President Obama Acknowledges Humanity of Trans and Bisexual Americans in Historic State of the Union

January 20, 2015

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Tonight, President Barack Obama includes transgender and bisexual people in the State of the Union address in reference to American values and the defense of human dignity. This inclusion is unprecedented in any State of the Union address.

In tonight’s State of the Union address, President Obama said:

As Americans, we respect human dignity […] It’s why we continue to reject offensive stereotypes of Muslims – the vast majority of whom share our commitment to peace. That’s why we defend free speech, and advocate for political prisoners, and condemn the persecution of women, or religious minorities, or people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. We do these things not only because they’re right, but because they make us safer. ​

In response to President Obama’s inclusion of transgender and bisexual people, National Center for Transgender Equality Executive Director Mara Keisling said:

“It is very heartening that President Obama has chosen to speak up for transgender people in a State of the Union Speech about American values. While other years, he has focused on a laundry lists of policies, mention there would have been important. In those years when we were not mentioned in the State of the Union, the President was still leading the way in advancing policies that have improved and saved transgender lives. Of course, the advancement of those policies is so much more important than a mention in a speech. But make no mistake, the President of the United States condemning persecution against transgender people is pivotal. It will empower trans people to stand taller and work harder to improve this country for all people. That he has also said bisexual for the first time in a state of the Union Address is very significant as well.”​

“His mention of us makes us know that he meant us when he talked about Americans. When he spoke about children, he meant transgender children too. When he spoke about immigrants, he meant transgender immigrants too. When he talked about service members and veterans, he meant the transgender people too.”

Read the President’s complete remarks as prepared for delivery here.

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President’s Bold Immigration Action Welcomed But Could Leave Out Most LGBT Immigrants

November 20, 2014

National Center for Transgender Equality Calls for Further Action

Tonight, the White House announced executive actions that will halt deportations and provide legal status for nearly 5 million immigrants. However, the National Center for Transgender Equality expresses deep concern that the relief does not go far enough to benefit most LGBT immigrants.

“We welcome these positive steps and the much-needed relief they will provide for so many people,” said Mara Keisling, Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. “The President needed to act because Congress would not. At the same time, the action announced today will not reach most LGBT people who need it. Those for whom relief remains out of reach will continue to live in fear of dangerous detention and deportation. Though the President has been a champion of LGBT equality, he still must do more to protect LGBT immigrants.”

President Barack Obama

Photo Credit: Time

The limitation of relief to parents of US citizens or permanent residents, and to others who can meet strict criminal background checks, disproportionately exclude LGBT immigrants. Only about one-third of LGBT people are parents. Of these, many will be excluded because they are parents of Dreamers or other non-US-born children, or are not recognized as parents in the state where they live. LGBT immigrants are also much more likely to be excluded from relief because of a minor criminal record. More than one in four transgender undocumented immigrants has had to engage in low-level survival crimes, such as sex work, shoplifting, or turnstile jumping, at some point in their life. Categories of relief tied to work history or marriage may also exclude LGBT immigrants who have experienced job discrimination or who cannot marry where they live.

 

As a result, only a fraction of an estimated 267,000 undocumented LGBT immigrants will likely be eligible for relief under today’s announcement. NCTE urges the Administration to take further action to ensure LGBT immigrants are not left behind—and most urgently, to end the detention of LGBT immigrants who are at extreme risk of abuse in detention centers.

“Many LGBT immigrants have fled life-threatening persecution because of who they are and who they love, to make this country their own and contribute to its success. Once here in the U.S., they are subject to horrific conditions in immigration detention, and the constant fear of deportation to face further violence or death.” said Keisling. “Today, too many are still waiting to live lives free of fear. We will continue to work with the President and Congress to ensure everyone who contributes to this nation has a chance to achieve it.”


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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9 Things President Obama Can Do to Address Trans Economic Inquality

January 28, 2014

Today, ahead of the annual State of the Union speech,  President Barack Obama took an important step addressing income inequality by raising the minimum wage of new federal workers to $10.10, helping to ease the financial burden of more than 2 million employees. The National Center for Transgender Equality welcomes this executive order and urges legislators to take action to raise wages for all low-wage workers in the United States.

However, addressing America’s deepening economic divide, especially for transgender workers who face twice the rate of unemployment as the general population, requires swift action on many other policy areas. The Center has compiled our list of 9 policy matters that the Obama Administration can address without Congressional approval that would go far in closing the economic divide of transgender Americans.

1) Sign an executive order banning LGBT discrimination among businesses that contract with the federal government. Doing so would protect 1 in 5 American workers from job discrimination.

2) The Department of Labor should identify, promote and fund best practices for helping transgender people enter or re-enter the workforce.

3) Each federal department and independent agency should adopt a formal policy prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation in its programs, activities, and funding.

4) The Department of Labor should include gender identity and sexual orientation measures in economic surveys including the Current Population Survey and the Survey on Income and Program.

5) The Department of Justice should vigorously enforce the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) to help end sexual abuse of transgender people in jails, prisons, and police lock-ups, and ensure transgender inmates are treated safely and respectfully. Enforcement of strong PREA rules helps ensure formerly incarcerated transgender people can smoothly re-integrate into American society and find jobs.

6) President Obama should pressure House Speaker John Boehner to heed the call of a majority of Americans (80%) who support strong LGBT workplace protections by putting the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) to a vote.

7) Provide a path to citizenship for the estimated quarter of a million undocumented immigrants who are transgender or LGB by passing commonsense immigration reform.

8) The Department of Homeland Security should expand the use of alternatives to secure detention and end the detention of asylum-seekers, LGBT people, people with HIV, and other vulnerable groups.

9) The Department of Education should issue guidance clarifying the application of Title IX nondiscrimination protections to transgender and gender nonconforming youth, including the right of transgender students to dress, access school facilities, programs and campus housing, and otherwise be treated in accord with their gender identity in a respectful and confidential manner.