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Marriage advocate to speak out for LGBT workers

Wolfson among speakers for Freedom to Work’s premier ‘Situation Room’

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Evan Wolfson, Freedom to Marry
Evan Wolfson

Freedom to Marry President Evan Wolfson is set to speak at Freedom to Work’s “Situation Room” (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A longtime LGBT advocate at the forefront of the movement to advance marriage equality may take a slightly different tune on Thursday when he’s set to speak out on ways to advance LGBT workplace non-discrimination protections.

Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, is scheduled to be among the speakers at Freedom to Work’s premier “Situation Room” in New York City at New York Law School — the first in a series of public forums to strategize on the way forward for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

Wolfson told the Washington Blade he envisions that his participation will facilitate a discussion on the ways successes from the marriage equality movement can be applied to ENDA.

“It’s going to really be more of a conversation about what are some of the lessons that we applied from history and from other movements in the shaping our strategy and campaign to bring the freedom to marry to the United States, and how can we apply some of those in the work to end employment discrimination,” Wolfson said.

The cross-pollination of the marriage equality strategy to other movements isn’t new for Wolfson, who said he’s been asked by other campaigns — ranging from the environment to voting rights efforts — to talk about the ways in which marriage equality achievements can be applied to these initiatives.

Although he’s credited with being a founder of the marriage equality movement, Wolfson is no stranger to advocating on behalf of other LGBT causes. In 2000, he argued before the U.S. Supreme Court that a New Jersey law prohibiting the Boy Scouts of America from banning gay scouts was constitutional. The court ultimately ruled the other way.

Other LGBT causes in which Wolfson said he’s been involved are employment cases, work to abolish state sodomy laws as well as protections for people with HIV/AIDS.

“In all my years working in our movement, I’ve never really been a fan of pitting one so-called issue against the other,” Wolfson said. “To my mind, marriage has never been just about marriage. Marriage has been a powerful vocabulary of helping people understand who we are as LGBT people and to tap into their values of fairness and respect and help them move.”

After talking on this initial panel, Wolfson said he’ll speak out to aid LGBT workplace non-discrimination efforts “where it can be appropriate and helpful,” but added he has no immediate plans to do so.

“Obviously, my primary mission right now is continue leading the campaign to win the freedom to marry, and I want to finish the job, and we are not done,” Wolfson said.

Freedom to Work President Tico Almeida first announced the “Situation Room” in July as a way for groups working on federal workplace non-discrimination protections to lay out their contributions to the effort.

Wolfson is set to speak on a second panel as part of the “Situation Room” alongside Almeida in a session titled, “Lessons from Freedom to Marry for the Campaign to Win the Freedom to Work,” according to a statement from Freedom to Work.

Another panel earlier in the day is set to consist of Brad Sears, executive director of the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, as well as two LGBT advocates representing both major political parties: Gregory Angelo, executive director of the National Log Cabin Republicans; and Melissa Sklarz, president of Stonewall Democrats of New York City.

In a statement, Almeida billed the “Situation Room” as a bipartisan event said it would help lead to victory for ENDA on the Senate floor, where a vote is expected to take place later this year.

“We’re honored to host a bipartisan group of leading experts and advocates for this first of a kind ENDA event,” Almeida said. “I’m confident we’re going to win a big Senate victory this year, and then ride that momentum into a robust campaign in the House of Representatives.”

The program, which is scheduled to begin Thursday at 2 pm, is set to be webcast live at the LGBT blog Towleroad.com. Moderating the first panel will be Towelroad legal editor and New York Law School professor Ari Ezra Waldman of New York Law School.

Almeida declined to comment on who’s set to moderate the second panel with Wolfson, but added additional speakers will be named later in the week.

A second ENDA “Situation Room” is planned later for Miami, which Almeida said will include Spanish-language content for Latino voters. Depending the timing of the ENDA Senate vote, similar events may place in Phoenix, Las Vegas and Philadelphia.

“Given where the undecided senators reside in states like Arizona, Nevada, and Florida, we believe Latino voters are a critical part of any winning ENDA coalition,” Almeida concluded.

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Exclusive: Biden briefed on transgender deaths breaking record in 2021

At least 46 people killed in grim milestone

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President Biden was briefed on Nov. 18 on anti-transgender violence the year, a White House official said.

