Tag Archives: NGLTF

Hobby Lobby ruling fuels drive for stronger LGBT rights bill

Support for an LGBT civil rights bill that contains broad religious exemptions is dwindling following the Supreme Court ruling that corporations have religious beliefs and can impose them on their employees.

The proposed Employment Non-Discrimination Act contains broad religious exemptions that civil rights leaders fear will be abused, especially in light of the 5-4 ruling in the Hobby Lobby case against the contraception mandate in the federal Affordable Care Act.

A growing number of organizations have withdrawn support for the current bill and all of them have cited the religious exemption and the Hobby Lobby decision.

Those out of ENDA include Pride At Work, American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, National Center for Lesbian Rights, Transgender Law Center and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

The NGLTF was the first to withdraw support in the wake of the Hobby Lobby ruling.

“As one of the lead advocates on this bill for 20 years, we do not take this move lightly but we do take it unequivocally,” said Rea Carey, NGLTF’s executive director. “We cannot be complicit in writing such exemptions into federal law.”

LGBT leaders said broad religious exemptions have undermined voting rights, women’s access to reproductive health and affirmative action and that instead of enacting a new law with these exemptions, Congress should pass a measure that delivers the same protections for LGBT people as those contained in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The Civil Rights Act bans discrimination in employment, but also in housing, public accommodations, credit and education.

ENDA would ban bias based on sexual orientation and gender identity in workplaces of 15 or more people. There are three parts to the religious exemption:

• A complete exemption for houses of worship, parochial and similar religious schools and missions.

• A codification of the “ministerial exemption,” which exempts positions at religious organizations that involve teaching religion, religious governance or the supervision of individuals engaged in these activities.

• A provision allowing religious organizations to require employees and applicants to conform to a declared set of significant religious tenets, including ones that would bar LGBT people from holding the position.

The measure has passed the U.S. Senate, but is stalled in the House, where Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has refused to allow any action on the bill.

But comprehensive coverage is what national LGBT groups are now seeking, and is what U.S. Reps. Bella Abzug and Ed Koch proposed in the first LGBT civil rights bill introduced four decades ago.

“This movement has a responsibility to also chart a course for the future,” said Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights group. “The gay man in Alabama who gets kicked out of his apartment because his partner moves in — or the transgender teenager in Arkansas who gets shamed for using the right restroom — is just as deserving of legal equality as the lesbian in Montana who gets fired because of who she is.

“In other words, it’s time for full LGBT civil rights to come out of the closet.”

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Faith-based leaders in LGBT community rejoice over pope’s message

Pope Francis, in an interview for a Jesuit publication in the U.S., said the Roman Catholic Church’s obsession with preaching against marriage for same-sex couples and reproductive freedoms was harmful to the church and its ministry.

The pope, while not changing church doctrine in any way or issuing any directives on church teachings, also said the church has the right to express its opinions but not to “interfere spiritually” in the lives of LGBT people.

Francis said, “It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time. The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.”

He also said: “Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person? We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.”

Francis’ comments to Civilta Cattolica contained no change in church teaching, but to some they represented a shift in tone and stood in contrast to the priorities of his immediate predecessors. John Paul II and Benedict XVI were both intellectuals for whom doctrine was paramount, an orientation that guided the selection of a generation of bishops and cardinals who, in countries like the United States, have put themselves on the front lines in opposing abortion and gay marriage. They now find themselves being asked to preach more to those who have fallen away from the church and offer them a compassionate welcome home.

There’s been a lot of response to the pope’s remarks – positive, critical, guarded and skeptical. 

In the day after the first reports of the interview, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force collected reaction from members of its national religious leadership roundtable.

Marianne Duddy-Burke, the executive director of DignityUSA said, “We find much to be hopeful about, particularly in the pope’s firm desire that the church be a ’home for all people,’ and his belief that God looks on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people with love rather than condemnation.”

