If you’ve ever attended the annual Pride event in Buffalo, then you know that Buffalo is a very open and welcoming community when it comes to anything related to the LGBTQ cause. While the national LGBTQ rights movement was not born in Buffalo, there have been plenty of activists that have fought so very hard to ensure that this city would stand up, speak up, and fight for the oppressed and downtrodden. 

The Buffalo-Niagara LGBTQ History Project was established to pay tribute to the people who fought, and to those who sacrificed, for the rights of the LGBTQ community here in WNY. One of the ways that the group is doing this is by installing LGBTQ-themed historic markers at significant sites throughout the city and the region.

The first marker to be installed recognizes the efforts of local gay rights activist Bob Uplinger, who was the arrested via entrapment measures in 1981. Uplinger was incarcerated for inviting an undercover police officer back to his apartment, which resulted in a multi-year anti-entrapment legal battle. Uplinger’s conviction, and the resulting fights for justice, led to changes in legislation that decriminalized consensual sex between same-sex partners (under the guise of “loitering to solicit deviate sex”). The New York State Court of Appeals dismissed Uplinger’s conviction in 1983 (as unconstitutional), and the following year the United States Supreme Court dismissed an appeal by the Erie County District Attorney. 

As archaic as this all sounds today, without the resoluteness and conviction of Uplinger and his stalwart determination to fight for his rights, and the rights of others, who knows how much longer it would have taken to thwart these injustices?

It is for that reason that Uplinger’s legacy is now being honored with a historic marker at the corner of North Street and Irving Place where the incident occurred – 40 years from the day when Uplinger was unjustly incarcerated.

The commemoration will take place on Saturday, August 7, 2021 at 4:00 p.m.

 

On Friday, California’s Third District Court of Appeal overturned a key protection of SB 219 — a bill authored by Senator Scott Wiener in 2017 — stating in the decision that the law requiring staff members of long-term care facilities to use a facility resident’s correct name and pronouns is a violation of the staff’s First Amendment rights to free speech, free exercise of religion, and freedoms of thought and belief.

SB 219, also known as the LGBTQ Senior Bill of Rights, protects LGBTQ seniors in long-term care facilities from discrimination and mistreatment based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. Senator Wiener authored and passed SB 219 in 2017, and then-Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill into law.

Senator Wiener released the following statement on the Court’s decision:

“The Court’s decision is disconnected from the reality facing transgender people. Deliberately misgendering a transgender person isn’t just a matter of opinion, and it’s not simply ‘disrespectful, discourteous, or insulting.’ Rather, it’s straight up harassment. And, it erases an individual’s fundamental humanity, particularly one as vulnerable as a trans senior in a nursing home. This misguided decision cannot be allowed to stand.”

As Republican governors across the country have banned gender reassignment for children, the Secretary of Veteran Affairs announced the taxpayer funding of gender reassignment for veterans. Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough has pushed for free gender reassignment surgeries for veterans.

McDonough estimated this would cost taxpayers up to $71 million for about 3,000 veterans annually. However, for McDonough the up front costs will save tax dollars in the long run.

“We also think that these are manageable numbers and overtime,” he explained. “If we make this investment, we’ll save costs on things like mental health care treatment and other health care problems that would result of our transgender vets not having access to this care.”

McDonough said Joe Biden picked him to advocate for veterans and for that reason, the administration would allow him to do what he found to be necessary to help all veterans. He implied that veterans of color and LGBTQ veterans particularly earned the help.

“That’s what he expects of me to make sure that we’re doing the best that we can, offering world-class health care and timely access to benefits for all veterans,” he stated. “Be they veterans of color or LGBTQ+ veterans, our job is to get them all the service and the care that they’ve earned.”

President Donald Trump’s administration banned those diagnosed with gender dysphoria from serving in combat and disallowed government funding for gender reassignment treatments and procedures. He did so after President Barack Obama permitted openly trans people to serve.

Obama administration also allowed for the taxpayer funding of so-called gender affirming care and psychological treatment. Joe Biden signed an executive order overturning President Trump’s ban as one of his first acts in the Oval Office.

Biden went on to say, “Essentially, we’re restoring the situation we had before with transgender personnel who have qualified in every other way to serve their government in the united states military.”

Now that the policy has gone full circle, McDonough says it needs public comment and approval before being reimplemented.

