When You Can Sue For Discriminatory Practices

Although it has little chance of passing through the Senate in its current state, the United States House of Representatives recently passed the Equality Act, which would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include discrimination protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity. These protections are technically in place already due to a recent Supreme Court ruling, but — realistically they’ll be flimsy and under constant legal scrutiny until a real law is passed in Congress to add support.

The protections will basically bar employers and landlords from firing someone, refusing to hire someone, and refusing to accept a lessor depending on sexual orientation or gender identity. But let’s face it: members of the LGBTQ community face discrimination from plenty of other people for plenty of other reasons. Can we sue for those moments of discrimination?

In general, people have the First Amendment right to free speech. You already know that. This right gives people protection from the federal government based on what they say. There are exceptions to the rule, of course (like, say, when someone promotes insurrection against the United States of America). But in general, a person can’t be held liable for anything they say. For example, you can’t sue a guy for calling you a faggot when he drives by. 

But there are situations in which you can sue someone for this type of discrimination — especially when it’s tied into other laws that provide everyone with legal options. It’s a lot tougher to discriminate against gay people when those laws already exist. Take libel and slander laws, for example. If someone accuses an LGBTQ person of something without proof, and that slander costs the LGBTQ person money…well, then the LGBTQ person has a beautiful foundation for a case.

Southern California Injury Lawyers see cases like these all the time, because slander and libel are forms of personal injury.

The biggest problem with slander and libel laws is that in order to build a successful case, you need to prove that you were subject to financial damages — and most of us can’t do that. For example, if someone were to make an accusation that results in quantifiable business losses month after month, then you can prove damages in or out of court. These are the easiest cases for a personal injury lawyer to win.

There are other types of discrimination that an LGBTQ person might face, regardless of the law. For example, you might run into problems cementing your same-sex marriage, adoption, foster parent status, or obstacles related to employment and housing discrimination, hate crimes, fair education, etc. If you think any of these apply to you, any personal injury or discrimination lawyer can provide a consult for free. It’s worth asking.

Anti-Homosexuality Sentiments During The Holocaust

We previously touched upon the LGBTQ experience during Nazi Germany, where members of the community were routinely targeted by the Nazis, brought to concentration camps, and murdered along with everyone else. The Nazis treated them even worse than members of other groups — some homosexual men were used as target practice. It is believed that thousands of gay men were imprisoned in concentration camps, but no one knows exactly how many.

The horror stories characterized almost unthinkably cruel treatment in a developed country. Pierre Seel survived the ordeal to describe his treatment: “The Nazis stuck 25 centimeters of wood up my ass.”

We know that gay men were tortured, murdered, given more dangerous assignments, and “worked to death” in general. 

German society was known for its homophobia during the late 30s and early 40s. Even more horribly, some gay men who died in concentration camps were killed by other prisoners.

A study of those who died was conducted by Rudiger Lautmann, who discovered that more than half of gay men who were incarcerated in concentration camps died compared to 41 percent of political prisoners and 35 percent of Jehovah’s Witnesses. 

Nazi scientific experimentation was conducted on homosexual men disproportionately to other segments of the population. Nazi doctors tried to “cure” homosexuality without success (duh). These experiments included one in which a homosexual male subject had his groin incised open so that an artificial male sex gland could be implanted to release testosterone. It was a common belief during this time period that homosexuality was caused by a lack of testosterone. 

Two of the twelve men who participated in these experiments died from infection.

Gay women may have had it even harder, as the Third Reich routinely persuaded men to rape the women. Homosexual men were routinely ordered to perform sexual acts on lesbian women, which was considered by the Reich to be a sort of conversion therapy. Homosexual men were generally kept away from other prisoners because the Reich believed that the “illness” could easily spread.

Resources For Struggling LGBTQ Individuals And Families

You already know that being a member of the LGBTQ community is a struggle. A person with a conservative family is less likely to come out of the closet at an early age, and as a result will feel increased guilt, shame, anxiety, and depression compared to their open or straight counterparts. Even those who do come out of the closet might be met with resistance from close friends and family members. Life can be hard — and we all deserve a helping hand once in a while.

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) was founded in 1985 to fight against negative coverage of gay, lesbian, and trans people both in and out of media. It is now known only as GLAAD in order to remain inclusive. GLAAD has implemented the GLAAD Media Awards, the Equality Project, the Commentator Accountability Project, and the Studio Responsibility Index to make life easier for LGBTQ figures in media. GLAAD resources can be found here.

The Trevor Project was founded in 1998 as a response to the epidemic-level spate of LGBTQ suicides. The Trevor Lifeline is a confidential service that provides trained counselors to anyone who needs help. The non-profit organization provides a number of other affiliate resources ranging from conversations, coping mechanisms, how-to books on support, education, and legal options for bankruptcy.

