Can a Fired Transgender Worker Sue for Job Discrimination?

In 2013, a funeral director who had been known as Anthony Stephens wrote to colleagues at a Michigan funeral home, asking for patience and support.

“What I must tell you is very difficult for me and is taking all the courage I can muster,” the letter said. “I have felt imprisoned in a body that does not match my mind, and this has caused me great despair and loneliness.”

“I will return to work as my true self, Aimee Australia Stephens, in appropriate business attire,” she wrote. “I hope we can continue my work at R. G. and G. R. Harris Funeral Homes doing what I always have, which is my best!”

Ms. Stephens had worked there for six years. Her colleagues testified that she was able and compassionate.

“He was a very good embalmer,” one said. “He was very, very thorough. Had obviously had a lot of practice prior to coming to the Harris Funeral Home. Families seemed very pleased with his work. He did a good job.”

Two weeks after receiving the letter, though, the home’s owner, Thomas Rost, fired Ms. Stephens. Asked for the “specific reason that you terminated Stephens,” Mr. Rost said: “Well, because he was no longer going to represent himself as a man. He wanted to dress as a woman.”

Mr. Rost also said he did not want to address Ms. Stephens as Aimee. “I’m uncomfortable with the name,” Mr. Rost said, “because he’s a man.”

The case went to court, and Ms. Stephens won in the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, in Cincinnati. Discrimination against transgender people, the court ruled, was barred by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which forbids discrimination on the basis of sex.

“It is analytically impossible to fire an employee based on that employee’s status as a transgender person without being motivated, at least in part, by the employee’s sex,” the court said. “Discrimination ‘because of sex’ inherently includes discrimination against employees because of a change in their sex.”

by Adam Liptak, NYTimes.com, November 12, 2018

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In Scottish schools, students will be required to learn about LGBTI history

Just 18 years ago, it was still illegal in Scotland to “intentionally promote homosexuality” in schools.

Now, the Scottish government will mandate all state schools introduce a curriculum that explains the history of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) activism. Schools will also educate students on the use of LGBTI terminology and discuss ways to address homophobia.Scottish

“Our education system must support everyone to reach their full potential,” Scottish Deputy First Minister John Swinney said Thursday. “The recommendations I have accepted will not only improve the learning experience of our LGBTI young people, they will also support all learners to celebrate their differences, promote understanding and encourage inclusion.”

The move came after a campaign called Time for Inclusive Education presented a series of suggestions to the Scottish government. According to a 2016 research report on the Scottish LGBTI community published by the group, “90% of LGBT people have experienced homophobia, biphobia or transphobia at school.” The same research found that 27 percent of LGBTI people had attempted suicide — some more than once.

Scottish ministers adopted all of the recommendations from the campaign’s working group. The Guardian reported there will not be options to opt out of the curriculum, which will be interspersed throughout various subjects.

Swinney said this makes Scotland “the first country in the world to have LGBTI-inclusive education embedded within the curriculum.”

In recent years, Scotland has reckoned with its legacy of discrimination against the LGBTI community.

In a unanimous vote in June, Scottish lawmakers chose to pardon men who were previously charged with participating in homosexual acts. The BBC reported at the time that sexual relations between two men was decriminalized in Scotland in 1981. Some of the acts that were previously considered illegal and for which gay men are now being pardoned included consensual sex in private, or even acts such as kissing in public. In some cases, men perceived as flirting with another man could also have been charged.

Thousands of men were to be pardoned after the law was passed in June. But when it comes to the LGBTI community, there are still divisions within Scottish society, especially among religious leaders.

Washington Post, by Siobhan O’Grady – Nomvemb er 9, 2018

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A Democratic House, Nation’s First Gay Governor

Control of Congress now split; LGBTQ community makes impressive strides

On a night when the Democratic Party achieved a net gain of somewhere between 30 and 35 seats in the US House of Representatives, wresting control from the Republicans and finally putting some check on President Donald Trump, the LGBTQ community enjoyed key victories, including the election of the nation’s first out gay governor and the defeat of an anti-transgender ballot initiative in Massachusetts.

