House Passes The Equality Act – Sweeping Gay and Transgender Equality Legislation

equality act

The bill, The Equality Act, which was first passed by the Democratic-led House in 2019, faces a steep climb in the Senate.

A divided House on Thursday narrowly passed a sprawling bill, The Equality Act, that would extend civil rights protections to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, but the measure faced an uphill battle to enactment, with Republicans almost uniformly opposed.equality act

The legislation, passed 224 to 206, almost entirely along party lines, stands little chance of drawing enough Republican support in the Senate to advance, at least in its current form. It was the second time the Democratic-led House had passed the measure, known as the Equality Act, which seeks to amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to add explicit bans on discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in both public and private spaces.

“In most states, L.G.B.T.Q. people can be discriminated against because of who they are, or who they love,” said Representative David Cicilline, an openly gay Democrat from Rhode Island and the lead sponsor. “It is past time for that to change.”

In a landmark decision in June, the Supreme Court ruled that the 1964 civil rights law protects gay and transgender people from workplace discrimination, and that the language of the law, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, also applies to discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The Equality Act builds on that ruling, and would expand the scope of civil rights protections beyond workers to consumers at businesses including restaurants, taxi services, gas stations and shelters.

It would also water down the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the 1993 law at the heart of the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court case that set a high bar for governments to enact laws that “substantially burden” an individual’s freedom to exercise religious beliefs. Those protections have been cited by, for example, bakers or photographers who object to serving same-sex weddings.

The House first passed the legislation in 2019, but the Republican-controlled Senate at the time refused to take it up. Upon taking office, President Biden encouraged the Democratic-controlled Congress to “swiftly pass” the bill, calling it a “critical step toward ensuring that America lives up to our foundational values of equality.”

But 10 Republicans would need to join Democrats to reach the 60-vote threshold needed to pass legislation under normal Senate procedures, a level of support its proponents are unlikely to muster, unless substantial changes are made.

Senator Susan Collins of Maine, the only Republican in that chamber to co-sponsor the legislation during the last Congress, told The Washington Blade that she would not do so again, citing the lack of certain revisions she had requested. Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, has indicated he would not support the legislation, saying it lacked “strong religious liberty protections.”

In the House, consideration of the measure devolved into bitter acrimony after Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, the first-term Republican from Georgia who is known for spreading false and bigoted conspiracy theories and has a history of online trolling, attacked the daughter of Representative Marie Newman, Democrat of Illinois.

NYTimes.com, February 25, 2021 by Catie Edmundson

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More Adult Americans Are Identifying as L.G.B.T., Gallup Poll Finds

L.G.B.T. Overlooked

A survey found that 5.6 percent of adults described themselves as L.G.B.T. in 2020, up from 4.5 percent in 2017.

A Gallup survey released Wednesday has found that more adult Americans are identifying as L.G.B.T., a shift that pollsters see as driven, at least in part, by people in younger generations who are more likely to consider themselves to be something other than heterosexual.L.G.B.T. inclusive sex education

The poll found that 5.6 percent of adults identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, rising from 4.5 percent in 2017, the last time Gallup reported an annual update. The poll also found that more than half of L.G.B.T. adults identified as bisexual.

One in six adults in Generation Z, people born between 1997 and 2002, identify as L.G.B.T., the poll found. The growth in Americans who identify as L.G.B.T.Q. is likely to continue to increase, Gallup’s senior editor, Jeffrey Jones, wrote in announcing the results. That is because those in younger generations are more likely than those in older generations to to consider themselves L.G.B.T., he said.

Americans have been more supportive of equal rights for L.G.B.T.Q. people, Mr. Jones said, prompting an increase in people who identify themselves as L.G.B.T.

“I think the findings prove that visibility and acceptance, when combined, will bust out closet doors,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, the president and chief executive of GLAAD, an L.G.B.T.Q. media organization and advocacy group.

The survey was based on more than 15,000 interviews conducted throughout 2020 with Americans in all 50 states and the District of Columbia who were 18 or older. Those surveyed were interviewed by both cellphone and landline. They were asked: “Which of the following do you consider yourself to be? You can select as many as apply: straight or heterosexual; lesbian; gay; bisexual; transgender.”

Gallup said the poll’s margin of error was plus or minus one percentage point for all adults, and plus or minus five percentage points for L.G.B.T. adults.

The identity question in the most recent poll was more detailed than in previous years, Mr. Jones said. Respondents answered their precise sexual orientation instead of answering “yes” or “no” to whether they identified as L.G.B.T.

