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The Equality Act is the Next Step After Marriage Equality

“. . . with liberty and justice for all.” Those words capture our national aspirations. Last month’s marriage equality decision brought us one step closer to that vision. The Equality Act, which was introduced yesterday by Senators Merkley (D-Ore.), Baldwin (D-Wis.), and Booker (D-N.J.) and Representatives Cicilliine (D-R.I.) and Lewis (D-Ga.), would bring us even closer.

Thanks to the marriage decision, states across the country must recognize and honor same-sex couples’ love and commitment to one another – just as those states routinely do with straight couples. Moreover, by allowing same-sex couples to marry – to participate equally in that fundamental, foundational institution – the Court sent a message that LGBT people, especially LGBT youth, can dream the same dreams about growing up, falling in love, having a family, and building a successful life that their straight peers dream.

The Next Step Is Full Equality

The marriage decision is historic, but it does not achieve the full promise of dignity and equality. Read more »

Marriage is Just the Beginning for Equality

Standing in front of the Supreme Court on the morning of June 26th, 2015 is a moment I will never forget. Rainbow flag in one hand, the news open on my cell phone in the other, I stood ready for a decision on marriage equality. The moment the Court announced that every state in the country must allow same-sex couples to marry, a cheer went up from the crowd. Couples kissed, flags were waved, and newscasters announced that it was the “culmination” of decades of activism.

Although that day was truly a day of celebration, do not take our joy as a signal that LGBTQ people are now equal. Equal marriage does not mark the end of the fight for equality for LGBTQ people. President Obama was right when he said the decision that day “made our union a little more perfect.” However, it is only a little more perfect. We still have a very long way to go before LGBTQ people are equals under the law. Read more »

Let's Make It Get Better for LGBT Students

Middle school and high school can be brutal for anyone who does not fit the mold of whatever it means to be “cool.” But, it can be particularly rough for students who are questioning their sexuality or coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT). And, today youth are coming out at younger and younger ages. In addition to realizing their lives don’t quite match the fairytales they grew up with or heteronormative media messages that surround them, these students often attend schools that openly discriminate against them based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity and choose to ignore the harassment they face from their peers.

Federal civil rights statutes expressly prohibit discrimination in education based on race, color, national origin, sex, and disability. However, these laws do not explicitly cover sexual orientation or gender identity. Even though the Department of Education says that Title IX should protect students from discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation, because the law does not explicitly protect LGBT students, these students and their parents often have limited legal recourse when their schools ignore discrimination (including bullying and harassment) based on LGBT (or suspected LGBT) status.

The Senate has the opportunity to fix that. Late yesterday, Senator Franken (D-Minn.) began speaking on the Senate floor about the Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA), which he is introducing as an amendment to S. 1177, a bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Read more »

Five Steps to Enhance Economic Security for LGBT Women

Families are depending on the wages of women more than ever before. You’ve heard some of these stats before but they bear repeating: Women are breadwinners or co-breadwinners in two-thirds of American families and continue to shoulder a disproportionate share of caregiving responsibilities. Yet, women who work full-time, year-round, are paid only 78 cents on the dollarcompared to full-time working men. When the full-time wages of women of color are compared to white men, the disparity is even greater.  And our nation’s public policies and workplace practices are too often based on outdated assumptions about our workforce and the supports necessary to make sure families are economically secure. 

At bottom, these economic concerns are distressing for all women and their families, but too little attention has been placed on the ways in which economic challenges play out for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) women. This is why we are pleased to partner with the Movement Advancement Project, Center for American Progress and a wide range of organizations on a new report that documents the range of economic barriers experienced by LGBT women, and provides concrete proposals to change the cultural and legal framework that undermine their economic security. Read more »

The Historic New Rule on LGBT Rights: Federal Contractors Can’t Discriminate Based on Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity

More lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) couples across the country have the right to marry than ever before. It is a rude awakening, though, that many of these individuals may walk into work after returning from their honeymoon to find that they have been fired for being gay. Read more »

Transgender Health Care Needs Can't Be Ignored

A recent study on pregnancy in transgender men who had transitioned from female to male highlights the significant problems transgender people experience in obtaining appropriate and culturally competent health care. Many patients had to deal with rude or inappropriate treatment, ranging from improper pronoun use to outright refusals to provide care. One patient said that he was reported to protective services because, “A tranny had a baby.” 

Problems with transgender health care, however, aren’t limited to pregnancy. Health care providers often lack training and knowledge in how to treat transgender people and insurance companies refuse to pay for needed services. For example, health insurance companies refuse to pay for basic preventive services, like cervical cancer screenings for transgender men and prostate cancer screenings for transgender women. Read more »

The Power of Presidential Pen

This morning, I was lucky enough to be there in person to see President Obama sign an executive order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, as well as explicitly adding “gender identity” to the federal government’s own nondiscrimination in employment policy (which already prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation).

As the President said this morning, while we still have a long way to go in the fight for equality, today’s milestone is an important moment to take stock of the extraordinary progress made “not just in our lifetimes, but in the last five years, in the last two years, in the last one year. We’re on the right side of history.” Read more »

New Executive Order to Protect LGBT in the Workplace — Next Up: ENDA

This week the White House confirmed that President Obama will sign an executive order that prohibits the discrimination of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) employees in federal contracting.

This is historic news for the millions of workers who are employed by federal contractors. Federal contractors employ more than 20 percent of the American workforce and collect over $500 billion in federal contracts every year. The executive order will prohibit these companies from discriminating in employment based on sexual orientation and gender identity, helping to ensure that individuals who work for federal contractors are not denied a job, harassed, or fired simply because of who they are or whom they love. Read more »

A Victory for Marriage Equality in Hawai'i

Yesterday, a historic event occurred in Hawai'i. The state's governor, Neil Abercrombie, signed a law legalizing marriage between same-sex couples. The bill was recently approved by the House and Senate during a special legislative session called specifically to consider it. 

This victory was hard-earned. Advocates had championed marriage equality for the past 20 years, winning a case in 1993 [PDF] where a plurality of the Supreme Court of Hawai'i opined that prohibiting marriage between same-sex couples was a sex-based classification subject to strict scrutiny. The Supreme Court subsequently affirmed a lower court finding that, in fact, bans on marriage between same-sex couples violated the Equal Protection Clause of Hawai'i's Constitution. 

Unfortunately, voters subsequently opted to change the state Constitution to bar marriage between same-sex couples, and, in 1999, the Supreme Court of Hawai'i upheld the ban. Yesterday's ruling changes the legal landscape, and, effective December 2, state officials may perform same-sex marriages. 

This victory comes on the heels of a federal challenge to the ban. Read more »

A Long Awaited Change: You Can Get Fired for What?!

On Monday, the AFL-CIO added four very important words to their constitution: “gender identity” and “gender expression”. This change adds transgender individuals into the list of groups protected from discrimination in the union.

Groups like the Human Rights Campaign and the National Center for Transgender Equality are applauding the adoption of these new protections. “Labor has really been stepping up, and the AFL-CIO has been stepping up,” said Mara Keisling, executive director at the NCTE.

Keisling told Buzzfeed “One of the things I feel is really interesting about it is that words mean something. And the way this is worded, it really is why we do the antidiscrimination thing.” The amendment is called “Constitutional Amendment 9: Welcoming all Workers into our Movement.” Read more »