Friday Night Fun and Culture: Melanie Safka

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Nicole Maines, Transgender Student, Goes To Maine High Court

From The Huffington Post:


BANGOR, Maine — Maine’s highest court heard arguments Wednesday over whether transgender students can use the bathroom of their choice, and the girl at the heart of the case said she hoped justices would recognize the right of children to attend school without being “bullied” by peers or administrators.

Nicole Maines, now 15, watched lawyers argue over whether her rights were violated when the Orono school district required her to use a staff bathroom after there was a complaint about her using the girls’ bathroom.

Maines said after the hearing in Bangor that she hopes the Supreme Judicial Court will ensure no one else experiences what she went though.

“I hope they understood how important it is for students to be able to go to school and get an education and have fun and make friends, and not have to worry about being bullied by students or the administration, and to be accepted for who they are,” said Maines, who now attends a high school in southern Maine.

Her family and the Maine Human Rights Commission sued in 2009 over the school’s actions, but a state judge ruled that the school district acted within its discretion. Maines is a biological male who from an early age identified as a girl.

At issue is whether the school violated the Maine Human Rights Act, which bars discrimination based on sex or sexual orientation. State law also requires separate bathrooms for boys and girls in schools.

Melissa Hewey, lawyer for the school and school district, said afterward it should be up to the Legislature to clarify the issue.

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California: Bill supporting transgender student advances

From The San Diego Gay and Lesbian News:

SACRAMENTO — The California Senate Education Committee today passed AB 1266, the School Success and Opportunity Act, a bill that provides crucial support for transgender students, by a vote of 5-2.

The bill would ensure that California public schools understand their responsibility for the success and well-being of all students, including transgender students, and will allow transgender students to fully participate in all school activities, programs and facilities. AB 1266 is authored by Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, and is co-authored by Senator Mark Leno, Senator Ricardo Lara and Assemblymember Toni Atkins of San Diego.

AB 1266 would ensure that students who are transgender have equal access to facilities and activities like sports teams that match their gender.

“All I want to do is go to school and have the same opportunity to succeed as everyone else,” said Ashton Lee, a 16-year-old transgender boy from Manteca who came to Sacramento with his mother to testify at the hearing. “I just want to be treated the same as all the other boys, but my school forces me to take P.E. in a class of all girls and live as someone I’m not. Every day in that class leaves me feeling isolated and alone, making it extremely difficult to learn.”

The Los Angeles Unified School District, which is the second largest school district in the country and serves more than 670,000 students, successfully implemented a policy virtually identical to AB 1266 in 2005 to ensure that no student is left out.

“Families matter in LAUSD. We’ve worked with students and families closely to ensure that our policies related to gender identity are successful, welcomed by students, and supported by parents,” said Judy Chiasson, program coordinator for Human Relations, Diversity and Equity at the Los Angeles Unified School District. “In addition to longstanding policies banning bullying, harassment, and discrimination, LAUSD has had specific policies banning discrimination based on gender identity for nearly a decade. We have firsthand experience recognizing and valuing the diversity of school communities, which ultimately enhances and enriches the lives of all our students.”

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Waiting for the Supremes: There Is ‘More Than Marriage’ on the Equality Agenda

From The Huffington Post:


While we await, hunkered down and hardly breathing, the Supreme Court marriage decisions later this month, let’s not forget there is more to freedom and equality than the right to marry and receive federal relationship recognition. There remain all the civil liberty and economic empowerment issues that attach to being an American citizen, whether one is gay, trans, or queer in the broadest sense, and whether or not one is in a relationship, for better or for worse.

This week there have been two campaigns focused on individual liberty, one a social media campaign #morethanmarriage to educate and inform, and to lay the groundwork for the post-SCOTUS world. The other a legal case, Howe v. Haslam brought to the Tennessee Court of Appeals, the outcome of which may have huge, broad repercussions for people across the fifty states.

There have been a number of organizations working on aspects of the LGBT civil rights campaign alongside the marriage campaigns, including some organizations such as HRC and our research and legal advocates, which try to cover most if not all of the bases, if not always at the same time. Laboring for anti-discrimination laws are, first and foremost, local and state organizations, including my Maryland organization, Gender Rights Maryland, while the only national organization dedicated to the employment discrimination issue is Freedom to Work. There have been social media campaigns, with petitions on, and now the latest campaign, from the Transgender Law Center in San Francisco, called #morethanmarriage. While heavy on the trans rights aspect, as one would expect, it is also pushing for anti-discrimination laws to protect gender-conforming gay persons as well. The effort is to not only educate the larger American community that the LGBT community doesn’t have the basic rights most Americans take for granted, and most Americans believe we already have, but to educate the gay community so they recognize that marriage equality, while very significant practically and symbolically, is not the be all and end all of equality.

