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Justice For Jane: Transgender 16 year old Girl Incarcerated As Adult Without Charges

May 15, 2014

Transgender 16 year old Girl Incarcerated As Adult Without ChargesIn April, a sixteen year old African American transgender girl (known as Jane Doe) alleged to be too violent by the Department of Children and Families (DCF) was sent to Connecticut’s York Correctional Institution for adults.  She was sent there without a criminal charge or conviction after an altercation that allegedly injured a DCF worker. She was also held in solitary confinement for two weeks for up to 22 to 23 hours per day in the adult institution until the court ruled on where to place here. Because of advocacy on her behalf, the court placed her in a women’s adult facility, instead of a men’s adult facility–which is normally what would have happened.

On Wednesday, April 14, Jane was moved from the mental health unit of the York Correctional Institution but the fact still remains that she is in an adult facility as a minor with many needs. Jane had already experienced abuse and trauma as most youth do prior to entering the DCF system. Also, the worker that was allegedly injured according to DCF accounts was able to fill out a report thirty minutes after the incident. It just doesn’t seem like the injuries could have been that extreme.

According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, “Injustice at Every Turn,” transgender women of color were particularly vulnerable to sexual assault in jail/prison. Thirty-eight percent (38%) of Black MTF respondents reported being sexually assaulted by either another inmate or a staff member in jail/prison. It is still horrific. How can this particular youth be any different than any other youth in the DCF system? Why should she have been transferred to an adult system and not other youth that display the exact same behavior in the DCF system?

Unfortunately, we know this is the rule rather than the exception when it comes to trans women of color. We’ve seen this happen far too often, most recently with Ce Ce McDonald. Even more dismaying in Jane Doe’s case is that she doesn’t have a lot of family to advocate for her.

You can support Jane by signing this petition started by the Yale Undergraduate Prison Project. You can also follow the Facebook page, J4J: Justice For Jane, and the Twitter account, @Justice4JaneCT, for further updates on her case. The Task Force’s Trans Civil Rights Project will continue to closely monitor her case and advocate on her behalf.  Follow us on Twitter at @TheTaskForce for further updates.

By helping spread the word about Jane Doe’s case, you can help us build a movement that will end the unfair criminalization of transgender people of color and all LGBTQ people.

by Kylar Broadus, Senior Public Policy Counsel, Trans Civil Rights Project

It’s Personal: Moving Immigration Reform Forward for AAPI Heritage Month

May 13, 2014
Moof Mayeda

By Moof Mayeda, Task Force Deputy Director of the Academy for Leadership and Action

This month is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) heritage month and it is a time for reflection on both our past and on the future we would like to see. As the Task Force’s Deputy Director of the Academy for Leadership and Action, I work every day organizing grassroots campaigns to bring justice and liberation to all LGBTQ people, including the  more than 250,000 undocumented LGBTQ immigrants in this country.  And as a queer, Japanese American, gender non-conforming person, I am passionate about building an LGBTQ movement that celebrates our diverse identities and our diverse heritage.

During World War II, one side of my family was in Japan and the other was in the United States. My paternal grandmother, Yoshiye Mayeda, who was born and raised in the US, was put in an internment camp while her husband served in the Military Intelligence Service with other Japanese Americans. After the war ended, my maternal grandmother, Haruko Miyamoto, moved her while family from Japan to the US, including my mom, who was just a kid at the time. When other Japanese Americans ask me what generation I am (a fairly common question, in my experience), I’m not sure what to say, because it’s complicated and different on each side of the family. I sometimes tell them I’m “no sé,” which is a Spanish take on “Nikkei” (second generation) that means “I don’t know.” Like many other Japanese Americans, the men in my family were gardeners, because it was often the only work they could get, regardless of their educational or employment background. Whether or not you’re documented, immigrants face social, political, and economic barriers. What my family’s story taught me is that my American-ness can be challenged at any time because of my race.

As we celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, I reflect on my family’s history in this country and about our nation’s broken immigration system. Through the Task Force’s Naming Our Destiny program, which builds the power of queer and trans people of color organizations, I worked with API Equality LA on an immigration reform campaign. I helped them plan and execute weekly phone banks to call their members and get supporters to contact their legislators. It was very moving to talk openly with volunteers and members about why immigration reform matters to us, personally. There is such a diversity of experience in “the Asian American community,” which is made up of hundreds of distinct and varied cultures and ethnicities. API Equality LA successfully mobilized over 50 volunteers at their phone banks and generated hundreds of calls to legislators urging them to pass immigration reform.

