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.”

Happy 96th Birthday 19th Amendment

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Happy birthday, 19th Amendment!

Today, we celebrate the anniversary of the 19th Amendment (ratified on August 18, 1920). Here’s is the Full Text of the 19th Amendment.

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

 

Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

 

Staten Island Democratic Association takes official position on Transgender Rights

trans-symbol1Yesterday at the August meeting of the Staten Island Democratic Association the club voted unanimously to adopt a paper written by fellow club member and Social Secretary Bryan Ellicott (myself).

The paper was discussed at length at the July Monthly membership meeting. Which included speakers like New York State Senator and Co-Sponsor of GENDA (Gender Expression NonDiscrimination Act) and LGBT Liaison to Comptroller  Scott Stringer’s office Eric Holguin.

The Staten Island Democratic Association started in 1961. They are the oldest, largest and most Progressive Democratic Club in Staten Island. The paper covers the topics of Public Awareness and Advocacy, Legal and Political Action.

This was an extremely powerful moment especially because its Staten Island and the uphill battle our borough faces when it comes to the discussions on sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.

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TRANSGENDER RIGHTS
POSITION PAPER

 

Since the founding of The Staten Island Democratic Association in 1961, we have taken pride in being Staten Island’s oldest, largest and most Progressive Democratic Club. It has come to the attention of the Staten Island Democratic Association that we must take a stand on the rights of Transgender Americans, New Yorkers and especially Staten Islanders.

It is a time when so many Transgender people are under attack for nothing less than being who they are.

Harvey Milk (the first openly gay person elected to public office in California) once said “It takes no compromise to give people their rights…it takes no money to respect the individual. It takes no political deal to give people freedom. It takes no survey to remove repression.”

 

Background

 

Gender is a human social system of differentiation by sex for roles, behaviors, characteristics, appearances, and identities (e.g. “man” or “woman”). Gender maps cultural meanings and norms about both sex and gender on human bodies. Everyone has an internal sense of their “gender” and this sense is called “gender identity”.1     “Most people’s gender identity is congruent with their assigned sex, but many people experience their identity to be discordant with their natal sex (sex assigned at birth)2

“Transgender” is a broad term used to describe those whose gender identity or gender expression is in some sense different from, or transgresses social norms for, their assigned birth sex. Transgender may include those who identify as being transsexual, cross dresser, androgynous, bi-gender, no-gender or multi-gender, genderqueer, and a growing number of people who do not identify as belonging to any gender category at all. For some transgender people, individuals discomfort with a social gender role is accompanied by a profound sense of mismatch of the physical body to their internal bodily experience. This body dysphoria (known as “gender dysphoria”) causes significant distress, negatively impacts daily functioning and well-being, and requires medical services in order to realign the body with the self. There are many transgender people with medically diagnosed inter sex conditions. 3     In the absence of systematic data collection, estimates vary widely as to the number of transgender individuals in the United States, ranging from 3 million to as many as 9 million individuals 4. Prevalence of transgender identities is likely to be on the order of at least 1:100 (i.e. 1%), and transsexualism is also not rare, with prevalence now being estimated at between 1:2000 and 1:5000.5 Reports now indicate there may be roughly equal numbers of male-to-female and female-to-male transsexual people.6

Transgender people encounter difficulties in virtually every aspect of their lives, both in facing the substantial hostility that society associates with those who do not conform to gender norms and in coping with their own feelings of difference. Considerable verbal harassment and physical violence accompany the powerful social stigma faced by transgender people 7 and may be accompanied by racial and ethnic discrimination 8 .Transgender people also experience dismissal from jobs, eviction from housing, and denial of services, even by police officers, and medical emergency professionals..9 Restrooms, the most mundane of public and workplace amenities, often become sites of harassment and confrontation, with access often denied     10 ).

Transgender and transsexual people are often denied appropriate medical and mental health care and are uniquely at risk of adverse health care outcomes. 11 Basic services may be denied because of ignorance about or discomfort with a transgender client. To align the physical body with the experienced sense of self usually is an integral part of the social transition away from the sex assigned at birth. Transsexuals and some other individuals require medical services (for example, hormone replacement, facial electrolysis, or surgical and other procedures, as appropriate to the individual). Despite ongoing evidence that the vast majority who access these achieve congruence and well-being 12 It is important to underscore the denial of basic health care, and also the extreme race and socioeconomic status disparities: Needs assessments in major cities show that severe marginalization and barriers to transition contribute to high rates of joblessness, and disproportionately affect people of color. Lack of employment leaves many without health insurance, and because insurance carriers often deny coverage for transgender individuals other nontransition related services, transgender individuals often lack access to all ongoing basic health services, even when employed. 13

Many transgender children and youths face harassment and violence in school environments. Those who do not feel safe or valued at school cannot reach their potential and may drop out. 14   Medical protocols exist for children whose body dysphoria may lead to severe depression and suicidality, including endocrinology intervention to prevent or delay unwanted puberty.15  There are few support resources for transgender children, their parents or surrounding social institutions, leaving transgender youth particularly vulnerable to so-called “reparative” treatments. 16

Issues Statement

Transgender people experience the stigma, prejudice, discrimination, and extreme hostility known as transphobia on a daily basis. Although gender non-conforming experience can be traced across history, and the successful social and medical transition of transsexuals is well documented since the middle

of the twentieth century, it is only in recent years that this/has emerged in the public discourse. Unfortunately, most in our society have little or no understanding of the profound discomfort some may feel in trying to conform to rigid gender roles assigned to them by virtue of their physiology. Similarly, ignorance and insensitivity prevail regarding the debilitation that accompanies body dysphoria, and the damage done to those left without access to medical and social transition.

We as human beings have the responsibility to understand and appreciate the full range of differences that exist among human beings and to explore any and all prejudices that result in oppressive and unjust treatment.

 

Policy Statement

Staten Island Democratic Association (S.I.D.A.) recognizes that considerable diversity in gender expression and identity exists among our population.

S.I.D.A. believes that people of diverse gender- including those who are included under the transgender umbrella- should be afforded the same respect and rights as any other people.

S.I.D.A asserts that discrimination and prejudice directed against any individuals on the basis of gender identity or gender expression, whether real or perceived, are damaging to the social, emotional, psychological, physical, and economic well-being of the affected individuals as well as society as a whole.

S.I.D.A. reaffirms a commitment to human rights and freedom and opposes all public and private discrimination on the basis of gender identity and of gender expression, whether actual or perceived, and regardless of assigned sex at birth, including denial of access to employment, housing, education, appropriate treatment in sex-segregated facilities, appropriate medical care and health care coverage, appropriate identity documents, and civil marriage and all its attendant benefits, rights, and privileges.

S.I.D.A. encourages the repeal of discriminatory legislation and the passage of legislation protecting the rights, legal benefits, and privileges of people of all genders identities and expressions.

Public Awareness and Advocacy

S.I.D.A. supports efforts to provide safe and secure educational environments and promote an understanding and acceptance of self in which all youth including youth of all gender identities and expressions, may be free to express their genuine gender identity and obtain an education free from discrimination, harassment, violence and abuse.

S.I.D.A. supports a development of, and participation in, coalitions with other professional associations and progressive organizations to lobby on behalf of the civil rights of all people of diverse gender expression and identity.

S.I.D.A. supports collaboration with organizations and groups supportive of the transgender community to develop programs to increase public awareness of the mistreatment and discrimination experienced by transgender people and of the contributions they make to society.

S.I.D.A. encourages the development of programs, training, and information that promotes proactive efforts to eliminate psychological, social and physical harm directed toward transgender people and to portray them accurately and compassionately.

S.I.D.A. supports the development of programs within schools and other child and youth services agencies that educate students, faculty, and staff about the range of gender diversity and the needs of transgender children and youth.

S.I.D.A. supports the creation of scientific and educational resources that inform public discussion about gender identity and gender diversity, to promote public policy development and to strengthen societal and familial attitudes and behaviors that affirm the dignity and rights of all individuals, regardless of identity or gender expression.

 

Legal and Political Action

S.I.D.A. advocates for increased funding for education treatment services, and research on behalf of people of diverse gender expression and gender identity.

S.I.D.A supports the legal recognition of marriage, domestic partner, and civil unions, regardless of either the sex or gender status of the betrothed or partnered individuals.

S.I.D.A. encourages the repeal of laws and discriminatory practices that impeded individuals in their identification with, and their expression of the gender which matches their sense of themselves in all areas of the public arena, especially employment, health care, education and in a housing including in custodial settings.

S.I.D.A. encourages the adoption of laws that will prohibit discrimination against, and protect the civil rights of, and preserve the access to health care and well-being of, individuals who identify with and express their gender identities, in education, housing, inheritance, health and other types of insurance, child custody, property and other areas.

S.I.D.A. acknowledges the importance of working with groups in and around the community of Staten Island to support the transgender community’s development and help larger community organizations help overcome ignorance and fear of transgender people, and to move toward equality and justice.

S.I.D.A. supports the statements of both President of the United States Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch in support of the transgender and non-conforming community across the country.

 

References

  1. Stone, 2004
  2. Lev, 2004, p. 397
  3. Xavier, 26 Honnold & Bradford, 2007
  4. Bushong 1995; Olysl*ger & Conway, 2007
  5. Olysl*ger & Conway, 2007,p.23
  6. Bullough, Bullough, & Elias, 1997; MacKenzie, 1994
  7. Clements-Notes, Marx, & Katz, 2006; Lombardi, Wilchins, Priesing, & Malouf, 2001; Wyss, 2004
  8. Jung, 2006
  9. Xavier, 2000; Xavier, Honnold, & Bradford,45 2007
  10. Transgender Law Center, 2016
  11. Dean et al., 2000; Xavier et al., 2004
  12. De Cuypere et al., 2005; Newfield, Hart, Dibble, & Kohler, 2006; Pfafflin & Junge, 1998;   Rehman, Lazer, Benet, Schaefer, & Melman, 1999; Ross & Need, 1989).
  13. Xavier et al, 2004
  14. D‘Augelli, Grossman, & Starks, 2006; Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, 2004; Grossman,       D‘Augelli, & Slater, 2006; Wyss, 2004
  15. Cohen-Kettenis & van Goozen, 1997; Smith, van Goozen, & Cohen-Kettenis, 2001; Spack, 2005
  16. Menvielle, Tuerk, & Perrin, 2005; PFLAG, 2004

 

 

 

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BiNetUSA Comic Con & just a little Politics

 

 

CCILogo-R_LargeThe reason for my trip to San Diego for Comic-Con was sort of business in nature but not completely, it’s not often that I am given the ability to travel or go on vacation. That was an  opportunity was given to be because of BiNetUSA and the role I play as a member of their board and our newest project called The Bi Stories Project at the booth of Prism Comics.Prism Comic is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that supports lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) creators, stories, and readers in the comics industry. Incorporated in 2003, Prism Comics publishes the annual resource guide, Prism Comics: Your LGBT Guide to Comics.

PrismBlackLogoPrism Comic is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that supports lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) creators, stories, and readers in the comics industry. Incorporated in 2003, Prism Comics publishes the annual resource guide, Prism Comics: Your LGBT Guide to Comics.That was an  opportunity was given to be because of BiNetUSA and the role I play as a member of their board and our newest project called The Bi Stories Project at the booth of Prism Comics.

BiNetUSA is America’s advocacy organization for bisexual, pansexual, fluid, queer-identified and unlabeled people. Bi NetUSA facilitates the development of a cohesive network of independent bisexual and bi-friendly communities; promotes bisexual and bi-inclusive visibility, and collects and distributes educational information regarding sexual orientation and gender identity with an emphasis on bisexual, pansexual, fluid, queer (bi+) communities hope to acquaint comics readers with a wide range of creators who present good stories that readers can really relate to and that reflect their own experiences. We hope that more readers will sample the work of LGBT creators when they’re spending their money on comics and, as a result, demonstrate to more publishers that these books are truly worthwhile. We also hope to knit together a large LGBT comics community so that creators can feel more comfortable coming out of the comics closet and standing up as proud participants in an industry we all care about. Bi Stories T-shirt graphics_one color_FINAL_FINAL

I went on this trip to do further to progress and advancement of the Bi+ Community (give the definition of Bi+) especially among populations like those of us who identify as Bi+ in areas such as Comic Con where many other types of people and families go to enjoy themselves.

IMG_6608The Second Day of Comic-Con, I had a run in Congressmen John Lewis (GA-5) an American icon, one of the key figures of the civil rights movement. Congressmen Lewis’s commitment to justice and nonviolence has taken him from the state of Alabama as a sharecropper’s farm to the hall of Congress, from a segregated schoolroom to the 1963 March on Washington, and from receiving beatings from state troopers to receiving the Medal of Freedom from the first African-American Presidents.

Why was a great American Leader and Civil Rights trailblazer at San Diego Comic Con? Graphic Novels, which he has 3 of now. They are titled ” March- Book One, March- Book Two, March Book Three”

It’s not every day, you attend the largest Comic Convention in the country and run into a US Congressmen who just recently had made the headlines again for staging a sit-in just before the Summer Break of Congress over the need for a national discussion and vote on Common Sense Gun Safety Legislation.
I had planned to try and have a “non-political” vacation. That didn’t go as planned because being the kind of always has a way of finding me. Day Three of the Con, while sitting at the Booth of Prism and BiNetUSA, I had the honor of meeting San Diego Commissioner and Queen of the Imperial Court Nicole M. Ramirez.

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Those were the unexpected parts of my trip, but I enjoyed them never the less and learned that even in the other part of my life politics is still a big part who I am in so many expects of my life. I am more than just a political nerd even if when its a label, that I have given to myself. Growing up my Dad brought me into the world of science fiction, fantasy and horror. Its where was always the most comfortable and it’s where we spent most of our time when my mother wasn’t around. We’d spend hours watching Star Trek Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and as I grew up I learned about who Ambassador Spock was before he was Ambassador Spock.

My Dad’s favorite superhero was Hal Jordan (Green Lantern). The Oath something he had committed to the memory of the years and then engraved in mine “In brightest day, in blackest night,No evil shall escape my sight.Let those who worship evil’s might,Beware my power…Green Lantern’s Light!” 

IMG_6631 (1) I went there with very little expectations, however when I found that Brent Spiner would be there to sign autographs and meet fans before the 50th Anniversary Panel in Hall H (which was called Hall Hell or Hall Heaven) depends on who speak too. I knew, because of my anxiety and other things that I’d never make it into Hall H.

However, Brent Spiner was signing autographs at a booth across the way from Prism Booth in the Large Exhibit Hall. That was something I know that I had to make happen. It would probably be a once in a little time opportunity. The next question that I had to figure out was. What would he sign? What would you say? These were the next things to figure out so naturally, I bought a 50th Anniversary Star Trek. Now to move on to what you say to a person who’s character made so much sense that even before I knew the word for who I existed. While Brent played Data an Android who aspired to be nothing more than human that is what always made me so intrigued by him. I spent all  those years of my life wanting nothing more than to be the person I knew I was.

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The night before you filled out a google doc, and the first 50 people get to meet the person. You were supposed to get an email by noon. I did my shift w/ BiNet & Prism table and waited for my email. Sadly the email never came, however, it had come to the attention of the organizers that my google form was on 51 on the list. The person in charge of the check-in gave me the bracelet and said “I seen, you’ve been working all weekend and haven’t probably gotten to meet all of the people or stand in many of the lines” That’s how I got to finally meet and speak with Brent Spiner and he signed my hat.  I told him that as much as Data aspired to human…I had spent the majority of my youth aspiring to the boy/man I knew I was. He smiled and look at me and said “than I guess he did his job and so did I”

IMG_6705  Moving on to the part of the Con that was what I was sent by BiNetUSA to do. The last day of the Convention. The “Bisexuality and Beyond” moderated by Faith Cheltenham. This panel was full of well-versed Bi,Pan, Fluid and Queer people. It included R.J Aguiar, Sarah Stumpf, Tara Avery, Steve Orlando, Bob Schreck & Mariss Lee. My assignment was to live tweet the panel. So those unable to attend the panel around the country and world.

Some of the most memorable tweets include “You run out of closets after a while” Bob Schreck

“Many shades of purple…purple does exist” RJ Aguiar “An everyday conversation…all the time”

These are just some of my experiences from Comic Con 2016 in San Diego. I also got to meet a friend of mine from a part of my past story of my coming out that did have a face. The ability to connect w/ Eric meant a lot to me, as much as it meant to the work I do for BiNet USA.

If you identify with the Bi+ community share your story with us by using this link  The Bi Stories Project.

 

 

 

 

Way More Transgender People in the US than people thought

Williams Institute Estimate of Transgender Adults in U.S. Doubles from 700,000 to 1.4 million — 0.6% of Adult population

D.C., Hawai’i, New Mexico, Georgia, Texas, and Florida are states with the highest percentages of adults who identify as transgender.

0.7% of 18 to 24-year-old  people that identify as transgender, as do 0.5% of those 65 and older

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Lift of Transgender Military Ban

Today, the official proclamation came from Defense Secretary Ash Carter that transgender troops will now be able to openly serve their country in all branches of the armed forces.

According to CNN, Secretary Carter has announced the ending of this ban will take effect immediately, and transgender people will no longer be discharged on the basis of their gender identity.

Secretary Carter said, “Although relatively few in number, we’re talking about talented and trained Americans who are serving their country with honor and distinction. We want to take the opportunity to retain people whose talent we’ve invested in and who’ve proven themselves.”

The process of introducing and implementing reformed procedures to address admission,health care, housing, uniforms, and non-discrimination is expected to take another year.

SPARTA, the largest organization of actively-serving transgender military members today celebrated the Pentagon’s announcement confirming that transgender Americans will be able to serve their country on equal footing with other service members.

“Secretary Carter today fulfills his promise that every American who is qualified to serve will be allowed to serve,” said former Army Captain Sue Fulton, President of SPARTA. “The thousands of transgender soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen – and their commanders – have one less burden on their shoulders today. We are grateful to the military and civilian leaders in the Department of Defense who worked so hard to get this right.”

In 2011, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” — a policy that protected closeted lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) personnel from discrimination but disallowed them from serving openly in the military — was repealed, giving LGB military service members the right to serve their country regardless of their sexual orientation. However, the lift of this ban did not apply to gender identity and transgender people were still unable to serve openly.

According to the Palm Center’s Report of the Transgender Service Commission, it is estimated that there are 15,500 active transgender troops and more than 134,000 transgender veterans who served in the United States armed forces. Transgender people also enlist in the military at a proportionately higher rate than the general population with transgender adults being more than twice as likely than cisgender adults to serve.

Most transgender troops, however, have been forced to conceal their gender identity to avoid a risk of being discharged at a commander’s discretion or losing their benefits simply for being who they are.

Sign the Petition No “Bathroom Bill” in Ohio

Sharing this on behalf of a friend and fellow activist Tom Morgan of Ohio. As he works to make sure NO “Bathroom Bill” comes to the legislative body in the State of Ohio.

As these ridiculous bathroom bills keep gaining momentum, Transgender people have been put wrongfully in the spotlight being labeled in the same category as perverts, predators, rapists, child molesters and pedophiles. All these accusations are falsified. There is no proof, no evidence or no cases of transgender people assaulting another human being for any reason but to defend themselves. Quite the opposite case thou when it comes to Cisgender individuals. Many many cases of pedophiles, child molesters, peeping toms and rapists are cisgender individuals (scary isn’t it) but so many are in denial of this fact and want to attack a vulnerable minority such as the Transgender Community because many do not have the knowledge or compassion to understand what being Transgender involves.

Sign the Petition No “Bathroom Bill” in Ohio.

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