The Kittery School District and the community are making a positive difference in creating a policy that shows transgender students they will be treated equally, with dignity and respect.

Ensuring equal rights for all people should be a simple concept and universally embraced. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. Kittery’s new policy is thankfully part of a growing trend that includes a new law passed in New Hampshire this year.

Perhaps the most important aspect of the Kittery policy is how the school administration, School Committee members, parents and students came together to make it happen, speaking out with emotion and compassion and addressing opposition that shows a great deal of education is still needed in our society on transgender issues.

It was heartening to see Traip Academy students William Heffron and Jeremy Clifford address the School Committee before it approved the transgender policy. Heffron said his transgender friends are “the kindest, gentlest ... least dangerous people I know.” School Committee member Anne Gilbert said the committee’s “first and foremost responsibility is to protect our students, all of our students.” Committee member Kim Bedard was in tears as she spoke about meeting a transgender person years ago, shaping her views.

The policy, which passed unanimously, says Kittery schools will honor the wishes of students regarding gender identification, names and pronouns. This includes school identifications, classroom rosters, certificates, diplomas and yearbooks. It also states students can use restrooms, locker rooms and changing facilities corresponding with the gender identity they assert at school.

That last part is what fear-mongering opponents of transgender equity laws and policies call out every time. It happened again at Kittery’s School Committee meeting Tuesday night, when resident Susan Wiswell raised concerns about a boy pretending to identify as a girl so he could go in a girls locker room and sexually assault someone. These “bathroom myths” are always presented in the scariest way possible by people who don’t want to grant equal rights to all people.

The truth is sexual assault is illegal, of course, and remains illegal, and we as a society simply need to allow people to go to the bathroom when nature calls. That’s it. Schools don’t allow assault or any inappropriate behavior in bathrooms and locker rooms, and a transgender policy doesn’t change that. In New Hampshire, when this issue was raised, Dover Police Chief Anthony Colarusso, who recently retired, testified that statistically transgender people are far more likely to be victims of assault than assailants. Many schools in our states and around the nation have had policies similar to what Kittery is adopting for a long time. This includes Portsmouth, which adopted its policy in 2016.

In New Hampshire, Gov. Chris Sununu on Friday signed into law a nondiscrimination bill passed earlier this year. “Discrimination – in any form – is unacceptable and runs contrary to New Hampshire’s Live Free or Die spirit,” Sununu said in a statement he released about signing the bill. “If we really want to be the Live Free or Die state, we must ensure that New Hampshire is a place where every person, regardless of their background, has an equal and full opportunity to pursue their dreams and to make a better life for themselves and their families.”

New Hampshire already specifically prohibits discrimination based on age, sex, race, creed, color, marital status, familial status, physical or mental disability, national origin or sexual orientation. Now “gender identity” will be added to that list, and New Hampshire will join all other New England states with similar laws.

The New Hampshire law is a simple change that makes a big difference. This change and the Kittery school policy send a much-needed positive message about humanity and equality in our communities.

We need laws and policies that give everyone equal protections.

A CrossFit spokesman was fired after landing in hot water for spouting homophobic remarks on Twitter.

Russell Berger, the global fitness company’s former chief knowledge officer, expressed support for an Indianapolis CrossFit gym’s decision to cancel an LGBTQ pride workout, calling it a “sin.”

“As someone who personally believes celebrating ‘pride’ is a sin, I’d like to personally encourage #CrossFitInfiltrate for standing by their convictions and refusing to host an @indypride workout,” Berger wrote in a tweet. “The intolerance of the LGBTQ ideology toward any alternative views is mind-blowing.”

Berger’s remarks followed a major fallout among CrossFit Infiltrate members over the cancellation of the celebratory workout.

Gym manager Johnnie Martin sent a notice to members saying the gym’s owner, Brandon Lowe, had decided to cancel the event.

“We believe that true health forever can only be found within humility, not pride," the note read CNBC reported.

The announcement stirred members to action.

On Sunday, June 3, member Ryan Nix, who had organized the Pride workout, blasted the gym’s decision on Facebook.

“Last week we received an email from the gym cancelling our PRIDE workout. We emailed the owner since it seemed that there was an issue with people who may be LGBT. You can see from his response that there is,” Nix wrote.

He added that the gym’s coaches and general manager quit over the owner’s stance.

“Many of us are leaving the gym due to the owners. Please tell your friends not to join this place,” Nix wrote.

As a result, the gym closed.

Lowe weighed in to say, “The unfortunate line that is being read about the gym grossly misrepresents what CrossFit Infiltrate stands for and what it believes. The majority of the reviews and statements being read about the gym largely point out that Infiltrate’s community has been incredible and welcoming and that the decision not to host an Indy Pride event is the reason we are called bigots or discriminative.”

CrossFit CEO Greg Glassman took to Twitter to express support for his gay members following the incident.

“I am crazy proud of the gay community in CrossFit,” he said, according to the branded fitness regimen’s official Twitter account.

He referred to the incident, saying: “The whole company is upset,” BuzzFeed reported.

 
 

Lambda Legal this morning filed a federal lawsuit against the State of Alaska on behalf of Jennifer Fletcher, a state legislative librarian who was forced to pay out-of-pocket for medically necessary surgical treatment because the state health insurance plan prohibits such coverage only for transgender state employees.

"Jennifer Fletcher was denied coverage for medically necessary treatment specifically because she is transgender. This is unlawful and stigmatizing discrimination that jeopardizes the health of hardworking state employees," said Lambda Legal Senior Attorney Peter Renn.

"The state employee health care program – AlaskaCare – covers medically necessary treatment for all state employees except transgender employees. That’s textbook discrimination by any standard."

