What A Joe Biden Presidency Means For The LGBTQ Community

It’s no secret that President Donald Trump has rolled back protections for the LGBTQ community — especially federal employees. In fact, simply having Trump in office has resulted in statistically relevant increases in crime against members of the community (in addition to other minority groups like those of Islamic faith). We have every reason to believe that the community outlook will improve greatly under soon-to-be President Joe Biden.

Biden previously promised to pass LGBTQ protections in his first 100 days. That job will become more difficult now that we know that there is a strong likelihood that the Senate will continue to be controlled by Republicans. Biden could use executive orders to keep his promises, though, and we expect him to do exactly that.

Biden team LGBTQ engagement director Reggie Greer described the incoming administration’s goals to NBC news only a week after Biden won the election: “The president-elect and the vice president-elect put together the most comprehensive plan to advance equality here at home and abroad ever put forth by a presidential ticket, and as a result it lays out a pretty strong blueprint on what the incoming administration can do.”

This involves the Equality Act, which would essentially reimpose all of the Obama-era legislation that Trump stripped away during his four years in office (hint: there was a lot of it). One of the most controversial aspects of discrimination law is religious freedom, which many suggest is simply another way to excuse overt hate. We expect Biden’s Equality Act to limit so-called religious freedoms more permanently. 

The legislation would also seek to reduce LGBTQ homelessness, especially for youth members of the community. It would also remove the transgender ban in the military, which was a Trump-era imposition. 

Greer said, “President-elect Biden and the vice president-elect have spent their entire careers forging bipartisan coalitions to get bills through the Congress.”

Why Do Lawyers Target Injured LGBT Workers When Searching For New Clients?

If you perform a quick Google search for LGBTQ workers compensation attorneys, you’ll find more than one direct match — which might be surprising since workers compensation is all about providing workers with free healthcare when they are injured on the job. What does being a member of the LGBTQ community have to do with it? Well, it turns out that businesses have been creating distrust between management and LGBTQ employees forever.

The problem isn’t obvious, but it exists. You might assume that anyone with an LGBTQ employee isn’t necessarily homophobic. The workplace is inclusive, after all. Sometimes this is a legal thing, but oftentime not. But employers are somewhat more likely to contest an LGBTQ person’s right to workers compensation than they are to contest anyone else’s. 

Earlier this year the Supreme Court ruled that LGBTQ workers are legally protected from certain actions like termination or workplace discrimination. But the ruling has further implications. 

Epstein Becker & Green attorney David Garland said, “An employer may not discriminate with respect to benefits provided to any group of similarly situated workers that includes members of a protected class. That would be particularly true with respect to health care coverage, parental leave and similar emoluments.”

In our case, it means protection from undue contestation of workers comp benefits. It doesn’t guarantee an LGBTQ employee’s right to workers comp in every case, it simply guarantees free judgment. If you hurt yourself at work, you have the right to apply. And if the workers comp would normally be granted to an employee who was similarly injured, then you have the right to receive it. When an LGBTQ individual believes discrimination might be a factor in whether or not they receive this universal benefit, they should contact a lawyer to file a claim immediately.

Greensfelder, Hemker & Gale attorney Amy Blaisdell said, “The Supreme Court’s decision not only prohibits an employer from refusing to hire or discharging an employee based on LGBTQ status, but also prohibits treating employees differently in the spectrum of compensation, terms or conditions of employment because of the individual’s LGBTQ status.”

One of the reasons LGBTQ individuals worry about workers compensation is because HIPAA privacy rules are different for this benefit — meaning that a person who chooses to remain in the closet at work might risk having their sexual orientation disclosed to an employer, who might then choose to deny the benefit altogether retroactively. This is an unlikely scenario, but it’s important for employers, employees, and lawyers to understand what’s at stake.

Many people have wondered whether or not the future of the law is at stake with a now conservative-dominated Supreme Court. It’s too early to tell for sure, but the Constitution doesn’t necessarily guarantee protections for one class of people in particular. It simply says that we’re all created equal. Justices have interpreted the Constitution in different ways. The newest, Amy Coney Barrett, believes in a strictly literal interpretation — which means she might be willing to overturn the law if a case ever presented itself.