The Trevor Project is more of a “collection” of projects, such as the film by the same name (Trevor), The Trevor Lifeline (the aforementioned phone line for counseling), TrevorText, TrevorChat, TrevorSpace, the Palette Fund Internship Program, the Youth Advisory Council, and a number of school workshops. The Trevor Project has received a great deal of celebrity support, including a fundraiser by famous YouTuber Tyler Oakley. The project hosts many awards.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides a number of resources to gay, bisexual, or transgender youth aimed at fostering positive environments and educating friends and family. The CDC focuses on recognizing the different struggles that LGBTQ individuals face growing up, which make it hard to relate by their straight counterparts.

CDC resources include fact sheets, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), Genders & Sexualities Alliance Network, HealthyChildren.org: Health Concerns for Gay and Lesbian Teens, the It Gets Better Project, the Q Card Project, the Q Chat Space, Stomp Out Bullying. It is affiliated with the Trevor Project.

The Human Rights Campaign is associated with a number of other support projects, including: The Trevor Project, Gender Spectrum Lounge, the National Runaway Safeline, the Validation Station, the Trans Lifeline Hotline, the LGBT National Help Center, True Colors United, and PFLAG (which is a system of peer support and education for LGBTQ people across the United States, with more than 400 local chapters in all 50 states).

The History Of LGBT Laws Around The World: Part VI

In part five of our series on the history of LGBT laws around the world, we discussed the civil rights movement in Australia. This movement arose due to anti-sodomy laws that were a byproduct of other anti-LGBT laws leftover from the country’s colonization by the British Empire. The last man arrested for sodomy was in 1984 in Tasmania, but it took another decade for Australia to completely decriminalize homosexuality.

The world has come a long way in the last few decades. Homosexual relations have become legalized in almost every major Western country. Violence against LGBTQ individuals is almost universally classified as a hate crime in these countries. But there are still areas of the world where it can be dangerous to openly identify as an LGBTQ person. The danger is most pervasive in predominantly Muslim countries and in Africa. 

The vast majority of anti-LGBT laws rely on religion to rationalize homosexual activity as an illness or unnatural. Most conservatives who continue to outcast LGBT people do so for the same reason.

It’s important to know that while homosexuality was always frowned upon, the onus was always upon men. This was because the Bible is often interpreted as outlawing sodomy, but it has little to say about the sexual conduct between two women. 

The highest murder rate of LGBTQ individuals in the world is in Brazil, even though the country has pro-LGBTQ laws on the books and has legalized same-sex marriage. The data might not be completely reliable, though, as we generally note that Brazil has a higher murder rate than other countries simply because of the way data is aggregated.

Although LGBTQ people have experienced violence and persecution throughout history, one of the most recent historical examples that occurred on a massive scale was during the Holocaust. Nazis targeted and murdered a large number of homosexual individuals. In one particularly gruesome example, we learned that Nazis would use their homosexual captives during target practice.

What To Do When You’re The Target Of An Alleged Hate Crime?

Many members of the LGBTQ family have been targeted by a hate crime at some point in their lives — or, at the very least, understand what it means to experience hate-driven speech or actions that don’t quite amount to “criminal” activity. For example, find me a gay man who hasn’t heard the word “faggot” screamed from a car driving by. You can’t! Every gay guy has experienced this kind of relentless behavior.

But violence is different. Although it can be scary to address violence when you don’t know how the people around you will react, we always, always, always feel obligated to recommend immediate legal action. Call the police before you do anything else. They will want to know exactly what happened, and will try to apprehend the alleged perpetrator if possible. Any witnesses on site will be interviewed if they’re doing their jobs the way they’re supposed to!

If you haven’t suffered a major injury, try to speak with the people nearby about what they may have seen or heard if possible. Ask if they’re willing to let you record their statements. Don’t press the issue if they are unwilling! This information can be tremendously useful to an attorney if you decide to go that route (and you should). If any property was damaged, take pictures of the damage now.

Next, seek medical treatment. Make sure you don’t overlook any injuries. If you come back tomorrow, it’ll be much harder to pin it on the perpetrator of yesterday’s attack. Take as many pictures of the wound or injury before a nurse or doctor views you. These photographs will go in the folder you hand to your attorney later, and may be used to obtain a settlement or during trial.

Compile all your bills into a folder with the photographs and any notes you have on witness statements or interactions with the police.

Most personal injury attorneys will provide a consultation free of charge, which means you can call and speak to anyone, like Koonz McKenney Johnson & Depaolis LLP if you reside in the Washington D.C. area. We strongly recommend you contact an attorney to learn about avenues of compensation. For example, you can sue for restitution through the criminal system — or you can sue in civil court for compensation. Your lawyer will obtain a copy of the police report.

Another thing that often gets overlooked is your thoughts and feelings on being the victim of a hate crime. How were you hurt? In addition to emotions, use a journal to track your physical recovery. These notes can go a long way to persuading a judge that you deserve more damages.

