A judge for the US District Court for the District of Minnesota [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Friday that a provision in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) [materials, PDF] that bans discrimination in health care based on sex includes transgender and gender non-conforming people.

Plaintiffs Brittany Tovar and Reid Olsen brought suit against health care providers Essentia Health and Innovis Health over “health care plan[s] that contained a discriminatory categorical exclusion for all health services related to gender transition.” The plaintiffs contended the exclusion of transgender health services was a violation of Section 1557 [text, PDF] of the ACA, which provides that the there will not be any federal money for a plan that contains “denial of benefits on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability.”

The defendants moved to dismiss the claims on the grounds that “Section 1557 does not provide protection against gender identity discrimination, and that consequently, Plaintiffs’ claims must be dismissed.”

The judge denied the motion to dismiss, writing, “Because Title VII, and by extension Title IX, recognize that sex discrimination encompasses gender-identity discrimination, the Court concludes that Section 1557 also prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity.”

The 2018 election may be one of the most important midterms in quite a long time, and that goes double for transgender people. The stakes are amazingly high.

Here are a few things that should get you to the ballot box on the 6th of November

 
trans pride

The 2018 election may be one of the most important midterms in quite a long time, and that goes double for transgender people. The stakes are amazingly high.

Here are a few things that should get you to the ballot box on the 6th of November:

 

Congress is not our friend — but it could be

Generally speaking, Congress is supposed to serve as one of the checks on presidential power, but with the current GOP-dominated congress and the Trump administration, that system has broken down. As a result, Trump-era policies are more likely to go unchecked — or even supported.

One big example is the transgender military ban. This originally was part of an attempt to strip trans military healthcare before Trump expanded it into his full, ill-considered ban. The bill gained no traction before Trump stepped in, but an emboldened Congress after the midterms could decide differently.

Another is the Civil Rights Uniformity Act of 2017 (HR2796), a rather nasty piece of legislation introduced by Rep Pete Olson (R-TX). This bill, stuck in a subcommittee seeks to strip away protections for transgender people by preventing any bills to define sex and gender as inclusive of gender identity, and wants to ensure that no future administration could affirm gender identity inclusive policies.

The bill also sought to define “man” and woman” based on “a person’s genetic sex,” while also not defining what “genetic sex” even means in this context. That’s not only bad news for transgender people, but doesn’t even acknowledge the existence of intersex or non-binary people.

HR2796 isn’t making it anywhere right now, but the sky could be the limit after the midterms, as Congress will have two more years to do whatever they wish.

Not every bill is a bad one: the Screening with Dignity Act (HR6420) would seem to improve issues for transgender people facing issues at TSA checkpoints while traveling. It too is unlikely to go anywhere in this Congress — but might have a chance in a more liberal body.

Then there are the courts

Congress and the Trump Administration have wasted little time packing the courts with socially conservative judges. The Senate has, as of publication, confirmed 68 Trump-nominated judges. Even more are waiting on deck.

Also, consider the Supreme Court. Trump already got one new judge there, with Neil Gorsuch getting the seat vacated under Obama. We’re currently facing the second possible Supreme Court nominee for Trump, Brett Kavanaugh.

Neither Kavanaugh nor Gorsuch are friendly to transgender causes, and it is plenty possible for Trump to get even more possibilities to reshape the Supreme Court in years to come. A Democratic majority in Congress could help stop this.

It will be up to us to send them packing, and get new Democratic leaders into Congress, who can help thwart such bills and make it less likely that the GOP will put these forward while dealing with other issues.

State and Local Politics matter, too

The 2018 legislative sessions around the country are largely wrapping up in advance of the election, but since the beginning of 2018, ten states have introduced 21 anti-transgender bills according to the National Center for Transgender Equality.

Texas is already threatening a return of their attempts to undermine trans rights in their state, and plenty of others will follow their lead.

With fresh sessions coming up in 2019 and beyond, and the federal government being largely anti-transgender, it’s all the more important to make sure you’re protected at the state level.

Nowhere is this more obvious than in Massachusetts, where Question 3 could repeal already existing transgender rights. A win is far from assured at this point and a loss there could be just as damaging as the similar repeal of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance initiative in 2015.

It’s not all dire, however. We also have another chance to help transgender people win; from school board members in San Francisco to the gubernatorial run of Christine Hallquist in Vermont, we have several chances to be part of the decision-making process across the country.

So if you are transgender, or an ally of transgender people, this is not an election to sit out. Make your way to the ballot box this November. Everything may be riding on it.

