The Impact of Trump’s Discriminatory Policies on LGBTQ+ Americans

LGBTQ+ people already face discrimination. A new HHS proposal would only make those problems worse.

On November 1, 2019, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking along with a “Notice of Nonenforcement” which states the agency will not enforce nondiscrimination protections put in place by the Obama administration in December 2016. These protections were enacted to ensure lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) people would not experience discrimination by any entity receiving federal grants from HHS. To comply with these protections, the grantees — including foster and adoption agencies — were also directed to treat persons in same-sex marriages as equal to persons in different-sex marriages, in line with the 2015 Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges.LGBTQ+.Discrimination

If enacted, the New York Times has reported that the proposed HHS rule change could remove sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes. Once the proposed rule is published in the Federal Register, the public has 30 days to submit comments. After that point, if HHS decides to finalize the proposed changes, any organization receiving federal funds from HHS will have the ability to discriminate against individuals who are LGBTQ+ on religious grounds. Such scenarios include allowing agencies receiving HHS funds to bar would-be adoptive or foster parents from taking care of children explicitly because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

As the largest university-wide LGBTQ+ health research center in the U.S., the Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing (ISGMH) at Northwestern University conducts scientific research on the physical and mental health of LGBTQ+ people. It is already well established that lesbian, gay, and bisexual people face high levels of discrimination. Research has consistently found that such discrimination manifests itself in the form of tangible and quantifiable health disparities.

For instance, in Texas, research has shown that LGBTQ+ people experience disparate rates of food insecurity, housing insecurity, housing access, and healthcare. Other research has found that “[LGBTQ+] youth and young adults are 120 percent more likely to experience homelessness than their straight and cisgender peers” and that “[LGBTQ+] youth continue to be disproportionately represented among homeless youth in our country, and their experiences of homelessness continue to be characterized by violence, discrimination, poor health, and unmet needs.” These disparities have profound effects upon the immediate health of [LGBTQ+] persons, and they also reverberate throughout the wider society with great costs (in terms of public spending and human suffering).

Here at ISGMH, we have found that discrimination takes a particular kind of toll on the health of LGBTQ+ youth, including mental health disparities which affect trans, nonbinary, and gender diverse youth. We have also found that young men who are sexual minorities experience high levels of victimization and are at a higher risk for mental health and substance use problems compared with heterosexual youth; that the cumulative effects of victimization experienced by LGBTQ+ youth result in a higher risk for depression and post-traumatic stress disorder; and that LGBTQ+ youth have a higher prevalence of mental disorder diagnoses than youth in national samples.

Out.com, November 19, 2019 BY STEVEN W. THRASHER, PHD, SARAH QUAIN, AND BRIAN MUSTANKSKI, PHD

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Is It Selfish for a Gay Couple to Have Kids via Surrogacy?

My husband and I are gay and are exploring the possibility of having children using an egg donor and a surrogate mother.

Sometimes when we mention this in conversation, people ask us, in a chiding tone, Why don’t you adopt? They often then argue that with so many children in need of good homes, it would be ethically superior for us to adopt, instead of spending a small fortune so we can have children to whom we are genetically tied. In addition, there are ethical issues related to paying women for their eggs or paying women to carry our children as surrogates. Are we acting unethically — or at the least selfishly or self-indulgently — in pursuing biological children instead of adopting orphans who could benefit from what (we like to think) would be a good home? David Lat, New Yorkethical surrogacy

Anybody who is contemplating having a baby, by whatever means, could be adopting a child instead. If those who chide you include people who have biological children themselves, you might want to point this out. Come to think of it, your friends who don’t have children are also free, if they meet the legal requirements, to adopt.

Every child awaiting adoption is someone who could benefit from parental volunteers. There is no good reason to pick on you.

The path you have chosen, it’s true, mixes commerce and reproduction through egg donation and surrogacy. But while acquiring an egg and then working with a surrogate mother are transactions with ethical risks, they can each be conducted in morally permissible ways. The main concerns I would have are avoiding exploitation — so you need to make sure that the donor and the surrogate are acting freely and are fairly compensated — and taking care that your understanding with the surrogate mother is clearly laid out in advance. But any responsible agency that assists you in this should cover these bases.

Wanting a biological connection with your child is pretty normal: We evolved to pass on our genes, after all, even if we’re free to give Mother Nature the side-eye. There are also things you can more likely do for children to whom you’re biologically related — notably, on the organ-donor front. So while it would be terrific if you adopted, it’s no more incumbent on you than it is on any other potential parents.

