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

Click here to read the entire article.

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

Click here to read the entire article.

44 siblings and counting

A lack of regulation has created enormous genetic families.  Now they are searching for one other.

Kianni Arroyo clasps 8-year-old Sophia’s hands tightly as they spin around, giggling like mad. It’s late afternoon, and there are hot dogs on the grill, bubble wands on the lawn, balls flying through the air.lesbian moms

The midsummer reunion in a suburb west of the city looks like any other, but these family ties can’t be described with standard labels. Instead, Arroyo, a 21-year-old waitress from Orlando, is here to meet “DNA-in-laws,” various “sister-moms” and especially people like Sophia, a cherished ­“donor-sibling.”

Sophia and Arroyo were both conceived with sperm from Donor #2757, a bestseller. Over the years, Donor #2757 sired at least 29 girls and 16 boys, now ages 1 to 21, living in eight states and four countries. Arroyo is on a quest to meet them all, chronicling her journey on Instagram. She has to use an Excel spreadsheet to keep them all straight.

“We have a connection. It’s hard to explain, but it’s there,” said Arroyo, an only child who is both comforted and weirded-out by her ever-expanding family tree.

Thanks to mail-away DNA tests and a proliferation of online registries, people conceived with donated sperm and eggs are increasingly connecting with their genetic relatives, forming a growing community with complex relationships and unique concerns about the U.S. fertility industry. Like Arroyo, many have discovered dozens of donor siblings, with one group approaching 200 members — enormous genetic families without precedent in modern society.

Because most donations are anonymous, the resulting children often find it almost impossible to obtain crucial information. Medical journals have documented cases in which clusters of offspring have found each other while seeking treatment for the same rare genetic disease. The news is full of nightmarish headlines about sperm donors who falsified their educational backgrounds, hid illnesses or turned out to be someone other than expected — such as a fertility clinic doctor.

And while Britain, Norway, China and other countries have passed laws limiting the number of children conceived per donor, the United States relies solely on voluntary guidelines. That has raised fears that the offspring of prolific donors could meet and fall in love without knowing they were closely related, putting their children at risk of genetic disorders.

By Washington Post, September 12, 2018

Click here to read the entire article.

Major Climate Change Report Describes a Strong Risk of Crisis as Early as 2040

A landmark report from the United Nations’ scientific panel on climate change paints a far more dire picture of the immediate consequences of climate change than previously thought and says that avoiding the damage requires transforming the world economy at a speed and scale that has “no documented historic precedent.”

The report, issued on Monday by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of scientists convened by the United Nations to guide world leaders, describes a world of worsening food shortages and wildfires, and a mass die-off of coral reefs as soon as 2040 — a period well within the lifetime of much of the global population.climate change

The report “is quite a shock, and quite concerning,” said Bill Hare, an author of previous I.P.C.C. reports and a physicist with Climate Analytics, a nonprofit organization. “We were not aware of this just a few years ago.” The report was the first to be commissioned by world leaders under the Paris agreement, the 2015 pact by nations to fight global warming.

The authors found that if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate, the atmosphere will warm up by as much as 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius) above preindustrial levels by 2040, inundating coastlines and intensifying droughts and poverty. Previous work had focused on estimating the damage if average temperatures were to rise by a larger number, 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius), because that was the threshold scientists previously considered for the most severe effects of climate change.

Avoiding the most serious damage requires transforming the world economy within just a few years, said the authors, who estimate that the damage would come at a cost of $54 trillion. But while they conclude that it is technically possible to achieve the rapid changes required to avoid 2.7 degrees of warming, they concede that it may be politically unlikely.

For instance, the report says that heavy taxes or prices on carbon dioxide emissions — perhaps as high as $27,000 per ton by 2100 — would be required. But such a move would be almost politically impossible in the United States, the world’s largest economy and second-largest greenhouse gas emitter behind China. Lawmakers around the world, including in China, the European Union and California, have enacted carbon pricing programs.

New York Times – October 8, 2018 by Coral Davenport

Click here to read the entire article.

