Hawaii Gov. David Ige signed a groundbreaking bill on Friday prohibiting discrimination against LGBTQ students in schools.

Passed by the Hawaii Legislature in May, House Bill 1489 bans "discrimination on the basis of sex, including gender identity or expression, or sexual orientation" in Hawaii schools. These protections cover "any state educational program or activity, or in any educational program or activity that receives state financial assistance," which includes team sports or after-school programs.

In doing so, the legislation establishes state-specific protections for queer and trans students under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

Although LGBTQ students aren't specifically mentioned in the decades-old civil rights bill, the Department of Education announced in 2014 it would henceforth interpret the definition of "sex" under Title IX to include the category of "gender identity," as well as the "failure to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity."

But a year after President Obama issued guidance to schools to treat transgender youth in accordance with their gender identity, the Trump administration rolled back the previous White House's definition of Title IX.

Earlier this year, Trump's Department of Education claimed it would no longer investigate discrimination complaints filed by trans students.

Supporters of HB 1489 applauded Hawaii for breaking with the federal government to protect students who face disproportionate rates of bullying from their peers and even lack of support from teachers. Even as young people express historic support for LGBTQ rights, GLSEN's most recent National School Climate Survey found that 56 percent of queer and trans students had experienced discrimination in schools.

Both houses of the state legislature overwhelmingly approved the bill earlier this year, with just one lawmaker voting against the proposal. When the legislature approved the proposal in May, State Sen. Jill Tokuda claimed the bill was "huge step" toward equality for LGBTQ youth in Hawaii.

"The bill has gone largely unnoticed this session," claimed the 24th District Democrat, in comments first reported by Civil Beat. "People haven't really realized what we've done, but this is going to go very far in terms of protecting our kids."

Khara Jabola-Carolus, executive director for the Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women, called the bill a "historic victory for women and LGBTQ students."

National LGBTQ advocacy groups also hailed the legislation's passage.

"No student should ever be treated differently simply for being who they are," said Sarah Munshi, state and district policy manager for GLSEN, in a statement. "Unfortunately, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression is commonplace in schools all across the United States."

HB 1489 underwent a series of changes prior to its passage.

An earlier draft of the legislation gave the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission the power to adjudicate student complaints of discrimination and issue right-to-sue letters on behalf of students who wish to take legal action against their schools.

Although the bill won't take effect until 2020, it's one of a number of progressive moves by the Aloha State in recent months. In April, Hawaii became the 12th state to ban conversion therapy after Gov. Ige signed a bill prohibiting the discredited "gay cure" treatment (which has been likened to torture) from being offered to minors.

Last week, the Hawaii Supreme Court upheld a discrimination case in which a lesbian couple was turned away by a bed and breakfast after the owner cited their religious beliefs.

A mother and father in Ohio are appealing a judge’s decision rejecting a name-change request for their transgender child.

Leigh and Kylen Whitaker were in Warren County Probate Court Tuesday morning to appeal the decision by Judge Joseph Kirby to deny their request to legally change their 15-year-old son’s name.

During a hearing last month, some of the judge’s questions surprised them.

"He started out by asking us did this all start when all of this stuff came out in the media? And we didn't know what he was talking about and later on he clarified he was talking about when Bruce Jenner came out,” Leigh said.

The Whitakers say Elliott, whom they named Heidi at birth, has been in therapy for a year and under the care of the transgender clinic at children’s hospital.

"We did do a lot of therapy to make sure that this was something that was real,” Leigh said.

In his decision, Judge Kirby questioned whether Elliott was confused and wrote in part: “Children change significantly and rapidly.”

He continued: “Age. Develop. Mature,” and told Elliott to ask again when he becomes an adult. The Whitakers were aghast.

"I'm also upset that a judge who spent less than 20 minutes with our child in an intimidating setting knows better than both parents, the child, a licensed therapist and a doctor specializing in transgender issues,” Kylen Whitaker said.

The Whitaker’s attorney believes Judge Kirby’s decision violated their rights.

"There are federal constitutional issues here. Importantly, the parents right to decide the upbringing of their child, there's also the child's right to express himself, there are First Amendment issues,” attorney Josh Langdon said.

According to the family’s attorney, Judge Kirby rejected two other transgender name-change requests that same day.

The judge did grant other name change requests last year.

YOU CAN’T MAKE IT UP - TRUMP-PENCE WANTS TO DIVERT MONEY FROM RYAN WHITE HIV&AIDS PROGRAM TO TARGET FAMILIES AT BORDER: “This administration’s cruelty toward undocumented children and families has been unconscionable,” said David Stacy, HRC's Director of Government Affairs. “Now, we learn they are considering diverting funds from programs to provide health care for people living with HIV and medical support for refugees in order to pay for this president's heartless obsession with imprisoning kids. The Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program is one of our nation's premier public health efforts, and it is unthinkable that this administration would divert funds away from HIV treatment to fund its cruel attacks on kids and families at the border.” More from Slate.

