With 40 state legislatures convened thus far in 2017, analysts report there are more than 30 measures introduced in 11 states that are intended to weaken or remove civil rights safeguards for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans.
In this polarized political climate, a majority of Americans state they oppose measures that erode civil rights for LGBT people:
Two-thirds (66%) of adults say they oppose laws allowing businesses to refuse service to LGBT persons because of their religious objections (and a similar proportion (68%) stated their opposition in a May 2016 Harris Poll.)
62% of adults oppose state laws that repeal or overturn local or city LGBT anti-discrimination laws and ban cities from passing similar protections in the future (which has ticked up slightly from the 60% of adults who thought so when asked in May 2016.)
Despite these majority views, Americans still face a slightly wider division on legislation to restrict access to bathrooms for transgender Americans by requiring individuals to use the bathroom that corresponds to their sex at birth, rather than their true gender identity. When asked about so-called “bathroom bills” in May 2016, 49% of all adults expressed support – however in January 2017, that support has reached 54% of Americans, with 46% of adults opposing these bills.
Nonetheless, over 6 in 10 Americans (63%) agree that all public buildings should be required to offer a single-user or gender non-specific bathroom. Americans slightly favor the federal government (39%) over state governments (36%) in deciding bathroom access, while 22% are not sure at all.
These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,192 U.S. adults ages 18+ surveyed online between January 9 and 11, 2017. Complete results of this study can be found here.
Americans Weigh Effective Responses When Americans are asked how effective various tactics might be in overturning or preventing passage of these kinds of laws that restrict LGBT rights, several options are believed to be very or somewhat effective:
Nearly 6 out of 10 Americans (59%) believe Federal law suits against states for civil rights violations would be effective;
A majority of Americans (56%) say that corporate decisions to move their headquarters or offices out of state are an effective response;
55% agree that sporting associations that disallow states with discriminatory laws from hosting major games is effective;
Half (50%) of Americans say that film and television productions that pull their current or future projects out of states with these laws will make a difference, and 47% say that entertainers who cancel their performances also have impact;
At the end of the scale, just 41% believe state governments that ban their employees from non-essential travel to discriminatory states will make a difference, and only about 1 in 3 (32%) find social media hashtags with messages such as #NoHateInMyState or #WeAreNotThis have influence.
“In state after state, we see echoes of a national struggle that roiled North Carolina last year,” said Bob Witeck, business strategist and President of Witeck Communications. “Facing similar issues this year, Texas business leaders now estimate a loss of $8.5 billion in GDP as well as 185,000 jobs lost if discriminatory legislation is enacted. These findings make clear that Americans are especially mindful of the economic and social consequences of these decisions.”
Two Lambda Legal clients who are transgender are one step closer to having their names legally changed to match their gender identity.
The Georgia Court of Appeals unanimously reversed a lower court decision Friday, saying that the judge had abused his discretion in denying name changes where there was no evidence that the requests were made for an “improper purpose.”
The Court sent the case back to the trial court with direction to grant the name changes sought by Rowan Feldhaus and Andrew Baumert.
It was hurtful and insulting to be denied my legal name change. I’m happy that this is over, for myself, for Rowan, and for any other transgender person who wants to change their name legally in Georgia.
Transitioning is a difficult journey and when I took, what was for me, a big step to change my name legally, I was met with condescension and ignorance, and that’s not right.
I’m so happy and so relieved that we won and that this is done. Being able to have my name reflect who I am as a man and have it be legal is so powerful and so important to me.
I hope that other judges see this and think twice before imposing their personal beliefs on another transgender person looking to change their name.
Columbia County Superior Court Judge J. David Roper had denied Feldhaus’ request for a name change, arguing that Feldhaus’ requested middle name, Elijah, was not gender-neutral. Judge Roper said:
I do not approve of changing names from male to female – male names to obvious female names, and vice versa.
I think it is misleading to the public and think that it is dangerous in some circumstances for one – for the public not to know whether they’re dealing with a male or a female.
When denying Baumert’s request, Judge Roper said:
My policy is to allow someone who claims to be transgendering [sic] — and I’ve had them in various stages — my policy is to permit someone to change, in your case, from an obviously — what appears to me to be a female name to something that is gender-neutral.
Judge Roper went on to suggest several names he “can live with,” including Morgan, Shannon, Shaun and Jaimie. Judge Roper said that for Baumert to have a name that matches his gender identity would “confuse or mislead the general public.”