The Supreme Court has made several landmark rulings in the past decade, adding to a more supportive climate for L.G.B.T.Q. people. In 2013, the court ruled that married same-sex couples were entitled to federal benefits. In 2015, the court ruled that same-sex marriage was a nationwide right. Most recently, it ruled in June that civil rights law protected gay and transgender workers.

NHYTimes.com, by Christina Morales, February 25, 2021

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Governor Cuomo Announces Gestational Surrogacy Now Legal in New York State

legal surrogacy in New York

2020 State of the State Proposal Signed into Law Last Year Takes Effect

Law Establishes Criteria for Gestational Surrogacy Agreements, Creates a Surrogates’ Bill of Rights, and Streamlines the “Second Parent Adoption” Process 

The Department of Health Has Posted Guidance for Gestational Surrogacy Here and Information on Regulations Herelegal surrogacy in New York

 

 

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced New York’s Gestational Surrogacy Law is now in effect, delivering help to LGBTQ+ couples and couples struggling with fertility who are trying to start families of their own. Originally proposed as part of the Governor’s 2020 State of the State Agenda and signed into law as part of the State Budget, the law officially legalizes gestational surrogacy in New York State. Prior to the law’s enactment, the practice was illegal in New York State, and gestational surrogacy agreements were unenforceable and considered not legally binding.  

“For far too long, LGBTQ+ New Yorkers and New Yorkers struggling with fertility were denied the opportunity to start a family because of arbitrary and archaic laws and I couldn’t be prouder of the way New York came together to say we won’t stand for this any longer,” Governor Cuomo said. “New York is a loving state and were proud to lead the charge for fairness and equality last year. With this law now in effect, no longer will anyone will be blocked from the joys of starting a family and raising children simply because of who they are.”

In addition to lifting the previous ban on gestational surrogacy, the law:

  • Establishes legal criteria for gestational surrogacy agreements that provide the strongest protections in the nation for parents and surrogates, ensuring all parties provide informed consent at every step of the process;
  • Creates a Surrogates’ Bill of Rights, to ensure the unfettered right of surrogates to make their own healthcare decisions, including whether to terminate or continue a pregnancy, and that surrogates have access to comprehensive health insurance and independent legal counsel of their choosing, all paid for by the intended parents; and
  • Creates a streamlined process for establishing parenthood when one of the individuals is a non-biological parent, a process known as “second parent adoption.”

Governor Cuomo has long championed the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals and has sought to ensure that all New Yorkers have equal ability to start and raise families in this State. Gestational surrogacy provides same-sex couples and people struggling with fertility the ability to conceive a child with the help of medical advances in assisted reproduction. 

The legal process known as “Second Parent Adoption” previously presented many antiquated barriers to individuals, particularly LGBTQ+ couples, seeking to adopt their partner’s biological child. Governor Cuomo’s legislation simplified and streamlined this process by instead requiring a single visit to court to recognize legal parenthood while the child is in utero.

The Department of Health has posted guidance here with surrogates’ bill of rights, fact sheets, and a license portal. Information on regulations can be found here.  

Commissioner of the New York State Department of Health Dr. Howard Zucker said, “From legalizing gay marriage to this surrogacy law taking effect today, under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, New York has done more than any other state to expand the rights of LGBTQ+ people. In the midst of a global pandemic that continues to claim lives throughout the country, it’s important to remember the truly important things in our lives, especially our families and children. I wish love and happiness to all the people who will take advantage of this law today and in coming years to create families of their own.”

Senator Brad Hoylman said, “My husband and I had our two daughters through surrogacy—but we had to travel 3,000 miles to do it because our home state had banned the practice. Thanks to the Child-Parent Security Act, gestational surrogacy is finally legal in New York State, giving LGBTQ couples and people experiencing infertility the opportunity to build a family through surrogacy here at home. This legislation sets a new gold standard for surrogacy, providing women acting as surrogates with the strongest legal and health protections in the nation while also protecting intended parents and egg donors. We were able to pass this bill because of the strong advocacy of Governor Andrew Cuomo and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, who have always prioritized the fight for LGBTQ equality, as well as the legislative leadership of my Democratic colleagues in the Senate and Assembly champion Amy Paulin.” 

Assembly Member Amy Paulin said, “Today, couples with infertility issues and same-sex couples will be able to start their families in New York without facing the logistical and legal obstacles that have impeded them. I had fertility issues when I attempted to get pregnant with my second child, so I am well aware of the pain and suffering that is attached to wanting a child. This law will allow families to avoid much of that pain by giving them the opportunity to have a family in New York and not travel around the country, incurring exorbitant costs simply because they want to be parents. Again, I thank the Governor and my Senate colleague Brad Hoylmanfor making this a reality.” 