In support of such broad protections, Lambda Legal has filed an amicus for a case pending in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, Terveer v Billington. (The Librarian of Congress, Mr. Billington, can’t seem to avoid getting into trouble). The significance of this case is that it is seeking to have sexual orientation discrimination recognized as “sex discrimination” under the law as set out in Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. This case parallels the efforts of Professor Feldblum of the EEOC to have the Commission recognize sexual orientation discrimination as a subset of sex discrimination, just as it already recognizes gender identity and expression discrimination as a subset of sex discrimination.

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Civil Rights for Transgender People

From The New York Times:

Published: June 12, 2013

New York stood for equality by approving same-sex marriage two years ago. It is time now for state lawmakers to extend basic civil rights protections to transgender people. The 2002 state statute that bars discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing, education, credit and public accommodations does not explicitly cover transgender people.

Some jurisdictions, including New York City and Suffolk and Westchester Counties, have enacted protections. But in much of the state, people who have had sex-change surgery and others who do not identify with their birth gender can still be denied a job, shelter, credit or access to services because of who they are.

A measure to outlaw discrimination based on gender identity or expression — the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, or Genda, sponsored by Assemblyman Richard Gottfried and Senator Daniel Squadronpassed the Democratic-led Assembly in April for the sixth time. There is a good chance it would also pass the Senate, with nearly all Democrats and some Republicans voting in favor. The challenge is getting the bill to the floor for an up-or-down vote before the end of the legislative session, scheduled on June 20.

Senator Jeffrey Klein, the Democratic leader in the Senate’s coalition leadership, must insist on a vote. He should tell Senator Dean Skelos, the coalition’s Republican leader, that bottling up bills like this one is not part of their power-sharing deal. It would help if Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a supporter of the bill, would commit political capital to enacting the legislation before the session ends. Sixteen states — including New Jersey and Connecticut — and the District of Columbia have enacted anti-discrimination protections covering transgender people. New York should not lag on this important civil rights issue.

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ACT NOW — Transgender Rights for Ireland

From Huffington Post:


Today, I am a woman — plainly and simply female. My passport says so; my driver’s license says so; my bank details say so. My children, my parents, work colleagues, neighbours and friends, all leave me in no doubt that I am a woman. Because now that’s how they see me. That’s how they treat me. But this has not always been the case.

I grew up as a transgender woman in County Wicklow, Ireland. A small town, 30 miles south of Dublin, population circa 3000, not unlike most other towns in Ireland in the ’60s and ’70s, it was conservative and parochial. Society was heavily influenced by the Catholic Church and the GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association). Our Schools were run by religious organizations. My family was deeply rooted in that community.

So to be something different in the ’70s in Ireland was just not acceptable. In 1977, my father told me that being trans was just a “phase you’re going through.” I was (he was?) sure that being trans would never be understood. But by the late 1970s Irish society was changing. There was a deep questioning of old ideas and values, and an active commitment to social causes.

The past has been a mixed bag for Ireland: we survived a harsh colonialist rule and sought to redefine ourselves, only to end up entrenched in conservative ideology. These days, oppression and prejudice resonate with the Irish in a very particular way. We’re seen as fair, as welcoming and often altruistic. Our record on human rights work — in Ireland and abroad — is strong.

I have always been drawn to the ideals of those who wrote Ireland’s 1916 Easter Rising Proclamation: “The republic… declare[s] its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and all its parts, cherishing all children of the nation equally…” Yet this equality has been elusive. Trans people in Ireland face many challenges, including the basic right to be recognised for who we fundamentally are.

Changing my documentation from male to female has taken explanation and argument. It required evidence, and then more evidence, more letters and even more undignified, humiliating questions about some of the very basic facts about my personal life and more importantly about my body.

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Right Wing Extremist Republican Marco Rubio Says It Should Be Legal To Fire Someone For Being Gay

From Think Progress:

By Adam Peck and Scott Keyes
on Jun 13, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC — Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who is touted as a top GOP presidential prospect in 2016, thinks it should be legal to fire someone for their sexual orientation.

ThinkProgress spoke with the Florida Senator at the opening luncheon of the annual Faith and Freedom Forum on Thursday and asked him about the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a bill to make discrimination against LGBT individuals illegal across the country.

Though Rubio bristles at the notion of being called a “bigot,” he showed no willingness to help protect LGBT workers from discrimination. “I’m not for any special protections based on orientation,” Rubio told ThinkProgress.

KEYES: The Senate this summer is going to be taking up the Employment Non-Discrimination Act which makes it illegal to fire someone for being gay. Do you know if you’ll be supporting that?

RUBIO: I haven’t read the legislation. By and large I think all Americans should be protected but I’m not for any special protections based on orientation.

KEYES: What about on race or gender?

RUBIO: Well that’s established law.

KEYES: But not for sexual orientation?

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