Saturday, September 15, 2018 (New York, NY) – As students return to school, transgender students confront a wave of attacks that undermine their ability to learn in educational settings free of bullying and harassment. On Saturday, GLSEN and the Movement Advancement Project (MAP) announced a new national Safe Schools campaign and public service advertisement, “Hallway,” to grow the national Safe Schools Movement necessary to sustain and build support for safe schools for transgender students nationwide.

“Hallway,” the new PSA produced by MAP and released in partnership with GLSEN, depicts the harassment transgender students often face when they need to use the restroom at school—and how school administrators and supportive students alike can help. According to GLSEN’s 2015 National School Climate Survey, 70% of transgender students said they avoided bathrooms because they felt unsafe or uncomfortable. Amidst an increasingly hostile environment for transgender students nationwide, such as the Departments of Education and Justice’s withdrawal of crucial federal protections, local community support, and school-based action are more vital than ever to ensure transgender youth have a fair chance to learn and thrive in school.

View the new PSA online on thSupport Safe Schools website, glsen.org/safeschools, YouTube, or Facebook.

The 60-second “Hallway” spot will run through a national digital advertising campaign, with a local emphasis on 15 states where anti-LGBTQ legislation has been proposed or existing supportive legislation is under attack. GLSEN aims to sign up thousands of safe school advocates across the 15 identified states, and nationally. The 15 states include Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Texas.

“Hallway” was released as part of a new Safe Schools campaign, led by GLSEN in partnership with MAP, designed to grow the national Safe Schools Movement of parents, educators, youth, and policymakers to advocate for safe schools for LGBTQ youth.

The campaign is being launched to protect the hard-won gains of the last 28 years, and to counter a growing coordinated effort in states across the country to undermine the ability of LGBTQ students to thrive in America’s schools. Each year, in dozens of states, legislation is proposed that would harm transgender youth, such as denying their right to use their own name and pronouns, allowing LGBTQ students to be forced to endure debunked and dangerous “conversion therapy” practices, and legislation that would allow public school employees to impose personal religious beliefs onto LGBTQ and other youth, potentially denying students school services or support.

To fill in the gap in state laws, many school districts were turning to the federal government for protection. In 2014, the Obama administration issued official guidance clarifying that transgender students are protected from discrimination based on Title IX’s prohibition on sex discrimination. However, the Trump administration recently rescinded that guidance, signaling that transgender students cannot count on their federal government for support. And, in February of this year, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights announced that they will no longer be investigating complaints of discrimination filed by transgender students.

“We’ve seen what happens when trans and queer youth in schools aren’t supported. They have lower self-esteem, feel less safe, and are more likely to miss school and have lower grades than their peers,” said Eliza Byard, GLSEN Executive Director. “After 28 years of progress, our Safe Schools Movement is facing unprecedented attacks. We must renew our commitment and build our strength for the battles immediately ahead. From the school board to the state house, we expect to see discriminatory policies proposed in the year ahead that we will need to come together to defeat so that we can ensure K-12 schools grounded in respect for all.”

“All students deserve a safe school environment, and forcing transgender students into restrooms that don’t match their gender identity puts their safety at risk,” said Logan Casey, MAP Policy Researcher. “At its heart, this issue is about whether or not transgender students will be included in our public education system. Put simply, if transgender students cannot safely access a restroom, they cannot safely attend school.”

Fourteen states plus the District of Columbia have laws explicitly prohibiting discrimination in schools based on gender identity and sexual orientation. However, the lack of protections in the majority of states leaves many students vulnerable, according to a brief from MAP, GLSEN, and the National Center for Transgender Equality, also released today as part of the Safe Schools campaign. School districts across the country have successfully worked to ensure that transgender students have access to facilities that match their gender identity while still protecting the privacy of all students.

Oath will support the ad campaign with donated media across its properties, provided by Oath for Good, in partnership with Blue 449, a Publicis Media agency.

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About GLSEN

GLSEN works to create safe and inclusive schools for all. We envision a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or gender expression. Each year, GLSEN programs and resources reach millions of students and educators in K-12 schools across the United States, and our network of 39 community-led chapters in 26 states brings GLSEN’s expertise to local communities. GLSEN's progress and impact have won support for inclusive schools at all levels of education in the United States and sparked an international movement to ensure equality for LGBTQ students and respect for all in schools. For more information on GLSEN’s policy advocacy, student leadership initiatives, public education, research, and educator training programs, please visit www.glsen.org.

About the Movement Advancement Project (MAP)

Founded in 2006, the Movement Advancement Project is an independent think tank that provides rigorous research, insight, and analysis that help speed equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. Learn more at www.lgbtmap.org.

Jill Biden sounds like she might be ready for a 2020 campaign.