Ali Forney Center CEO Alexander Roque said, “Governor Cuomo’s tireless care for, commitment to and centering of LGBTQIA rights is among the most noble commitments to justice and equality for all. Moreover, in doing so, Governor Cuomo is setting a standard for other leaders to follow in protecting and really thinking about and responding to the needs of our movement. As a gay parent who had no coverage or benefits in supporting my family journey, I know firsthand the impact this legislation will have on our families. Governor Cuomo’s fight for our rights will benefit our communities for generations to come.”

RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association Board Member Risa A. Levine said, “I am so thrilled that after decades of having to travel outside of New York to build their families, people suffering from infertility who need the help of a surrogate, can now do so close to home.  I am proud that Governor Cuomo enabled New York State to have the most progressive set of protections for all parties to a surrogacy arrangement in the country.”

Equality New York Board Member Brian Esser said, “Now that the Child-Parent Security Act is in effect, New York has one of the most favorable sets of laws in the country with respect to LGBTQI family formation, making it easier for parents to protect their legal rights regardless of how they build their families.”  

Men Having Babies Executive Director Ron Poole-Dayan said, “Today we believe that New York leapfrogged to have the most comprehensive and ethical surrogacy laws ever drafted, with extensive protections to all involved, legal clarity and a streamlined process for parentage rights, and attention to long term physical and mental health outcomes. We thank Governor Cuomo for his leadership and look forward to working with him on building upon this historic achievement for LGBTQ families.”  

2.16.2021 – From Governor Cuomo’s Office

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Meet the Women Who Become Surrogates

adoption and surrogacy lgbt family planning

New York State will now allow gestational surrogates to carry babies for other parents. Here’s why they do it.

In 1995, Lisa Wippler, having recently retired from the Marines, moved with her husband and two young sons to Oceanside, Calif., and was contemplating her next chapter in life. The answer came while lying in bed one night, reading an article about infertility.new york surrogacy

“I had no idea how many couples out there needed help,” she said. Inspired, she sought out a local support group for women who had served as surrogates to help those who can’t have children on their own start families. “It was this amazing circle of women,” said Ms. Wippler, who is now 49. “All talking about their journeys and their stories.”

Last year, Ms. Wippler — by this point a three-time surrogate herself — was part of a delegation of surrogacy advocates who traveled to Albany, where she had the opportunity to share her story with lawmakers considering whether to legalize the practice in New York State. She was joined by the first woman she carried a child for, in 1996, who spoke with state legislators as well.

“I had never heard her talk so openly about her struggles and the impact this all had on her,” Ms. Wippler said. “I was so proud — it really had an impact on me.”

In her advocacy work, Ms. Wippler said, she has been befuddled to hear the arguments put forward by opponents — some of whom contend the surrogacy industry preys on poor and vulnerable women.

“I’m a retired Marine,” she said. “I can guarantee you no one coerced me.”

Starting Monday, after a protracted battle in the state that garnered star power and attention on both sides, New York joins most other states in the nation in permitting some form of compensated gestational surrogacy — when a woman carries a child, to whom she is not biologically related, for an individual or couple in exchange for a fee. (Only Michigan and Louisiana will continue to criminalize gestational surrogacy, as New York did, but other states still limit surrogacy contracts in some form.)

While the United States remains one of the few countries where gestational surrogacy is legal, and widely practiced, it continues to be a source of heated debate. Often missing from the conversation, however, are perspectives of women like Ms. Wippler — and the varied, sometimes deeply personal, reasons that compel them to become surrogates.

NYTimes.com by david Dodge, February 15, 2021

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Cuomo Directs Insurers to Cover Fertility Services for Queer Couples

fertility services queer couples

Governor Andrew Cuomo is directing insurers to begin covering fertility services for queer couples.

Health insurance companies in New York must immediately cover fertility services for queer couples, according to a new statewide mandate announced on February 11.fertility services queer couplesfertility services queer couples

Governor Cuomo is directing the Department of Financial Services to eliminate any extra costs facing same-sex couples seeking fertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization, egg freezing, sperm donations, and more. Queer people are sometimes forced to pay six to 12 months of out-of-pocket costs for fertility treatments before qualifying for coverage, while cisgender, heterosexual couples do not face these same barriers.

The Governor’s office did not immediately respond to a question asking whether the mandate extends to transgender people in heterosexual relationships.

