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For Civil Minds Blog

A Day of Remembrance

Posted on November 22nd, 2013 by

By Snehee Khandeshi, ERC Fair Housing Program Coordinator

Earlier this week, Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) events took place across the globe to memorialize the victims of hate crimes motivated by transphobia, and bring attention to the continued violence experienced by the transgender community.  On the fifteenth anniversary of TDOR, 238 individuals who  were killed because of their gender identity during the past year were memorialized.

Trans communities constantly face the threat of violent crimes.  The motivation and circumstances of violence perpetuated against transgender individuals is unclear, but it is clear that working to eliminate the everyday discrimination that trans people face in housing, employment, and in access to government resources is a necessary step toward reducing the threat of violence.

Though research regarding discrimination against the transgender community is scarce, in 2011 the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality published a report, titled Injustice at Every Turn, which documents discrimination faced by transgender individuals.  With respect to housing, of the respondents to their national survey, 19 percent reported having been outright refused a home or apartment, and 11 percent reported being evicted because of their gender identity or expression. Furthermore, 19 percent reported experiencing homelessness at some point in their lives because they were transgender or gender non-conforming. Many of those who tried to gain access to a homeless shelter were harassed by shelter staff or residents.  Almost a third were turned away from a shelter altogether and, alarmingly, 22 percent reported being sexually assaulted by residents or staff. (more…)

ENDA Passes U.S. Senate

Posted on November 5th, 2013 by

Elderly lesbian coupleOn Thursday afternoon, the U.S. Senate passed the Employment Non-discrimination Act (ENDA) by a vote of 64 to 32. If passed into law, ENDA would ban employment discrimination based on a worker’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Federal law currently prohibits employment discrimination based on age, sex, race, color, national origin, disability, or religion. However, federal law does not protected workers who are fired, denied hire or promotion, mistreated, or otherwise discriminated against because they are, or are perceived to be, lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT).

ENDA was first introduced in Congress in 1994, and has been considered by either the House or the Senate nearly every year since then. The last time ENDA made it to a vote in the U.S. Senate was 1996, when the bill failed by one vote, 49-50.

The District of Columbia and 21 states currently have laws that protect LGBT workers from employment discrimination. This legislation would ensure that LGBT workers in every state have the same fair employment rights as other workers.

Polling data shows that the vast majority of the American public supports the protections in ENDA. Many business and industry leaders have also backed ENDA, including Apple, Nike, General Motors, General Electric, Time Warner, Wells Fargo and many others. The Obama administration has also expressed support for the bill. (more…)

Commemorating Hispanic Heritage Month: A Personal Anecdote

Posted on October 7th, 2013 by

ERC Staff

ERC staff at our 30th anniversary event (from left to right—Snehee Khandeshi, Stephanie Gonzalez, former staffer Ian Watlington, and Maria Emma del Toro).

By Stephanie Gonzalez, ERC Immigrant Rights Program Manager

Heritage is a word that I’ve never quite fully understood. Perhaps this is because I come from an Ethnic Studies educational background, where the concepts of culture being “socially constructed” and in a constant state of “fluidity” have challenged any notion of something actually belonging to me by right of birth. As I sit here with several invitations for Hispanic Heritage events looming on my calendar, I can’t help but think of what my Hispanic heritage has meant to me. For many individuals born in the United States, whose parents left their country of origin to pursue a better life in America, a discussion of heritage would be amiss without acknowledgement of the challenges their parents faced to start a new life in the land of opportunity.  Heritage is not just colorful flags, finger-licking foods, boisterous music, and flashy costumes celebrating cultural traditions. Heritage is the journey.  Heritage is the strife, the sweat, and the tears. (more…)

ERC Accessible Health Care Self Advocacy Toolkit Now Available!

Posted on October 1st, 2013 by

Accessible Healthcare toolkitThe ERC is proud to announce the publication of the Accessible Health Care Self Advocacy Toolkit. This toolkit is just one of the many resources and publications that the ERC uses to educate individuals about their rights under federal, state and local laws.

