Out for Justice: April 2011
From the Desk of Kate Kendell, Esq.
There’s always an exciting buzz in our office this time of year, with everyone playing a part to bring you our best Anniversary Celebration. This year, our 34th Anniversary Celebration will be especially exciting, as we not only celebrate the unprecedented milestones achieved for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender equality over the last year, but look ahead to even more historic possibilities, including consigning the so-called federal “Defense of Marriage Act,” known as DOMA, to the dustbin of history, securing meaningful protections for LGBTQ immigrants, putting a stop to the shameful violence and abuse of LGBTQ people in federal and state prisons, and ensuring job protections for all LGBTQ workers.
This is an incredible time for our movement, with so many victories for us to be proud of, like President Obama’s Administration’s announcement that the Department of Justice would no longer defend DOMA’s denial of all federal benefits to married same-sex couples in court, the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” and Judge Vaughn Walker’s history-making decision that California’s Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.
The Anniversary Celebration has always been an opportunity for every member of our community to reflect on how far we’ve come, and to honor those who have furthered our equality by standing up for themselves, and in the process stood up for each of us. We’re proud this year to honor five incredible people—each of whom have rightfully become our role models—at this year’s Anniversary Celebration, set for Saturday, May 21, 2011 in San Francisco.
There’s so much for us to proud of, and I’m especially proud of our team at NCLR. They have worked tirelessly to win victories in the U.S. Supreme Court and state courts, in state and local legislatures, in federal agencies, in workplaces, and in countless other arenas by helping create unprecedented policies that include LGBTQ people in non-discrimination rules, training programs, and a wide array of other programs, resources, and initiatives.
We’ve come a long way over the last year, but there’s still much work ahead of us to achieve full equality and justice. But for now, be proud of what we’ve achieved. We couldn’t have done it without you.
NCLR Announces 34th Anniversary Celebration Honorees
We know you’ve been waiting, and we’re pleased to announce the honorees of our 34th Anniversary Celebration—known as “the party of the year” that attracts 1,299 of your closest friends—on May 21, 2011 in San Francisco.
Drum roll please!
The Voice and Visibility Award honors an individual who has helped to give voice and visibility to LGBTQ people. And this year’s award goes to country music star Chely Wright and her father Stan Wright. Chely has shown unwavering courage since coming out as a lesbian in 2010 at the height of her career as one of Nashville’s leading country artists. Her father, Stan Wright, has stood by her side through every step of her journey, showing his unconditional love. Chely and Stan continue to stand up and speak out as people of faith, unchanged by the fact that Chely is a lesbian.
The Spirit Award honors an individual whose strength of character embodies and invigorates the spirit of the LGBTQ community. This year’s award goes to George Washington University basketball player Kye Allums. In November 2010, he became the first Division I basketball player to come out as transgender, demonstrating extraordinary bravery and character in living true to himself as a man.
The Justice Award honors an individual who has shown the courage and perseverance to fight for justice and sacrificed to make broad social change for the LGBTQ community. This year’s award goes to former Belmont University soccer coach Lisa Howe, who put a face on the continued need to fight employment discrimination in Nashville, Tennessee, where Belmont University is located. Lisa has helped to transform the hearts and minds of her community and colleagues, inspiring them to launch a public discussion about the place of openly LGBTQ people in private Christian colleges and universities, and prompting Belmont to change its non-discrimination policy to include sexual orientation.
The Founder’s Award acknowledges a person whose life embodies NCLR’s vision and values of equality and justice, and who has demonstrated a lifelong commitment to activism on behalf of our communities. This year’s award goes to the Honorable Donna Hitchens, who changed the lives of thousands of people through her commitment to justice, not only while serving on the San Francisco County Superior Court bench before retiring in last winter, but by founding the National Center for Lesbian Rights in 1977, where her vision of fighting for LGBTQ equality continues to change the nation’s legal landscape.
NCLR’s Anniversary Celebration—our signature event—draws a sell-out crowd of 1,300 people from across the country to celebrate victories in the movement for full LGBTQ equality, and to honor those whose commitment to LGBTQ justice has turned them into role models.
NCLR’s special guests will be NCLR clients Desiree “Dez” Shelton and Sarah Lindstrom, out high school lesbians, who successfully challenged their Minnesota school district in January 2011 so they could walk together as part of the royal court of their school’s winter formal.
Tickets begin at $90 and sponsorships are available. Festivities begin at 8 p.m., with the well-known political humorist Kate Clinton returning for a command performance as emcee.
NCLR Client Wins Second Chance for Freedom
By Ilona Turner, Esq.
NCLR Staff Attorney
A client who has been fighting for a second chance to win asylum just won a major victory after NCLR filed a motion with the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) asking to reopen his case based on the ineffectiveness of his previous attorney.
J.G. fled to the United States from Mexico in 1999, where he had been repeatedly assaulted because he’s gay. He didn’t tell anyone in the U.S. about his sexual orientation for several years because he was so traumatized by his experiences in Mexico. J.G. came to NCLR last year, desperate for help, after he received notice that deportation proceedings would soon begin, and his original attorney had stopped returning his calls.
