First Amendment Defense Act (FADA) Would Be ‘Devastating’ for LGBTQ Americans

 Earlier this month, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Senator Mike Lee of Utah, through his spokesperson said they plan to reintroduce an embattled bill that barely gained a House hearing in 2015. But this time around, they said, the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA) was likely to succeed due to a Republican-controlled House and the backing of President-Elect Donald Trump.
fadawould prohibit the federal government from taking “discriminatory action” against any business or person that discriminates against LGBTQ people. The act distinctly aims to protect the right of all entities to refuse service to LGBTQ people based on two sets of beliefs: “(1) marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, or (2) sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.”
Ironically, the language of the bill position the right to discriminate against one class of Americans as a “first amendment” right, and bans the government from taking any form of action to curb such discrimination—including withholding federal funds from institutions that discriminate. FADA allows individuals and businesses to sue the federal government for interfering in their right to discriminate against LGBTQ people and would mandate the Attorney General defend the businesses.

FADA was first filed in the House and Senate in 2015, but was met with protests from Democrats and resulted in just one House hearing amid concerns that Obama would veto the bill. It is currently co-sponsored by 171 House Republicans and just one Democrat (Daniel Lipinski of Illinois.)

State-level legislation similar to FADA has failed in recent years, usually resulting from lawsuits and nationwide boycotts. When Vice President-elect Mike Pence passed a “religious freedom” bill as governor of Indiana in March 2015, it was met with protests, financial losses from businesses that pulled operations from the state. It ultimately required an amendment issued in April to protect LGBTQ people from the bill’s discrimination.

Mississippi’s HB 1523 is nearly identical to FADA. The state law, passed in 2016 but quickly blocked by a judge, allows people and businesses in the state to refuse service to LGBTQ people based on three sets of religious beliefs: “Marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman; sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage, and male (man) or female (woman) refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth.”

A lawsuit brought by Mississippi religious leaders alleges the state law actually violates religious freedom by determining that religious belief necessitates anti-LGBTQ discrimination. The group of ordained ministers suing the state said in the lawsuit, Barber v. Bryant, that Mississippi violates its right to freedom of religion “because persons who hold contrary religious beliefs are unprotected—the State has put its thumb on the scale to favor some religious beliefs over others.”

Barber v. Bryant is currently at the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals after a federal trial court ruled HB 1523 violates the federal Equal Protection and Establishment Clauses. Pizer said the case stands as an example of the legal explosion that would occur in reaction to FADA.

“If Congress were to pass the federal FADA as currently written, and the next president were to sign it into law, I’m confident heads would spin at how fast the constitutional challenges would fly into court,” Pizer said, adding “we’re likely to have a great many allies because these attempts to misuse religion for discrimination offend enormous numbers of Americans who cherish both religious liberty and equality for all.”

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Transgender Birth Certificate Change Fails in Colorado

A bill to make it easier for transgender peopleto change their birth certificates has failed in a RepublicanColorado Senate committee.The bill would have changed the process for transgender residents to update their birth certificates to reflect their correct gender.

The bill would have allowed the change without the person getting surgery. And the new birth certificate would not be marked as “amended,” as is the case now.

The bill passed the Democratic House but failed on party lines 3-2 in a Senate committee Monday. Republicans did not explain their votes.

 

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10 Important Transgender Moments of 2013

Working with Keisling and the National Center of Transgender Equality, we’ve compiled a list of 10 of the most important transgender moments of 2013. Read on to learn more about the victories that made 2013 a tipping point in the fight for trans visibility and equality.

1. Trans-Inclusive Antiviolence Programs

In February, Congress passed the first explicitly LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination law at the national level as part of the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. The law protects LGBT people from discrimination in programs such as domestic violence shelters and rape crisis centers, and allows federal grants to focus on antiviolence work for LGBT people.

2. Historic 2-1 Senate Vote for ENDA

The first U.S. Senate vote on a trans-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act was a remarkable triumph. Only a single senator spoke in opposition to the bill, and 10 Republicans joined 54 Democrats in voting for ENDA. In the coming months, advocates will continue building Republican support in the House and put pressure on Speaker John Boehner to bring the bill up for a vote.

3. Strides for Transgender Students

Almost every month has brought new signs of progress in eliminating barriers and strengthening opportunities for transgender students. In February, Massachusetts education officials released the strongest statewide rules to date protecting trans students, following Washington and Connecticut. In June, the Colorado Civil Rights Division ruled that a school committed unlawful discrimination by requiring a transgender girl to use a staff restroom instead of the girls’ restroom. In July, the U.S. Justice Department entered a landmark Title IX settlement requiring a California school district to treat a transgender boy “the same as other male students in all respects,” and in August, California passed legislation making this application of the law explicit.

4. Social Security Eases Gender Rules

In June, the Social Security Administration eased its requirements for changing your gender designation in SSA records. The move brought Social Security into line with rules for U.S. passports and immigration documents, and similar rules for veterans wishing to amend their gender on service records. The change also helps eliminate confusion, embarrassment, and increased exposure to discrimination when trans people interact with SSA staff or other government offices.

5. States Stand Against Insurance Discrimination

In 2013, five states and the District of Columbia began telling insurance companies for the first time that excluding transgender-specific health care from their plans constitutes unlawful discrimination. At least some plans in CaliforniaColoradoOregonVermontD.C., and Connecticut are already updating plans to comply, providing individuals with coverage of medically necessary care for the first time. While many corporations and universities are eliminating exclusions voluntarily — and finding there’s no added cost to doing so — those buying insurance on their own may need to look to their states to take action.

And on January 1, a provision in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, took effect, barring insurance companies from denying policies to people for being transgender.

