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Archive for the ‘LGBTQ’ Category

As a reproductive justice organization working in the Latin@ community, people often ask us what we do to get people to understand such complex and intertwined issues such as abortion, immigration, and LGBTQ liberation. It is true that these issues are complicated. The way we talk about them is nuanced, they ways in which they connect are varied and intricate. But the reason we advocate for our issues in this way is not to overly complicate, but rather because this is the way we live our lives. As renown freedom-fighter Audre Lorde once said, “There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.”

Our communities understand the complex nature of these issues because it’s the way our lives play out – we are a sum of identities and realities that make us who we are. In fact, it’s the fact that we speaking about many different issues in the context of each other that facilitates our community’s connection to our work.

We want to share this video of Felipe Matos after the pilot of our training on LGBTQ liberation and reproductive justice this summer as an example of those connections, and the natural ways they play out in the lives of Latin@s in the United States. Thank you so much, Felipe, for spending a beautiful Friday evening in Miami with us, and for your dedication to our movements for justice.

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Anti-immigrant rhetoric frequently dehumanizes immigrants, erroneously reducing them to individuals who only take from our society without giving and ignoring the valuable contributions immigrants make as workers, spouses, parents, and friends. Proponents of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) often cite family values as a rationale for denying same-sex couples legal recognition, human dignity, and equal rights. Yet denying individuals the right to have a family just because of who they love—and denying children homes just because of who their parents love—is truly at odds with family values.

We applaud efforts like that of Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who, along with 132 members of the House of Representatives, recently filed an amicus brief in the pending court case challenging DOMA’s constitutionality. Although the Obama administration and Attorney General Holder announced earlier this year their conclusion that DOMA is unconstitutional, and the Department of Justice has abandoned its defense of the legislation in several court cases, others in government have deemed state non-recognition of same-sex couples and their children a priority. But attention is not the only resource diverted to this debate: in these times of economic austerity and deep cuts to cutting social safety programs, the original salary cap for legal counsel defending the constitutionality of DOMA have been tripled to a maximum of $1.5 million. On November 10, the Senate Judiciary Committee will take another step in this important fight against DOMA as committee members begin debate and mark-up on S. 598—a bill that would repeal Section 3 of DOMA and incorporate language that provides for some same-sex relationship recognition under federal law. Bringing down DOMA is integral to recognizing the invaluable contributions that immigrants and LGBTQ—and their families—make in the United States.

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This Pride month, NLIRH is excited to present to you our brand new issue brief: LGBTQ Latin@s and Reproductive Justice, in English and in Spanish!

LGBTQ people have been a part of movements for reproductive health and justice for as long as these movements have existed, and we are proud to honor that work and highlight the issues that LGBTQ Latin@s face when it comes to reproductive health and justice.

Though some might say that reproductive health issues aren’t queer issues at all, we believe that this could not be further from the truth. The heavily gendered nature of reproductive health services, employment discrimination, and family recognition are all issues that affect LGBTQ people’s health and their access to quality care, and it’s time for reproductive health, rights and justice organizations to recognize and fight against these barriers. Immigration, too, places a set of barriers specific to LGBTQ communities, such as access to health care, safety in detention centers for transgender and gender-nonconforming people, and family reunification policies that do not recognize LGBTQ families.

At the same time, it is important to acknowledge the resilience of LGBT Latin@s and communities of color, who are resisting exclusionary systems and recognizing reproductive justice as a critical issue in their communities.

Our new issue brief highlights research and provides analysis on these and other issues affecting LGBTQ Latin@ communities – take a look!

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Despite a devastating loss on the DREAM (the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health applauds the Senate’s 65-31 vote on Saturday to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT).  DADT is the law that forces LGBT military members to hide their sexuality at the risk of losing their careers.

