Monday, September 16, 2013

It’s a Noun! It’s a Verb! It’s … GLAD Answers!

Post by Laura Kiritsy

Earlier this month we unveiled GLAD Answers, a reboot of our Legal Info Line, the information and referral service GLAD has run since the organization was founded. After 35 years, it was time to freshen things up a bit. Given that these days many people contact us by email and live chat, the idea of an “Info Line,” which conjures up a telephone in the minds of most, seemed a bit outdated. The name GLAD Answers better encapsulates what this service does: no matter how you get in touch with us, if you’ve got questions we’ve got answers.

Personally, I love the clever construction of GLAD Answers. As Carisa Cunningham, our director of public affairs and education is fond of saying, “It’s a noun! It’s a verb!”

Along with the snappy new name and this awesome new logo, 

we’ve added some other new features that will enable us to help more people throughout New England who have questions or concerns about their legal rights as LGBT people :
·         A dedicated URL,
·         An enhanced live chat function
·         A new, direct email address:
·         Use of an interpretation service for non-English speakers

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Power of Perseverance: a Black Gay Man Reflects on the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington

David Wilson in front of the
Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in DC
Fifty years ago I felt like I was living in two countries, two communities, two neighborhoods; among two distinct races and cultures, but in one class of poverty. I was born in an all- black housing project, but my parents thought opportunities would be better in an all-white housing project so we moved from the South End to Roslindale when I was five years old.  My parents, both Pennsylvania transplants, worked as domestics for white families west of Route 128, a secret I held closely because of shame, guilt and pride.

The message to this only child was keep your head down, fit in, get along, study hard, go to college, get a good job, marry, have children and you’ll be equal. During those formative years in this predominantly white environment, I felt pretty equal to my peers, attending school, playing sports, and accepting invitations to hang out with friends after school. We were all poor and living on some form of government assistance.

Our family moved to Dorchester when I was 16 so I could meet other black kids and experience black culture. My mother was hopeful that I’d date black girls and attend church on a more regular basis. For the first time in my life I felt un-equal. The clothes, shoes, music, cars were not the same as in my old neighborhood, and for the first time in my life class differences and cultural differences were very evident. Neighborhood and racial disparities were reflected in our stores, food choices, streets, and city services that I had taken for granted in my old neighborhood but now understood were absent in my black neighborhood.

At the same time, my brothers and sisters south of the Mason-Dixon line not only lived in segregated, marginalized neighborhoods like I did, they suffered under local, state and federal Jim Crow laws that prohibited equal access to housing, employment, education, full citizenship and basic human rights.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

El matrimonio civil es muy importante para la comunidad latina, en particular con asuntos de immigracion y el seguro social

Después de la victoria en el caso Estados Unidos v. Windsor en la Corte Suprema al derribar la discriminatoria Ley en Defensa del Matrimonio (Defense of Marriage Act [DOMA]) GLAD junto con otras 10 organizaciones trabajando por la comunidad LGBT, emitió conjuntamente una serie de hojas informativas para proporcionar orientación a las parejas del mismo sexo y sus familias que intentan acceder los derechos, beneficios y protecciones federales.

“Después de DOMA: Lo que significa para tí" Una Serie de Materiales Informativos de Organizaciones LGBT describe las diferentes maneras como las agencias federales determinan la validez de los matrimonios de parejas del mismo sexo. Se encuentran los siguentes temas entre los materiales informativas disponibles en Español: la inmigración, los impuestos federales, los beneficios por el empleo privado, Medicaid, Seguro Social, Asistencia Temporal para Familias Necesitadas (TANF, por sus siglas en inglés) y una hoja introductoria.La guía incluye materiales adicionales en inglés sobre los siguientes temas: Bancarrota, Solicitud Gratuita de Ayuda Federal para Estudiantes (FAFSA), beneficios para los Empleados Federales, Ley de Ausencia Familiar y Médica, Medicare, beneficios de la Militar para cónyuges, , Seguridad de Ingreso Suplementario, y beneficios de veteranos para cónyuges.

