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Trump budget assailed for ‘troubling’ cuts to LGBT civil rights

Proposal would zap agency charged with enforcing Obama LGBT order



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President Donald Trump has proposed a budget that includes cuts to civil rights agencies. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

President Trump’s commitment to upholding civil rights for LGBT people has come into renewed question in the wake of a budget proposal that makes substantial cuts to agencies enforcing non-discrimination laws and cumulative actions over the course of his administration undermining those statutes.

Trump’s $4.1 trillion budget proposal for fiscal year 2018 — unveiled late last month — calls for major cuts from Obama-era levels to civil rights agencies within federal departments across the board, including the Justice Department, the Department of Health & Human Services and the Education Department.

Also, the budget proposes the elimination of the Labor Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance — which is charged with enforcing President Obama’s executive order barring anti-LGBT workplace discrimination among federal contractors — and merging it with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the U.S. agency that enforces federal employment non-discrimination law.

Sharita Gruberg, associate director of LGBT research and communications for the Center for American Progress, said the proposed cuts are “really troubling” for the continued enforcement of laws barring discrimination against LGBT people.

“There are cuts across every single federal agency charged with enforcing civil rights laws and it would undo a lot of the gains that we’ve gotten over the last administration in ensuring that civil rights are robustly enforced,” Gruberg said.

A White House Office of Management & Budget official pointed to other aspects of the Trump budget the administration says demonstrates a commitment to civil rights, such as $2.7 million for the Education Department’s Civil Rights Data Collection program, which is three times more than what was planned for FY-17.

“The president’s budget proposal maintains the administration’s commitment to the enforcement of the nation’s civil rights laws,” the official said. “It straightlines funding for DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, supporting efforts to combat human trafficking; prosecute hate crimes; protect the rights of U.S. workers, service members, and veterans; safeguard the voting rights for all Americans; and promote fair housing and educational opportunities.”

For the HHS Office of Civil Rights, the Trump budget proposes a 15 percent cut — down from an estimated $53 million from FY-17 to $44 million in FY-18 — and a 10 percent staff reduction, from 177 to 161.

That office is charged with enforcing Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, which bars discrimination on the basis of sex in health care. The Obama administration issued a rule clarifying that provision applies to transgender people, ensuring access to transition-related care and gender reassignment surgery.

Although U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor in Texas issued an injunction barring the Obama administration from applying the Section 1557 to cases of transgender discrimination, Gruberg said the HHS Office of Civil Rights “presumably should still be investigating complaints from LGBT people of discrimination in health care” and the cuts would be harmful.

“These are complaints that would not get the resources or staffing needed to ensure that they are investigated and that LGBT people are getting the health care that they’re entitled to without discrimination,” Gruberg said.

For the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights, which is charged with enforcing Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the funding is maintained between FY-17 and FY-18 at $107 million. However, with the same level of funding the proposed budget calls for a seven percent reduction in staff, from 569 employees to 523.

Courts are beginning to construe Title IX, which bars discrimination on the basis of sex, to apply to LGBT students. The Obama administration issued guidance indicating schools that bar transgender kids from the restroom consistent with their gender identity may lose funding under this law, but U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos revoked the guidance.

Even though the Trump administration rescinded the guidance, Gruberg said the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights is still charged with investigations under Title IX, citing a 75 percent increase in complaints from 2009 to 2015.

“The law is still the law and this would hurt the office’s ability to provide technical assistance about what their obligations are under the law even without the guidance in place,” Gruberg said.

For the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, the Trump budget proposes the elimination of 121 staff positions. That division is responsible for upholding civil rights laws, including Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars employment discrimination based on sex, and the Violence Against Women Act, which specifically bars anti-LGBT discrimination in domestic abuse relief programs.

Under former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, the civil rights division filed a lawsuit against North Carolina’s anti-LGBT House Bill 2 based on the laws before the litigation was withdrawn under Trump.

“At a time when they filed the most criminal civil rights complaints and trafficking complaints ever, this staffing cut will severely diminish the ability of DOJ civil rights to file and prosecute criminal and civil rights violations,” Gruberg said.

In addition to merging OFCCP with EEOC, the budget calls for the elimination of 130 full-time staff positions from the latter agency since FY-17, although funding would be flatlined at $364 million.

Gruberg said the cuts were “shocking” and the proposed merger spells trouble because OFCCP has oversight authority to investigate federal contractors for violations unlike EEOC, which generally awaits discrimination complaints filed by employees before taking action.