I’ve worked as an educator and administrator in public schools for over a decade. During this time, I have served as a character witness and written letters on behalf of students who have been arrested. In certain cases, these students have been charged with violent offenses. I often found myself in heated arguments with a loved one over these acts of advocacy, specifically because court proceedings typically take place during the day, which requires me to have someone cover my duties at school. I feel that this advocacy is justified because I am an adult who has invested deeply in the development of the children and knows who they are outside of their offenses. Is it ethical for school staff members to offer their time and efforts to support students charged with violent crimes? Name Withheld

You’re presumably talking about helping the courts to understand the social and educational contexts of students accused of crimes. You’re permitted to testify when the courts find this information relevant in deciding what to do with young offenders. In doing so, you’re helping the courts make what are often very difficult decisions. As long as your advocacy is truthful, it can be a valuable contribution. Asking colleagues to cover for you when you’re doing a public service would seem entirely acceptable; they have good reason to support what you’re doing — and because of that, you should be willing to cover for others when they do the same.

Let me address an issue you haven’t raised: The fact that a student on whose behalf you speak could receive a lighter sentence may upset his or her victims or their families. If the court is doing its job properly, however, the sentence is lighter only because its decision would have otherwise been based on a less complete picture. There is, of course, a question of fairness here, because many young offenders don’t have the advantage of a teacher willing to speak up for them. But you wouldn’t contribute to the overall justice of the situation by denying helpful information in one case on the grounds that it’s unavailable in many others. If you want to help with that problem, you might try to persuade your union to develop ethical guidelines for conducting this form of advocacy.

NYTimes.com, By

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‘This baby was meant to be ours’: A gay couple’s journey to become parents

‘This baby was meant to be ours’: A gay couple’s journey to become parents

When Kraig Wiedenfeld and Bill Johnson decided they were ready to start a family and wanted a baby biologically related to one of them, they did what a small but growing number of gay couples with their desire do: They found a surrogate to help them.step parent adoption

As chronicled in The Washington Post last year, the two men, then married for four years, embarked on a journey both complicated and expensive that required: sperm from Weidenfeld, an anonymous egg donor and a young woman to carry the baby.

Christina Fenn had already carried three babies — including a set of twins — for two other same-sex couples, when a surrogacy agency matched her to Wiedenfeld and Johnson.

Before becoming a surrogate, Fenn and her husband, Brian, had two sons of their own. She loved being pregnant and longed to help those who couldn’t conceive children.

Assisted reproduction and surrogacy have been around for years, but these days gay men who can afford the cost are choosing this route to parenthood, experts say.

Sometimes, however, desire and hope — and in Wiedenfeld and Johnson’s case, advanced reproductive science — are not enough to guarantee a baby. A first effort resulted in a miscarriage just a month after the embryo transfer. The second effort had the same outcome, and an even heavier emotional toll for all involved.

But the two men and Fenn had contractually agreed on three embryo transfers, leaving them one final chance. On a crisp day last spring, nearly nine months later, that chance came due.

“Are you ready to be a dad?” Fenn’s eager voice said at the other end of the line.

Weidenfeld and Johnson raced from New York City to the hospital in Connecticut just in time for the birth of a seven-pound, 19.5-inch boy, soon to be known as Teddy.

“It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen,” Johnson said.

After passing the baby around among Fenn, her husband and the two new dads, Weidenfeld turned to Fenn and said, “Look what you’ve done for us. This is not the end of our story together. This is just the beginning.”

“I will be there for every birthday party and special occasion,” Fenn vowed, smiling. “I hope to always be in their lives,” she said of the family.

The number of children born through surrogacy is unknown, but surrogacy agencies say the demand for surrogates has noticeably risen in recent years. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, 738 babies were born via surrogacy in 2004; in 2014, that the number was 2,807.

Victoria Ferrara, founder and legal director at Worldwide Surrogacy, says about 50 percent of the 80 to 100 surrogacy arrangements her organization facilitates involve gay parents. She estimates the number of babies born through surrogacy every year ranges from 2,500 to 5,000 worldwide.

Washingtonpost.com, by Sydney Page, October 26, 2019

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The unintended consequences of Canada surrogacy law changes (Opinion)

There are unintended consequences to Proposed Canada surrogacy law changes.

