Two Republican lawmakers, seeking to rollback reforms in 60 Wisconsin school districts, are pushing a bill to ban transgender students from using restrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their gender identity.
The measure — a proposed mandate that school districts designate facilities exclusively for one biological sex or the other — is being circulated for co-sponsors by state Rep. Jesse Kremer, R-Kewaskum, and state Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater.
“This bill reinforces the societal norm in our schools that students born biologically male must not be allowed to enter facilities designated for biological females and vice versa,” Kremer wrote in a memo.
Meanwhile, Democrats Sondy Pope, a representative from Cross Plains, and Nikiya Harris Dodd, a senator from Milwaukee, are seeking co-sponsors for a measure that would require the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction to develop a model policy protecting the rights of transgender students. The measure also would require school districts to adopt a policy.
The Democratic lawmakers wrote in a memo, “Recent actions in our state and nationwide indicate that many individuals do not have a clear understanding of the unique issues faced by transgender youth. Adopting a school board-wide policy is necessary to ensure a safe, equal learning environment for transgender students.”
Civil rights groups, education organizations and Democratic lawmakers denounced the bill by Kremer and Nass as mean-spirited, reckless and discriminatory.
“This bill is an unnecessary solution in search of a problem,” said Megin McDonell, the interim executive director of Fair Wisconsin, the state’s largest LGBT civil rights group. “It singles out, isolates and stigmatizes transgender students, who often already face harassment and exclusion at school.”
McDonell said the bill would undermine the advances in many school districts, which “have made allowing students to use facilities and participate in sports and activities consistent with their gender identity.”
State Reps. JoCasta Zamarripa, D-Milwaukee, and Mark Spreitzer, D-Beloit, two of three openly LGBT members of the Assembly, responded in a joint statement. They said the measure proposed by Kremer and Nass reveals a “gross misunderstanding of both biology and gender identity.”
The Democrats also said the measure constituted “the ultimate invasion of privacy. We don’t need big government to check kids’ anatomy before they’re allowed to use the bathroom.”
Dozens of school districts in the state have adopted best practices and modernized nondiscrimination policies, protecting all students.
The Janesville School District, for example, has a policy allowing transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms assigned to the gender with which they identify, if parents and principals give the OK. Meanwhile, in the Madison School District and at Shorewood High School, policies provide for transgender students to use the restrooms and locker rooms that correspond to their gender identity.
None of these districts have reported an incident of a non-transgender student being harassed by the presence of a transgender student, according to GSAFE, a Wisconsin organization that advocates for LGBT students.
“All this bill does is single out transgender and intersex students for increased scrutiny and harassment, directly jeopardizing their safety,” said GSAFE education and policy director Brian Juchems.
Juchems noted that the language in the “bathroom bill” is the same as the language in a draft policy circulated by the right-wing Alliance Defending Freedom.
“Instead of looking outside our state, our Legislature should look at the sample policy drafted by the Wisconsin Association of School Boards,” suggested Juchems.
In 1982, Wisconsin became the first state to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation. But the state does not ban discrimination based on gender identity.
The number of legally married same-sex couples in the United States tripled during the past year, according to a Gallop Poll released today.
The new survey estimates that 390,000 out of nearly 1 million same-sex couples in the U.S. are married. By comparison, estimates from the 2013 National Health Interview Survey had the number at 130,000.
The poll found that 60,000 married same-sex couples live in the 13 states that do not allow same-sex couples to marry.
The Gallup Poll was co-authored by Gary J. Gates, Blachford-Cooper research director at the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law and Frank Newport, editor in chief of Gallup.
“As the Supreme Court considers on Tuesday if same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry, these data demonstrate that marriage is already widespread among same-sex couples,” Gates said. “In the last year alone, estimates suggest that more than a quarter million of the 390,000 married same-sex couples in this country got married as state bans on such marriages were lifted across the nation. Even so, about one in six married same-sex couples live in states that currently don’t recognize their marriage.”
Results for the poll were based on telephone interviews conducted from January to April 2015 on the Gallup U.S. Daily survey. The study included a random sample of 80,568 adults ages 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
About 2.4 million or 29 percent of LGBT adults experienced a time in the past year when they did not have enough money to feed themselves or their family, according to a new Williams Institute study.
The report, authored by demographer Gary J. Gates and released on Feb. 5, said LGBT people experience disproportionate levels of food insecurity and higher participation rates in the SNAP program, especially those raising children.
Gates said data suggest that same-sex couples raising children are about twice as likely to receive food stamps as different-sex couples with children.
“These data provide the first opportunity to understand the extent to which LGBT people in the U.S. experience some aspects of food insecurity and use food stamps,” said Gates in a news release. “The farm bill Congress passed yesterday cut food stamps, and we now know that LGBT communities will be disproportionately affected by that legislation.”
