Blog Posts Related to the LGBT Community
- Posted byon May 28, 2013 at 1:25 PM EST
In working in my city, county, and state for over forty years, I have always had the goal of making change by working together with others to improve my community – and being clear about who I am.
Thirty-five years ago, I joined with others to found a community credit union to provide credit for those who couldn’t get it, and keep our money local for reinvestment – an organization that now has thousands of members and tens of millions in assets and has led to the creation of many local jobs. Almost thirty years ago, I was one of the six gay men that organized our local AIDS service agency. I served as executive director for three years at the height of the epidemic, organizing hundreds of volunteers to educate the general public and to provide support to those with HIV.
As a City Councilmember and Mayor, I was part of a team that brought new people into the municipal system, won a court case to establish greenbelts around our city, and established one of the early domestic partner benefit programs in the country.
As a state legislator, I authored eighty-two bills signed into law, and led my house in budget matters as Assembly Budget Chair. I was proud that one of my civil rights bills was the basis for a state Supreme Court decision protecting a gay couple in adoption matters and that other bills restored community college health services, established the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, and expanded water conservation state-wide.
As a member of the Governor’s cabinet, I have worked at his direction to finish the establishment of the largest network of marine protected areas in the nation, help save the Lake Tahoe Compact, and help him be on target to meet the state’s goal of 33% renewable energy by 2020.
In each of these efforts, I have worked to be the best person for the job – while being clear who I was. In 1983, I was one of the first three openly gay mayors in the country – all elected that year. When elected to the State Assembly, I was one of the first two openly gay men ever elected to the California legislature. In my work I have been proud to have made a difference.
John Laird is the California Secretary for Natural Resources.
- Posted byon May 28, 2013 at 12:47 PM EST
Throughout my 32 years in the Minnesota House of Representatives, I‘ve worked hard on behalf of those that are economically and socially disadvantaged or underrepresented, because that is part of my own life experience as a child growing up in a farming family that were share-croppers in southwestern Minnesota.
Air quality continues to be a significant issue for many neighborhoods in my district and across Minnesota. The state currently monitors air quality by collecting data from several fixed points across the Twin Cities area. The problem with that strategy is that our low income and minority neighborhoods are regularly under served by the existing data collection system. That’s why I am working on legislation that would implement mobile air monitoring systems that will enable us to target areas of concern, compare them to other areas and lead us toward ensuring that these neighborhoods enjoy the same level of air quality that all communities enjoy.
Similar to many metro areas across the country, we struggle mightily with issues relating to affordable housing. This year we were able to invest over $22 million in housing opportunities that will enable people to stabilize their housing situation. This can help families by making it easier for people to gain employment, for students to succeed in school, and for neighborhoods to improve their overall economic standing.
Lastly, I worked hard to achieve marriage equality for same sex couples. It took an enormous amount of work by thousands of volunteers across the state to vote down a discriminatory anti-gay constitutional amendment in the 2012 election and to then mobilize an even broader coalition to pass a strong marriage equality bill. With that signing, Minnesota became the 12th state in the country (plus the District of Colombia) to allow same sex couples the right to marry. We proved that marriage is about love and commitment between two individuals, no matter what their gender is.
Karen Clark is a Minnesota State Representative.
- Posted byon May 28, 2013 at 11:05 AM EST
I have cared about people all of my life. My earliest memory goes back to when I was around seven or eight years old and I stood up for another child who was being bullied and called names due to a disability. I put myself between her and a group of mean kids. That innate sense of love, the idea that I would offer myself as a shield and dare to speak out against injustice rose up in me like a lioness protecting her cub. It was the beginning of my activism and advocacy. I’ve been doing so ever since.
I came out to myself and my family as a lesbian in my early teens. Not really knowing what made me feel different, but fully understanding that I was. I searched for a language to explain my difference and in a ninth grade health class I learned the word lesbian and felt immediately at home. I embraced that word and myself. And I LOVED me. I was fortunate enough to attend Cass Technical High School, where individuality, community and excellence were nurtured. I met others that were different like me and we became a family of young people – fierce, fearless/fearful and OUT. We remain a family today.
Being an activist who is fierce, fearless/fearful and OUT became the foundation on which I built my life. No matter what work I’ve done, I’ve performed it within a framework of activism and advocacy with a strong sense of social justice, and civil and human rights. Whether I was managing physician practices, volunteering with youth, assisting senior citizens, supporting lesbians living with cancer or traveling the South fighting for the civil rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender people and those living with HIV/AIDS, the work has always been about speaking truth to power. It is always about seeking justice and being a voice for the silenced, the fearful and the most vulnerable.
After 20 years of experience as an activist and advocate around this broad range of issues, preparation and opportunity crossed paths and I, along with a team of ambitious supporters, set out to take a seat at the table of decision making by running for Georgia State House of Representatives District 58. Not only did we win, but our campaign solidified me as the first African American OUT lesbian to serve in a State House in the United States.
As State Representative, I continue to do as I did so many years ago for that young child with the disability, placing myself between the people whose voices are silenced and legislation and policies that are regressive and seek to destroy. I champion causes and legislation that lends itself to fostering a more just society for the issues dearest to my heart: workplace equality; access to affordable and quality health care; fighting HIV/AIDS stigma and discrimination; safe and effective schools for ALL students; youth empowerment and women’s issues.
I am so thankful for the amazing people who nominated me for this prestigious award. I appreciate their kind words on my behalf and their continued support. I am also very thankful for the White House for creating the Champions of Change program. It’s pretty awesome to be recognized for simply being who I was born to be – fierce, fearless/fearful and OUT!
Simone Bell is a Georgia State Representative.
