In advance of Friday’s observance of the 2019 International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOTB), HRC is recognizing the power of global voices speaking out against Brunei’s brutal anti-LGBTQ laws and calling out the Trump-Pence Administration’s appalling silence on the persecution, oppression and torture of LGBTQ people around the globe.

While millions of LGBTQ people around the world continue to secure their basic human rights and gain visibility, the lives of far too many remain at risk under the rule of governments that criminalize their identities and seek to deny their very existence. LGBTQ individuals in at least 10 countries live under the threat of the death penalty simply because of who they are.

“While countries and communities around the globe are increasingly embracing LGBTQ people, far too many of us still live with the threat of discrimination, violence and even death -- including in Brunei, where draconian laws are targeting LGBTQ people, and in Chechnya, where alarming human rights violations against LGBTQ people continue,” said HRC Global Director Ty Cobb. “In the absence of White House leadership on these issues, it is critical that the international community continues to stand together in support of LGBTQ people around the world. As we celebrate the 15th annual International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, we honor LGBTQ advocates and allies, global stakeholders, corporate leaders and others worldwide who are committed to erasing social stigma and protecting the human rights of all.”

HRC through its #EyesOnBrunei digital campaign has been shining a spotlight on the dire situation in that country, and calling on the Trump-Pence White House and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to end their deafening silence. While it was reported that the Sultan had declared a moratorium on the death penalty, LGBTQ people are still at risk.  

The Trump-Pence White House has also remained silent on anti-LGBTQ atrocities in Chechnya. Since news of the persecution of individuals suspected of being gay and bisexual first broke, HRC has sounded the alarm through an #EyesOnChechnya campaign and called on the Trump-Pence administration to speak out and take action. Tragically, there are again new reports of a crackdown against LGBTQ people in Chechnya.

This week, HRC and the American Bar Association (ABA) co-hosted a panel on global initiatives to protect LGBTQ communities from violence, including longtime allies and Judy and Dennis Shepard, and participated on a panel at the Embassy of Ireland on the state of LGBTQ rights around the world. And tomorrow, HRC will launch the results of the 2019 HRC Equidad CL Report, a first-of-its-kind assesment evaluating LGBTQ-inclusive policies and practices in major businesses and employers in Chile. Inspired by HRC’s annual Corporate Equality Index (CEI) -- the premier benchmarking tool on corporate LGBTQ-inclusive corporate practices -- the Chilean-based survey is designed to promote LGBTQ workplace inclusion and promote best practices to create welcoming spaces for thousands of workers.

HRC works to strengthen the global equality movement through public education, advocacy, fellowships, partnerships and research. Through its Global Fellows program, HRC brings established and emerging LGBTQ leaders to Washington, D.C., for professional development opportunities. This week, HRC is visiting Vietnam to meet with former HRC Global Fellow Thu Le and LGBTQ groups in the country to help develop campaign strategies and raise awareness to end discrimination against LGBTQ people.

HRC also brings advocates from around the world together for the exchange of ideas and practices for advancing LGBTQ equality at HRC’s annual Global Innovative Advocacy Summit. HRC’s global alumni network includes advocates from more than 70 countries,and helps build their individual and organizational capacity through our Global Partnerships program.

IDAHOTB honors the anniversary of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) resolution to declassify same-sex attraction as a mental disorder in 1990. The move followed a similar decision by the American Psychiatric Association in 1973. The WHO’s monumental change created a shift in how many LGBTQ people were treated. In 2004, LGBTQ activists gathered for the first time to mark this date with rallies in support of equality. The anniversary is now marked by celebrations, governmental proclamations, and renewed efforts to end the discrimination and violence that LGBTQ people throughout the world still face.

House Democrats are set to move forward with legislation to expand the Civil Rights Act — a top legislative priority that faces an uphill battle in the Senate.

The bill, which would expand the 1964 law to ban discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation and gender, is set to get a vote in the House as soon as Thursday.

House Democrats pledged shortly before last year’s midterm election that they would bring up the legislation if they won back the majority. They also gave the legislation a low bill number, H.R. 5, underscoring its importance to the House Democratic agenda.