"The state employee health care program – AlaskaCare – covers medically necessary treatment for all state employees except transgender employees. That’s textbook discrimination by any standard."

“All that I am asking is that the State of Alaska stop discriminating against people like myself,” Fletcher said.

“My coworkers are able to receive coverage for their care, but coverage for transition-related care is denied.  This sends a clear message that the State does not value me, and does not consider me equal to its other employees, by forcing me to pay out of pocket for my medically necessary care.  How is this not discriminatory, when equivalent care is routinely provided to other state employees?”

Jennifer Fletcher is 36-year-old resident of Juneau, Alaska, who works as a legislative librarian for the State of Alaska. She has been working for Alaska since 2012 and was promoted to legislative librarian in 2014.

Assigned male sex at birth, she was diagnosed with gender dysphoria in 2014.  In consultation with health care professionals, Fletcher started hormone therapy and transitioned to living openly as the woman that she is.

The AlaskaCare plan contains a blanket exclusion of transition-related surgical treatment, which has existed in the plan since at least 1979. Because of the exclusion, Fletcher had to pay out of her own pocket for surgical treatment in 2017. 

Beginning in 2018, the AlaskaCare plan began covering transition-related hormone therapy, recognizing that such treatment is medically necessary, but continues to categorically prohibit coverage for transition-related surgical treatment, even though it can also be medically necessary.

In its lawsuit, Lambda Legal argues that the State of Alaska is violating the sex discrimination prohibition of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

In March, 2018, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) determined that there was reasonable cause to believe that the State of Alaska had violated Title VII.

"Whether your insurance will cover medically necessary treatment should not depend on who you are," added Lambda Legal Counsel Tara Borelli.

“The State itself recognizes that transition-related care is medically necessary, which is why it covers hormone therapy. The only reason for this lingering blanket exclusion against surgical treatment is irrational discrimination.”

All mainstream medical associations including the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association recognize that transition-related surgical treatment can be medically necessary for an individual. The AMA and other medical organizations have called for an end to discriminatory exclusions of medical care in public and private health insurance policies.

The Supreme Court has ruled in favor of an anti-gay baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple in a test of the country’s religious freedom laws. The court ruled 7-2 in favor of the baker.

Only Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor opposed the narrow ruling in favor of the baker.

The narrow ruling does not grant Christians a license to discriminate against LGBTQ people, but instead is tailored to specifically address the case that was in front of the court.

In this case, plaintiffs alleged that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission showed animus against baker Jack Phillips instead of ruling impartially. Members of the commission had suggested that Phillips was claiming religious freedom specifically so he could discriminate, and had not given a fair consideration to the bakery’s claims.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, a swing vote in most other LGBT cases that have come before the court in recent years, voted with the majority and wrote the ruling.

Today’s ruling chips aways at one of America’s most basic values for the last 50 years – the freedom to expect that a business will serve all customers without discrimination.

While the Court’s decision does not create a new license to discriminate, it also does not address the discrimination that millions of Americans still face. In more than half the country, our state laws do not explicitly protect LGBT Americans from discrimination in stores and restaurants, in the workplace, or in housing.

“The court reversed the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision based on concerns unique to the case but reaffirmed its longstanding rule that states can prevent the harms of discrimination in the marketplace, including against LGBT people.” said Louise Melling, deputy legal director of the ACLU.

Experts expect religious right groups to try to use the ruling to undermine local and state nondiscrimination protections nationwide.

“This case was never just about a wedding cake. It was about all people– no matter who they are – having the right to celebrate their love without facing discrimination,” DNC Chair Tom Perez said in an emailed statement.

“The Democratic Party believes that no individual has a license to discriminate. We believe in the dignity of every human being. And we will continue to fight for equality for LGBTQ people in all areas of our society – from housing and health care, to bathrooms and boardrooms, to bakeries and the ballot box.”

Today, HRC is proud to kick off National LGBTQ Pride Month, a time when we honor our history and recommit to resisting anti-equality forces working to undo our hard-earned progress.

Our History

Pride month coincides with the anniversary of the famous Stonewall Riots in New York City. On June 28, 1969, when New York City police began again harassing LGBTQ patrons of the Stonewall Inn simply for congregating, those patrons decided they’d had enough. LGBTQ activists stood up and bravely fought back. From those early demonstrations grew a modern social movement determined to rid the nation of discrimination against all LGBTQ Americans.

Taking Action

In 2018, LGBTQ advocates and allies continue to fight for full equality across the nation under the Trump-Pence administration’s hateful policies and rhetoric, while defending the hard-fought progress we’ve made over the years.

We aren’t just resisting at the federal level, we are fighting back against anti-LGBTQ state legislators attempting to undermine the fundamental civil rights of LGBTQ people across America. We have been going on offense with HRC Rising - our largest grassroots expansion ever -- because we simply can't afford to wait. Never underestimate the power of your voice and actions to create change.

Click here to find a Pride event in your area and join HRC and thousands of others to celebrate  LGBTQ progress and equality while also checking to make sure you’re registered to vote.

Text UNITE to 30644 to join HRC’s Mobile Action Network. Participate with our vast legion of supporters to help mobilize your community to change hearts and minds across the country by becoming an HRC volunteer.

Though Stonewall’s legacy is cemented in history, LGBTQ progress remains under attack in the Trump-Pence era. HRC takes inspiration from the brave members of our community who stood up for themselves -- and all of us -- at Stonewall, and is committed to ensuring all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, are treated equally and with dignity under the law.

Celebrating on Social Media

Use the hashtags #Pride, #Pride2018, #LoveIsLove, #LoveWins and #PrideParade in one of fifteen languages to unlock special Pride emojis on Twitter.

Make sure you rise up, speak up and show up this Pride month, and in November to make your voice is heard at the ballot box.

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