She continued, in part, “LGBT Catholics and allies will rejoice in the pope’s call for church leaders to focus on being pastors rather than rule enforcers. We hope that the bishops will heed this call and immediately end their anti-LGBT campaigns, the firings of church workers for who they are, the attacks on people who challenge or question official teachings, and the exclusive and judgmental rhetoric that comes too often from our pulpits.”

Francis DeBernardo, the executive Director of New Ways Ministry, said, “Pope Francis’ interview in an American magazine signals a new dawn of hope and promise for LGBT Catholics and their supporters. Pope Francis’ words and example have opened up new opportunities for the Catholic Church to welcome and dialogue with LGBT people. His words will give courage and hope to thousands of pastoral ministers and Catholic faithful who have been doing this work for many decades, but who have often received penalties and discouragements from church leaders who did not share this pope’s broad vision. His message signals a new day for a Catholic Church that is welcoming to all.”

At NGLTF, faith work director Rebecca Voelkel said, “As a Christian pastor who understands the heart of the gospel to be justice and love for all God’s children, it is with gratitude that I receive the news of Pope Francis’ remarks. They mark a dramatic shift in tone whose impact is both welcome and needed. For too long, the Catholic Church’s ability to work on important justice issues has been marred because of the demeaning and abusive statements and actions toward lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and toward women who grapple with reproductive choices. As LGBT people die from violence around the world and women die from lack of access to reproductive services, Pope Francis’ statements may lead to life-saving changes.”

A representative with Light of Reform Mosque and Muslims for Progressive Values, Imam Daayiee, responded with the statement, “I am glad to hear the pope’s comments and I am prayerful the Islamic faith will also adjust its focus as well.”

The Rev. Nancy Wilson, the moderator of the Metropolitan Community Churches, an early faith-based leader in the LGBT community, said, “Every crack in the door, or window, every generous, even if ambiguous, hint of openness from Pope Francis is encouraging –and we know will make many in the Vatican and the hierarchy nervous! More cause for rejoicing! That the Pope would take even a nuanced position in opposition to the slammed door policy of the last decades, is welcome, welcome, welcome.”

John Gustav-Wrathall, a senior vice president of Affirmation: LGBT Mormons, Families & Friends, said, “Pope Francis’ statement is part of a growing trend among religious leaders in the most historically conservative denominations. We’re seeing similar efforts among Evangelical leaders and among leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to rein in institutional homophobia and make LGBT members feel more welcome.”

The Rev. Robin R. Lunn, executive director of the Association of Welcoming & Affirming Baptists, added, “I am thrilled that the new pope is taking this opportunity to speak about his vision for and of the church, particularly as it relates to the more recent hyper-focus on issues of sexuality and reproduction. I believe that there are many within the progressive Baptist community around the world who will welcome the leadership that Pope Francis is offering on being the church for all and not a chapel for a few.”

Puerto Rico governor signs LGBT civil rights bill

Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro García Padilla on May 29 signed into law civil rights legislation that prohibits discrimination against LGBT people and their families and protects same-sex couples under Puerto Rico’s domestic violence law.

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, in a news release, said the legislature finished its work on May 28.

NGLTF leaders have worked alongside activists in the Puerto Rican LGBT community on reforms for seven years. Last year, NGLTF’s National Religious Leadership Roundtable met in Puerto Rico, showing support and solidarity.

The organization stated, “Even with this win though, we know the fight isn’t over. As we’ve seen across the country, most recently in New York City, as we advance in our rights and protections our community also faces a backlash: in Puerto Rico alone there have been 40 murders of LGBT people in the last decade.

“We know there’s more work to do, and we know you’re with us.”

Senate committee passes immigration bill lacking protections for LGBT families

The Senate Judiciary Committee on May 21 passed a massive immigration reform bill that includes sweeping changes. But the measure lacks protections for LGBT families that are needed because the federal government does not recognize same-sex relationships.

