Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a bill that stops the use of public funds for gender reassignment surgeries. Lawmakers say the budget bill will generate $1.9 billion for things like children's mental health and veteran care, but it also has lasting impacts to the LGBTQ community.

“I finally decided that the unhappiness I felt inside of myself and the unfulfilled of my life just became [too] strong. I knew I needed to make a decision before it really started to harm me inside,” Michelle Kell, a transgender woman living in Des Moines said.

Kell is a transgender woman, a disabled veteran, and someone who relies on Medicaid. She now won't be able to afford sex affirming surgery.

"What I felt is all of a sudden my life, my reality, my existence, was no longer valid,” Kell said.

The new law does not require Medicaid or any other insurance funded by taxpayers to cover gender reassignment surgery, calling it cosmetic.

“If you’re going to say, ‘well you’re having mental issues because you want to have sex affirming surgery,’ then it's not elective is it?” Kell questioned. “It’s something that I need to help me deal with depression, with my self image, with just how I live my everyday life.”

Back in March, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled Medicaid was required to cover reassignment surgery. State Republican Sen. Jacob Chapman said that could cost the state over $20 million.

“The reality is that I think Iowans feel very strongly that their taxpayer money should not be going towards these types of surgeries. If people want to have these surgeries, that's totally fine. That’s up to them to do that, but [Iowans] feel very strongly that it shouldn't be with taxpayer money,” Chapman said.

Kell says this is more than a money problem but also discrimination against gender identity.

“This was never about drinking fountains back then and it’s not about bathrooms right now. This is about pitting people against other citizens, their neighbors, their family, other people in their community based on complete ignorance and a lack of empathy and a lack of love,” Kell said.

The law also cuts off nearly $260,000 in federal money to Planned Parenthood of the Heartland for their sex education programs.

The ACLU of Iowa calls this law unconstitutional but couldn't confirm plans to file a lawsuit.

This might just be Madonna’s most meaningful award yet.

On Saturday, the pop icon was named the newest recipient of the Advocate for Change Award at the 2019 GLAAD Media Awards ceremony in honor of a lifetime of accelerating LGBTQ acceptance in popular culture and beyond.

“Growing up I always felt like an outsider, like I didn’t fit in. It wasn’t because I didn’t shave under my armpits, I just didn’t fit in,” Madonna, 60, said in her acceptance speech, after being introduced by A League of Their Own costar Rosie O’Donnell.

In her speech, the singer also paid tribute to her first dance teacher and mentor.

“The first gay man I ever met was named Christopher Flynn,” she said. “He was my ballet teacher in high school and he was the first person that believed in me. That made me feel special as a dancer, as an artist and as a human being. I know this sounds trivial and superficial but he was the first man to tell me that I was beautiful.”

Madonna added, “He took me to my first gay club in downtown Detroit. I told my dad I was having a sleepover at a girlfriend’s house — that got me grounded for the rest of the summer.”

And later the star honored her other close friends who died.

“After I lost my best friend and roommate Martin Burgoyne and then Keith Haring, happy birthday Keith, I decided to take up the bullhorn and really fight back,” Madonna said.

GLAAD is the world’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer media advocacy organization.

Other honorees at the event, hosted by RuPaul’s Drag Race alum and A Star Is Born‘s Shangela, included Andy Cohen, Don Lemon, Janelle Monáe, Samantha Bee and the FX series Pose.

News of Madonna’s meaningful accolade was first announced last month.

A GLAAD press release cited the superstar’s lasting commitment to raising awareness about the HIV/AIDS crisis — particularly the inclusion of a “Facts about AIDS” leaflet inside her 1989 album Like a Prayer.

Over the years, the singer also performed at numerous AIDS benefit concerts, established a benefit dance marathon, and proved her willingness to speak out against anti-LGBT policies and practices around the globe, particularly in the United States, Romania, Malawi, and Russia.

Recently, while ringing in the start of 2019, Madonna gave a speech about equal rights at New York City’s famed Stonewall Inn.

“I stand here proudly at the place where pride began, the legendary Stonewall Inn, on the birth of a new year,” the singer said. “We come together tonight to celebrate 50 years of revolution.”

According to Variety, Madonna has been named Stonewall’s ambassador for their 50th anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall riots, which launched the gay rights movement.

