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The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights  & The Leadership Conference Education Fund
The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

LGBT Rights

There is currently no federal law protecting individuals from job discrimination based on actual or perceived sexual orientation. This means that at any time, someone can be discriminated against, fired or not hired simply because he/she is or is perceived to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.

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HUD Combats LGBT Housing Discrimination

October 27, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently proposed new regulations to ensure that its housing programs are open to all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

The regulations clarify that the term "family" as HUD uses it includes LGBT individuals and couples and requires HUD grantees and participants in HUD programs to comply with local and state non-discrimination laws that include sexual orientation and gender identity. The regulations specify that any mortgage loan insured by the Federal Housing Administration must be based only on credit-worthiness and not on unrelated identity factors.

The department also plans to authorize the first national study of discrimination of the LGBT community in the rental and sale of housing.  Although there have been no national studies of housing discrimination against LGBT people, state and local studies show significant evidence of discrimination.

"The evidence is clear that some are denied the opportunity to make housing choices in our nation based on who they are and that must end. President Obama and I are determined that a qualified individual and family will not be denied housing choice based on sexual orientation or gender identity," HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan said.

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Equality March Continues the Work of the Gay Rights Movement

October 14, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference


Photo Credit: Nicole Sweeney

Tens of thousands converged on Washington, D.C., this past Sunday in a demonstration of support for the LGBT community.  The march, organized by Equality Across America called for "equal protection in all matters governed by civil law in all 50 states." 

Cleve Jones, a gay civil rights icon and one of the march's organizers, firmly told the crowd, "We're not settling. There's no such thing as a fraction of equality."

The Equality March took place 30 years after the first National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights on October 14, 1979.  It was the first of several national marches that transformed the gay liberation movement into a unified national movement.

Categories: LGBT Rights

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Today in Civil Rights History: The AIDS Memorial Quilt Is Displayed for the First Time

October 9, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

The AIDS quilt laid out on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

The AIDS quilt laid out on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. 

The quilt has gone on many tours since, with panels being added at each stop and a reading of names traditionally following each display. It currently includes more than 44,000 panels, including panels from every state and dozens of countries. To date, it has been visited by over 14 million people and has helped the NAMES Project Foundation raise more than $3 million for AIDS services.

The quilt, while impressive for its size and scope as the largest community art project in the world, is perhaps most significant for other reasons. It is full of emotionally powerful and often uplifting responses to a tragic pandemic. It offers an opportunity for those who have lost loved ones to AIDS to commemorate their lives in a unique way. 

As important as the quilt is for the gay community and those impacted directly by the disease, it also sends an important message to the world. It represents the scale and impact of the AIDS pandemic to others through both its large size and deeply personal patchwork pieces.

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House Hearing Highlights Urgent Need to Pass ENDA

September 24, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

Witnesses at yesterday's House Education and Labor Committee hearing on the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) reaffirmed the need for the passage of this important civil rights legislation.

ENDA would outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.  The bill is modeled after existing laws that protect workers from discrimination on the basis of race, religion, gender, national origin, age, and disability.

The committee heard from a wide array of witnesses, including Vandy Beth Glenn whose testimony highlighted the devastating consequences of discrimination.  Glenn was a dedicated employee of the Georgia State Assembly, but when her employer found out that she was completing a gender transition, she was promptly dismissed.

"My editorial skills had not changed. My work ethic had not changed – I was still ready and willing to burn the midnight oil with my colleagues, making sure that every bill was letter-perfect. My commitment to the General Assembly, to its leaders...The only thing that changed was my gender – and because of that, the legislature I'd worked so hard for no longer had any use for my skills," Glenn said.

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Senate Introduces ENDA

August 5, 2009 - Posted by Tyler Lewis

Today, the Senate introduced the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a bill that would prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in all states across the country. ENDA would extend the same federal employment discrimination protections currently given to race, religion, gender, national origin, age, and disability.

"The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights strongly supports ENDA.  We believe that civil rights should be measured by a single yardstick, which means that workers should be hired or fired based on performance and qualifications, not on immutable characteristics such as race, gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity.  For too many Americans, this principle has little meaning, and this long overdue legislation will finally close a major gap in our nation's civil rights laws," said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR).

The House of Representatives introduced its version of the bill in June.

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Putting an End to Anti-Gay Bullying

July 6, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

The suicides of 11-year-olds Jaheem Herrera and Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover in April have refocused many people's attention on the problem of anti-gay bullying. Both boys committed suicide after enduring anti-gay bullying at school.

Two-thirds of students report being bullied, according to Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) data from 2005, yet some groups of students are disproportionately targeted for harassment. Nearly 90 percent of LGBT students polled in a GLSEN study reported being verbally harassed in school, while less than a fifth reported that teachers intervened on the student's behalf upon overhearing derogatory remarks. 