The Massachusetts referendum resulted from the efforts of anti-trans activists to repeal a 2016 law that guaranteed equal access to public accommodations regardless of gender identity. A yes vote upheld that law and garnered roughly 70 percent of the vote, after a hard-fought campaign.

In a written statement, Carol Rose, the executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts said voters “reaffirmed our Commonwealth as a place that fiercely defends our basic values of dignity and respect for everyone. At a time when transgender rights are being threatened nationally, we absolutely must preserve the rights we have secured at the state level.”

In Colorado, Jared Polis, an out gay Democrat elected to Congress in 2008, was elected governor with a margin of about seven percentage points. Polis succeeds two-term Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper.

“Every Coloradan wants good schools, healthy communities, and more opportunity for the next generation,” Polis said in a written statement. “So the time is now to unite in our common purpose, rooted in our shared love for our home of Colorado, and move forward together, confident that what makes us unique isn’t just the boldness of our ideas — it’s the resilience and the spirit of Coloradans, who make change happen, who bring these bold ideas to life.”

In Oregon, Governor Kate Brown, an out bisexual Democrat who took office in 2015 after her predecessor resigned and won a special election the following year, held on to her office, with a five percent margin over her Republican opponent.

In Arizona, Kyrsten Sinema, an out bisexual member of Congress first elected in 2012, trails her Republican opponent, Martha McSally, who was elected to the House two years later, by about 16,000 votes. According to CBS News, however, there are more than one million early ballot votes that have not yet been tallied, so it will be at least several days until that race is called.

The Democrats’ sweep of the House saw the election of at least four new LGBTQ representatives: Christopher Pappas, who will be New Hampshire’s first LGBTQ member of Congress; Angie Craig, Minnesota’s first out lesbian or gay person elected to the House after defeating Jason Lewis, an outspokenly anti-gay Republican representing suburban Minneapolis; Katie Hill, who defeated anti-gay California Republican Steve Knight; and Sharice Davids, who will be Kansas’ first out lesbian or gay member of Congress and the first Native American woman to serve there. (Gina Ortiz Jones trails Texas Republican incumbent Will Hurd by about 1,200 votes in unofficial returns, but that race has not yet been called.)

Gay City News, by Paul Schindler, November 8, 2018

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Single Gay Fathers, Going It Alone

As the traditional concept of family continues to evolve, single gay fathering having children through surrogacy are beginning to emerge.

Julius Ybañez Towers was taking a walk around the Harlem Meer in Central Park with his twin 10-month-old sons and two dogs. A woman stopped to compliment him for giving his wife a break.single gay fathers

“There’s no wife,” he told the woman. “I’m a single gay dad from surrogacy.” He smiled at the confused look on her face.

Mr. Towers, 40, is still rare, but he is part of a growing movement. Surrogacy agencies across the country report a surge of interest from single gay men in the last few years.

Shelly Marsh, a spokeswoman for Men Having Babies, a nonprofit that helps gay men navigate the surrogacy process, said that the increase in interest from single men is part of a broader surge in gay families.

“Our volume has increased substantially over the last few years,” Ms. Marsh said. “But more so, single men are learning that they do not need to wait to find someone to fulfill the dream of having a biological child.”

Most single gay men pursue what is known as gestational surrogacy: the surrogate is implanted with a fertilized embryo taken from a separate egg donor. The surrogate is not genetically related to the child. She also has no maternal rights, so intended parents are legally protected from her keeping the baby.

For that legal protection however, the birth must happen in a state where it’s legal to pay a surrogate and that recognizes the contract. New Jersey recently approved compensation for surrogates; Washington State’s announced it would do so in January. New York, along with Michigan and Louisiana, are the only states where it remains illegal to pay a woman to be a surrogate mother.

Where it is legal, the total cost of the procedure — from paying the agencies, the donor, the doctors, the surrogate and the birth — can be anywhere from $80,000 to $200,000. None of this is covered by insurance.

By Avichai Scher, New York Times, October 25, 2018

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Trump Administration Eyes Defining Transgender Out of Existence

The Trump administration is considering narrowly defining gender as a biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth, the most drastic move yet in a governmentwide effort to roll back recognition and protections of transgender people under federal civil rights law.