“If we truly look and we truly take the time to get to know one another, we would find that we all bleed the same color and we all need to love and be loved. As we stand here together tonight, let’s remember who we are fighting for and what we are fighting for,” she added. “We are fighting for ourselves. We are fighting for each other. But truly and most importantly, what are you fighting for? We are fighting for love!”

Last month, Madonna released track “Medellín,”  her first new single in four years, off her upcoming studio album Madame X.

The city of San Francisco has filed a lawsuit alleging that a new federal rule is unconstitutional. The rule greatly expands the types of cases in which a health-care worker or entity can decline, on religious grounds, to participate in providing a service.


In a filing in the U.S. District Court for Northern California, San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera said the new regulations - announced Thursday by President Donald Trump - are discriminatory and prioritize "providers' religious beliefs over the health and lives of women, lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender people, and other medically and socially vulnerable populations. If San Francisco does not comply, the complaint states, it could lose $1 billion in federal funding that support critical services.

The rule is a hallmark project for the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services. OCR director Roger Severino said Thursday in a conference call with reporters that the new rule is necessary because while there are numerous religion and conscience exemption statutes on the books, they have not been as strongly enforced as other civil rights laws.

In previous administrations, the OCR was known for increasing access to care by taking a lead in ending segregation in health-care facilities and taking on insurers who discriminated against people with HIV. In recent years, as more medical records have gone online, it has invested resources into ensuring the privacy and security of medical information. Under Trump, who was elected on a wave of support from social conservatives, however, the focus has been more on protecting people's expressions of religion.

Herrera said in the filing that the result has been that the OCR "has turned this legacy on its head."

"This is a perversion of OCR's mission, it is unlawful, and San Francisco will not abide it," Herrera wrote.

The new rule is scheduled to take effect 60 days from its publication in the Federal Register. It has received widespread support from conservative groups such as the Family Research Council, March for Life and the Catholic Medical Association. But the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood, Lambda Legal and other groups that support abortion and LGBTQ rights have opposed it, saying it will make it more difficult for hundreds of thousands of Americans to get the health care they need.

TODAY -- HISTORIC EQUALITY ACT MARKUP: Today, the House Judiciary Committee will vote on the historic LGBTQ civil rights legislation, a crucial step toward passage of the law. The vitally important, bipartisan legislation would provide clear, comprehensive non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people and strengthen existing protections for all people covered by our nation’s civil rights laws. The measure has unprecedented support from nearly 70 percent of Americans, more than 280 members of Congress, more than 195 major businesses and more than 350 statewide and national organizations. Recently, the House Judiciary and Education and Labor Committees held hearings on the legislation, which Speaker Pelosi has made a priority in the new pro-equality Congress.  

HRC TO HONOR MICHAEL URIE WITH HRC VISIBILITY AWARD AT HRC WESTERN NEW YORK DINNER: “From his iconic role on Ugly Betty to his award-winning portrayal of Arnold in Torch Song, Michael Urie has captured hearts across America,” said HRC President Chad Griffin (@ChadHGriffin). “By using his transformational talents and global platform to celebrate openness and authenticity, Michael Urie is bringing greater visibility to the LGBTQ community and making a real difference for countless people. HRC is proud to honor Michael Urie with the HRC Visibility Award at our 2019 Western New York Dinner.” More from HRC and Playbill.

IOWA LAWMAKERS PUSH DISCRIMINATORY LEGISLATION AT 11TH HOUR: At the last possible moment, far-right lawmakers pushed to add language to the HHS funding bill that, among other concerning provisions, allows legislators to refuse state funding for critically important, often life-saving transition-related care for transgender Iowans. More from HRC and Des Moines Register.

WHAT WE’RE WATCHING WEDNESDAY -- QUEER EYE’S KARAMO BROWN JOINS THE “AMERICANS FOR THE EQUALITY ACT” CAMPAIGN IN POWERFUL NEW VIDEO:The Americans for the Equality Act series, filmed by award-winning directors Dustin Lance Black (@DLanceBlack) and Paris Barclay (@Harparbar), launched with a debut videofeaturing Academy Award-winning actress Sally Field (@sally_field) and her son Sam Greisman (@SAMGREIS). Additional videos have included Adam Rippon (@adaripp), Shea Diamond (@iamsheadiamond) and Justina Machado (@JustinaMachado). More from The Houston Chronicle.