“They’re able to proactively investigate the status of equal opportunity at companies receiving taxpayer funds and ensure that they are not discriminating in ways that individuals employees might not be able to really grasp, such as hiring disparities, pay disparities, some of these systemic issues that an individual employee in their position might not know what’s happening to them,” Gruberg said.

The Department of Housing & Urban Development is also charged with enforcing a non-discrimination policy for LGBT Americans, a Obama administration rule barring anti-LGBT discrimination in government-sponsored housing and homeless shelters.

But assessing the capacity to enforce the rule is hard, Gruberg said, because that task is spread out across the agency. Primarily, HUD implements the rule through the Office of Fair Housing & Equal Opportunity, but the gender identity equal access piece is primarily implemented by the Office of Community Planning & Development, she said.

In Trump’s proposed budget, staffing levels for the Office of Fair Housing & Equal Opportunity would decrease by 10 and 26 full-time equivalents would be cut from Office of Community Planning & Development.

The proposed reductions in the budget for the enforcement of civil rights law are consistent with assertions the Trump administration has undertaken actions undermining civil rights, including a travel ban, review of police consent decrees and formation of an “election integrity” task force that seems to attempt to justify voter suppression efforts. On LGBT rights, the Trump administration has made anti-LGBT appointments, omitted LGBT questions from federal surveys and declined to defend LGBT rights measures in court.

Led by the Leadership Conference on Civil & Human Rights, a coalition of more than 100 groups this week co-signed a letter to Trump earlier this week urging him to reverse course and defend civil rights.

“Our nation should honor equal protection for all, view its diversity as its strength, and strive to be an inclusive place where all in America can live, work, study, and participate in our democracy as free and equal people,” the letter says. “We call on you and your administration to take affirmative steps to halt the problematic policies and initiatives we have outlined, and to provide positive leadership on these issues in order to promote inclusion and respect for the basic rights and dignity of every person in America.”

The EEOC doesn’t seem fazed by the prospects of having to implement the duties of OFFCP in addition to investigations and prosecutions already underway.

Kimberly Smith-Brown, an EEOC spokesperson, said the merger wouldn’t happen until FY-19 and the agency expects a “smooth transition” into the change.

“The FY 2018 budget refers to the proposed merger which would take place in FY 2019, with 2018 being a transition year during which OFCCP and EEOC would engage in transition talks and planning,” Smith-Brown said. “There were no financial or staffing implications for EEOC in FY 2018. Should the proposal to merge OFCCP and EEOC be approved by Congress, we are committed to a smooth transfer and transition.”

The OFFCP never publicly announced any investigations, charges or victories under Obama’s 2014 executive order against LGBT discrimination. It seems unlikely there were any because the Labor Department usually announces them as they occur.

The Labor Department for a span of years under the Obama administration and Trump administration hasn’t responded to the Washington Blade’s request to comment on whether investigations under the order had taken place.

Even though the EEOC has stated it can handle the transition, Gruberg said she thinks those remarks are aspirational and the proposed changes under the Trump budget aren’t “practically feasible.”

“You’re combining two offices that play very different roles in equal opportunity enforcement,” Gruberg said. “At the same time, you’re severely cutting staffing at these offices. And so, I think the combination of these two moves are really going to hinder the ability of these agencies to secure equal opportunity in the workforce for LGBT people.”

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Va. senator introduces anti-transgender student athlete bill

Democrats have vowed to thwart anti-LGBTQ measures in state Senate



transgender, Gender Conference East, trans, transgender flag, gay news, Washington Blade
(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A Virginia lawmaker has introduced a bill that would ban transgender students from joining school sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity.

Senate Bill 766, which state Sen. Jennifer Kiggans (R-Virginia Beach) introduced on Friday, would require “each elementary or secondary school or a private school that competes in sponsored athletic events against such public schools to designate athletic teams, whether a school athletic team or an intramural team sponsored by such school, based on biological sex as follows: (i) ‘males,’ ‘men,’ or ‘boys’; (ii) ‘females,’ ‘women,’ or ‘girls’; or (iii) ‘coed’ or ‘mixed.'”

“Under the bill, male students are not permitted to participate on any school athletic team or squad designated for ‘females,’ ‘women,’ or ‘girls’; however, this provision does not apply to physical education classes at schools,” adds the bill. “The bill provides civil penalties for students and schools that suffer harm as a result of a violation of the bill. Such civil actions are required to be initiated within two years after the harm occurred.”

Kiggans introduced her bill less than a week after Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin took office.