More than 57 million people living in the United States have at least one type of disability. People with disabilities have a right to accessible health care under federal, state and local laws. As medical technologies and facilities continue to advance, health care providers must ensure that all services are accessible to individuals with disabilities. The lack of accessible health care facilities, equipment, and services too often means compromised medical diagnoses and treatment, to the detriment of patients with disabilities.

The Accessible Health Care Self Advocacy Toolkit is designed to inform individuals of the civil rights afforded to patients with disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This toolkit also instructs individuals on how to alert a medical service provider to an accessibility issue and how to request a reasonable accommodation for a medical care facility. (more…)

ERC Receives Generous Support from Dept. of Housing and Urban Development

Posted on September 26th, 2013 by

The Equal Rights Center (ERC) has been awarded two grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Fair Housing Initiative Program (FHIP).

“The ERC is honored to be a recipient of these grants, and to continue to partner with from the Department of Housing and Urban Development in promoting equal housing opportunity for all,” said Don Kahl, Executive Director of the ERC. “With these funds, we will continue to provide education and outreach, testing, and advocacy to protect and promote fair housing, and will be able to further grow this work to reach the most vulnerable advance the ERC’s and HUD’s mission of affirmatively furthering fair housing, and will continue to work collaboratively to advance civil rights for both individuals and whole communities.”

The ERC is the recipient of a three-year Private Enforcement Initiative (PEI) grant, which will support testing investigations and intake complaint assistance throughout the Washington, DC metropolitan area.  The ERC will receive $325,000 for the first year of the grant, with future funding contingent upon HUD’s budget. The ERC will also receive a one-year $125,000 Education and Outreach Initiative (EOI) grant, which will support the dissemination of fair housing information to diverse communities through workshops, trainings, publications, online messaging, and other communications. (more…)

Reflecting on 9/11: Freedom and Equality for All

Posted on September 11th, 2013 by

On a clear September morning twelve years ago, our lives were forever changed. Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, some even began to look at other Americans as “the enemy,” based on their religion, national origin, or descent. Many began to second guess their neighbor, their local salesclerk, and even their friends. But, even beyond the devastation of the day, September 11, 2001, brought many unintended consequences – including increased discrimination.

The United States was founded on cultural differences, but at times this seems to be forgotten, and the stain of discrimination is allowed to grow. As evidenced by recent events such as the rise of anti-immigrant laws, shootings at Sikh temples, and the profiling of young black men like Trayvon Martin, discrimination occurs in every corner of the United States. Whether you live in urban, suburban or rural America, discrimination exists.

The Equal Rights Center (ERC) is committed to addressing this discrimination, and promoting equal opportunity for all.  Through an array of outreach events, informational materials available in seven languages, and published reports documenting our testing investigations, the ERC works to connect with all sectors of the community – and we assist individuals who encounter discrimination every day.

Today, as we reflect upon and honor those lost in the attacks–and the thousands more who continue to fight for our freedom – let us remember the American tenets of freedom and equality for all.

If you interested in learning how you can help to be the “change you want to see in this world” – learn more about how to get involved to help eradicate discrimination. 

Chasing the Dream

Posted on August 28th, 2013 by

Lincoln MemorialBy Grant Beck, ERC Communications and Outreach Associate

It’s a cloudless, sweltering day in August. Washington, D.C., is buzzing. The concrete of the Lincoln Memorial glows in the blistering sunshine. The Reflecting Pool is transformed from the image of a solitary monolith into a diverse sea of faces. More than one hundred thousand people from all walks of life have gathered at the feet of The Great Emancipator. Some wear buttons and pins. Many carry signs. All have a message. The mass is frustrated. Frustrated at a distinct lack of equality in this “land of opportunity.” Frustrated at a lack of jobs in their neighborhoods and cities. Frustrated at violence within, and against, their communities. Frustrated at the seemingly endless economic gap that separates them from the wealthiest Americans. They have come here to find a voice. A unified voice that speaks to the issues they face every day. A voice that assures them that they too have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Except, the year is not 1963. The year is 2013, fifty years after Dr. King boldly told the country of his dream for America. A dream that, it seems for now, remains just that. A dream.

