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us by email and live chat, the idea of an “Info Line,” which conjures up a telephone in the minds of most, seemed a bit outdated.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.

Monday, June 3, 2013

How to Be a Great LGBT Family

Jonas, Wayne, Nicole and Kelly Maines in D.C. last year. Wayne, Jonas and Nicole were guests at President Obama's annual LGBT Pride reception.
 Editor’s Note: June 3 is the 8th Annual Blogging for LGBT Families Day, a tradition aimed at showing support for our families in the blogosphere brought to you by, one of our favorite LGBT parenting blogs. We hope you enjoy this post about a loving and courageous family with which GLAD has had the privilege to work.

If you think your family is being discriminated against based on a member’s gender identity or sexual orientation, contact GLAD’s Legal InfoLine for help.

When we think of LGBT families, we primarily think of those headed by LGBT parents.  But really, any family that includes an LGBT person is an LGBT family since so often, that person’s experience as a member of our community impacts their entire family. When these families stand up and share their stories, they help educate the world about our community and serve as powerful examples about the importance of loving and supporting LGBT family members – particularly our youth.

I can’t think of a better example than the family behind our case Doe v. Clenchy, which will be heard before Maine’s highest court this month. GLAD is representing a transgender teen girl, identified in court records as “Susan Doe,” whose elementary and middle schools removed her from the girls’ restroom because she is transgender and forced her to use a staff-only restroom in isolation from her peers. Eventually, her parents were forced to withdraw their daughter and her twin brother from the Orono school system and move to another part of the state so they could attend school quietly and safely.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

School’s Out – But You Still Have Rights!

Congratulations students on finishing up another school year!

The year may be winding down, but GLAD still wants you to know your rights.

Below is a summary of some of the more important rights you need to know. But remember, you can always contact GLAD’s Legal InfoLine with any questions, and you can check out our detailed information for each New England state.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Happy Anniversary! 9 Years of Marriage Equality Today

Post by Laura Kiritsy, Manager of Public Education

It’s been fascinating and fun to watch as legislators in Rhode Island, Delaware and Minnesota passed marriage equality bills that their respective governors enthusiastically signed into law in the past few weeks.

Things have changed dramatically from 10 years ago, when the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruling in our Goodridge marriage lawsuit pitched Beacon Hill -- along with our usual opponents in the Catholic Church hierarchy and the religious right -- into a state of hysteria.

“Opposition set in in about one nano-second,” Mary Bonauto recalled in the documentary film Saving Marriage. That sounds about right.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

From Beyoncé to the Moon – the Making of a Great Summer Party Auction

Post by Molly Paul, Special Events Intern

Now that the snow is finally melting and the on again-off again snow flurries have become on-again-off again spring showers, it’s time to start gearing up for GLAD’s Summer Party in Provincetown on Saturday, July 27th.  With Kate Clinton confirmed as our celebrity auctioneer extraordinaire - this is definitely an event you don’t want to miss!

Kate Clinton will once again be our auctioneer at the
annual Summer Party in Provincetown July 27

Friday, April 5, 2013

Broadening and Embracing the LGBT Family

David Wilson, together with his husband Rob Compton, was a plaintiff in GLAD’s 2003 case Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, which made Massachusetts the first state where same-sex couples could marry. Since that experience, he has committed his time and resources to the movement for LGBT equality, and particularly to working within the movement to increase outreach to people of color, combat institutional racism, and broaden and diversify who is embraced by and feels a part of the LGBT family.

And family is what it’s all about for David.  He was in Washington D.C. last week for the two days of Supreme Court arguments on marriage equality and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). When we sat down to talk about that experience, however, he started with a different story, about his granddaughter.

David was a keynote speaker at the 2013 GLSEN Massachusetts Conference last weekend, and when his granddaughter Ruby, a high school student, learned about the engagement she not only asked to attend but wanted to speak. At the conference, she shared a story about a classmate who came out to her as transgender two years ago and how she immediately jumped into action as an ally, encouraging the student and asking what she could do to help him feel supported at school.   She was a key player in helping fellow students understand the transition and ensuring that they use the right pronouns and be respectful of his privacy.

Her awareness as an ally, David pointed out, stemmed from her upbringing in a family headed by a gay couple (between them, David and Rob have five adult children from prior marriages, and seven grandchildren) and absorbing the joys and difficulties that LGBT people face through the experiences of her own family. Years and years of LGBT people forming families, he said, has led to entire families – like his and Rob’s – that are standing up to share their stories and join the movement for LGBT equality.

David calls this phenomenon “broadening the diversity and inclusion of the team” -- expanding the LGBT family to better represent the diversity of our community and the diversity of our issues.  That’s precisely what was on his mind as he attended the Supreme Court arguments in the Windsor case, and when he spoke at a rally on the courthouse steps last week.