According to the US Department of Agriculture, about 49 million Americans — nearly 16 percent — were food insecure in 2012. Food insecurity is generally defined as having limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — SNAP — is the largest federal program designed to alleviate food insecurity. More than 47 million Americans — nearly one in five adults — participate in SNAP, which provides food purchase assistance to low and no-income individuals.
Gates said bisexuals along with LGBT women and people of color are particularly vulnerable to high rates of food insecurity and SNAP participation. One in four bisexuals — 25 percent — receive food stamps; 34 percent of LGBT women were food insecure in the last year; and LGBT African Americans, Native Americans, and Native Hawaiians experienced food insecurity in the last year at rates of 37 percent, 55 percent, and 78 percent respectively.
Other findings in his paper:
• More than one 1 in 5 LGB adults aged 18-44 (21 percent), approximately 1.1 million, participated in the SNAP program through receipt of food stamps in the past year.
• More than 1 in 8 same-sex couples (13 percent), approximately 84,000 couples, participated in SNAP in the last year.
• More than 4 in 10 LGB adults age 18-44 raising children (43 percent), approximately 650,000, participated in SNAP.
• More than 1 in 4 same-sex couples raising biological, adopted, or step children under age 18 (26 percent), approximately 27,000 couples, participated in SNAP.
Rates of food insecurity are higher for LGBT adults when compared to heterosexual adults across several national surveys, and across gender, age, racial/ethnic, and education level groups. After taking these factors into account:
• LGBT adults are 1.7 times more likely than non-LGBT adults to not have had enough money to feed themselves or their family in the past year.
• LGB adults aged 18-44 are 1.3 times more likely than their heterosexual counterparts to receive food stamps.
• Same-sex couples are 1.7 times more likely than different-sex couples to receive food stamps.
• LGB adults aged 18-44 raising children are 1.8 times more likely than their heterosexual counterparts to receive food stamps.
• Same-sex couples raising biological, adopted, or step children under age 18 are 2.1 times more likely than comparable different-sex couples to receive food stamps.
Research from the Williams Institute at the University of California-Los Angeles shows majorities in every U.S. congressional district support banning workplace bias based on sexual orientation.
The research was released on Nov. 19, as efforts continue to nudge U.S. representatives to support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. The measure, which would ban workplace bias based on gender identity and sexual orientation, passed the Senate earlier this fall.
The Williams Institute did not have enough data to include gender identity in the public opinion survey.
In 2007, the House considered a bill similar to ENDA. Although majorities in their districts supported the measure, 183 members voted against the bill.
On the Web …
The right-wing leaders behind the campaign to ban same-sex marriage in California now want to repeal legislation intended to protect the rights of transgender students to equal access to school facilities, such as bathrooms, and school programs, such as sports teams.
They’ve made repeated claims that boys will game the system and pretend to be transgender so they can invade girls’ restrooms. They’ve dubbed the historic legislation that Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law as the “bathroom bill,” making light of a basic human need and ignoring the consequences of continued discrimination behind the doors labeled for him or her.
“I think just about anybody knows what it feels like to desperately need to use a bathroom,” said transgender civil rights advocate Nancy McCormick of San Diego. “Now imagine living your whole life being afraid to use a public bathroom because you don’t want to be assaulted or arrested or being barred from using a public bathroom because someone says it isn’t for you.”
Jody L. Herman, a researcher with the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, has studied transgender people’s experiences with gendered restrooms and found:
• 27 percent of the transgender people surveyed in Washington, D.C., experienced problems using restrooms at work. In some cases, the harassment was so severe that the person changed jobs.
• 54 percent of the transgender people surveyed experienced physical complications — dehydration, kidney infections, urinary tract infections — from trying to avoid public restrooms.
• 58 percent of the transgender people surveyed said they avoided going out due to a lack of safe public restroom facilities.
• 68 percent said they’d been verbally harassed while using a public restroom.
• 9 percent reported being physically assaulted while trying to use a public restroom.
Herman concluded, “Policies to protect transgender people’s access to restrooms can be understood as policies that are connected to the health and well-being of transgender people.”
From anti-gay to anti-trans
The Privacy For All Students coalition wants a referendum next year on the California legislation that guarantees K-12 students access to sex-segregated restrooms and other facilities, as well as programs and activities based on self-identification of gender instead of birth gender or transition status.
The name of the coalition is new, but the alliance of the members is not: Many of the same organizations, activists and strategists were behind Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot initiative that defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman and barred same-sex couples from marrying in California.
A U.S. Supreme Court ruling this summer led to the overturning of Prop 8 and left the Prop 8 defenders in search of a new cause to rally the far-right and raise cash. The National Organization for Marriage, for one, turned its focus to fighting marriage equality abroad. But NOM also committed to battling efforts to protect transgender Americans and safeguard their rights.
The most prominent battle is taking place in California, where NOM is working with the Capital Resource Institute and others in the Privacy For All Students coalition to repeal the School Success and Opportunity Act or AB 1266, set to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2014.
On Nov. 8, the coalition filed petitions signed by voters who want a ballot initiative.
If the measure is certified, a veteran of the anti-gay marriage campaign, Frank Schubert, has been tapped to lead the repeal effort.
In October, repeal advocates rallied outside the headquarters of the Los Angeles Unified School District, which has had a policy similar to AB 1226 for a decade and reported no problems.
Repeal advocates also have rallied in rural northern parts of the state, including in Modoc and Siskiyou counties, where elected officials disenchanted with state politics have called for seceding from California and forming the new State of Jefferson. Their largely symbolic effort is over economics and agricultural regulations, but some, in challenging government’s reach, have cited AB 1226 as an example of the state going too far.
John O’Connor of Equality California, a statewide LGBT group, said opposition to AB 1266 is “a predictable move by fringe groups that oppose all pro-equality measures.”
Other supporters of the legislation include gay lawmakers Tom Ammiano and Mark Leno of San Francisco, the ACLU of California, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the Gay-Straight Alliance Network, the Transgender Law Center and also statewide parent and teacher organizations, including the California Teachers Association and the California State PTA.
The CTA said it supports the law because “educators see, firsthand, the often humiliating experiences transgender students endure. Transgender students who are denied access to a restroom appropriate to their gender identity often report they avoid using school restrooms at all, which not only places students’ health at risk, but also significantly interferes with the their ability to learn.”
Before Brown signed AB 1226, a transgender student in California filed a complaint with the civil rights divisions of the U.S. Education and Justice departments. The student alleged that Arcadia Unified School District violated his rights by excluding him from using the boys’ restroom and locker room and segregating him from his male peers on an overnight field trip. The complaint said the school rules caused the boy to be subjected to ridicule and to be excluded from afterschool activities.
The federal government, announcing a resolution of the complaint in July, said the district would revise its policies to ensure all students equal access and opportunity.
The student, who has remained unnamed throughout the legal process, said, “(Now) I can focus on learning and being a typical high school student, like my friends.”
The student’s attorney, Asaf Orr at the NCLR, added, “Hopefully school districts will take this opportunity to proactively address the needs of transgender youth through districtwide policies and training.”
Massachusetts and Colorado have statewide policies that offer protections similar to AB 1226, and Maine’s human rights commission has ruled that state law requires schools to respect a student’s gender identity. Communities and school districts across the country, including in Wisconsin, also have improved policies.
In some of those locations, right-wing groups are challenging the reforms.
In Colorado, for example, three high school girls represented by the right-wing Pacific Justice Institute are alleging harassment because a transgender student is using the girl’s bathroom. PJI attorney Matthew McReynolds says allowing a “biologically teenage boy” in a girl’s bathroom “is inherently harassing.”
Meanwhile, Wisconsin Family Action, the organization that is challenging the state’s domestic partnership registry, is sounding alarms. In an “alert” to members in late October, WFA president Julaine Appling said being transgender is a perversion and warned, “It’s ‘gender identity and expression’ that has been at the forefront of the so-called ‘bathroom laws’ that have become more and more popular. These are the laws that say public bathrooms are to be re-identified as unisex rather than be what they have been since time immemorial — sex specific and sex exclusive.”
Appling said it is time to “stop making it illegal for people to say ‘no’ to those who are quite honestly perverting the image of God that has been stamped on each human being.”
McCormick said fringe groups such as Wisconsin Family Action distort the facts and ignore the need for protections. “The problem is not with how God did or did not stamp us — which is for each and every one of us to know individually not for Wisconsin Family Action to decide,” she said. “The problem is with those symbols stamped on bathroom doors and rigid rules about gender and segregation.”
The repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” liberated gay and lesbian servicemembers from their closets but not transgender servicemembers, according to a new study.
The research, “Still Serving in Silence: Transgender Servicemembers and Veterans” comes nearly two years after the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
That policy had required gay servicemembers to hide their sexual orientation and was intended to stop military officers from asking about sexual orientation.
Transgender people are not barred by congressional legislation from military service, but the military medical code sets out regulations that can prevent them from signing up or serving openly.
The research showed that transgender Americans serve in the military at a high rate – 20 percent of those who participated in the NTDS had been in the Armed Forces. About 10 percent of the general population serves in the military.
The survey also showed that transgender servicemembers – or veterans – were less likely to be out than transgender civilians.
About 9 percent of transgender servicemembers who served openly reported being discharged, according to Herman.