Youngkin during his campaign said he does not support allowing trans children to play on sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity. Elizabeth Schultz, an anti-LGBTQ former member of the Fairfax County School Board, has been named the Virginia Department of Education’s Assistant Superintendent of Public Instruction.

The General Assembly’s 2022 legislative session began on Jan. 12 with Republicans in control of the state House of Delegates. Democrats still control the state Senate, and they have pledged to thwart any anti-LGBTQ bills.

“Let’s be clear: This is part of an ongoing, nationwide effort to exclude trans people from enjoying the benefits of sports like their cisgender peers,” tweeted the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia on Friday after Kiggans introduced SB 766. “We won’t tolerate this.”

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Comings & Goings

Hazen inducted into Cooperative Hall of Fame



Paul Hazen

The Comings & Goings column is about sharing the professional successes of our community. We want to recognize those landing new jobs, new clients for their business, joining boards of organizations and other achievements. Please share your successes with us at: [email protected] 

The Comings & Goings column also invites LGBTQ+ college students to share their successes with us. If you have been elected to a student government position, gotten an exciting internship, or are graduating and beginning your career with a great job, let us know so we can share your success. 

Congratulations to Paul Hazen on his being inducted into the 2022 Cooperative Hall of Fame.  On receiving the honor, he said, “I am very lucky to be given the opportunity to combine my work in international development with my volunteer cooperative development work in Washington DC.”

Hazen is executive director, U.S. Overseas Cooperative Development Council (OCDC) and has devoted his career to elevating the cooperative voice domestically and internationally. U.S. co-ops include Ace Hardware, Land O’Lakes, Inc., Sunkist, REI and the Associated Press. Hazen helped establish federal legislation promoting rural co-op development.  

Prior to joining OCDC, he was CEO of Washington, D.C.-based National Cooperative Business Association CLUSA International. During his 25-year tenure with the organization, he held key positions, including chief operating officer, vice president of public policy, vice president of member services and director of consumer cooperatives.

He worked for Rep. Al Baldus (Wisc.). He was executive director of Rural Housing Inc. in Madison, Wisc., where he developed co-ops and affordable housing projects in rural communities. 

As a volunteer, Hazen formed the Community Purchasing Alliance (CPA) with 12 congregations in D.C.  In 2020, CPA secured more than $18.7 million in contracts resulting in an investment of $13 million in D.C.-based small businesses owned by people of color.

Ben Finzel

Congratulations also to Ben Finzel, who was inducted into the National Capital Public Relations Hall of Fame. Upon receiving the honor, he said “To be recognized by your peers is wonderful; to be honored by them is amazing. I still can’t quite believe I have done enough to be worthy of this recognition, but I know enough to be thankful and appreciative of this high honor. Thank you PRSA National Capital Chapter for including me in such inspiring company; I will be forever grateful.”

Finzel is president of RENEWPR, a D.C.-based public affairs, communications consulting firm. In 2004, he helped launch FH Out Front, the first global LGBTQ communications practice at an international firm, Fleishman Hillard, and served as its first global chair. He started DC Family Communicators, a professional networking group for LGBTQ communications professionals. Finzel served on the Victory Campaign Board of the LGBTQ Victory Fund from 2007 to 2017.

His firm is currently celebrating its seventh year in business. To recognize that accomplishment, Finzel is launching an endowed scholarship at his alma mater, Texas Tech University. His business is certified as an LGBT Business Enterprise by the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce.

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Corte Suprema de Justicia de Honduras impide que personas LGBTQ puedan casarse y tengan derechos civiles 

Organizaciones presentan nuevos recursos de inconstitucionalidad



Manifestaciones del 20 de enero en la Corte Suprema de Justicia por la decisión de la Corte (Foto cortesía de Reportar sin Miedo)

Reportar sin Miedo es el socio mediático del Washington Blade en Honduras. Esta nota salió en su sitio web el 20 de enero.

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — Líderes LGBTIQ+ enfrentaron un hecho de discriminación hoy al presentarse en la Corte Suprema de Justicia, donde los guardias de seguridad los reprimieron y cerraron los portones de acceso vehícular y peatonal, impidiéndoles ingresar al edificio para presentar los recursos de inconstitucionalidad sobre el matrimonio igualitario. 

En una marcha pacífica, más de 50 personas de la diversidad sexual organizadas en mesas de acceso a la justicia de Honduras salieron del bulevar las Fuerzas Armadas hacia las instalaciones del Poder Judicial para pedirles a los magistrados de la Sala de lo Constitucional que acepten un nuevo recurso tras el fallo anunciado esta semana y presentado en 2018 por las organizaciones Cattrachas y Somos CDC. 