- Posted byon May 21, 2013 at 4:10 PM EST
Earlier today, Peace Corps Deputy Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet announced that, starting June 3, the agency will begin accepting applications from same-sex domestic partners who want to serve together as volunteers overseas.
“Service in the Peace Corps is a life-defining leadership experience for Americans who want to make a difference around the world,” Deputy Director Hessler-Radelet said. “I am proud that the agency is taking this important step forward to allow same-sex domestic partners to serve overseas together.”
Expanding service opportunities to same-sex domestic partners is not only consistent with the Obama Administration’s ongoing commitment to advancing equality for the LGBT community, it also further diversifies the pool of Peace Corps applicants and the skills of those invited to serve overseas in the fields of education, health, community economic development, environment, youth in development and agriculture.
- Posted byon May 20, 2013 at 4:39 PM EST
Ed. note: This is cross-posted from the HUD Blog
This past Wednesday, Secretary Donovan spoke to the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Real Estate Professionals (NAGLREP) and highlighted the many accomplishments the Administration and HUD have realized on behalf of the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual and Transgender (LGBT) Americans:
HUD and this administration have taken historic steps in the area of housing to ensure that we fulfill our nation’s commitment to equality.
As part of its financial support for housing and urban development programs, HUD awards millions of dollars every year through competitive grant programs, funding that is announced by Notices of Funding Availability (or NOFAs). HUD has long required that outstanding civil rights violations must be resolved before an applicant can be considered eligible to compete for funds. More recently, HUD added to its requirements that an eligible grantee may not have outstanding civil rights violations of a state or local law prohibiting housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
HUD has included similar anti-discrimination provisions in other areas. For example, some courts in Title VII civil rights challenges have applied principles of sex discrimination for gender stereotyping, which has provided limited but important civil rights protections for transgender individuals. Expanding on this in 2010, HUD formally adopted the principle that housing discrimination because of non-conformity with gender stereotypes – essentially gender identity discrimination – is sex discrimination under the Fair Housing Act.
The following year, HUD enacted an important rule: Equal Access to Housing in HUD Programs Regardless of Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity. This rule does four important things to ensure that LGBT persons are not excluded from HUD’s programs:
- It creates a broad requirement that housing falling within these categories is made available without regard to actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status.
- It clarifies HUD’s definitions of “family” and “household” and reaffirms that these include all persons regardless of actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status.
- It prohibits those funded by HUD or insured by FHA from asking about an applicant or occupant’s sexual orientation or gender identity for purposes of housing eligibility.
- And finally, the rule prohibits FHA approved lenders from basing eligibility determinations for FHA-insured loans on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.
Earlier this year, HUD reached a historic agreement with Bank of America (BofA) to settle allegations the mortgage lender refused to provide financing to a lesbian couple and had illegally based its denial on the couple’s sexual orientation and marital status.
Moving forward, HUD will continue to aggressively investigate these kinds of violations. And, using our research arm, we’ll study and monitor trends in fair housing. Next month HUD’s Office of Policy Development and Research will release the first ever study of Housing Discrimination Against Same-Sex Couples.
As Secretary Donovan said to National Association of Gay and Lesbian Real Estate Professionals, “Housing opportunities should be available to ALL persons.”
- Posted byon May 17, 2013 at 10:54 AM EST
Today, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice released a video message to mark International Day Against Homophobia.
- Posted byon April 22, 2013 at 6:30 PM EST
Ed. note: This is cross-posted from the Department of Education Blog
Today GLSEN hosts its national Day of Silence—a day where students throughout the country take a vow of silence to call attention to anti-LGBT bullying and harassment in schools. I want to encourage all of us NOT to be silent on an important issue: the need to address and eliminate bullying and harassment in our schools.
No student should ever feel unsafe in school. If students don’t feel safe, they can’t learn. And if left unaddressed, bullying and harassment can rapidly escalate into even more serious abuse.
I want to remind students, parents, and administrators of the power of supportive clubs, like the Gay Straight Alliances or GSAs, to foster safe school environments. The Department of Education has provided guidance to schools on their obligations under federal laws to provide equal access to extracurricular clubs, including GSAs, as well to address bullying and harassment and gender-based violence.
Let’s work together to end bullying and harassment in schools.
Please visit StopBullying.gov and find additional resources from the Department of Education below–including school obligations under federal law:
- Equal access to extracurricular clubs
- Bullying and harassment
- Gender-based violence
- Sexual violence on college campuses
Arne Duncan is U.S. Secretary of Education
- Posted byon April 16, 2013 at 4:26 PM EST
Over the last four years, we have seen tremendous, historic change take place across the federal government, from signing into law federal protections for LGBT victims of hate crimes, to repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” to implementing new policies and programs to address the health and safety of LGBT individuals. And at the same time, local communities across the country are taking action to address the inequalities and disparities faced by LGBT people.
I recently had the opportunity to travel to one of these communities to see this progress in person. Earlier this month, I visited Boyle Heights, California – a neighborhood in East Los Angeles – for an LGBTQ Forum hosted by the Latino Equality Alliance in collaboration with The California Endowment’s Building Healthy Communities initiative. The event brought together service providers, families, advocates, and individuals from the nearby communities for a resource fair, plenaries, and workshop sessions.
Some of the key issues that were raised throughout the day included family acceptance, access to affordable health care and housing, and increased opportunities for local service providers. In addition, many of the participants I met were particularly interested in President Obama’s call for commonsense immigration reform that will keep our families together and allow DREAMers a pathway to citizenship.
It was truly inspiring to see such a coalition of diverse local organizations unite in common purpose at the Boyle Heights LGBTQ Forum. Events such as these are a shining example of how communities across America can come together to seek solutions to the unique issues facing our youth and families.