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Tiven: Gay couples will not ‘be included’ in immigration reform bill

Immigration Equality executive director spoke two days before immigration reform march

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Rachel Tiven, Immigration Equality, gay news, Washington Blade
Rachel Tiven, Immigration Equality, gay news, Washington Blade

Executive Director of Immigration Equality Rachel Tiven took part in immigration talks at the White House (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Immigration Equality Executive Director Rachel Tiven on Monday said she does not expect same-sex couples will be included in the comprehensive immigration reform bill a bi-partisan group of senators could potentially introduce by the end of the week.

“We are not expecting LGBT families to be included in the Gang of 8 bill,” she told the Washington Blade during a conference call ahead of a rally in support of comprehensive immigration reform on Wednesday that is expected to draw tens of thousands of people to the U.S. Capitol. “That in our minds means that of course the bill is incomplete.”

Tiven’s comments come roughly three months after President Obama publicly unveiled an immigration reform proposal that includes bi-national gay couples. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano in February told the Senate Judiciary Committee the White House supports a provision that would allow gays and lesbians to sponsor their foreign-born partners for immigration purposes.

New York Congressman Jerrold Nadler on Feb. 5 introduced the bill in the House of Representatives with U.S. Reps. Charles Dent (R-Pa.) and Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.) as co-sponsors. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif,) House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.,) Illinois Congressman Luis Gutierrez and U.S. Reps. Jared Polis (D-Colo.,) David Cicilline (D-R.I.,) Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.,) Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.,) Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Mark Takano (D-Calif.) are among those who support UAFA.

Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy a few days later announced he reintroduced UAFA in his chamber with U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) as a co-sponsor.

Nadler acknowledged to the Blade on Monday “it appears unlikely that the Senate’s initial immigration text” will include LGBT-specific language.

“This is disappointing but not particularly surprising,” he said.

Tiven said she remains hopeful members of the Senate Judiciary Committee will revisit the issue once they begin to debate the “Gang of 8” bill.

“We expect and we hope that senators on the committee will allow a full and open amendment process that provides an opportunity to fix the flaws in the base bill of which the exclusion of Uniting American Families Act is one,” she said.

Nadler took a similar tone as he expressed Leahy’s efforts to include UAFA as an amendment to the bill in committee before it reaches the Senate floor.

“I will fight like hell to ensure that LGBT-inclusive language remains in any House and Senate conference report,” Nadler told the Blade. “The ultimate goal is, of course, not how we pass LGBT-inclusive immigration reform, but that we make certain that such a bill lands on the president’s desk.”

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Federal Government

Census Bureau asks White House to test questions on sexual orientation, gender identity

Data would be included in annual American Community Survey

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U.S. Census Bureau (Photo credit: GSA)

The U.S. Census Bureau on Tuesday asked the Biden administration to sign off on plans to test questions on sexual orientation and gender identity for respondents aged 15 and older on the agency’s annual American Community Survey.

Data on these metrics will help inform civil rights and equal employment enforcement, the Census Bureau said in a notice published on the Federal Register.

Testing will help the agency determine wording, response categories and placement of the questions on the survey — its most comprehensive, covering 3.5 million households each year.

A key unknown will be how answers will be provided by proxies such as parents, spouses or others in a household who isn’t the person about whom the question is asked.

“Younger LGBT people might not yet be out to their parents or others who are answering these questions as a proxy reporter, so the quality of the data might not be as good for younger people,” M. V. Lee Badgett, an economics professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, told PBS News.

Currently, the Census Bureau and its annual American Community Survey only ask questions about same-sex couples who are married or cohabitating.

“We anticipate having much more info about the LGBT people than is currently available — including about the demographic and socioeconomic status of LGBT people who aren’t in same-sex couple households, including occupational status, industry and wages, and about LGBT people who were born outside the U.S. and LGBT people with disabilities, and their families,” Kerith Conron, research director of the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, told the Associated Press.

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Federal Government

Pentagon to restore honor to veterans kicked out over their sexual orientation

Legislation seeks accountability for DoD

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U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin (screen capture/YouTube/CNN)

The U.S. Department of Defense announced plans to restore honor to service members who were kicked out of the military over their sexual orientation, the agency announced on Wednesday, the 12th anniversary of the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

“Over the past decade, we’ve tried to make it easier for service members discharged based on their sexual orientation to obtain corrective relief,” U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said in a statement.

