter, and finally—yesterday—Hannah saw her daughter again.
We hope to have similar success in JD v BD,* a custody battle in Louisiana between former partners JD and BD. Despite having secured a valid second-parent adoption of the couple’s child, JD was denied visitation with her child. NCLR is fighting to appeal this unfair and harmful decision, which has deprived the child of a loving relationship with both of her parents. (*Initials changed to protect client identity)
In another Florida case, LE v. KR, NCLR is representing another lesbian mom who is asking a Florida court to honor a second-parent adoption and permit her to maintain a relationship with her daughter. In this case, a lesbian couple had two children together. Each woman gave birth to one child and completed a second-parent adoption of the other child. The two women parented the children together for many years, including sharing custody after they separated. Recently, however, one of the former partners unilaterally decided to split the children and to cut off the other mother’s contact with her adopted daughter. She terminated all contact between our client and her oldest daughter, and between the two siblings. With NCLR’s help, LE is fighting to see her daughter and to allow the siblings to see each other.
When the Southern Regional Office isn’t busy litigating, they’re working hard to educate the region about issues affecting the LGBT community. In Florida, NCLR is battling against the so-called “Marriage Protection Amendment” in conjunction with Florida Red and Blue and Fairness for all Families. This discriminatory ballot initiative would amend the Florida Constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman and would also prevent any recognition of other forms of relationship recognition, including civil unions or domestic partnerships.
And we continue our efforts to bring an end to Florida’s adoption ban. With our coalition partners, we are holding hearings across Florida where LGBT families share their stories and speak out against the ban. NCLR has also joined local activists and elected officials throughout Florida to amend local Human Rights Ordinances to include protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity to the classes protected against discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations.
And finally, in October, for the first time ever, the National Association of Collegiate Women Athletic Administrators (NACWAA) invited NCLR to be the keynote speaker at its annual meeting in St. Petersburg, Florida. Karen Doering presented with Title IX expert and Olympic gold medal winner Nancy Hogshead about and the importance of equality in sports. Sports Project Director Helen Carroll joined Karen Doering at the meeting and provided educational training, discussed recent policy developments, and gave technical legal assistance to Athletic Directors from college and university athletic programs around the country.
Lisa Cisneros, Esq., Pride Law Fellow
Lisa Cisneros joined NCLR as a Pride Law Fellow in the fall of 2007. She leads Proyecto Poderoso—Powerful Project—a collaborative effort of NCLR and California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc. aimed at improving legal services for low-income LGBT residents of rural California. The project is made possible by a generous grant from Pride Law Fund’s Tom Steel Fellowship.
Lisa received her J.D. from UC Berkeley School of Law (Boalt Hall) in 2007. During law school, she worked as a judicial extern in federal court, and served as a law clerk at Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, as well as at NCLR. She was a member of Boalt Hall’s prestigious Death Penalty Clinic, and a senior editor for the California Law Review. Upon graduation, Lisa received the Francine Diaz Memorial Award for her contributions to the Boalt community and public service.
Joshua Delgado, Legal Assistant
Joshua Delgado joined NCLR as a Legal Assistant in November 2007. He is a graduate of California State University-Long Beach with a double major in Sociology and Women Studies. Prior to joining NCLR, he worked at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) in the Community Education and Leadership Department. There, he assisted in providing information to undocumented students and parents about their rights and responsibilities in the education system, as well as organizing and circulating a list of scholarships that is largely available to students who receive aid through AB540, the California non-resident tuition exemption act.
Joshua brings with him extensive experience working with the LGBT community, including volunteer work and internships with the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, as well as the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN). As one of three queer children in a family of eight, Josh has always worked on behalf of the LGBTQ community. He is an avid reader and currently lives in Daly City after moving north from Los Angeles.
NCLR Selected as 2008 Working Assets Donations Recipient
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 nonprofits across the country that will receive a portion of the donations that Working Assets raises from its customers who vote to decide how donations are allocated—throughout 2008.
Working Assets hopes to build a donations pool of over 4 million dollars, and their customers will vote to decide how the donations are split among the 50 groups, including NCLR. That is where you come in—if you are a Working Assets customer, please be sure to vote for NCLR. (Working Assets will formally announce the recipients in January 2008.) And if you’re not already a customer and want your phone bill to work for a good cause, check out Working Assets’ new mobile phone service—CREDO mobile.
This past year, our Youth Project has made tremendous gains in creating policies and educating professionals about the needs and rights of LGBTQ youth. From shaping legislation to creating training tools and public policy, our cutting-edge work will make a safer and just world for our youth.
In particular our work with the Equity Project has generated much-needed information about the training needs of those working within the juvenile justice system. We surveyed more than 200 practioners about the experiences and needs of LGBT youth, and we are using the information to create more guidelines, resources, and training materials for professionals. We had great success with Breaking the Silence, a DVD and resource CD, and we distributed to nearly 1,700 copies to professionals across the country.
NCLR also worked Equality California and a coalition of organizations and individuals to draft and sponsor much needed legislation to protect LGBT youth. NCLR helped draft SB 518, the California Juvenile Justice Safety and Protection Act, which creates a Bill of Rights for youth in the juvenile justice system. In addition to SB 518, Governor Schwarzenegger signed two other laws this fall to improve conditions for LGBT youth. On October 14, 2007, the Governor signed both SB 777, the Student Civil Rights Act, and AB 394, the Safe Place to Learn Act. And, as always, NCLR assisted many individual youth across the country who contacted us through our helpline who were experiencing discrimination and harassment problems in school.
This fall, the 7th Biennial Old Dyke Awards Ceremony, a tradition for Bay Area lesbian elders, was held in the memory of beloved comedienne, monologist, and playwright Pat Bond. Honorees included writer, attorney, and activist Susan Levinkind, essayist Mary Midgett, and Lavender Senior founding board members Meg Buynell and Bobbie Jarvis. Polly Taylor was honored for recently creating a lesbian conclave in a San Francisco retirement center, and Joan Pinkvoss was recognized for founding Aunt Lute Books, a nonprofit, multicultural women’s press. Terry King was honored for her military service in the United States Marine Corps, as well as her extensive work with elder African American lesbians. These women truly are pioneers, and this event has become a cherished opportunity to highlight their tremendous contributions to the LGBT community.
Whether you’d like to give a gift membership or an NCLR shirt for the holidays, giving the gift of NCLR is always in fashion. What else says I love you like the gift of civil rights?
You can find out more about the benefits of membership here, and you can see all the merchandise in the NCLR online shop here. Keep checking back in with our store—we’re always adding new items!
Tax-free Giving from IRAs...Only a few weeks left!
Until December 31, 2007 (and never again), individuals age 70-and-a-half and older can make tax-free distributions to NCLR (and other non-profits) of up to $100,000 directly from their IRA accounts. To take advantage of this valuable opportunity, make sure that your IRA manager writes a check payable to NCLR (not to you) and postmarks it no later than December 31st. For more information contact Kris Hermanns: 415.365.1302 or firstname.lastname@example.org.