“I was there [in DC] to figure out how a ‘win’ will impact people on the ground, especially people of color, transgender people, people outside the movement, people who don’t feel the movement is for them,” David explained. “As a plaintiff in the first winning marriage case, I’ve had a lot of privilege.  How can I make sure I take the access I’ve had, and translate it to others?  I’ve been at the forefront of this fight. What about the people left out or left behind?”

His concern for “the people left out” was only heightened when he finally got into the courtroom to hear a portion of the Windsor DOMA argument after a lucky opening happened for the last thirty people who were expected to stay 3 to 5 minutes but actually stayed 15 minutes until the ending statements. Once inside, David found himself thinking, ‘Where’s the diversity in this room?’ To my mind, it wasn’t there. There was certainly diversity among the nine justices but it did not appear to be present  in the rest of the room.”

It was a marked contrast to the exuberant scene outside the Supreme Court doors, where a throng of LGBT protesters and various supporters of the freedom to marry gathered to make their voices heard. “The rally outside the Court was real,” said David. “The speakers, and the people gathered around were very excited, proud and connected.  It was a really diverse crowd.” 

“But then the people coming down the steps from the Court didn’t reflect the people at the rally,” he added. “And there I was, coming out of the Court feeling so proud but disconnected from the folks gathered at the bottom of the steps of the Supreme Court”

Prior to going into the court, David received a warm welcome when he stepped to the microphone at the rally. “I think the organizers and the people gathered were excited to see a man of color, someone with gray hair, someone who has had long range involvement in this movement,” said David. “I felt incredibly welcomed, appreciated and valued.”  Once the crowd recognized me as one of the earlier speakers, they were so happy and proud that I had been granted access as one of them.

He wants other members of the LGBT family to feel that same embrace, even if they feel the marriage movement doesn’t speak to them.  Justice Elena Kagan gave him a way to do that during the DOMA argument when she quoted a passage from the House Judiciary Committee’s report on DOMA, in which the committee concluded that by passing DOMA, “Congress decided to reflect and honor collective moral judgment and to express moral disapproval of homosexuality.”

That’s when it dawned on David that a win in Windsor would not just provide married same-sex couples with federal equality in marriage, it could also potentially strike a blow to the many other laws that have been enacted out of moral disapproval of LGBT lives, affecting a much broader swath of our community.

“When Justice Kagan read the morality piece I really understood,” said David. “I thought, okay, when I leave this room, leave Washington, what can I do to make this more real?  How can I show people that this will impact you, too?  How can I translate this to the Black Church, to seniors, to kids of color?"

"That’s what I’m thinking about now.”

Wrapping up the week at the Supreme Court with Mary Bonauto

Post by Laura Kiritsy, Manager of Public Education

GLAD Civil Rights Project Director Mary Bonauto (right) discusses
DOMA and the Supreme Court on the Rachel Maddow Show March 27

On the heels of two of the most exciting and important days in recent LGBT history – the Supreme Court arguments in the Perry and Windsor cases – our own Mary L. Bonauto gave her expert analysis on the arguments in a conference call with GLAD’s Equal Justice Council late last week. Not surprisingly, we had the most RSVPs we’ve ever had for one of our monthly EJC calls.

Before summarizing Mary’s analysis, allow me to kvell for a moment, and point you toward a recent New York Times profile that does a fantastic job detailing Mary’s and GLAD’s historic and strategic contributions to the marriage movement, work that made last week’s Supreme Court showdown possible. She also wound up  on Rachel Maddow’s show –– and went head to head with the Family Research Council’s Ken Klukowski on PBS News Hour, among several other media appearances.

Now, a few highlights of Mary’s analysis, which was offered with the caveat that she was giving her “tentative impressions” of the arguments and the questions the justices asked, rather than making a prediction about case outcomes. 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

No Ordinary Day

GLAD Public Affairs and Education Intern Adam Connito was in D.C. on March 27 to watch his aunt sworn in before the U.S. Supreme Court, and was able stay for the arguments in Windsor v. United States. He shares his reflections - written in the airport on his return flight to Boston - on witnessing the historic deliberations on behalf of Edie Windsor (pictured above with her late wife Thea Spyer) and tens of thousands of others impacted by DOMA.

Airports are a good place to reflect. Something about leaving one place for another – maybe it’s the anticipation of movement, progress, and destination. It’s nice to think about where you were before you get to where you’re going, and I can’t shake the thought of serendipity when I consider that my first trip to D.C. included a visit to the nation’s highest court to hear oral arguments in Windsor v. United States.