“While this process can be difficult to navigate, we are working to make it more accessible and efficient,” he said, adding, “in the coming weeks, we will be initiating new outreach campaigns to encourage all service members and veterans who believe they have suffered an error or injustice to seek correction to their military records.”

The move follows a class action lawsuit filed last month by LGBTQ veterans against the Pentagon for allegedly failing to remedy “ongoing discrimination,” including biased language in the discharge papers of LGBTQ veterans.

CBS News has investigated the Pentagon’s handling of service records of veterans who were kicked out of the military because of their sexual orientation, revealing the broad scope of discrimination experienced by these LGBTQ veterans — finding, for instance, that more than 29,000 were denied honorable discharges.

Also on Wednesday, U.S. Reps. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) and Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.), along with U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) re-introduced a bill that would establish “a commission to investigate the historic and ongoing impacts of discriminatory military policies on LGBTQ service members and veterans.”

“This commission would study the impact of these bigoted rules” barring LGBTQ troops from serving “and forge a more welcoming future in the military and at the VA,” said Takano, who serves as ranking member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and co-chair of the Congressional Equality Caucus.

“Our country has never made amends for official discriminatory policies like ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and the transgender military ban – and that failure still haunts today’s service members and veterans,” said Jacobs.

“That’s why I’m so proud to co-lead this bicameral legislation that will right these historic wrongs, investigate the past and present impact of anti-LGBTQ+ policies, and help us move forward to build and sustain a diverse, inclusive, strong, and welcoming military.”  

“This commission would be an important step to understand the full scope of the harms caused by policies like Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and to ensure a more equitable future for all who serve our country in uniform,” Blumenthal said.

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National

Activists mark Bisexual Awareness Week

Celebrate Bisexuality Day event to take place at HRC on Saturday

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Helen Parshall (Photo courtesy of Helen Parshall)

Bisexual activists during this year’s Bisexual Awareness Week are reflecting on progress made and the work that still needs to be done.

Robyn Ochs, a bisexual activist and editor of Bi Women Quarterly, told the Washington Blade that Bisexual Awareness Week “is an important opportunity to shed light on the joys, challenges and experiences of identifying as bisexual.” 

Ochs this year will be visiting Sweden for 10 days, speaking about bisexual issues in three cities and attending a gathering of bisexual people from all Nordic countries.

“I’m so excited to be a witness to history,” Ochs said.

“We are so intersectional,” added Fiona Dawson, co-founder of BiPlus Organizing US and author of “Are Bisexuals Just Greedy?” 

Dawson said that because “most transgender people identify as bisexual” and because people of color are “more likely to be bisexual than any other community,” bisexual needs must be addressed when addressing the needs of other minority communities. 

BiPlus Organizing US is hosting an event on Celebrate Bisexuality Day, Sept. 23, in D.C., with support from the Human Rights Campaign, the Bisexual Resource Center, the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community, PFLAG and #StillBisexual. 

Adrien Shanker, senior advisor for LGBTQI+ health equity in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health, is scheduled to speak at the event. Sara Mitchell, Rebecca Hershey and Mackenzie Harte are also expected to participate.

The Human Rights Campaign will host a Celebrate Bisexuality Day event on Sept. 23, 2023.

Lambda Legal Digital Director Helen Parshall, who is a member of the Bisexual Resource Center board of director, said that while Bisexual Awareness Week is good for the community, the need to continue talking about bisexual issues remains important, regardless of the date.

“If we’re only talking about bi identities for one week in September … we’re really missing a lot of the important times where it really matters to show up for bi plus people,” said Parshall.

The Bisexual Resource Center is holding a “Bi+ Joy Picnic” picnic in Malden, Mass., on Sept. 24.

Statistics note 58.2 percent of the LGBTQ community identifies as bisexual. People who identify as bisexual also have higher rates of substance abuse than straight people and struggle with mental illness more often than gay and lesbian individuals. 

Ochs said that good ways to support bisexuals and destigmatize bisexuality are to 
“bring up the topic,” and to visit the Bisexual Resource Center for what she calls, “a good dose of vitamin B+.” 

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