Election Day 2020: How To Reduce Your Stress

Our community has been through a lot these past four years, which have been wildly different than the preceding eight — those were filled with victories, warmth, and mutual respect. It seems like much of that was left behind when Trump was elected in 2016. Hate crimes committed against the LGBTQ community — and toward transexuals in particular — skyrocketed from 2015 and on, in part fueled by Trump’s caustic rhetoric toward minorities.

Today’s the day the country decides whether or not the self-inflicted wound will continue to gape wide open. There’s a great chance Biden sweeps tonight, which means that wound should hopefully close over time. Until then, here’s how to reduce some of your election cycle stress.

First, get outside! Natural environments help release the happy hormones that make us less aggressive and reduce our inclination toward arguments. Plus, they help us get away from the people who are most likely to start those arguments! This is a great time to go backpacking or camping.

Being outside will also help you stay away from the constant barrage of Trump-related news, which will almost certainly continue even if Biden is elected president. 

If you can’t spend much time outdoors, then at least stay away from social media as much as you can and try to avoid the news when you switch on the TV or computer. Instead, marathon your favorite series or watch a few movies. Need to work? Then focus on the tasks at hand and keep your phone in your pocket. Your bosses will appreciate it too. 

Spend time with your loved ones. Cuddle! Body warmth releases the “love” hormones that relieve stress. Listen to music together. Watch the sunset. Read a book. Play with your children or toss a ball to Fido. Do whatever you need to do to take your mind off of what’s likely to happen tonight and over the next few days.

What Are The Top Hate Crimes Committed Against The LGBTQ Community?

New studies on how often hate crimes are perpetrated against certain minorities and what kind of crimes are most likely have been conducted during President Trump’s time in office, and the outlook is much as expected — the LGBTQ community is targeted at a disproportionate rate than other minority communities. They are almost four times more likely to become the victim of a hate crime.

These crimes often involve violence, which is what most of us think about when we hear the phrase “hate crime.” But there are other types of hate, and much of it is directed at property instead of people.

For example, many LGBTQ individuals who publically flew a rainbow flag in their yard acknowledge that the flag was vandalized, stolen, or destroyed. Minneapolis resident Troy Kriech decided to fly his own flag when he lived in Webster with a friend — but that it was quickly taken. He posted a video on Facebook of a fellow resident using homophobic slurs while burning the flag in full public view.

Brandt said, “I called the cops. They came over and took my statement. We had [the flag] screwed onto the house. There are still pieces of the flag hanging there. Then the video blows up on Facebook on Saturday. People are posting it and reporting it, just doggin’ him out and everything. I showed the cops the video before he deleted it. Then someone else had managed to save the video.”

Sadly, Day County State Attorney Danny Smeins doesn’t seem to acknowledge that vandalism is a crime! Smeins said to Forum News, “I don’t think there’s a crime itself in the burning of the flag. It’s a crime to steal it and it’s a crime to trespass on property to remove it. I haven’t seen the video year to see if there’s a threat being stated in it. There’s some loose ends as far as the investigation goes. I don’t know what going to happen with this. It’s complicated by the fact is the person complaining about it abandoned it, so it’s really not his property unless there was an agreement.”

Property damage attorney Ray Collins does not agree. Collins said, “Mr. Kriech lived on the premises where the flag was taken and then vandalized, and there was also damage to the property itself. Yes, trespassing is a crime. Yes, theft is a crime. But willful destruction of another person’s property is a crime too. Burning someone’s flag is something that opens the perpetrator up to both criminal and civil action — and both should be taken in conjunction with one another to show the person responsible for doing this that these actions are unacceptable in our society.”

The video depicts an obvious hate crime, which is also against the law and carries additional criminal penalties. 

The South Dakota Attorney General’s website defines a hate crime as “a criminal offense committed against a person, property, or society which is motivated, in whole or in part, by the offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or ethnicity/national origin.”

And yet, the burning of the flag is still controversial when someone says it is a hate crime:

Can The Supreme Court Overturn Its Previous Ruling On Marriage Equality?