Lambda Legal Counsel Beth Littrell said:
This decision solidifies an important right for the transgender community, to have a name that matches and affirms their gender identities and obliterates the dangerous notion that living in conformity with that gender is somehow fraudulent or otherwise a concern for the government.
This decision puts judges on notice that their personal beliefs, which in this case were sexist and biased against transgender people, are not a substitution for the law.
According to Sioux Falls Two-Spirit and Allies, 28-year-old Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow was originally from the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota and was a member of the Oglala Lakota tribe. Police are expected to release more information about the homicide investigation on Monday.
The group asked for prayers for Wounded Arrow’s family on Facebook Saturday and said they believe she was killed on New Year’s day.
“Tunkasila has called another one of our community members home,” the group wrote. “Our hearts are broken as we will miss her very much.”
Wounded Arrow was also remembered by friends and community members at Sious Falls’ Center for Equality.
“She is the type of person that when she talks people stop to listen,” Youth Outreach Director Reina Parker told the Argus Leader. “The impact she leaves on people after meeting her once is something nobody forgets.”
The Center released an official statement, noting that a record number of transgender people were reported murdered in 2016, most of whom were transgender women of color.
“This marks the second trans woman murdered in 2017, and it happened in our own back yard,” said Danielle Wilcox, President The Center for Equality. “While the investigation is ongoing, we see that gender and race often play a role in the escalation of violence toward transgender people.”
In the most comprehensive investigation of transgender-related homicide to date, Mic Thursday released “Unerased: Counting Transgender Lives,” a project looking at trans murder in America.
Working in collaboration with transgender advocacy organizations, activists, academics and victims’ loved ones and families, a team of reporters at Mic has launched an interactive database of transgender homicides from 2010 to the present. Intended as a resource for activists, journalists and academics, the database contains a wealth of demographic data about each victim, including biographies and multimedia. In an effort to elevate the stories of marginalized populations, Mic will continue to track transgender homicides in the future.
Alongside the database, Mic also has published an investigation by transgender journalist and advocate Meredith Talusan, complete with data visualizations detailing the results.
Among Mic’s key findings:
With 23 documented cases so far, 2016 has seen one of the the highest number of transgender homicides since advocacy organizations began tracking them officially in 2010.
Black transgender women face the highest rates of violence: 72% of transgender victims between 2010 to 2016 are black trans women.
Young black trans women (ages 15 to 34) are estimated to be between 8 and 39 times more likely to be murdered as young cisgender women.
Of the 25 cases that were tried, five involved black trans women as victims and resulted in lesser charges of manslaughter or assault. Only one case with a black trans woman victim has resulted in a first-degree conviction since 2010.
Mic found that, because public institutions are not equipped to acknowledge the existence of transgender Americans, the identities of transgender victims are often effaced after death. Many trans people can’t spare the expense of having their names and gender markers updated on government documents. Law enforcement and coroner’s offices are not trained to identify crime victims as transgender. Immediate family members who reject a trans person’s identity often withhold it from authorities, who defer to the family when it comes to revealing personal information. The U.S. Census does not track transgender people, and while the FBI added gender identity as a category in its annual self-reported hate crimes report in 2014, the agency does not track gender identity along with its homicide statistics.
“In reporting this story and speaking with family members of transgender homicide victims, we focused on bringing light to the systematic failures impacting trans people, especially trans women of color,” said Meredith Talusan, lead reporter on the Mic project. “If everyone in the U.S. were murdered at the rate young black trans women and femmes are, there’s no doubt that the public would consider this a crisis of massive proportions.”
Devin Diamond, a black, transgender woman who was killed in New Orleans, Louisiana, in June, would not have been listed among transgender homicide victims if it were not for a friend who happened to post about her using female pronouns on Facebook, where a local reporter came upon the post. Law enforcement, the coroner’s office and her family all classified her as male even though she routinely presented herself as a woman both in person and online, telling friends that she was on hormones and was seeing a psychologist.
“’Unerased’ offers a close, sometimes intimate look at the violence too regularly faced by one of our most vulnerable populations,” said Kerry Lauerman, executive news director at Mic. “It’s the sort of in-depth, revelatory project we’re dedicated to pursuing more of in the future.”
“Unerased” was reported with the assistance of the New York City Anti-Violence Project. To view the report please visit: https://mic.com/unerased.