Next steps include contacting your support group. Tell friends and family what happened and discuss how you feel. Find a therapist if necessary. You might also decide to contact any local LGBTQ community centers or organizations to report the incident. They can provide a number of helpful resources, including legal recommendations.

The History Of LGBT Laws Around The World: Part V

In part four of our series on the history of LGBT laws around the world, we discussed the legacy of the British Empire and its many laws passed by individual colonial administrators in the 19th century. These laws have persisted for over a century, and have resulted in continued oppression against LGBT folks in at least half of the 71 countries that criminalize homosexuality today.

One of those countries was Australia, which has made great strides in adopting pro-LGBT legislation in the last couple decades. Australia was colonized in 1788. Fun fact: although many anti-LGBT laws existed, they targeted gay men for biblical reasons. Sodomy was outlawed. From 1788 to 1899, the punishment for sodomy was execution. From then until 1994, the punishment was life in prison. There were no laws specifically outlawing homosexuality for adult women.

In 1994, Australia passed the Human Rights Act. This law decriminalized consensual sexual activity between adults, including any activity between two gay men. 

The fight to make it to that point, though, was long and tumultuous. LGBT rights groups first arose during the late 1960s, when the ACT Homosexual Reform Society was organized in Canberra. The Daughters of Bilitis group was formed in Melbourne in January 1970. These two groups are given credit for jumpstarting a movement that would change the course of history. This led to the Sydney-based Campaign Against Moral Persecution (CAMP) forming in June 1970. 

One year later, CAMP groups had arisen in every major city and university in the country. Protests erupted quickly. Not by coincidence, homosexuality’s classification as a disease or illness was removed by the Australian Medical Association in October 1973. Most states repealed anti-LGBT laws by 1991. 

Although it would take another decade for Australia to decriminalize homosexuality, the last man arrested for sodomy was in Hobart, Tasmania on December 14, 1984 — and realistically, he should’ve been arrested anyway, since he was caught fornicating in public. He was incarcerated for eight months.

Are LGBTQ Individuals More Likely To Go Bankrupt?

Anyone who visits our website will know that LGBTQ individuals face a number of obstacles not shared by our straight counterparts. We are more likely to suffer from depression, alcoholism, or drug use. We are more likely to attempt suicide. Young people are especially vulnerable to anti-LGBTQ sentiment. What about money? Are LGBTQ people more likely to go bankrupt — especially during this economic downturn as the result of the coronavirus pandemic?

Madonna called COVID-19 a “great equalizer,” and was nearly canceled as a result. She had failed to adequately articulate how the virus is far more likely to infect people of color or homeless individuals or anyone else in a minority community. These groups are often more likely to die of serious complications as well. It stands to reason that these groups — which already suffer financially — will be more burdened by these realities as well.

Although LGBTQ people aren’t necessarily at increased danger from infection, their financial situation might be. 

A 2019 poll discovered that more than half of members of the LGBTQ community are “anxious” about their financial situation. Only 41 percent of heterosexuals feel the same way. Of course, the poll didn’t actually look at specific finances — only feelings toward — and so the results could simply be indicative of character traits rather than financial stability or instability.

The Fullman Firm (https://www.fullmanfirm.com/) acknowledged that many clients come from LGBTQ homes or are in same-sex relationships, but admitted that they hadn’t compiled any relevant statistics.

Here’s what else the 2019 survey divulged: 42 percent of LGBTQ individuals are depressed because of money compared to 31 percent of straight people. LGBTQ people were both more pessimistic and more likely to feel something akin to shame than their straight counterparts. Straight people routinely felt more confident about their financial situations — and more in control. This survey was conducted with more than 6,600 participants by the WNYC podcast “Nancy.”

President Biden has already taken several steps to support LGBTQ equality, but none of these occurred within the context of economic relief passed for COVID-19. In one of his first acts during the first day in office, Biden signed Executive Order “Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation,” which forces federal agencies to ensure that the recent Supreme Court decision of Bostock v. Clayton is upheld. It guarantees that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 includes both gender identity and sexual orientation as part of its discrimination protections.

Biden’s nominations have also bolstered the LGBTQ community’s participation in National politics. Former presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg was nominated (and later confirmed) as Biden’s Transportation Secretary. Biden also nominated Dr. Rachel Levine as his assistant secretary of health, who has extensive experience leading during the coronavirus pandemic and writing about important issues like LGBTQ medicine, the opioid crisis, medical marijuana — and hey, guess what? She is openly transgender!

The History Of LGBT Laws Around The World: Part IV

In part three of our series on LGBT laws around the world, we discussed the continued censorship of LGBT issues in some of the largest countries in the world. These include Russia, China, and the United States. Sadly, one would think that the most advanced nations would have the most advanced civil rights protections — but not yet. Even in 2021 we have a lot of work to do!