Canada is considered an international surrogacy destination, with progressive laws that have attracted couples internationally. But, in just over nine months, a new Canadian fertility landscape will be born, bringing new regulations for reimbursing surrogates and donors. In fertility circles – both in Canada and beyond – there is fear that these new regulations by law will discourage people from becoming surrogates and donors.Canada surrogacy law

The new regulations from Health Canada, which come into effect June 9, 2020, set out exhaustive categories of reimbursable expenses – a big change from the current system, which does not specify what can be reimbursed and allows for wide interpretation of what constitutes a “reasonable expense.” That wide interpretation has allowed for flexibility in customizing fertility arrangements but may have a huge effect on Canada surrogacy law.

When the new rules take effect, eligible expenses will, for instance, include travel, insurance and legal fees, as well as counselling services and care for dependents and pets. The idea is to offer more certainty about which reimbursements are legitimate – and to allay any fears about being subjected to criminal sanctions.

Federal Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor has said that the regulations would provide couples struggling with infertility, single individuals, same-sex couples and others in the LGBTQ2 community more flexibility in building families. Couples will have the option to offer surrogates reimbursements for certain products and services beyond the actual pregnancy and into the postpartum period, which was not previously the case. This might make it easier for couples to obtain a surrogate, as they can provide reassurance that expenses related to potential health complications arising after the delivery will be reimbursed. But at the same time, the new regulations introduce more onerous requirements for reimbursement by requiring surrogates and donors to complete signed declarations in addition to providing receipts (surrogates are exempted from providing receipts under certain circumstances).

The biggest concern is that the regulations will likely make it even more difficult to access assisted reproduction, including medical procedures such as in-vitro fertilization, to conceive a child with the help of a surrogate and/or donor. The fear is that the new regulations will further discourage individuals from becoming surrogates and donors. Currently, surrogates and donors in Canada are driven by altruistic motivations, since it remains illegal to pay a surrogate for her services or pay for ova or sperm from a donor. However, if potential surrogates and donors risk not being reimbursed for reasonable out-of-pocket expenses, they may be dissuaded from helping others build families.

Alarmingly, the draft guidance document interpreting the regulations released by Health Canada states that “[t]here is no obligation to reimburse, meaning that only persons who wish to reimburse eligible expenditures will do so.” This could lead to exploitation of donors and surrogates. (The guidance document has not yet been finalized; consultation on it closed on July 26.)

www.theglobeandmail.com by Melissa Salfi, September 6, 2019

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Babies and broken hearts: Ukraine’s commercial surrogacy industry leaves a trail of disasters

This is the moment. I arrive at the Sonechko Children’s Home, a collection of rundown double-story brick buildings in a city south east of Kiev, the Ukrainian capital.

I’m here to meet a little girl I’ve been searching for over the past six months.

She’s been abandoned by the very people who paid for her to be born — her American parents.Australia surrogacy

Now she’s an orphan and has disabilities which require medical attention.

Marina Boyko, the flame-haired nurse who’s cared for the little girl since she was a baby, is taking us to meet her.

The door to the child’s room opens and the emotion hits hard.

My investigation began last year.

“Have any foreigners left a baby behind?” I asked.

It was a simple question and an obvious one.

“An American couple left one last year,” came the answer.

I hung up the phone to my source in Kiev and so began months of work to find a baby born via a surrogate in Ukraine and then abandoned by the American parents.

Sadly, I was familiar with this kind of story.

Back in 2014, I found Gammy, a baby boy whose birth was “commissioned” by an Australian couple.

They left him behind in Thailand to be cared for by his surrogate mother.

The couple only wanted to bring Gammy’s twin sister home.

Again, the child was left behind by his Australian parents after they decided they’d only take his twin sister home. I never found him.

These were just some of the horror stories which prompted Thailand and India to ban commercial surrogacy for foreigners.

As a result, Ukraine is quickly becoming the “hot” new surrogacy destination.

But while the country has changed, the story remains the same.

I’m now hearing there’s a child who’s been abandoned in Ukraine. I know that finding her won’t be easy.

Then I searched for a baby boy in India on assignment for Foreign Correspondent in 2015.

After countless phone calls, finally there’s a breakthrough.

With the help of local Ukrainian journalists, we find out the child we’re looking for is alive and being cared for in a town called Zaporizhzhya — a large industrial centre south-east of the capital, Kiev.

It’s a leap of faith, but we book flights from London and make the journey.

We don’t know what we’ll see or what we’ll be able to film, but sometimes being on the ground is the only way.

We’re directed to the Sonechko Children’s Home on the edge of the city, where some 200 children live.

When we arrive, it’s eerily quiet. There’s no children’s chatter or laughter, not a cry, not a squeal. It’s like they’ve been silenced for our benefit.

The staff know we are coming but they are wary. We know this first visit will be about building trust.

