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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 »

Women’s Equality Day: The Fight for Voting Rights Continues

August 26th marks Women’s Equality Day, the anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment prohibiting U.S. citizens from being denied the right to vote on account of sex. The 19th amendment is widely known for giving women the right to vote. Read more »

Health Barriers and Breakthroughs for LGBT People and Individuals Living With HIV/AIDS

Last week, HHS released its third annual report outlining its accomplishments over the past year and its objectives for the coming year for improving the health of LGBT individuals, families, and communities. LGBT women in particular have reason to celebrate these accomplishments, but all women benefit from initiatives that seek to end discrimination and improve health outcomes and health care access.

For example, HHS regulations and guidance requiring equal visitation rights at hospitals, nursing homes, and other facilities that receive Medicare or Medicaid helps not only LGBT families but also anyone who has a family joined by bonds of affection and affinity rather than legal coupled status. Likewise, the ACA’s nondiscrimination protection (section 1557) provides important protections against discrimination for women and LGBT people alike.  HHS’s focuses in the upcoming year—implementing the ACA and the June 2013 Supreme Court decision striking down a part of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)—have important gains for women, LGBT people, and individuals living with HIV/AIDS. Read more »

Real Benefits for Women Now That DOMA Has Been Struck Down!

Today, the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which provided that only a marriage between a man and woman would be recognized under federal law. The Court found that this provision of DOMA violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution. This decision is historic in its recognition that the Constitution provides important protection against discrimination against same-sex relationships. 

Moreover, this ruling will have a huge practical impact, providing access to important benefits previously denied to same-sex couples. As the Court wrote, "By its great reach, DOMA touches many aspects of married and family life, from the mundane to the profound." The practical impact of this victory is particularly significant for women. Women make up about 53% of LGBT adults and 51% of same-sex couples, and women in same-sex couples are more likely than men to marry their partners. In fact, the Williams Institute found that 62% of same-sex couples who married or acquired some other type of formal legal status were female, in the eight states for which data is available. 

Because women are more likely than men to be poor, female same-sex couples are at particular risk of financial instability. Read more »

The Student Non-Discrimination Act: Clarifying Protections for LGBTQ Students

When applying to college several years ago, I was privileged to be able to consider women’s colleges without being concerned that my gender identity would present any problem in the application process. This is because I am cisgender – a term used for people who have a gender identity that “matches” the sex they were assigned at birth. For transgender applicants like Calliope Wong, things were more complicated.

Calliope, who identifies as a transgender woman, applied with high hopes to Smith College, a women’s college in Massachusetts. Her application was returned to her, unreviewed, with a letter from the admissions office that because her federal financial aid paperwork indicated her sex as male, they could not accept her application.

When I think about Calliope, I also think about how much we need the Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA), a bill that was reintroduced today in the House of Representatives. Read more »

What Does Sex Discrimination Have to Do with Marriage Equality?

It's marriage equality week! Tomorrow, the Supreme Court will hear arguments challenging the constitutionality of Proposition 8, which revoked same-sex couples' right to marry in California. The day after that, the Court will consider the constitutionality of Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which provides that same-sex married couples cannot be considered "married" under federal law. There are lots of reasons why we will be watching these cases closely. In human terms, both cases have could have a dramatic impact on the lives of same-sex couples. Indeed, they have the potential to be historic civil rights milestones — moments when the arc of the universe curves toward justice.  Read more »