Connect with us

National

Quinn: More work on LGBT issues needed in N.Y.

NYC Council speaker calls lack of trans protections ‘not acceptable’

Published

on

Gay News, Washington Blade, Christine Quinn

New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (Photo by Thomas Good)

HOUSTON — For lesbian New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, the passage of a same-sex marriage law in New York was a big win, but she acknowledges that more work on LGBT issues is needed.

“It passed in a pretty low time in our economy and a tough time for the city and state, and what I’ve noticed is wherever I go in the city — even still — people are happy,” Quinn told the Washington Blade. “You go to senior centers, they’re still congratulating me. It’s really created, I think, a lot of joy and a stronger sense of community in the city.”

Quinn made the remarks during the 27th International Gay & Lesbian Leadership Conference — sponsored by the Gay & Lesbian Leadership Institute — after a panel session titled “Victory in New York: A Model for Success,” in which participants discussed the strategy that led to the enactment of same-sex marriage in New York.

Despite that victory, one key piece of pro-LGBT state legislation that still hasn’t passed in New York is GENDA, or the Gender Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would institute non-discrimination protections for transgender people in the private workforce.

Quinn noted that New York City has transgender protections, but called the lack of statutory protections at the state level “simply not acceptable.”

“So I think we can be simultaneously happy, proud of ourselves, but not satisfied because we have more work to do, and GENDA is top of that list,” Quinn said.

Quinn added she’s “optimistic” that transgender employment protections will pass “very soon” in the New York Legislature because Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) — credited with leading the marriage fight in New York — supports the measure.

Other advancements Quinn is seeking on LGBT issues include a reduction in hate crimes, additional funding for LGBT organizations and effective implementation of the Dignity for All Schools Act, a law that bars bullying in schools, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Asked about President Obama’s lack of support for marriage equality, Quinn said she’s unhappy with anyone who doesn’t support marriage rights for gay couples, but commends those who say they could evolve on the issue — which Obama has done.

“I applaud people who are open to discussing, thinking and evolving, and the president is certainly in that category, but I want him to fully get there,” Quinn said.

Quinn, who’s expected to run for mayor of New York City in 2013, declined to say whether she would pursue the office.

Pressed further on the implications of having an openly lesbian mayor of the nation’s largest city, Quinn said an openly LGBT person winning elected office anywhere is a “step forward.”

“I think anytime somebody who’s openly LGBT gets elected to office — whatever office that is, whatever city, state, town that’s in — it is helpful to moving LGBT issues forward, and all civil and human rights issues forward,” Quinn said. “What city it is, what position it is doesn’t matter. Anytime it happens, it’s a step forward for everybody.”

A transcript of the interview with Quinn follows:

Washington Blade: You’ve had marriage equality in New York State for quite a few months now. How do you think that has changed New York City?

Christine Quinn: I think the thing that’s most fun about marriage equality passing is how happy it has made people. It passed in a pretty low time in our economy and a tough time for the city and state, and what I’ve noticed is wherever I go in the city — even still — people are happy. You go to senior centers, they’re still congratulating me. It’s really created, I think, a lot of joy and a stronger sense of community in the city.

Blade: Marriage equality is a big win, but statutory protections for transgender people in the workplace remains outstanding in the State of New York. Do you have any —

Quinn: Absolutely. Our work is not done. We have the GENDA in New York City; we don’t have it in New York State. And that’s simply not acceptable, so I think we can be simultaneously happy, proud of ourselves, but not satisfied because we have more work to do, and GENDA is top of that list.

Blade: I know you’re not in Albany, but are you able to make a prediction for when you think we will see those protections put in place?

Quinn: I’m optimistic that GENDA will be passed very soon. The governor, who is incredibly popular and incredibly effective, is supportive. He was one of the key differences in getting marriage, so I’m very optimistic it’ll be in the near future.

Blade: Are there any other LGBT issues you want to see addressed either at the state or city level?

Quinn: We have to find ways to reduce hate crimes against all people — particularly people who are perceived to be LGBT.

Our statewide advocacy group, the [Empire State] Pride Agenda, has done a lot of great work around funding for LGBT organizations. Our organizations are funded at a disproportionately low percentage compared to others. That health and human service work has to continue.

And we have a big “to-do” on our list, which is to get to the Dignity for All Schools Act implemented effectively over the next couple years. So that’s just a few.

Blade: What’s your take on the presidential race, and as a Democrat do you have a favorite candidate among the Republicans?

Quinn: My favorite candidate is President Obama. And he’s going to win re-election, and I think the Republicans make it clearer every day of the week that there is no one worth supporting on their side.