Hay más de 1,100 puntos en la ley federal en donde acceso a una protección o responsabilidad depende del estado civil de la pareja. Las agencias federales —burocracias grandes—pueden necesitar tiempo para cambiar las formas, implementar los procedimientos, capacitar al personal e incorporar eficázmente a las parejas del mismo sexo en el systema conyugal.

Hasta que las parejas del mismo sexo puedan casarse en todos los estados de la nación, habrá incertidumbre sobre el grado en que los cónyuges del mismo sexo recibirán protecciones civiles federales en todo el país. Para los programas federales que evalúan el estado civil de los matrimonios con base en las leyes de los estados que no respetan los matrimonios de parejas del mismo sexo, esas leyes estatales probablemente plantearan obstáculos para las parejas casadas legalmente y cónyuges sobrevivientes cuando intenten acceder a las protecciones y respondabilidades federales.

Las hojas intentan proporcionar información general sobre los principales aspectos de los derechos y protecciones federales basados en el matrimonio . Antes de tomar una decisión, es esencial que las parejas del mismo sexo consulten con un abogado para recibir asesoría legal individualizada. Las personas deben tomar decisiones cuidadosamente sobre cuándo y dónde casarse, mientras trabajamos juntos para poner fin a esta injusticia. 

Las hojas son creadas por: American Civil Liberties Union, Center for American Progress, Family Equality Council, Freedom to Marry, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, Human Rights Campaign, Immigration Equality, Lambda Legal, National Center for Lesbian Rights, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and OutServe-SLDN.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Fighting For Our Next Generation at the Massachusetts State House

By: Allison Wright 
Tuesday was a momentous day for unaccompanied homeless LGBTQ and HIV positive youth in Massachusetts. As I finagled my way to a corner of an over-crowded and sweltering room located in the basement of the State House, where over 50 people waited to offer testimony for one of the 15 bills listed, I was pleased to see many familiar faces.

Youth workers from Youth on Fire and Boston GLASS waited patiently in the back of the hearing room fanning themselves in an attempt to deal with the almost unbearable heat. Current and formerly homeless LGBTQ youth I’ve worked with at BAGLY or spoken with during my many trips to Boston GLASS slowly began to creep their way through the masses.

We were all there for the same reason – to show our support for “An Act Providing Housing and Supportive Services for Unaccompanied Homeless Youth.”

“An Act Providing Housing and Supportive Services for Unaccompanied Homeless Youth” is a key step to improving housing and residential stability, reducing the risk of harm and improving educational, physical and mental health outcomes for unaccompanied homeless youth.

With recent reports suggesting that up to 40% of unaccompanied homeless youth in the United States identify as LGBT, this bill will particularly benefit unaccompanied homeless LGBTQ youth in Massachusetts.
The lack of youth-specific resources in Massachusetts is alarming. As one youth testified, “there is only 1 shower for 16 guests” at Bridge Over Troubled Waters – one of the few youth specific shelters in Massachusetts.

Youth, particularly LGBTQ youth, avoid adult shelters due to fear of violence, harassment, and lack competency on LGBTQ issues. As a result, youth opt to sleep on the street and resort to survival crimes, exposing them to increased violence, incarceration, and HIV transmission.

Homelessness has also been linked to school drop-out rates. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education estimates that nearly 6,000 high school students are experiencing homelessness and are out on their own.

The need for greater resources for LGBTQ youth in the out-of-home care setting as well as stronger anti-bullying laws for LGBTQ students are two of the many priorities for GLAD’s Youth Initiative Project.
On May 30, Senior Staff Attorney and leader of GLAD’s Youth Initiative, Vickie Henry, testified in support of “An Act Relative to Bullying in Schools.” The proposed legislation would make much needed improvements to the state’s anti-bullying law by adding important provisions for enumerating protected classes - including LGBTQ students; for tracking and reporting bullying behavior; and for conducting a student school climate survey.

