Win: Maryland Drops Insurance Exclusions for State Employees

July 22, 2014

The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) celebrates a Maryland resolution ending transgender health care exclusions for state employees. The case, brought forward by FreeState Legal, settles a complaint on behalf of Sailor Holobaugh, a transgender state employee who was denied medically necessary care. FreeState filed an Equal Employment Opportunity complaint as well as a complaint with the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights, alleging the denial of health care coverage for a transition-related procedure was discrimination on the basis of gender identity.

Today’s settlement includes reimbursement for the employee’s surgery, but also requires removal of transition-related care exclusions from all state employee health plans. The settlement also creates a new comprehensive Gender Dysphoria Benefit in state employee health plans. The benefit covers all medically necessary transition-related treatment, including hormone replacement therapy and various surgical procedures.

“We applaud Maryland and the administration of Governor O’Malley for becoming the fourth state to ensure coverage of transition-related care for state employees, joining Massachusetts, Oregon and California, along with the District of Columbia,” said National Center for Transgender Equality Executive Director Mara Keisling.  The decision follows enactment of the Fairness for all Marylanders Act earlier this year, explicitly banning discrimination on the basis of gender identity and gender expression in employment, housing, credit, and public accommodations.

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Justice Dept. Calls for End of HIV Criminalization Laws

July 18, 2014

The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) welcomes Monday’s announcement from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) that calls upon states to eliminate or reform their antiquated HIV criminalization laws, which criminalize conduct by HIV-positive individuals that would be legal if they were not HIV-positive or did not know their status. The DOJ’s guidelines, “Best Practices Guide to Reform HIV-Specific Criminal Laws to Align with Scientifically-Supported Factors,” explain how these laws are contrary to the science of HIV today and how these laws harm individuals and public health by reinforcing HIV stigma.

Over the decades, states have enacted or used existing criminal laws and policies, in the name of public health and safety, to effectively criminalize and silence persons living with HIV/AIDS. For example, state laws have been used to prosecute persons living with HIV when they failed to inform consensual sexual partners of their status—regardless of the actual risks involved or the precautions taken. In other examples, individuals have faced serious criminal charges based on actions like spitting that have no real risk of transmitting the virus.

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Update: Repeal of DC Prostitution Free Zones Amendment Act Hearing

July 10, 2014

Yesterday, Wednesday, July 9, the District of Columbia Council’s Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety held a hearing on the Repeal of Prostitution Free Zones Amendment Act of 2014 (B20-760). The act was introduced by Councilmembers David Grosso, David Catania, and Mary M. Cheh in April following a review of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD)’s handling of hate crimes. A coalition of LGBT groups, including NCTE, performed this review and followed it up with recommendations for reforms at MPD and to D.C. law, including the repeal of prostitution free zones (PFZs).

During Wednesday’s hearing, Deputy Attorney General for Public Safety Andrew Fois reiterated the Office of the Attorney General (OAG)’s constitutional concerns and added that the office has “doubts about [the PFZ law’s] practical utility.” Fois stated that these misgivings arise from both the high standard of proof that is necessary to show intent to engage in sex work as well as the increasing role of online services in sex work, indicating that both the OAG and the MPD are in favor of the repeal bill.

Prostitution free zones were passed into law in 2006, but after the OAG expressed concerns in early 2012 that they might be unconstitutional, the MPD has avoided designating any space as a PFZ. Though PFZs have not been in use for over two years, organizations like HIPS and the D.C. Trans Coalition strongly support repeal, given that the mere existence of a PFZ law in D.C. enables police profiling and has inspired similar laws in other municipalities around the country

NCTE applauds the OAG’s and the MPD’s support for the repeal act.

Click here to email the DC City Council to tell them why they should repeal Prostitution Free Zones now.

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Unaccompanied LGBT Immigrant Children Caught in Fray of Border Security and Deportation

July 10, 2014

A recently published Mother Jones article highlights the current child refugee crisis in the US, telling the story of the tens of thousands of children from Central America fleeing violence and risking their lives to enter the country without an adult. The piece includes the story of one gay teen, known pseudonymously as Adrián, who fled gang violence in Guatemala, encountering anti-gay attacks along his journey and homophobic abuse in a US shelter.

immigrant youth protest of border security policy

The surge in public attention on child refugees comes in light of President Obama’s call to Congress for $3.7 billion dollars in additional funding to increase border security and resources for processing children and families through deportation proceedings. This humanitarian crisis has many dimensions: the unaddressed causes of the violence in Central America, the urgent need for decent shelter and legal help for these young people, the ugly xenophobic calls to deport them without due process.

