The Task Force applauds the recent confirmations by the U.S. Senate of Chai Feldblum as a member of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Rep. Mel Watt to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency and Cornelia Pillard to serve as judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
“We are extremely pleased with these recent Senate confirmations,” said Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. “Each of these individuals will play a critical role in the execution of democracy and justice for our nation. We thank the Obama Administration for putting forward these eminently qualified individuals and the Senate leadership for leading the confirmation process to completion.”
Chai Feldblum was reappointed to a second term on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. She is the first openly lesbian Commissioner of the EEOC and over the span of her career has made historic contributions to the advancement of equality and justice in the LGBT and the disability rights movements, particularly her leadership role in drafting the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and ADA Amendments Act of 2008. More recently Commissioner Feldblum led the pivotal Macy v Holder decision that the sex discrimination provisions of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protect transgender people.
Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.) has been confirmed to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the federal agency that oversees the housing mortgage industry. Congressman Watt has served in congress for over 20 years and is a champion of responsible lending and affordable homeownership for working people.
Cornelia “Nina” Pillard was confirmed to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Professor Pillard argued important cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, including U.S. v. Virginia, where she successfully argued that Virginia Military Institute’s men-only admissions policy violated Equal Protection, and Nevada Department of Human Resources v. Hibbs, which upheld the right of a man to take unpaid leave to care for his sick wife under the FMLA.
“We are pleased that nominees are moving more swiftly through the Senate confirmation process and eagerly await the Senate’s action on remaining judicial and executive nominees. Our nation’s overburdened court system needs these judges to take their seats on the bench and federal agencies need leadership at the helm to direct them in the execution of responsible policymaking and enforcement,” urged Carey.
The announcement of a budget deal on Tuesday was met with modest appreciation in all corners. Quite simply, it doesn’t do a whole heck of a lot. In fact, perhaps its biggest accomplishments are in what it didn’t do: Republicans kept their hands off of Medicare and Social Security, and Democrats decided not to press for the removal of corporate loopholes. All that restraint allowed the deal to come to fruition a whopping three days before the deadline, hopefully preventing another last-minute showdown like the ones we’ve seen in recent years.
There are a few big-ticket items in the deal that will have broad impact. For example, the proposal eliminates $45 billion in forced budget cuts. That means that some of the pain of the “sequester” will be relieved. For the nearly 3 million federal employees scattered across the country (and the world), this comes as a welcome reprieve.
On the other hand, the budget deal is missing one item that is going to hit the wallet of millions of our most vulnerable neighbors. The budget deal fails to extend benefits for the long-term unemployed. Expiring in just a few weeks, the benefits go to folks who have been unemployed for more than 26 weeks, and have therefore exhausted their state benefits. In a stunning leap of logic, Representative Rand Paul explained to Fox News viewers last weekend that while he supports unemployment benefits for the first 26 weeks, “If you extend it beyond that, you do a disservice to these workers.” Apparently, being able to pay your rent and utility bills for more than 26 weeks is not in best interest of “these workers.”
Tucked in at the bottom of the deal there’s a quiet little victory for the LGBT community. Back in April, President Obama’s budget proposal called for a change to the Federal Employee Health Benefits (FEHB) program that would allow federal employees to choose “self plus one” health coverage. Although the provision applies to all federal employees, its inclusion is a boon for LGB employees, particularly for those of us who live in states that don’t recognize the marriages of same-sex partners. With “self plus one” coverage, same-sex domestic partners will be eligible for health coverage to an unprecedented extent.
Are you spending the holidays with your family? Felipe isn’t.
Felipe, a gay man from Brazil, came to the U.S. to live with his older sister because his mom was sick and could no longer take care of him. Unable to move here legally, Felipe’s mom has missed countless Christmases, birthdays and even Felipe’s wedding. While Felipe is awaiting his green card, his sister is still undocumented. Felipe fears that he will soon be forced to live without her, just like he lives without his mother.
The holidays are a time of year when families are reunited and we get a chance to appreciate all the blessings we have. However, millions of families across the country will be faced with at least one empty seat at the table this year. Every day, 1,100 families are torn apart due to our country’s broken immigration.
You can help by spreading the word and sending an e-card that tells the story of families torn apart, people being brutalized and children living in fear because of this antiquated system.
As a nation, we pride ourselves on keeping families united, and our immigration policies should reflect our commitment to keep families together – all families. The LGBT community is standing side-by-side with our allies in the immigrant rights community to pass comprehensive reform because immigration is an LGBT issue.
