Be An Ally! Support #SafeSchools for All Students!

This week is Ally Week, a student-led program where LGBTQ K- 12 students and educators lead the conversation on what they need from allies in school. This important week of dialogue and understanding is organized by our colleagues at GLSEN.

Every student deserves a fair chance to learn and thrive in school—including students who are transgender. However, according to the 2015 National School Climate Survey, 70% of transgender students said they avoided bathrooms because they felt unsafe or uncomfortable.

Last week, MAP and GLSEN released a new ad, “Hallway” showing how harmful it can be to force transgender students to use a separate restroom, putting them at risk of bullying and abuse. Transgender students, like all students, want a chance to learn, graduate, and make their families proud, without having to be scared every time they need to do something as basic as using the restroom.

That’s why GLSEN and MAP have launched the Safe Schools Movement campaign to encourage parents, educators, youth, and policymakers to advocate for safe schools for LGBTQ youth.

This Ally Week, there are plenty of ways to take action and support safe schools for all students:

  • WATCH AND SHARE: Watch the new Hallway ad and share it on social media using the #supportsafeschools hashtag.
  • READ MORE in the exclusive article in Teen Vogue.
  • TAKE ACTION: Join the Safe Schools Movement!
  • LEARN more about transgender students and their experiences in school in a new brief from MAP, GLSEN, and NCTE.
  • HAVE A CONVERSATION with your friends and family about supporting safe schools for transgender students. Check out the resources available at www.supportsafeschools.org
  • SUPPORT MORE ADS LIKE “HALLWAY”: Donate $25 to support MAP’s hard-hitting ads that are changing the national conversation about transgender students.

 

Support Safe Schools for Transgender Students

Imagine not being able to use the bathroom at school, or being called the wrong name by your teachers or principal. All too often, that’s what transgender students face in school, making it impossible for them to attend school safely.

A new ad, “Hallway” produced by MAP and released today in partnership with GLSEN shows how just how harmful it can be to force transgender students to use a separate restroom, putting them at risk of bullying and abuse.

Read more about “Hallway” and the Safe Schools Movement in this exclusive from Teen Vogue.

Everyone, including transgender students, cares about safety and privacy in restrooms and locker rooms. School districts across the country have successfully worked to ensure that transgender students have access to facilities that match their gender identity while still protecting the privacy of all students. However, only 14 states plus the District of Columbia have laws explicitly prohibiting discrimination in schools on the bases of gender identity and sexual orientation.

To fill in the gap in state laws, many school districts were turning to the federal government for protections. In 2014, the Obama administration issued official guidance clarifying that transgender students are protected from discrimination based on Title IX’s prohibition on sex discrimination. However, the Trump administration recently rescinded that guidance, signaling that transgender students cannot count on their federal government for support. And, in February of this year, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights announced that they will no longer be investigating complaints of discrimination filed by transgender students.

According to a new brief released by today by MAP, GLSEN, and the National Center for Transgender Equality, more laws and policies are needed to ensure transgender students can fully participate in school.

Every student deserves a fair chance to learn and thrive in school—including students who are transgender. And our schools have a responsibility to protect all students from bullying, harassment, and discrimination.

MAP is teaming up with GLSEN, the leading education organization working to create safe and inclusive K-12 schools, to launch the Safe Schools Movement to advocate for safe schools for LGBTQ youth.

Join the Safe Schools Movement and take action today: www.glsen.org/safeschools

Nursing Home shows high risks for LGBT elders

Breaking news this week from Lambda Legal! The 7th Circuit has ruled in favor of their client Marsha Wetzel, a lesbian whose senior living facility failed to protect her from harassment, discrimination, & violence. “Nursing Home” shows the high risks for LGBT elders without nondiscrimination protections. It could mean providers, like nursing homes or senior living facilities, could turn people away and deny them care they need.