They invite us in and we interview them about a child they speak of with deep and genuine affection, but we are told we cannot see her as she is sick and quarantined in a nearby hospital.

August 19, 2019, by abc.net.au, Samantha Hawley

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They Lost Custody through adoption law. Should They Still Be Able to See Their Children?

Adoption law in New York may be changed to give more rights to birth parents, even when adoptive parents object.

Adoption law in New York may be changing.  Latoya Joyner, a state assemblywoman from the Bronx, said she was raised by a loving adoptive family after her biological parents lost custody of her. The same was true for Tracy L. VanVleck, the commissioner of human services in Seneca County. 

But that is where their similarities end. The women are on opposing sides in an emotionally charged battle over a potential change in New York state adoption law that is awaiting Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s signature.adoption for gay couples

The legislation, called Preserving Family Bonds, would fundamentally shift the relationship that birth parents can have with their children after a court has taken the children awaypermanently and another family steps in to adopt them.

The proposed change has touched off a wide debate, some of it informed by the wrenching personal experiences of people who have not only gone through the foster care system but, like Ms. Joyner and Ms. VanVleck, now have the power to shape it.

Texas daycare denies child admission over parent’s same-sex relationship

The two mothers were told it was an issue they are ‘mates’ by Parkview Christian Academy, a Texas daycare

A Texas daycare center has denied a child admission after learning her parents were a same-sex couple, one of the child’s mothers alleges.texas gay marriage

Brittany Ready and her wife Stacey applied to enroll their girl Callie into the Parkview Christian Academy in Waco.

However, Ready wrote in a Facebook post on Thursday (18 July) that the academy refused to allow Callie to enroll because her parents are married.

The academy’s enrollment procedure says that if they do not feel the school will be in the interests of the child, the child will be dismissed.

Ready said the couple were informed there was a place available at the academy, and they went to see the academy for themselves.

‘The director was super sweet and welcoming to us and Callie!’ Ready wrote in her post.

However, this did not last. After the couple filed administrative paperwork, they were called into the academy administrator’s office to discuss their application.

gaystarnews.com, July 21, 2019 by Callum Stuart

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Florida Anti-gay policies vex school voucher program

Anti-gay policies haunt local schools eligible for the school voucher, known as Florida Tax Credit Scholarships.  They say on their web sites that they will not admit, or would expel, gay students or children of same-sex couples.

News reports that private schools receiving state-subsidized tuition vouchers have anti-gay policies against gay students has roiled the program, alienating some donors, including in the Tampa area.florida anti-gay voucher

At least a handful of local schools eligible for the vouchers, known as Florida Tax Credit Scholarships, say on their web sites that they will not admit, or would expel, gay students or children of same-sex couples.

Responding to questions from the Times, a few Tampa-area companies that donate to the program said they were concerned about discrimination.

But state officials and officials of the largest non-profit corporation that helps run the program say they aren’t discriminating — they simply provide the money for tuition subsidies to low-income families, who are free to use it where they wish.

In an op-ed in the Orlando Sentinel this week, Doug Tuthill, president of non-profit Step Up for Students, says the program has provided thousands of disadvantaged students education opportunities they couldn’t otherwise afford.

He said the program aids any family that meets the income guidelines, “no matter their race or ethnicity or religion or sexual orientation or gender identity.” Those families can then use the money at any of 1,800 participating private schools that will admit the student.

Tuthill said the corporation has found 38 of those schools that “express disapproval of homosexuality in their codes of conduct.”

He also said in his 11 years as Step Up president, “I’ve never seen evidence of a single LGBTQ+ scholarship student being treated badly by a scholarship school. And I’ve looked.”

The state Constitution prohibits spending state money on religious endeavors including schools, so the program uses corporate income tax credits as a work-around. Corporations who donate to Step Up or a similar organization get a dollar-for-dollar tax credit; Step Up then distributes the money as scholarships, or vouchers.

TampaBayTimes.com, by William March – July 8, 2019

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“This is Quite Gay” – Gay Shame

Social media has become a space where my own family and friends have turned into censors, denigrating me for being gay from thousands of miles away casting gay shame.

On the quiet, promising first morning of June, I received a text message from my brother in Abuja, Nigeria. “Please, refrain from all these shameful acts,” he wrote.  Gay shame.   “Everyone is tired of you. Mummy is crying, Daddy is crying. If you don’t value relationships, we do!”gay shame

My brother had written after I had posted a picture on Facebook that showed me hugging a male friend. A mixture of anger, sadness and fatigue erupted in my body. “Block me if you are tired of my shameful acts,” I replied. “I won’t be the first or last person to be rejected by his family.”

