13 in 2013: Victory in Delaware

June 19, 2013

Today transgender people in Delaware celebrate the passage of a statewide Gender Identity Nondiscrimination Bill. Governor Markell pledged to sign the bill within an hour of passage, making Delaware the seventeenth state to prohibit discrimination based on gender identity alongside California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

NCTE pitched in on efforts to pass the Gender Identity Nondiscrimination Bill through training and support to Equality Delaware. Executive Director Mara Keisling praised key players: “Equality Delaware and Governor Markell have put in a lot of hard work to get this bill through. Delaware showed up big for transgender rights today.”

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Puerto Rico Governor Signs LGBT-Inclusive Nondiscrimination Bill Into Law

May 29, 2013

NCTE celebrates the passage by the legislature of Puerto Rico of a law prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity, sexual orientation, and marital status in employment. Puerto Rico joins 16 states and the District of Columbia with LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination laws.

The passage of this legislation is particularly important in light of the epidemic of homophobic and transphobic violence in the territory in recent years. In December, the Puerto Rico Police Department entered into an agreement with the the US Department of Justice meant in part to remedy findings that police abused and failed to protect LGBT people. Despite these enormous challenges, Puerto Rico’s LGBT community has continued to fight hard for protections such as the employment measure, which Governor García Padilla signed into law today. Also yet to be passed are a law protecting LGBT victims of domestic violence, which was  Puerto Rico’s House of Representatives sent on to the Senate law week, as well as protections in housing and in business establishments serving the public, which were omitted from the just-passed bill.

NCTE salutes Puerto Rico’s LGBT community, as well as the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force for its role in achieving this major milestone.

NCTE Condemns Committee Action on AZ Anti-Trans Bathroom Bill, SB 1045

March 28, 2013

Yesterday, in a 7-4 vote, the unnecessary and discriminatory bathroom bill, SB1045, moved forward from the Appropriations Committee to the House floor. SB1045 renders local LGBT nondiscrimination laws unenforceable and protects businesses and other facility managers that choose to discriminate against transgender and gender nonconforming public restroom users.

In response to the committee vote on SB1045, National Center for Transgender Equality Executive Director Mara Keisling said:

“The Arizona Appropriations Committee approved an incredibly discriminatory and hateful bill that specifically targets transgender people. Rejecting the thousands of people who’ve spoken out against SB1045 in Arizona and across the United States, Rep. Kavanagh and his six allies instead chose to defend discrimination and protect discriminators. SB1045 brings more shame to Arizona’s legislature for isolating and targeting another marginalized community. Transgender Arizonans and our allies stand stronger and more determined to put an end to Rep. Kavanagh’s anti-transgender campaign.”

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NCTE Joins Brief in Michelle Kosilek Case

March 4, 2013

Michelle Kosilek

The National Center for Transgender Equality is proud to have joined seven other organizations last week in filing a friend-of-the-court brief with the First Circuit federal appeals court in the case of Kosilek v. Spencer. The case, which has received significant public attention in recent months, is the latest in a series in which Massachusetts prison officials have refused to provide medically necessary treatment to transgender prisoners. In September, a federal court ordered the state to provide sex reassignment surgery for Michelle Kosilek after prison doctors determined it was the only adequate treatment for her severe gender dysphoria.

NCTE’s position in this case is driven by two core principles: First, that hormonal, surgical, and other medical treatments for gender dysphoria are medically necessary for many people and should be treated like any other medically necessary care, based on the medical needs of an individual as determined by qualified medical providers; and second, that people who are incarcerated and cannot provide for their own care have an unquestionable, constitutional right to adequate medical care. Participation in cases like this one is critical to establishing the legitimacy and necessity of treatments for gender dysphoria and ensuring all people have access to adequate health care in every setting.
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Now Available: Transgender Family Law Book by GLAD

May 3, 2012

This is a guest post from Jennifer Levi, the book editor and Transgender Rights Project Director at Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders. 

I am pretty excited about the recent release of a book co-edited by myself and Liz Monnin-Browder, Transgender Family Law: A Guide to Effective Advocacy. The book pulls together a huge amount of resources with which few attorneys would be familiar.  I urge everyone in the community to pick up a copy and share it with friends or, for anyone facing a family law issue, with your attorney.

We wrote the book because until we can do more to educate lawyers and judges about the reality of transgender people’s lives, transgender people will continue to face serious discrimination and bias at our most vulnerable times. Far too many people have lost relationships with their children, been forced into to unfair property settlements, or had intimate relationships of longstanding duration ignored, all because nobody was prepared to legally represent them and because courts simply mirrored widespread social bias rather than challenged it.  Transgender Family Law is more than just a legal resource, it is a tool for social change.

Purchase a copy of the book here.

