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November 20, 2015 0

Today We Remember Transgender Lives Lost and Recommit to Justice

For the past six­teen years on Novem­ber 20th, trans­gen­der peo­ple and allies around the world have come together to mark Trans­gen­der Day of Remem­brance (TDOR). It is a day to honor trans­gen­der peo­ple whose lives trag­i­cally ended in the last year as a result of anti-transgender vio­lence and dis­crim­i­na­tion and cel­e­brate the resilience of those who are liv­ing. At memo­r­ial ser­vices around the coun­try, the names of trans­gen­der peo­ple who have been killed in the last year are read.


Much like observ­ing a yahrtzeit (the anniver­sary of a death), it is a time for reflec­tion and intro­spec­tion. This year was an espe­cially vio­lent year, with at least 22 reported mur­ders in the United States since Jan­u­ary, almost dou­ble the num­ber of trans mur­ders in all of 2014. This year has also wit­nessed a sig­nif­i­cant increase in reported non-lethal anti-trans vio­lence. And the major­ity of this year’s vic­tims were trans­gen­der women of color.

Just this past week, the Con­gres­sional LGBT Equal­ity Cau­cus hosted a forum that brought together advo­cates and com­mu­nity lead­ers to dis­cuss how to address soar­ing lev­els of vio­lence against trans­gen­der peo­ple. Unsur­pris­ingly, issues of racism, poverty, the sys­tem­atic mar­gin­al­iza­tion of trans peo­ple, includ­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion in schools, jobs and hous­ing were high­lighted. Advo­cates pri­or­i­tized com­pre­hen­sive nondis­crim­i­na­tion pro­tec­tions and immi­gra­tion and crim­i­nal jus­tice reform as a way to reduce vio­lence against trans people.

Also ear­lier this week, the FBI released the 2014 Hate Crime Sta­tis­tics Act (HCSA) report. While the report doc­u­mented a decrease in the num­ber of reported hate crimes in the United States, crimes tar­get­ing vic­tims on the basis of their gen­der iden­tity tripled. Tripled. And the vio­lence against trans­gen­der peo­ple is not lim­ited to the United States.  Trans Mur­der Mon­i­tor­ing (TMM) project, a pro­gram of Trans­gen­der Europe, sys­tem­at­i­cally mon­i­tors, col­lects and ana­lyzes reports of homi­cides of trans peo­ple world­wide. This year TMM iden­ti­fied 271 trans per­sons to be added to the list to be remembered.

It is impor­tant to take this day to mourn and to honor the lives of those trag­i­cally cut short by hatred and vio­lence. And it is also a day to re-commit to nam­ing the prob­lems work­ing on solutions.

A com­pre­hen­sive fed­eral anti-discrimination law that explic­itly includes gen­der iden­tity is essen­tial. We must ensure that trans­gen­der peo­ple are explic­itly pro­tected from dis­crim­i­na­tion in hous­ing, employ­ment, pub­lic accom­mo­da­tions, edu­ca­tion, fed­eral fund­ing, credit, and jury ser­vice. These legal pro­tec­tions will go far in reduc­ing the num­ber of trans­gen­der peo­ple put in vul­ner­a­ble posi­tions as a result of discrimination.

State hate crime laws must cover hate crimes com­mit­ted on the basis of gen­der iden­tity and expres­sion. An inclu­sive fed­eral hate crime law is not enough. We must redou­ble our efforts to ful­fill the goals of ADL’s 50 States Against Hate cam­paign, par­tic­u­larly enhanced train­ing for law enforce­ment offi­cers on how to iden­tify and respond to hate crimes com­mit­ted against trans peo­ple, bet­ter data col­lec­tion and report­ing by law enforce­ment agen­cies, and increased pub­lic education.

And we must edu­cate young peo­ple and edu­ca­tors about trans­gen­der lives. Our schools must be places where trans­gen­der and gen­der non-conforming youth are able to thrive in an envi­ron­ment that is safe and free from bul­ly­ing and harassment.

So today, we remem­ber and mourn. Tomor­row we con­tinue to fight fiercely for secur­ing jus­tice and fair treat­ment to all.


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November 5, 2015 2

Prioritizing Trans Rights in the Face of Hate and Lies

On Elec­tion Day, 60% of just one quar­ter of eli­gi­ble Hous­ton vot­ers dis­ap­point­ingly rejected the Hous­ton Equal Rights Ordi­nance (HERO) when they voted No on Prop #1. HERO cre­ated a broad swath of nondis­crim­i­na­tion pro­tec­tions for the city of Hous­ton, includ­ing pro­tec­tions based on race, reli­gion, sex, mil­i­tary sta­tus, preg­nancy, genetic infor­ma­tion, dis­abil­ity, sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion, and gen­der iden­tity. The cam­paign to repeal HERO was grounded in fear and decep­tion, rely­ing on the lie that the anti-discrimination ordi­nance would per­mit men to use women’s bathrooms.

