Blog Posts Related to the LGBT Community

  • On World AIDS Day, Tracking Our Progress

    Last July, President Obama established the HIV Care Continuum Initiative, which addresses the gaps in care and prevention, especially among communities with the greatest HIV burden. On World AIDS Day 2013, the White House Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP) released a report outlining the first recommendations and action steps from the Initiative detailing how federal efforts will be integrated to improve outcomes along the care continuum, including strengthening linkage to care, retention and treatment. 

    The report also includes a first ever glimpse of national progress (via HIV surveillance data) on the nine indicators of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy. In addition, the report highlights progress being made in three major U.S. cities – New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. – in the fight against AIDS as well as some of the unique public-private partnerships that are responding to the National HIV/AIDS Strategy.

    The next stage of implementation of the Strategy will be guided by the work on the Initiative, in conjunction with ongoing enactment of the Affordable Care Act, which will increase healthcare coverage for thousands of persons living with HIV and millions at risk for infection.

    To read the report, click here.

  • Marking Transgender Day of Remembrance

    Today, November 20th, communities across the country and around the world will mark Transgender Day of Remembrance. This day is an opportunity to remember those who have lost their lives to violence and injustice because of their gender identity or gender expression.

    The Obama Administration remains committed to preventing violence against all people, including all members of the LGBT community. Four years ago, President Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crime Prevention Act, which greatly expanded the federal government’s ability to prosecute hate crimes. The law marked the first time that the words, “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” appeared in the U.S. Code, and enables the Justice Department to prosecute in certain circumstances hate crimes committed because of a person’s actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability .

    In addition, the Department of Justice has worked with transgender advocacy leaders and law enforcement leaders from around the country to create a cultural competency training module that will be delivered by the Department’s Community Relations Service (CRS). The training will provide important information to persons interacting with and protecting transgender persons, and will attempt to dispel myths and increase understanding so that communities can better work together to prevent and respond to hate crimes. Interested community groups and law enforcement agencies can reach out to the DOJ’s CRS at 202-305-2935 in order to learn more about receiving the training session.

    Earlier this year the President was proud to sign a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) that included critical protections for transgender people and for the broader LGBT community. The legislation removed barriers faced by LGBT victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, whose needs are often overlooked by law enforcement, prosecutors, courts, and victim service providers. It also included three provisions that would help LGBT victims of domestic violence and sexual assault access VAWA-funded services:

    • First, the law added a LGBT-focused purpose area to the STOP Violence Against Women Formula Grant program, the largest VAWA program and the one that supports law enforcement, prosecution, court and victim service activities in every State.
    • Second, the law amended the Act’s definition of “underserved population” to recognize that LGBT victims face barriers to service.
    • Third, the law protects LGBT victims from discrimination by prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in VAWA-funded programs or activities.

    This commitment to equality for all members of the LGBT community extends internationally, where the Obama Administration continues to promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons. For example, earlier this year, then-U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice released a video message to mark International Day Against Homophobia, in which she said:

    At the United Nations, the United States is standing up for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals and fighting to ensure that their voices are heard and protected. The United States was proud to co-sponsor and adopt an historic resolution at the UN Human Rights Council condemning human rights abuses and violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

    Today is an opportunity to reflect upon and share the tremendous progress we have made over the last few years. However, let us also recommit ourselves to continuing this critically important work so that we can ensure dignity, equality, and justice for all people.

    As President Obama said earlier this year in his LGBT Pride Month remarks at the White House:

    The genius of America is that America can change.  And people who love this country can change it.  That’s what we’re called to do.  And I hope that when we gather here next year, and the year after that, we’ll be able to say, with pride and confidence, that together we’ve made our fellow citizens a little more free.  We’ve made this country a little more equal.  We’ve made our world a little more full of love.

    Click here to learn more about the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crime Prevention Act.

    Gautam Raghavan is an Advisor in the White House Office of Public Engagement.

  • Liberty, Opportunity and Equality for All: The Employment Non-Discrimination Act Vote

    Ed. Note: This blog is cross-posted from the United States Department of Justice.

    The fact remains that, across the country, far too many LGBT Americans suffer discrimination each and every day. That’s why the Department will keep working to promote opportunity and access for every individual. It’s why this will continue to be a priority for this Department as long as I have the privilege to serve as Attorney General. It’s why we will continue to advocate for essential legislative changes and reforms, like the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, to extend workplace protections to all Americans.

    -Attorney General Eric Holder, June 2013

    Right now, in 29 states, lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual (LGBT) Americans lack sufficient protections against employment discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. This week, the Senate passed a bill—the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA)—that would close this gap in our nation’s civil rights laws.