 

The Courts: What’s at Stake

As we await confirmation hearings for Judge Brett Kavanaugh, the president’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, the balance of the Court is weighing heavy on our minds. The cases that the Court could consider have sky-high stakes for many communities because they touch nearly all areas of our lives, from healthcare and employment to voting and the environment.

For LGBT families, there are several cases that the Court could consider in the coming terms that could profoundly undermine critical legal protections. This new article from the Daily Beast summarizes many of these cases, which include issues of employee benefits for same-sex spouses and employment protections for LGBT workers.

Perhaps the most alarming are the number of cases focused on religious exemptions and the extent to which individuals, businesses, and even government employees can be exempted from the law—including laws that protect people from discrimination. A growing, coordinated effort to insert religious exemptions into countless areas of law pose a substantial threat not only to LGBT families and their safety and wellbeing, but to women, people of color, people of minority faiths, people with disabilities, and many more. The extent to which these laws impact the lives of millions of people as they go to the doctor, go to restaurants and movie theaters, and even start families is disturbing.

Today, a federal district court in Michigan is hearing arguments in a case brought by the ACLU challenging the state’s policy of allowing Christian agencies receiving taxpayer dollars to care for children in state care to deny loving, qualified families because of who they are. The stakes in this case are also extremely high. Last year, MAP released a new ad “Kids Pay the Price” showing the harms of laws like these when child welfare agencies are allowed to put their own religious beliefs before the best interest of children.

Just yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee passed an amendment to the Health and Human Services funding bill that would mirror the so-called Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act, a federal version of these license-to-discriminate bills we’re seeing in states. The bill now heads to the House floor for consideration later this summer.

And, last week, in a letter to faith leaders, the governor of South Carolina defended asking for a waiver from federal nondiscrimination requirements to permit state- and federally-funded child welfare agencies to discriminate. Miracle Hill, an South Carolina evangelical adoption and foster agency that provides services to children in state care, recently turned away an otherwise qualified Jewish couple because they failed to meet the agency’s religious standard. In addition, last week governor signed legislation making this type of discrimination legal throughout the state. Ten states now permit child placing agencies to make decisions about who can foster or adopt a child in the care of the state based–not on the best interests of a child – but rather based on a religious litmus test.

If these cases–and all other cases focused on the ability of individuals, business, government employees, and others to disregard nondiscrimination laws–were to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, the question remains how Judge Kavanaugh would rule.

One thing is clear, we can’t do it alone. Now, more than ever, we need to join together and work to protect our communities from discrimination. Sign up for updates from MAP to learn more about how to take action.

No Place to Call Home: New Ad Shows Real Dangers to LGBT Elders

It’s an emotional time for any family when an aging family member has to move into a nursing home or care facility. For many LGBT older people and their families, the emotions can include fear of being turned away from a facility simply because of who they are. At a time when people need comfort and reassurance, some are denied basic dignity, decency, and respect.

Today, MAP, SAGE, and the Open to All coalition released a new ad, Nursing Home, featuring an older gay man and his family on the first day he moves into an assisted living facility. When the director of the facility learns the man is gay, the man is not allowed to move in. The ad is the latest in a series from MAP that showcase the harms of “religious exemption” laws that allow anti-LGBT discrimination. It’s a hard-hitting reminder of what’s at stake when our nation’s nondiscrimination laws come under fire and when opponents of LGBT equality try to undermine the very foundation of U.S. civil rights laws.

It’s shocking to realize that in a majority of states, LGBT people are not protected against discrimination in housing, employment, or public places like restaurants, hotels, or theaters.

Perhaps even more disturbing is what opponents of LGBT equality are doing to make sure LGBT people have even fewer protections. Right now, we are seeing a coordinated, nationwide effort to file lawsuits and pass laws and policies that would allow individuals, businesses, and even government contractors to use religion as the basis for discriminating against people of color, women, people of minority faiths, and LGBT people, including LGBT elders.