One of the most problematic consequences of the Trump administration is the lack of safety and security for minority groups, including the LGBTQ community. Trump has been allowed to seat dozens of judges, all of whom hold conservative values — which means many of them don’t necessarily believe in the rights of the LGBTQ community over, say, religious freedom rights (and, let’s face it, religious freedom is an excuse to hate on everyone who doesn’t agree with what they say or do).

When Ruth Bader Ginsberg passed away last month, it provided Trump to nominate a third Supreme Court justice during his first (and hopefully last) presidential term. Her likely replacement is Amy Coney Barrett and will give the Supreme Court a conservative leaning of two-thirds. The LGBTQ community is rightly fearful of the future.

Acting Executive Director for Equality New Mexico, Marshall Martinez, said, “Given the history of Barrett, if she is confirmed, this ruling could be very bad for services and for folks seeking services across the country. But here in New Mexico, where the majority believes in equal access and equal opportunity, one organization could determine what is best to do with taxpayer money based on its own religious beliefs.”

Marriage equality is important for the LGBTQ community. Alcoholism, depression, and teen suicide and fallen ever since the Supreme Court ruling that legalized it through federal law. But overturning the previous ruling would kick the decision back to the states, which could even provide more conservative leaning areas the opportunity to nullify marriages already on the books. Activists are scared that the conservative majority’s potential rulings could embolden anti-LGBTQ groups to enact more discriminatory laws. 

Martinez said, “Two very conservative justices took the first opportunity they can to attack marriage equality under the guise of freedom of religion. I think this is a reminder to the LGBTQ community and their allies that there are still folks who are going to use every opportunity they can take away the rights we fought for.”

Legal Advocates Call To Action For LGBTQ Asylum Seekers

Many of the Central American asylum seekers — you know, those men, women, and children who are legally entering our country from the south only to be called illegals and see their families split apart — are members of the LGBTQ community. These individuals face even greater obstacles than other mostly hispanic asylum seekers. The Trump administration has plotted to stop as many of these individuals from entering the country as possible to no avail. 

Transgender Law Center attorney Emem Maurus said, “It’s not a deterrent in the sense of ‘Oh, I’m not going to do this right now. I’ll go next year.’ It is certainly having a practical impact, I do want to say that. These policies are causing people to be hurt, they are causing people to die, truly. These are causing a lot of harm and in that sense, they are practically impeding asylum, but I don’t know that it’s causing people to be like, ‘Oh, I’ll wait until next spring’ necessarily.”

Last year, many children had died in ICE captivity, ensuring that human rights groups would continue their calls to action to see barbaric practices stop — and also to see families reunited. But those news stories mostly ended as bigger news stories developed toward the end of the year. Impeachment sapped attention for months, and now COVID-19 has everyone looking elsewhere.

Human Rights Watch released a report that said, “The COVID-19 pandemic served as the pretext for the [border] closure, but for years, the Trump administration had adopted increasingly severe measures aimed at preventing asylum seekers from ever reaching the United States and expelling them quickly if they ever did cross the border.”

Estuardo Cifuentes told reporters for the Los Angeles Blade that he was a gay man from Guatemala seeking asylum without actually knowing anything about how the U.S. system worked. “I went back to Matamoros without knowing anything, without knowing anything about the process,” he said.

Other LGBTQ individuals have already succumbed to death because of that same process — like Roxsana Hernandez, a transgender woman who was not provided with adequate care for her HIV when she arrived at ICE custody in New Mexico. She died on May 25, 2018, still in detention. Trans woman Medina Leon died on June 1, 2019 only three days after her release — but also due to complications from HIV that were ignored while she was detained.

LGBTQ individuals are among those most likely to seek asylum in the U.S. due to violence in Central America.

Human Rights Watch Senior LGBT Rights Researcher Neela Ghoshal said, “As long as this kind of violence and discrimination do persist, LGBT people from the Northern Triangle will continue to travel north to the United States to attempt to seek asylum and what the Trump administration has done in the last two years — which is to make asylum so restrictive that there’s barely an asylum system left to speak of — is unconscionable and it puts LGBT people at great harm.”