A series of decisions by the Obama administration loosened the legal concept of gender in federal programs, including in education and health care, recognizing gender largely as an individual’s choice and not determined by the sex assigned at birth. The policy prompted fights over bathrooms, dormitories, single-sex programs and other arenas where gender was once seen as a simple concept. Conservatives, especially evangelical Christians, were incensed.trans trump

Now the Department of Health and Human Services is spearheading an effort to establish a legal definition of sex under Title IX, the federal civil rights law that bans gender discrimination in education programs that receive government financial assistance, according to a memo obtained by The New York Times.

The department argued in its memo that key government agencies needed to adopt an explicit and uniform definition of gender as determined “on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable.” The agency’s proposed definition would define sex as either male or female, unchangeable, and determined by the genitals that a person is born with, according to a draft reviewed by The Times. Any dispute about one’s sex would have to be clarified using genetic testing.

“Sex means a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth,” the department proposed in the memo, which was drafted and has been circulating since last spring. “The sex listed on a person’s birth certificate, as originally issued, shall constitute definitive proof of a person’s sex unless rebutted by reliable genetic evidence.”

The new definition would essentially eradicate federal recognition of the estimated 1.4 million Americans who have opted to recognize themselves — surgically or otherwise — as a gender other than the one they were born into.

“This takes a position that what the medical community understands about their patients — what people understand about themselves — is irrelevant because the government disagrees,” said Catherine E. Lhamon, who led the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights in the Obama administration and helped write transgender guidance that is being undone.

The move would be the most significant of a series of maneuvers, large and small, to exclude the population from civil rights protections and roll back the Obama administration’s more fluid recognition of gender identity. The Trump administration has sought to bar transgender people from serving in the military and has legally challenged civil rights protections for the group embedded in the nation’s health care law.

Several agencies have withdrawn Obama-era policies that recognized gender identity in schools, prisons and homeless shelters. The administration even tried to remove questions about gender identity from a 2020 census survey and a national survey of elderly citizens.

By Erica L. Green, Katie Benner and Robert Pear, New York Times, October 21, 2018

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Trans Folks Want Babies Too

Parenting isn’t only meant for cisgender people.

Being a transgender parent isn’t always as complicated in real life as the media portrays it. While the nuances are rarely covered in magazines, shows like Amazon’s Transparent, which is heading into a fifth and final season, highlight what the trans experience is like long after the children are born. But today’s science is more sophisticated than in decades past, which has opened up the opportunity for trans folks to conceive children even after they’ve transitioned.trans parents

“Trans people having children is not a new thing at all,” affirms Trystan Reese, director of family formation at the Family Equality Council (FamilyEquality.org). “It’s newer in terms of how much other people may know about it but it’s been happening for a couple of decades or so.”

Reese is a trans man who gave birth to a baby boy named Leo in 2017. Leo is the first biological baby for Reese and his husband, Biff Chaplow, but he’s their third child (they had previously adopted Chaplow’s niece and nephew).

The Oregon couple admit that trans people giving birth has been relatively under the radar. Being an out trans person can be dangerous in many parts of the country, where education about the trans experience is limited. Despite these difficulties, Reese continues to promote fertility rights for transgender people. His efforts included hosting the council’s recent Seahorses & Unicorns event, which helped share as much information about transgender fertility options as possible with the community.

As more trans people look into birthing children, doctors have begun updating their language. Many now refer to egg freezing and sperm freezing as simply gamete freezing, dropping the gender identity of the process. Whether freezing eggs, sperm, or embryos for future assisted pregnancies, gamete freezing is gaining traction among trans people before transitioning lessens their reproductive ablities or they change their gender identity with medical assistance like hormones and surgery.

Aadvocate.com,  by NAYIRAH MUHAMMAD, October 2, 2018

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They were a gay, interracial couple in an age of relentless bigotry. The two Harolds didn’t flinch.

Estate agent Verna Clayborne takes a seat in the dining room of an expansive 16th Street Heights home and sighs.

The two Harolds have tired her out.