It’s important to know that even a single nation can influence dozens of other nations to amend their laws. For example, there are currently 71 countries around the world that criminalize homosexuality. More than half were once under the rule of the British Empire, which first introduced many anti-homosexuality laws in the 19th century. What’s so meaningful about this fact? It’s simple: these laws were inherited in the same way that a child might inherit religion from his or her parents.

Former British Prime Minister Theresa May spoke about this legacy a couple years ago: “I am all too aware that these laws were often put in place by my own country. They were wrong then, and they are wrong now. As the UK’s Prime Minister, I deeply regret both the fact that such laws were introduced, and the legacy of discrimination, violence and even death that persists today.”

Believe it or not, there was no standardized legislation within the Empire relating to anti-LGBT laws. The laws that spread throughout the empire were the result of colonial administrators — just a few men out of the hundreds of millions who lived under British rule.  

British Colonialism and the Criminalization of Homosexuality author Enze Han said, “(The British also) had this conception that the ‘Orient,’ the non-Western subjects, were overly erotic and over-sexed, and that’s the reason why they were worried young colonial officers going abroad would be corrupted by those sexual acts.”

What Health Care Laws Protect The LGBTQ Community From Discrimination?

Generally, victims of medical malpractice have a lot to worry about: Maybe a delayed diagnosis resulted in a terrible prognosis or a bigger bill. Maybe a surgeon left an instrument in a body cavity or accidentally damaged important tissues. Or maybe they simply overbilled for no reason. But sadly these events are more common for the LGBTQ community — which is why there are actually lawyers who specialize in LGBTQ medical malpractice law.

A medical malpractice attorney knows that one of the biggest complaints from LGBTQ clients is that a doctor or nurse is trying to refuse treatment on the basis of religious liberty. But hey, guess what: that’s why we have important federal legislation to protect our rights as American citizens.

The American Medical Association (AMA) has a specific set of ethics-based rules that members must follow to practice medicine. One of these rules includes protections for LGBTQ patients, whose doctors and nurses cannot refuse treatment due to their sexual orientation.

According to the AMA: “Physicians who offer their services to the public may not decline to accept patients because of race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or any other basis that would constitute invidious discrimination.”

Keep in mind that doctors and nurses do enjoy the right to deny certain types of treatments — like abortion — to patients. But that’s different from denying treatments to one type of person over another. The AMA added that it will continue to “work to reduce the health disparities suffered because of unequal treatment of minor children and same sex parents in same sex households.”

Do you believe that you have been discriminated against based on sexual orientation? These states outright ban it: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Do you believe that you have been discriminated against based on gender identity? These states outright ban it: California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.

Many states have organizations built to offer support to LGBTQ patients. For example, California-based “Legal Pride” is a network of professional attorneys and other professionals who offer advice and build lawsuits based on medical malpractice. They serve Los Angeles, San Diego, and Orange County. 

Sadly, there are a number of healthcare organizations that believe the rules do not apply to them. For example, a California-based fertility clinic denied service to Lupita Benitex because she is gay. She filed a lawsuit. The clinic’s argument that it did not have to abide with the state laws based on its religious views was overruled by unanimous decision by the Supreme Court of California.

The History Of LGBT Laws Around The World: Part III

Throughout history — especially modern history — it hasn’t been unusual for governments to censor the ability of LGBTQ individuals to express themselves or even protest unequal treatment by friends, family, employers, and those very governments. Censorship occurs even today in big countries like China and Russia, and, to a lesser extent, in the United States of America.

One example of Chinese censorship occurred on December 31, 2015, when the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) in China decided to block TV programs that included “unnormal sexual relationships.” At least shows depicting homosexual relationships were pulled from the lineup that season. Other programs retroactively censored these types of depictions.

These laws are harder to enforce when international programs are up for an award, such as when the Oscar-winning movie “Call Me By Your Name” appeared briefly in the Beijing International Film Festival’s lineup. It was eventually pulled. Critics suggest that the festival organizers came under pressure from Chinese authorities (or were threatened outright).

Laws against homosexuality have always been especially strict in Russia. The Law for the Purpose of Protecting Children from Information Advocating for a Denial of Traditional Family Values was signed by President Vladimir Putin on June 30, 2013. The law’s express purpose was to deny the very existence of homosexuality and restrict content that presented it as a societal norm. 

Russia is dominated by far-right nationalists, most of whom subscribe to the Russian-Orthodox Church. This made support for the censorship very strong.

In the United States, the states of Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Texas all have anti-LGBT curriculum censorship laws to restrict the topic of homosexuality in schools. They even restrict the types of extracurricular clubs that can function on school grounds, like the gay-straight alliance.

Other states have recently repealed such laws. They include Arizona, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Utah.