LGBTQ Pride Month Transforms Into Something Far Greater

LGBTQ citizens of the United States have called for police reforms to start pride month off with a bang, joining the “Black Lives Matter” movement to prove that social injustice for one group means social injustice for all of them. BLM protests have been built in small towns and large cities across the U.S., quickly expanding to countries all across the world — becoming one of the biggest and most effective movements in history.

This has all happened as another year has gone by without a “Pride Month” proclamation from President Trump. This is hardly a head-scratcher considering his stance on gay rights. But it’s also a particularly strong slap in the face to activists who watched the president issue separate proclamations for National Homeownership Month (really?), National Ocean Month (he loves oceans so much he wants to raise sea levels!) and Great Outdoors Month (he loves the outdoors so much he’s trying to drown most of it with the ocean!).

Many LGBTQ citizens joined with their African American friends and family to protest.

Congressman Mark Takano (Democrat-Riverside), who happens to be openly gay, said, “We must acknowledge that racist police brutality has gone without impunity for far too long in America. George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, are the most recent cases of black men and women who have died at the hands of police — that we know of. Too often, the results of investigations into these instances of police misconduct amount to nothing and true justice is never served. This cannot, and must not, go on.”

Let’s do our best to remember those names!

Fairfield, CA Solano Pride Center wrote, “As a collective of LGBTQIA people from a range of backgrounds and life experiences, we have benefitted immeasurably from black leadership and actions that have brought greater civil liberties for all. As a center, we aspire to do more and do better at serving and focusing on African American lives, needs, voices, hopes, achievements and beyond.”

Were You Discriminated Against During The COVID-19 Crisis?

The world is approaching an awe-inspiring 500,000 cases, but the count is accelerating every day. Within a week or two, we’ll see a million cases or more. The fatality rate will skyrocket. Most of us are paying attention to our employment status, quality of insurance, and overall health. But it’s important to remember that some of us have to worry about these things on a daily basis — and then some.

For the LGBTQ community, times are especially tough.

While everyone else pays attention to the viral outbreak that causes the disease COVID-19, sometimes cases involving discrimination against the LGBTQ community fall through the cracks. Does it seem like no one is paying attention? You’re not alone.

And the potential for discrimination that goes unnoticed by authorities isn’t all. The community watches the pandemic with bated breath, noticing obvious parallels to the AIDS epidemic that affected it throughout the 80s, not the least of which is a president pretending that the illness isn’t really a big problem.

It’s almost worth noting that COVID-19 could be particularly damaging to the community as a whole. While rates of smoking, depression, drug use, and suicide are all decreasing with time, those rates are still among the highest of any minority demographic. Each of these represents an “underlying condition” that can make one much more susceptible to COVID-19, which has a relatively high fatality rate when compared to illnesses like the seasonal flu.

What can you do to help prevent spread among members of the community?

First and foremost, stop perusing apps like Grindr and Tinder. These only compel members to hook up. The close contact makes transmission much easier. Don’t go outdoors. Don’t see family or friends until notified it is okay to do so by the CDC. This crisis will not go away on its own, and the longer we avoid social distancing options, the longer we’ll have to do it.

Many of us currently feel that COVID-19 reactions have been overblown and that the disease isn’t really all that dangerous. Nothing could be further from the truth. Fatality rates are tens of times higher than the seasonal flu. The underlying cause of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus, is far more contagious. It’s possible that its infectiousness eclipses even the Spanish flu, which was the deadliest pandemic in modern human history.

Should we fail to recognize the severity of the threat and act to stop it (as China and South Korea successfully did), then millions of people could pay the ultimate price. This is serious. We should treat it that way.

South Carolina Sex Education Under Suit For Excluding LGBTQ Relationships

Sex education in the south has always been under a great deal of scrutiny by those who live in the north. And that’s no surprise. Unwanted teenage pregnancies are a much bigger problem for those who live in southern states, in part due to stricter abortion laws and relaxed sex education standards. One of those relaxed standards involves the concept of homosexual sexual relationships — which are banned in the classroom by South Carolina law.

