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Treasury Department endorses Asian Development Bank LGBTQ safeguard

Final vote expected in March 2023

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(Bigstock photo)

The Treasury Department has endorsed an LGBTQ-specific Asian Development Bank safeguard.

The Washington Blade obtained a May 31 email that Alex Severens, director of the Treasury Department’s Office of Development Results and Accountability, sent to Council for Global Equality Chair Mark Bromley and Human Rights Campaign Government Affairs Director David Stacy.

Severens in the email said the Treasury Department “has considered this issue carefully and has received thoughtful input from a variety of stakeholders.”

“Treasury agrees with your recommendation to adopt a standalone gender and SOGIESC safeguard,” wrote Severens. “In order to protect all vulnerable groups, we also believe it important to include a more general safeguard for all vulnerable groups that promotes non-discrimination and inclusion of all people.”

The Asian Development Bank, which is based in the Philippines, seeks to promote economic and social development throughout the Asia-Pacific Region.

It held consultations on the proposed safeguard earlier this week. The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and the AFL-CIO are among those that have endorsed the safeguard.

“United Nations Human Rights (OHCHR) strongly supports the need for a self-standing safeguard on gender equality that addresses the full range of rights of women and girls and the rights of LGBTIQ+ persons,” wrote Gabriel Alves de Faria in a June 7 letter in which the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights submitted.

The Treasury Department has not responded to the Blade’s request for comment. Chantale Wong, the U.S. director of the Asian Development Bank who is the first openly lesbian American ambassador, in April during an exclusive interview expressed support for the safeguard.

“In all the institutions, we come up with ensuring that any of our projects and our policies do no harm and maybe even improve the lives of the beneficiaries we try to serve,” said Wong. “Ultimately, it’s about economic development for these countries … we’ve always had labor standards, environmental standards, other social standards, social safeguards. You don’t go in and harm the people you’re trying to help.”

The Asian Development Bank board is expected to vote on the proposed safeguard in March.

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Federal Government

Department of Education to investigate Nex Benedict’s Okla. school district

Nonbinary student died last month after students assaulted them

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Nex Benedict (Family photo)

On Friday the U.S. Department of Education informed Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson that the department will open an investigation in response to HRC’s letter regarding Owasso Public Schools and its failure to respond appropriately to sex-based harassment that may have contributed to the death of Nex Benedict, a 16-year-old nonbinary teenager of Choctaw heritage. 

This investigation was triggered by a formal complaint made last week by Robinson, who wrote to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona and asked his department to use the enforcement mechanisms at its disposal to prevent similar tragedies from taking place in the future and to help hold accountable those responsible for Benedict’s death.

The letter from the Department of Education reads: “the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR), is opening for investigation the above-referenced complaint that you filed against the Owasso Public Schools (the District.) Your complaint alleges that the District discriminated against students by failing to respond appropriately to sex-based harassment, of which it had notice, at Owasso High School during the 2023-2024 school year,” said Robinson.

“Nex’s family, community and the broader 2SLGBTQI+ (two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex+) community in Oklahoma are still awaiting answers following their tragic loss. We appreciate the Department of Education responding to our complaint and opening an investigation — we need them to act urgently so there can be justice for Nex, and so that all students at Owasso High School and every school in Oklahoma can be safe from bullying, harassment and discrimination,” Robinson added.

According to the letter, OCR is opening the following issues for investigation:

  • Whether the District failed to appropriately respond to alleged harassment of students in a manner consistent with the requirements of Title IX.
  • Whether the District failed to appropriately respond to alleged harassment of students in a manner consistent with the requirements of Section 504 and Title II.

HRC sent a second letter to the Department asking it to promptly begin an investigation into the Oklahoma State Department of Education, as well as the current State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Ryan Walters. In addition:

  • Robinson wrote to Attorney General Merrick Garland asking the Department of Justice to begin an investigation into Nex’s death.
  • Robinson wrote to Dr. Margaret Coates, superintendent of the Owasso School District in Oklahoma, calling for the superintendent to take advantage of HRC’s Welcoming Schools program — the most comprehensive bias-based bullying prevention program in the nation to provide LGBTQ and gender inclusive training and resources — and offering to bring experts to the district immediately.

The full text of the letter from the Department of Education in response to HRC can be found here.

The full text of the initial letter from Robinson to Cardona can be found here.

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Federal Government

Schools are the third most popular location for hate crimes, FBI says

Agency previously found anti-LGBTQ incidents increased significantly

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FBI Director Christopher Wray (Screen capture/NBC News)

Statistics released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation on Monday reveal that schools were the third most popular spot for bias-motivated hate crimes that were reported between 2018-2022.

Primary and secondary schools and university campuses accounted for 10 percent of all hate crimes reported in 2022, while the first and second most common locations were homes and residences and highways, roads and alleyways, the FBI said in its report.

Data comes from the agency’s Uniform Crime Reporting program. The FBI’s annual crime report from 2022, which was released in October, found that anti-LGBTQ hate crimes rose precipitously from the previous year.

Specifically, there with a 13.8 percent increase in crimes motivated by the victim’s sexual orientation and a 32.9 percent increase in crimes motivated by the victim’s gender identity.

In the five years covered in the FBI’s report on Monday, anti-LGBTQ crimes were the third most common, behind those perpetrated against Black or African American victims and those targeting those from certain religious groups, most often Jewish people.

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Federal Government

Trans veterans sue the VA for coverage of surgeries

Case filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit

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U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough (Screen capture/YouTube)

A group of transgender veterans on Thursday sued the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to compel the agency to cover gender affirming surgeries, following verbal assurances that it would begin providing these services.

The lawsuit, filed by the Transgender American Veterans Association, aims to reduce the risk of adverse health outcomes that can result from lack of access to medically necessary healthcare interventions for people with gender dysphoria.

This includes suicides, depression and psychological distress.

In its complaint before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, the group argued gender affirming surgeries are often prohibitively expensive when administered by private doctors.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough in 2021 said the agency was engaged in a rule making process to provide these services to trans veterans such that they can “go through the full gender confirmation process with VA by their side.”

The process, he said, would take a few years to “develop capacity to meet the surgical needs.”

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