President Barack Obama had made it clear he supports such protections when he called for immigration reform earlier this year, and many Democrats in the Senate support such protections.

But Republicans said inclusion would destroy chances to pass legislation and damage the delicate bipartisan campaign for reform.

Obama, after the committee action on May 21, issued a statement, “Thanks to the leadership of Chairman (Patrick) Leahy and a bipartisan group of eight Senators, the legislation that passed the Judiciary Committee with a strong bipartisan vote is largely consistent with the principles of commonsense reform I have proposed and meets the challenge of fixing our broken immigration system. The process for considering this legislation has been open and inclusive with multiple hearings, and more than a hundred amendments were considered and adopted, in many cases with bipartisan support. I applaud the Committee members for their hard work, especially ‘Gang of Eight’ members Senators Schumer, Durbin, Graham and Flake.  None of the Committee members got everything they wanted, and neither did I , but in the end, we all owe it to the American people to get the best possible result over the finish line.  I encourage the full Senate to bring this bipartisan bill to the floor at the at the earliest possible opportunity and remain hopeful that the amendment process will lead to further improvements.”

LGBT civil rights organizations also responded, affirming a commitment to supporting immigration reform that provides a path to citizenship but also calling for improvements to the bill on the Senate floor. 

“We are disappointed that certain senators threatened the entire immigration reform bill simply because it affords 28,500 same-sex binational couples equal immigration rights,” read the joint statement from the National Center for Lesbian Rights, GLAAD, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, United We Dream and Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project, Lambda Legal, Equality Federation and the National Center for Transgender Equality. “At the same time, we thank Senator Leahy for standing up for these families. A majority of Americans, 53 percent, believe that all consenting adults should have the right to get married and that gender should not play a role in who is considered family.”

The statement continued, “It is unconscionable that lawmakers committed to equality and commonsense, humane immigration policy were forced to make a false choice between protecting the rights of same-sex binational couples and keeping a tenuous coalition together. This take-it-or-leave-it stance with regard to same-sex binational couples is not helpful when we all share the same goal of passing comprehensive immigration reform that provides a path to citizenship.”

The civil rights groups want an immigration bill that:

• Provides a pathway to citizenship;

• Ensures that family unity is at the heart of immigration law and policy;

• Ends unjust detentions and deportations;

• Upholds labor and employment standards, and ensures that the enforcement of immigration law does not undermine labor and employment rights;

• Promotes a dignified quality of life for border communities by ensuring border agencies uphold basic civil and human rights protections; and

• Ensures immigrant members of our community are not relegated to second-class status with fewer rights and benefits.

The bill is S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act.

Demonstrators rally for citizenship, LGBT-inclusive immigration reform

Tens of thousands of marchers – including contingents from Milwaukee, Racine and Madison – gathered at the U.S. Capitol on April 10 to rally for citizenship and comprehensive immigration reform.

NAACP president Benjamin Jealous delivered the keynote address as ralliers waved “Time is Now” posters. Immigration rights advocates, labor organizers, faith leaders and members of Congress working on immigration legislation also delivered speeches.

U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Chicago, surrounded by other Democrats in Congress, called on the ralliers to “work hard, push us, keep pushing us and together we will deliver immigration reform this year.” At stake, he said, are the 1,400 people deported each day from the United States and the children who are left behind. 

The rally took place as eight U.S. senators – Republicans and Democrats – were working out the details on an overhaul bill that would deal with securing the border, allowing tens of thousands of foreign workers into the country and extending eventual citizenship to the estimated 11 million people living in the United States without legal permission.

Days before the rally, U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a member of that “Gang of Eight,” predicted “a great deal of unhappiness about this proposal because everybody didn’t get what they wanted. … There are entrenched positions on both sides of this issue.” His assessment, when the bill was introduced on April 16, proved correct.