Read more in this opinion piece in The Advocate

While most care providers and businesses will do the right thing when it comes to serving their clients, some will only do so when required by law. In last week’s Supreme Court decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the justices affirmed that states can take steps to protect LGBT people from discrimination, and that religious objections should not be used to deny equal access to goods and services for all Americans. But today, policymakers in Washington and the states are working to pass laws that would increase anti-LGBT discrimination. Among many other negative impacts, these religious exemption laws would allow providers to deny critical health care services and vital social supports to LGBT older adults simply because of who they are.

Earlier this year, the Trump administration established the “Conscience and Religious Freedom Division” at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to protect medical providers who deny important care to patients based on religious or moral beliefs. And in the past year alone, lawmakers in 9 states have tried to pass laws allowing anti-LGBT discrimination because of religion.

Religious freedom is a cornerstone of American society, but anti-LGBT forces are using it like a crowbar to break open the door to more discrimination against people because of who they are—not just LGBT people, but anyone that a person, business, or institution finds “objectionable”. In the face of these egregious attempts to strip away nondiscrimination protections and leave our most vulnerable community members at risk, NOW is the time for businesses, care providers, and others to stand up and say their doors are open to everyone and they will not discriminate.

To learn more about how businesses can pledge to be open to all, visit www.OpentoAll.com/business-pledge.

 

So, What Can We Do? New Ad Calls on Supporters to Join the Campaign!

Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, and many folks are wondering: what can we do?

While the Court’s decision affirms the importance of non-discrimination laws, it does not address the discrimination that millions of Americans still face. In more than half the country, our state laws do not explicitly protect LGBT Americans from discrimination in stores and restaurants, in the workplace, or in housing.

A new ad released today from MAP and the Open to All coalition depicts how hurtful and demeaning it can be to be turned away or refused service by a business simply because of who you are. The ad calls on supporters to join the Open to All campaign in support of nondiscrimination protections for all.

So how can you help?

Ask local businesses in your community to take the Open to All business pledge! It’s easy: businesses go to www.OpenToAll.com/business-pledge and agree to not discriminate based on race, ethnicity, national origin, sex, gender, religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

The Open to All coalition is asking supporters to sign the petition and call on Congress to pass the Equality Act, which would update our laws to provide all people with full protection from discrimination.

It’s time for our nation’s laws to catch up to our nation’s values and protect all Americans from discrimination, so that no one can be fired from their job, denied a place to live, or turned away from a business simply because of who they are.

Two states pass laws that put agencies’ beliefs over best interests of children

Imagine an adoption agency keeping a child in a group home despite having a qualified and loving relative willing to adopt them simply because that relative is gay. Now imagine a counselor refusing to offer therapy to a transgender teen in care. Or a child welfare agency turning away a loving, qualified Jewish couple because they are Jewish?

Sound alarmist? It happened in South Carolina and the governor responded by putting the agency’s beliefs over the best interests of vulnerable children the agency. And, governors in two states (Oklahoma and Kansas) just signed laws allowing this to happen. These bills are the first anti-LGBT bills signed this legislative session, and are part of a greater trend to exploit vulnerable children in need of loving homes for political gain.

The reality is that these agencies are receiving taxpayer dollars while continuing to discriminate against children and families. Across the country, nine states have passed these license to discriminate laws that allow adoption and foster care agencies to make decisions for children in their care based on religious beliefs rather than on the best interests of the child.

These laws can hurt kids. Laws like these mean:

  • An agency could refuse to place a child with qualified parents in a loving, forever home, simply because those parents don’t meet the religious litmus test of the agency.
  • An agency could refuse to allow an orphaned child to be adopted by an extended family member like a gay uncle or a lesbian grandparent.
  • An agency could refuse to place LGBT youth with accepting parents, but could instead place them with parents who intend to force them into harmful conversion therapy.
  • An agency could decide to keep a child in a government group home rather than place them with a loving, qualified couple who don’t share the agency’s religious beliefs.

