Blog Posts Related to the LGBT Community

  • Ensuring Safe Schools for LGBT Youth

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted from the US Department of Education Blog

    Ensuring Safe Schools for LGBT Youth

    Photo Credit: US Department of Education

    This past weekend in San Diego, I had the opportunity to participate in the 4th Annual National Educator Conference focused on creating safe, supportive, and inclusive schools for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth. A goal of the conference, presented by the Center for Excellence in School Counseling and Leadership (CESCaL), was to bring together education leaders and LGBT experts to empower and provide educators and school personnel with the knowledge and skills necessary to create safe, welcoming and inclusive school environments for all youth, regardless of their sexual orientation.

    Additionally, the conference focused on providing educators with the tools and resources to prevent and respond to bullying of LGBT youth, as well as empowering them to make the changes in their schools to make sure all kids are safe and thriving. I met with so many amazing educators; it truly was empowering.

     Safe schools are not only free from overt forms of physical violence or substance abuse, but work proactively to support, engage, and include all students. Unfortunately, too many schools are not safe for LGBT youth. According to GLSEN’s National School Climate Survey, nearly 8 out of 10 LGBT youth were harassed at school. We know that students who are bullied are more likely to have depression, anxiety, and other health concerns, as well as decreased academic achievement and participation. When students don’t feel safe, they are less likely to learn and more likely to give up on school altogether. Unfortunately, we also know that LGBT youth are disproportionately subject to discipline practices that exclude them from the classroom, and make up close to 15% of youth in the juvenile justice system.

    Given these statistics, it’s not surprising that LGBT youth are at an increased risk for suicidal thoughts and behaviors, suicide attempts, and suicide. We need to ensure that educators have the tools and resources to not only protect LGBT students from harassment and discrimination, but to ensure that they thrive in schools, not drop out!

  • Addressing HIV in the Black Community

    Ed. note: This was cross-posted from The Root.

    Yesterday, on Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, I had the pleasure of meeting with leaders who are doing outstanding work to prevent new HIV infections and improve health outcomes for African-Americans.  We shared stories and discussed the importance of engaging everyone in these efforts, including faith leaders, educators, athletes, entertainers, artists, scientists, healthcare providers as well as friends, families, and neighbors.

    This approach also reflects the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, which calls for a collective response to the ongoing domestic epidemic, and sets specific goals with regard to addressing HIV-related disparities among African-Americans. 

    Our conversation was both sobering and inspiring. Sobering because of the challenges that remain in addressing the epidemic, including confronting the myths about HIV transmission and the virus itself. Inspiring because during our dialogue it became clear that these leaders are committed to breaking down barriers that impede our progress in preventing and treating HIV/AIDS.

    Data highlight the urgency of this work. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1.1 million people in the United States are living with HIV/AIDS and nearly 50,000 people become infected with HIV each year.  In 2010, African-Americans accounted for only 14% of the U.S. population, but 44% of new HIV infections. The majority (70%) of new HIV infections among African-Americans occur among black men, and are concentrated among gay men. In fact, young black gay and bisexual men who are the only group in the black community where new HIV infections are increasing.  Black women represent 30% of new infections among African-Americans. Transgender black women are also at risk for HIV with as many as one in three in some studies diagnosed with HIV. And only 21% of black Americans have a suppressed viral load, the key health marker for HIV treatment. 

  • LGBT Advocates Welcome President Obama’s Proposal for Comprehensive Immigration Reform

    Earlier this week, President Barack Obama delivered remarks in Las Vegas about creating a fair and effective immigration system that lives up to our heritage as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants."I’m here because most Americans agree that it’s time to fix a system that’s been broken for way too long." President Obama said. "I’m here because business leaders, faith leaders, labor leaders, law enforcement, and leaders from both parties are coming together to say now is the time to find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as the land of opportunity. Now is the time to do this so we can strengthen our economy and strengthen our country’s future."

    President Obama's proposal for immigration reform has four parts. First, continue to strengthen our borders. Second, crack down on companies that hire undocumented workers. Third, hold undocumented immigrants accountable before they can earn their citizenship; this means requiring undocumented workers to pay their taxes and a penalty, move to the back of the line, learn English, and pass background checks. Fourth, streamline the legal immigration system for families, workers, and employers.