    Since the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, federal law has prohibited employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Yet five decades later, while we wait for ENDA to pass the House of Representatives, no federal law exists that explicitly prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity, and the majority of states lack basic workplace protections for LGBT Americans.

    As President Obama has stated: “[O]ur journey as a nation is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law, for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.”

    If signed into law, a fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act would explicitly prohibit workplace discrimination based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. ENDA’s prohibition of intentional discrimination makes clear that LGBT Americans deserve the same types of protections that are available under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

    The ability to earn a living and climb up the economic ladder is at the heart of the American dream. No individual should be denied a job or the opportunity to earn promotions and pay raises because of who they are or who they love. That’s why President Obama, Attorney General Holder, the Civil Rights Division, and the administration as a whole have been committed to the passage of an inclusive ENDA.

    In 2009, Tom Perez, then Assistant Attorney General in the Civil Rights Division, testified on behalf of the department before the Senate HELP Committee in support of this legislation, stating: “We have come too far in our struggle for ‘equal justice under the law’ to remain silent or stoic when our LGBT brothers and sisters are still being mistreated and ostracized for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with their skills or abilities.”

    The Civil Rights Division regularly receives letters from LGBT individuals all over the country documenting instances of employment discrimination. This discrimination takes many forms—from cruel instances of harassment, to explicit denials of employment or career-enhancing assignments. It is painfully disappointing to have to tell these men and women that, in the United States of America in 2013, insufficient legal tools exist to address this discrimination. While the Division makes every effort to address these complaints, because there are no federal laws that provide explicit protection against sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination, far too many people are left without clear protections.

    Four years ago, Congress passed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act to protect LGBT individuals from hate-fueled violence. Now it’s time for Congress to make certain that these Americans enjoy equal opportunity in the workplace and equal access to the American dream.

    Fifty years after the March on Washington, the Civil Rights Division seeks to advance this nation’s long struggle to embrace the principle so eloquently captured by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.—that persons should be judged based on the content of their character, and not on their race, color, sex, national origin, religion or any other irrelevant factors.

    Our existing civil rights laws, enforced by the Civil Rights Division, reflect and uphold this noble principle. So does the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Its passage would move this great nation one step closer to fulfilling our Constitution’s promise of liberty, opportunity and equality for all.

    Jocelyn Samuels is the Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice.

  • What is the Employment Non-Discrimination Act? (ENDA)

    This week, the Senate will vote on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, which would provide strong federal protections against discrimination, making it explicitly illegal to fire someone because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT).

    In this explainer video, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney highlights the importance of ENDA – not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s good for business and the economy.

    Watch on YouTube

    In case you missed it, read President Obama’s Op-Ed in support of ENDA.

  • President Obama Speaks Out in Support of ENDA

    This week, the Senate is expected to take up a critically important piece of legislation: the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA. This bill would make it explicitly illegal under federal law to fire someone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity – and it’s long overdue.

    President Obama has long supported a fully inclusive ENDA and he has expressed this support repeatedly over years. In an op-ed published in The Huffington Post, the President speaks directly to the American people to ensure everyone understands what’s at stake and why it’s so important that Congress move forward on this legislation.

    Read the full text of the op-ed below.

    Congress Needs to Pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act

    Here in the United States, we're united by a fundamental principle: we're all created equal and every single American deserves to be treated equally in the eyes of the law. We believe that no matter who you are, if you work hard and play by the rules, you deserve the chance to follow your dreams and pursue your happiness. That's America's promise.

    That's why, for instance, Americans can't be fired from their jobs just because of the color of their skin or for being Christian or Jewish or a woman or an individual with a disability. That kind of discrimination has no place in our nation. And yet, right now, in 2013, in many states a person can be fired simply for being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.

    As a result, millions of LGBT Americans go to work every day fearing that, without any warning, they could lose their jobs -- not because of anything they've done, but simply because of who they are.

  • Commemorating the Fourth Anniversary of the Shepard-Byrd Hate Crime Prevention Act

    Ed. Note: This blog is cross-posted from the U.S. Department of Justice

    “Using new tools and authorities, including the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, we’ve improved our ability to safeguard our civil rights and pursue justice for those who are victimized because of their gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. We will continue working to guarantee that – in our workplaces and military bases; in our housing and lending markets; in our schools and places of worship; in our immigrant communities and our voting booths – the rights of all Americans are protected.” - Attorney General Eric Holder testifying before Congress May 15, 2013
     

    In 1998, Matthew Shepard— a 21 year old student at the University of Wyoming was robbed, tortured, tied to a fence along a country road and left to die by two men who offered him a ride home from a local bar.