But the unshakable position held by many assembled outside the Capitol for the late-afternoon rally – that reform must include a path to citizenship – seems to be held by leaders in both parties. “The politics of self-deportation are behind us,” Republican U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham told The AP. “It was an impractical solution. Quite frankly, it’s offensive. Every corner of the Republican Party, from libertarians to the (Republican National Committee), House Republicans and the rank-and-file Republican Party member, is now understanding there has to be an earned pathway to citizenship.”

LGBT inclusion sought

What has not taken root inside the Capitol is that reform must include protections for LGBT immigrants. The early version of the Senate bill is not LGBT inclusive. 

“The immigration system is in desperate need of reform and that reform must include LGBT immigrants and families,” said Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin. “Comprehensive immigration reform is about protecting those who are vulnerable and living in the shadows.”

While demonstrators were assembling in Washington, including a large group affiliated with the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, several LGBT leaders were holding a press conference in Boston at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office.

There, Cathy Kristofferson of GetEQUAL Massachusetts said, “If comprehensive immigration reform is to truly be comprehensive, it is essential that the needs of the LGBTQ community not be left out of the legislation. In 2009, Sen. Chuck Schumer promised support for binational couples, yet that support – along with a clear pathway to citizenship for the estimated 267,000 LGBT undocumented immigrants, asylum for victims of homophobia abroad and harsh detention conditions – still seems to be missing from the Gang of Eight’s offering.”

LGBT leaders, in a paper released by HRC, identified a series of proposals crucial to reform:

• Allow U.S. citizens or permanent residents to sponsor same-sex partners for family-based immigration. 

• Prevent the removal of a same-sex spouse of a U.S. citizen to a place that would pose hardship for the citizen.

• Increase the number of visas available to those seeking to sponsor a relative under the family preference system.

• Create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented individuals living in the United States.

• Eliminate the one-year filing deadline that has had a disproportionately negative impact on LGBT asylum applicants.

• Provide access to health care for those in the process of legalizing their status, including those living with HIV/AIDS.

• Prevent employment verification systems from including personal information that is unnecessary to verify a person’s immigration status, such as gender markers or previous gender or name changes on an ID.

• Ensure that detainees have access to medical care and that humane forms of immigration detention are used.

“As a transgender woman who was detained by immigration authorities, I have first-hand experience with the inhumane treatment and abuse in detention facilities that for years have threatened the health, safety and even lives of millions of immigrants,” said Bamby Salcedo, president of the Trans-Latin@ Coalition. “I was sexually assaulted when I was forced to be housed in a dorm with about 100 men in a detention facility, and I was denied adequate access to HIV medication and hormone treatment. These are the harms countless transgender detainees face; we must put an end to these atrocities. We all deserve a chance to live with dignity, to pursue our dreams, and to work for a better future and better quality of life.”

Speaking at the Time is Now rally on April 10, Rea Carey, the executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, stressed, “LGBT people are immigrants and immigration is an LGBT issue.”

LGBT groups respond to senators’ ‘framework’ for immigration reform

An LGBT civil rights group on Jan. 28 observed that a proposed “framework” for comprehensive immigration reform from a bipartisan group of Senators fails to mention LGBT binational families.

Immigration Equality said in a statement this afternoon that it was disappointed the Senate proposal, which includes a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrations and a guest-worker program, fails to offer a specific solution for keeping binational LGBT families together.

IE, in the release, said the Congressional Hispanic Caucus earlier this year released its priorities for immigration reform, and included, at No. 2 on the list, concern for binational LGBT families.

Also, IE said the White House last week made a statement supporting efforts to include LGBT families in immigration reform, noting that the president “has long believed that Americans with same-sex partners from other countries should not be faced with the painful choice between staying with the person they love or staying in the country they love, and he welcomes changes that would help keep families together.”

The Senate group – now nicknamed the “Gang of 8” – consists of Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.,  Robert Menendez, D-N.J., Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Marco Rubio, R-Fla., John McCain, R-Ariz., Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. The group’s framework is not a bill, but a starting point for a bill.

