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Democratic Senators Demand Answers To Policy Changes To Civil Rights Protections In The Dept of Education

Shaheen, Hassan Join Senate Democrats to Call Out Secretary DeVos for Harmful Actions on Civil Rights Protections, Enforcement 

Betsy DeVos
Image by Gage Skidmore Feb 2017

Senators highlight numerous steps taken by Secretary DeVos to roll back civil rights enforcement and protections for students 

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) joined 33 Senators today in sending a letter to Secretary DeVos citing major concerns with steps the U.S. Department of Education has taken under her leadership to diminish civil rights enforcement for students across the country. The Senators highlight a number of alarming steps Secretary DeVos has taken, including hosting events with anti-LGBTQ hate groups, proposing to slash the budget of the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), and scaling back OCR’s civil rights enforcements, among others.

Your testimony in front of Congress, your continued association with groups with records of supporting discrimination, and two memos written by the Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, have reemphasized longstanding concerns about your dedication to the idea that all students, no matter their race, religion, disability, country of origin, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity, have a right to receive an education free from discrimination,” wrote the Senators.

In the letter the Senators continued to press DeVos on her failure to protect transgender students.

“We are also extremely disappointed in the Department’s failure to take actions to protect transgender students.  More than a third of transgender students report being the subject of harassment or bullying in school,[5] sixty percent of transgender youth report being forced to use bathrooms inconsistent with their gender identity,[6] and half of transgender children have seriously contemplated suicide.[7] Despite these shocking statistics, on February 22, 2017, the Department withdrew joint guidance on transgender students’ rights under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (“Title IX”).

On March 10, six Senators wrote you expressing outrage at that decision and asking how you intend to enforce civil rights protections for transgender students. While you have not yet answered that letter, recent steps by the Department suggest you will not act to protect transgender students. In fact, the Department has already abandoned its defense of some students who have experienced discrimination or harassment by dismissing or closing at least two cases involving transgender students and withdrawing previous findings of discrimination against the school districts.[8] ” 

The Senators are also demanding answers to open cases and policy changes within the Department of Education.

In order to fully understand the impact of recent policy and civil rights investigatory and enforcement changes at the Department and the Office of Civil Rights, please provide the following information and documents by July 11, 2017:

  • A list of all open OCR cases involving a transgender student as of January 30, 2017, disaggregated by the nature of the complaint, and the current status of each of these cases.
  • A list of all open OCR cases involving sexual assault or sexual harassment as of January 30, 2017 and the current status of those cases.
  • A list of all cases OCR has closed or dismissed between January 1, 2017, and today, and the specific reason each case was closed.
  • A complete, un-redacted copy of the manual used by investigators.
  • An explanation of how the Department intends to ensure that OCR investigators are making determinations about transgender students’ rights based on binding legal precedent in their region. 
  • An answer as to whether the Department will continue to post all resolution agreements online.
  • Any and all memoranda, analyses, or other communications discussing the rationale for, and impact of, policy changes affecting civil rights enforcement by the Department.
  • Any and all memoranda, analyses, or other communications discussing the rationale for, and impact of, proposed budget cuts in OCR.
  • A list of all metrics that will be used by the Department to assess effectiveness of civil rights enforcement.

There is no more serious responsibility of the Department than to ensure consistent, vigorous enforcement of civil rights laws and protections for all students.”

Due to the disturbing actions of the U.S. Department of Education and other agencies, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has opened a multi-agency investigation into whether the Trump Administration’s proposed budgets, staffing cuts, and policy priorities have increased the risk of discrimination.

The full letter is attached below.

062717 - Betsy DeVos ED Office of Civil Rights (OCR)

End Child Abuse In The Name Of “Therapy”

‘The Plight of the Transgender’
Image by Rose Morelli, www.facebook.com/Rosemorelliphotography

This coming week the New Hampshire State Senate will debate and ultimately vote on a bill to prohibit “conversion therapy” to change a person’s gender presentation or identity for children under 18.

New Hampshire looks to join the five states and the District of Columbia that have already banned conversion therapy on minors.