While the struggle for fair and comprehensive immigration reform continues, LGBTQ immigrants are still hard at work building a movement that celebrates all of who we are, where we get to be our full queer and trans and brown and yellow and immigrant selves.  Right now, there are 11 million undocumented immigrants who lack access to all the things that make up the promise of America. 250,000 of these people are LGBTQ and some are from our communities.   The Task Force is at the forefront of the fight for fair immigration reform. Last year the US Senate passed a bipartisan immigration reform package. Today we are still waiting for Speaker Boehner to bring this vitally important and popular measure to the floor of the House. As he delays, families face economic hardship and the heartbreak of separation through deportation. The situation is so critical that Task Force executive director Rea Carey was arrested in a civil disobedience outside the U.S. House of Representatives to protest its inaction on immigration reform.

Join us in celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month by telling your member of congress that we need fair immigration reform now.

To call your Member of Congress:
US Capitol Switchboard (202) 224-3121

To locate your Member on-line:
U.S. House of Representatives: www.house.gov

 

 

 

 

 

 

Creating Change 2015 Host Committee: Launch Meeting!

May 6, 2014

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Creating Change 2015 Host Committee: Launch Meeting!

Thursday, May 15, 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM
6:00 PM for nosh/socializing
6:30 PM meeting

The Gill Foundation Community Room
2215 Market Street
Denver, CO, 80205

Creating Changers, bring a friend (or two!) and join your colleagues for fun and fabulous camaraderie. We will form working subcommittees, get to know each other, and plan to create change in Denver, in Colorado and beyond.

Host Committee meetings will be held on the third Thursday of each month, May – January 2015.  Show your pride in Denver’s LGBT communities by being a part of the action!

The 27th National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change will be held in Denver, February 4 – 8, 2015 at the Sheraton Denver. Each year, the Task Force works with a dedicated group of volunteers who join the conference Host Committee to accomplish critical on-the-ground organizing and outreach. Come be part of it!

 

Meet the Creating Change 2015 Host Committee Co-Chairs:

CC15 Krista Whipple head shotKrista Whipple, a proud trans* woman, is the President of the Gender Identity Center of Colorado. Krista has dedicated herself to advocating on behalf of the trans* community by speaking both locally and nationally for the rights of trans* people. Krista dedicates many hours to improving awareness and substantially increased attendance at the annual Colorado Gold Rush conference in February, 2014. Krista looks forward to expanding her reach into the public and the community by participating as a co-chair for Creating Change 2015.

 

CC15 Leslie Headshot (3)Leslie Herod is a strategic planning and community partnerships professional. Prior to starting her own consulting practice, Herod was a program officer with the Gill Foundation where she led philanthropic initiatives focusing on LGBT equality and alliance building with communities of color. She served as senior policy advisor to Governor of Colorado Bill Ritter Jr. and Deputy Political Director for President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign. Herod is a gubernatorial appointee to the state’s Judicial Performance Commission and a mayoral appointee to Denver’s Cultural Affairs Commission. In 2006 Herod co-founded New Era Colorado, the state’s leading organization focused on the civic engagement of young people.

 

CC15 Rachel Chaparro head shot (3)Rachel Chaparro is the Deputy Director of Community Affairs and Agency Communications for Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock. Prior to being appointed to the Hancock Administration, she was the Communications Director for the Biennial of the Americas. Chaparro was also the Communications and Development Director for the Latina Initiative, running a successful Get-Out-the-Vote (GOTV) effort targeting 70,000 Colorado Latinas in the 2008 election. She also worked as the Manager of Education and Outreach at the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado.

 

CC15 Sydney Andrews head shot (3)

Sydney Andrews (Jeff Kerzman) moved to Denver in 1985 and jumped into the LGBTQ community by joining the Imperial Court of the Rocky Mountain Empire (ICRME). Sydney reigned as the 23rd elected Empress of the ICRME, 1996-1997 and served on the Board of Directors of ICRME from 1998-2003 and 2005-2007, leading ICRME as President from 2000-2002. Sydney also served on the International Court Council (ICC) from 2006-2009, representing the ICC as 2nd Vice President. In 2009, Sydney joined the board of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and will have served 5 years beginning in September of 2014. Sydney is thrilled, honored and excited to serve as one of the four co-chairs for Creating Change 2015!

 

 

Creating Change Director Sue Hyde and Task Force Deputy Executive Director Russell Roybal.