I had the audacity to start a queer publication in Nigeria and was disowned by my country as a gay man, writer and activist. After a vicious homophobic attack in Akwanga, my hometown in central Nigeria, I moved to the United States and sought asylum here in the summer of 2018.

In a certain public rendering I could come across as a brave activist. But I have lived with intense private pain and discomfort after homophobic shaming from people like my own brother.

Social media can be a delightful way to connect with loved ones far away, but for me it has also become a space where my own family and friends have turned into censors, distorting my life, denigrating my being gay from thousands of miles away.

In Nigeria, I lived with the knowledge that my secret life as a gay man would eventually crumble under the weight of parental expectations. I could see clearly how it would pan out: After turning 30, I would have to marry a woman who might know I am gay but would prefer marrying me to being unmarried at a certain age. We would have three children in quick succession, as procreation is a duty I would be expected to fulfill promptly, duty being the bedrock of familial relationships.

My wife and I would suffer dutifully and receive the blessings of our parents. On seeing my wife and me in matching outfits, my father’s expressionless face would break into a rare, full smile. He would present us to his friends and colleagues at parties. My mother would carry around my children and make her friends, whose children were yet to bear them grandchildren, look on in envy.

But I walked out the door. I chose safety and freedom over years of pain and trauma that would come with such societal and parental approval. In Washington, where I live on the little that is left of my savings, the homophobia of my home and family follows me through social media, through emails and text messages.

There are days when I forget I am gay; those days are my happiest. I hang out with friends, not as a gay man hanging out with other gay men, but as friends having a good time. I return to my apartment with beautiful pictures in my phone.

Yet when I am about to post my pictures on social media, I examine them through the searching eyes of my staunchly evangelical Christian parents, through the prying eyes of my childhood friends who still remember me as the boy who would recite chapters of the Bible. I swipe through my pictures. “This is very gay!” “This is super gay!” “This is quite gay!” I judge my own images and delete the pictures. I am my own censor.

A few days after the exchange with my brother, a cousin sent me a message: “Jesus loves you, bro! Come back to him. He is ready to forgive you and take you back as his lovely child.”

I climbed back in bed and rolled myself into a ball as my heart sank into the hollow of my gut. My stomach gave a loud, nervous growl. I longed for death. These messages pull me back to the existential orbit I am always trying to escape. I ask myself, “Is this really worth losing loved ones over? ”  All this gay shame.

I should relish the freedom America offers me, but it feels like I am running in the middle of a busy highway or breathing under water. Hiding in the closet is all I have known.

Some days ago, I was at a pride event for gay Africans in Washington, in a West African basement restaurant. I was chatting with a few Nigerians when a charming photographer raised his camera toward us. They instinctively ducked as if dodging a bullet. “You can never tell where those pictures will end up,” someone said. I nodded in agreement.

NYTimes.com, July 6, 2019 by Richard Akuson

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Parents can use sperm harvested from their dead son to make grandchildren, judge rules

West Point cadet Peter Zhu, who was unmarried, died after a skiing accident on February 23, Judge allows parent to use harvested sperm.

He had been found unresponsive on a ski slope on the grounds of the military academy in upstate New York.  Zhu was then taken to a hospital, where he was declared brain dead days later.  Judge now rules that parents may use their son’s harvested sperm.harvested sperm

In March, his parents petitioned the court to allow the hospital to have their son’s  harvested sperm retrieved and frozen at the same time harvest his organs for donation.

The petition was granted and the sperm was preserved at a sperm bank after the retrieval.  His organs were also harvested to help those waiting for a lifesaving transplant before he was buried in the West Point Cemetery.

According to CNN, the Supreme Court Justice John Colangelo’s ruling gave Zhu’s parents the ability to attempt conception with a surrogate mother using their late son’s sperm.  “At this time, the court will place no restrictions on the use to which Peter’s parents may ultimately put their son’s sperm, including its potential use for procreative purposes,” Colangelo wrote.  “They shall possess and control the disposition and potential use of their son Peter’s genetic material.” 

Zhu’s case isn’t the first incident of this type, according to AP.In 2007, a court in Iowa authorized recovery of a man’s sperm by his parents to donate to his fiance for future procreative use.  In 2009, a Texas woman got a judge’s permission to have her 21-year-old son’s sperm extracted after his death, with the intention of hiring a surrogate mother to bear her a grandchild.

StandardMedia.com, May 30, 2019, by Charles Odero

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