EEOC hands down historic win
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Marking a landmark federal workplace rights victory, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled April 24 in a 5-0 decision that an employer who discriminates against a transgender employee or job applicant because of the person’s gender identity is practicing illegal sex discrimination based on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This is the first time the EEOC has ruled that anti-transgender discrimination is sex discrimination.
The case was brought by the Transgender Law Center on behalf of their client Mia Macy (pictured, with credit to GLAAD) who was denied a job as a ballistics technician at the Walnut Creek, Calif., laboratory of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives due to her transgender status.
Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, observed, “This ruling is a major advancement in transgender rights that will provide a significant tool to fight discrimination. It will also help us advocate for still needed protections like the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and the federal contractors executive order.”
— David Stout
Obama backs bullying bills
WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Barack Obama has publicly thrown his support behind both the Student Non-Discrimination Act and the Safe Schools Improvement Act. SNDA would prohibit public elementary and secondary schools from discriminating against any student on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. SSIA would amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to require schools and districts receiving federal funds to specifically ban bullying and harassment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Discrimination and bullying against students based on sexual orientation and gender identity contributes to high dropout rates, absenteeism, adverse health consequences and academic underachievement.
Federal and constitutional protections expressly address discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex and disability, but do not expressly address sexual orientation or gender identity. As a result, students and parents have limited legal recourse to fight such bias.
— David Stout
Prison Bureau affirms LGBT workers
WASHINGTON, D.C. — In a groundbreaking move, the Federal Bureau of Prisons has announced that every federal prison in the U.S. will appoint an LGBT representative to their longstanding Affirmative Employment Program. The BOP employs approximately 40,000 nationwide, and until now, the LGBT staff did not have a designated representative in the program.
With this change, each of the more than 120 BOP facilities is required to hold at least one event per year to educate and inform the staff about LGBT diversity issues. The directive also requires each facility to designate one person as the LGBT Special Emphasis Program Manager, to ensure that equal opportunity issues and concerns affecting LGBT employees are adequately addressed.
The announcement comes just one year after Brian Winfield, managing director of Equality Florida, met with a small team of employees at Florida’s Coleman Federal Correctional Complex to plan the first-ever LGBT staff event within the BOP. With the support of senior officials at the correctional complex, Winfield and the team hosted a Gay Pride Month event last June.
— David Stout
Radio shows get assistance
SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — The Prometheus Radio Project is now providing information and support in assisting organizations and community centers in their quest to develop community-based radio stations.
Project resources say that this radio platform is transformative. It helps people connect, share local news and events and participate in decisions that impact their lives. Ninety percent of Americans use radio at least once a week, making it the most common point of connection today.
Over a thousand new licenses will be made available over the next year and the Project says that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
These targeted signals represent a major opportunity for LGBT organizations to amplify their messages and reach new audiences. LGBTQ centers are ideal locations for these affordable radio stations which will further extend the community’s voice.
The Prometheus Radio Project, a non-profit organization, seeks to educate and support groups in applying for licenses and getting on air. They held a webinar on Queering the Airwaves on May 3.
For more information, visit prometheusradio.org.
— Lainey Millen
Gov. fights service members
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) and his Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, which is defending the so-called Defense of Marriage Act against a federal court challenge, now want to intervene in McLaughlin v. U.S., a federal court case filed in October 2011 by eight married gay and lesbian service members and veterans seeking equal recognition, support and benefits for all military families.
In February, Chief Warrant Officer (CW2) Morgan, a member of the New Hampshire National Guard and a plaintiff in McLaughlin v. U.S. who is battling incurable stage IV breast cancer, traveled to Washington, D.C. to share her story on Capitol Hill and ask Boehner not to intervene in the case.
“Should I not survive this bout with cancer, my wife Karen will not receive any survivor’s benefits, social security benefits or health insurance coverage. Karen is a stay-at-home mom, taking care of our four-year old daughter while I undergo chemotherapy. Now, after fighting for my country in Iraq and fighting for my life with this illness, I am forced to fight the Speaker of the House in order to make sure that my family is cared for when I am gone. It’s shameful,” Morgan said after learning of the Advisory Group’s decision.
— David Stout
Global IDAHO observances planned
PARIS, France — On May 17, a wide spectrum of actions and events will be held around the world to mark the annual observance of the International Day Against Homophobia & Transphobia, commonly known as IDAHO. From festivals to flash mobs, from rallies to public forums, organizers assert that “there is no end to the diversity and sheer scope of creative and innovative activities being planned in what is sure to be the biggest and best IDAHO yet!”
In the Philippines, Philippine LGBT Hate Crime Watch is organizing a march to the Commission of Human Rights to present an updated list of murdered Filipino LGBTs. They will also call on the government to fight hate crimes against LGBT people. Moroccan LGBT organization GayMaroc plans to launch its national campaign to repeal Article 489, which criminalizes same-sex relationships. Haiti will see its first IDAHO celebration marked with LGBT movie screenings and a conference on sexual orientation and gender-based discrimination in Port-au-Prince.
For a full list of global IDAHO activities and ways that you can participate, go to dayagainsthomophobia.org.
— David Stout