Posts Tagged ‘LGBT’

Defense of Marriage Act – Unequal and Outdated

Posted on March 22nd, 2013 by

By Scott Hoffman, ERC Communications Intern

Copy of Gay couple with sonNext week, the U.S. Supreme Court is slated to hear Windsor v. United States, a case challenging the constitutionality of section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). If DOMA is struck down, legally married same-sex couples would receive all the federal rights and benefits already granted to heterosexual married couples, including Social Security payments, American residency for foreign spouses and health insurance coverage.

As a gay male living in Maryland, a state that recently legalized marriage equality; I hope that the Court strikes down DOMA, as it may directly influence future choices in my own life.

With its passage in 1996, DOMA established marriage on the federal level as exclusively between one man and one woman. Not only viewed as unfair by many individuals, the law also resulted in discrepancies in states where same-sex marriage is legal.  For example, a lesbian couple who is legally married in Massachusetts would be expected to file joint state income tax returns, but would be prohibited from filing their federal returns jointly. In Windsor, the plaintiff was legally married to her wife in New York and recognized by the state as a married couple, but was required to pay federal estate taxes after her wife died, which would not be required of the surviving spouse in an opposite-sex marriage.  In Windsor, the Department of Justice stated that the Administration’s position is that DOMA, signed into law by former President Bill Clinton in 1996, is unconstitutional.   This position was taken after President Obama instructed the Justice Department to stop defending the constitutionality of DOMA.

Action is also being taken legislatively to address these issues. Recent sessions in Congress have produced a bill – The Respect for Marriage Act – which aims to repeal DOMA. Yet, efforts have stalled due to a lack of support.  This failure is extremely puzzling when one considers the evolving attitudes of the American public. A recent Washington Post poll shows that nearly 75 percent of voters believe that marriage equality is a constitutional right. (more…)

Categorized as Advocacy, Civil Rights, LBGT Rights
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Celebrating ‘Coming Out’

Posted on October 19th, 2012 by

Thursday, October 11, was National Coming Out Day, an annual celebration of those who publically identify as members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. In a society where LGBT individuals are still subject to discrimination and harassment all too often, this day commends the courage of those who choose to live outside the closet and not hide this important part of their identity.

Sadly, some would rather use this day as a platform for cruel jokes that perpetuate homophobic attitudes and mistreatment. On October 16, conservative commentator and pundit Ann Coulter posted the tweet:

“Last Thursday was national ‘coming out’ day. This Monday is national ‘disown your son’ day.”

Coulter’s tweet reinforces the tragically common sentiment that individuals who come out should not be accepted by their straight loved ones.  While she said the tweet was a joke, it underscores the importance of the day, and the need for such a celebration.

Coming out can be an incredibly arduous ordeal, particularly for a young person. The fear of rejection from family, peers and society forces many individuals to keep their sexual orientation or gender identity a secret for years. Those who decide to publicly identify as LGBT may face backlash for the rest of their lives. As Coulter mockingly points out, families have even disowned their own sons and daughters for publically coming out.

Coming out is a special moment for many who choose to do so, as well as for the people in their lives. Celebrating Coming Out Day expresses the importance of accepting ourselves and those we care about. As always, we should strive for equality and the right of ALL individuals to be happy in their own skin.

Categorized as Advocacy, Civil Rights, LBGT Rights
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The ERC is proud to announce the launch of our newest PSA campaign!

Posted on September 20th, 2012 by

female partners

The ERC is proud to announce the launch of our newest PSA campaign!

The ERC’s “Love Thy Neighbor” campaign focuses on housing discrimination against same-sex couples in the D.C. metro area. More than 20 states and the District of Columbia include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes, yet the LGBT community continues to face blatant discriminatory practices when attempting to buy or rent a home.

There is very little research on the prevalence of housing discrimination based on sexual orientation. The most definitive study, conducted by Michigan’s Fair Housing Centers in 2007, found that thirty percent of same-sex couples were treated more negatively than opposite-sex couples when attempting to buy or rent the same property. The different treatment ranged from outright refusing to sell or rent to a same-sex couple, showing the same-sex couple less desirable properties, quoting higher rent prices, and providing less favorable customer service.  Gay individuals also reported verbal harassment from landlords, realtors and lenders.