Blade: At the federal level, we’ve seen a lot of advances, but President Obama has yet to support marriage equality. Does that disappoint you?

Quinn: I’m disappointed in anybody who doesn’t agree with us in marriage equality. That said, I applaud people who are open to discussing, thinking and evolving, and the president is certainly in that category, but I want him to fully get there.

Blade: I’m sure a lot of people are asking you this, but I’m going to take a stab at it here. Are you going to run for mayor in 2013?

Quinn: There’s more time to talk about that, but thank you for asking me all the legislative questions.

Blade: One last question for you. Hypothetically speaking, what do you think would be the implications of having an openly lesbian mayor of the nation’s largest city?

Quinn: Look, I think anytime somebody who’s openly LGBT gets elected to office — whatever office that is, whatever city, state, town that’s in — it is helpful to moving LGBT issues forward, and all civil and human rights issues forward. What city it is, what position it is doesn’t matter. Anytime it happens, it’s a step forward for everybody.

Blade: Thank you so much, Madam Speaker.

Watch the video of the interview here:

Continue Reading
Advertisement

National

California mom claims school manipulated child into changing gender identity

Jessica Konen gave the school permission to use the boy’s name for attendance and tried to be supportive but noted it was difficult for her

Published

on

Fox News host Laura Ingraham & Center for American Liberty CEO Harmeet Dhillon with client, Jessica Konen (Screenshot Fox News)

A Northern California mother is claiming teachers in a small school district in the state manipulated her daughter into changing her gender identity and name in a legal claim. 

The claim, filed by the ultra-conservative Center for American Liberty on behalf of the mother, alleged “extreme and outrageous conduct” by the Spreckels Union School District, leading Jessica Konen’s 11-year-old daughter to change her gender identity and drive a wedge between them.

Specifically, the claim, a precursor to a lawsuit, names two teachers – Lori Caldera and Kelly Baraki – at Buena Vista Middle who, in addition to teaching, ran the school’s Equality Club, later known as UBU (You Be You). Buena Vista is a part of the district. 

It comes after Abigail Shrier, the author of a book widely criticized as anti-trans, quoted what the two educators said last year at the California Teachers Association’s annual LGBTQ+ Issues Conference in a piece headlined “How Activist Teachers Recruit Kids.” Caldera and Baraki spoke about the difficulty of running a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) in a socially conservative community. 

After the article was published, the teachers were put on administrative leave, and the district hired a law firm to investigate, which is ongoing. The UBU club was suspended. 

Spreckels is a town of about 400 people in the agricultural Salinas Valley, approximately 90 miles south of San Francisco

According to the complaint, Konen’s daughter began attending Equality Club meetings after being invited by a friend when she started sixth grade at Buena Vista. After attending one session, she decided it wasn’t for her until Caldiera convinced her to come back. At the gatherings, Caldera and Baraki held LGBTQ-centered discussions and introduced students to different gender identities and sexualities. 

During her time in the club, Konen’s daughter began exploring her own gender identity and sexuality, choosing to wear more masuline clothes. At some point, she decided to change her name and pronouns, which she has since changed back to her original name and pronouns. 

Konen said she was aware her daughter was bisexual but did not know she began using a male name and gender pronouns until she was called into the school when her daughter was in seventh grade. The meeting caught both Konen and her daughter by surprise – Konen’s daughter had said she wanted to notify her mother, but she did not know the meeting was that day. 

Konen gave the school permission to use the boy’s name for attendance and tried to be supportive but noted it was difficult for her. 

However, when Shrier’s article was published and circulated around the small town, everything changed. At this time, Konen’s daughter was again using a female name and pronouns.

In the leaked recording from the LGBTQ conference, Caldera and Baraki were discussing how they kept meetings private, among other things. 

“When we were doing our virtual learning — we totally stalked what they were doing on Google, when they weren’t doing school work,” Baraki said. “One of them was googling ‘Trans Day of Visibility.’ And we’re like, ‘Check.’ We’re going to invite that kid when we get back on campus.”

However, Caldera told the San Francisco Chronicle that the quotes were either taken out of context or misrepresented. According to Caldera, the stalking comment was a joke. She also defended their work, saying students lead the conversation and they provide honest and fair answers to their questions.
In addition, a spokesperson for the California Teachers Association criticized the group bringing the lawsuit forward, according to the Associated Press: “We are concerned about a political climate right now in which outside political forces fuel chaos and misinformation and seek to divide parents, educators and school communities for their own political gain, which is evident in this complaint. The Center for American Liberty is concerned with pushing its own political agenda through litigation and has filed multiple lawsuits against various school districts and communities.”