Two transgender judges to serve

November 19, 2010


This week, two transgender people achieved victories as judges. Phyllis Randolph Frye, a veteran transgender legal advocate, was appointed by Houston mayor Annise Parker as an Associate Municipal Judge. The City Council unanimously approved the appointment and she was sworn in yesterday. Phyllis’ contributions to the transgender community over the decades are numerous and groundbreaking. She truly has been a pioneer securing legal rights for transgender people and standing up for those who would not otherwise have a voice.

And in Alameda County, California, the vote count is finally done and Victoria Kolakowski was officially declared the winner of her race for Superior Court Judge. She will be the nation’s first out transgender person elected as a trial judge. She, too, brings decades of legal experience to her work.

“Both of these women achieved what they did because of their qualifications,” noted Mara Keisling, NCTE’s executive director. “Both are deeply dedicated to their profession. The people of the United States deserve the very best judges and that is what they got in both of these cases. What is important here is that Mayor Parker of Houston and the voters of Alameda County removed the artificial barriers that are put in place by anti-transgender discrimination and made their decision based on the qualifications of these two outstanding women.”

NCTE extends its congratulations to both Phyllis and Vicky. This is truly a victory as barriers fall and two deserving judges take the bench.

NCTE @ National LGBT Bar Association

September 2, 2010
NCTE's Intern Elliot Kenney and Health Policy Counsel Mul Kim

NCTE's Intern Elliot Kenney and Health Policy Counsel Mul Kim

NCTE’s policy attorneys returned this week from a stimulating experience at the National LGBT Bar Association Annual Conference in Miami Beach, FL. The conference, also known as Lavender Law, is an opportunity for LGBT attorneys, students and advocates to connect and explore important practice and policy issues.

NCTE Health Policy Counsel Mul Kim and I were pleased to participate in this year’s expanded Transgender Law Institute, where we co-facilitated discussions of trans health care (with attorneys from Lambda Legal and the Transgender Law Center and private attorney Ed Reeves) and identity documentation issues (together with attorneys Spencer Bergstedt  and Zack Paakonen).

I was privileged to sit for the second year running on a panel on mentoring and professional development for transgender attorneys, along with leading attorneys and advocates Phyllis Frye, Kylar Broadus, Spencer Bergstedt, Jamison Green and Dru Levasseur. As the youngest person on the panel, I was greatly impressed by what my colleagues had to say about their professional experiences and it was immensely interesting.

In the center, NCTE's Policy Counsel, Harper Jean Tobin and Lisa Mottet, director of the Task Force's Transgender Civil Rights Project; with them are Task Force law fellow Ashlan and her partner

In the center, NCTE's Policy Counsel, Harper Jean Tobin and Lisa Mottet, director of the Task Force's Transgender Civil Rights Project; with them are Task Force law fellow Ashlan and her partner

Victory in Employment Discrimination Case

July 7, 2010
Vandy Beth and Congressman Lewis

Justin Tanis, Cole Thaler, Congressman John Lewis, Vandy Beth Glen and her friend David

Vandy Beth Glenn, represented by Lambda Legal, won her case in District Court after suing her former employer for firing her because of her transition. She worked as a legislative editor for the Georgia State Assembly, a job she enjoyed and where she put in long, dedicated hours; in 2006, she informed her supervisor that she would be transitioning from male to female.

Her supervisor spoke with Sewell Brumby, the General Assembly’s Legislative Counsel, who in 2007 fired Ms. Glenn because he felt that her transition was, according to court documents, “inappropriate, that it would be disruptive, that some people would view it as a moral issue, and that it would make Glenn’s coworkers uncomfortable.” He also said he was concerned about the reactions of Georgia state legislators, stating his belief that, “some legislators would believe that Glenn’s gender transition was immoral, unnatural, and ‘ultraliberal’.”

In 2008, Lambda Legal filed suit asserting that in firing Ms. Glenn, Mr. Brumby violated the Equal Protection clause of the constitution by treating her differently because she didn’t conform to sex stereotypes and because of her medical condition.  Late last Friday, July 2nd, the Northern District Court of Georgia ruled that her rights were violated because she was discriminated against because she didn’t match how the Mr. Brumby felt someone born male should act. However, her claim of discrimination because of her medical condition was denied.

United States District Court Judge Richard Story in his decisions wrote, “This Court concurs with the majority of courts that have addressed this issue, finding that discrimination against a transgendered individual because of their failure to conform to gender stereotypes constitutes discrimination on the basis of sex.” He also noted that, “…avoiding the anticipated negative reactions of others cannot serve as a sufficient basis for discrimination and does not constitute an important government interest.”

In September 2009, Vandy Beth Glenn testified before Congress about the importance of passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and met with her Representative, John Lewis, who is a strong supporter of the measure.

NCTE applauds the work of Lambda Legal on this case and thanks Vandy Beth for her courage and tenacity in standing up against the discrimination she encountered. This case shows why we need to pursue legal action at the same time that we are working to pass laws that make it clear that discrimination is unacceptable in the American workplace.

You can read more about the decision from Lambda Legal.