“No child should be told that they are not equal, not worthy, or should somehow conform to be like everybody else. That is the antithesis of freedom and human dignity,” said Senator Fuller Clark, prime sponsor of SB 224.

“Conversion therapy is a dangerous and discredited practice that is aimed at young people in order to change their sexual orientation or gender identity. This harmful practice uses shame, rejection, and psychological abuse and can lead to depression, decreased self-esteem, substance abuse, and even suicide,” the Senator added.

“It is not therapy but child abuse that can lead to suicide; and should be illegal,” said Mo Baxley, Former Executive Director of New Hampshire Freedom To Marry.

Conversion therapy is highly controversial due to the unproven tactics and the fact it has continually been deemed as ineffective.

“Research suggests the treatment can worsen feelings of self-hatred and anxiety, because it encourages people to fight or hate a sexual orientation that can’t be changed [5 Surprising Facts About Gay Conversion Therapy],” wrote Tia Ghose for LiveScience.

Ghose goes on to describe the practice of conversion therapy as “a method reminiscent of the one used in ‘A Clockwork Orange.’ In aversion therapy, gay people were exposed to a negative stimulus (such as being shocked, given nausea drugs or imagining such exposures) while viewing same-sex erotic material.”

Conversion Therapy has not been proven to “convert” people but is actually harmful to “patients.”

American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry wrote in their 2012 study, Practice Parameter on Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual Orientation, Gender Nonconformity, and Gender Discordance in Children and Adolescents:

“Clinicians should be aware that there is no evidence that sexual orientation can be altered through therapy, and that attempts to do so may be harmful. There is no empirical evidence adult homosexuality can be prevented if gender nonconforming children are influenced to be more gender conforming. Indeed, there is no medically valid basis for attempting to prevent homosexuality, which is not an illness. On the contrary, such efforts may encourage family rejection and undermine self-esteem, connectedness and caring, important protective factors against suicidal ideation and attempts. Given that there is no evidence that efforts to alter sexual orientation are effective, beneficial or necessary, and the possibility that they carry the risk of significant harm, such interventions are contraindicated.”

“There is no published scientific evidence supporting the efficacy of “reparative therapy” as a treatment to change one’s sexual orientation,” stated the American Psychiatric Association in a 1997 study. They go on to say, “The potential risks of “reparative therapy” are great and include depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior, since therapist alignment with societal prejudices against homosexuality may reinforce self-hatred already experienced by the patient.”

The Human Rights Coalition cites at least a dozen other organizations that show “conversion” or “reparative” therapy does not work and can cause more harm to young adults.

“People who have gone through conversion therapy face 8.9 times the rates of suicide ideation, face depression at 5.9 times the rate of their peers and are three times more likely to use illegal drugs and be at high risk for sexually transmitted infections,” wrote Zach Stafford in the Guardian.

It is time to end this inhumane practice, especially on children. This bill will be heard in the NH Senate this Thursday, Feb 23rd. Contact your State Senator and tell them you want them to support SB 224, a ban on conversion therapy in NH.

Join The Fight Against Transgender Discrimination, Tell Your Reps To Support HB478

We all know that it is illegal to discriminate against someone because of their race or the color of their skin, but did you know that because of weak discrimination laws there are no real protections for those who are transgendered.

This means that a transgendered person can be fired from their job, denied an apartment or denied service in a restaurant, and otherwise discriminate against them simply because of who they are.

“Findings from a 2011 study by NCTE and the Task Force show that 63% of transgender participants had experienced a “serious act of discrimination”—events like a lost job, eviction, homelessness, and assault that drastically impede one’s ability to sustain themselves financially or emotionally” stated Freedom New Hampshire.

This is unacceptable!

“Everyone should be treated fairly and equally under the law,” State Rep. Ed Butler, D-Harts Location, said. “By updating our civil rights laws to protect transgender individuals from discrimination, we will be saying that New Hampshire is an open and welcoming place for everyone.”

