Tuesday, May 24, 2011

URGENT: Tell Sen. Toni Boucher to Support Transgender Rights

Are you from Westport, Bethel, New Canaan, Redding, Ridgefield, Weston, or Wilton?  Then you can be critical in helping pass transgender rights in Connecticut.

Last week, the Connecticut State House passed HB 6599: An Act Concerning Discrimination.  This important bill would add "gender identity or expression" to the state's anti-discrimination statute, protecting transgender people from discrimination in employment, education, housing, public accommodations and credit.

The bill now goes to the State Senate, where they may be voting on it as early as this week.  We need to make sure it passes so that our transgender friends and family may be treated fairly in the Nutmeg State.

If you live in the aforementioned towns, your State Senator is Toni Boucher (R), the Deputy Minority Leader.  Though she is a Republican, she voted for marriage equality in 2009 - thus it is clear that she cares about equal rights.  However, when asked in 2008 whether Connecticut should "include gender identity in Connecticut's anti-discrimination laws," she answered "not sure."

Please contact Sen. Boucher and ask her to vote for HB 6599, as written, without any amendments that would weaken the bill.  It would be incredibly significant for a prominent Republican in Connecticut politics to vote in favor of LGBT rights: let's do everything we can to make sure she does!

You can write to Sen. Boucher here: I am going to do so as soon as I publish this post, and I strongly encourage all other constituents reading this to do so as well.

When filling out the information, choose "Bill (indicate below)" for the issue.  Courtesy of CT Equality, here is a script you can use for the Comment section - however, a personalized, unique message goes much further.

As you probably know, on May 19, the House passed HB 6599: An Act Concerning Discrimination. I am writing to urge you to vote for HB 6599 when it comes up for a vote in the Senate, without amendments. This is an issue of basic fairness and equality for the transgender residents of our state. Everyone should be protected from discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations and credit--we all deserve equal access to the building blocks of life and livelihoods, such as a job and a place to live. No one should live in fear of losing their job for any reason unrelated to job performance, including transgender people. Connecticut can affirm its commitment to providing equality and fairness by adding gender identity and gender expression to its non-discrimination statutes.

Will you support HB 6599 as written? I look forward to hearing back from you. Thank you for your time and attention to this important matter.

You can also call Sen. Boucher's office at 1-800-842-1421.

Please contact Sen. Boucher as soon as possible and ask her to support HB 6599 so that transgender people in Connecticut will be protected from discrimination.

If you do not live in Boucher's district, click here to find out who your state senator is, and contact him or her about this important legislation.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Gallup: Majority Supports Marriage Equality

According to Gallup's 2011 Values and Beliefs poll, a majority of Americans support the freedom to marry for gay couples - a first since Gallup started tracking the issue in 1996.

Gallup found that 53% of Americans support marriage equality, while only 45% oppose legalizing gay marriage - a majority of 8%.  This represents a nine-point change over last year's numbers.

69% of Democrats and 59% of Independents support marriage equality, while only 28% of Republicans do (a number that is unchanged from last year's poll).

A whopping 70% of people ages 18-34 support marriage equality, while 53% of people ages 35-54 do, and only 39% of people ages 55+.

Women continue to support marriage equality more strongly than men across all age groups.

This is just the latest in a series of polls that have shown Americans turning towards marriage equality exponentially: those who oppose equality for gay couples are in the minority, and it is very encouraging to see our fellow Americans recognizing us as equals who deserve to be treated as such under the law.

Now, here's an interesting question: how many polls have to show majority support for marriage equality before it becomes a non-event?  In other words, when will there come a time that seeing a poll that shows majority support for equality is so obvious and expected that it's not even worth blogging about?  Just something to think about.

Regardless, Gallup - one of the most reliable and respected polling firms in the world - confirms what we already knew to be true: that Americans support equality for LGBT people and LGBT couples.  It is time for Congress and President Obama to follow the public's lead and repeal the "Defense of Marriage Act" and allow all couples to be treated equally under state and federal law.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Conn. State House Passes Gender Identity Protections

According to CT Equality, the Connecticut State House has passed HB 6599: An Act Concerning Discrimination by a vote of 77-62.