    In response to the President’s proposal, a number of organizations that advocate for LGBT rights issued statements praising the President’s leadership and calling for comprehensive immigration reform.  Here are some of their words:

    Rachel Tiven, Executive Director of Immigration Equality

    “LGBT families are elated to have the President’s support for an immigration reform bill that includes our families.  When the President leads, Congress and the American people join him to stand for equality. From the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ to marriage equality, the President’s leadership has been effective, and critical, in winning real change for real families. As Congress moves forward in crafting legislation to fix our broken immigration system, we look forward to working with the President and our allies on Capitol Hill to pass a bill that ends the discrimination LGBT families face, provides a pathway to citizenship for undocumented people – gay and straight – and quickly integrates young people whose dream is to be fully, legally American.”

    Chad Griffin, President of the Human Rights Campaign

    “President Obama continues to demonstrate his tremendous leadership on behalf of our community by recognizing that fixing our nation’s flawed immigration system must include relief for these loving, committed couples and their families.  In addition, by establishing a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, including children brought into this country by their parents, the President’s plan will help millions of individuals at our nation’s margins.”

    Rea Carey, Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

    “President Obama today put forth a vision of immigration reform that is inclusive. Today, there are 11 million undocumented immigrants, including hundreds of thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people who are forced to live in the shadows of society. Creating a clear pathway to citizenship will ensure better and brighter futures not just for them, but for our entire country. America wouldn’t be what it is today without the grit, guts, ingenuity, creativity and work ethic of millions of immigrants who have come to this country with a dream. These dreams built and have sustained America — from science and industry, to agriculture and domestic work, to commerce and innovation. The American dream dies when the dreamers are shut out.”

    Jennifer Chrisler, Executive Director of Family Equality Council

    “Immigration is fundamentally a family issue.  The President has demonstrated time and again that he has the best interest of families with LGBT parents at heart, and our inclusion in his plan for Comprehensive Immigration Reform further demonstrates his commitment to us. We will stand with him every step of the way to make sure we are protecting families with parents who are immigrants, and we look forward to working with the White House and Congress to get this done. ”

    Kate Kendell, Executive Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights

    "It is clear that after long suffering we may finally see true progress on meaningful immigration reform. In a historic speech today, President Obama made clear that he supports an accessible and straightforward path to citizenship, recognition of ALL families and a process for keeping those families together, including same-sex couples and families headed by LGBT parents, and citizenship for DREAMers. This is what we must see. As the process continues, we are committed to assuring that reforms truly provide the dignity, recognition, and fairness the President suggested. We need a plan animated by humanity, not punishment."

    Justin Nelson and Chance Mitchell, Co-Founders of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce

    “On behalf of the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, we congratulate President Barack Obama on his proposed plan to reform immigration policy, which includes provisions for both business owners and for LGBT bi-national couples.  The NGLCC understands that the United States is a nation of entrepreneurs, and the health and strength of our economy depends on opening greenfield opportunities for innovators looking to start and sustain businesses within our borders. We call on Congress to work with President Obama and move forward meaningful reform to establish an efficient path to citizenship for all people, including LGBT bi-national families.”

    Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, Staff Attorney at Lambda Legal

    “We are pleased that the experiences of LGBT families are being addressed by the President's plan for comprehensive immigration reform, presented today. The plan includes critically important protections needed by millions of hardworking Americans. Those who dismiss the needs of LGBT families and suggest that we can only protect some people but not all are not being true to deeply held American values of fairness.”

  • 2012 Highlights

    As we kick off 2013, we want to take a few moments to reflect upon the last year of progress towards dignity, justice, and equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people.

    December 13: US Leadership to Advance Equality for LGBT People Abroad
    Samantha Power, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights at the National Security Council, describes the Obama Administration’s commitment to human rights and human dignity for LGBT people abroad.

    November 20: Transgender Day of Remembrance
    The White House marks Transgender Day of Remembrance by meeting with a small group of community advocates.

    October 19: Going Purple for Spirit Day
    The White House honors Spirit Day to support young people who have been victims of bullying.

    Dr Biden/VPOTUS Young LGBT Leaders

    September 19, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden speak at a reception with emerging young leaders of the LGBT community at the Naval Observatory Residence in Washington, D.C., September 19, 2012. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann))

    September 21: Celebrating the Next Generation of LGBT Leaders
    The Vice President and Dr. Biden welcome young LGBT leaders from around the country – students and community organizers, advocates and artists, and veterans – to a reception at the Vice President’s Residence.

    September 20: Marking One Year Since the Repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
    Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President, meets with a small group of openly gay and lesbian servicemembers, together with several of their partners and spouses, to celebrate the one year anniversary of the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

    July 26: Dr. Jill Biden Views the AIDS Memorial Quilt
    Dr. Jill Biden views some panels of the AIDS Memorial Quilt during the week of the 19th International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C.