President Biden, in a year when the killings of transgender people are at the highest number in recorded history, has been briefed on the grim milestone of anti-transgender violence, the Washington Blade has learned exclusively.

A White House official confirmed via email to the Blade on Monday that Biden was briefed Thursday, Nov. 18 on the number of transgender and non-binary people killed in 2021, which was the same week as the Transgender Day of Remembrance.

In response to a follow-up inquiry from the Blade on which principals were in attendance at the briefing, the White House official had nothing to share.

At least 46 transgender and non-binary people have been killed, which is the highest number since efforts to record those deaths began. The violence has consistently had a disproportionate impact on transgender women of color.

The Blade first posed the question about whether Biden was briefed on anti-transgender violence to White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Nov. 12. At the time, Psaki said she was unsure whether Biden was briefed, but said deaths were “terrible, heartbreaking” to hear.

Biden’s briefing on the anti-transgender violence is consistent with the statement he issued on Saturday recognizing the Transgender Day of Remembrance, which decried the deaths of the 46 transgender and non-binary people killed in 2021.

“Each of these lives was precious,” Biden said in the statement. “Each of them deserved freedom, justice, and joy. Today, on Transgender Day of Remembrance, we mourn those we lost in the deadliest year on record for transgender Americans, as well as the countless other transgender people — disproportionately Black and brown transgender women and girls — who face brutal violence, discrimination, and harassment.”

Biden, who has called transgender rights “the civil rights issue of our time,” is credited with being a transgender advocate in the White House, having issued policies such as a rollback of former President Trump’s transgender military ban and signing an executive order requiring federal agencies to implement the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling against anti-LGBTQ discrimination to the furthest extent possible under the law.

The Biden administration announced in June an interagency task force charged with making the U.S. government as transgender inclusive as possible, which the White House says is ongoing.

The year 2021 reached a new record for anti-transgender murders upon the death of Marquiisha “Quii” Lawrence, a 28-year-old Black transgender woman who was shot and killed in her home in Greenville, S.C.

Biden and other transgender advocates marked the Transgender Day of Remembrance this year with the solemn acknowledgment of the 46 transgender and non-binary people lost in 2021.

Biden as a 2020 presidential candidate highlighted ongoing anti-transgender violence, including its disproportionate impact on transgender people of color. In his comprehensive LGBTQ platform, Biden repeatedly pledged he’d take steps to protect LGBTQ people from violence.

In fact, Biden predicted the killing of transgender people would end if former President Trump were voted out of office, telling attendees at the Human Rights Campaign dinner in 2019: “The fastest way to end it is to end the Trump administration.”

Democratic National Committee chair Jaime Harrison and LGBTQ Caucus chair Earl Fowlkes issued a joint statement, saying each of the lives lost “represents a family broken, a friend forever changed, or a community in mourning.”

“Today, we mourn the lives lost due to senseless violence,” Harrison and Fowlkes said. “Tomorrow, we reaffirm and rededicate ourselves to enacting the change necessary to create a future where no one is forced to hide or live in fear.”

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Biden recognizes anti-trans violence on Transgender Day of Remembrance

2021 deadliest year on record for transgender people

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President Biden recognized the deaths of 46 people on the Transgender Day of Remembrance.

President Biden issued on Saturday a statement recognizing the Transgender Day of Remembrance, noting an estimated 46 transgender and non-binary were recorded as killed in 2021 in a horrific milestone of the most violent year on record for the transgender community.

“This year, at least 46 transgender individuals in this country — and hundreds more around the world—were killed in horrifying acts of violence,” Biden said. “Each of these lives was precious. Each of them deserved freedom, justice, and joy. Today, on Transgender Day of Remembrance, we mourn those we lost in the deadliest year on record for transgender Americans, as well as the countless other transgender people—disproportionately Black and brown transgender women and girls — who face brutal violence, discrimination, and harassment.”

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, in response to a question from the Washington Blade last week on whether Biden was briefed on anti-transgender violence reaching a new record in 2021, called the grim milestone “heartbreaking to hear,” but said she was unsure if Biden was briefed on the issue.

The Biden statement implies he was briefed on the deaths because it referenced 2021 being the deadliest year on record with 46 deaths, although the White House hasn’t responded to the Blade’s request to comment on whether he was briefed on the violence.

Biden moved early on during his administration to act on transgender rights, reversing President Trump’s transgender military ban and signing an executive order directing federal agencies to implement the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision against anti-LGBTQ discrimination to the fullest extent possible.