Introducing her husband, former Vice President Joe Biden, at the Human Rights Campaign’s big annual dinner in Washington on Saturday night, the former second lady told a story from her childhood of knocking on the door of a mean boy in the neighborhood, winding up and punching him in the nose.

The crowd of LGBTQ activists and supporters cheered.

“There is nothing that makes either of us more angry than a bully. There’s nothing that’s more unfair or unjust than people using their power to try to make other people feel small, to tell them who they are or what they are capable of, to say their identity doesn’t belong,” she said, explaining why LGBTQ equality is one of the priorities of the Biden Foundation, but in what many in the crowd heard as a not-so-subtle comment on President Donald Trump. “There is nothing that makes us want to pick a fight more than that.

The former vice president is contemplating another White House run, though he’s put off the decision until after what will be a busy two months ahead of midterm campaigning all over the country. The Bidens often talk about themselves as a clan, and they certainly act like one. His wife’s opinion will be crucial as Joe Biden makes the decision — she was seen by people in touch with her at the time as having reservations about his running in 2016.

The last time Joe Biden appeared at this dinner, though, was in 2015, in one of the few public appearances he made as he was weighing jumping into that race.

Saturday night, he picked up the same thought as his wife to talk about his potential 2020 opponent.

"The president uses the White House as a literal, literal bully pulpit, callously exerting his power over those who have little or none,” the former vice president said.

As then, Joe Biden’s decision to declare his support for gay marriage in 2012 — in turn forcing the hand of then-President Barack Obama and others to do the same — made him a hero at this event and in the wider LGBTQ community.

HRC president Chad Griffin introduced the Bidens as “our friends and champions.”

The former vice president spoke at length about his decision to come out for gay marriage and twice invoked his late son Beau. He repeated a line that’s become his central argument against Trump, arguing that the presidency doesn’t represent the best of what America really is.

But much of the speech was about the greater cause of equality.

“Those who try to excuse this kind of prejudice in the name of culture, I say, ‘Prejudice is prejudice and humanity is humanity — it is a crime,’” Joe Biden said, urging the crowd and anyone else who cares about issues opposed by Trump to stay engaged. “Our work is not yet done by any stretch of the imagination. The stakes are much too high.”

A transgender teen alleges in a federal lawsuit that she faced harassment, discrimination and bullying while attending Grissom High School in Huntsville.

Zelda Menefee, 19, is suing the city school board, plus several administrators and teachers. The lawsuit says Menefee started transitioning from male to female in the summer of 2014 -- just before she enrolled at Grissom in January 2015. As part of her social transition, Menefee changed her name, wore female clothing and used female bathrooms, the 94-page lawsuit says.

Menefee said she was bullied by students and teachers until she finally quit school in May 2016 and got a GED. The lawsuit says she was denied access to women's restrooms, locker rooms and physical education classes.

"Zelda simply wanted to live as a normal teenage girl and have a normal high school experience, but the Defendants took the experience away from her," the lawsuit states.

The defendants include the board of education, former Superintendent Casey Wardynski, Grissom Principal Rebecca Balentine, Freshman Principal James Coln, guidance counselor Amy Langford, Title IX coordinator Shirley Wellington, and the following Grissom teachers: Connie Stephens, Jake Moran, Diane Staley, Alicia DesRosier, and Maurice Shingleton.

Huntsville City Schools spokesman Keith Ward said he can't comment on pending legal matters.

"Every child deserves the right to feel safe at school," said Birmingham attorney Abbey Clarkson, who represents Menefee. "Zelda was deprived on that right."

The lawsuit says teachers and students refused to call Menefee by her chosen female name. One teacher called her "sir," according to the complaint. Menefee also was forced to change out of her own clothing -- a knee-length skirt that complied with the dress code -- and into 'male' athletic pants and a T-shirt, the complaint states.

Menefee said the school administration refused to investigate complaints about bullying, discrimination and assault. The lawsuit says she was specifically threatened for being transgender and punched in the stomach by students passing in the hallway. One student assaulted Menefee and pulled off her wig in the hallway, but administrators did nothing, the lawsuit says.

Menefee also says the school wouldn't let her use her preferred name in the yearbook and canceled a beauty pageant because she wanted to participate.

The lawsuit seeks a jury trial on allegations that the school suppressed Menefee's First Amendment rights, violated Title IX, and failed to supervise and train school staff.The lawsuit doesn't name a specific amount of money that Menefee is seeking. It asks for, "an amount that will fully compensate her for the physical injures, mental distress, anguish, pain, humiliation, embarrassment, suffering and concern that she has suffered..." The lawsuit also asks the judgement be high enough to punish the defendants and prevent similar situations in the future.

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