Oh, with one exception: Talking about sexually transmitted diseases in the context of homosexuality is perfectly okay.

Basically, teachers can only talk about heterosexual relationships — and even talking about that is restricted by South Carolina law. Now, a federal lawsuit aims to challenge the state law.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights and Lambda Legal have combined their resources to sue South Carolina’s Comprehensive Health Education Act of 1988, which they say violates the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause.

The lawsuit said, “The law singles out LGBTQ students for negative treatment. It prevents LGBTQ students from receiving any health education about their relationships except in the context of sexually transmitted diseases, without imposing any comparable restriction on health education about heterosexual people.”

The 1988 law goes even further by specifically stating that teachers can be fired simply for discussing homosexual relationships or “alternative lifestyles.”

Defendant Molly Spearman, State Superintendent of Education, actually agrees with the plaintiff. When the lawsuit first arose, she went straight to Alan Wilson, the South Carolina Attorney General. She asked him to provide a legal opinion on whether or not the old state law remained constitutional under state and federal laws. He said that courts would likely overturn the law. 

Spearman said, “I agree with the arguments and evidence presented in the opinion. I also believe that parents should continue to have the final say in whether or not their child participates in health education curriculum.”

Like in many other parts of the country, parents can choose to remove their children from sex education courses.

When asked about the law, Senior Staff Attorney for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Julie Wilensky, said, “This stigmatizes LGBTQ kids. It sends a message to all students that LGBTQ kids and people are associated with diseases.”

Wilson said, “This office has consistently supported and will continue to support the protection of religious liberties in every context. Important free exercise of religion rights must be protected, while at the same time, ensuring that anti-gay discrimination which violates the Constitution is not present in the classroom.”

Apparently Rainbow Cake Is Anti-Religion

One Kentucky girl was recently expelled from her Christian school. Why, you ask? Well, according to the school officials, it was because she posed for a photo dressed in a rainbow shirt. It must’ve added salt to the imaginary wound when they saw the rainbow cake. School officials said the photo presented “a posture of cultural acceptance contrary to that” of the school’s.”

In other words, rainbows equal gay and gay equals wrong.

High schooler Kayla Kenney wasn’t out before the school decided she should be expelled for rainbows, though, and so her family is fighting the school’s decision in court by arguing it was essentially an invasion of privacy. 

The lawsuit provided details on the family’s stance: “This decision (of stating one’s sexual identity) is one which can ripple, leading to repercussions in untold aspects of someone’s personal, social and family life. This decision — when, where and how to ‘come out’ — is a profound endeavor that is the sole right of an LGBTQ person. And yet (Kayla), an LGBTQ child, has been denied that right.”

Regardless of the fact that society at large has debunked the idea that homosexuality is a disease, the Whitefield school maintains that it is.

The school dismissed the idea that the expulsion was based on rainbow clothes and cakes. “In the fall,” a statement said, “we met with the student to give her a final chance to begin to adhere to our code of conduct. Unfortunately, she did not live up to the agreement, and therefore, has been expelled.”

It’s an expulsion, so it must’ve been pretty serious! You know, drugs, guns, physical violence, that sort of thing. But we couldn’t find any evidence of it. There were Juul pods — for which she was put on probation — but rainbows seem to be the primary concern.

The problem is that Kayla’s parents had never discusser their child’s sexual orientation. She was not “out.” And because of that, the expulsion and the reasons behind it do indeed present an obvious invasion of a young girl’s privacy. 

According to the lawsuit, there were no new disciplinary measures after the Juul pod incident. Kayla was counseled to read a book called Gay Girl, Good God: The Story of Who I Was, and Who God Has Always Been by Jackie Hill Perry. The author of that story describes her own struggles with (and against) homosexuality. You know, the sort of thing that can damage someone who is already struggling with unsupportive school staff. 

Her parents described the birthday experience as pleasant. “It was a happy moment,” her mother said. “We were celebrating her 15th birthday. The day God gave me her. Not supporting any sexuality or anything like that.”