HRC’S CATHRYN OAKLEY BREAKS DOWN HOW TEXAS’ PROPOSED “LICENSE TO DISCRIMINATE” BILL HARMS LGBTQ PEOPLE: “There are certainly some hospitals that have great nondiscrimination policies for patients, for visitors, for staff, and maybe you’re fortunate enough to live within driving distance of one of those places,” said HRC State Legislative Director Cathryn Oakley (@CthrynOkly). “But if you’re hit by a car, the ambulance picks you up and takes you wherever they take you. You don’t get to choose -- you’re at the mercy of the caregivers there.” More from Texas Observer.

  • Major corporations, from American Airlines to IBM, are making it clear that they do not support Texas’ anti-LGBTQ bills. More from Dallas Morning News.

MUST READ PROFILE OF TRANS WOMAN AT THE HEART OF TITLE VII CASE SCOTUS TO HEAR: Aimee Stephens worked as a funeral director at R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes. When she informed the funeral home’s owner that she is transgender, the business owner fired her, saying it would be “unacceptable” for her to appear and behave as a woman. More from The Washington Post.

HRC CALLS ON HHS TO REJECT PROPOSAL REMOVING SEXUAL ORIENTATION DATA COLLECTION FROM FED CHILD WELFARE REPORTING SYSTEM: Said Ellen Kahn, director of the HRC Foundation Children, Youth and Families Program: “Missed opportunities to collect data can lead to setbacks. In my mind, that’s unconscionable.” More from The Columbus Dispatch.





  • National Foster Care Month: HRC’s All Children - All Families project is launching its #FosterEquality campaign in partnership with FosterClub to spread awareness of the experiences of LGBTQ youth in foster care again this year. More from HRC.
  • Mental Health Awareness Month: Studies have shown that, compared to their non-LGBTQ peers, LGBTQ youth report much higher rates of depression, anxiety, alcohol and drug use, and lowered self-esteem. And for bisexual and gender-expansive youth, as well as young people living at the intersections of multiple marginalized identities, those numbers are even higher. More from HRC.
  • Asian Pacific American Islander Heritage Month: HRC is proud to celebrate the advocates and allies who have driven our movement forward at the intersections of LGBTQ experiences and Asian American and Pacific Islander identities. More from HRC.

The U.S. Supreme Court will consider whether federal anti-discrimination laws prevent employers from firing workers because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.

The court announced last week that it accepted three cases involving gay, lesbian and transgender employees for the term that will begin in October. A decision is expected next year.

The central issue focuses on Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and whether the term “on the basis of sex” bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The court is being asked to parse words and intentions of a law that is decades old.

The issue has split circuit courts on whether the federal anti-discrimination laws prevent employers from firing workers because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.

What has frustrated many of those in the employment law community has been the failure of Congress to act on legislation that would have guaranteed rights to gay and transgender individuals.

The opportunity arose in 1994 when Congress first introduced the Employee Nondiscrimination Act. This proposed legislation, and subsequent versions, have been introduced on a regular basis over the years.

If approved, it would have negated the need for Supreme Court interpretation and guaranteed rights to these individuals in the workplace.

But Congress has failed to act to guarantee employment rights to gay, lesbian and transgender employees.

The Supreme Court now is faced with determining whether Congress in 1964 intended to include lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals when lawmakers approved Title VII prohibiting employers from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin.

A federal court in Atlanta concluded that Title VII doesn’t prohibit “discharge for homosexuality.”

The federal appeals court in New York concluded that discrimination based on sexual orientation is protected under the law, while a federal appeals court in Cincinnati ruled in favor of an employee, saying that the law protected transgender workers..

To make things more complicated, another federal appeals court ruled earlier this month that Title VII does not protect a heterosexual who claims he was discriminated against for being heterosexual and opposing homosexuality.

Now the question is how the Supreme Court will rule in these cases.

As with many mainstream issues, the law can’t seem to keep up with an evolving society.

The good news is that employers need not worry about what the law says. They can independently without any affirmation of the law refuse to tolerate any form of discrimination or harassment based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Employers need to implement policies that mandate nondiscrimination and harassment for sexual orientation and gender identity.

Companies need to make sure that managers are trained to understand the business’s expectations for nondiscrimination and harassment within the LGBTQ community and to be sensitive if such situations arise.

Employers don’t need a law to do the right thing — they need policies, accountability and leadership.

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