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Trump Administration Continues to Erode Federal LGBTQ Protections  

CONCORD, N.H. —The Department of Justice (DOJ) today released new guidance that gives federal agencies, employees, and government contractors unprecedented leeway in discriminating against LGBTQ people. The guidance represents a radical departure and sweeping reinterpretation that far exceeds the original modest intent of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which was passed to protect people from being discriminated against on the basis of their religion.

The guidance comes just one day after the administration also announced its intention to no longer interpret Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as protecting transgender people from workplace discrimination.

Linds Jakows, campaign manager for Freedom New Hampshire, released the following statement regarding the discriminatory ban:

“Protections for LGBTQ Americans are facing increasing threats at the federal level. The recent actions out of the Department of Justice in Washington are particularly dangerous for transgender Granite Staters, because we don’t have any explicit laws on the books to protect us from discrimination. Transgender people can – and too often, do – face discrimination in their workplace, in access to housing, and in public spaces.

“The good news is, we can do something about this. Our state representatives and senators can and must take up legislation that would ensure transgender people are protected from discrimination in all its insidious forms. Action at the state level is more urgent now than it’s ever been before.”

Freedom New Hampshire is a nonpartisan coalition working to educate people about what it means to be transgender, the unique hardships that transgender people face and to grow support for fair and equal treatment of transgender Granite Staters under the law.

Preparing For The Fight Ahead By Learning From Dr. King

Tomorrow is Dr. Martin Luther King Day. The day we all celebrate the man who led the civil rights movement and pushed for equality between blacks and whites. He fought against discrimination, injustice, and against poverty. He fought for voting rights, for unions, and for all working people.

The things he fought for and against may seem very different but in truth, they are all connected.

How could blacks in the South effect change in Washington without the ability to vote? How could they make their voices heard on issues facing this country without the ability to vote?

What was the plan to combat poverty? By giving them the chance to form unions and bargain for better wages. How could they ensure pay equity between blacks and whites? Through strong labor agreements that ensured, regardless of the color of their skin, all workers were paid equally for doing the same job.

It is all connected and Dr. King understood better than anyone else.

Now, we have a President-Elect and a Congress that wants to take us back to the 1950s. Together they are working to roll back voting rights, making it harder for people to vote, specifically low-income people of color.

They want to roll back workers rights, making it harder for them to form unions. They push anti-union legislation to repeal workers rights to collectively bargain for wages and benefits. They continue to oppose raising the minimum wage, forcing millions of Americans to work two or three jobs just to survive.

They want to undue all of the progress we have made since Dr. King.

In a few days our nation will inaugurate President Trump, who was whole-heartedly supported by white nationalists and the Ku Klux Klan. The same people that Dr. King fought against before the civil rights revolution of the 1960s.

President-elect Trump wants to re-establish legal discrimination but not solely on the color of their skin but by the religion they choose to believe in because it is different than theirs.

Trump campaigned on the idea of creating a Muslim registry to identify all of the Muslims living in the United States, regardless of their citizenship.   Hitler did the same thing to the Jews in Europe before putting them into concentration camps. Our own government did the same thing to the Japanese-Americans, before placing them in camps after Pearl Harbor was attacked.

These nationalist hate groups want to do the same thing to the Muslims. History shows us that it all began with a registry.

We are in for some very dark days ahead. The attacks on workers have already begun. The attacks on people of color are still ongoing and getting worse as Trump’s administration takes shape.

As Dr. King once said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Some of you have seen this hatred before. Some of you may even have the scars to prove it. George Santayana once said, “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.”

We must learn from the past, from the teachings of Dr. King and other civil rights activists.

Using the tools that Dr. King showed us over a half-century ago we will stand together, arm-in-arm and refused to be moved. We will fight, together as one, against the hatred and discrimination that is coming down the road.

As Dr. King said, “We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”

On National Coming Out Day, The Human Rights Campaign Endorses Carol Shea-Porter For Congress

hrclogo-withwords-1600x900_800_450Yesterday was the 28th anniversary of National Coming Out Day. “Every year on National Coming Out Day, we celebrate coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) or as an ally,” wrote the Human Rights Campaign.

“28 years ago, on the anniversary of the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, we first observed National Coming Out Day as a reminder that one of our most basic tools is the power of coming out. One out of every two Americans has someone close to them who is gay or lesbian. For transgender people, that number is only one in 10,” the HRC added.