    That same year, James Byrd Jr.—a 49-year-old African-American man living in Jasper, Texas—also accepted a ride home from three men. They drove him to the remote edge of town where they beat him severely, tied him by the ankles to the back of a pickup truck, and dragged him to his death.

    The investigation into Matthew Shepard’s death found strong evidence that his attackers targeted him because he was gay. In the case of James Byrd Jr., the three men responsible for his killing were well-known white supremacists. His brutal murder stands as one of the most nightmarish recent incidents of racially motivated violence.

    But while the men responsible for the Shepard and Byrd killings were later convicted of murder, none of them were prosecuted for committing a hate crime. At the time these murders were committed, neither Wyoming nor Texas had a hate crimes law, and existing federal hate crimes protections did not include violent acts based on the victim’s sexual orientation and only covered racial violence against those engaged in a federally protected activity, such as voting or attending school.

    Four years ago today, President Barack Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crime Prevention Act. This landmark legislation, championed by the late Senator Ted Kennedy, greatly expanded the federal government’s ability to prosecute hate crimes.

    The law enables the Justice Department to prosecute crimes motivated by race, color, religion and national origin without having to show that the defendant was engaged in a federally protected activity. The Shepard-Byrd Act also empowers the department to prosecute crimes committed because of a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, gender or disability as hate crimes.

    The law also marked the first time that the words, “lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender” appeared in the U.S. Code.

    Under the leadership of Attorney General Holder, the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorney’s Offices around the country have used the law to address the most serious hate crimes. Over the last four years, 44 people in 16 states have been convicted under the Shepard-Byrd Act for their discrimination and crimes against others on the basis of race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.

    Just this month, the Civil Rights Division brought federal hate crimes charges against two Latino men associated with the Compton 155 street gang in California. These men attacked a 17-year-old African-American who was walking down a street in the city of Compton—striking him in the head with a metal pipe—and pointed a gun at another African-American juvenile who was present. Both attackers admitted their actions were substantially motivated by race and color.

    Earlier this year, a Justice Department investigation and prosecution in response to the beating of an Atlanta man resulted in the first conviction in Georgia under the sexual orientation provision of the Shepard-Byrd Act. In this case, two men pleaded guilty to assaulting a 20-year-old gay man as he left a grocery store in Atlanta’s Pittsburgh neighborhood. Video footage of the incident showed not only physical violence but also the use of anti-gay epithets. The two men were sentenced to serve 10 months in prison on federal hate crimes charges as well as five years on state charges for aggravated assault, robbery by force, and theft by receiving stolen property and obstruction.

    In addition to these enforcement efforts, the Civil Rights Division has held trainings for thousands of law enforcement officials – federal, state and local – to ensure that first responders to an assault or other act of violence know what questions to ask and what evidence to gather at the scene to allow prosecutors to make an informed assessment of whether a case should be prosecuted as a hate crime.

    Four years after the passage of the Shepard-Byrd Act, and more than a decade after the brutal murders of the men for whom it was named, prosecuting hate crimes remains a top priority for the President, the Attorney General and the Civil Rights Division.

    Jocelyn Samuels is Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice.

  • U.S. on Protecting and Promoting LGBT Rights in Europe

    Ed. Note: This blog is cross posted from the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, of the U.S. Department of State.

    Prepared Remarks by Uzra Zeya at the ILGA-Europe Annual Conference 2013 in Zagreb, Croatia

    October 24, 2013

    First, thank you very much Evelyne and to ILGA Europe for including me in this panel. I am so glad to be here.

    In response to your question, the most important thing to understand about the work of the U.S. government is that protecting and promoting the human rights of all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, is a foreign policy priority. That’s why I am here in Zagreb to deliver this message personally. The fundamental principle that guides our LGBT work is that the human rights of LGBT persons are not different than or separate from the human rights of everyone else. All people deserve to be treated with dignity no matter who they are or who they love.

    Looking across the region over 2013, there is a lot to be excited about. Both France and the UK have legalized same sex marriage and more countries are taking steps to make sure that LGBT persons can make the choices that work for them and their families. It is also encouraging to see new anti-discrimination and hate crimes legislation specifically including sexual orientation and gender identity as protected categories.

    But the United States remains extremely concerned about negative trends in a number of countries. The anti-gay propaganda law in Russia and the proposed law to strip gay parents of their parental rights are alarming. Laws, even when it is unclear how they will be enforced, are incredibly important. They are a statement of a country’s values and they have a teaching effect. Laws that validate discrimination, as we have seen in Russia, can lead to an increase in violence and harassment. This is particularly true when authorities don’t act to protect all of their citizens and when they fail to investigate and prosecute crimes committed by or against particular groups.