    July 18: The White House Celebrates LGBT Champions of Change
    The White House honors six ordinary Americans as LGBT Champions of Change because of their extraordinary work across the country to ensure safety, dignity, and equality for the LGBT community.

     
    DOD's LGBT Pride Month Event

    June 26, 2012. (by Brenda S. “Sue” Fulton, far right, speaks during a panel at DoD’s LGBT Pride Month event at the Pentagon, June 26, 2012. (Photo courtesy of DoD, by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley))

    June 28: Defense Department Hosts First Ever LGBT Pride Month Event
    The Department of Defense holds its first-ever LGBT Pride Month event at the Pentagon, commending the service and sacrifice of gay and lesbian servicemembers and LGBT civilian personnel.

    June 19: The Obama Administration Honors LGBT Pride Month
    Throughout the month of June, the Obama Administration honors LGBT Pride Month with video messages, statements by senior officials, events, and even a Presidential Proclamation.

    Robin Roberts and POTUS Interview

    May 9, 2012. (Official White House Photo by President Barack Obama participates in an interview with Robin Roberts of ABC's Good Morning America, in the Cabinet Room of the White House, May 9, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza))

    May 10: President Obama Supports Same-Sex Marriage
    During an interview with ABC News, the President expresses his personal support for marriage equality.

    May 10: Reactions to President Obama’s Support for Marriage Equality
    Following the President’s statement in support of marriage equality, individuals and organizations across the country – including labor unions, environmental groups, social justice and civil rights advocates, and organizations advocating for equal rights for LGBT people – express their support for the President.

    April 20: Ending Bullying in Our Schools & Communities
    Valerie Jarrett describes the White House screening of the movie BULLY, describes the Obama Administration’s efforts to address and prevent bullying, and announces the President’s endorsement of the Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA) and Safe Schools Improvement Act (SSIA).

    April 11: LGBT Families at the 2012 White House Easter Egg Roll
    The White House welcomes thousands of families for the 2012 White House Easter Egg Roll – including LGBT families from as far away as Utah and as nearby as Maryland.

    Valerie Jarrett at Legal Defense Network

    March 3, 2012. (by Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett delivers keynote remarks at the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network 20th National Dinner in Washington, D.C., Saturday, March 3, 2012 (Photo by Chris Burch/SLDN).)

     March 4: Celebrating Repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” at the SLDN National Dinner

    Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett delivers keynote remarks before over 1,000 gay and lesbian service members, veterans, and military families at the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network national dinner in Washington, D.C.

    February 23: On the Road in Philadelphia: Focus on LGBT Health
    The White House Office of Public Engagement kicks off the White House LGBT Conference series with a day-long conference on LGBT Health in Philadelphia, PA, featuring keynote remarks by Secretary of Health & Human Services Kathleen Sebelius.

    February 6: On the Road in Peoria: Combating Hate, One Community at a Time
    The Department of Justice continues to enforce and implement the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

    January 30: Ending Housing Discrimination Against LGBT Americans
    At the 24th national Gay and Lesbian Task Force “Creating Change” Conference, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan announces the publication of a new Equal Access to Housing Rule that says clearly and unequivocally that LGBT individuals and couples have the right to live where they choose.

    January 25: A Special Message on National Gay-Straight Alliance Day
    Secretary of Education Arne Duncan records a video message to students across the country in honor of the first-ever National Gay Straight Alliance Day.

    POTUS at LGBT Pride Month Reception

    June 15, 2012. (Official White House Photo by President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the LGBT Pride Month Reception in the East Room of the White House, June 15, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy))

     Gautam Raghavan is an Associate Director in the Office of Public Engagement

  • We Want to Hear from You

    As we commemorated World AIDS Day earlier this month, the importance of addressing the needs of women and girls as part of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy was clear. While we have made tremendous progress in learning how to prevent and treat HIV, including among women and girls, much work remains.  Of the approximately 1.1 million people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States, about 290,000 are women and women account for 23 percent of new HIV infections.  

    This Administration has made combating the HIV/AIDS epidemic a priority. For women, that includes addressing gender-based violence and gender related health disparities.  This violence can increase the risks women and girls face of acquiring HIV while decreasing their ability to seek prevention, treatment, and health services.

    As directed by the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, federal agencies are collaborating and coordinating in an unprecedented manner to decrease new HIV/AIDS infections, improve HIV-related outcomes, and reduce HIV-related disparities.  To continue this collaborative approach, President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum in March 2012, establishing an interagency working group on the intersection of HIV/AIDS, violence against women and girls, and gender-related health disparities. 