Credit to Flicker user: torbakhopper

Credit to Flicker user: torbakhopper

There is a sad irony here. Oppo­nents of the ordi­nance can­not cite a sin­gle instance of a trans­gen­der per­son harass­ing a non-transgender per­son in a pub­lic restroom. Why? Because it doesn’t hap­pen. Not in Hous­ton nor in the 17 states and 200 cities that already have explicit pro­tec­tions for trans peo­ple. To the con­trary, it is trans­gen­der peo­ple them­selves who are most vul­ner­a­ble, with 70 per­cent of trans­gen­der or gen­der non-conforming respon­dents in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. report­ing that they have been, “denied access, ver­bally harassed, or phys­i­cally assaulted in pub­lic restrooms.” And it is pre­cisely this vio­lence that high­lights the need for com­pre­hen­sive hate crime laws in all 50 states.

But while the loss in Hous­ton still stings, the news for LGBT peo­ple around the coun­try is not all bad. Just last week, in the 4th Cir­cuit Court of Appeals in a case out of Vir­ginia, the U.S. Depart­ment of Jus­tice and Depart­ment of Edu­ca­tion filed a friend-of-the-court brief sup­port­ing a trans­gen­der stu­dent barred by his school from using the restroom that cor­re­sponds with his gen­der iden­tity.  And in Illi­nois, the Depart­ment of Edu­ca­tion found Mon­day that an Illi­nois school dis­trict vio­lated anti-discrimination laws when it did not allow a trans­gen­der girl who par­tic­i­pates on a girls’ sports team to change and shower in the girls’ locker room with­out restrictions.

In other good news, a dis­trict court in Alabama recently issued a deci­sion in Isaacs v. Felder Ser­vices LLC that agreed with the EEOC that dis­crim­i­na­tion based on sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion is always a form of sex discrimination.

But make no mis­take, the ugli­ness and hate we saw in the cam­paign lead­ing up to the vote in Hous­ton was real and has a real impact on the lives of trans­gen­der peo­ple — not just in Hous­ton, but across the coun­try. Rather than retreat, this is an oppor­tu­nity for LGBT com­mu­ni­ties and allies to rally. We must pri­or­i­tize trans­gen­der rights, hold elected offi­cials account­able for their words and actions, and find ways to edu­cate com­mu­ni­ties, and par­tic­u­larly to reach young peo­ple.

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September 3, 2015 11

Public Officials: If Your Religion Prevents You From Doing Your Job, Step Aside

Many of us make impor­tant deci­sions in our daily lives grounded in our reli­gious val­ues and beliefs. That should be respected, even per­haps, applauded. How­ever when one chooses to take an oath of office or accepts a posi­tion as a pub­lic offi­cial in a sec­u­lar con­sti­tu­tional democ­racy like ours, she has a respon­si­bil­ity to do the job she was hired to do. Rowan County Ken­tucky Clerk Kim Davis’s job requires her to issue mar­riage licenses to any­one who may legally get married.

LGBT Zip code

On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court for­mally rec­og­nized the dig­nity of les­bian, gay, bisex­ual and trans­gen­der peo­ple when it extended the free­dom to marry to same-sex cou­ples nation­wide. The Court ruled that the Con­sti­tu­tion for­bids states to ban mar­riage for same-sex cou­ples. Since the deci­sion, a small minor­ity of pub­lic offi­cials, most notably Ms. Davis, have argued that they should be exempt from hav­ing to issue mar­riage licenses to same-sex cou­ples, cit­ing their sin­cerely held reli­gious beliefs. The Supreme Court dis­agrees, and yet Davis con­tin­ues to defy the Court by deny­ing same-sex cou­ples mar­riage licenses. Now, she and, at her direc­tive, her staff, are refus­ing to issue mar­riage licenses mak­ing it impos­si­ble for any­one to obtain a mar­riage license in that county.

No one should ques­tion or chal­lenge Ms. Davis’s reli­gious beliefs. The fact that some news arti­cles and com­men­ta­tors have crit­i­cized Davis’s beliefs as incon­sis­tent or hyp­o­crit­i­cal is beside the point. The bot­tom line is that she has no right, con­sti­tu­tional or oth­er­wise, to refuse to do the job the state of Ken­tucky pays her to do.

The real­ity, as ADL’s ami­cus brief argued, is that over­turn­ing mar­riage bans ensures that reli­gious con­sid­er­a­tions do not improp­erly influ­ence which mar­riages the state can rec­og­nize, but still allows reli­gious groups to decide the def­i­n­i­tion of mar­riage for them­selves. That remains true. Rab­bis, priests, min­is­ters can­not be com­pelled to par­tic­i­pate in mar­riages of which they do not approve. Reli­gions are not required to sol­em­nize any kind of mar­riage they don’t want to rec­og­nize. How­ever, that does not mean that gov­ern­ment employ­ees may aban­don their duties nor may they seek to impose their reli­gious beliefs on oth­ers by inter­fer­ing with their con­sti­tu­tional right to marry.

If Ms. Davis or oth­ers feel that they can­not ful­fill the duties they were selected to per­form, they should step aside and allow oth­ers to serve the community.

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