The survey included personal statements from transgender Americans who served, who were refused entry into the military and who still want to enlist. “I am a patriotic and God-fearing 21-year-old male (of transsexual history) from a military family,” one young man wrote. “I want to serve my country badly, and think about this constantly.”
The study contains many reports of harassment, beatings, sexual assaults and institutional discrimination.
After their service, many transgender veterans were “met with discrimination in employment, housing and health care post-service,” said Herman.
“Still Serving in Silence” found:
• Transgender veterans were more likely to have lost a job due to discrimination than non-veterans.
• Within the workplace, transgender veterans were more likely to have been harassed than non-veterans.
• Transgender veterans were more likely than non-veterans to attain some college education, but actually less likely to have graduated.
• Transgender veterans were more likely than non-veterans to be evicted from their homes due to bias and to experience homelessness. The rate of homelessness for transgender veterans was 21 percent – three times the general population’s rate.
The researchers noted, “This high rate … is not surprising, given that veterans of all gender identities are disproportionately represented in the U.S. homeless population.” Nearly one in seven homeless adults is a veteran.
• A majority of transgender veterans go to non-VA clinics for health care and were more likely to be refused medical treatment due to bias.
“Still Serving in Silence” is based on data from the National Transgender Discrimination Survey conducted by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality. NGLTF Policy Institute manager Jack Harrison-Quintana and Jody L. Herman of the Williams Institute at UCLA released the paper.
The California-based Williams Institute has produced a new infographic detailing “The Cost of Same-Sex Marriage Bans.”
One side of the graph explains how same-sex couples are penalized financially when they are deprived of legal recognition. The other side shows that states pay a price as well.
Download a PDF of the current issue of Wisconsin Gazette and join our Facebook community.
Nine states’ voter ID laws may create substantial barriers to voting and possible disenfranchisement for more than 25,000 transgender voters this November, according to a new study.
The research comes from the California-based Williams Institute and was released at the organization’s 11th annual conference at the UCLA School of Law.
“As lawmakers consider enacting stricter voter ID laws and contemplate their potential impact in the upcoming November elections, the consequences of these laws for transgender voters should not be overlooked,” said researcher Jody L. Herman.
Strict photo ID states require citizens to present government-issued photo identification in order to vote. Without the required ID, eligible voters may vote on a provisional ballot and must provide an acceptable form of ID to election officials within a limited timeframe in order for their vote to count.
Transgender voters can face unique challenges to obtaining accurate government-issued identification. According to the Williams Institute report, 41 percent of transgender citizens who have transitioned reported not having an updated driver’s license and 74 percent did not have an updated U.S. passport.
Moreover, 27 percent of transgender citizens who have transitioned reported that they had no identity documents or records that list their current gender. People of color, youth, students, those with low incomes and respondents with disabilities are likely to be disproportionately impacted.
The 25,000 transgender voters who will face these barriers would have otherwise been eligible to vote in Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin. All of these states have passed strict photo ID laws for 2012 – though all face legal challenges.
“As election officials in these states begin planning for their fall elections, this research highlights the importance of educating poll workers in order to ensure that transgender voters in their states have fair access to the ballot,” said Herman.
Download a PDF of the current issue of Wisconsin Gazette and join our Facebook community.
A presidential executive order requiring federal contractors to prohibit discrimination against LGBT workers would protect 16.5 million more workers, according to a new study.
LGBT civil rights advocates have encouraged the president to issue an order as a stop-gap protection until Congress enacts a broader workplace nondiscrimination bill.
The study, the Impact of Extending Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Non-Discrimination Requirements to Federal Contractors, was released over the weekend by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law. The institution has released a number of studies on LGBT policy issues.
“This study highlights both the powerful impact of a federal policy that prohibits LGBT discrimination, as well as the continued progress already made toward protecting LGBT workers through state law and voluntary corporate policies,” said author M.V. Lee Badgett, director of the institute.
State laws or private policies already protect 61 percent of federal contractor employees from sexual orientation discrimination and 41 percent from gender identity discrimination.
And among federal contractors, 45 percent of their employees already have access to health care coverage for a same-sex partner.
A federal mandate could extend coverage to an additional 14-15 million workers, but it is likely that only an additional 40,000 to 136,000 employees would sign up a same-sex partner for coverage.
“Given the small number of employees who would take advantage of domestic partnership benefits across the tens of thousands of federal contractors, the ultimate burden on business for providing these benefits would be minimal,” said Badgett.
Her research also found that the largest private defense contractors, state laws or private policies already cover 95 percent of employees against sexual orientation discrimination, 69 percent of employees against gender identity discrimination, and provide 81 percent of employees with access to benefits for a same-sex partner.
The findings in this study are based on 2009 data from the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission’s EEO-1 reports required for private sector federal contractors with 50 or more employees and a contract of at least $50,000, and for non-contractor employers with 100 or more employees.