HB 6599 would add "gender identity or expression" to the state's anti-discrimination statute, protecting transgender people from discrimination in employment, education, housing, public accommodations and credit.  This is a very important bill for transgender people, one we must work hard to make sure it reaches the Governor's desk.

Importantly, the bill was passed without any amendments that would alter or weaken the legislation.  The bill now goes to the State Senate and, if passed, onto Gov. Dannel Malloy's (D) desk.

You can find the roll call for tonight's vote here.  It brings me great pleasure to say that, after telling me by email that he would support the bill, Rep. Jonathan Steinberg - my state representative - was one of the 77 legislators to vote for equality.

Momentum is on our side - let's not waste it: if you live in Connecticut, please contact your state senator and tell him or her to vote in favor of equality for transgender people.

Rhode Island House Passes Civil Unions Bill

The Rhode Island state House passed a civil unions bill today by an overwhelming majority of 62-11.

The legislation would allow gay couples to enter into civil unions, which would give them the same rights under the state as married couples; gay couples would not be allowed to marry.

The bill now goes to the Rhode Island state Senate, where Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed has predicted it will pass; Gov. Lincoln Chaffee (I) has said he would sign the bill.

This legislation was fairly controversial, as many pro-equality advocates came out against the bill under the belief that civil unions create separate and unequal institutions that treat gay couples as second-class citizens.

A bill that would allow gay couples to marry in Rhode Island failed earlier this month after it was determined that there were not enough votes for the bill to pass.  An amendment was introduced to the civil unions bill to turn it into a marriage bill, but this amendment was shot down before the final vote.

It is unfortunate that this legislation would retain gay couples as second-class citizens who cannot marry as their straight friends can; however, it is still something worth working for, as many gay couples need the rights civil unions would allow, such as hospital visitation rights.

Civil unions are a stepping stone: they are a means to an end, not an end in themselves.  We will have marriage equality in Rhode Island, perhaps not this year, but certainly soon.  It is a question not of "if," but of "when."  We should work to pass the civil unions bill this year, with the knowledge and determination that full marriage equality will come swiftly after it.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Conn. State House May Vote on Transgender Protections Soon

CT Equality is reporting that the Connecticut State House may vote on HB 6599: An Act Concerning Discrimination soon, perhaps as early as this week.  This important bill would add "gender identity or expression" to the state's anti-discrimination statute, protecting them from discrimination in employment, education, housing, public accommodations and credit.

The House Judiciary Committee already passed the bill last month, 27 to 14, without amendments.  However, we need to make sure we have enough support in the full House to get the bill passed, without amendments.

If you live in Connecticut, please take a moment to contact your legislator (you can find out who your state representative is here) and tell him or her to support HB 6599 without any amendments.  It's very easy and very helpful; I already contacted my state rep, Jonathan Steinberg, and was very happy to hear that he supports this legislation.

You can find more information on how to lobby your state rep on this bill here.

Our friends in the transgender community need our help to ensure they are treated fairly and equally: please contact your state lawmaker today and urge him or her to support HB 6599.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Sec. Clinton Condemns Homophobia and Transphobia

As part of today's International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (more commonly referred to as IDAHO), Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has issued a statement on behalf of the Obama administration to "reaffirm our support for LGBT communities at home and abroad, and to call for an end to discrimination and mistreatment of LGBT persons wherever it occurs."

It is always nice to see the administration openly supporting LGBT rights.  However, the fact remains that, even as we condemn homophobia abroad (from a distance, one must note), there are still many inequalities faced by LGBT people right here in the United States.  LGBT couples are forced apart by discriminatory immigration laws, LGBT still cannot serve in the military (and even after "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is repealed, transgender people will still be barred from open service), and there is no federal law prohibiting employment discrimination against LGBT people.

As Secretary Clinton says, "let us resolve to redouble our efforts."  There is a lot of work to be done, both at home and abroad, to ensure that LGBT people are treated fairly and equally.  We cannot wait for someone else to come along and do that work for us: we must answer the call ourselves and work every day for equality around the world.

Read the full statement below:

In every part of the world, men and women are persecuted and attacked because of who they are or whom they love. Homophobia, transphobia and the brutal hostility associated with them are often rooted in a lack of understanding of what it actually means to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT). So to combat this terrible scourge and break the cycle of fear and violence, we must work together to improve education and support those who stand up against laws that criminalize love and promote hate. As we mark the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia this May 17, let us resolve to redouble our efforts.