6. State and Local Equality Laws Advance in Delaware, Puerto Rico, and Elsewhere

Efforts continued in red, purple, and blue states alike to pass laws to protect LGBT people in jobs, housing, and other settings. Delaware became the 17th state to include gender identity in itsnondiscrimination policy in June, but less noticed was passage of LGBT protections in Puerto Rico. Local laws also continued to advance, expanding protections in locales ranging from San Antonio, Texas, to Fargo, N.D.

7. A Record Year for Visibility

Positive visibility for trans people in America seems to grow with each passing year. This year, that visibility was led by a wave of human interest stories on transgender young people and their families, and by the critically acclaimed performance of Laverne Cox on the hit show Orange Is the New BlackJennifer Pritzker became the first transgender person to be named to Forbes’ annual list of the 400 richest Americans. In August, Chelsea Manning made international news when she came out as transgender in a statement delivered by her lawyer during a segment on the Today show. Manning’s public announcement sparked intense conversation over the correct way to portray trans people in the media as well as debate on medical treatment for transgender prisoners.

8. Name and Birth Certificate Changes Get Easier in California, Oregon, and Washington, D.C. 

While half of states now make it relatively easy to update the gender on a driver’s license, efforts are also under way to ease the basic step of legally changing names and the often more difficult step of updating one’s birth certificate. This year Oregon and the District of Columbia joined at least three other states in guaranteeing that individuals won’t be required to show proof of surgery to update their birth certificates. D.C. also joined the nearly 50 percent of states that have eliminated requirements that name changes be published in the newspaper, an expensive and intimidating step for many trans people. Similar legislation has been proposed in California and Hawaii.

9. Depathologizing Gender Identity Issues

In May, the American Psychiatric Association published the fifth version of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, officially renaming “gender identity disorder” as “gender dysphoria,” and formally recognizing that it is not a trans person’s innate identity that may call for treatment, but rather the distress some feel about an identity, body, and social role that don’t line up. The APA also issued statements condemning antitrans discrimination and specifically calling for insurance coverage of health care for transgender people.

10. Hope for Transgender Prisoners

As calls for scaling back America’s reliance on imprisonment grow from Texas to the White House, major steps are being taken to keep trans people safe when they’re behind bars safe. In Harris County, Texas, which includes Houston, America’s third-largest jail was the latest to adopt comprehensive policies that include housing prisoners based on their gender identity, following standards from the U.S. Justice Department.

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Transgender Equality in New York State GENDA 2014

New York State has been stonewalling the legislation called GENDA (Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act) to the Transgender Equality movement in the State Senate since 2003. Assemblymember (D) Richard Gottfried, and New York State Senator (D) Tom Duane first introduced it in Albany in 2003. Sen. Tom Duane retired in 2012, and Senator Daniel Squadron took it on in 2013, as the leas sponsor.

 

Every year it has been put through the State Assembly and than left alone by the New York State Senate.  Last year we were the closest we may ever be but still the bill never made it too the floor. In fact the week leading up too the final week of session a State Senator named Diane Savino from Staten Island (my home borough) decided instead of pushing for this legislation too attack someone else. I called her out this year, and she was rather unprofessional toward my call too action, she decided too call me out in this press

 

Current Governor Andrew Cuomo who was on board for Marriage Equality in 2011 and has received lost of praise for supporting the ability for same-sex couples has not been as vocal of a supporter of the Trans* protections. However I believe that if he wants to be governor for another term and his aspirations of being the Next President of the United States as is rumored he does need to get on board her.

 

GENDA is an important piece for the community for many reasons, but we need our non-trans* or cisgendered[1] friends and family to support us and fight for us. This legislation would prohibit discrimination because of a person’s gender identity or expression. Many of trans* [2]  pre op, post op and non op are fired, when their employers find out they are trans* are fired, when they find out they are trans* or plan to take time off to have surgery or been thru surgery already. Trans* people and gender non-conforming[3] people are denied equal treatment in public accommodations. They are asked to leave restaurants, hotels, stores, medical facilities and educational institutions and much more.

 

GENDA when it is finally passed it would change the statutory language to make it clear that all New Yorkers across the state that one should not be subject to discrimination under the conditions of gender identity or expression in the human rights law. The same law that protects discrimination against race, religion etc would now cover gender identity and gender expression.

 

Other places across the country has similar protections in place they include states like Minnesota, New Mexico and Rhode Island, 54 cities across the country has GENDA like provisions such as Ann Arbor, Baltimore, Boulder, Pittsburgh, San Franciso, and Seattle.

 

This is no longer a back burner issue for New York State this needs to be a NOW issue. Those supporters of Marriage Equality in 2011 need to be carrying this issue to the front for 2014, its not okay to just be okay with Marriage Equality you need to be on board with it all.

 

You can do something to help this as a trans* person or as an ally cisgendered person. If your trans* tell your story open up about your personal transition process.  If you are a cisgendered ally talk about your trans* friends, ask them questions, take an interest in their transitions if they are comfortable with it. Ask questions! 

Look at websites like Empire State Pride Agenda , Transgender Legal Defense Fund or any other organization like them to get involved for the fight for GENDA in 2014. I am always here to talk about and answer question email me ellicottbryan@gmail.com 

 

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[1] Cisgendered- a person whose gender identity and expression matches the gender typically associated with their biological sex. For example: a female who identifies as a woman.

[2] Trans*- an umbrella term to refer to all people who deviate from their assigned gender at birth or the binary gender system. This includes transsexuals, cross-dressers, genderqueers, drag kings, drag queens, two-spirit people, and others. Some transgender people feel they exist not within one of the two standard gender categories, but rather somewhere between, beyond or outside of those two genders.

 

[3] gender non-conforming – A term for individuals whose gender expression is different from societal expectations related to gender. – See more at: