#AM_Equality Tipsheet: December 9, 2016

ARKANSAS SUPREME COURT ATTACKS PARENTAL RIGHTS OF SAME-SEX COUPLES: HRC blasted attacks yesterday by the Arkansas Supreme Court on same-sex couples, reversing a lower court’s decision directing the Arkansas Department of Health to list both same-sex parents on their child’s birth certificate. The Court’s decision denies same-sex couples the same process that applies to different-sex couples. This major ruling attempts to limit the scope of last year’s landmark marriage equality decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges, even though the high court specifically listed birth certificates as one of the governmental rights, benefits and responsibilities that marital status confers. “It is clear that including both married spouses’ names — regardless of whether they are same-sex or opposite sex — on a child’s birth certificate is exactly the kind of benefit of marriage that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled should be extended to same-sex couples,” said Cathryn Oakley, senior legislative counsel for the Human Rights Campaign. “This disappointing ruling from the Arkansas Supreme Court is a clear violation of equal protection for married, same-sex couples, as affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court in Obergefell, and it is a deliberate attempt to undermine the rights of couples who have been guaranteed equality under the law when it comes to marriage.” Read more about the decision, and its potential to undermine marriage equality, here.

The New York Times reports on couples’ fears that marriage equality will be undermined under a Trump administration: Alison Leigh Cowan reports that though marriage equality has been the law of the land since 2015, “one could forgive these couples for thinking Mr. Trump may be of two minds about gay marriage. They need only revisit the interview he gave last winter to Chris Wallace on ‘Fox News Sunday,’ in which Mr. Trump said that he disagreed with the Obergefell ruling, adding, “If I’m elected, I would be very strong  on putting certain judges on the bench that I think maybe could change things.” Read more here.

WILL TRUMP LABOR NOMINEE PROTECT LGBTQ WORKERS? Yesterday, President-elect Donald Trump named Andy Puzder to head the U.S. Department of Labor, an agency that has broad overview of workplace rules and regulations that disproportionately affect the LGBTQ community. Puzder currently runs CKE Restaurants, which has declined to participate in HRC’s Corporate Equality Index, the nation’s premier benchmarking tool for LGBTQ-inclusive workplace policies and practices. The chain’s non-discrimination policy also does not include gender identity — unlike competitors like McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s and Denny’s. While differentiating between robots and employees in the food service industry, Puzder has also quipped, “They’re always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there’s never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex, or race discrimination case.” Under President Obama, the Labor Department has implemented reforms to protect LGBTQ employees from workplace discrimination, including an executive order prohibiting federal contractors and subcontractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Americans deserve answers about Puzder’s commitment to the Labor Department’s work ensuring equal opportunities to all LGBTQ workers.

CONGRESS PASSES DEFENSE BILL WITHOUT ANTI-LGBTQ RUSSELL AMENDMENT — NOT LETTING GUARD DOWN: Yesterday, Congress passed the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) without the so-called Russell Amendment, which could have allowed sweeping, taxpayer-funded discrimination in an attempt to promote anti-LGBTQ religious-based discrimination in all contracts and grants across the entire federal government. But the fight to retain federal LGBTQ protections isn’t over.  “While we won this battle, the threat to fairness and equality remains. Now is the time for all of us to double-down on our work,” said HRC Government Affairs Director David Stacy (@david_stacy). “Put your lawmaker’s number on speed-dial, thank them for rejecting the Russell Amendment, and make clear you won’t stand for any attempt to deny or rollback critical protections for LGBTQ people, women, people of color, or any other group of Americans.” More here.

FRIDAY FEATURE — “RESPECTING IDENTITY”: This week, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Community Relations Service released a video highlighting groundbreaking training in Jackson, Mississippi, designed to help local law enforcement better protect and serve the  transgender community. “We’re hopeful that this training will help prevent hate crimes before they happen,” says Assistant U.S. Attorney Cynthia Eldridge. During the training, members of the Jackson Police Department met with transgender people from the community. A transgender police officer, Tyler Gibbs, and Maureen Whann, the mother of transgender son, also spoke. Said HRC Mississippi State Director Rob Hill: “It’s heartening to see that the U.S. Department of Justice takes cultural competency training so seriously, and we are glad they’re focusing resources here in Jackson, Mississippi.” Read more and watch the video here at HRC.

POPE REAFFIRMS BAN ON GAY PRIESTS IN UNFOUNDED, HURTFUL ACTION: This week, Pope Francis signed off on the release of “The Gift of Priestly Vocation,” a document reaffirming the Catholic Church’s 2005 unfounded, hurtful ban on gay men entering the priesthood.  “If someone is willing to commit to the role and rules of Catholic priesthood, regardless of sexual orientation, they should be allowed to follow in the steps of Christ,” said Lisbeth Melendez Rivera, HRC Director of Latinx & Catholic Initiatives. “It is clearly contrary to the philosophy of the Church to say that sexual orientation is the only caveat by which someone is allowed to receive a calling to the priesthood.” She encouraged the Pope and Church hierarchy to expand their conversations with the LGBTQ Catholic faithful. Read more here.

LEGAL FUNDS FOR LGBTQ PEOPLE ESTABLISHED POST-TRUMP IN MAINE, TENNESSEE: Anticipating that vulnerable members of the LGBTQ community will need legal assistance after Donald Trump assumes the presidency, the Maine Justice Foundation, as well as a attorneys in Nashville, are creating funds to meet the potential need. Six founders have already stepped forward to contribute to Maine’s LGBT Justice Fund. In Nashville, the LGBT Legal Relief Fund is providing information online, helping connect those who need assistance, and soliciting donations to defray legal costs that LGBTQ people may face in fighting to retain their rights. Read more here, and here.

TRANSGENDER YOUNG PEOPLE IN NEW YORK NOW ELIGIBLE TO RECEIVE MEDICAID COVERAGE FOR APPROPRIATE CARE: New York State yesterday removed barriers that prevented transgender young people from receiving Medicaid coverage for medically necessary transition-related medical care. This positive change is part of the state’s efforts over the past two years to expand transgender people’s access to health care. More from The Wall Street Journal.

HRC JOINS WHITE HOUSE FOR “ADVANCING LGBT PROGRESS IN RURAL AMERICA”: Last week, JoDee Winterhof, HRC Senior Vice President Policy and Political Affairs, joined the White House for a discussion on “Advancing LGBT Progress in Rural America.” The White House convening brought together leaders from across the country to discuss the problems that LGBTQ Americans are facing in rural America. Winterhof sat down with StoryCorps founder Dave Isay to talk about how LGBTQ Americans have used storytelling to create change. More from HRC.

HSBC IS A CHAMPION (FOR LGBTQ EQUALITY), HEAR THEM ROAR: Global bank HSBC is standing up for the LGBTQ community and keeping a pair of rainbow-colored lions in front of their Hong Kong location, despite criticism from anti-LGBTQ activists. More from Campaign Asia.

FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR URGES TRUMP TO SUPPORT EFFORTS TO PROMOTE LGBTQ RIGHTS ABROAD: Michael K. Lavers (mklavers81) of The Washington Blade reports that former Romanian Ambassador Michael Guest, the first openly gay ambassador confirmed by the U.S. Senate, said yesterday during the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund’s International LGBT Leaders Conference, “It would look bad for Trump personally and for his administration more broadly if they were to suddenly just say no more Pride flags on embassies, no more Pride celebrations, ambassadors should not march.” Guest served as ambassador during President George W. Bush’s administration. More here.


TIME takes a deep dive into the groundbreaking U.S. Transgender Survey released yesterday… unveils powerful new site  ‘Unerased: Counting Transgender Lives,’ a comprehensive look at transgender murders since 2010… King5 NBC  in Seattle talks to Charlene Strong about “For My Wife,’ a film she co-produced about being barred from her dying wife’s hospital bedside 10 years ago… The Jerusalem Post reports that Israel will ease citizenship process for same-sex couples… 

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