After a “notario” offered to fill out an application to get him a work permit in 2004, J.G. unexpectedly found himself in an interview with an asylum officer. When the officer asked him if he was gay, he admitted that he was, but he was so unprepared and anxious that he did not talk about the serious abuse he had experienced in Mexico.
His case was referred to the immigration court, and he found an attorney to represent him. That attorney failed to make several basic arguments or introduce key evidence about his eligibility for asylum. After he lost at the immigration court, his attorney appealed his case to the BIA. He lost that appeal as well. When J.G. got the notice that his appeal had been denied, he repeatedly tried—unsuccessfully—to contact his attorney. We later learned that she had shut down her law practice without notifying him.
J.G. eventually found his way to NCLR, and we agreed to try to help him, even though we knew that it would be a huge uphill battle to salvage his case at that late point. On October 14, 2010, we filed a motion to reopen his case with the BIA, pointing to the significant errors made by his previous attorney, and submitting hundreds of pages of evidence that the court had never had the opportunity to consider. On March 30, 2011, the BIA issued its decision granting the motion to reopen the case, and remanding it back to the immigration court to restart the asylum proceedings.
J.G. now lives in San Francisco. He is slowly overcoming his fears about revealing his sexual orientation, and has also told his family that he is gay. We were thrilled to have the opportunity to give J.G. a second chance at staying in this country where he can live openly without fear of being attacked just because of who he is.
New Report: Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Youth Face Serious Abuse in Group Care Facilities
By Jody Marksamer, Esq.
NCLR Youth Project Director
Being a teenager in the juvenile justice system is challenging for any young person, but as Cyryna can attest, being transgender adds an additional layer of fear.
Cyryna, a transgender girl, experienced the dark reality that most people don’t talk about while being housed in a juvenile correction facility for boys, where she was the victim of verbal, physical, and sexual abuse by many of the boys she was housed with.
Facility guards witnessed and even sometimes encouraged her abuse because they saw her gender identity as a choice rather than an expression of her true self. Terrified, Cyryna was too afraid to complain about the harassment she endured, fearing that the guards would not help her and that the abuse would only get worse.
Transgender youth in group care settings are at horrifically high levels of risk for mistreatment and abuse. Lack of information and misinformation about transgender issues causes many people who administer and work in these facilities to discriminate against these young people and violate their rights.
In 2004, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP) noticed an increasing volume of legal inquiries from transgender and gender non-conforming youth in foster care and juvenile justice facilities. To help these youth, NCLR and SRLP teamed up to develop a comprehensive report that gives facility administrators the information to make effective policy decisions and adopt best practices for the treatment of transgender and gender non-conforming youth in their care.
The report, A Place of Respect: A Guide for Group Care Facilities Serving Transgender and Gender Non-conforming Youth released last month, helps facility staff understand the experiences and concerns of transgender and gender non-conforming youth and provides them with the tools they need to create a safe and respectful space for all youth.
The report, which is the first of its kind, discusses the personal experiences of transgender youth, and provides information to help readers to better understand gender identity, gender non-conformity, and what it means to be transgender.
Hopefully, through this report, and through the greater knowledge it provides for facility staff, youth like Cyryna will no longer have to endure such terrible and demeaning experiences, and will be able to live their lives proudly and with respect.
LGBTQ Elders Raise Fears about Long-Term Care Facilities in Groundbreaking Study
By Daniel Redman, Esq.
NCLR Elder Law Project Fellow
A recently published groundbreaking report—LGBTQ Older Adults in Long-Term Care Facilities: Stories from the Field—shows lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender older adults face discrimination, harassment, and mistreatment in the nursing homes and other facilities that are supposed to care for them.
A broad coalition of LGBTQ groups, including the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the National Senior Citizens Law Center, Lambda Legal, National Center for Transgender Equality, National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, and Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) released the report on April 5, 2011.
The report is based on the responses of 769 individuals who completed an online survey conducted from October 2009 through June 2010. Of the total respondents, 328 people reported 853 instances of mistreatment in such facilities.
The numbers are disturbing. Nearly nine in 10 respondents said that they thought long-term care staff would discriminate against someone who came out as LGBTQ in a facility; eight in 10 responded that they would expect mistreatment or bullying from nursing home residents; one in 10 reported that nursing home staff had disregarded a medical power of attorney when it was assigned to a resident’s partner; and transgender elders, in particular, reported that they experienced isolation and staff refusal to recognize their gender identity.
Sam, a 51 year old LGBTQ activist with extensive experience in long-term care, wrote in his response to the survey that “LGBTQ elders… are forced to remain hidden, and when placed in long-term care facilities, become even further isolated.” After years of training staff in long-term care facilities, he says he has found that “most feel that there are no LGBTQ residents in their facilities.”
This is a wake up call not only to long-term care providers, but also to the LGBTQ community as a whole. NCLR’s Elder Law Project fights this discrimination through a comprehensive approach that includes litigation on behalf of elders facing discrimination, legislative advocacy at the state and federal level, and public outreach, including publications, know-your-rights trainings, and participation in service provider conferences.
