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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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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Falsely claiming someone is gay is no longer defamation per se, N.Y. court rules

gay defamation

Gay Defamation?  The “profound and notable transformation of cultural attitudes” toward LGBTQ people affected the court’s decision.

Falsely accusing someone of being gay is no longer considered defamation per se, a New York appeals court ruled recently.

Defamation is a false statement that damages someone’s reputation. To win a defamation suit in most cases, plaintiffs must be able to show that the statement against them is false and that it caused them to suffer damages or harm, such as losing their job. Defamation per se is a false accusation that is so damaging that plaintiffs don’t have to prove that they suffered damages.gay defamation

Under New York law, examples of defamation per se include falsely accusing someone of a heinous crime or having a “loathsome disease.” Falsely claiming that someone is homosexual had also been lumped in.

“It meant that it was so shameful and such a disgrace that it was just assumed that obviously your reputation has been injured and you don’t have to prove that element” of damages, Eric Lesh, executive director of the LGBT Bar Association of New York, told NBC News.

In late December, however, the Supreme Court of the State of New York’s Second Department — one court below the New York Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court — overturned that decades-old precedent when it ruled that a false claim of homosexuality is no longer defamation per se. Such a false claim can still be considered defamatory, but plaintiffs will have to prove that they’ve been damaged by it.

The case, Laguerre v. Maurice, began in 2017, when Jean Renald Maurice, a pastor at the Gethsemane Seventh Day Adventist Church in Brooklyn, publicly claimed at a church meeting of 300 people that a church elder, Pierre Delor Laguerre, “was a homosexual” and that he “disrespected the church by viewing gay pornography on the church’s computer,” according to the court opinion. The allegation led to Laguerre being relieved of his responsibilities and thrown out as a member of the church.

The Second Department court ultimately dismissed Laguerre’s defamation claim, citing Yonaty v. Mincolla, a 2012 ruling by the Supreme Court’s Third Department that found that previous decisions labeling false claims of homosexuality as defamation per se were “inconsistent with current public policy and should no longer be followed.” That decision also ruled that “it cannot be said that current public opinion supports a rule that would equate statements imputing homosexuality with accusations of serious criminal conduct or insinuations that an individual has a loathsome disease.”

The Second Department agreed, writing that the “profound and notable transformation of cultural attitudes and governmental protective laws” for LGBTQ people influenced its decision. The court cited a 2003 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Lawrence v. Texas, which found that laws criminalizing homosexual conduct were unconstitutional, and the court’s 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges establishing the right to same-sex marriage throughout the country.

January 14, 2021, NBCNews.com by Jo Yurcaba

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Hungary amends constitution to redefine family, effectively banning gay adoption

Hungary gay adoption

The new Hungarian constitution defines family as “based on marriage and the parent-child relation. The mother is a woman, the father a man.”

BUDAPEST –  Hungary amended the definition of family in its constitution Tuesday to allow an effective ban on adoptionby same-sex couples, another win for the ruling conservatives but decried by one pro-LGBTQ group as “a dark day for human rights.”conversion therapy

The nationalist Fidesz party of Prime Minister Viktor Orban has worked to recast Hungary in a more conservative mold since winning a third successive landslide in 2018, and anti-gay verbal attacks and legislation have become common.

In recent years Orban, facing a unified opposition for the first time, has doubled down on propagating his increasingly conservative ideology, deploying strong language against immigrants and Muslims who he says could upend European culture.

The new Hungarian constitution defines family as “based on marriage and the parent-child relation. The mother is a woman, the father a man.” It also mandates that parents raise children in a conservative spirit.

“Hungary defends the right of children to identify with their birth gender and ensures their upbringing based on our nation’s constitutional identity and values based on our Christian culture,” it says.

Hungary has never allowed gay marriage but still recognizes civil unions. Adoption by gay and lesbian couples was possible until now if one partner applied as a single person.

Although there are exceptions when single people or family members can adopt children, “the main rule is that only married couples can adopt a child, that is, a man and a woman who are married,” Justice Minister Judit Varga wrote.

The legislation passed on Tuesday follow the passing of a new law earlier this year banning gender change in personal documents and ideological battles over children’s books showing diversity positively.

NBCnews.com, December 15, 2020 by Reuters

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Deb Price, a First as a Columnist on Gay Life, Dies at 62

Deb Price

If Deb Price wrote for mainstream Americans about same-sex couples in everyday situations, she thought, society would have a harder time denying them equal rights.

Deb Price

Photo courtesy of NYTimes.com

As the nation’s first nationally syndicated lesbian columnist who wrote regularly about gay life, Deb Price certainly covered pointed issues, like the debate over gay people in the military.

But she also turned to small matters of everyday domesticity, telling readers, for instance, that she and her partner, Joyce Murdoch, had bickered over whether to get air conditioning in their new convertible. She wrote about gardening together. She described attending Ms. Murdoch’s high school reunion.

She wanted to convey that being in a committed same-sex relationship wasn’t all that different from being in a heterosexual one — except maybe for the presents.

“We watch our siblings get eight silver trays, 12 pickle forks, a fondue pot and a trip to Hawaii for settling down,” she wrote. “And then our relatives give us a hard time or nothing at all.”

Ms. Price sought to demystify gay life for Middle America. If her readers could see same-sex couples in ordinary situations, she reasoned, they would find them less foreign and less frightening — and would have a harder time denying them equal rights.

She wrote 900 columns over 18 years and believed that they might have had something to do with the reversal in cultural attitudes that led to the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2015.

www.nytimes.com by Katherine Q. Seelye, December 10,2020

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