The Transgender Day of Remembrance was set aside to memorialize those who were killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice. The event is held in November to honor Rita Hester, whose murder on November 28th, 1998 kicked off the “Remembering Our Dead” web project and a San Francisco candlelight vigil in 1999. Rita Hester’s murder — like most anti-transgender murder cases — has yet to be solved.
Although not every person represented during the Day of Remembrance self-identified as transgender — that is, as a transsexual, crossdresser, or otherwise gender-variant — each was a victim of violence based on bias against transgender people.
We live in times more sensitive than ever to hatred based violence, especially since the events of September 11th. Yet even now, the deaths of those based on anti-transgender hatred or prejudice are largely ignored. Over the last decade, more than one person per month has died due to transgender-based hate or prejudice, regardless of any other factors in their lives. This trend shows no sign of abating.
The Transgender Day of Remembrance serves several purposes. It raises public awareness of hate crimes against transgender people, an action that current media doesn’t perform. Day of Remembrance publicly mourns and honors the lives of our brothers and sisters who might otherwise be forgotten. Through the vigil, we express love and respect for our people in the face of national indifference and hatred. Day of Remembrance reminds non-transgender people that we are their sons, daughters, parents, friends and lovers. Day of Remembrance gives our allies a chance to step forward with us and stand in vigil, memorializing those of us who’ve died by anti-transgender violence.
The primary, if (mostly) unspoken, purpose of voter ID laws is to keep down turnout among African-American voters who prefer Democrats. But one of the side effects of the laws is that they make it harder for trans voters too. An estimated 34,000 trans voters may find it impossible to cast a ballot this election because they can’t clear the hurdles that Republican legislatures have put in place.
“Transgender people have unique, and sometimes insurmountable, burdens to obtaining accurate IDs for voting in states that require it,”says Williams Institute Scholar Jody Herman, the author of the study.
Changing documents so that they accurately reflect the voter’s gender is a burdensome and often costly process that requires jumping through a series of bureaucratic hoops. Needless to say, that burden falls disproportionately on transgender people of color, youth, students and people with disabilities. The National Center for Transgender Equality has a checklist for voters to help them navigate both pre- and post-Election Day challenges.
Did Republican legislators intentionally decide to craft laws that target trans voters? Probably not. But that if they did, they’d consider it a feature of the law, not a bug.
In a lawsuit challenging the North Carolina law banning transgender people from using restrooms that correspond to their gender identity, LGBT rights groups yesterday asked a federal appeals court to broaden a preliminary injunction in order to protect all transgender people in the state from discrimination.
In August, a district court issued a preliminary injunction preventing the North Carolina university system from enforcing H.B. 2 against the three individual transgender plaintiffs in the lawsuit, Carcaño v. McCrory, which is scheduled for trial in May 2017. The advocates also asked the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to expedite the appeal and schedule oral argument for January.
“Every day that H.B. 2 singles out transgender North Carolinians — whether at school, at work, or just moving through their daily lives — is another day that the transgender community is told that they are second class,” said Chris Brook, ACLU of North Carolina legal director. “Though the district court recognized the serious harm to three of our clients at UNC as a result of H.B. 2, that recognition unfortunately didn’t extend to the harms that law inflicts on other transgender individuals in public buildings across North Carolina. We hope and expect that the Fourth Circuit will expand this ruling to protect all transgender people.”
The appeal brief filed yesterday argues that H.B. 2 violates the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause because it specifically targets transgender people, and that discrimination against transgender people is a form of sex discrimination. While North Carolina has argued that H.B. 2 advances interests in public safety and privacy, ACLU and Lambda Legal argue that these interests, which can be protected in other ways, do not justify the harms H.B. 2 imposes on transgender people and that to restore the status quo, the court must grant a broader preliminary injunction while the case proceeds to trial.
“H.B. 2 makes transgender North Carolinians pariahs in their own state. Courthouses, airports, libraries, public schools, highway rest stops, police departments, state hospitals, and the very halls of government itself are now unsafe for, and unwelcome to, transgender North Carolinians,” said Jon W. Davidson, national legal director at Lambda Legal. “Such unequal treatment simply cannot be squared with the Fourteenth Amendment’s promise of equality under the law. The Fourth Circuit should order this broader relief, pending trial.”