But we cannot do it alone. If an LGBTQ elder you care about is facing mistreatment or discrimination in a long-term care facility, please contact NCLR’s Elder Law Project staff through our legal helpline at Info@NCLRights.org or 1.800.528.6257 to let us know.
Inaugural C. Edwin Baker Clerks Announced
NCLR is proud to announce that Sam Ames and Irene Ross are the inaugural recipients of the C. Edwin Baker Clerkship, named after the University of Pennsylvania law professor known as one of the nation’s foremost constitutional legal scholars and a longtime ally of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender equality.
Sam recently finished their second year at George Washington University Law School and has worked as a law clerk for NCLR in Washington D.C this spring. As an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ rights, they have clerked with Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. They are also a member of the editorial staff of the Federal Circuit Bar Journal and wrote articles addressing LGBTQ civil rights violations.
Irene is completing her first year at the John F. Kennedy College of Law while working as a law intern for Americans for Safe Access and will work as a law clerk for NCLR in San Francisco this summer. She began her career as a grassroots organizer building awareness around the issues of U.S. military spending, nuclear non-proliferation, and weapon sales. Later, while working as Development Director for Centro Legal de La Raza, she saw first-hand how the law can empower marginalized groups and was inspired to pursue a law degree to combat those social injustices head-on.
Professor Baker’s estate, with a gift authorized by a committee of his friends and colleagues, continues his legacy by making it possible for future generations of lawyers to follow in his footsteps through the C. Edwin Baker Clerkship at NCLR. The clerkship establishes a lasting program that supports stipends for student law clerks and fellows who have financial need, and who are committed to practicing social justice and progressive civil rights law.
Sam will join NCLR full-time for the entire month of May. Irene will clerk from June through August.
Interested in learning more about endowing a clerkship or how you can support the future of NCLR through your own estate plans? Contact Manager of Annual Giving Dena Zaldúa-Hilkene at DZalduaHilkene@NCLRights.org.
NCLR Donor Profile: Patricia Martel and Beverly Colon
Get to know your fellow National Center for Lesbian Rights champions!
Pat has worked for 30 years in local government management and is currently the City Manager of Daly City. Bev is a Psychiatric Social Worker with Kaiser Permanente and has had a private therapy practice in San Francisco.
Why do you support LGBTQ civil and human rights?
The quality of our lives as Latina lesbians and those of future generations of LGBTQ people depends on the efforts that we put forth today to achieve full equality in our society. The vigilance that NCLR demonstrates in tackling discrimination and inequality wherever it may arise is important because it empowers all of us in ways that may not be possible on an individual level.
When and how did you first hear about NCLR?
While working on the development of the San Francisco LGBTQ Community Center as a Founding Board Member in the mid-90’s, NCLR was a strong supporter of and collaborator in our efforts. Although we had known about NCLR prior to that time, we became more interested in NCLR’s work through the LGBTQ Center connection and started attending the Annual Dinner.
What inspired your first gift to NCLR, and is there anything in particular about NCLR that has motivated you to continue giving through the years?
With the successful opening of The Center, we felt it was time to direct our energy and support to other important community work. NCLR became a focal point because of the many inspiring stories and accomplishments that we learned about by attending the Annual Dinner. NCLR being at the forefront in addressing LGBTQ civil and human rights issues has kept us engaged, particularly as it relates to marriage equality. Since we were among the fortunate couples to get married pre-Prop 8, it has cemented our resolve to continue to support NCLR’s work.
What are your hopes for LGBTQ people in the next few years?
Our hope is that LGBTQ people will achieve full equality in every aspect of their lives and that being LGBTQ will no longer be a stigma to being viewed as valued and respected members of society.
What do you like most about giving monthly via the Sustainer Fund to NCLR?
To know that our support is assisting with the important ongoing work of NCLR. We also really enjoy the access to conference call updates on NCLR initiatives as part of our Anniversary Circle membership, and feeling that we are making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ people every day.
What is your favorite way to spend a Sunday afternoon?
Taking a long walk around Lake Merced with our dog, Buttercup.
Support NCLR through eScrip
How about using eScrip?
What is eScrip? It’s a simple way for you to support NCLR at no cost to you. All you have to do is register your credit/debit cards and ATM cards with eScrip—then any time you use one of them to shop with a participating merchant, the merchant will donate up to 8% of the purchase amount to NCLR. That’s right: you pay for only what you’re buying, and the store is the one who donates. Perfect!
NCLR’s Group Name: “National Center for Lesbian Rights” or “NCLR”
NCLR’s Group ID #: 500022336
Over 150 merchants at which you already shop participate, including Whole Foods, Wild Oats, Andronico’s, Mollie Stone’s, Bristol Farms, Working Assets, Sharper Image, Round Table Pizza, Chevron, OfficeMax, Budget Rent-A-Car, Payless Shoes, Orchard Supply Hardware, and many more. Check out the full list of participating merchants.
Register with eScrip online now! Under “Make a difference in 4 easy steps,” click on “Sign up, it’s free!” Your credit card information will only be used for this purpose and is guaranteed to be safe and secure.
Check out one of NCLR’s favorite designs in our shop! Support the fight for justice with this great image of Lady Liberty and Lady Justice.