“LGBT Americans and their families deserve to be protected against all forms of discrimination no matter where they live,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said on the floor.  “This legislation would ban discrimination against LGBT people in housing, employment, education, jury service, credit and financing, and public accommodations.”

The bill is expected to receive broad support from Democrats and centrists. Two Republicans have signed on as co-sponsors — Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.) and John Katko (N.Y.) — and with 240 total co-sponsors, it’s all but guaranteed to pass the House this week.

But H.R. 5 has been met with sharp pushback from conservatives including groups like the Heritage Foundation and the Family Research Council, which have slammed the bill.

The Heritage Foundation alleged the measure could “force employers and workers to conform to new sexual norms,” “would force hospitals and insurers to provide and pay for these therapies against any moral or medical objections” and would "lead to the erasure of women.”

The Business Coalition for the Equality Act — which is made up of roughly 200 companies including Facebook, Google, Hilton and JPMorgan Chase amongst others — have announced their support for the measure.

If the bill, which was first introduced in 2015, was signed into law it would be the first national nondiscrimination law for LGBTQ Americans.

But it faces an uphill battle in the Republican-controlled Senate, where supporters would face long odds of convincing Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to bring it up for a vote. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) told NBC News earlier this year that "if you just had an up-or-down vote, we would have sufficient votes in both houses."

In 2013, the chamber, then controlled by Democrats, passed a narrower bill introduced by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Four Republicans still in the Senate voted for the bill at the time: Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Rob Portman (Ohio) and Pat Toomey (Pa.).

Only one, Collins, has backed the Senate’s version of the Equality Act. The bill has 46 co-sponsors, in addition to Merkley, leaving it short of the 60 votes it would need to defeat a filibuster.

In a risky speech to the Human Rights Campaign, a major LGBT rights group, Buttigieg warned of a “crisis of belonging in this country.”

Pete Buttigieg sought to diffuse weeks of fraught questions about white privilege and his struggles attracting minorities to his campaign by calling out fellow Democrats on Saturday for playing “identity politics” and pitting one group’s grievances against another’s.

In a risky speech to the Human Rights Campaign, a major LGBT rights group, Buttigieg warned of a “crisis of belonging in this country,” arguing it was exacerbated by “so-called identity politics” that emphasize how one person hasn’t walked in another’s shoes — “something that is true, but it doesn’t get us very far.”

He drew a direct line between the obstacles faced by a black, trans woman excluded by mainstream society and an out-of-work auto worker excluded by the new economy.

“What I worry about is not the president’s fantasy wall on the Mexican border that’s not going to get built anyway,” Buttigieg said. “What I worry about are the very real walls that we are putting up between us as we get divided and carved up.”

For Buttigieg, it was the culmination of almost daily interrogation on the campaign trail about what may be his most significant liability as a Democratic primary candidate: The nagging concern that as a white man with a Harvard and Oxford pedigree, he’s the wrong candidate at a moment when Democrats seem to be pining for someone who can embody the lingering inequities faced by less-privileged minorities. That comes despite the fact that Buttigieg, if elected, would be the first openly gay president.

Buttigieg’s supporters have been energized by the notion that as a Democratic, Midwest mayor in a conservative state who speaks fluently about his faith, he seems uniquely positioned to win back the type of voters who abandoned Democrats in 2016 and helped elect President Donald Trump: white, working-class voters, especially in rural areas. But what could be a key advantage for Buttigieg in a general election has become an albatross in the Democratic primary.

So Buttigieg used a venue where he has the most credibility — a gathering of well-heeled LGBT activists — to try to pre-empt that vulnerability before most Americans have fully tuned into the primary.

In doing so, Buttigieg offered the most pointed critique of his own party so far in the campaign, in a moment that had echoes of Bill Clinton’s “Sistah Souljah” moment in 1992 when he distanced himself from a black political activist who had made controversial comments about race.

“When an auto worker, 12 years into their career, is no longer sure how to provide for their family, they’re not part of the country we think of ourselves as all living in together. That’s why we can’t seem to get on the same page,” Buttigieg said.

