Category Archives: LGBT Human Rights

Act Now: Tell The Master’s School to Adopt a Non-Discrimination Policy

A model student at The Master’s School, a Christian school in Connecticut, recently was asked to leave after coming out to administrators as a lesbian.

Ironically, The Master’s School motto is “Veritas Vos Liberabit” – “the truth shall set you free.” According to it’s mission statement, the school stresses personal growth and touts its efforts to equip students with a “meaningful worldview.”

To that end, join HRC in calling on The Master’s School to immediately adopt a non-discrimination policy that protects its LGBT students. Take action now.

Meeting with Senator Hagan on ENDA

Last week, a group of six North Carolinians sat down with Senator Kay Hagan at her Greensboro office to discuss the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). This meeting came on the heels of the legislature’s decision to put an anti-marriage equality amendment on the 2012 ballot.

Participants thanked the Senator for co-sponsoring bills like the Student Non-Discrimination Act, and for her votes to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Maddy Goss, a member of HRC’s North Carolina Steering Committee reported back that, “As a North Carolina resident and as someone who also identifies as transgender, I was touched by my Senator’s genuine interest in hearing about my experience. The primary take-away from our meeting was that Senator Hagan was very interested in stories of being transgender in the workplace. The Senator wanted to know what kind of trouble we had due to our transition or gender expression on the workplace (and also where things went well for us). ”

Linda Stroupe, a PFLAG parent, also said that, “we had been told that we were allocated fifteen minutes and that it was possible that Senator Hagan would have to cancel at the last minute. She not only met with us but asked questions and spent almost 45 minutes with us. She started the meeting by telling us how disappointed she was about the actions of the NC Senate and House earlier this week when they voted to put a marriage amendment on the ballot in next May’s elections. The primary purpose of our meeting today was to share stories to help Senator Hagan understand how difficult life in the workplace is for GLBT people, especially trans people, and to encourage her to consider signing on as a co-sponsor for the federal ENDA bill.”

Out Man to Lead U.S. Marshal Service in DC

Today, the Obama Administration announced the nomination of the second openly gay U.S. Marshal in our nation’s history.  Michael Hughes, an 18-year veteran of the U.S. Marshal Service, was nominated to serve as the U.S. Marshal for the District of Columbia.  When confirmed, Hughes will join Sharon Lubinski, the first openly gay individual nominated by a president and confirmed by the senate to serve as a U.S. Marshal.  Lubinski was confirmed at the end of 2009 as the U.S. Marshal for Minnesota.

HRC has supported Hughes’s candidacy since 2009, when we sent a letter (insert link to letter) to the President urging him to nominate Hughes.  Hughes was also supported by Rep. Eleanor Holmes-Norton (D-DC).

As U.S. Marshal for the District of Columbia, Hughes will be the federal law enforcement officer in charge of protecting judges and court houses; transporting and managing prisoners;  protecting witnesses; investigating fugitives; and serving court documents.  The U.S. Marshal service is the nation’s oldest federal law enforcement agency, established in 1789.

DADT Repeal and Apple Pie for America

This post comes from Gregg Moreland, one of HRC Portland’s Political Committee Co-Chairs.

On Tuesday, September 20, we observed the end of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ Communities all over the country celebrated this historic achievement not only for the lesbian, gay, and bisexual soldiers on active duty, but also in remembrance of all who have served quietly before them. In Portland, Oregon, the local HRC Steering Committee joined with Veterans for Human Rights and the Q Center, our local LGBTQ resource center, for a day full of activities which were amusingly and appropriately named, “As American as Apple Pie: A Day of Celebration and Remembrance!”

The day began outside of Portland City Hall, where several city commissioners and veterans joined Mayor Sam Adams for a press conference that was covered by several local and syndicated media outlets. John Kim, a member of the HRC Portland Steering Committee, opened the occasion with a powerful performance of the National Anthem on trumpet. He was followed by several speakers, including military veterans, Sharon Murtagh and Beth Allen. They both shared personal stories of their military service, as well as very emotional accounts of their eventual discharges resulting from the laws banning openly lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans from military service, and both emphasized how meaningful repeal is to them.