WHAT’S AT STAKE AT THE SUPREME COURT: The next Supreme Court justice will shape civil and constitutional rights jurisprudence in the country for decades to come. In the coming years, the Supreme Court will be asked to decide critical issues for the LGBTQ community including:

  • Whether our nation’s nondiscrimination laws include protections for LGBTQ people, as many lower courts have already concluded. This would impact employment, housing, healthcare and education civil rights statutes.
  • Whether individuals and organizations have a license to discriminate against LGBTQ people when receiving taxpayer dollars to provide critical services.
  • Whether LGBTQ people and families can be turned away from businesses open to the general public, simply because of who they are or whom they love.
  • Whether qualified transgender people can be excluded from serving in the military, simply because of who they are.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT HOW TRUMP’S SCOTUS PICK COULD  UNDERMINE LGBTQ RIGHTS, REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS, HEALTH CARE AND MORE: Brett Kavanaugh currently serves as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. During his tenure, he has clearly established a judicial philosophy that the personal beliefs of individuals should dictate the lives of others. Kavanaugh has ruled that an employer’s religious beliefs should be allowed to override their workers’ access to birth control. While refusing to answer whether he believed Roe was correctly decided during his confirmation hearing for the DC Circuit, once on the bench he wrote that his colleagues had “badly erred” by determining that an undocumented immigrant teen should have access to an abortion. In dissenting against the Affordable Care Act, Kavanaugh claimed that “the President may decline to enforce a statute… when the President deems the statute unconstitutional, even if a court has held or would hold the statute constitutional.” More from HRC.

WHAT WE’RE WATCHING WEDNESDAY -- HRC PRESIDENT CHAD GRIFFIN (@CHADHGRIFFIN) AT THE UnidosUS FORUM ON CIVIL RIGHTS IN THE TRUMP ERA: Griffin joined Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund; Vanita Gupta, President and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights; Neera Tanden, President of the Center for American Progress; and María Teresa Kumar, President and CEO of Voto Latino to discuss strategies to fight the Trump administration’s sweeping assault on immigrants and the rights of women, minorities, people with disabilities, and LGBTQ people. More from Washington Blade.

Lawmakers in the Ohio House will consider a bill to require doctors and teachers to tell parents if their child might be transgender. Critics said it would create a "gender police" but supporters of the bill said it merely reinforced a parent's right to know about their children.

Brinkman said the bill clearly states parental rights extend until a child is 18 years old. He said he sponsored the bill after a 17-year-old went to court with their parents because the teenager wanted to transition. The parents refused. A judge ultimately sided with the teenager. Brinkman said he would want to know from his child's teacher if there was something they were struggling with.

 

Brinkman said the bill clearly states parental rights extend until a child is 18 years old. He said he sponsored the bill after a 17-year-old went to court with their parents because the teenager wanted to transition. The parents refused. A judge ultimately sided with the teenager. Brinkman said he would want to

know from his child's teacher if there was something they were struggling with.

 
 

"That's what schools should do is contact parents, let them know what's going on," he said. "I don't think there's anything wrong with that."

House Bill 658 has upset many people in the LGBTQ community.

"It does nothing to protect families or our youth and what it does do is for them marginalize, oppress and discriminate against transgender and non-binary youth," said Erin Upchurch, the executive director of the Kaleidoscope Youth Center which helps transgender youth. "The rule is to only disclose information if a youth is a threat to themselves or other people. Questioning, navigating, exploring gender identity is not a threat to the youth or anybody else."

Upchurch said the bill would take away a safe place where teenagers can confide in an adult.

"What it's doing is putting up barriers between youth and adults who should be what we consider safer adults," she said. "Schools, therapist offices should be a safe place, a soft landing for youth to go."

Brinkman said he's hopeful the bill might pass after the midterm elections. He said he's received a lot of support from his colleagues in the House.

It’s 2018. Marriage equality is on the books, and most Americans support protections for LGBTQ people.

In theory, teenagers should be able to bring whom they want to prom – but some can’t. Luckily, at least one dance makes sure everyone is welcome.

This week, hundreds of youth flocked to an LGBTQ prom event in Long Island, New York. As the first event of its kind in the U.S. suburbs, the prom has been going on for nearly 20 years.

Nonprofits LGBT Network and Long Island Gay and Lesbian Youth host the Annual LGBT Prom. The dance is open to LGBTQ teens and allies.

David Kilmnick, president and CEO of the LGBT Network, explained:

Bullying is still a rampant issue for LGBT youth in our schools and as a result, our kids do not get to experience and enjoy what is a “rite of passage” for all teenagers. It is critical that we continue to have an annual LGBT prom on Long Island, so our young people can bring the date of their choice to the prom and do so feeling safe and with a great sense of Pride.

Offering a deliberately inclusive event is so important, even in the last few years. Scuffles around prom expose the homophobia that teenagers still face.

This spring, an Alabama high school principal forbade a student named Britney from wearing a tuxedo and bringing a female date to prom. He changed his mind only after she reached out to the Southern Poverty Law Center and told him that the First Amendment and Title IX both protected her right to do so.

Racked‘s Nadra Nittle notes the frequency of incidents like these. Some schools simply remain oblivious of students’ rights.

“Too often, schools don’t know the law, flout the law, and don’t have the best interests of LGBTQ students in mind,” Nittle writes. “And they’re counting on students and their families not to fight for their rights.”

A Mississippi high school blocked Kenzie Ellenberger, who’s non-binary, and Mallory Boone from running for prom king and queen this year. 

Kim Ellenberger, Kenzie’s mom, told Commercial Appeal:

People say it’s a sin and she’s going go to hell and that’s bullying. We’ve had bullying in school. You expect it from the kids. You don’t expect it from the adults, but it does happen. I want my child to be able to do what everybody’s else child does without having to fight every step of the way.

Even at more accepting schools, many LGBTQ students are still hesitant at traditional proms. According to Refinery29, transgender and gender-nonconforming teen James van Kuilenburg worried that he was going to be attacked when he dressed flamboyantly feminine at prom with his date, Frank.

He made sure that he had his cell phone on him at all times and made a safety plan for his straight friends to step in if anything happened.

As long as LGBTQ students feel unsafe or unable to enjoy their celebratory nights, inclusive proms matter. And, thankfully, Long Island’s isn’t the only one.

West Virginia teens from more than 10 counties celebrated at the state’s first “rainbow” prom in April. Students from Idaho to South Carolina are finding solace and fun at similar events.

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