Bullying harms academic performance and, sometimes, leads to the ending of a young life. Through GLAD’s extensive outreach in the LGBTQ and HIV positive youth community, we have heard the stories of numerous students who report being bullied because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or gender expression.

GLAD joins in supporting the passage of “An Act Providing Housing and Support Services for Unaccompanied Homeless Youth” and “An Act Relative to Bullying in Schools.”  Both bills will greatly improve the everyday lives our next generation.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

If it ain’t broke…

Yesterday, GLAD attorney Ben Klein testified at the State House in favor of “An Act relative to abusive practices to change sexual orientation and gender identity in minors,” legislation to outlaw so-called “reparative therapy” – the dangerous and discredited practice which purports to change people from gay to straight and transgender to non-transgender – for people under the age of 18.

“So-called conversion therapy is a disgraceful chapter in our society’s mistreatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people,” Ben told members of the Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities. “It’s been proven ineffective, it defies modern medicine, and it inflicts serious psychological harm on young people.”

Sponsored by state Rep. Carl Sciortino, an openly gay legislator, the bill prevents healthcare professionals licensed in Massachusetts from using “reparative therapy” techniques on young people. GLAD is among a coalition of LGBT, mental health and child welfare organizations supporting the legislation.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Day DOMA Died

It’s not every day you get to stand at the foot of the marble stairs (quarried from Vermont!) of the U.S. Supreme Court on the day a blockbuster decision related to LGBT rights is handed down. But there I was in the sweltering heat at about 8:00 a.m. yesterday, waiting on two decisions. Though rulings in the Windsor DOMA case and the Perry Prop. 8 case were at least two hours from being handed down, the media was already out in full force, with dozing cameramen seated in folding beach chairs, all shaded by umbrellas. The line of folks hoping to get inside for a front row seat to history was already growing.

GLAD Civil Rights Project Director
Mary L. Bonauto arriving at the Court 
It wasn’t long before I caught up with my colleague Mary Bonauto, who laid so much of the foundation on which the Windsor victory was built, as Justin Peters described so well in this piece on Slate yesterday.  As the sun rose higher over the courthouse, we continually moved around in a mostly useless attempt to keep cool.
But soon there was nowhere left to move, as the sidewalk by the court was quickly clogged with LGBT people and allies from around the country, singing and chanting and keeping their hopes high. I was surprised there wasn’t a more visible presence of people who oppose LGBT rights. Maybe they were all in a bunker somewhere, bracing themselves for the end of the world. I did glimpse Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage strolling along the edge of the crowd, where no one seemed to notice him. He was still smiling at that point, but I’m guessing his day went a little south after the big news got out.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Most Important Thing

Kelly, Nicole, Jonas and Wayne Maines, with GLAD attorneys Jennifer Levi and
Ben Klein, outside the Maine Law Court after oral argument June 12, 2013
“I hope [the justices] understand how important it is for students to be able to go to school and get an education, have fun, make friends and not have to worry about being bullied by students or the administration and to be accepted for who they are. That’s the most important thing.” - Nicole Maines
Not long into yesterday’s Maine Supreme Court arguments in our case Doe v. Clenchy, our client Nicole Maines leaned in a little closer to her mother, bringing her head to rest on Kelly Maines’ shoulder. 

It’s good to have a supportive and loving parent around when things get tough, and listening to a cadre of lawyers and judges debating the difficult, discriminatory experiences of your life and your rights as a transgender girl can make for a tough day for a 15-year-old. Her dad Wayne and her twin brother Jonas were also by her side at the arguments.

The family has stuck together and supported each other through the stress of more than four years of legal proceedings and media attention related to the discrimination Nicole experienced as a 5th grader at her Orono middle school, where administrators rescinded her access to the girls’ restroom after a male classmate followed her into the facility to make trouble. Nicole was forced to use a staff bathroom and separated from the other girls, in violation of Maine’s trans-inclusive non-discrimination law. The reversal forced Wayne and Kelly to withdraw their children from the Orono school system and move to another part of the state so they could attend school quietly and safely.