“For too long same sex couples have been denied coverage for immediate infertility benefits, forcing them to pay high — often prohibitive — out-of-pocket costs to start a family,” Cuomo said in a written statement. “No New Yorker should be denied the opportunity to become a parent, nor the joys of raising a child, because of their sexual orientation, and this change reflects what we as New Yorkers know to be true: that love is what makes a family, that inclusivity is our strength and that the law should work for all New Yorkers.”

In a statement, Melissa DeRosa, the Governor’s spokesperson and chair of the Council on Women and Girls, said the move is a step toward removing barriers in reproductive health care.

Gaycitynews.com, February 11, 2021 by Tat Bellamy-Walker

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Couple Forced to Adopt Their Own Children After a Surrogate Pregnancy

New York surrogacy

Tammy and Jordan Myers will have to adopt their twins after two Michigan judges denied them parental rights because the children had been carried by a surrogate.

The nursery in the home of Jordan and Tammy Myers in Grand Rapids, Mich., is painted in shades of gray, white and midnight blue for the couple’s newborn twins. Their 8-year-old daughter, Corryn, can’t stop talking about how excited she is to finally be a big sister.compensated gestational surrogacy

But before the state of Michigan will recognize the couple as the babies’ legal parents, the Myerses will have to adopt them.

That’s because the babies were not carried by Ms. Myers, and Michigan law does not automatically recognize babies born to surrogates as the legal children of their biological parents. As a result, the birth certificates for the twins, a boy named Eames and a girl named Ellison, list the surrogate and her husband as the parents, not Jordan and Tammy Myers.

Twice, judges have denied their requests to be declared the legal parents of the twins, even though a fertility doctor said in an affidavit that the babies are the couple’s biological children. In separate affidavits, the surrogate and her husband have agreed that the Myerses are the parents of the twins.

The Myerses have started the adoption process, which will entail home visits from a social worker, personal questions about their upbringing and their approach to parenting, and criminal background checks. They said they have already submitted their fingerprints.

Being forced to prove they are fit to adopt their own children is “offensive,” said Mr. Myers, 38.

“We have successfully raised a loving and caring 8-year-old child and that’s not taken into account when you’re going through this process,” he said.

Instead of looking forward to leaving the hospital with the twins, who were born eight weeks premature on Jan. 11, the couple must get reference letters to send to the state. Ms. Myers said they needed “temporary permission” from the surrogate, Lauren Vermilye, to bring the babies home.

NYTimes.com, by Maria Cramer, January 31, 2021

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New surrogacy rules mean single man can live his fatherhood dream in UK

single father surrogacy

A teacher has become one of the first single fathers by choice in the UK after a change in the law to end the restriction of surrogacy services to couples only.

David Watkins, 42, was the first man to become a solo parent through Surrogacy UK, the country’s biggest not-for-profit surrogacy organisation, since the rules were reformed in 2019.single father surrogacysingle father surrogacy

Mr Watkins, who teaches deaf pupils in Southampton, was tired of waiting to find a man who shared his dream of becoming a father. He is now the proud parent to six-month-old Miles, who was conceived using his sperm and a donor egg. The fertilised egg was carried by Faye Spreadbury, 37, who gave birth to Miles in July.

“I am celebrating what I have…”

thetimes.co.uk, January 31, 2021

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A lesbian couple wanted to have a baby. They got an all-girl set of quintuplets

quintuplets

Heather Langley and Priscilla Rodriguez’s lives just became five times busier with quintuplets.

A lesbian couple who wanted to have another child opted ended up with more than they expected. Instead, Heather Langley and Priscilla Rodriguez welcomed home gorgeous quintuplets.

Hadley, Reagan, Zariah, Zylah, and Jocelyn are only the second set of all-girl quintuplets ever recorded in America. They join their older sister, Sawyer, in a very happy home.

Due to the pandemic, Rodriquez was unable to accompany Langely to her doctor appointments and wasn’t in the room when she found out they were having five babies instead of one. Langely texted her partner to break the news.

“She was incredibly shocked,” Langely told Metro. “She responded to my text saying ‘please tell me this is a joke’. She didn’t believe I was being serious at first because you rarely hear of people being pregnant with five babies.”

“I immediately felt scared when we found out there was going to be five because I feared my pregnancy would be worrying and complicated,” she confessed. “I was also panicking about how we would take care of five babies and how on earth we would pick and agree one five names, let alone one. However, after the initial shock and the news had sunk in, I realized how special and unique our babies were going to be.”

“At around 19 weeks we had a scan to find out the gender of the babies,” she added. “The midwife just kept saying ‘another girl.’ I could not believe we were going to have five more girls. I just kept thinking, ‘Wow that is a lot of girls, what are we going to do with them all?’ We would have six in total.”