On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I am proud to reaffirm our support for LGBT communities at home and abroad, and to call for an end to discrimination and mistreatment of LGBT persons wherever it occurs. Whether by supporting LGBT advocates marching in Belgrade, leading the effort at the United Nations to affirm the human rights of LGBT persons, or condemning a vile law under consideration in Uganda, we are committed to our friends and allies in every region of the world who are fighting for equality and justice. These are not Western concepts; these are universal human rights.

Despite these gains and hard work, there is more to do to turn the tide of inequality and discrimination against the LGBT community. If you are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, know that the United States stands with you and we are unwavering in our commitment to ending this cycle of hate.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell Signs Civil Unions Into Law

One month after the Delaware state legislature passed a law granting civil unions to same-sex couples by wide margins, Gov. Jack Markell (D) signed the bill into law at a signing ceremony attended by over 600 supporters of equality.

According to the Associated Press, the law will take effect on Jan. 1, 2012, making Delaware the eighth state to grant civil unions or domestic partnerships to gay couples.  Another five states and the District of Columbia grant full marriage equality (albeit without federal protections thanks to the "Defense of Marriage Act"), and a few more grant limited rights and protections to gay couples.

This is a major victory for all supporters of equality in Delaware, and it should be appropriately celebrated as such.  However, separate is not equal, and the fact that a separate institution outside of marriage is being created for gay couples is a solemn reminder that we are not yet equal, in Delaware or anywhere else in this country.

If we want full equality for gay couples, we need full equality in the institution of marriage, and that includes repealing the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

With Hawaii, 25% of States Have Transgender Protections

Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D) signed into law today House Bill 546, which prohibits discrimination based on gender identity in employment and as a matter of public policy.  The Hawaii state House voted to pass the bill by an overwhelming majority last month.

Hawaii already has gender identity protections in the areas of housing and public accommodations.  Protections from discrimination based on sexual orientation have existed in Hawaii for two decades.

Hawaii becomes the 13th state (along with the District of Columbia) to protect transgender people in employment, housing, and public accommodations.  As HRC's Jeremy Pittman writes, that means that 25% of American states protect transgender people.  Of course, it's not enough until 100% of them do, but it's a milestone and cause for celebration.

These are the 13 states that protect transgender people in employment, housing, and public acccommodations:

New Jersey
New Mexico
Rhode Island

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

DOMA Repeal Could Pass Senate Committee

According to the Washington Blade, repeal of the so-called "Defense of Marriage Act" - formally titled the "Respect for Marriage Act" - has enough votes to pass the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The news comes after Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wisc.) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), both of whom have a seat on the Judiciary Committee, announced their support for the bill; DOMA Repeal now has at least 10 votes in that committee, enough to move the bill to the Senate floor for a full vote.

Act on Principles' public whip count - which is good for feeling out support for a bill but doesn't do a great job of giving exact numbers - shows 20 cosponsors for the "Respect for Marriage Act," and 35 senators "leaning yes."  (I suppose that should now read 22 and 33.)  That means that we may have as many as 55 votes for DOMA Repeal in the Senate, putting us just 5 votes shy of a filibuster-proof majority.

According to the Blade, we need 7 Republicans to support DOMA Repeal in order to pass the legislation; this doesn't fit with Act on Principles' numbers, but the fact remains that we need Republican support for this bill.  Moderate Republicans like Snowe, Collins, Murkowski, and Kirk - all of whom voted to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" last year - are possibilities.

While the bill may pass in the Senate (with a lot of hard work from all in the LGBT community - the kind of work we saw on DADT last year), it is most likely not going to pass in the Republican-controlled House.  However, this does not mean we should not try to get DOMA Repeal passed in the Senate: it would send a message that opponents of marriage equality are in the minority, just like recent polls have shown, and that their days of tyrannical rule over the minority are numbered.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who sponsored the legislation, says she does not know when the bill will come up for a vote, but let's not waste any time: call your senators and tell them to support repeal of the discriminatory "Defense of Marriage Act" - and if they already do, then thank them for their support.