It’s Clayborne’s job to get rid of the stuff of the deceased. The couple who lived in the house for more than half a century — Harold Herman, a white man who died in 2016 at 87, and Harold Mays, a black man who died almost exactly a year later at 81 — had a lot of it.Harold

These aren’t your typical finds in the home of retirees. Clayborne is sitting amid a pile of antiques and memorabilia — paintings, LPs, books, coins, stamps, personal correspondence — worth, she estimates, $500,000. These objects, curated lovingly by two collectors in love for over five decades, offer glimpses of what it was like to be black and gay in America when it was dangerous to be either.

“They knew how to live and lived well,” she said of the Harolds.

The Harolds met in New England before moving in together in post-integration, pre-riot Washington in 1965. One was a black Army veteran from St. Louis, the other a white college professor from Pennsylvania. Though family and acquaintances say they were a private couple, they could not help being pioneers.

They later ran Two Harolds Antiques in Alexandria for more than a decade and owned a collection of thousands of signed first editions so extensive that they kept an in-house card catalogue. The books are varied — works by gay raconteur Quentin Crisp amid Janet Evanovich thrillers.

Much of what’s left in the Harolds’ home doesn’t explicitly bear their mark. There’s large black-and-white prints of the last century’s black royalty: Harry Belafonte, Jesse Jackson, Lou Rawls, Cicely Tyson. Another photo includes two faces lesser known outside the Beltway in the 1960s and 1970s, but inescapable within it: Marion Barry and his first wife, Blantie Evans, on a beach.

But every collection reveals the collector, and in other ephemera the Harolds left behind, they come into sharper focus. One snapshot shows Mays shaking Belafonte’s hand at a Politics and Prose. Another shows their modest wedding, held in 2013 at what looks like a courthouse following the legalization of same-sex marriage — after they had already been a couple for almost 50 years.

By Justin Wm. Moyer, Washington Post, October 16, 2018

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BUT, I’M ON THE BIRTH CERTIFICATE!

Why a Birth Certificate Alone Is Not Sufficient Protection for Your Legal Parentage Rights

A common misconception among LGBT parents is that being listed as a parent on a birth certificate is all that is needed to establish one’s legal parentage to their child.  If only it were so simple.birth certificate

I’d like to give you an example to illustrate the issue more queerly.  Close your eyes and hearken back to the days of yore… It’s late 2013, and the Supreme Court has required the federal government to recognize same sex marriages from the states that allow them.  Nevertheless, we were in a legal enigma: what happened to those marriages when they crossed state lines from a marriage equality state to a non-marriage equality state? Lauren Beth Czekala-Chatham and Dana Ann Melancon can tell you what happened to them…the state no longer recognized their marriage.  So, when they moved from California to Mississippi and decided to get divorced, they were in a bit of a pickle. Mississippi decided that their marriage was against the state’s public policy, and therefore, the divorce and division of marital assets that they sought was not available to them.

“How could this have happened?”  You may ask. “What about the Full Faith and Credit Clause from the US Constitution?”  Doesn’t it require that “Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State”?  Well, the Supreme Court has held that the Full Faith and Credit Clause is meant to apply to judgments and court orders from one state to the next, but it does not hold the same requirements for laws or administrative records, like marriage certificates.  So, their valid marriage certificate in California was worth the paper it was written on when they moved to Mississippi. Fast forward to Obergefell, and marriage equality is now the law of the land, and the Supreme Court has held that marriage cannot be denied to same sex couples, but that was an issue of individual rights under the Constitution, and not an issue of recognition of administrative records across states.  

So, the issue that existed for marriage certificates a few short years ago still exists for birth certificates today.  You and your co-parent may both be on the birth certificate in your child’s birth state. But, what happens if you get into a car accident on a cross country road trip in a state that decides that your birth certificate is against public policy and therefore need not be recognized?  Seems like a pretty tragic time to be left out in the cold and unable to make medical decisions for your child, especially if your co-parent is not with you or is incapacitated.

by Amira Hasenbush, LGBTBar.org, October 15, 2018

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Matthew Shepard Will Be Interred at the Washington National Cathedral, 20 Years After His Death

For 20 years, the ashes of Matthew Shepard have not been laid to rest.

Mr. Shepard’s killing in 1998, when he was a 21-year-old college student, led to national outrage and, almost overnight, turned him into a symbol of deadly violence against gay people.