One of those strong “allies” for the rights of the LGBTQ community has always been Former Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter.  This is why it was no surprise that on the 28th anniversary of National Coming Out Day, the Human Rights Campaign announced their endorsement of Shea-Porter for Congress.

Carol Shea-Porter has been a strong supporter of LGBTQ rights. In 2010, she led the fight to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” to end discrimination in our Armed Services. She was successful in this effort, rallying support in the House to finally repeal the discriminatory policy.   She signed the historic amicus brief asking the Supreme Court to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act. She was an original cosponsor on the Respect for Marriage Act, which would have repealed the Defense of Marriage Act and required states to honor same-sex marriages performed in other states for the purpose of administering state and federal benefits.

Her opponent has a shameful record.  Congressman Guinta voted to support the anti-equality DOMA law, voted to delay Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and voted against LGBT domestic violence protections. Mr. Guinta was also in attendance when the NHGOP voted against supporting marriage equality. 

Mr. Guinta received a “16 out of 100” on the HRC’s 114’th Congressional scorecard. Mr. Guinta voted against seven of the eight bills the HRC supported in the House. 

“I am so proud to once again earn this endorsement from the Human Rights Campaign. HRC is a respected and effective voice for equality in our great country, and I am thankful and honored to be endorsed by this wonderful organization,” said Shea-Porter.

Thanks to the landmark Supreme Court decision, Marriage Equality is the law in every state.  But did you know that a worker can be fired or evicted from their home because they are gay?  Many states lack anti-discrimination laws that protect LGBTQ Americans from being targeted by their employer or their landlord.

This is why we need Carol Shea-Porter back in Washington, to help pass the “Equality Act.” A bill to ensure that all LGBTQ Americans, in every state, share the same, strong anti-discrimination protections under the law.  By passing the Equality Act, Congress would automatically overturn North Carolina’s dreadful LGBTQ discrimination bill HB2.

“No one should be fired, evicted from their home, or denied services because of who they are or whom they love. All LGBTQ Americans deserve a fair chance to earn a living and provide for their families and this bill will help ensure that all employees are hired, fired or promoted based on their performances,” wrote the HRC.

Troubling The Ashes: A Tale Desegregation In Governor Wallace’s Alabama

Troubling the Ashes_CoverI just finished reading a wonderful new book, Troubling the Ashes, that highlights the Civil Rights Movement in the Deep South.  The fictional story follows the life of a white woman, Marley, and her family, living through the turbulent times of the 1960’s.

Marley’s husband Winston was offered a job as a football coach in the small town of Natasugla, Alabama. The town was still reeling from when the school was burned to the ground just two years prior. Curious about what happened to the school, the school principle, Hunter,  tells the story of how the school was burned down to prevent the black children from the nearby town of Tuskegee from being allowed to attend.

Hunter told them about the first day students from Tuskegee came to Natasugla. He told them of how the mob of segregationists beat a white photographer in the streets for supporting the integration all while the county sheriff watched.

Marley and Winston eventually decided to stay and raise their own children in Natasula. The next few years are filled with attacks, false accusations, and the KKK.  Marley, Winston and a growing group of “public school supporters” work together to lessen the racial tensions that erupted over the past few years always hoping that one day they would be gone forever.

Shirley Aaron, author of Troubling the Ashes, does a masterful job of weaving the fiction characters and historical events.  At times the book reads more like a historical autobiography than a work of fiction.

The release of this book could not be prudent as some have noted the eerie similarities between Governor George Wallace and Republican Presidential Candidate, Donald Trump.  While many political pundits on the right claim that racism and segregation ended with the passage of the Civil Rights Act, it is simply not true.

According to a new Pew Research Study, 61% of Americans believe that changes must be made in order to achieve racial equality.  It also reveals that black-white gaps in social and economic well-being persist across several measures. So how far have we come?

Shirley Aaron, author of Troubling the Ashes

Shirley Aaron, author of Troubling the Ashes

“Of course, we’ve seen many great changes since the turbulent 1960’s,” says Aaron. “But racism still lingers in closets, under beds, and inside the mind. Today, it just wears a different mask.”

With the current rise of the Black Lives Matter movement many Americans are learning that systemic racism still hinders blacks from getting a quality education, a good paying job, and that blacks are routinely targeted by law enforcement.

George Santayana once said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Troubling the Ashes is the prefect way to stop and look back to see how far we have come in the last fifty years only to see that there is more work to be done.

Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Is Wrong To Suggest We Reverse Transgender Protections

restroom-304986_1280On Wednesday, Republican candidate for Governor Frank Edelblut told the Concord Monitor that he would “reverse” the order that protects trans-people from discrimination, allowing them to use the bathroom that fits their gender identity.

“I don’t think we need the federal government dictating that type of policy to us,” said Edelblut, a first-term state representative from Wilton. “It’s a practical issue. I think that people should use the bathrooms that are associated with their physiological gender.”

Transgender issues have exploded as a national debate in recent months and New Hampshire has waded into the discussion. Attorney General Joe Foster recently signed onto a brief supporting the Obama administration’s guidelines on transgender student bathroom use.

The state doesn’t have a law on the books protecting transgender people from discrimination, but Gov. Maggie Hassan signed an executive order in June that bars such bias in state government.

Edelblut, locked in a Republican primary with three other candidates, didn’t say whether he would reverse that order.

Frank Edelblut is wrong, and here is why.

Every student deserves the right to receive an education in a safe and supportive environment. For years, school districts across our state have stepped-up to enact policies that ensure the safety, dignity and privacy for all students – transgender students included. And consistent with New Hampshire school policies, the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice recently issued guidelines to schools, colleges and universities across the nation on how the Obama Administration and the Courts are interpreting laws pertaining to gender.

According to a recent study, 87 percent of transgender students have been verbally bullied, while 53 percent have experienced physical violence. When students are afraid to go to school, they miss class and their grades suffer. Ultimately school performance drops and many may not graduate. The Department’s guidelines were issued to help ensure transgender students will have the opportunity to fully participate and succeed in school as is the case for non-transgender students.

“I know what it is like to be isolated because of who I am. While in high school, I was told that I could only use the restroom in the nurse’s office. This was inconvenient not only because the nurse’s office was across campus from many of my classes, but it was also locked much of the time. If I was late to class because I had to use the restroom I would be punished,” said Cayden O’Dea, a transgender student at UNH.

In February, the Portsmouth and Dover School Boards adopted rules governing transgender students’ access to restrooms and locker rooms and accommodations for students who need additional privacy. These policies were constructed with the input of both school administrators and students, allowing students to use restrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identities. These policies denounce the discrimination and violence often experienced by the transgender community and create safer spaces for all – challenging the old social norm of “let boys be boys and girls be girls.”

While high-profile people like Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox have brought newfound visibility to transgender issues, many transgender folks cannot lead open and visible lives for fear of discrimination and violence. Across the country, they are denied a place to live, employment, and access to public places and businesses simply because of who they are. Currently, 18 states and more than 200 municipalities provide fully inclusive nondiscrimination protections for LGBT individuals in employment, housing and public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Three states, including New Hampshire, have state-level protections protecting people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation – but not gender identity. The lack of state-wide protections here in New Hampshire for transgender youth, adults and families leaves them wide-open to be fired from their jobs, evicted from their homes, or refused service at restaurants or other public places – including public schools and universities – simply because of their identity. However, the City of Portsmouth has made efforts to include gender identity protections for its municipal employees, recognizing that fighting discrimination benefits the entire community. Additionally, Gov. Hassan recently issued an Executive Order prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity and expression in state employment.

“The Granite State takes pride in our independence and believes everyone should be free from discrimination. It is a step in the right direction as cities such as Portsmouth and Dover show support for equal protection under the law for transgender students,” said Devon Chaffee, Executive Director of the ACLU of NH. “Equal protection under the law is an investment in public welfare and ensures fair treatment for all, regardless of identity or gender expression.”

These policies need to be in all of our local school districts where we can cultivate the healthy development of our transgender and non-transgender children and teach them about our core family values of equality, freedom, and individuality – now that’s practical.

NH Breastfeeding Bill Passes Senate And House, But Barely Produces A Drop of Protections

The New Hampshire House strips away reasonable accommodations for pregnant and lactating mothers in the workplace, leaving women open to discrimination and termination.

Today, the NH House passed SB 488- establishing an advisory council on lactation, which included breastfeeding and pumping rights.  “I’m not sure why it took 3 years to pass so little.  The bill offers no protections for breastfeeding mothers and no enforcement mechanisms against discrimination.  I think this 3-years struggle in the legislature is indicative of what employees go through when requesting accommodations from their employers,”  said Kate Frederick of Intervale, NH.  Frederick and NH are currently #1 on google for “Fired for Breastfeeding.”   House Representative Amanda Bouldin knows first hand, how much controversial breastfeeding legislation can be.  She stood up to a few or her colleagues in the House and Senate who made nationally publicized comments against breastfeeding mothers and herself.   