“And then when we found out that they were going to be the second-ever set of all-girl quintuplets in the US, we felt so blessed with how rare and extraordinary they were.”

Quintuplets occur naturally in 1 in 55,000,000 births.

LGBTQNation.com by Bil Browning, January 27, 2021

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As Biden Lifts a Ban, Transgender People Get a Long-Sought Chance to Enlist

transgender ban

The president’s order, reversing a Trump administration policy – the Transgender ban, creates opportunities for young people whose dreams of serving in the military had been sidetracked.

Nic Talbott has wanted for years to be an Army intelligence officer. Instead, he has been a Walmart shelf stocker, an Amazon delivery driver, a substitute gym teacher and currently, a night-shift courier for a veterinary lab — all because he is transgender and therefore was banned from serving in the military.Trump LGBT

But as he has driven his shift through the dark hills of Appalachia, he has wondered if years of deferring his dreams might end after former President Donald J. Trump left office.

“All I want is a chance,” he said.

Mr. Talbott, 27, has been trying to join the military for much of his adult life. He has a college degree, top physical scores, a spotless record and everything else that would make him an enticing candidate. “The only thing keeping me from serving my country is one word on my medical record,” he said, shaking his head.

That changed on Monday when President Biden signed an executive order reversing the ban on transgender troops that was imposed by the Trump administration. Mr. Biden’s order also called an immediate halt to involuntary discharges of transgender troops who were already serving, and for the Pentagon to review the files of any troops forced out under the ban in recent years. The order requires the secretaries of Defense and Homeland Security to report on progress within 60 days.

“Simply put, it’s the right thing to do, and is in our national interest,” the White House said in a statement.

The president’s signature clears the way for a generation of young transgender Americans like Mr. Talbott who have spent years waiting out the ban, faithful that in a nation that is increasingly tolerant, the ban would be overturned in court or reversed by a new administration. That has often meant putting life on hold, delaying careers, education and other commitments.

Because regulations created during the Obama administration can simply be reinstated, the move could mean that transgender recruits will be able to join up within weeks, according to Aaron Belkin, director of The Palm Center, a think tank that advocates for L.G.B.T.Q. policies in the military.

“Basically, you just have to flip a switch,” Mr. Belkin said. He described Mr. Biden’s order as an overdue recognition that no one who can meet the standards should be barred from military service. “Today, those who believe in fact-based public policy and a strong, smart national defense have reason to be proud.”

NYTimes.com, by Dave Phillips, January 25, 2021

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President Biden Issues Most Substantive, Wide-Ranging LGBTQ Executive Order In U.S. History

Biden Executive Order

Today, the Human Rights Campaign responded to the release of an executive order that implements the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the consolidated cases Bostock v. Clayton County, Altitude Express v. Zarda and R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC.

The Order is included in a series of Day One Executive Orders that also includes executive actions launching a “whole-of-government” response to address racial equity, improving response to the COVID-19 pandemic and reducing its economic impact on the vulnerable, and combating climate change.legal surrogacy in New York

“Biden’s Executive Order is the most substantive, wide-ranging executive order concerning sexual orientation and gender identity ever issued by a United States president. Today, millions of Americans can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that their President and their government believe discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is not only intolerable but illegal. By fully implementing the Supreme Court’s historic ruling in Bostock, the federal government will enforce federal law to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in employment, health care, housing, and education, and other key areas of life. While detailed implementation across the federal government will take time, this Executive Order will begin to immediately change the lives of the millions of LGBTQ people seeking to be treated equally under the law. The full slate of Day One Executive Orders mark a welcome shift from the politics of xenophobia and discrimination to an administration that embraces our world, its people and its dreamers. We look forward to continuing to engage with the White House, Department of Justice, and other agencies to ensure that Bostock is properly implemented across the federal government.”

Alphonso David, President, Human Right Campaign

On June 15, in a landmark ruling in the consolidated cases of Bostock v. Clayton County, Altitude Express v. Zarda and R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC, the Supreme Court of the United States affirmed that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is a form of prohibited sex discrimination. In July 2020, HRC spearheaded a letter along with other leading LGBTQ rights organizations to call on the Department of Justice to not delay the application of the law and fully enforce the Supreme Court’s Bostock decision. However, the Trump Justice Department failed to adequately instruct the federal government to implement the ruling, leading to dangerous misinterpretations like the one the Department of Education released last week and that issued by the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division on Sunday.

HRC.org, January 20, 2021

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