Hawaii Supreme Court rules equal parental rights for same-sex couples

Ruling orders same-sex spouse to pay child support 

The Hawaii Supreme Court ruled Thursday that same-sex spouses must be treated like heterosexual spouses when it comes to parental rights.

This means that same-sex spouses must be recognized as the presumed parents for children born during their marriage.

This question was raised after a formerly married same sex couple fought each other over their parental rights over their child.

One of the women conceived the child through an anonymous sperm donor.

The other woman wanted the court to say that she is not obligated to pay child support because she’s not biologically related.

The court made their decision based on the Marriage Equality Act, which says laws regarding marriage must be applied to same sex and opposite sex couples equally.

by HawaiiNewsNow.com, October 5, 2018

Click here to read the entire article.

Trump Administration to Deny Visas to Same-Sex Partners of Diplomats, U.N. Officials

The new policy will insist they be married to obtain visas —even if they’re from countries that criminalize gay marriage.

The Trump administration on Monday began denying visas to same-sex domestic partners of foreign diplomats and United Nations employees, and requiring those already in the United States to get married by the end of the year or leave the country.visa

The U.S. Mission to the U.N. portrayed the decision—which foreign diplomats fear will increase hardships for same-sex couples in countries that don’t recognize same-sex marriage—as an effort to bring its international visa practices in line with current U.S. policy. In light of the landmark 2015 Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage, the U.S. extends diplomatic visas only to married spouses of U.S. diplomats.

“Same-sex spouses of U.S. diplomats now enjoy the same rights and benefits as opposite-sex spouses,” the U.S. mission wrote in a July 12 note to U.N.-based delegations. “Consistent with [State] Department policy, partners accompanying members of permanent missions or seeking to join the same must generally be married in order to be eligible” for a diplomatic visa.

But critics says the new policy will impose undue hardships on foreign couples from countries that criminalize same-sex marriages.

Samantha Power, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, denounced the new policy on Twitter as “needlessly cruel & bigoted.”

“State Dept. will no longer let same-sex domestic partners of UN employees get visas unless they are married,” she tweeted, noting that “only 12% of UN member states allow same-sex marriage.”

By Colum Lynch, ForeignPolicy.com, October 1, 2018

Click here to read the entire article.

Judge again rules in favor of intersex passport applicant

A federal judge has once again ruled in favor of an intersex person who was denied a passport because they do not identify as male or female.

Judge R. Brooke Jackson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado in Denver in his Sept. 19 ruling said the State Department was “in excess of statute authority” under the Passport Act of 1926 when it denied a passport to Dana Zzyym, an intersex person who requested to list their sex as “X.”

Zzyym, who lives in Colorado, is the associate director of the U.S. affiliate of Organization Intersex International. Zzyym is also a veteran who served in the U.S. Navy.

Zzyym applied for a passport in 2014 in order to attend a conference in Mexico City. The State Department told Zzyym it denied the application because it was “unable to fulfill your request to list your sex as ‘X.’

Jackson ruled in Zzyym’s favor in 2016, but the State Department appealed. Zzyym’s case was reopened in 2017 after the State Department once again denied them a passport.

Zzyym, who is represented by Lambda Legal, in a press release noted it has “been nearly four years since the State Department first denied me a critical identity document that I need to do my job and advocate for the rights of intersex people both in the United States and abroad.”

WashingtonBlade.com, by Michael K. Lavers, September 24, 2018

Click here to read the entire article.

The Queen’s Cousin Makes History with First Same-Sex Royal Wedding

The intimate ceremony quietly took place over the weekend.

Queen Elizabeth II’s cousin Lord Ivar Mountbatten made history over the weekend as the first royal to have a same-sex wedding when he wed his now-husband, James Coyle. The couple quietly tied the knot in Devon in front of family and friends, Cosmopolitan U.K. reports.

It’s unclear if familiar royals like Kate Middleton, Prince William, Prince Charles, or the sovereign herself were present. (The Cambridges were seen at a friend’s weddingon Saturday.)