“There are thousands of transgender individuals in New Hampshire whose lives will be positively impacted by this bill,” said Gerri Cannon, a transgender community leader and Granite Stater. “No one should be turned away from a public business, kicked out of their home or be fired from a job simply because of who they are.”

The NH Labor News, the ACLU of NH, New Hampshire Freedom to Marry, and Freedom New Hampshire are encouraging everyone to contact your State Legislators and ask them to support HB 478, “An Act to Prohibit Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity.”

This bill will update and strengthen New Hampshire’s nondiscrimination laws —which currently protect people from discrimination at work, in housing, and in places open to the public— to include people who are transgendered. Law enforcement and public safety officials agree that protecting transgender individuals from discrimination is critical to ensuring everyone can live their lives safely.

“As Chief of the Dover Police Department and a member of law enforcement for over 31 years, I know our communities are safer when everyone is treated fairly and equally under the law and that includes transgender people,” said Chief Anthony Colarusso. “This group is actually disproportionately targeted for harassment and assault. However, in places where legal protections are in place, rates of violence against transgender individuals go down with no uptick in public safety incidents. Transgender equality and equal treatment for all is ultimately about building stronger communities for everyone.”

“We are united in our belief that fairness and equality are important to all of us,” JeanMarie Gossard, Freedom New Hampshire’s campaign manager, added. “Freedom New Hampshire is thrilled to be working with a broad coalition of business, faith and civic leaders, and people across the political spectrum, to support this important measure.”


Please visit www.freedomnewhampshire.org for information on how you can help secure these important protections for transgender Granite Staters.

Mark Dobbins: I’m Not Ready To Make Nice

As I sat down this week to write my first column, I wanted to make nice, I really did. In the wake of the disastrous first weeks of the Trump administration, conservatives across the political spectrum called for unity, saying “Give Trump a chance.” I was going write about how we can bridge the ever-growing divide that is tearing our nation apart. It was even going to be intersectional.

I had planned on listing what I, as a “big city liberal,” believed. I’m from Philadelphia, a predominantly Democratic city on the East Coast. We don’t always agree. Like most Democrats, we argue. But there are some things we do all agree on. Good paying jobs that let families do more than just survive. Not choosing between medicine for our children and paying the rent. An educational system that works. LGBTQ rights that let us live our lives without fear or prejudice. Police who don’t murder people of color and get away with it. Strong unions. Politicians that don’t pat us on the head while picking our pockets. We want to be happy. We’re not asking for special privileges – just the basic rights of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” we all learned about in school. That’s what I was going to write about.

Then I started covering the protests that swept Philadelphia and realized that the time for kumbaya was over.

Image by Mark Dobbins

I heard mothers tell me how, for the first time, they were afraid for their children. That a madman now controlled the White House, and instead of spending his time fixing our problems, takes to Twitter to call people names. Who hangs up on world leaders. Who tweets every time someone dares to disagree with him. Who needs a timeout.

I heard people of color tell me that this wasn’t new to them. America has always been and still is a racist country. It’s just come out of the closet for everyone to see. And now it’s respectable for white supremacists to sit next to the President of the United States without shame and whisper sweet nothings into his ear.

I heard my LGBTQ friends tell me how fear for their lives. Just a few years after we got the right to marry each other, we suddenly are afraid to hold hands in public. In Philadelphia.

Image by Mark Dobbins

I heard transgender individuals tell me how their friends are being murdered – daily – across this country, and how they wonder if they’ll be next.

I heard fear. But I also heard resistance.

I saw the crowds marching in the bitter cold to shut down the streets. The words they shouted differed from day to day, but the sentiment was the same – we will fight back. We will not allow this to happen – again. That our voices will be heard. That this isn’t the America we believed in – and that we want our country back.

In the upcoming months, I’ll be writing about those voices, and how they’re fighting. As a journalist, it isn’t my job to make people comfortable or happy, but to speak the truth. My columns may make you angry. Good. I hope that they do. I probably will poke a few hornets’ nests. I may get stung. I may sting. But I’ll always be honest with you.

All I ask is that you listen. Because, like the song goes, “I’m not ready to make nice.”

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.

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