So, IE said, it will “work non-stop to make sure our families are part of comprehensive immigration reform legislation when it is introduced. Any immigration bill in Congress must allow LGBT people to sponsor their spouse or permanent partner in the same way opposite-sex couples have long been able to under current immigration law.”

“This morning, millions of future citizens awoke to the news that Congress seems willing to reform our immigration system at last. We all share a common goal: Reform that keeps families together, offers a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented who are already Americans in spirit, and honors our country’s legacy as a nation of immigrants. That should include LGBT families, too, and we pledge to continue working for that fair, inclusive reform along with our allies.”

Immigration Equality Action Fund joined in a statement released by a coalition of LGBT civil rights groups responding to the “framework.”

The statement, signed by IE, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund, National Center for Lesbian Rights, National Center for Transgender Equality and the Human Rights Campaign, said:

“We are fully committed to and deeply understand the need for this nation to adopt a humane and effective comprehensive immigration policy which places a premium value on justice, dignity, respect and opportunity.

“Any legislation must include the ability of couples in same-sex relationships to sponsor their spouse or permanent-partner in the same way opposite-sex couples have long been able to under current immigration law.

“We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with those striving for and dreaming of a nation that embraces all who come here seeking a better life. We look forward to working with Congress, the White House and every community harmed by our broken immigration system to finally achieve the comprehensive reforms we all so desperately need.”

The American Civil Liberties Union also weighed in, with praise for the inclusion of a path to citizenship but also concerns about privacy rights.

“The gang’s plan is the beginning, not the end, of the discussion on immigration reform,” said Joanne Lin, ACLU legislative counsel. “We urge the passage of a roadmap that is just, humane and fair, without exclusions for minor crimes or past removal orders, and unobstructed by prohibitive fees or penalties. Forcing the separation of families and the abandonment of children is contrary to American values and our national interest.”

ACLU legislative counsel Chris Calabrese added, “The outline’s call for employers to be mandated to use E-Verify, an expensive electronic employment-verification system, is a thinly-disguised national ID requirement that undermines the privacy of every American worker while imposing new burdens on businesses. Mandatory E-Verify would not only lead to discrimination against those who look or sound ‘foreign,’ but also increase the risk of identity theft and make it harder to get a job.’

House Republicans urged to stop spending for DOMA defense

LGBT leaders are urging the House Republican leadership to stop spending tax money to defend the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act in federal court.

Congressional Republicans decided to defend DOMA, enacted in 1996, after the U.S. Justice Department said in February that it would not defend in court an unconstitutional law.

DOMA has two basic sections – one provision allows states to ignore legal gay marriages from other states and another provision requires that the federal government withhold marriage benefits from married gay couples.

In a letter to House Republicans, LGBT leaders on Dec. 18 said, “Despite the enormous economic challenges our country is facing, the House of Representatives recently decided to increase government spending to defend this discriminatory law – a law that intentionally harms thousands of Americans who are legally married. …At the same time, voters in three states approved marriage equality and, in Minnesota, rejected writing a marriage ban into their state’s constitution. A strong majority of Americans support marriage for loving, committed same-sex couples – including an increasing number of conservatives. With more states allowing committed same-sex couples to obtain civil marriage licenses, DOMA imposes burdens on hard working, tax paying citizens.”

Signers include representatives from the Human Rights Campaign, OutServe-SLDN, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, the Center for American Progress, the Immigration Equality Action Fund, CenterLink: The Community of LGBT Center, Out & Equal Workplace Adovcates, GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBT Equality, and Forge Inc..

Last week, according to HRC, the House Republicans’ contract with the firm hired to defend DOMA was made public. The agreement showed that the Republican leadership secretly agreed to raise the cost cap to $2 million.

The LGBT leaders also pointed out in a news release that if DOMA was repealed or overturned and the federal government recognized gay marriages, federal income and estate tax revenues would increase $700 million per year.