In September 2017, MAP authored a report Kids Pay the Price: How Religious Exemptions for Child Welfare Agencies Harm Children which found that there are nearly 428,000 children in foster care in the United States, over 111,000 of whom are awaiting adoption. Of those children, 53% had been waiting more than two years for a permanent home. Yet adoption discrimination laws protect workers and agencies who reject LGBT and other qualified parents simply because those parents fail to meet the religious criteria imposed by the agency, forcing children to pay the price of discrimination.

MAP is working with advocates on the ground to defeat these bills with adsstrategic, research-based messaging guidance and in-depth policy resources. For more information about MAP’s work to protect children from these dangerous bills, visit www.lgbtmap.org/adoption

Child welfare agencies should put kids first, always. But these kinds of harmful laws give child services workers a license to discriminate and deny children the loving, forever homes they need.

Majority of LGBT Americans Can Now Get an Accurate Birth Certificate Without Burdensome Requirements

Thanks to recent updates in Idaho and Florida, 51% of LGBT adults now live in states that issue new birth certificates without requiring sex reassignment surgery or a court order. Previously transgender people in these states had to provide proof of “sexual reassignment surgery,” while those living in Idaho could not get an updated birth certificate.  Now transgender people in Florida can provide a letter from a medical provider asserting they have undergone transition-related care to change their gender marker. In Idaho, transgender people must complete paperwork, and have it notarized—a simple and straightforward process.

The changes in these states are major milestones in the fight for equality for transgender and gender nonconforming people.

Official identity documents—such as drivers’ licenses, birth certificates, and passports—that do not match a transgender person’s gender identity greatly complicate that person’s life. According to the United States Transgender Survey, nearly one-third (32%) of respondents who have shown an ID with a name or gender that did not match their gender presentation were verbally harassed, denied benefits or service, asked to leave, or assaulted. A recent ad produced by MAP called “Movie Theater” depicts how transgender people can experience harassment, discrimination and denial of equal treatment in places of public accommodation. In it, a transgender man is the subject of harassment because his gender marker on his drivers’ license does not match his gender identity.

Thirty-one states either require proof of surgery, a court order, or have unclear policies regarding updating the gender markers on birth certificates. For some transgender people, requiring surgery is neither affordable nor desirable. And another three states do not allow for amending the gender marker on the birth certificate.

By eliminating this requirement for updating their birth certificates, these 16 states and the District of Columbia are making it easier for transgender people to go about their daily lives and to exist equally.

Read more about the updated requirements from Equality Florida: http://www.eqfl.org/transactionfl/birth-certificates and Lambda Legal: https://www.lambdalegal.org/blog/20180406_idaho-makes-history

Click here to visit MAP’s updated equality maps page to see where your state stands on identity document laws and policies, including requirements for updating gender markers: http://www.lgbtmap.org/equality-maps/identity_document_laws 

Fighting to Protect Kids in Care

Imagine an adoption agency keeping a child in a group home despite having a qualified and loving relative willing to adopt them simply because that relative is gay. Now imagine a counselor refusing to offer therapy to a transgender teen in care. Or a child welfare turning away a loving, qualified Jewish couple because they are Jewish?

Sound alarmist? It happened in South Carolina and the governor responded by protecting the agency.

Now imagine that these agencies are receiving taxpayer dollars while continuing to discriminate against children and families. Across the country, seven states have passed discriminatory and harmful laws that allow adoption and foster care agencies to make decisions for children in their care based on religious beliefs rather than on the best interests of the child. These laws create a license to discriminate and allow agencies to flatly refuse to consider well-qualified prospective families for child placement—and still receive government funding.