    I’ve singled out Russia but, as you all know, it is not the only place where there were disturbing events in 2013. We saw too many Pride and IDAHO marches confronted by counter-protestors, or, as just happened in Serbia, canceled altogether because of the threat of violence. Throughout Europe, LGBT persons continue to be harassed and discriminated against in employment, housing, education, and many other areas of public life.

    There is clearly work to be done. In the United States, we pursue this work guided by a Presidential Memorandum which lays out five main lines of effort: Decriminalization of LGBT status and conduct, protection of LGBT refugees and asylum seekers, foreign assistance to protect human rights, swift response to violence against LGBT persons, and engaging international organizations to fight LGBT discrimination.

    We raise the human rights of LGBT persons in our diplomatic engagement at all levels – from the President, to Secretary Kerry, to our Ambassadors and officers at post and in Washington. Our Ambassadors and officers march proudly in Pride celebrations. Advancing equality for LGBT persons isn’t just the right thing to do; it is fundamental to advancing democracy and human rights. As societies become more inclusive, they become better partners within the global community, joined together by common values and common interests.

    The U.S. also knows that change on the ground comes from within. At the State Department, same-sex partners and spouses at overseas missions enjoy the same benefits allowed by law as all our employees’ families. We’ve included a category for same-sex partners in our personnel system. It is now easier for transgender Americans to change the gender on their passport. And we’ve stated unequivocally that we do not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

    We regularly engage with and support civil society organizations to ensure our work “does no harm” and supports long-term change. In December 2011, then-Secretary Clinton launched the Global Equality Fund to support civil society advocates working to strengthen the human rights of LGBT persons. The United States has partnered with eight-like minded governments – France, Germany, Norway, the Netherlands, Finland, Iceland, Sweden, and Denmark – as well several foundations to raise and allocate more than $7 million dollars for projects in over 50 countries. The Fund provides emergency legal, medical, and relocation assistance to LGBT individuals and activists; capacity building programs to civil society organizations; and, through our embassy small grants programs, short-term funding to nascent LGBT organizations. This year, we’re excited about the Fund’s focus to increase the capacity of transgender organizations in Europe to document and respond to incidents of violence targeting transgender people.

    Uzra Zeya is Acting Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor.

  • Obamacare and LGBT Health

    Ed. Note: This is cross-posted from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Blog

    Throughout the Administration, we operate on the fundamental belief that every American deserves equal opportunity, equal protection, and equal rights under the law. That’s why the Affordable Care Act is so important for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans.

    The health care law prevents health insurance companies from charging anyone a higher premium just because they happen to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. It also prevents insurers from raising rates or denying coverage because of a pre-existing condition like HIV/AIDS, cancer, or mental health concerns.

    Thanks to the law, insurance companies can no longer impose a lifetime limit on your coverage. This is particularly important to HIV/AIDS patients, and anyone who has a chronic condition.

    The Affordable Care Act also includes critically important, non-discrimination provisions. For example, starting in January 2014, it will be illegal for any of the insurance companies who offer coverage through the Marketplace to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. We’ve also taken action to strengthen the civil rights provision in the law, by clarifying that the new law’s prohibition on sex discrimination includes discrimination based on sex stereotyping, and on gender identity.

    All of this is good news for the LGBT community, particularly when we consider that one in three lower income LGBT adults in our country do not have health insurance. Starting October 1, they are going to have the opportunity to sign-up for quality, affordable coverage through the new Health Insurance Marketplace for coverage beginning as early as January 1, 2014.

    But here’s the thing: most of these Americans are not yet aware of their new options.

    You don’t have to be an expert to figure out what we need to do to get the word out. It’s outreach. It’s education. It’s communication.

    That’s why, last week at the White House, I joined Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to President Obama, and nearly 200 LGBT community leaders and allies from across the country for a briefing on Obamacare and the LGBT community. The purpose of this briefing was to equip community leaders with the tools, information, and resources they need to get involved and help local LGBT communities get access to quality, affordable health care.

    And that’s why we are excited to work with organizations like Out2Enroll, a new initiative to educate the LGBT community about the Affordable Care Act. Rooting for more of our neighbors to sign up for health care is not enough. It’s going to take work at the grassroots. And so Out2Enroll has a very important mission.

    Dr. King taught us, “Human progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless effort and the persistent work of dedicated individuals.”

    So in the weeks and months ahead, we look forward to working with a diverse range of partners – national advocates, LGBT community centers, HIV/AIDS service providers, Pride organizations, PFLAG chapters – to ensure that members of the LGBT community have the information, resources, and tools they need to sign up for quality, affordable health care.

    I hope you will join us in this important work.

    In case you missed it:

    Kathleen Sebelius is the Secretary of Health and Human Services.