The D.C. Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination by landlords or agents against potential renters or buyers based on both sexual orientation and gender identity. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development similarly prohibits discrimination against LGBT individuals in federally subsidized housing programs.  Not only is this discrimination legally and morally wrong, but it’s also bad business.  The millions of individuals in the U.S. and thousands in the District who identify as members of the LGBT community represent a significant customer pool for housing as well as other goods and services. Through compliance with civil rights laws, landlords create sound business models, and become partners and leaders in the community.

An individual’s ability to obtain adequate and safe housing of their choice affects all aspects of daily life – employment and educational opportunities, proximity to friends and family, availability of public transportation, and access to both commercial and government services.

Keep an eye out for the campaign which will run in the Washington Post Express and Street Sense! If you see one of our ads, snap a picture and share it on our Facebook or Twitter accounts. You can always check out the campaign on our website as well!



Categorized as Advocacy, Civil Rights, Fair Housing, LBGT Rights
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Fast Food Politics

Posted on August 17th, 2012 by

By Grant Beck, ERC InternProtest

The debate over marriage equality has now moved from the complex realm of legislation, advocacy and policy to fast food counters across America.

During an interview with the Baptist Press in July, Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy put the company in the middle of the marriage equality debate when he stated that the food chain is “guilty as charged” when it comes to its opposition to same-sex marriage.  ”We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit,” Cathy told the Baptist Press.

In what has transformed into a national food fight, Cathy’s remarks sparked a public relations panic and thrust the company into the media spotlight, drawing heavy criticism from advocacy groups and organizations that support marriage equality. Within days, the company posted a semi-retraction on its Facebook page, but it proved too little to stop the escalating disaster. The Jim Henson Co. terminated a partnership with the chain, which featured the iconic Muppets toys in their kids’ meals. The mayors of Boston and San Francisco have both said that the chicken chain is not welcome in their cities. Even Washington, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray has weighed in on the controversy by tweeting, “Given my long standing strong support for LGBT rights and marriage equality, I would not support #hatechicken.” According to YouGov’s Brand Index, Chick-fil-A has seen a huge slide in consumer support in the weeks since Cathy’s remarks. (more…)

Categorized as Advocacy, LBGT Rights
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The New Civil Rights Movement?

Posted on June 15th, 2012 by

judge's hammer and gavel

By Grant Beck, ERC Intern

Less than a week after President Obama became the first sitting president to openly support marriage equality, the NAACP announced its intentions to do the same. On May 21, the organization’s leadership officially approved a resolution supporting marriage equality.

The NAACP’s endorsement came is monumental, as the African American community has not historically been a vocal proponent of marriage equality. For example, during the 2008 presidential election, African Americans came to the California polls in record numbers to help elect President Barack Obama. However, 70 percent of those African American voters also voted yes to Proposition 8, which sought to negate the state Supreme Court decision to legalize marriage equality. In its recent announcement, the NAACP stated that it believes marriage equality is a natural extension of civil rights, and the organization is opposed to any policy or legislative initiative that discriminates or limits the Constitutional rights of anyone, including LGBT citizens. (more…)

Categorized as Civil Rights, LBGT Rights
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Work In Progress: Resistance Has Always Been Part of Process

Posted on May 10th, 2012 by

By Adrea L. Jaehnig

Guest Blog

Photo of President ObamaThe night before last, my partner and I watched online as the votes came in, county by county, on an amendment in North Carolina that would enshrine discrimination against an entire group of people into her home state’s constitution. Passage seemed overwhelmingly likely. With heavy hearts, we thought of our friends and family who live in the state and tried to imagine how they were feeling. To be fair, this is not simply a North Carolina issue. The distressing reality is that thirty states have passed similar laws over the past seven years. We were reminded that there is much work to be done, not only in NC, but everywhere.