“One, we have to do this pursuant to statute and two, we have to do it publicly, subject to public comment,” he expressed. “We’ll want to hear the public’s comment on this and obviously, we’ll address those concerns as those comments come.”

McDonough said the decision to begin the process of allowing transgender military service was a unanimous decision by the Veteran Affairs governing body. He estimated the process would take about two years before the policy was fully implemented.

 

Charleston Gazette-Mail: Federal Judge Rules Private Insurance Company Is Subject To Anti-Discrimination Provision Of Affordable Care ActA federal judge last week ruled that The Health Plan of West Virginia is subject to compliance to a specific provision under the Affordable Care Act that prohibits sex discrimination, including against transgender Americans. The Health Plan of West Virginia is a private company that provides health insurance services for the state. U.S. District Judge Robert Chambers on June 28 denied a motion from The Health Plan to dismiss a lawsuit from two transgender men who say their state-funded health insurance won’t cover hormone replacement therapy solely because they are transgender. Health Plan of West Virginia Health Plan of West Virginia Christopher Fain and Zachary Martell  filed a lawsuit challenging blanket exclusions of coverage for gender-confirming health care in West Virginia’s health plans, the state’s Medicaid program and the Public Employees Insurance Agency, or PEIA, in November 2020. (Pierson, 7/5)

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected a Virginia school board's appeal to reinstate its transgender bathroom ban, handing a victory to transgender rights groups and a former high school student who fought in court for six years to overturn the ban.

After learning that the high court refused to hear the board's appeal, Gavin Grimm, now 22, said that his long battle is over. “We won,” he tweeted. “Honored to have been part of this victory,” he added.

Grimm was a 15-year-old student at Gloucester High School when he was banned from using the boys bathroom. The Gloucester County School Board's policy required Grimm to use restrooms that corresponded with his biological sex — female — or private bathrooms. Grimm filed a federal lawsuit that wound its way through the courts for six years.

Grimm said that being forced to use the nurse’s room, a private bathroom and the girl’s restroom was humiliating and severely interfered with his education. He said he is heartened by his victory in court because “a win in Virginia is a win everywhere.”

“This is a national conversation because trans people are everywhere and because we have to fight for our rights in like most of the states in our nation still who have not passed affirming policies," he told The Associated Press.

The Supreme Court left in place lower court rulings that found the policy unconstitutional. Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas voted to hear the board’s appeal.

The American Civil Liberties Union said the high court's decision to let stand the lower court rulings supporting transgender rights is a significant victory for Grimm and transgender students across the country.

"This is is the third time in recent years that the Supreme Court has allowed appeals of court decisions in support of transgender students to stand,” said Josh Block, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s LGBTQ & HIV Project.

“Our work is not yet done, and the ACLU is continuing to fight against anti-trans laws targeting trans youth in states around the country,” Block added.

David Corrigan, an attorney for the school board, declined to comment on the decision.

In its petition asking the Supreme Court to hear the case, the school board argued that its bathroom policy poses a “pressing federal question of national importance.”

The board argued previously that federal laws protect against discrimination based on sex, not gender identity. Because Grimm had not undergone sex-reassignment surgery and still had female genitalia, the board’s position has been that he remained anatomically a female.

The ACLU, which represented Grimm in the lawsuit, argued that federal law makes it clear transgender students are protected from discrimination. A U.S. District Court judge and the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals both ruled that the board's policy violated Title IX, a federal civil rights law barring sex-based discrimination in any school that receives federal money. They also found it violated the U.S. Constitution's Equal Protection Clause by prohibiting Grimm from using the same restrooms as other boys and forcing him to use separate restrooms.

The Supreme Court was scheduled to hear Grimm’s case in 2017, but it was sent back to the lower courts after the Trump administration withdrew the government’s support for Grimm’s claims.

GLAAD, the world's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) media advocacy organization, hailed the decision to leave in place lower court rulings that found the bathroom ban was unconstitutional.

“This is a victory for transgender students, who simply want to be themselves without worrying about being rejected or refused access to basic dignities,” GLAAD President and Chief Executive Officer Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement.

Paul D. Castillo, an attorney for the LGBT rights group Lambda Legal, said Monday that five states are technically bound by the 4th Circuit decision: Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.

But he said that it “would be hard to imagine a court that would not take this victory into account.”

“Importantly, decisions of federal appellate courts, particularly when denied review by the U.S. Supreme Court, are often cited in subsequent decisions for their persuasive value in analyzing the legal issues,” Castillo wrote in an email.

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