On August 24, the National Action Network (NAN) led a rally and march from the Lincoln Memorial in honor of the famous March on Washington that took place in the nation’s capital 50 years ago. NAN collaborated with a highly diverse selection of organizations and advocacy groups for the daylong event, which included high-profile speakers, performers and civil rights icons, and concluded in a mass exodus from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument.

More than 100,000 people traveled to the nation’s capital to commemorate the anniversary. From families with small children, to individuals who attended the original march in 1963, people came with hand-made signs, folding chairs, blankets and banners to celebrate one of the seminal events of the 20th century. (more…)

Listening is More Important than Hearing

Posted on August 22nd, 2013 by

Doctor showing elderly man documentsBy Paul Khouri, ERC Civil Rights intern

Growing up in Jordan with multiple disabilities, I learned firsthand the realities of disability issues in developing countries.  When I moved to the United States, I hoped to see a place where people with disabilities were given better opportunities.  Reading about the struggles of Michael Argenyi – a deaf medical student who is suing Creighton University School of Medicine for denying him access to an interpreter for his clinical training – tells me that the barrier walls of deaf people and people with disabilities in general have yet to be torn down.

I recognize that providing deaf individuals with resources to help them understand academic courses better is costly. Interpreters and real time captioning are expensive. Even Mr. Argenyi himself states that he paid more than $100,000 out of his own pocket to have interpreters and transcription services available for his course work. For this reason, a higher education institution that admits a student should not agree to provide certain accommodations – as Creighton did, initially in providing note takers, priority seating, and audio podcasts – and then, at a later time reject the student’s needs when these accommodations turn out to be inadequate resources and tools. (more…)

SCOTUS Closes the Ballot Box for Thousands

Posted on August 5th, 2013 by


Photo credit: dbking

By Abidjan Walker, Communications Intern

Just weeks away from the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, considered the seminal moment of the Civil Rights Movement, America has suffered an unfortunate setback on the path to equality.

In 1965, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act, a monumental piece of legislation created to put an end to the rampant voter discrimination laws, particularly problematic in the southern portion of the United States. These law disproportionality and adversely impacted minority voters. Section 4 of this legislation, a critical component to the effectiveness of the Act, identified the coverage formula that determined which state and local jurisdiction were required to have changes to their voter regulations pre-cleared by the federal government. Without the formula calculated per Section 4, states with a long history of voter discrimination will be able to erect new barriers, leaving minority voters in these areas silenced, and consequently unprotected.

Fast forward 48 years to June 25th of this year, when the Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act in a 5-4 decision. Without the formula, what is often considered the most effective provision of the Voting Rights Act has been nullified, gutting the crux of the Act.

In his majority opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts concluded: (more…)

Celebrating 23 Years of the ADA!

Posted on July 26th, 2013 by

Man with hearing aidThree weeks ago we celebrated our nation’s Independence Day. Today we’re here to rejoice in and celebrate another ‘Independence Day,’ one that is long overdue. With today’s signing of the landmark Americans for Disabilities Act, every man, woman and child with a disability can now pass through once-closed doors into a bright new era of equality, independence and freedom.”

Then President George H.W. Bush said these words at the landmark signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) 23 years ago today.

The significance of the moment was clearly not lost on the former president. People with disabilities faced innumerable barriers in virtually all facets of everyday life.  Whether being denied employment based on stereotypes rather than merit, refused service in a taxi cab with a service animal, or unable to access a store or restaurant with steps at the entrance, hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities were literally shut out of many places before the Americans with Disabilities Act . (more…)

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