Wednesday, December 28, 2011

GLAD's Top 10 Victories of 2011

It’s been an exciting year fighting for equal justice under law for LGBT people in the New England states, and we’re grateful that we’ve got a lot to show for it. In the spirit of the umpteen other end-of-year lists, we bring you GLAD’s Top 10 Victories of 2011. They’re in no particular order, since we’re all about equality here.

10. DOJ says Defense of Marriage Act is indefensible – and more!

In response to Pedersen v. OPM, our Second Circuit DOMA challenge – and the ACLU’s Windsor v. United States DOMA challenge – the U.S. Department of Justice in February announced it would no longer defend the law in court, believing it to be unconstitutional. Even better, the cases called the question of the level of scrutiny that should apply to DOMA and President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder concluded that heightened scrutiny should apply. That means Congress, which assumed responsibility for defending DOMA, will have a significantly harder time proving that DOMA should not be struck down.

9. Maine’s anti-trans LD 1046 is resoundingly defeated

GLAD was part of a coalition that worked to defeat LD 10146, a bill that would have repealed non-discrimination protections for transgender Mainers in public accommodations. Transgender Rights Project Director Jennifer Levi served as the coalition’s expert witness at a public hearing in May (pictured up top). The Republican-controlled legislature killed the bill by a wide margin in June.

8. GLAD lawsuit produces new Denny’s bathroom policy for transgender patrons

In June, GLAD’s Transgender Rights Project and Realty Resources Hospitality, which operates six Denny’s restaurants throughout Maine, announced an agreement resolving a lawsuit brought by Brianna Freeman, a transgender woman who was denied access to the women’s restroom at a Denny’s in Auburn, Maine. Realty Resources Hospitality agreed that at all of the restaurants it operates, all transgender individuals, including Brianna, will have access to the restroom consistent with their stated gender identity.

7. Connecticut Supreme Court establishes legal parentage for non-genetic parents in surrogacy

In a first-of-its kind decision, Connecticut’s high court ruled in January that a gay male couple who used a gestational surrogate to have children are the children’s legal parents, and that the state must permit both men’s names to be placed on the birth certificates. GLAD submitted an amicus brief on behalf of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the American Academy of Assisted Reproductive Technology Attorneys, Connecticut Fertility Associates, and New England Fertility Institute.

6. GLAD celebrates Connecticut’s new transgender non-discrimination law

In July, Gov. Dan Malloy singed HB 6599 into law, giving trans people the full protection of the state’s anti-discrimination laws. GLAD was part of the coalition that worked to pass the bill, presenting testimony, participating in the formation of strategy, and doing message development and training.

5. Executive Director Lee Swislow hikes the Appalachian Trail!

Okay, we know this isn’t a legal victory, but hiking 2,181 miles through 14 states (from Georgia to Maine) in all kinds of weather is no small thing -- just ask the folks who were left in charge here at GLAD during our fearless leader’s 7-month trek. Alas, we survived – and so did Lee. We’re glad to have her back (pun intended).

4. Blue Cross/Blue Shield decides to cover HPV Vaccine for males

In August, after GLAD’s AIDS Law Project Director Ben Klein urged Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts to make such a policy change, the health insurer decided it would cover the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine for males. GLAD praised the health insurer for taking this step because gay men are at particular risk of contracting anal cancer through HPV infections.

3. Federal Bureau of Prisons makes major change in transgender medical policy

In September, a settlement was announced in the case of Vanessa Adams, a Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) inmate at FMC Butner in North Carolina who has gender identity disorder (GID). Vanessa sued BOP in order to receive appropriate treatment for her GID and was represented by GLAD, Florida Institutional Legal Services (FILS), the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), Bingham McCutchen LLP, and Allyson Kurker. Under the settlement, BOP ended its so-called “freeze frame” policy in which treatment for any person with GID is kept frozen at the level provided at the time he or she entered the federal prison system. In Vanessa’s case, this meant that because she had not received treatment for GID before being incarcerated, BOP refused to provide her with medically necessary care even though its own doctors diagnosed her with GID, told her about treatments available for GID, and knew about the seriousness of her medical condition.

2. Ensuring New Hampshire’s anti-bullying law protects students

GLAD, along with co-counsel Neil Jacobs, MJ Edwards and Brian Boyle of WilmerHale recently represented a New Hampshire high school student who experienced an onslaught of anti-gay cyberbullying before the state Board of Education. After his school refused to address the bullying, the student and his father complained to the Board of Education but the hearing officer assigned to the case dismissed their complaint on the grounds that the board had no jurisdiction to hear their case. GLAD and co-counsel appealed the hearing officer’s decision to the full Board of Education, which agreed unanimously with GLAD’s position that the inability to pursue a case like would effectively render the anti-bullying law toothless.

1. Transgender protections passed in Massachusetts; important work remains

We end this list with a victory that reminds us that there is still much work to be done to secure full equality for LGBT people in New England: In November, Gov. Deval Patrick signed into law the Transgender Equal Rights Bill, which will provide essential non-discrimination protections for transgender people in employment, education, housing, and in situations where people face hate-based violence. GLAD was part of the coalition that worked to pass the bill. However, in passing the bill, the legislature removed critical protections for trans people in public accommodations, (i.e. restaurants, movie theaters, malls, and other public places).

GLAD and our coalition partners will not rest until transgender people in Massachusetts are fully protected under the Commonwealth’s non-discrimination laws.

Here’s to 2012! Happy New Year!

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