Bouldin commented, “I hope that NH employers, both in the public and private sector, will take it upon themselves to provide reasonable accommodations to breastfeeding mothers regardless of what the law dictates.  If there are any state offices that have interfered with breastfeeding among their employees, management should remedy the issue immediately. A government that claims to exist for the welfare of the people shows its hypocrisy in preventing children from accessing their food.”

On Tuesday, April 12, 2016, NH House Commerce Committee passed an amendment to SB 488 – EEO for Pregnancy and Related Conditions Including Lactation, sponsored by Senator Martha Fuller-Clark (D-21).    

The house committee voted to put the bill on the consent calendar for a vote in the full House next week. The amendment establishes an Advisory Council to report on breastfeeding best practices and make recommendations for future legislation. All other provisions that previously passed both the full Senate and the House Commerce Committee did not pass. 

Senator Fuller Clark stated, “This was both a business and family friendly bill that supported equal employment opportunities for women staying in the workforce.   Taking care of our pregnant and lactating workers is vital to NH’s economy.  We need stronger language on the books with clear consequences for violations.  Those who voted against the accommodations provisions just did a disservice to NH’s economy.  NH runs the risk of having women and their families move to other states that currently provide better workplace accommodations.” 

state level preg and bf rights

 The reasonable accommodations sections  that didn’t pass included:  

  • Pregnancy: Being able to drink water during the usual course of the working day; Use of a stool to sit on if needed; more frequent bathroom breaks; physical accommodations, if needed.  
  • Lactation: Unpaid break time for lactation; appropriate space to express milk using a pump, or to go off site to pump or breastfeed, if adequate sanitary space not available.  

Numerous working mothers, advocacy organizations, legislators, medical professionals and business owners had testified in support of various amendments and met numerous times in work group sessions for the last three years on the need for these provisions to be legislated.   

House Representative Ed Butler serves on the House Commerce Committee and has been a leader in fighting for the bills passage.     “After  almost three years of considering the need for space and time accommodations for working mothers who are breastfeeding and need to express milk while working, the House Commerce Committee could only agree upon a further study committee.  To say that I am disappointed is an understatement.”    

Besides the bills bi-partisan sponsors, other legislators testified in support of the bills, including Reublican House Representatives Karen Umberger and Katherine Prudhomme-Obrien.  The only person who testified in opposition of any of the bills was Deputy House Majority Whip, Claire Rouillard, who stated on Tuesday before the House Commerce sub-committee work group session,  “NH’s doing great with breastfeeding, we don’t need this bill.”     

Even though the NH House Commerce Committee had all the information they needed to pass a strong bill, they couldn’t come to an agreement.  Issues and concerns were addressed with information provided regarding enforcement measures and current Federal laws.  This week the committee asked questions they had asked a year ago,  as if an agreement hadn’t been reached as evidenced in their 19-1 vote of ‘ought to pass’ last fall.  Why was SB 219 taken off the consent calendar and tabled?  House leadership submarined that effort at the last second, for reasons known only to them. I was disappointed with yesterday’s result, but perhaps next year will bring new leadership and a new opportunity, said House Representative Bart Fromuth, R, who also serves on the Commerce Committee. 

Senator Fuller Clark and House Representative Fromuth both tried to save the bills accommodations content by bringing forth amendments on Tuesday, but they were all voted down.  

Martha Fuller Clark and two momsPictured Above:  Senator Martha Fuller Clark attends a breastfeeding awareness event at the State House 

Advocates and some legislators aren’t happy that most of the provisions of the proposed bill were scuttled but, instead of letting the bill get killed, decided to support passage of the Advisory Council, the only provision that most agreed upon with a vote of 18 to 2.  Kary Jencks, a New Boston working mother and Executive Director of NH Citizens Alliance for Action has been the lead advocacy group coordinating communications amongst the others and has supported each bills strongest amendment.    

Breastfeeding AwarenessPictured Above:  Kary Jencks takes a knee to Stand with Women, alongside Senator Jeb Bradley, Senator Martha Fuller Clark, representatives from US Senator Shaheen and US Senator Ayotte’s offices and numerous other advocacy organizations and individuals.  