The American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of North Carolina, Lambda Legal, and the law firm of Jenner & Block are challenging the law in federal court on behalf of four LGBT North Carolinians in addition to members of the ACLU of North Carolina. The lawsuit was filed days after H.B. 2 was passed by the North Carolina General Assembly and signed by Gov. Pat McCrory. In it, the groups argue that H.B. 2 sends a purposeful message that LGBT people are second-class citizens who are undeserving of the privacy, respect, and protections afforded to others, and that transgender individuals are expelled from public life since they are not allowed to use the restrooms and changing facilities that match who they are.
There have been many fights over transgender rights across the country, but the showdown in Illinois’ District 211 has been particularly ugly. After “Student A” successfully fought the school for access to the same locker room other girls used, a group of anonymous students turned around and sued, claiming that her access caused them “emotional distress.” A federal judge was not impressed by their claims.
On Tuesday, United States Magistrate Judge Jeffrey T. Gilbert recommended against granting these students a preliminary injunction blocking Student A and other trans students from the facilities. “High school students do not have a fundamental constitutional right not to share restrooms or locker rooms with transgender students whose sex assigned at birth is different than theirs,” he explained.
A magistrate judge’s recommendation must be adopted by a district judge before it has the force of law, so Gilbert’s recommendation must still clear that hurdle.
Throughout the recommendation, Gilbert laid out in detail why these students are not harmed by sharing a space with a transgender classmate. Indeed, they are not even required to share a space with her, as there are alternative restrooms that they may use. If they’re uncomfortable, they can voluntarily use a different facility or make use of a privacy stall without forcing transgender students to be ostracized to other spaces.
Though the plaintiffs — who insistently misgendered Student A throughout their briefs — would disagree, Gilbert agreed that “a transgender person’s gender identity is an important factor to be considered in determining whether his or her needs, as well as those of cisgender people, can be accommodated in the course of allocating or regulating the use of restrooms and locker rooms. So, to frame the constitutional question in the sense of sex assigned at birth while ignoring gender identity frames it too narrowly for the constitutional analysis.”
A decision issued just last week from the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit was instrumental in helping him arrive at that conclusion. Since 1984, there has been a circuit precedent that the term “sex” be defined narrowly according to “tradition” and biology. But last week, in a case about discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, the appellate court vacated a ruling based on that precedent, opening the door for judges in the circuit to reconsider how narrowly protections should be defined. For Gilbert, this made it easy for him to agree with the federal government’s interpretation of Title IX’s “sex” protections that allowed Student A access to the locker rooms in the first place.
He also made a point that has not come up in other cases about student facility access. Title IX, he explained, permits schools to provide facilities that are divided by gender, but it does not require them to do so. As it stands, District 211’s policy is to segregate the genders and to respect transgender people’s identities; as Gilbert described it, “Cisgender boys use the boys’ restrooms with transgender boys just like cisgender girls use the girls’ restrooms with transgender girls.” But even if the facilities were completely gender-neutral, they wouldn’t violate Title IX’s sex protections.
The student plaintiffs’ claim that a transgender student would violate their sense of privacy and safety was not convincing. “There is absolutely no evidence in this record that allowing transgender high school students to use restrooms or locker rooms consistent with their gender identity increases the risk of sexual assault,” Gilbert pointed out in a footnote. He also highlighted that the military now “allows transgender personnel to serve openly and fully integrated in all military services” and the NCAA “includes transgender student-athletes in collegiate sports consistent with their gender identity.”
“Neither the Restroom Policy nor the Locker Room Agreement shocks the conscience,” he wrote. Given the accommodations available, “put simply, this case does not involve any forced or involuntary exposure of a student’s body to or by a transgender person assigned a different sex at birth.”
Though the case will still proceed, it’s a major loss for the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), an anti-LGBT legal organization that is pursuing numerous cases across the country to challenge LGBT nondiscrimination protections or actually force discrimination upon transgender people. ADF Senior Counsel Gary McCaleb bemoaned in a statement, “Young students should be not be forced into an intimate setting like a locker room with someone of the opposite sex.”
Meanwhile, the ACLU, which represents Student A and two other rising transgender students at the school, celebrated the outcome. John A. Knight, Director of the ACLU of illinois’ LGBT Project, said in a statement, “Barring Student A and other transgender students from the restrooms and locker rooms that match their gender challenges their basic identity and humanity, suggests that they should be ashamed of who they are, and puts them at serious of long-term emotional and psychological injury. We are pleased that Judge Gilbert rejected specious arguments about privacy and protected the interests of all the students.”
