Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos Rescinds Sexual Assault Protections

Today, HRC responded to Trump-Pence administration’s announcement that they will be rescinding Title IX guidance related to schools’ obligations to address sexual harassment, including sexual violence.

“With today’s announcement, Betsy DeVos and the Trump administration have clearly drawn a line in the sand, stating that they prefer it be more difficult for survivors of sexual assault to receive justice,” said David Stacy, director of government affairs at the Human Rights Campaign. “LGBTQ Americans face disproportionate levels of sexual assault and violence. This unconscionable decision — coupled with the decision to rescind guidance aimed at protecting transgender students — sadly indicates that the Department of Education is no longer in the business of protecting students from harm.”

Title IX prohibits sex discrimination in any educational program or activity that receives federal funding. While historically known for its impact on women’s athletics admissions, Title IX’s prohibition on sex discrimination, as a matter of law, also requires schools to address sexual harassment, including sexual violence, as forms of sex discrimination. In addition, Title IX protects students from discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation, as evidenced by continuing case law, guidance previously issued by the Department of Education, and school district settlements to this effect.

LGBTQ people are disproportionately affected by sexual assault and harassment, and the stigma that many LGBTQ people face can make it more difficult for survivors to report. Studies suggest that nearly half of bisexual women have been raped and half of transgender people will experience sexual violence at some point in their lifetimes. According to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, a national survey of high school students, lesbian and bisexual women and gay and bisexual men experienced higher rates of sexual assault than their straight counterparts. In addition, a 2015 study by the Association of American Universities found that 60 percent of gay and lesbian students and nearly 70 percent of bisexual students report being sexually harassed on campus.

In February, DeVos and Attorney General Jeff Sessions also withdrew important guidance that clarified schools’ obligations to protect transgender students from discrimination under Title IX.

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Ruling Affirms Civil Rights Laws Protect Employees from Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation

Today, HRC hailed a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit finding that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act includes protections based on sexual orientation. This decision marks the first time a federal appellate court has ruled this way and reverses a previous decision made in July.

“This critically important Circuit Court decision has adopted a well-grounded legal analysis concluding that our nation’s civil rights laws include sexual orientation,” said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. “Today’s ruling is a monumental victory for fairness in the workplace, and for the dignity of lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans who may live in fear of losing their job based on whom they love. This court joins five others that have ruled these laws also prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity. We congratulate plaintiff Kimberly Hively, Lambda Legal and all the attorneys who helped achieve this victory.”

The Hively case stems from a lawsuit brought by Indiana teacher Kimberly Hively, who alleged  that Ivy Tech Community College in South Bend did not offer her a full-time position because she is a lesbian. She was represented in the case by Gregory Nevins of Lambda Legal.

HRC holds the view that Title VII protects LGBTQ employees. Three successful legal efforts — all led by Lambda Legal — in federal courts in Seattle, Chicago, and Washington D.C., were cited by the EEOC in Baldwin v. Foxx in 2015. In that decision, the EEOC concluded that sexual orientation “inherently” involves sex-based considerations, and so sexual orientation discrimination claims are “necessarily” claims under Title VII.

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NBA Stands up for Equality, Warns Texas Lawmakers Anti-LGBTQ Bills Could Affect All-Star Game Bids

Today, HRC hailed comments from the National Basketball Association, warning Texas lawmakers that any legislative attack on LGBTQ people would factor into a decision as to where big-ticket games, such as the All-Star Game, would be played. The NBA joins the NFL in issuing a warning to lawmakers in Texas, after the National Football League cautioned last week that anti-LGBTQ legislation such as Texas’ SB 6 could affect Texas cities’ future bids for the Super Bowl.