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Watch: NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling Discusses Landmark ID Policy on MSNBC

July 9, 2014

This past weekend, National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) Executive Director Mara Keisling joined MSNBC’s Live with Craig Melvin to discuss New York City’s proposed municipal ID law granting driver’s licenses to undocumented New Yorkers. The proposed law also allows anyone applying for an ID to self-identify their gender—a landmark policy that allows transgender people to avoid outdated and burdensome medical requirements that have barred many transgender people access to accurate ID.

The 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey found that 41% of respondents live without ID that matches who they are, creating barriers to accessing bank accounts, educational loans, voting, or even securing a job. Often as a consequence of the inability to access ID, transgender New Yorkers face economic instability at high rates: 19% of transgender New Yorkers had a household income of $10,000 or less, compared to only 4% of the general population, which is almost five times the rate of poverty.

NCTE Executive Director, Mara Keisling, on MSNBC's Craig Melvin Show

NCTE Executive Director, Mara Keisling, on MSNBC Live with Craig Melvin

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DC Poised to Repeal Discriminatory “Prostitution-Free Zone” Law

July 8, 2014

Since 2006, the Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) has had the power to designate any public space in D.C. as a prostitution free zone (PFZ), which has in turn given MPD officers the right to disperse or arrest anyone they believe to be meeting in the space for the purpose of prostitution. The Alliance for a Safe and Diverse D.C. noted in a 2008 report that PFZs enabled police officers’ existing inclination toward profiling people as sex workers based on personal appearance, race, and gender presentation.

NCTE Policy Director Harper Jean Tobin Attends Rally

NCTE Policy Director, Harper Jean Tobin, attended an April 2014 rally in D.C. in support of repealing prostitution free zones in the District.

The MPD stopped designating areas as PFZs in 2012 because of concerns that the zones were unconstitutional. However, the PFZ law is still on the books, and other municipalities around the nation have based their own similar laws on it. There have even been efforts by some businesses to revive use of the law.

Earlier this year, NCTE was part of a coalition of LGBT groups that reviewed how the DC MPD’s relationship with the LGBT community and its handling of hate crimes. Our report concluded in part that MPD had lost the trust of the LGBT communities, primarily because of the perception of profiling of transgender people and perceived indifference toward crimes against trans people. The report noted that these problems were connected in part to the trans people being perceived as being criminals and less worthy of respect and protection due to being involved in sex work.

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Dept. of Labor Affirms Trans Discrimination Protections

July 1, 2014

The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) welcomes policy clarifications by the Department of Labor in their ongoing effort to end anti-transgender bias and discrimination in their programs. Department of Labor Secretary Tom Perez announced forthcoming clarification to their nondiscrimination protections declaring that anti-transgender discrimination violates Title VII sex discrimination law and is illegal.

Labor Secretary Tom Perez said, “These changes reflect current law. In Macy v. Holder, for example, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission concluded that discrimination because a person is transgender is sex discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs and Civil Rights Center, along with the Employment and Training Administration, will issue guidance to make clear that discrimination on the basis of transgender status is discrimination based on sex. “

Sec. of Labor Tom Perez

In a statement to the Washington Blade, NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling said, “With the impending signing of the President’s two gender identity executive orders, we are very pleased that Secretary Perez agrees with us on the need to publicly clarify the law that the Department enforces.”

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Ending Trans Exclusions: The Path To Inclusive Healthcare

June 18, 2014

Many of the existing inclusions for LGB—and particularly—T people have been hard won over the last 20 years. On Monday, June 16,  four major organizations met to take stock of the history and trajectory for LGBT inclusions in healthcare.

On the open community call, “With Medicare Done: How We Can Win the Rest,” NCTE’s Mara Keisling moderated the discussion among Jennifer Levi, Director of the Transgender Rights Project at Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), Andrew Cray, Policy Analyst for LGBT Progress with Center for American Progress (CAP), and Beck Bailey, Deputy Director of the Workplace Project with Human Rights Campaign (HRC).

The discussion opened with a summary of the recent widespread progress, including the Obama administration’s announcement yesterday of his intention to issue an executive order to protect LGBT people employed by federal contractors and the Medicare decision issued 12 days ago.

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