LETTER FROM THE EDITORS
For the next three months we are building up to our marathon event for Pride in June. Gay pride, or LGBTQ+ pride is “the promotion of the self-affirmation, dignity, equality, and increased visibility of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people as a social group. Pride, as opposed to shame and social stigma, is the predominant outlook that bolsters most LGBT rights movements. Pride has lent its name to LGBT-themed organizations, institutes, foundations, book titles, periodicals, a cable TV station, and the Pride Library.” (1)
In this issue, we have a call to action for Pride in June from Betsy and a survey from one of our co-chairs, Tre' Shawn L. Griffin-Noordermeer as part of Global Pride 2021 planning. Fred continues his discussion of the Equality Act -- where it is in the Senate. We’d also like to introduce a new member to the newsletter team, Adriana, who writes about the Equality Act and what LGBTQ+ equality means to her. Adriana Smith is an international development consultant who lives with her wife, five dogs, and four cats in the beautiful country of Guatemala.
Betsy & Sarah
Why the Equality Act matters to me
By Adriana Smith
Part of the reason I do not live in the US anymore is escapism from the cultural norms and social expectations about what I should do, what I need to own, and whom I should love. Being a foreigner in another country allows me a special status to be excusably “different.” I can dye my hair pink and parade hairy legs at the beach met by little more than a stranger’s comment, “es una gringa.” Also, as cis-gendered and white, in a country that cannot afford to offer their citizens quality education, healthcare or dignified employment, this status is compounded with privilege that I am reminded of when I walk down the streets of Guatemala City, visit the rural hamlets of the countryside, and hear the cries from the transgender sex worker outside my window, “help, he has a gun!” After I reported which corner I heard the screams, the police never came.
I struggle to engage in U.S politics—feeling as though I have mostly escaped that too—only to be reminded of how foreign politics have historically shaped the economic and political structures in Latin America that perpetuate abject poverty and systemic discrimination. The discrimination that forces LGBTQ+ kids in Guatemala out of their homes, onto the streets, and living with few options.
I may have escaped the U.S. border, but my citizenship and opportunities afforded to me have not. It would be ignorant of me to think that the U.S.—or I, as an extended representative of the U.S. despite my efforts to dissociate—doesn’t have influence to shape social, economic, and political norms in Latin America and across the globe. This is why I support the Equality Act—not just for the LGBTQ+ folks in the U.S. but to hold the U.S. accountable as an international political powerhouse to influence public policy everywhere toward more equitable and just livelihoods for people historically underserved and discriminated against.
Inspired to share your story about what LGBTQI+ equality means to you? We'll be sharing DA member stories with Congressional representatives to build the support to pass the Equality Act.
To share your story with Congress: Add your story here. If you like, you can make a video. Your story can be up to 500 words.
Learn more about what’s happening at the state level from Equality Georgia
Lacking federal protections, good and bad laws at the state level have a big impact. The Global LGBTQ+ Caucus is co-sponsoring a DA UK LGBTQ+ caucus webinar featuring Jeff Graham, Executive Director of Georgia Equality, a state organization that works to advance fairness, safety and opportunity for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities throughout Georgia. Jeff will share about voting rights in Georgia and state-level work for LGBTQ+ equality.
How to fight for voting rights, Georgia style! Presented by DAUK LGBTQ+ Caucus
Date: April 21, 2021
Time: 15:00 (ET), 19:00 (BST), 20:00 (CET)
Events Page: Fight for voting rights, Georgia style
Senators hold Equality Act hearing, while action moves to the states
by Fred Kuhr
The Equality Act — the federal legislation seeking to ban anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination — is now stalled in the U.S. Senate.
The House passed the bill in February, so attention turned to the Senate, where it is known as SB 393 and sponsored by Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley.
While Senate Republicans are promising not to support the bill, at least in its current form, it has broad support across all areas of the country — averaging around 70 percent approval of all voters, according to recent polling from the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI). In a survey of more than 10,000 Americans, even the groups least likely to support nondiscrimination protections — Republicans (62%) and white evangelical Protestants (62%) — show majority support, according to PRRI.
“The data is clear: the vast majority of Americans support LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections no matter where they live, the party they belong to, or the church they belong to,” said Natalie Jackson, director of research at PRRI. “Despite the Equality Act garnering only three Republican votes in the House, as senators consider their votes, they should pay attention to the fact that Americans — including Republicans — are very much on board with the principles of the legislation.”
While many states have such anti-discrimination laws on the books, many do not — and the protections vary from state to state. Currently, federal civil rights laws protect people on the basis of race, color, national origin, and in most cases, sex, disability, and religion. But federal law does not explicitly protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
The Equality Act would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Fair Housing Act, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, the Jury Selection and Services Act as well as other laws to include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected categories.