They also noted that polling shows a majority of Americans oppose DOMA and the GOP’s defense of the legislation in the courts.

One DOMA is challenge will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court next spring.

NAACP head gives keynote at LGBT conference

NAACP President Benjamin Jealous said this week that the civil rights group supports legislation in Maryland to extend rights to transgender residents.

Jealous spoke at a national conference on rights for the LGBT community, the 24th national conference on LGBT equality.

“This striving for inclusion is not new,” Jealous told a crowded convention room at the Baltimore Hilton on Jan. 26.

Under Jealous, the Baltimore-based National Association for the Advancement of Colored People launched an equality task force for the LGBT community. The Maryland measure would extend rights relating to employment and housing to transgender residents.

Last year, legislation that would have protected transgender people from housing and employment discrimination passed the House of Delegates, but the bill failed to pass the Senate.

About a week after the legislative session adjourned in April, an attack on 22-year-old transgender woman at a McDonald’s restaurant in Rosedale, Md., highlighted the issue again.

First Lady Katie O’Malley, who also attended the conference, told a crowd outside the convention room where Jealous spoke that “cowards” prevented same-sex marriage legislation from passing in Maryland last year. The measure cleared the Senate but stalled in the House of Delegates.

“We didn’t expect the things that happened to the House of Delegates to occur, but sadly they did, and there were some cowards that prevented it from passing,” she said.

Still, she told the crowd she and her husband, Gov. Martin O’Malley, are hoping the votes will be there this year.

The governor has made same-sex marriage legislation a priority this session.

Katie O’Malley, who is a judge in Baltimore District Court, also told the crowd that religion should not play a role in determining state laws relating to civil rights.

“We’re all very diverse and that’s what makes us so strong, but religion should never play a part in what the laws of our state are, and that’s what we’re trying to convey to religious leaders who are opponents of the bill,” she said.

Source: AP

Baltimore to host Creating Change

About 2,500 LGBT activists will head to Baltimore this month for the national Creating Change conference, the largest gay convention in the country.

The conference is set for Jan. 25 to Jan. 29, with NAACP president Benjamin Jealous delivering the keynote speech on Jan. 26.

The conference is organized by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and will feature Rea Carey, the organization’s executive director, delivering the annual “State of the Movement” address.

Organizers this month are finalizing plans for a lobby day on Capitol Hill and dozens of workshops.

Gay groups join opposition to NYC Wal-Mart

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force opposes Wal-Mart’s bid to open its first store in New York City.

“With the expansion of Wal-Mart stores comes the expansion of antiquated employment policies that provide little to no protections for, and at times even hostility toward, their LGBT employees,” NGLTF said in a statement.

The Stonewall Democratic Club came out in opposition to Wal-Mart’s proposed N.Y.C .store last month. The two groups object to Wal-Mart’s refusal to provide employee benefits to same-sex partners and its failure to prohibit discrimination based on gender identity.

According to NGLTF, retail chains such as Costco and Walgreens have better records on equality.

“It may be a local debate for New York City, but Wal-Mart is the largest private employer in the country,” said NGLTF executive director Rea Carey. “To have Wal-Mart as a substantial employer there, and an employer that lacks these basic protections, then a lot of people who need work, who seek work, simply won’t feel comfortable.”

Out city council speaker Christine Quinn also opposes the retail giant. “This lack of inclusion in its diversity policies is the antithesis of what we in N.Y.C. want and expect from our corporate partners,”. “These are yet two more reasons why Wal-Mart is a poor fit to do business in N.Y.C.”

Wal-Mart claims that it is welcoming to LGBT people, offering its Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Associate Resource Group as evidence.

“Diversity and inclusion are enduring values that are fundamental to our culture, which includes a focus on having respect for our colleagues and customers,” Wal-Mart spokesman Steven Restivo told The New York Times.