Continue Reading

National

GOP majority city council to repeal LGBTQ+ law in Pennsylvania

“I don’t know of any reasons for repealing it other than a political move […] This issue should not be politicized”

Published

on

Chambersburg, Pennsylvania (Photo Credit: Borough of Chambersburg)

The council of this central Pennsylvania borough (town) will meet on Monday, January 24 for a likely vote to repeal an ordinance passed this last October that safeguards residents against discrimination based on their sexual orientation, ethnicity or gender identity.

Opposition to the ordinance is led by newly installed borough council president Allen Coffman, a Republican. In an interview with media outlet Penn Live Saturday, Coffman said, “All of us that ran in this election to be on council we think we got a mandate from the people,” he said. “People we talked to when we were campaigning did not like this ordinance at all. I don’t know what the vote will be, but I have a pretty good idea.”

The political makeup of the council changed with the November municipal election, which ushered in a 7-3 Republican majority.

The ordinance, which extends protections against discrimination to gay, transgender or genderqueer people in employment, housing and public accommodations, was passed in October by the then-Democratic majority council, Penn Live reported.

“I don’t know of any reasons for repealing it other than a political move,” said Alice Elia, a Democrat and the former Chambersburg borough council president. “This issue should not be politicized. It’s an issue of justice and having equal protection for everybody in our community. It shouldn’t be a political or a Democratic or Republican issue. This should be something we are all concerned about.”

Coffman told Penn Live that the ordinance serves no purpose and is redundant. He points out that Pennsylvania’s Human Relations Commission handles discrimination complaints from residents across the state.

“There are no penalties, no fines,” he said. “There’s nothing that the ordinance can make someone do. The most they can hope for is that the committee request the two parties to sit down with a counselor or mediator and talk about it. Quite frankly there is nothing that compels them to. There’s no teeth in this.”

Penn Live’s Ivey DeJesus noted if Chambersburg succeeds in repealing the ordinance, it would mark the first time an LGBTQ inclusive law is revoked in Pennsylvania. To date, 70 municipalities have ratified such ordinances.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is one of the 27 states in the nation that have no explicit statewide laws protecting people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations.

Continue Reading

National

Florida House committee passes “Don’t Say Gay” bill

Equality Florida quickly condemned the measure

Published

on

The Florida State Capitol (Washington Blade photo by Yariel Valdés González)

The Republican majority Florida House Education and Employment Committee on Thursday passed House Bill 1557, the Parental Rights in Education bill, colloquially referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill advancing the measure to the full House.

HB 1557 and its companion bill, Senate Bill 1834, would ban classroom discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity in schools, erasing LGBTQ identity, history, and culture — as well as LGBTQ students themselves.

The bill also has provisions that appear to undermine LGBTQ support in schools and include vague parental notification requirements which could effectively “out” LGBTQ-identifying students to their parents without their consent.

“The Trevor Project’s research has found that LGBTQ youth who learned about LGBTQ issues or people in classes at school had 23 percent lower odds of reporting a suicide attempt in the past year. This bill will erase young LGBTQ students across Florida, forcing many back into the closet by policing their identity and silencing important discussions about the issues they face,” said Sam Ames, director of advocacy and government affairs at the Trevor Project. “LGBTQ students deserve their history and experiences to be reflected in their education, just like their peers.”

In an email to the Los Angeles Blade, Brandon J. Wolf, the press secretary for Equality Florida noted; “Governor DeSantis’ march toward his own personal surveillance state continues. Today, the Don’t Say Gay bill, a piece of legislation to erase discussion of LGBTQ people from schools in Florida, passed its first committee and became another component of an agenda designed to police us in our classrooms, doctor’s offices, and workplaces. Make no mistake — LGBTQ people are your neighbors, family members, and friends. We are a normal, healthy part of society and we will not be erased.”

The Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that more than 42 percent of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and non-binary youth.

According to a recent poll conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of The Trevor Project, 85 percent of transgender and non-binary youth — and two-thirds of all LGBTQ youth (66 percent) — say recent debates about state laws restricting the rights of transgender people have negatively impacted their mental health.

When asked about proposed legislation that would require schools to tell a student’s parent or guardian if they request to use a different name/pronoun or if they identify as LGBTQ at school, 56 percent of transgender and non-binary youth said it made them feel angry, 47 percent felt nervous and/or scared, 45 percent felt stressed, and more than 1 in 3 felt sad.

If you or someone you know needs help or support, the Trevor Project’s trained crisis counselors are available 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386, via chat at TheTrevorProject.org/Get-Help, or by texting START to 678678. 

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Follow Us @washblade

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts

Popular