Later that evening, over 100 people gathered at the Q Center for a grand party to celebrate the historic day. There were several media outlets present, including local community radio station KBOO, which broadcasted the event live, interviewing several veterans and local leaders who attended, including HRC cofounder and Director, Terry Bean.

And yes, there was plenty of apple pie to be enjoyed by all!

HRC Equality Bus Stops in Louisville

HRC events in Louisville, KY got off to a rainy but inspiring start this morning. A group of nearly 50 clergy and lay leaders from across Louisville’s diverse faith community gathered bright and early at Highland Baptist Church to discuss LGBT inclusion in faith communities and to catalyze the formation of a Faith Leaders for Fairness Coalition in Louisville and ideally growing into a statewide network of people of faith who support fairness.

This morning’s event was a two-part forum beginning with a panel presentation and moving into workshop discussions.  Each of the panelists spoke to their own experiences, challenges and success doing justice in the faith community for LGBT inclusion. Rev. Joseph Phelps, Senior Pastor at Highland Baptist Church, addressed the balancing act and processes that often go into congregational navigating justice priorities; Rabbi David Ariel-Joel of The Temple spoke to the example of the Reform Jewish movement which has been ordaining LGBT rabbis and marrying LGBT couples for well over a decade and the positive impacts of inclusively.  Father Michael Mernagh of Anamchara Faith Community discussed some of the struggles around LGBT issues in the Catholic community and implored the audience to hold certain faith leaders accountable for the vitriol directed at the LGBT community and the devastating impact that has had upon queer youth (and others!); Rev. Jeff Smith, one of the spiritual leaders of Open Door Community Fellowship, provided excellent insight into the work that is needed around acceptance in African American faith communities and about the importance of serving as an agent of change by simply being out.  Ms. Holly Knight, who leads the local transgender support and activism group Sienna, facilitated the panel.

During the breakout sessions – one focused on building a welcoming congregations and the other focused on putting faith into action and activism – participants had the opportunity to dig deeper with their fellow community leaders about the next steps needed for a religious coalition that will advance inclusion and fairness in Kentucky.  The tremendous energy, enthusiasm and wealth of ideas in the room was exactly what was and is needed to support a Faith Leaders for Fairness coalition.

This important event could not have been possible without the vision and leadership of Maurice “Bojangles” Blanchard who leads the True Colors Ministry at Highland Baptist and Revs. Derrick Penwell and Ryan Kemp-Pappan of Douglass Boulevard Christian Church.  I’m excited to work with all these leaders to take the next steps in organizing and empowering the work of Kentucky’s Faith Leaders for Fairness!

DOMA Repeal Bill Gets Republican Support

Efforts to repeal the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) got a boost today from Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida. Rep. Ros-Lehtinen is the first Republican Member of Congress to support the Respect for Marriage Act.

HRC President Joe Solmonese said of Rep. Ros-Lehtinen’s support:

“Getting the federal government out of playing favorites when it comes to marriage shouldn’t be a partisan issue. Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen is a longstanding advocate for our equality and has shown today that respect for our community, and our marriages, is a mainstream and bipartisan principle.  With the American people strongly supportive of DOMA repeal, we will continue to work with members of both parties to end this discrimination once and for all.”

The Respect for Marriage Act repeals DOMA and restores the rights of all lawfully married couples—including same-sex couples—to receive the benefits of marriage under federal law.  It gives same-sex couples the federal benefits and protections that flow from a valid marriage celebrated in a state where marriage equality is legal, even if a couple moves or travels to another state. Learn more about the Respect for Marriage Act.