Resistance to laws, policies, and practices that affirm and make the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people visible is nothing new. The harmful rhetoric used by opponents seeks to silence LGBT people, their families, and supporters and to create a perception that their views are universally shared and represent the views of all people of faith. This resistance is a sign that the movement to affirm the human dignity of LGBT people is making historic progress. Let resistance be our inspiration. (more…)

Categorized as Civil Rights, LBGT Rights
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Passing the Buck on Fair Employment

Posted on April 13th, 2012 by

Earlier this month, 72 members of Congress urged President Obama to sign an executive order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating in the workplace based on an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity. While not addressing the request directly, President Obama released a statement this week suggesting that he wants Congress to pass legislation first.

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) was considered by Congress last year, but did not pass. The Congressmembers’ letter to the President noted that an executive order would help lay the groundwork for ENDA. Particularly in this election year, no one expect ENDA to have a real chance of passing before 2013.

The result is a Catch-22: Congress needs the momentum and leadership of the Administration to get ENDA – a bill the President supports – passed. The President seems to not want to act until Congress passes the law. As both branches wait for the other to take action, thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals are denied basic fair employment protections. (more…)

Categorized as LBGT Rights
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A Place to Call Home: HUD’s Monumental Rule-Making Opens Doors for LGBT Folks

Posted on February 3rd, 2012 by

In a historic new rule issued today, the Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) mandated that their housing programs be open for all eligible persons, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. The Equal Access to Housing Rule is a major stride toward full equality and inclusion of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.  HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan announced the Rule at the 24th National Conference Gay and Lesbian Task Force “Creating Change” Conference.  It will go into effect in 30 days.

In his speech at the Creating Change Conference, Secretary Donovan reported stark findings that make this issue all the more important. Citing a report by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Donovan noted “not only that a staggering 40 percent of homeless youth are LGBT- but that half of them report experiencing homelessness as a result of their gender identity or expression.” Beyond that, the Secretary reported, “the majority report harassment, difficulty, or even sexual assault when trying to access homeless shelters.”

Members of the LGBT community experience homophobia and heterosexism in many facets of their lives, in addition to the prejudice and discrimination they may experience from being a part of other social statuses, such as being a person of color, immigrant, or a person with a disability. Beyond denying someone the dignity and respect due to all persons, housing discrimination has the capacity to impact many others aspects of the individual’s life, such as securing employment, accessing public transportation, and enjoying community resources. Therefore it is critically important to have a safe place to call home.

As the Equal Rights Center works to end discrimination and promote equal opportunity for all, HUD’s new Equal Access to Housing Rule will help us ensure equal housing access to members of the LGBT community. HUD’s public stance for LGBT equality is commendable and should serve as a model for other government entities.

Categorized as Fair Housing, LBGT Rights
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A Dangerous Intersection

Posted on August 4th, 2011 by

In the past two weeks, two transgender women were attacked, one resulting in murder, within a block of one another on the same street in Washington, D.C.   These terrible acts of violence caught my attention and prompted me to further research violence against the transgender community.  It became more apparent to me that the increasing instances of violence are merely an indicator of the widespread discrimination against this community, and the even more troubling intersection of discrimination based on race and transgender status.

A report from the National Coalition of Antiviolence Programs found that those who identified both as transgender and as a person of color were 1.5 to 2 times more likely to experience certain forms of hate violence than non-transgender white individuals in the LGBT community.   Findings from the same report also point to a wedge between transgender people of color and law enforcement. Although more likely to experience discrimination, transgender people of color are much more likely to report attitudes of indifference from police and refrain from reporting crimes altogether.   These feelings are not uncommon in marginalized communities; when a community feels they cannot trust the police or that they are marginalized by law enforcement, crime is underreported, further alienating the community and creating a vicious cycle of discrimination and violence. (more…)

Categorized as LBGT Rights
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America moves closer to Equality

Posted on July 21st, 2011 by

The passage of legislation mandating marriage equality in New York, the most populous jurisdiction where same sex marriage is legal, is a significant milestone towards equality for same sex couples in the U.S.  The signing of the law by Governor Andrew Cuomo on June 24th occurred almost to the day of the 42nd anniversary of the Stonewall riots, often seen as the genesis of the modern gay rights movement.

As my partner, Alex, is originally from the Bronx, and still has many friends and family located there, we have been following the story closely. We continue to be humbled, amazed and impressed by the personal stories of everyday couples across that state who, now that they have the right, have announced plans to marry. (more…)

Categorized as LBGT Rights
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