 


Please see Public Service Announcement Video – Breastfeeding Awareness Event at the NH State House

http://scottbarberfilm.com/big-latch-on

To learn more about SB 488 or to get help with requesting reasonable accommodations, go to The Rustik Baby Project at www.RustikEvents.com.   

Kate Frederick is the Founder of The Rustik Baby Project and President of the NH Breastfeeding Rights Coalition.  She was fired due to requesting accommodations for pregnancy and lactation when her infant was 2.5 months old.  Now a toddler, her son continues to breastfeed as recommended by the World Health Organization.  

 

Retired Gay Trooper: NH State Police ‘Rife’ With Gender Bias

Nancy West Photo

Carrie Nolet is pictured in her Chocorua home (Nancy West Photo)

Written by Nancy West of InDepthNH.Org

Carrie L. Nolet is suing New Hampshire State Police claiming she was twice passed over for promotion from lieutenant to captain because she is a woman and a lesbian.

During her 20 years in State Police, Nolet said she was subjected to sexual harassment in a “good-old-boy” culture that so severely intimidated her and other women that she still suffers from anxiety and depression two years after retiring in 2013.

During her entire career, “the New Hampshire State Police culture has been rife with pervasive incidents of gender bias and sexual harassment too numerous (for her) to recall every instance or every exact date,” Nolet wrote in the lawsuit filed in May in U.S. District Court in Concord.

Nolet, who lives in Chocorua, said she was also terrified that her colleagues would find out she is gay.

“There was a lot of derogatory talk about gay troopers,” Nolet said during interviews. “It’s not seen as something people can openly discuss. It was very stressful.”

Assistant Attorney General Rebecca Woodard filed the state’s response to the suit on Oct. 9 denying Nolet’s allegations. Beyond the court filing, Woodard said the state would have no comment.

Nolet described New Hampshire State Police as a male-dominated organization in which men commonly used language that belittled women, minorities and homosexuals.

“Male troopers called each other “P—-” to imply that they were not being tough enough and/or acting like women,” wrote Nolet, who is representing herself in the lawsuit.

“Other lewd and demeaning comments from both troopers and sergeants alike included emailed jokes,” Nolet wrote.

Nolet’s lawsuit claims she was passed over for captain by two men with less experience, education and training, including having no military leadership experience. They were promoted, she said, because they were friends with Col. Robert Quinn, commander of State Police.

One of the men retired soon after being promoted to captain, which boosted his retirement pay and opened the position again, Nolet said. The next man promoted to captain had less education, experience and training as well, Nolet said.

“Generally among the rank and file, the atmosphere is that it is unfair for everyone,” Nolet said. “Statistically, I intend to show it is more unfair for women.”

“No one is happy with the promotional process.”

Nolet cross-filed her discrimination complaint in 2013 with the state Human Rights Commission, and the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

In February, the EEOC notified Nolet of her “right to sue,” stating it didn’t have enough information to determine whether any laws had been violated. The EEOC required the lawsuit be filed within 90 days.

Assistant Attorney General Woodard responded to Nolet’s sexual harassment allegations in the suit by writing: “The Defendant is without personal knowledge or information sufficient to form a belief as to the truthfulness of the allegations in this paragraph and therefore they are denied.”

To the allegations of gender discrimination in employment, Woodard wrote: “To the extent facts are alleged, they are denied.”

Last week, Col. Quinn said he would get more information to respond to InDepthNH.org, but as of Nov. 1 hadn’t done so.

Hoping for support, Nolet said she sent a copy of her lawsuit to Gov. Maggie Hassan, but she hasn’t heard back from Hassan or anyone in the governor’s office.

InDepthNH.org requested an interview with Hassan, but she didn’t return phone messages. Her spokesman, William Hinkle, sent an email.

“All allegations of this nature are taken seriously and investigated thoroughly by the state. As this is an ongoing case at the federal level, I would refer you to the pleading or the New Hampshire Department of Justice, which is representing the Department of Safety in this case,” Hinkle wrote.

Anti-woman atmosphere

Vulgar conduct was rampant in State Police, Nolet said.

“When speaking about women in leadership within NHSP and women in high positions in politics, male troopers used the terms ‘b—-‘ and ‘C’ word,” Nolet wrote.

Nolet recalled one incident in which a male supervisor stared at her breasts while commenting that instead of having corrective eye surgery, she should have given him “something better to look at.”