A Faithful Dialogue in Lexington, KY

Our Lexington equality bus stop wrapped last night with a lively conversation on UK’s campus about religion, sexuality and gender.  “A Faithful Dialogue: Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and our Religious Communities” welcomed a diverse group of students and community members alike to give voice to an otherwise silenced struggle for all too many – a struggle to reconcile their religious upbringing or beliefs with LGBT identities.  The featured panelists included four local clergy, all  of whom are superstar advocates for equality in their own right: Rev. Laurie Brock of The Episcopal Church of St. Michael the Archangel, Rabbi Marc Kline of Temple Adath Israel, Rev. Cynthia Cain of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Lexington and Rev. Marsha Charles of Bluegrass United Church of Christ.  UK LGBT Task Force member Sally Evans served as the panel’s moderator. Sally was a natural for this role, herself having a very common story to many students on campus growing up in a Pentecostal church and then serving as a youth pastor until she could no longer hide her conflict with faith and sexuality.

The panel tackled tough questions like, “How do you respond [with compassion] to those that argue, ‘We love the sinner but hate the sin?’” and “How can gay Christians live out a belief in traditional sexual ethics?” and more.  The clergy panel offered unique some unique and powerful insights for the audience about the many ways to understand holy scriptures in relation to our lives and reminding us to engage with one another in ways that fulfill the commandment to “love God, love your neighbor and love yourself.”  My personal favorite one -iner of the evening came from Rabbi Marc: “Judaism has always seen the Bible as a starting point for conversation, not the answer.”   Hopefully everyone left the room feeling empowered with new tools to continue this important conversation.

Solmonese to GOP Contenders: Where Do You Stand on Employment Discrimination?

Currently there are no federal employment non-discrimination laws protecting the LGBT community.  It is perfectly legal in 29 states to fire someone because they’re gay and 35 states because they’re transgender.  Yet 78 percent of Americans think anti-gay discrimination is a problem, and 74 percent  think discrimination against transgender people is a problem.  Why then don’t we have laws in place that make this type of workplace discrimination illegal?  The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which currently has 152 co-sponsors in the House, and 40 in the Senate, would do just that –and more.   HRC President Joe Solmonese wants to know what the GOP presidential contenders would do if this bill came to their desk for signature as president.

Tonight, Fox News and Google are hosting a debate and have asked for questions to be submitted on YouTube.  President Obama has stated that he believes workplace decisions should be based solely on merit.  Hopefully tonight we’ll learn how those competing to be his opponent feel.

Senator Kerry Introduces First-Ever Senate Bill on LGBT Housing Discrimination

Today, Senator John Kerry (D-MA) introduced, for the first time in the United States Senate, legislation that would prohibit discrimination against LGBT people in housing and credit. The bill, called the Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME) Act, extends federal protections under the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act to the LGBT community. Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) introduced similar legislation in the House last Congress and is again the lead sponsor of a companion to Senator Kerry’s bill introduced today. In March of last year, Congressman Nadler chaired a House subcommittee hearing on the Fair Housing Act that, for the first time, included a discussion of LGBT housing discrimination. As that hearing demonstrated, despite advances for LGBT people, many in our community still face discrimination in finding and keeping a home, simply because of who they are. In fact, only 20 states and DC have housing protections in place based on sexual orientation, and only 15 states and DC also include gender identity in their housing laws. While the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has taken important steps to study LGBT housing discrimination, prohibit discrimination against LGBT people and families in HUD programs and require its grantees to abide by state and local housing discrimination laws that protect LGBT people, it is still critically important that Congress act to ensure there are uniform protections for our community across the country.

For more information, read Senator Kerry’s press release here and HRC President Joe Solmonese’s written testimony from last year’s housing hearing here.

Video: Nearly 240,000 E-Mails to OK Leaders Calling on Them to Repudiate Sally Kern’s Anti-Gay Remarks

We told you last week that Oklahoma State Representative Sally Kern was up to her old tricks of comparing homosexuality to terrorism. Since then, HRC members and supporters have generated nearly 240,000 e-mails calling on Governor Mary Fallin, Speaker of the House Kris Steele and Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman to speak out and condemn Kern’s remarks. Sign the petition now.

So far, Oklahoma’s governor and top lawmakers have remained silent.

HRC VP of Communications and Marketing Fred Sainz appeared yesterday on MSNBC to speak to the dangerous implications of Kern’s remarks:

Join us now in calling on Oklahoma’s top officials to show responsible leadership and condemn Kern’s remarks. If you’ve already signed, share the petition with your family and friends!