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation joined with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American College of Osteopathic Pediatricians (ACOP), which together represent more than 66,000 pediatricians and pediatric specialists across the country, to release Supporting and Caring for Transgender Children, a new guide for community members and allies to ensure that transgender young people are affirmed, respected, and able to thrive.
The resource comes at a time of unprecedented attention on transgender identities and during a national dialogue on the inclusion and rights of transgender students and youth. Recently, transgender young people have too frequently found themselves targeted by hurtful and mean-spirited debate, particularly following the passage of North Carolina’s discriminatory HB2 law.
Supporting and Caring for Transgender Children explains what it means for children to be transgender, why medical experts embrace a “gender-affirming” approach, and how community members can support transgender children, young people and their families. Transgender advocate Jazz Jennings, an HRC Foundation Youth Ambassador, and her family tell their story in the new resource, which also includes quotes from parents Wayne Maines, Ofelia Barba Navarro, and Peter Tchoyrk. In creating the guide, HRC partnered with physicians and mental health professionals who have worked extensively with transgender children.
“While our country continues its national conversation around transgender equality, we must never forget that at the center of this dialogue are real children fighting to be seen, valued and respected,” said Mary Beth Maxwell, HRC’s Senior Vice President for Programs, Research, and Trainings. “This new guide provides parents and clinicians alike with vital information in their ongoing pursuit of doing right by all young people. Our partnership with the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Osteopathic Pediatricians reinforces the overwhelming medical consensus that respecting and affirming transgender young people is not only necessary, but also potentially lifesaving.”
As co-authors of Supporting and Caring for Transgender Children, the AAP and ACOP are continuing their longstanding commitment to the care and wellbeing of transgender children. In addition to its support of the resource, the AAP is developing a policy statement on caring for transgender youth that it plans to publish next year.
“We know more than ever before about what transgender children need to grow up safe and healthy, and a large part of that is being accepted, nurtured and supported in their gender identity by their family, physicians and community,” said Karen Remley, MD, MBA, MPH, FAAP, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of the AAP. “We hope this new guide will become a useful tool for anyone who has a transgender child in their life.”
“The ACOP is excited to be a part of this guide providing pediatricians, other primary care physicians, allied health staffs, patients, families and caretakers with this vital information for transgender youth. We suggest all efforts ensuring transgender young people be respected and valued,” said Carl R. Backes, DO, FACOP, ACOP President
The guide comes in advance of the launch of HRC’s Parents for Transgender Equality, a groundbreaking, nationwide council of parent-advocates working to educate the country on the lives and needs of their transgender children. Last year, HRC released the Moms for Transgender Equality video series featuring moms from across the country telling their families’ stories. More recently, HRC unveiled the follow up series, Dads for Transgender Equality. AAP president Benard Dreyer penned a letter urging his colleagues to support their transgender patients, and a group of pediatric gender experts spoke out against stigmatizing laws and policies in a moving HRC video.
Meagan Taylor checked into the Drury Inn in West Des Moines, Iowa, last July with a friend—also a Black transgender woman—during a trip to Kansas City for a funeral. But despite the somber, and fairly typical, reason for their stay, hotel staff called police to report that the two women were “two men” engaged in prostitution after seeing that Taylor’s ID included her birth name and “male” gender marker. It’s not uncommon for transgender people’s ID not to match their gender identity or presentation due to the challenges associated with changing gender on personal identity documents.
When police arrived, they arrested Taylor for charges including not having her hormone prescription with her. She was jailed for eight days and the charges were later dropped.
“Meagan’s case garnered national attention and has been an important reminder to those in the criminal justice system and who run businesses and other public accommodations in Iowa that transgender people are explicitly protected by our civil rights laws from discriminatory treatment,” Rita Bettis, ACLU of Iowa legal director, told The Guardian. Iowa is one of just 16 states that provides such protections. “Given the attack on transgender people happening across the country, we in Iowa are proud and thankful to work in a place where transgender people are afforded dignity and protection under our state law.”
Taylor’s isn’t the first high-profile case of profiling trans women of color as prostitutes. Arizona trans activist Monica Jones was arrested in 2014 while walking down the street with friends for “manifesting prostitution.” Though she was convicted, that conviction was later vacated.
Megan Taylor has settled her lawsuit against the Iowa hotel that got her put in jail. Whitney Curtis/ACLU of Iowa