Although Lord Ivar’s wedding to James took place out of the public eye (unlike Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s highly publicized nuptials in May), he did share details and photos from the intimate ceremony on Instagram this morning.

“Well we did it finally!” he wrote in the caption. “It was an amazing day despite the miserable British weather.” The images show the grooms wearing velvet jackets for the occasion, with James in deep blue and Lord Ivar in emerald green.

The couple was married by Trish Harrogate, chief Registrar for Devon, “who set the perfect but lighthearted tone for what is a serious occasion,” Lord Ivar added. Music was provided by the Bristol’s Teachers Rock Choir.

Lord Ivar previously married Penelope “Penny” Vere Thompson in 1994, but they divorced on amicable terms in 2011. Five years later, he publicly came out as gay. They have three daughters together, ranging from ages 15 to 22, USA Today reports. The whole family was present at the wedding—and Penny was the one who walked Ivar down the aisle.

Harpers Bazaar by Erica Gonzales, September 24, 2018

Click here to read the entire article.

Federal court allows same-sex couples to challenge Michigan’s anti-gay adoption law

Two same-sex couples are challenging the state’s “license to discriminate.”

A federal judge ruled Friday that a lawsuit challenging Michigan’s “license to discriminate” for religiously affiliated adoption agencies can proceed.

Two same-sex couples, Kristy and Dana Dumont and Erin and Rebecca Busk-Sutton, are directly suing the state for contracting with religious child-placement agencies it knows will refuse service to same-sex couples. In 2015, the legislature approved a law that ensured that agencies receiving taxpayer funding could refuse to serve same-sex couples without endangering their contracts with the state. Both couples have since been denied service from such agencies.

The state, along with St. Vincent Catholic Charities (which has joined the case as an intervenor defendant), argued that the case should be dismissed. But in his opinion Friday, U.S. District Judge Paul Borman, a Clinton appointment, agreed that the couples have made a credible case that the government is improperly entangled in endorsing the anti-gay religious views of these agencies.

“The Plaintiffs allege that the State Defendants could not turn away a same-sex couple on the basis of religious objections, yet they acknowledge that they are permitting their delegated agencies, carrying out a State function, to do exactly what the Constitution forbids them to do,” he wrote.

ThinkProgress.com by Zack Ford, September 17, 2018

Click here to read the entire article.

Cuban president backs same-sex marriage

Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel has said he supports an amendment to his country’s new constitution that would extend marriage rights to same-sex couples.

“I defend that there should be no type of discrimination,” he told Telesur, a television station that is largely funded by the Venezuelan government, during an interview that aired on Sunday. “The will of the people and the people’s sovereignty will have the final word.”

A source in Havana told the Washington Blade the Telesur interview was broadcast on Cuban television on Sunday night.

Díaz-Canel took office in April after Cuba’s National Assembly chose him to succeed Raúl Castro.

Lawmakers in July approved the new constitution with the marriage amendment.

The Cuban government is currently holding meetings that allow members of the public to comment on the new constitution. The National Assembly later this year is expected to finalize it before a referendum that is scheduled to take place in February 2019.

The debate over whether to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples is taking place less than 60 years after gay men were among those sent to labor camps — known by the Spanish acronym UMAPs — after the 1959 revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power.

Fidel Castro in 2010 apologized for the UMAPs during an interview with a Mexican newspaper. His niece, Mariela Castro, a member of the National Assembly who directs the country’s National Center for Sexual Education, over the last decade has spearheaded LGBTI-specific issues in the Communist country.

Díaz-Canel, who was born after the revolution, supported an LGBTI cultural center in the city of Santa Clara when he was secretary of the Cuban Communist Party in Villa Clara Province. Díaz-Canel also defended Mariela Castro’s doctoral thesis that focused on the integration of transgender people in Cuban society.

Independent LGBTI activists with whom the Blade regularly speaks insist they continue to face harassment and even arrest if they publicly criticize Mariela Castro and/or the Cuban government.

Washington Blade, by Michael K. Lavers, September 17, 2018

Click here to read the entire article.