Creating "Beloved Community" Outside the Supreme Court

Post by Carisa Cunningham, Director of Public Affairs and Education

Inside the Supreme Court on Monday and Tuesday it was all blue suits, “may it please the Court”, legal arguments, and tradition.  Outside the court was a very different and yet also very American scene. 
Wandering around connecting our side’s people with reporters, I was invigorated by the variety of expression and sheer joy of equality supporters.  What’s not to love about signs like “If God hates gay people, then why are they so cute?” and “Nature Digs Homosexuality: Scientists for Equal Rights”?  In addition to scientists, there were labor unionists, inter-racial (straight) couples, African-American ministers, military members, kids and grandparents, civil rights leaders, people from north, south, east, and west, all supporting equality under the law for gay people.

The other side cornered the market in mixed messages:  we had the Westboro Baptist Church singing “Another One Bites the Dust” – by Queen; and men in skirts (okay, kilts) in an anti-equality marching band.

I ran into our wonderful plaintiffs Melba Abreu and Beatrice Hernandez, as well as Bette Jo Green and Jo Ann Whitehead, and Goodridge plaintiff David Wilson spoke to the crowd on the second day.  The media was both penned up below the Supreme Court steps, and set up on the plaza to talk to lawyers and plaintiffs immediately following argument.  Both days, the first person out the building was Jeffrey Toobin of CNN, who headed straight for his camera and immediately started talking.
It was incredibly moving to see Edie Windsor, in her bright pink scarf, waving to the crowd, which lovingly cheered her.  And it was satisfying to see GLAD’s Mary Bonauto share her wisdom with everyone from ABC News to members of the community who stopped her on the street.

Kudos go to all of the organizers, and all who showed up, whether organized or disorganized.  No matter what the legal outcome, these two days were a true expression of what Martin Luther King, Jr., called “the beloved community.”  He said, “But the end is reconciliation; the end is redemption; the end is the creation of the beloved community. It is this type of spirit and this type of love that can transform opposers into friends. It is this type of understanding goodwill that will transform the deep gloom of the old age into the exuberant gladness of the new age. It is this love which will bring about miracles in the hearts of men.”  

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

What a Day it Was: Stepping Up for Equal Rights

Jo Ann Whitehead (right) and Bette Jo Green, plaintiffs in GLAD's challenge to DOMA, Gill v. OPM, were in Washington D.C. last week for the rallies outside the Supreme Court. They share their experiences below.

Jo Ann Whitehead

And now we step up for our rights under the law of the land.  Bette Jo and I are happy we went to DC last week to stand outside SCOTUS during the morning rallies on Tuesday, March 26 (prop 8) and Wednesday, March 27 (DOMA):

The weather was cold, but the fervor for equality warmed us deeply.  The size of the supportive rally crowd took our breath away; it felt like a cold-weather Gay Pride Day.  As the rally formed, we were cheek-to-jowl, able to move slowly through the flux of the crowd; this was a great opportunity to strike up conversations and make new “instant friends.”  There was a mix of young, old, lgbt, straight, racially and culturally diverse, businesses, political groups, and religious groups.  When the religious leaders (representing about every denomination you can think of) came from the prayer breakfast and walked through the crowd to the speakers’ area singing “this little light” it sparked a joyous sing-along.

Fortunately, we were a distance from the “opposition” and the “must-hate” groups who were there, but they were much smaller numbers than the waves of support; some of their signs and banners were confusing, some were downright nasty (tradition, marriage, property; [swastika]; god hates fags). 

From our vantage point we enjoyed the bountiful upbeat, colorful, and supportive signs and banners, some homemade and some provided by the rally organizers:  (Jesus had two dads and he turned out fine; guys, I said I hate figs; if God hates gay people, why are they so cute?; in case you’re confused [the rainbow flag] isn’t a white flag). 

We were so happy to see two other Gill vs OPM plantiffs (Beatrice and Melba, who stood for a loooong time in the “three minute line” to get into SCOTUS for a bit of the hearing on Wednesday).  Kudos go to many:  GLAD, HRC and other media coordinators; the rally organizers (the lineup of speakers was notable); the legal teams, the legal teams, the legal teams... 

Wow, thank goodness times change!  As Gill vs OPM plaintiffs, we hope the big celebration comes soon.