Creating Change Director Sue Hyde and Task Force Deputy Executive Director Russell Roybal. (2013)

 

BREAKING: Rea Carey arrested in protest of US House inaction on immigration reform

April 30, 2014
Rea Carey arrested for immigration reform actoin

Rea Carey joins hands at action for immigration reform. We are all in this struggle together! Estamos en la lucha!

Task Force Action Fund Executive Director Rea Carey was one of 27 people — including several children of undocumented immigrants — arrested today while protesting the US House leadership’s inaction on fair immigration reform. Carey was one of a group of protesters who blocked an intersection outside the US House as part of the  “Stop Separating Families Action” also referred to as #youthinaction on Twitter.  The event was organized by the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM), the nation’s largest immigrant-rights coalition, with grassroots organizations in 30 states. It also included activists from several other immigration reform organizations and Ben Jealous, the former President and CEO of the NAACP.

Prior to the act of civil disobedience, hundreds of supporters gathered for a press conference in front of the Capitol Building.  While being interviewed there alongside Ben Jealous, Carey shared this story:

“We heard from young people who are from all over the country whose parents are in detention. Or they may be living with a parent not in detention and they wake up every morning worried that that parent may be taken away from them. The youngest person who is part of this event today—Yahir–is 11 years old, and he spoke quite eloquently and powerfully and he inspired me to make sure we are doing everything we can for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country to reform immigration.  And for the more than 250,000 undocumented LGBT immigrants in this country.” 

Ben Jealous added “the most important fight in our country is the fight for our families, and that’s true in the fight for Marriage Equality…and it’s true in this fight, to make sure we keep families in one place and together.”

Later, Carey spoke out about the inaction of the House of Representatives in holding up progress on fair immigration reform.

“If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. In this instance, Speaker Boehner is the problem. His intransigence on fixing our broken immigration system is inflicting cruel and unusual punishment on millions of vulnerable undocumented immigrants and their families. He must act now and do the right thing for these 11 million immigrants, over a quarter of a million of whom are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. Immigrants and their families need a real pathway to citizenship, not unnecessary political gridlock. All they want is to be able to fulfill the promise of America and access the American Dream.”

This is the second time Carey has been arrested to protest fair immigration reform. On September 15, 2013, she joined more than 100 women — some of whom were undocumented immigrants –as part of a civil disobedience action organized by We Belong Together  to highlight the negative impact inaction is having on on women and their families and the lack of progress on reform in the U.S. House.

Many of the children arrested at the Stop Separating Families Action wore pictures of their parents and families they had been separated from because of our country’s broken immigration system.  “It is total hypocrisy to talk about ‘family values’ but act in a way that shows that you don’t really value families. The children of undocumented immigrants who were arrested today know better than most, the terrible impact of inaction on their lives.”

“Immigration reform is not just good for families — its good for our democracy, good for our economy and good for America. Our broken system has a clear fix that most Americans want action on now. It’s time for the House to actually represent what most Americans want — fair immigration reform,” urged Carey.

 

Want a Bigger Tax Refund? Five Things That Made Tax Filing Better for Many LGBT Families This Year, and Two Changes We’re Asking the IRS to Make for Next Year

April 15, 2014

The Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Windsor rocked the tax-filing world of same-sex couples this year.  Here are the top five things that put more money in some of our pockets:

  1. Joint Filing for Married Couples!  We can’t express what a huge change this was for married same-sex couples.  After the IRS announced that they would accept joint returns from married same-sex couples, the tax team at the Task Force crunched some numbers.  Especially for single-earner and low-income couples, filing jointly on your federal tax return could mean thousands of extra dollars in your return.
  2. Tax-Free Health Insurance!  Before Windsor, if your employer offered health insurance benefits to you and your spouse, your insurance costs wouldn’t be taxed, but your spouse’s would be.  This year, folks who have been paying tax on those benefits will see a nice chunk of that tax refunded to them.
  3. Estate Tax Reduction!  What the heck is an estate tax?  Basically, before Windsor, if your spouse passed away, you might have to pay income tax on any money or property they left you in their will.  This year, the IRS treats married same-sex couples the same as married different-sex couples, so anything inherited from a spouse is tax-free.
  4. Fairer Access to the Earned Income Tax Credit!  Allowing married couples to file jointly means that some families that couldn’t claim the Earned Income Credit in the past now have access to it.  In 2012, the Earned Income Credit lifted about 6.5 million people out of poverty, including about 3.3 million children.
  5. Deductions for Retirement Savings!  The IRS allows most people who contribute to an IRA to claim a deduction for that contribution on their tax return, effectively making saving for retirement cheaper.  Married couples can basically take deductions for contributions made for a non-working spouse, making their tax return larger.  This year, same-sex couples have access to that retirement savings boost.