Three states passed these laws last year, and we’ve seen several states consider this type of legislation in 2018. These laws can hurt kids. Laws like these mean:

  • An agency could refuse to place a child with qualified parents in a loving, forever home, simply because those parents are gay or lesbian.
  • An agency could refuse to allow an orphaned child to be adopted by an extended family member like a gay uncle or a lesbian grandparent.
  • An agency could refuse to place LGBT youth with accepting parents, but could instead place them with parents who intend to force them into harmful conversion therapy.
  • An agency could decide to keep a child in a government group home rather than place them with a loving, qualified couple who don’t share the agency’s religious beliefs.

In September 2017, MAP authored a report Kids Pay the Price: How Religious Exemptions for Child Welfare Agencies Harm Children which found that there are nearly 428,000 children in foster care in the United States, over 111,000 of whom are awaiting adoption. Of those children, 53% had been waiting more than two years for a permanent home. Yet adoption discrimination laws protect workers and agencies who reject LGBT and other qualified parents simply because those parents fail to meet the religious criteria imposed by the agency, forcing children to pay the price of discrimination.

Earlier this month, an adoption discrimination bill in Georgia was stalled, however, adoption discrimination bills in Kansas and Oklahoma continue to advance, and we’re watching these closely.

MAP is working with advocates on the ground to defeat these bills with ads, strategic, research-based messaging guidance and in-depth policy resources. For more information about MAP’s work to protect children from these dangerous bills, visit www.lgbtmap.org/adoption

Child welfare agencies should put kids first, always. But these kinds of harmful laws give child services workers a license to discriminate and deny children the loving, forever homes they need.

NEW AD: 50 Years Later: Will We Go Back?

Fifty years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court issued one of its fastest rulings ever in a landmark case, Newman v. Piggie Park Enterprises. Piggie Park, a small barbeque chain which is still open today, wanted the right to refuse service to African American customers. The owner, a segregationist, claimed that the Civil Rights Act violated his religious freedom.

The Supreme Court delivered a resounding rebuke of the barbecue chain on March 18, 1968, definitively ruling that the restaurant could no longer discriminate.

Sound familiar? That’s because it is.

Now, fifty years later, in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. The Colorado Civil Rights Commission, a Colorado bakery that discriminated against a gay couple in violation of Colorado law is claiming it should be exempt from the state’s nondiscrimination law due to the religious beliefs of its owner.

To mark the fifty-year anniversary of the Piggie Park decision, the Open to All campaign, MAP, and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights released a new ad, “Will We Go Back?,” that looks at how a current case before the Supreme Court threatens this historic ruling. The ad was released as part of Open to All Week, March 12-18, commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the landmark decision. Learn more about the Piggie Park case and how creating a constitutional license to discriminate in Masterpiece could undermine that historic ruling against discrimination.

Read the story in the Huffington Post “Supreme Court’s Cake Case Could Set America Back 50 Years, Activists Warn

A win for the bakery in Masterpiece threatens the historic legacy of the Piggie Park decision, and could take us back to a shameful era in our nation’s history, an era where businesses could claim a right to discriminate as they see fit—not just for LGBT people, but for people of color, minority faiths, people with disabilities, and women.

Businesses and their owners have a right to their religious beliefs—but that freedom shouldn’t give businesses a license to discriminate.

Take Action:

  • WATCH “Will We Go Back?” and share on social media. Visit www.opentoall.com/sharefor all the shareable Open to All resources.
  • READ about the parallels between the cases and why Masterpiece has the potential to alter our nation’s civil rights laws in “50 Years Ago vs. Today: Piggie Park & The High Stakes of the Masterpiece Cakeshop Case”
  • VOICE your support for Open to All Week over social media throughout the week with the hashtag #OpentoAllWeek. And follow Open to All on Twitter and Facebook for new content throughout the week.
  • SIGN UP for breaking news, ways to take action in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, and to add your support for the Open to All Coalition.
  • SIGN the ACLU’s People’s Petition and tell the Supreme Court to reject discrimination.
  • DONATE and support more ads like “Will We Go Back?”