Such "divisive lines of thinking” have entered Democrats’ mindset, Buttigieg said, adding: “Like when we’re told we have to choose between supporting an auto worker and a trans woman of color, without stopping to think about the fact that sometimes the auto worker is a trans woman of color, and she definitely needs all the security she can get.”

At least in the room at the Human Rights Campaign gala, his remarks appeared well-received. As he left the stage to applause, he was followed by black transgender singer Shea Diamond, who soulfully crooned the lyrics to her song “American Pie.”

“Just want my piece of the American pie. Got your slice, where is mine?” she sang.

Buttigieg also called out Trump on several occasions, saying that many of the objections to identity politics “come from the right, which is ironic at this time because the current administration has mastered the practice of the most divisive form of such politics, which is white identity politics, designed to drive apart people with common interests.”

He said he’d be “happy to debate marriage with this president” — a reference to Trump’s three marriages — and called out casino mogul and billionaire Republican donor Sheldon Adelson by name while standing inside a ballroom in Caesar’s Palace on the Las Vegas Strip.

“I know I’m a guest in Sheldon Adelson’s town,” Buttigieg said, prompting boos from the crowd at hearing Adelson’s name. “But I know … that real democracy means that the voice you have in our political process is gauged by the merits of what you have to say and not by the number of zeros in your bank balance.”

 

Police treatment of the transgender population in the U.S. is in dire need of reform, according to new report.

Findings from a survey released by the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) based on the U.S. Transgender Survey revealed some sobering statistics that are, unfortunately, an all-too-common reality for over half of trans individuals living in this country: 58% of transgender individuals have experienced harassment, abuse or other mistreatment by law enforcement agents last year.

“On the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, transgender people of color remain targets of harassment, abuse, and violence. If we ever hope to end this crisis, police departments must evolve to meet the needs of the communities they have sworn to serve. The solutions we offer can lead these communities and our nation’s law enforcement to a more equitable future, but we must get there together,” NCTE’s executive director Mara Keisling said in a press release.

The report, which was published Monday, evaluated police department policies in the treatment of transgender people in the country’s 25 largest police departments, as measured by full-time staff employees. They were compared with a set of “ideal practices,” as defined in the “Gender, Sexuality, and 21st Century Policing” report, a project by Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) aimed at protecting the LGBTQ community.

The report graded the 25 departments and verified if their policies: reflected, partially reflected, or did not reflect national best practices on 17 topics, including non-binary recognition, bathroom access, and respectful communication.

The results found systemic neglect by police to prevent the mistreatment and of transgender people. The NCTE wants the findings to function as both a wakeup call, as well as a starting point in the improvement of the relationship between the police and transgender community.

No police department has strong policies to protect the community on all or almost all of the criteria, the survey found. Among the key findings:

  • No department explicitly requires regular training on transgender interaction policies for all members across rank.
  • Only nine of the 25 departments include gender identity and/or expression language in their non-discrimination policy which, according to the NCTE, is the best way to clarify that transgender people are protected. Fourteen departments include sexual orientation in their non-discrimination policies. The better non-discrimination policies explicitly prohibit profiling, harassment and invasive questioning as types of discrimination.
  • Only two departments explicitly prohibited sexual conduct between officers and those in their custody.
  • Only one department (San Francisco) fully addresses how gender-specific policies applied to people with non-binary gender identities and/or gender markers, such as those regarding searches, placement in temporary holding cells, or use of pronouns, which leaves officers in the remaining 24 departments with no guidance on how to appropriately apply department policies to interactions with non-binary people.
  • 15 out of 25 departments lack any policies regarding correct use of names and pronouns.
  • Out of the 16 departments with holding facilities, only four adequately address access to hormone medications.
  • 16 out of 25 departments failed to provide search procedures for transgender individuals and/or require members to perform searches based on sex.
  • No department explicitly provides for transgender individuals to be transported along with individuals of the same gender identity.
  • Only two department’s policy explicitly allow for transgender people to retain all appearance related items (e.g. prosthetics, bras, clothes, undergarments, wigs, chest binders, or cosmetic items).
  • 23 departments don’t have policies prohibiting officer sexual misconduct towards members of the public.
  • None of the departments explicitly prohibits the use of condoms as evidence in prostitution-related offenses.

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.

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