That sounds great!  Of course, filing jointly isn’t great for everyone.  For some couples, tax refunds get smaller instead of larger when you file jointly.  You should talk to your tax accountant to find out the right move for you.  The good news is, Windsor makes it a little bit easier for our community to be able to make the right decisions for our families and our wallets.

queerthetaxes-1000pxUnfortunately, there are still hundreds of thousands of LGBT families who don’t have access to these tax benefits, because their families aren’t recognized by their state or by the IRS.  That’s why we’re launching a campaign today to fight for TAXATION WITH LGBT REPRESENTATION.  We’re asking the IRS to let us do two things:

  • File as Families: We want the IRS to create a new filing status that recognizes all of our families, and allows them to accept joint tax returns from couples who aren’t legally married.  Access to credits and deductions shouldn’t depend on whether your State believes your family deserves recognition.
  • Claim our Kids:  Many of us can’t form legal relationships with our children because of discriminatory state legislation.  Because we lack legal status as a parent, we can’t claim our kids for certain credits and deductions.  That just isn’t fair.  We want the IRS to designate a new dependency category, called “Dependent for Tax Purposes,” so that we can claim our kids even if we live in a state that won’t let us adopt them.

Join Us Today as we ask the IRS to QUEER OUR TAXES.  Visit www.queerourtaxes.org to sign the petition, and we’ll send you a “Taxation With LGBT Representation” sticker that you can use to show your support!

Students Deserve Safe Schools

April 14, 2014

By Arielle P. Schwartz, Holley Law Fellow Alumni, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

safeschoolsAs a member of the National Safe Schools Partnership, the Task Force joined 28 organizations for a month-long advocacy campaign last week to call on Congress to support the Safe Schools Improvement Act (SSIA) (S. 403/H.R. 1199) and the Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA) (S. 1088/H.R. 1652).

SSIA would amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to require school districts in the U.S. that receive government funds to adopt codes of conduct to prohibit bullying and harassment. SSIA would also require that states report bullying and harassment incidents on school grounds to the Department of Education. In order to improve policies that protect schools and students, it is imperative to have accurate data.

SNDA would establish a comprehensive federal prohibition against discrimination and harassment based on a student’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity in public elementary and secondary schools across the country.

SSIA and SNDA will assist in creating a welcoming environment for all students and ensure that children are able to focus on education. Once enacted, these protections will help create a better educated, more productive population, able to contribute fully to the general welfare of our nation.

According to Representative Linda T. Sánchez’s office (CA-38), SSIA is at 193—bipartisan—cosponsors. SSIA needs only 25 more co-sponsors to ensure passage if House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) allows it to come up for a vote. Join us by calling your congress member and asking them to support SSIA and SNDA, and tweeting #MakeSchoolsSafe and #EndBullying.

See the Task Force letter here and click here to learn how you can create safer schools for all students.

 

Hobby Lobby Recap: SCOTUS To Decide Who Can Claim Religious Exemptions

April 11, 2014

By Arielle P. Schwartz, Holley Law Fellow, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

(You can learn more about our past analyses here and here.)

Task Force Deputy Executive Director Darlene Nipper at the Hobby Lobby rally in front of the Supreme Court.

Task Force Deputy Executive Director Darlene Nipper at the Hobby Lobby rally in front of the Supreme Court.

Now that the dust has started to settle and we await a decision from the Supreme Court on the Hobby Lobby case, we thought it would be a good time to dig a little deeper into the issues that arose during oral arguments and what some of the possibilities are when we hear a decision from the Supreme Court in June.

This case will decide the constitutionality of a fraction of the preventive services rule that mandates (among other things) health insurance coverage for all Food and Drug Administration approved contraceptive methods. More importantly, the Justices will decide who is exempt from these laws and under what framework.

The arguments focused primarily on whether a secular and private for-profit corporation’s owner is substantially burdened by the contraceptive-coverage mandate of the Affordable Care Act. The Government argues that Congress’s decision to provide exemptions was clear—churches, religious educational institutions, religious associations, and that’s it. Nobody else can claim an exemption under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and Title VII. Hobby Lobby argues RFRA should be interpreted in a way that persons include for-profit corporations.