    The working group includes representatives from the Departments of Justice, Interior, Health and Human Services, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs, Housing and Urban Development, and the Office of Management and Budget. We are also tapping into the wealth of expertise and experience of members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS as well as our global Federal partners from the Department of State, the United States Agency for International Development, and the Gender Technical Working Group from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). 

  • US Leadership to Advance Equality for LGBT People Abroad

    During Human Rights Week, we reaffirm our commitment to upholding human rights and human dignity at home and abroad, and we recognize the need to build a world in which everyone can pursue their dreams free from violence and discrimination.

    Last week at the Human Rights First summit, I described how advancing the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people around the world is central to, not separate from, our comprehensive human rights agenda. With LGBT people facing death, violence, persecution, and discrimination around the world, the stakes could not be higher. Seventy-eight countries have laws that criminalize consensual same-sex acts between adults, resulting in unchecked human rights abuses and exploitation by police, security officials and private citizens. In at least 5 countries, the death penalty can be applied for being gay. Even where being LGBT is not a crime, violence by state and non-state actors alike often goes unpunished and LGBT communities live in fear and isolation.

    As President Obama has said, “no one should be harmed because of who they are or who they love”. To ensure a comprehensive U.S. response to these threats, one year ago, President Obama issued the first ever Presidential Memorandum to advance the human rights of LGBT persons, requiring all U.S. agencies engaged abroad to “ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons,” and to report annually on their progress.

    We are continuing to lead a government-wide effort to oversee implementation of the Presidential Memorandum and ensure effective coordination across different agencies and offices. Highlights from progress made across the U.S. Government include:

    Strengthening U.S. Government capacity:

    • Departments and agencies are establishing new coordination mechanisms, strengthening training of key personnel, and raising internal awareness among staff and partners about LGBT issues. Secretary of State Clinton and USAID Administrator Shah have instructed U.S. embassies and USAID missions to meet regularly with the LGBT community in their host countries. The Department of State has also established a taskforce that meets monthly to oversee the implementation of its LGBT strategy, created and distributed a resource toolkit to all embassies, and established a rapid response mechanism to address emerging crises in different countries. USAID has established a new LGBT senior coordinator position and internal task force, developed e-tools including an LGBT resource page and internal listserv, and directed all USAID missions to appoint a focal point to follow LGBT issues.
    • The Peace Corps is implementing LGBT training sessions for Volunteers and staff to raise awareness about the unique challenges faced by local LGBT populations as well as LGBT Peace Corps Volunteers in the field. In 2012, the Peace Corps also facilitated a regional workshop to help overseas posts foster a more inclusive and supportive environment for LGBT Volunteers and staff.

  • Safety and Justice for All Americans

    Editor's note: The following post appears courtesy of Roy L. Austin Jr., the Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice. This is cross-posted from the DOJ blog.

    Last week, I attended the Ninth Anniversary of the National Center for Transgender Equality in Washington, D.C., and delivered remarks about the Obama Administration’s commitment to safety and justice for all Americans, including transgender Americans.

    LGBT equality has been a top priority of the Obama Administration and Attorney General Eric Holder. As President Barack Obama said in October 2011:

    “Every single American – gay, straight, lesbian, bisexual, transgender – every single American deserves to be treated equally in the eyes of the law and in the eyes of our society. It’s a pretty simple proposition.”

    The Justice Department has a number of tools at our disposal to meet this important goal. In the Civil Rights Division, one way we do this is by ensuring that law enforcement officials treat everyone equally and are not violating the constitutional rights of the people they serve. The vast majority of police departments around the country work tirelessly to protect the civil and constitutional rights of the communities they serve. But when systematic problems emerge in a police department, the Civil Rights Division uses its statutory authority to hold them accountable, and to galvanize and institutionalize meaningful reform. 

  • Transgender Day of Remembrance

    Earlier today, a group of transgender community advocates met with White House staff to mark Transgender Day of Remembrance and discuss ways in which we can work together to ensure dignity, equality, and justice for all people.

    Throughout America and around the world, many transgender people face bullying, harassment, discrimination, and violence.  Far too often, we hear shocking and tragic stories about transgender people who have been assaulted and even killed because of their gender identity or expression.  The Obama Administration is committed to preventing violence against all people, including all members of the LGBT community, and this meeting was an important opportunity to explore ways to make our communities and neighborhoods safer.

    At the meeting, community leaders highlighted a range of issues and concerns of importance to transgender people.  In the months and years ahead, we look forward to working to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all transgender people.

    As we mark Transgender Day of Remembrance and reflect upon the lives that have been lost to violence and injustice, let us all recommit ourselves to ensuring dignity, equality, and justice for all people.

    Gautam Raghavan is an Associate Director in the Office of Public Engagement.