Mourners flocked to his funeral that year in Casper, Wyo., but there were also some protesters, carrying derogatory signs. Mr. Shepard’s parents worried that if they chose a final resting place for their son, it would be at risk of desecration.Matthew Shepard

Now they have found a safe place. On Oct. 26, Mr. Shepard will be interred at the Washington National Cathedral, the neo-Gothic, Episcopal house of worship that is a fixture of American politics and religion.

“I think it’s the perfect, appropriate place,” Dennis Shepard, Matthew’s father, said in an interview on Thursday. “We are, as a family, happy and relieved that we now have a final home for Matthew, a place that he himself would love.”

Two decades ago, Matthew Shepard was robbed by two men, pistol-whipped and tied to a fence in Laramie. He hung there bleeding in near-freezing temperatures until a passing bicyclist spotted him, thinking at first that he was a scarecrow. He later died in a hospital.

“His death was a wound on our nation,” Mariann Edgar Budde, the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, said in an interview on Wednesday. “We are doing our part to bring light out of that darkness and healing to those who have been so often hurt, and sometimes hurt in the name of the church.”

The elder Mr. Shepard said his family had long searched for a fitting resting place for his son, who was once an altar boy in the Episcopal Church. They considered spreading his ashes over the mountains and plains of Wyoming, but still wanted a place they could visit to talk to him. They considered splitting the ashes.

At the cathedral, not only will the family be able to visit him, but so will guests from across the world.

“It’s a place where there’s an actual chance for others to sit and reflect about Matthew, and about themselves, and about their friends,” Mr. Shepard’s father said.

by Jacey Fortin, NYTimes.com, October 11, 2018

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Stigma Against Gay People Can Be Deadly

L.G.B.T. people experience a range of social, economic and medical disparities that jeopardize their long-term health.

I’ve never been sure what to expect when meeting someone who’s just tried to take his own life. But I’ve learned to stop expecting anything.

Sometimes, the person in front of me barely speaks, staring right through me, lost in a deep catatonic depression. Sometimes he or she can’t stop talking, breathlessly describing what happened as if we’re gossiping at brunch after an hour of SoulCycle.LGBTQ

Yesterday, my patient, a 20-something graduate student, swallowed a jumble of unmarked pills, hoping to die, after his father told him never to come home again. Today, he greeted me with a soft smile, his delirium starting to clear, his heart beating normally again.

“Whoops,” he said.

He’d been a happy kid who aimed to please. He once felt so bad for lying about having done his homework before playing video games, he told me, that he’d grounded himself. Sociable but square, he didn’t drink until he was 21, even though he’d gone to a college with a reputation for partying. Deeply religious, he was gay but desperately wanted not to be.

Now his father’s disavowal pushed him over the edge, capping a string of stigmatizing experiences at home, at school and at church. He’d had enough.

For decades, we’ve known that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals experience a range of social, economic and health disparities — often the result of a culture and of laws and policies that treat them as lesser human beings. They’re more likely to struggle with poverty and social isolation. They have a higher risk of mental health problems, substance use and smoking. Sexual minorities live, on average, shorter lives than heterosexuals, and L.G.B.T. youth are three times as likely to contemplate suicide, and nearly five times as likely to attempt suicide.

Some of these disparities have interpersonal roots: social exclusion, harassment, internalized homophobia. But often they stem from an explicit denial of rights: same-sex marriage bans, employment discrimination, denial of federal benefits. Discrimination in any form can have serious health consequences: Sexual minorities living in communities with high levels of prejudice die more than a decade earlier than those in less prejudiced communities.

But civil rights advances and growing public acceptance of L.G.B.T. individuals in recent years are among the more transformative social changes in modern American history. And evidence increasingly suggests this shift has measurably improved health care access and health outcomes for L.G.B.T. populations.

The halting, patchwork nature of L.G.B.T. rights expansions across the country has allowed researchers to study the effects on health and well-being by comparing states that expanded rights to those that failed to introduce protections, or actively curtailed them. Since Vermont became the first state to formally recognize same-sex partnerships in 2000, many other states either legalized same-sex marriage, or conversely, passed constitutional amendments banning it — until the landmark 2015 Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges required all 50 states to recognize same-sex marriage.

By Dhruv Khullar, M.D., NYTimes.com, October 9, 2018

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