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us by email and live chat, the idea of an “Info Line,” which conjures up a telephone in the minds of most, seemed a bit outdated.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, www.GLADAnswers.org
· An enhanced live chat function
A new, direct email address: GLADAnswers@glad.org
· Use of an interpretation service for non-English speakers
GLAD Answers retains its regular phone hours of 1:30-4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday, and its phone number, 1-800-455-GLAD.
So how can GLAD Answers help you?
The service is staffed by highly-trained volunteers who provide callers with legal information and referrals that can help resolve issues ranging from school bullying to employment discrimination. The primary function of GLAD Answers is to empower people by providing them with legal information and explaining the steps they can take to resolve their situations on their own.
For instance, we recently heard from a mother in Maine whose son was getting resistance from his school when he tried to start a Gay-Straight Alliance. We informed her of her son’s legal rights (under federal law, schools cannot prohibit public school students from starting GSAs) and gave her the tools she needed to talk with school officials. Within two weeks, the school approved the GSA.
Another call we got a few years ago was from Sherry Dranch of Provincetown, who had been denied Social Security survivor benefit after the death of her spouse Edie because of DOMA. We informed Sherry that despite DOMA, she could still appeal the decision, which would boost her chances of receiving the survivor benefit retroactively once DOMA was off the books. We walked her through the appeals process and in November 2012, Judge James H. Packer, an administrative law judge at the Social Security Administration ruled in Sherry’s favor, clearing the way for her to receive the benefit after the Supreme Court declared DOMA unconstitutional.
Sherry’s financial situation is now much more secure in part because of the information we provided her.
"I had a small business with my partner Edie for decades, and then became a seasonal waitress,” Sherry wrote in a recent email to me. “Once again, I was having difficulties in [Provincetown] finding a year-round rental, after the latest of my apartments was sold. Because of GLAD and my local bank, the widows' monthly Social Security benefit has made it possible for me to get a mortgage, and I have just purchased a small condo."
In addition to empowering those who make use of the service, GLAD Answers enables us to identify new legal issues, patterns of discrimination, and cases to litigate. That’s how we heard about Rhiannon O’Donnabhain, a transgender woman who was rebuffed by the IRS when she tried to deduct the cost of her transition-related medical care from her federal taxes. The federal government denied the deduction on the grounds that the treatment Rhiannon received was cosmetic and thus not deductible. GLAD ultimately filed a lawsuit on Rhiannon’s behalf and we won groundbreaking ruling from the U.S. Tax Court that enables transgender people to deduct medical expenses related to gender transition.
No matter your situation, if you have a question about your legal rights as an LGBT person, we please get in touch with us. GLAD Answers!