News Notes: Beyond the Carolinas
Deportation policy a step forward
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Obama Administration is implementing new procedures for assessing deportation and removal cases. The changes are expected to aid immigrants with U.S. citizen spouses and children who pose no threat to national security or public safety. Gay equality activists say this prosecutorial discretion may provide some protection and relief for LGBT immigrants and their families.
Homeland Security will conduct case-by-case reviews of the nearly 300,000 current deportation and removal cases. “Too many of these cases involve LGBT immigrants who have U.S. citizen spouses and children. The new procedures, which are LGBT-inclusive, should keep immigration officials from unnecessarily tearing apart bi-national same-sex couples, and provide an opportunity for LGBT immigrants to emphasize their ties to a U.S. citizen spouse in removal proceedings,” said Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal, a staff attorney with Lambda Legal
“This is a step in the right direction, but the new procedures do not change the legal landscape for most LGBT immigrants. Because of DOMA, bi-national same-sex couples are still unfairly denied the right, afforded to different-sex couples, to request immigration protection and relief for a foreign-born spouse. Next step: DOMA should be declared unconstitutional or repealed.”
Youth home settles trans lawsuit
PHILADELPHIA — Lambda Legal has settled the discrimination complaint it filed with the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations against the city’s Department of Human Services and the Youth Study Center among others. The group filed the complaint on behalf of L.P. a now 18-year-old transgender woman who was physically attacked by other residents and verbally abused by staff every day for almost a year and a half when she lived in the youth facility.
Despite a 2008 Family Court order mandating that L.P. be given access to appropriate medical treatment for Gender Identity Disorder and that her female gender identity be respected, YSC staff and administrators continually subjected L.P. to ridicule and degrading treatment. Even worse, they allowed abuse by residents on a daily basis.
Catholic Charities rebuffed by court
CHICAGO — On Aug. 18, the Circuit Court for the Seventh Judicial District held that the State of Illinois could decline to renew its contracts with four dioceses of Catholic Charities that refuse to place foster children with same-sex couples. On June 1, the Illinois Religious Freedom and Civil Union Act took effect, providing couples who enter a civil union the rights of marriage on a state level. The dioceses of Springfield, Peoria, Joliet and Rockford refused to recognize the law on religious grounds. They filed suit June 7 in a bid to force the state to continue funding their foster care services. The court issued a swift decision on procedural grounds that the state acted within its rights.
About the decision Lambda Legal Marriage Project Director Camilla Taylor stated, “This is the right result. … Illinois correctly determined that this practice was bad for kids, could deny many of them their best opportunity for a better life, and that the state’s obligation was to make the transition to other providers as seamless as possible.”
Trevor honored by Administration
WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Aug. 25, the Obama Administration honored The Trevor Project as a leading innovator in the realm of suicide prevention as part of its “Champions of Change” initiative. The Trevor Project was the leading organization selected for this honor specifically representing youth suicide prevention and crisis intervention among LGBT and questioning youth.
Accepting the honor and speaking with Administration officials about priorities for improving suicide prevention nationally was David McFarland, interim executive director and CEO of The Trevor Project. The ceremony was held 10 days prior to National Suicide Prevention Week, Sept. 4-10, 2011.
College admission question lauded
ELMHURST, Ill. — Elmhurst College, a private four-year liberal arts college, is the first U.S. institution of higher education to ask a demographic question about identity on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity on a college admission form. Their decision reflects a conscious choice by administrators at the college to actively include LGBT students in the broader life of the college and its campus.
“The move by Elmhurst administrators to include this question represents a distinct and unique paradigm shift in higher education to actively recognize out LGBT youth populations and to exercise greater responsibility for LGBT student safety,” said Shane Windmeyer, executive director of the Charlotte-based Campus Pride. “For the first time, an American college has taken efforts to identify their LGBT students from the very first moment those students have official contact with them. This is definite progress in the right direction — and deserves praise.”
Dutch fund major AIDS plan
AMSTERDAM, The Netherlands — The Netherlands has launched the world’s largest international HIV/AIDS program aimed at LGBT people, drug users and sex workers. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has reserved 35 million euros to help the three targeted groups in 16 countries access information, condoms, antiretroviral treatment and care. The program will start in September and be implemented by seven Dutch organizations. Along with the government grant another 11.7 million euros has been raised for the campaign from other sources.
Supporters said The Dutch government’s decision to reserve funds for the project is critical because it means a continuation of the “Dutch approach” to international AIDS relief, where access to prevention and care in combination with the decriminalization of drug use, homosexuality and sex work is central.
The 16 targeted countries include territories in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America (Brazil, Costa Rica and Ecuador).