Durante los 10 minutos en que se interrumpió el acceso al palacio judicial, lxs activistas denunciaron agresiones verbales del personal de seguridad de la Corte. Al final ingresaron por el portón vehícular. Se instalaron en las gradas de la entrada principal e hicieron un plantón pacífico, durante el cual exclamaron: “Sí se pudo”, después de lo cual se permitió que líderes LGBTIQ+ ingresaran a la sala a presentar el nuevo recurso. 

Las mesas de acceso a la justicia para población LGBTIQ+ están integradas por Arcoiris, Somos CDC, Asociación Kukulcán, colectivo feminista Ixchel, Somos Trans, Colectivo Violeta, Muñecas de Arcoiris, Grupo Lésbico y Bisexual LITOS de Honduras entre otras.

La directora de Muñecas de Arcoíris, JLo Córdova, y sus compañeras trans marcharon y exigieron a la corte respeto a los derechos civiles de las personas LGBTIQ+ en Honduras. 

“No esperamos nada de una clase política opresora”, dijo el activista de la Asociación Arcoíris, Donnis Reyes, quien recalcó que el fallo de la CSJ no es nada nuevo, ya que por más de 12 años el Partido Nacional de Honduras ha influenciado las decisiones del Poder Legislativo y Judicial. 

“Estamos pidiendo que se deroguen ciertos artículos anticonstitucionales y no están basados en derechos”, dijo la directora ejecutiva de la organización feminista Ixchel, Lucía Barrientos, quien se refiere a la opinión consultiva sobre identidad de género, igualdad y no discriminación a parejas del mismo sexo presentada por la Corte IDH. 

La Corte IDH ha indicado que existe un vínculo indisoluble entre igualdad y no discriminación y se ha establecido la dificultad de separarlos por cuanto el incumplimiento de uno (igualdad) acarrea necesariamente la verificación de la prohibición del segundo (no discriminación). 

En ese sentido, la Corte IDH ha indicado que, en función del reconocimiento de igualdad ante la ley, se prohíbe todo tratamiento discriminatorio. Este principio rector y derecho fundamental fue acertadamente introducido en nuestra Constitución en su artículo 60.

“La falta de reconocimiento jurídico de la realidad conformada por las parejas homosexuales es un atentado contra la dignidad de sus integrantes porque lesiona su autonomía y capacidad de autodeterminación al impedir que su decisión de conformar un proyecto de vida en común produzca efectos jurídico-patrimoniales, lo cual significa que, dado un régimen imperativo del derecho civil, quedan en una situación de desprotección que no están en capacidad de afrontar”, resolvió la Corte Suprema de Justicia de Honduras.

La CSJ declaró no ha lugar los recursos de Inconstitucionalidad vía acción y por razón de contenido, ambos contra el Decreto No. 176-2024, emitido por el Congreso Nacional de la República, en fecha 28 de octubre del año 2004, mediante el cual reformó el artículo 112 de la Constitución de la República y el artículo 45 del Código de Familia.

El fallo fue notificado en la tercera semana de enero, a pocos días de la culminación del gobierno nacionalista de Juan Hernández, pero la sentencia fue emitida en abril de 2021, dos meses después (28 de junio) de la sentencia histórica del caso “Vicky Hernández y otros versus Honduras” por la Corte IDH, donde condena al Estado de Honduras por el asesinato de la líder trans de San Pedro Sula y ordena una serie de reparaciones que incluye otorgar, a través de la vía administrativa, el cambio de nombre de las personas trans, así como otra serie de derechos. 

Reportar sin Miedo habló con activistas, quienes dijeron: “Hubo un retraso injustificado en la notificación de la sentencia”. 

En América Latina, 10 países reconocen algún tipo de uniones del mismo sexo. El matrimonio entre personas del mismo sexo es legal en Argentina, Brasil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, México, Uruguay y en los territorios dependientes de Guayana Francesa e islas Malvinas. Bajo una perspectiva del derecho comparado, el reconocimiento de las uniones homosexuales se ha dado a través de dos vías: la judicial (a través de sentencias de tribunales judiciales) y la legislativa.

Sin embargo, en Honduras el artículo 112 Constitucional, en su párrafo primero, literalmente dice: “Se reconoce el derecho del hombre y de la mujer, que tengan la calidad de tales naturalmente, a contraer matrimonio entre sí, así como la igualdad jurídica de los cónyuges. Solo es válido el matrimonio civil celebrado ante funcionario”.

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