Largely as a result of verbal and physical harassment, LGBT students attempt suicide at more than four times the rate of the general student population. Both Herrera and Hoover reported being called gay and tormented by their peers, though Hoover did not identify as gay.

GLSEN is one of many national organizations that work to provide schools with work resources they need to prevent and fight bullying.  GLSEN has found that schools that have implemented anti-bullying policies have experienced substantial reductions in bullying.

The Safe Schools Improvement Act, which was introduced in Congress on May 5, will require schools that receive federal funding under the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act to implement anti-bullying policies specifically aimed at protecting against bullying based on race, religion, sexual orientation, and other factors.

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Today in Civil Rights History: Lawrence vs. Texas Vindicates Due Process Rights of Gays and Lesbians

June 26, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

Today marks the sixth anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's historic decision in Lawrence vs. Texas, in which the Court held that the Constitution protects the fundamental right of consenting adults to make decisions about their private, consensual sexual activity without interference from the government, and invalidated a Texas law criminalizing private, adult, consensual sodomy.  

Writing for the majority of the Court, in an opinion joined by Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, Souter, and Stevens, Justice Kennedy explained that the state cannot demean the existence of gay people or control their destiny by making their private sexual conduct a crime.  

The decision overturned Bowers v. Hardwick, which had permitted laws criminalizing same-sex conduct.  In his majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy said: "Bowers was not correct when it was decided, and it is not correct today. It ought not to remain binding precedent. Bowers v. Hardwick should be and now is overruled."

"This is an historic day for fair-minded Americans everywhere," said Elizabeth Birch, then-executive director of the Human Rights Campaign, at the time the decision was handed down. "We are elated and gratified that the Supreme Court, in its wisdom, has seen discriminatory state sodomy laws for what they are - divisive, mean-spirited laws that were designed to single out and marginalize an entire group of Americans for unequal treatment."

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Employment Discrimination against LGBT Workers Shows Need for Employment Non-Discrimination Act

June 24, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

Nancy Zirkin speaks at a podium with Reps. Tammy Baldwin and Jared Polis behind her

Nancy Zirkin, executive vice president of LCCR, speaking in support of ENDA at the bill's introduction on Capitol Hill on June 24, 2009. 

Also pictured (l to r): Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D. Wis., and Rep. Jared Polis, D. Colo.

Although employment laws intended to protect people from workplace discrimination based on their sexual orientation and gender identity are on the books in local communities and states around the country, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation reports that more than 3 in 5 U.S. citizens live in areas that do not have these laws.

Only 12 states and the District of Columbia have banned employment discrimination based on both sexual orientation and gender identity.  Eight states have outlawed employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Many businesses are finding that it is becoming more and more important to have policies prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in order to remain competitive. The HRC Foundation found that 85 percent of Fortune 500 businesses now have non-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation, up from 51 percent in 2000. Thirty-five percent of Fortune 500 businesses have non-discrimination policies that include gender identity or expression.  In 2000, only three Fortune 500 companies had this policy.

Today, the House of Representatives re-introduced the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a bill that would prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in all states across the country. ENDA would extend the same federal employment discrimination protections currently given to race, religion, gender, national origin, age, and disability.

"We look forward to the swift passage of this legislation and seeing President Barack Obama sign it into law so that our nation can continue the progress it began in civil rights 50 years ago," said Nancy Zirkin, executive vice president of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. 

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Stonewall Riots: The Beginning of the LGBT Movement

June 22, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

Stonewall Inn in New York City in 1969

Stonewall Inn in 1969.

Credit: Diana Davies

This Sunday, June 28, will mark the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, the event largely regarded as a catalyst for the LGBT movement for civil rights in the United States.  The riots inspired LGBT people throughout the country to organize in support of gay rights, and within two years after the riots, gay rights groups had been started in nearly every major city in the United States. 

At the time, there were not many places where people could be openly gay. New York had laws prohibiting homosexuality in public, and private businesses and gay establishments were regularly raided and shut down.

In the early hours of June 28, 1969, a group of gay customers at a popular gay bar in Greenwich Village called the Stonewall Inn, who had grown angry at the harassment by police, took a stand and a riot broke out. As word spread throughout the city about the demonstration, the customers of the inn were soon joined by other gay men and women who started throwing objects at the policemen, shouting "gay power."

Read more >>

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Julian Bond Testifies in Support of the Immigration Rights of Same-Sex Couples

June 4, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

Julian Bond, NAACP chairman, testified yesterday in support of the Uniting American Families Act before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill would give gay and lesbian U.S. citizens and permanent residents the right to sponsor their foreign-born permanent partners for legal residency in the U.S. The act does not provide any other benefits and all other immigration requirements must be met. 

"It is because the NAACP supports the civil rights protections of all people, and is opposed to discrimination based on any criteria, that we support inclusion of the principles inherent in Uniting American Families Act in any comprehensive immigration reform," said Bond.

Julian Bond's full testimony

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