The Biden administration has announced an ongoing created an interagency task force charged with making the U.S. government as transgender inclusive, which is the White House says is still ongoing.

Read Biden’s full statement below:

November 20, 2021
 Statement by President Biden on Transgender Day of Remembrance
 This year, at least 46 transgender individuals in this country—and hundreds more around the world—were killed in horrifying acts of violence. Each of these lives was precious. Each of them deserved freedom, justice, and joy. Today, on Transgender Day of Remembrance, we mourn those we lost in the deadliest year on record for transgender Americans, as well as the countless other transgender people—disproportionately Black and brown transgender women and girls—who face brutal violence, discrimination, and harassment.
 
In spite of our progress strengthening civil rights for LGBTQI+ Americans, too many transgender people still live in fear and face systemic barriers to freedom and equality. To ensure that our government protects the civil rights of transgender Americans, I charged my team with coordinating across the federal government to address the epidemic of violence and advance equality for transgender people. I continue to call on state leaders and lawmakers to combat the disturbing proliferation of discriminatory state legislation targeting transgender people, especially transgender children. As I have said before, these bills are nothing more than bullying disguised as legislation, they are un-American, and they endanger the safety and well-being of our children. I also continue to urge the Senate to swiftly pass the Equality Act so that all people are able to live free from fear and discrimination.
 
Transgender people are some of the bravest Americans I know. But no person should have to be brave just to live in safety and dignity. Today, we remember. Tomorrow—and every day—we must continue to act.
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House resolution introduced to recognize Transgender Day of Remembrance

2021 deadliest year on record with 47 recorded deaths

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Reps. Marie Newman (left), Pramila Jayapal (center) and Jennifer Wexton have introduced a resolution to recognize the Transgender Day of Remembrance Photos of Newman and Jayapal public domain; Washington Blade photo of Wexton by Michael Key).

On the eve of the Transgender Day of Remembrance, a trio of House Democrats have introduced during a year with the highest recorded deaths of transgender and non-binary people a resolution that would officially recognize the annual occasion.

The measure was introduced by Reps. Marie Newman (D-Ill.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.), who are known as vocal transgender advocates and members of the Transgender Equality Task Force, as part of group of 62 members of the U.S. House, according to a statement from the LGBTQ Equality Caucus. The resolution would commemorate Nov. 20 as the Transgender Day of Remembrance.

Newman, who’s been open about having a young transgender daughter, said in a statement violence against transgender Americans, particularly Black and Brown transgender women, has become a “national epidemic.”

“With this resolution, we are not only recognizing the far too many souls lost to violence this year but also honoring their memory with a commitment to fight against anti-trans hate, rhetoric and violence,” Newman said. “Transgender Americans face hateful and disgusting attacks — verbal and physical — every single day just for simply existing in the world, and each of us has a fundamental obligation to speak out against it.”

The Transgender Day of Remembrance comes with 2021 having the highest number of recorded killings of transgender and non-binary people in a single year. A total of 47 deaths have been recorded, according to the LGBTQ Equality Caucus.

Wexton said in a statement the ongoing deaths of transgender people are “cannot be overlooked or ignored,” calling 2021 the deadliest year on record.

“Our trans friends and neighbors face greater threats of violence, bullying, and discrimination in nearly every aspect of their lives, and they deserve justice and equality,” Wexton said.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, under questioning from the Washington Blade last week on whether President Biden was briefed on 2021 being the deadliest year on record for transgender people, said the grim milestone is “terrible and heartbreaking” although she said she was unsure on whether Biden was briefed.

The White House hasn’t responded with any update on whether or not Biden has been briefed as of the eve of the Transgender Day of Remembrance.

Jayapal, who in addition to being a transgender advocate has been the face of the $1.75 trillions Build Back Better plan approved recently in the House, said in a statement the names of each of the transgender dead should be spoken aloud, the action should follow.

“Our resolution acknowledges this truth as we continue our dedicated work to strengthen hate crime laws, pass the Equality Act through the Senate, and ensure that every transgender person is able to live freely as themselves,” Jayapal said.

An LGBTQ Equality Caucus spokesperson didn’t respond Friday to the Blade’s request to comment on whether House leadership gave the sponsors of the legislation any indication the resolution would obtain a floor vote.

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