She took that to mean she should have had breast augmentation surgery.

“I can remember even as a probationary trooper hearing stories about a woman being brought to tears in training by one firearms instructor,” Nolet said. It became an often-repeated joke, she said.

Comments were made that women were weak and didn’t belong on the job, she said.

“Certain guys didn’t want women on their shift because they didn’t think they could back them up,” Nolet said.

Military Background

Nolet, 48, a Berlin native, is also retired from the U.S. Army Reserves where she attained the rank of major.
After graduating from Berlin High School, Nolet went on to Worcester Polytechnic Institute on a four-year Army ROTC scholarship. At Worcester Polytechnic, she captained the field hockey and softball teams and was inducted into the sports hall of fame.

In 1989, Nolet was commissioned a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserves as a military police officer and was promoted to first lieutenant in 1992.

She deployed as Alpha Company Commander of the 368th Combat Heavy Engineer Battalion to the combat zone Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 where she commanded 135 soldiers for a year in a desert remote outpost.

Employment survey

Although Nolet found the male behavior insulting soon after joining New Hampshire State Police, she did not think she could avoid it because it was so deep a part of the culture, she said.

There was no way she could complain to supervisors, Nolet said, because they were engaged in the same kind of behavior.

A 2012 employment survey of all of State Police personnel showed Nolet’s concerns were on the minds of others as well, according to an email Col. Quinn sent to all State Police personnel. It provided an overview of the survey results.

The email, dated Feb. 23, 2013, was copied to Safety Commissioner John Barthelmes.

“I want to focus on the major topics sexual harassment, safety, morale, communications, promotions, discipline, working environment, training, equipment, etc.,” Quinn wrote, according to a copy of the email obtained by InDepthNH.org.

“I have identified many areas where I can make improvements and areas where I can do a better job,” Quinn wrote.

Reaction anticipated

“I filed suit primarily because I was tired of being passed over for promotion by less qualified men and seeing other women going through the same sort of ordeal,” Nolet said.

She wants the promotional system changed to be an objective, transparent and fair process, Nolet said.

Assistant Attorney General Woodard’s filing said Nolet failed to state a claim and failed to make a case for discrimination.

Woodard wrote that 15 female troopers have attained the rank of sergeant, four females have obtained the rank of lieutenant and one of those troopers attained the rank of captain, major and executive major.

That’s not enough, Nolet said.

Nolet said she expects a backlash, but believes she is doing the right thing.

She hopes to spare those still working the pain she has endured, Nolet said. Her lawsuit does seek damages as determined by a jury, but she said money is not the reason behind the lawsuit.

“It’s not about money,” Nolet said. “I just want (the discrimination) to stop.”

Suddenly Sen Ayotte Supports Working Pregnant Women But What About All Working Moms?

It is official Governor Maggie Hassan announced she is challenging Senator Kelly Ayotte for her seat in the US Senate. Let the games begin!

Senator Ayotte is coming out swinging with her first online ad entitled “Workplace Fairness,” that focuses on her new legislative proposal, co-sponsored by Senator Shaheen, which would help to end workplace discrimination for pregnant women.

I don’t say this often but I actually agree with Sen. Ayotte that something needs to be done to protect pregnant workers from workplace discrimination and provide pregnant women alternative work during their pregnancy, however I have been pushing for this type of legislation for years now.

Senators Shaheen and Ayotte introduced this legislative in June of this year after the Supreme Court ruled that UPS discriminated against Peggy Young by not offering her light duty work after her doctor instructed her not to lift heavy things due to her pregnancy.

Here is the kicker, this new legislation is actually old legislation submitted in a new legislative term. The bill, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, was actually submitted in September of 2012 and again in May of 2013.

In her new video, Sen Ayotte fails to mention that she refused to support the very same bill not once but twice when it was previously introduced since Ayotte has been in Washington.

Why the change of heart? What is different about this bill now?

It is not so much that the bill has changed it is that Sen. Ayotte is facing a strong progressive candidate in Maggie Hassan.

Suddenly as the campaign ramps up Sen. Ayotte supports the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, but what happens after that expectant mother delivers her baby?

Sen Ayotte has repeatedly said that paid sick leave is “an issue that should be addressed by employers rather than mandated by the government.”

What is the difference between supporting pregnant women in the workplace and supporting parents in the workplace? If you support Pregnancy Fairness why not paid sick leave.