During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on March 17, Republicans only had negative things to say about the bill, using women’s safety and women’s sports as wedge issues.
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas referred to transgender girls as “biological males” while saying, incorrectly, that the Equality Act “effectively” repeals Title IX — which protects transgender student-athletes on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. “This bill is about power and this bill is dangerous,” Cruz said, as quoted in New York City’s Gay City News.
Republicans also called the bill an impediment to “religious freedom” and warned that transgender individuals would be invading homeless shelters.
Republicans failed to indicate how they would support the estimated 20-40% of the more than 1.6 million homeless youth are transgender.
The Republican senators’ talking points in opposition to the Equality Act do not exist in a vacuum. Since President Joe Biden took office in January, Fox News has aired 86 “mostly negative” segments on transgender rights, according to a report from Media Matters. Most of these reports portrayed trans athletes as a threat to girls’ sports or presented incorrect information surrounding the healthcare of trans youth.
Given the gridlock in Washington, action is moving to the states — for better as well as for worse.
According to the Equality Federation, an umbrella organization for statewide LGBTQ+ rights groups, seven anti-LGBTQ+ bills and two executive orders have already been signed into law. Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee have passed bills banning transgender girls from paying sports. In South Dakota, after the legislature failed to pass its transgender athlete ban, Republican Gov. Kristi Noem signed two executive orders effectively banning transgender athletes from participating in sports.
Arkansas also passed two bills that give a “religious freedom” exemption to anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination. One of the bills allows healthcare providers to deny services to anyone based on the provider’s personal religious or moral beliefs. The other legislation allows religious institutions to circumvent public health orders, allowing for additional anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination.
In a surprising move, Arkansas Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson actually vetoed a bill on April 5 that would make it illegal for transgender youth to receive gender-affirming medication or surgery, calling it “government overreach.” But then the next day the state legislature overrode the veto, giving Arkansas yet one more anti-trans law.
Additionally, West Virginia is considering a number of anti-LGBTQ+ bills, including one that would preempt employment protections at the local level.
West Virginia is also in the spotlight because Sen. Joe Manchin is the one Democratic senator who is said to be considering voting against the Equality Act in its current form. According to the Daily Beast, Manchin is telling colleagues that he is wavering on the legislation after his office was deluged by messages from Christian conservative voters who oppose it, saying that not being allowed to discrimination violates their “religious freedom.”
This is not completely surprising since Manchin was the one Democratic senator not to co-sponsor the bill in 2019. And in a 50-50 senate, every vote counts.
This is putting pressure on groups such as Fairness West Virginia — the state’s LGBTQ+ lobby group — to contact Manchin to counter such “religious freedom” and anti-trans arguments. Meanwhile, similar groups in Utah and Maine have been in contact with Republican Sens. Mitt Romney and Susan Collins.
Regardless of state level outreach, if the Senate’s filibuster rules remain in place, 10 Republicans would have to join all 50 Democrats (or 11 Republicans if Manchin opposes the bill) to pass the legislation.
“The strategy from anti-LGBTQ opponents is clear — attack transgender youth and make discrimination against the entire LGBTQ community legal,” said Vashti Selix, Equality Federation’s Advocacy and Civic Engagement Strategist. “Equality Federation, its state-based partners, and national partners are working diligently to fight off these attacks. … We won’t let them win.”
Democrats Abroad has set up a Legislative Issues Group to work for passage of the Equality Act. If you’d like to get involved, learn more about the proposed legislation and help make equality under the law a reality, contact the LGBTQ+ Caucus at [email protected].
Biden issues historic proclamation for Transgender Day of Visibility
by Fred Kuhr
While Republicans are attacking transgender Americans, President Joe Biden and his administration are standing up for the “T” in the LGBTQ+ community.
On March 31, Biden made history as the first president to formally recognize Transgender Day of Visibility.
The proclamation, signed by Biden, notes that the day “recognizes the generations of struggle, activism, and courage that have brought our country closer to full equality for transgender and gender non-binary people in the United States and around the world.”
However, the message also notes that “too many transgender people — adults and youth alike — still face systemic barriers to freedom and equality,” as well as “face high rates of violence, harassment, and discrimination.”
Therefore, “the Biden-Harris Administration is committed to fulfilling the promise of America for all Americans by stamping out discrimination and delivering freedom and equality for all.”
Biden also doubled down on his support for the Equality Act, which he noted would “deliver legal protections for LGBTQ+ Americans [and serve] as a lasting legacy to the bravery and fortitude of the LGBTQ+ movement.”