Bette Jo Green

Tuesday morning early we were on our way.  The Metro was humming with folks in suits carrying  briefcases, getting on and off, until we arrived at our stop: Capitol South.  We emerged into the crisp air, greeted by volunteers in red t-shirts and vests, giving us directions to the Supreme Court building, along with placards and smiles.  Our placards read “Marriage is Love Commitment Family” and we noticed more and more warmly dressed placard-carrying folks going in the same direction.  Then we joined the throng – bright colors, lots of laughter, hand-printed signs, rainbow flags – and tried to get as close to the front steps as possible.  People stood in the visitor line for the hearing, but many more were just like us making their way past the cameras and reporters to celebrate this historic moment together:  the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) taking on gay marriage and gay marriage rights.  I shivered when I saw EQUAL JUSTICE UNDER LAW inscribed on the building.  Could that also apply to us?
The cold wind on this sunny day didn’t seem to matter so much in such a sea of humanity.  We were huddled close together, jostling, saying “excuse me” so many times that we started talking about the day, learning each other’s stories, laughing as each new sign went by, chanting, singing, applauding the speakers, thanking the volunteers for all their efforts.  We were a sea of color:  rainbow and American flags, scarves, mittens, hats, and skin tone with the musical interludes keeping us hopping.  A large contingent of ecumenical clergy wound their way through the crowd singing “This Little Light of Mine, I’m Going to Let it Shine” drawing us all in.  And the speakers from near and far gave us inspiration from their personal stories and their support of the LGBT community.  We left many hours later, only after our numb feet couldn’t hold us up any more.   We needed energy for the next day.
Wednesday morning we were old timers, not only in age, but in experience.  We knew the route, the stop, the way and came even earlier to the front steps of SCOTUS.  This time we introduced ourselves to the folks around us who came from Virginia, Maryland, California, etc.  Gay, straight, young, old, black, white – all energetic, all with stories to tell.  The placards read “Equality Now” and multitudes of American flags joined the handmade signs, each person with a wider grin than the last.  By this time our cheeks hurt from smiling so much.  We talked with each other about the joys of commitment and our families and the weather and how good it felt to be here.  It was amazing to realize that each of us in that vast crowd had a story to tell if we would take the time to listen.  And we cheered for Edie Windsor and her legal team when she emerged from the SCOTUS building.  By that time we were happily ensconced indoors watching her on TV.
What a good day it was.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Rhode Island’s Marriage Marathon

GLAD Attorney Janson Wu testifying at last night's hearing

Advocates for the freedom to marry often say that this movement is a marathon, not a sprint. Rhode Island is a case in point. Marriage bills have been filed every session since the late 1990’s, yet Little Rhodey is the only one of our New England neighbors that has not opened marriage to same-sex couples.

But this could be the year when loving, committed same-sex couples finally win the opportunity to say “I do.” Not in nearby Swansea or South Attleboro, Mass. or Pawcatuck, Conn., but in the state they call home. Rhode Islanders United for Marriage, a coalition of which GLAD is a part, is running a stellar campaign, thanks to dedicated local leadership and experienced veterans of other New England marriage campaigns. The House has already passed the marriage bill. Gov. Lincoln Chafee has pledged to sign it. Now, it just needs to pass the Senate, a more conservative body, but nonetheless where we have steadily built support.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Know Your Rights: Tax Deduction for Medical Care Related to GID

Post by Bruce Bell, Legal InfoLine Manager

GLAD has great news for transgender people who may benefit from claiming a tax deduction for medical treatment The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) determines the types of medical treatment that may qualify for a medical deduction on a person’s federal income tax.  Even though the American Psychiatric Association in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) identified a medical condition (called “gender identity disorder (GID)” in its fourth edition, now called “gender dysphoria” in its fifth edition that will be released this May), until 2010 the IRS considered most treatment for GID to be cosmetic and, therefore, not eligible to be claimed as a medical deduction.

But this changed in 2010, when GLAD won the O’Donnabhain case in federal Tax Court.  As a result of this victory, the IRS now considers GID a medical condition, and therefore the expenses related to the treatment of GID may be claimed as a medical deduction. As it does with any medical deduction, the IRS requires medical documentation that the treatment you received was appropriate for your specific diagnosis. 

If you have had medical expenses for the treatment of GID in previous tax years, the IRS allows you to file an amended return for up to three years from the date of your original filing.  This means that in most cases, you still have until April 15, 2013 to file amended returns for the 2011, 2010 or 2009 tax years. 

In addition to taking a medical deduction on your income tax, you may be able to get reimbursed for expenses related to your medical care if you have a consumer-directed health plan such as an FSA, HSA, MSA or HRA, because these plans use the IRS code to determine allowable medical expenses.

GLAD strongly recommends that you consult with a tax professional about the best course of action for your particular case and that you have sufficient medical documentation for any expense you are claiming. 

If you have any questions about this, or any other LGBTQ/HIV legal issue, please contact GLAD’s Legal InfoLine at 800-455-GLAD (4523) or at  This is a free, confidential service where you can receive information and resources tailored to your individual needs from a highly trained volunteer.