Ayotte did introduce her own paid leave bill with Mitch McConnell earlier this year, but her bill was nothing but an election year stunt that would force workers to choose between overtime pay and leave time.

Let us not forget that Sen. Ayotte has a terrible record supporting women and women’s health.

  • Ayotte opposes the paycheck fairness act
  • Ayotte supports repealing the Affordable Care Act which made it law that new mothers have the right to pump breast milk at work in a safe place, and that employers cannot fire or discriminate against nursing moms.
  • Ayotte supports the misguided Hobby Lobby decision.
  • Ayotte has voted multiple times to allow employers to deny women access to contraception.
  • Ayotte introduced a sham birth control bill that would increase costs for women and is opposed by the American Congress of OB-GYNs.
  • Ayotte has voted repeatedly to defund Planned Parenthood and other family planning centers, which provide critical health services including breast exams.

I don’t have to tell you – but I am going to anyway – Senator Ayotte’s new challenger, Governor Hassan, has been a staunch supporter of working women and women’s health.

Hassan signed into law a Paycheck Fairness bill, expanded Medicaid to give more Granite Staters access to quality healthcare, and in her first term worked to restore the devastating cuts to Planned Parenthood.

Gov. Hassan continues to fight the Republican led Executive Council’s cuts to Planned Parenthood in New Hampshire.

“The council’s vote to defund Planned Parenthood will hurt the health and economic well-being of thousands of Granite Staters. Moving forward, I will continue to fight to ensure that women and families have access to the important health services that are essential to the economic security and vitality of our families,” said Hassan.

Despite what Sen. Ayotte is saying in her poll-tested advertising, she is not the champion for women she claims to be. She is the same old partisan hack who has fueled the continued gridlock in Washington.

Kuster Helps Introduce Equality Act to Prevent Discrimination Against LGBT Individuals

Kuster Helped Announce the Legislation at a Press Conference on Capitol Hill Today

Kuster Helped Announce the Legislation at a Press Conference on Capitol Hill Today

Washington, DC – This morning, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) joined with 155 of her colleagues to introduce the Equality Act, a bill to ban discrimination against LGBT individuals in arenas such as housing, employment, federal funding, education, credit, and jury service. Congresswoman Kuster has long pushed for equal rights legislation to protect LGBT Americans, and today’s legislation would help our country take an important step forward towards protecting their rights. 

“No one should be discriminated against simply because of whom they love,” said Congresswoman Annie Kuster. “Our country was founded on principles of equality and justice for all, and these principles apply to every American. That’s why I was proud to help introduce the Equality Act today, which would ban discrimination against LGBT individuals and help protect their rights as American citizens. I urge my colleagues from both sides of the aisle to join together and support this legislation that is so crucial for preserving equal rights for all.”

The Equality Act will amend the Civil Rights Act to illegalize discrimination against individuals because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. It was introduced today by 156 members, including lead sponsors Congressman David Cicilline (RI-01) and Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR). At a press conference today the cosponsors of the bill, including Congresswoman Kuster, highlighted the importance of eliminating discrimination against LGBT individuals across the board in every aspect of their lives. 

Congresswoman Kuster has long advocated in favor of equal rights for every American. Earlier this year, she joined with over 200 of her colleagues in Congress to submit an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to rule in favor of marriage equality for LGBT individuals, and in 2012 she signed a similar amicus brief advocating for the Court to overturn the prejudicial Defense of Marriage Act in order to force the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages as legal. Kuster is a member of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, an organization dedicated to promoting equal protection under the law for LGBT Americans. She has also cosponsored the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), and she has long been committed to passing legislation to ensure that employees cannot be discriminated against in the workplace because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Labor Praises The Supreme Court’s Marriage Equality Decision And Recognizes That There Is More To Be Done

Gay-Couple-from-back-Holding-Hands Square

For over thirty years organized labor and the LGBT have been walking hand-in-hand to push for equality.

Last year I wrote a labor history story called “Labor of Love: How The American Labor Movement Is Securing LBGT Equality” which focused on the role that labor unions played in pushing for equality.

“The UAW was the first union to get same sex couple benefits into labor contract,” said Roland Leggett, the Michigan State Director for Working America.  After the UAW successfully got domestic partner benefits into their contracts in 1982, more and more Fortune 500 companies started to adopt similar policies.  By 2006, 49% of all Fortune 500 companies offered domestic partner benefits.