The proclamation also praises Dr. Rachel Levine, who now serves as U.S. Assistant Secretary of Health. Only a week earlier, Levine became the first openly transgender government official to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate. The vote was 52-48, with Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska joining all 50 Democrats.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York praised the historic nature of Levine’s confirmation. “The arc of history is long but it keeps bending in the direction of justice,” he said after the vote. “… It’s important to have national figures like Dr. Levine who, by virtue of being in the public spotlight, will help break down barriers of ignorance and fear.”
On the same day as the proclamation was issued, the Pentagon released directives that reverse anti-transgender policies brought in by the previous Republican administration.
The new rules allow transgender Americans to enlist and serve openly in the military, and ban discrimination based on gender identity. Trans service personnel will also be allowed to receive medically necessary transition-related care.
The changes are the result of a two-month Pentagon review, which was announced by President Biden just days after taking office in January.
Also on March 31, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken formally scrapped the former administration’s plans for an international human rights commission that placed “religious freedom” above LGBTQ+ and reproductive rights, which was staffed with anti-LGBTQ+ and Christian conservative activists.
“All people are entitled to these rights, no matter where they’re born, what they believe, whom they love or any other characteristic,” said Blinkin. This is in sharp contrast to his predecessor Mike Pompeo, who had created what he called the Commission on Unalienable Rights.
Also last month, Biden issued an executive order against gender discrimination in education that explicitly includes LGBTQ+ Americans, the administration issued new guidance explicitly extending the protections of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act to LGBTQ+ people, and the Justice Department affirmed that Title IX protects LGBTQ+ students from discrimination.
And in another nod to inclusion, the administration posted an uplifting video on Instagram last month celebrating Americans’ resilience in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic — and among the scenes of everyday Americans is a gay couple kissing.
The full Proclamation on Transgender Day of Visibility 2021 is available here.
LGBTQ+ PRIDE A CALL TO ACTION
LGBTQ+ Pride month in the United States commemorates the Stonewall riots, which occurred at the end of June 1969. Many pride events are held during June to recognize the impact LGBTQ+ people have had in the world. Two US presidents have officially declared a pride month. First, President Bill Clinton declared June "Gay & Lesbian Pride Month" in 1999 and 2000. Then from 2009 to 2016, each year he was in office, President Barack Obama declared June LGBT Pride Month (1).
We are calling on LGBTQ+ caucus members to contribute ideas for fun, inspiring and informative events during our own DA Pride in June. We are planning a marathon of LGBTQ+ events on June 20th that will include speakers, music, films, poetry, drag, games, and more.
We encourage DA members and chapters to share their Pride plans with us and invite you to merge your activities into our Pride marathon.
To get involved:
- fill in the Pride Survey below
- join our Global LGBTQ+ caucus members meeting on Sunday, May 2, at 12:00 ET/ 18:00 CET.
Let us know what events you're interested in, which time zone you are in, and any recommendations you may have.
Complete the 3 minute survey here: Pride Survey
You can also mail the Global LGBTQ+ caucus at: [email protected]
Visit the Democrats Abroad website to see when your country is holding its annual general meeting! Click here.
A CONVERSATION WITH AMY FRIEDMAN, FORMER NATIONAL FIELD DIRECTOR OF THE DLCC
Date: April 18, 2021
Time: 20:00 (CET) / 14:00 (EST)
Event Page: Conversation with Amy Friedman
OUR FORESTS AND OUR CLIMATE: AN EARTH WEEK GUIDED DISCUSSION
Date: April 21, 2021
Time: 18:00 (CET) / 12:00 (EST)
Events Page: Our Forests and Our Climate
HOW TO FIGHT FOR VOTING RIGHTS, GEORGIA STYLE! PRESENTED BY THE DAUK LGBTQ+ CAUCUS
Date: April 21, 2021
Time: 19:00 (BST) / 20:00 (CET)
Events Page: How to Fight for Voting Rights, Georgia Style!
OPPORTUNITIES FOR ENVIRONMENTAL & CLIMATE JUSTICE IN THE BIDEN ERA: A PANEL DISCUSSION
Date: April 22, 2021
Time: 19:30 (BJT) / 13:30 (CET)
Events Page: Opportunities for Environmental & Climate Justice
BIDEN-HARRIS PROGRESS REPORT AFTER 100 DAYS
Date: April 22, 2021
Time: 19:00 (CET) / 13:00 (EST)
Events Page: Biden-Harris Progress Report after 100 Days
GLOBAL LGBTQ+ CAUCUS MEMBERS MEETING
Date: May 2, 2021
Time: 12:00 (ET) / 18:00 (CET)
Events page: Global LGBTQ+ Caucus Members Meeting
NEW LEADER ORIENTATION 2021, SESSION 1 (AP/EMEA-FRIENDLY TIME)
Date: May 8, 2021
Time: 9:00 (CET) / 3:00 (EST)
Events Page: New Leader Orientation 2021, Session 1