“The NBA’s commitment to the safety, dignity and worth of its players, employees and fans is clear. It’s time for Texas to make the same commitment,” said JoDee Winterhof, HRC Senior Vice President for Policy and Political Affairs. “This weekend the city of New Orleans will celebrate an All-Star Weekend originally slated for Charlotte. Is that the kind of loss Texas lawmakers want to see? We hope that Texas lawmakers will heed this warning better than their North Carolinian counterparts did. Bills such as SB 6 are discriminatory, costly and wrong, and we are glad to see that the NBA and the NFL continue to stand on the side of equality and fairness.”

In July of 2016, the NBA pulled its 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte, NC after North Carolina specifically because lawmakers refused to repeal the harmful, discriminatory HB2. Despite the NBA’s repeated warnings that it would have to consider moving the high-profile game out of the state if the anti-LGBTQ law was not repealed, the state’s General Assembly neglected to act to repeal HB2. The 2017 All-Star Game will be played this weekend in New Orleans.

In a statement, an NBA spokesperson said, “ensuring the environment where those who participate and attend are treated fairly and equally,” is a key factor in the league’s decision-making process when selecting sites for the All-Star Game and others. Last week, the NFL issued a similar statement, saying, “If a proposal that is discriminatory or inconsistent with our values were to become law there, that would certainly be a factor considered when thinking about awarding future events.”

SB 6 is a discriminatory, anti-transgender bill. ​The bill would overturn non-discrimination ordinances currently providing critical protections in several major Texas cities; further, it would force state agencies, municipalities, public schools and public universities to discriminate against transgender people. By making it illegal for transgender people in Texas to be afforded access to facilities consistent with their identity, it opens them up to increased discrimination and harassment as they simply live their everyday lives. It also exposes Texas to tremendous risk of the kind of financial, legal, and political blowback that North Carolina has continued to reckon with after the passage of HB2.​

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Alabama House Committee Advances Shameful Bill Allowing Taxpayer-Funded Anti-LGBTQ Discrimination

Today, HRC blasted the Alabama House Health Committee for putting the discriminatory H.B. 24 bill on the fast track to a vote by the full House of Representatives.

The bill, deceptively titled the “Child Placing Agency Inclusion Act,” would enshrine taxpayer-funded discrimination into Alabama law by allowing state-funded and licensed adoption and foster care agencies to reject prospective LGBTQ adoptive or foster parents based on the agency’s religious beliefs.

“Alabama’s child welfare system has over 5,000 children waiting to be placed with or adopted by a qualified, loving family, yet our state lawmakers appear more interested in focusing on discriminating against LGBTQ people than helping these young people to find permanent homes,” said Eva Kendrick, HRC Alabama state manager. “Offering adoption and foster care services to the public is not a religious-based activity, and this effort to discriminate using taxpayer dollars is an embarrassing and dangerous distraction from the real problems facing Alabama. HRC Alabama opposes this noxious bill and any attempt to make life more difficult for Alabama’s LGBTQ families and youth — especially children in out-of-home care due to crisis, abuse and neglect.”

H.B. 24 would allow state-licensed and funded child-placing agencies to disregard the best interest of children, and turn away qualified Alabamians seeking to care for a child in need — including LGBTQ couples, interfaith couples, single parents, married couples in which one prospective parent has previously been divorced, or other parents to whom the agency has a religious objection. The measure would even allow agencies to refuse to place foster children with members of their own extended families — a practice often considered to be in the best interest of the child. A qualified, loving LGBTQ grandparent, for example, could be deemed unsuitable under the proposed law.

Research consistently shows that LGBTQ youth are overrepresented in the foster care system, as many have been rejected by their families of origin because of their LGBTQ status, and are especially vulnerable to discrimination and mistreatment while in foster care. H.B. 24 would only exacerbate the challenges faced by these young people.

In 2014, HRC launched Project One America, an initiative geared towards advancing social, institutional and legal equality in Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi. HRC Alabama continues to work to advance equality for LGBTQ Alabamians who have no statewide protections in housing, workplace, or public accommodations; or legal state recognition for their relationships and families. Through HRC Alabama, we are working toward a future of fairness every day—changing hearts, minds and laws toward achieving full equality.

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