As you are already well aware, the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage is legal in all 50 states. This ruling will force states like Texas, to accept and recognize all marriages.

Labor unions from across the country applauded this decision and reminded us of their role in helping to make the dream of equality, a reality.

“Today’s Supreme Court decision marks a truly historic day in America. While there is still work to do to secure economic and social justice for LGBT Americans, the court’s ruling is a major victory for everyone who believes in equality,” said AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler. “Same-sex couples will now have equal access to marriage licenses like any other couple. This ruling is a win for children, families, workers and our entire country.”

“The United Steelworkers applaud the court for upholding the 14th Amendment of the U.S Constitution, which guarantees equal protection under the law,” said The United Steelworkers (USW) International President Leo W. Gerard and International Vice President Fred Redmond. “This is a historic day, and we are proud especially for our LGBT members. This victory confirms the principles of our union that regardless of the color of a person’s skin, regardless of religion or nationality, and no matter who a person loves, discrimination has no place in our union or in our society.”

“Today is a momentous day. Together as a nation we took a dramatic step toward the ideals of equality and freedom. Today, brave Americans who were unafraid to stand up and organize for their basic rights proved once again the arc of history is long but it bends toward justice,” stated Lee Saunders, President of the American Federation of County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

“AFGE applauds today’s Supreme Court ruling declaring that same-sex couples across the country have a Constitutional right to marry,” said American Federation of Government Employees National Vice President for Women and Fair Practices Augusta Y. Thomas. “This was the right decision for the country and the right decision for everyone who believes in the principles of fairness, equality, and basic human dignity.

“As the largest union representing federal and D.C. government employees, AFGE represents people across the social and political spectrum, including many LGBT members. Just two weeks ago, AFGE was proud to march for the first time in the 2015 Capital Pride Parade – the only labor union to participate. For years, our AFGE Pride Program has been working toward fair treatment and equality for LGBT employees in the government workplace,” concluded Thomas.

The National Education Association and its 22 state-level affiliates, were a part of a broad-based labor coalition with the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) and Change to Win, filed an amicus brief, arguing that state discrimination against same sex couples deprives such couples of an array of economic benefits and legal rights, and deprives them and their children of fundamental dignity, benefits and rights that other couples and their families enjoy.

“Today the Supreme Court has taken a monumental step forward in our national journey toward a more perfect union by making marriage equality the law in every state of our great nation,” said National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García. “On behalf of our members—and the students they serve—we applaud the court’s historic decision, which will end discrimination against same sex couples, place them on equal footing with other families and safeguard all of our children.”

“We know that today’s ruling will make a tremendous difference both to the dignity and personal and economic well-being of same sex families and to the dignity and personal well-being of their children as well as others who have been bullied and fearful due to their sexual identity. We applaud the Supreme Court and the many advocates whose work resulted in today’s historic decision,” concluded Eskelsen García.

For some this decision hit very close to home. Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers is also one of the few openly gay, national union leaders.

“From Loving to Windsor to today, love has won. As people start seeing one another’s real aspirations and dreams for all our families and our communities, as well as for ourselves, we see that the arc of history does bend toward justice,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten.

“And while this is a day of celebration, there is more work to do in our fight for full equality. As a gay woman and union leader, I know that I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for my union—an ally in the struggle for rights and a shield from unfair discrimination in the workplace,” said Weingarten.

The freedom to marry does not mean that the LGBT community has reached full equality. The persecution and discrimination of LGBT members still runs rampant in many parts of our great nation.

While I celebrated this decision, in solidarity with the dozens of my personal friends and family who are gay, I know that we still have a long way to go. The suicide rate of LBGT teens is almost 30% higher than non-LGBT teens. This is in large part to the persecution and bullying that LGBT teens must endure as they grow and find themselves. Most states have protections from bullying based on race or ethnicity, but very few have protections for the LGBT members.

We also have work to do to ensure that LGBT workers cannot be discriminated against in applying for a job, and cannot be arbitrarily fired just for being gay. Unfortunately too few states have protections for LGBT members from workplace discrimination.

“From talking with LGBT members throughout the country, I know the importance of ensuring that there are comprehensive federal nondiscrimination protections in place. Without these protections, same-sex couples who have the right to marry in their home state will still be at risk of being fired from their jobs or evicted from their apartments based simply on who they are. We will continue the fight forward,” concluded Weingarten.

 

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