Attorney Paul Clement, representing Hobby Lobby, did not get more than two sentences into his argument when Justice Sotomayor asked:

Is your claim limited to sensitive materials like contraceptives or does it include items like blood transfusions and vaccines? For some religions, products made of pork? Is any claim under your theory that has a religious basis, could an employer preclude the use of those items as well?

Clement responded that “the easiest way to distinguish them from contraception is if the government’s already provided this accommodation for religious employers.”

Justice Sotomayor continued, explaining that exemptions are made for vaccines, for example, on a different basis, but we have a tax code that applies to everybody with a “million exemptions.” “Does the creation of the exemption relieve me from paying taxes when I have a sincere religious belief that taxes are immoral?”

Attorney Clement argued that not all exemptions are created equal, rather some exemptions undermine the compelling interest factor. Essentially, Clement stated that contraception is already covered under Title X, providing for a least restrictive alternative to the contraceptive-coverage mandate under the ACA and at the end of the day, the government should pay for it themselves.

I thought Justice Kagan’s response was particularly noteworthy:

Mr. Clement’s understanding and interpretation of this law would essentially subject the entire U.S. Code to the highest test in constitutional law, to a compelling interest standard. So another employer comes in and that employer says, I have a religious objection to sex discrimination laws; and then another employer comes in, I have a religious objection to minimum wage laws; and then another, family leave; and then another, child labor laws.

This is the slippery slope that everyone is talking about. So how does a corporation exercise religion? Attorney Clement focuses on the “sincerity” of his clients religiously held beliefs irrespective of their commercial activity.

But the Supreme Court of the United States has never considered a for-profit corporation as having an ability to exercise religion. Furthermore, Hobby Lobby is not legally required to provide health insurance to their employees under the ACA—this is not a birth-control mandate. They have a choice: (1) Take advantage of the corporate healthcare tax benefit and provide employees comprehensive health insurance; or (2) Instead of providing health insurance, compensate employees by increasing wages and pay the government tax. By choosing the second option, the government will then supply insurance through various subsidies to people on the exchange that do not have employer insurance. Attorney Clement regards the second option as “punitive.”

Either way, the Justices will decide whether the religious beliefs of individuals trump the statutory rights of a corporations employees. Justice Ginsburg noted during oral arguments that there are twenty FDA approved contraceptives, all of them covered by the ACA. Hobby Lobby focused on four. Suppose the employer says contraceptives in general are against their religion. Is there a way to accommodate the interests of women who may want these particular devices without imposing a substantial burden on the employer who has the religious objection to it? Attorney Clement’s response— tell the insurance carrier to pay for it.

The final ask of the multi-billion dollar for-profit corporation? “Whatever the answer is for Little Sisters of the Poor, presumably [the Supreme Court of the United States] can extend the same thing to [Hobby Lobby] and there wouldn’t be a problem with that.” Respectfully, we disagree.

Little Sisters of the Poor is an international congregation of Roman Catholic religious women that exclusively employs people of the same religious tenets (and it has a legal right to do so). The guidelines covering contraception already do not apply to women who are beneficiaries in health plans sponsored by religious employers because those employers are exempt from the requirement under the federal guidelines. On the other hand, Hobby Lobby is not an actual religious organization. They are a private corporation that sells arts and crafts and they are asking the Supreme Court to allow any employer in the United States the right to make healthcare decisions for their employees by denying coverage of medical expenses based on personal religious beliefs. They want to claim that they are exempt from state and federal laws that ban discrimination by claiming that their religion allows them to (and therefore the law should, too).

Reading the transcript, you will quickly learn that this decision predominantly rests with the male Justices. Scalia, Alito, and Roberts are siding with Hobby Lobby. Although silent throughout oral arguments, because of their voting history, we can expect Thomas to decide for Hobby Lobby while Breyer stands united with women. Ginsburg, Kagan, and Sotomayor continuously poke holes in Clement’s argument, recognizing that the case has the potential to open the floodgates to litigation and a whole slew of discrimination.

And they are right. This decision risks having a sweeping domino effect onto low-income and LGBT communities (who disproportionately lack access to healthcare and are less likely to seek out medical treatment for fear of discrimination). By now you are well aware that on Tuesday, March 25th, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force was in full force, rallying front and center at the Supreme Court of the United States to ensure the message “birth control is not my boss’s business” was heard loud and clear.

We can only hope the Justices heard us.

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