There are 11 million women, men and children – including an estimated 267,000 LGBT immigrants – whose lives hang in the balance while Congress sits on their hands. LGBT immigrants face unique challenges. Many of them come to America because they face serious violence or persecution in their home countries due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. Once here, however, they have difficulties navigating the asylum-filing process and are vulnerable to discrimination, abuse and injustice in detention centers.
Unfortunately, there are thousands of LGBT immigrants in the U.S. who face unspeakable hardships. People like Krypcia, a transgender woman who came to the U.S. because she knew she could not transition safely in her native country of El Salvador. After establishing a life here, Krypcia was detained for falling out of legal immigration status. Although no criminal charges were brought against her, she spent nearly eight grueling months in solitary confinement because officials didn’t want to house her with other male or female detainees. Now, Krypcia is thankful to be her true self in a country she calls home, but there are still millions of people who desperately need immigration reform.
It’s time for Congress to put the political pettiness aside and allow a vote to help fix this broken system for good. Families should no longer have to spend the holidays missing their loved ones or scared they will be torn apart. Help us share Felipe’s and Krypcia’s stories and the stories of other LGBT immigrants whose lives have been torn apart because of our nation’s failed immigration policies. Send an e-card and sign the pledge to demand Congress act now to pass immigration reform that keeps families together.
By Rea Carey, Executive Director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
As we celebrate International Human Rights Day, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in the United States has much to celebrate. Yet every victory we achieve, makes clearer the inequalities that remain – the painful gap between progress and true freedom. Today, in 2013, we can still be fired for who we are and who we love. We can be separated from our families because of our broken immigration system. We can still be turned away at the polling station because of our gender identity and the color of our skin. We have much more to do, around the world and right here at home.
By Rea Carey, Executive Director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
Nelson Mandela was an inspiration to the millions of people who yearn for freedom across the world. With great personal sacrifice, he fought Apartheid and state-sanctioned racism. His principled approach, his willingness to reach out to former enemies, led to the introduction of multi-party democracy and real change in South Africa. Indeed, South Africa’s post-apartheid constitution was the first in the world to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation. His legacy is hope; hope that people can achieve peace and freedom in a world with more than its fair share of conflict.
President Barack Obama this week reaffirmed that he will fight to make the Affordable Care Act (ACA) works despite opposition from those against quality health care for all.
“Access to quality health care is a right and Obamacare is a giant step towards delivering that right to all Americans,” said Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund. “We stand with the President in his unshakable commitment to this fundamental component of a transformed society. We also encourage everyone to fully educate themselves on how to access the benefits of the Affordable Care Act.”
Obamacare is vitally important for LGBT individuals and families.
- For the first time, the health care law extends federal non-discrimination protections on the basis of sex to the health care system. The Department of Health and Human Services has clarified that sex-based discrimination protections include protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
- Starting in January 2014, each state will have a Health Benefit Exchange, a health insurance “supermarket” where individuals and families can buy quality health care plans at an affordable price.
- No state’s exchange may discriminate against consumers on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or other factors such as race, ethnicity, primary language or disability. This includes protections from discrimination in benefits design, enrollment, marketing or any aspect of the exchange.
- These same protections apply to any plan that is required to meet the “Essential Health Benefits” Standard — a basic minimum list of coverage requirements for most health plans offered in the country. This means that the ACA has radically changed the way the insurance industry treats LGBT people.
- Starting in 2014 insurance companies cannot deny health care coverage simply because you have a pre-existing condition, which will ensure that transgender people and people with HIV will be able to get the health care coverage they need.
Read more about how the Affordable Care Act improves health care access for low-income and LGBT individuals here.
Read more information about ACA options for the LGBT community here.
Read a guide for LGBT people choosing health care plans here.
Fast for Families is an action to highlight the need for fair immigration reform. For more than 20 days, SEIU’s Eliseo Medina, NAKASEC’s Dae Joong Yoon, DREAMer and Mi Familia Vota’s Cristian Avila, and Sojourner’s Lisa Sharon Harper have fasted in front of the U.S. Capitol and their actions have sparked a nationwide movement including more than 5,000 solidarity fasters from coast to coast.
“The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force stands in solidarity with those who are fasting for fair immigration reform. We are united with these friends and allies in demanding justice for the over 11 million undocumented immigrants — more than a quarter of a million of whom are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender — who long for a pathway to citizenship and access to the American Dream. Fasting is an age-old practice in many faith traditions that seeks to draw attention to injustice in our midst. It shines a light on those who are too often confined to life in the shadows and exposes the brokenness of systems that keep others on the margins. Our various faith traditions share in common a belief in the inherent dignity of human life and call us to act for justice,” Javen Swanson, Interim Faith Work Director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.