Latinas have been devastated under DADT because women and racial minorities are particularly vulnerable under the law. Although women make up only 14% of the Army, for example, women received 46% of the Army’s DADT discharges in FY 2009. And while 20% of Air Force personnel are women, almost half of its discharges under the policy last year were women. These trends are similarly disproportionate for racial minorities.

We join activists in celebrating this bittersweet victory while continuing to work toward the day when human rights and justice will be within reach for all who call the U.S. home.

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A red umbrella (symbol of sex workers' rights) and text underneath saying "International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers"

Today is the seventh annual Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, and NLIRH would like to invite you to a free event we have co-sponsored with the Sex Workers’ Outreach Project of New York City and other fabulous organizations to commemorate the day.  Please join us to hear fabulous speakers, join a community speak-out, and remember those we have lost:

7:30-9:30pm

Metropolitan Community Church of New York

446 W 36th st (between 9th & 10th aves), New York, NY  10018

Ending violence against sex workers in particular, and sex workers’ rights in general, are matters of reproductive justice.  Some sex workers have specific health care needs that often go unmet because of the clandestine nature of their work, or the stigma faced at doctors’ offices; some are forced to work in unsuitable or unsafe conditions; and others work in environments where they are unable to organize for adequate wages.   Though much violence against sex workers is perpetuated by clients, it is important to recognize that the most common perpetrators of violence against sex workers are not clients at all, but governments:

Although the purported mission of governments who criminalize sex work is to abolish the industry, sometimes with overtones of rescue, in reality the laws punish sex workers and make their lives harder.

In fact, the criminalization of sex work disproportionately affects low-income women, women of color, immigrants and gender non-conforming persons, putting them at increased risk of deportation and violence within the criminal justice system.  And though much is said about women who are victims of sex trafficking, much less often is the issue of trafficking talked about as a matter of immigrant’s rights and global economic justice – the lack of which is the real problem behind all human trafficking.  Violence against sex workers is as much – if not more – about criminalization of sex work and oppression at the hands of the state as it is about violent clients.  The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health is proud to support the rights and well-being of sex workers, and we hope you can join us at tonight’s event!

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We are applauding the House’s vote to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) yesterday. DADT is the law that forces LGBT military members to hide their sexuality at the risk of losing their careers.

Congressman Patrick Murphy said that “with today’s vote, we are a step closer to dismantling a policy that is not only discriminatory but is harmful to our national security.We’ve lost thousands of patriotic, highly-trained troops…who were kicked out of the military just because they happened to be gay.”

We have been advocating for the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell because of its devastating impact on Latinas who are vulnerable under this law which disproportionately discriminates against women and racial minorities. Although women make up only 14% of the Army, for example, women received 46% of the Army’s DADT discharges in FY 2009. And while 20% of Air Force personnel are women, almost half of its discharges under the policy last year were women. These trends are similarly disproportionate for racial minorities.

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By Stephanie Rodriguez, Policy Intern

The Congressional Lame Duck session has become more active than ever before with important legislation hopefully going up for votes after the Thanksgiving recess. Recently Senator Robert Menendez met with President Obama to discuss his version of Comprehensive Immigration Reform and the possibility of it passing as legislation. One of the key fixtures added to CIR has been the Uniting American Families Act which gives LGBTQ couples a chance at obtaining the same rights as same sex couples when it comes to immigration.

According to the 2000 census, over 36,000 binational couples have been estimated to live in the US without possibility of reunification. That is 36,000 families that have been separated. Binational couples are forced to decide between living together or living in their country of residence. It is an unfair circumstance where the request for sponsorship is denied based on subjective norms of what a family is supposed to look like.

“If UAFA passes it would be the first time that LGBT families would be recognized on a federal level” said Steve Rall, spokesperson for Immigration Equality.

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National Coming Out Day was this past Monday, October 11. It is a day that fosters awareness and strives toward a world where everyone can be open about who they are, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. It is for people who support equality and want to promote justice for our community.

This year, National Coming Out Day has tragically been marked by a string of suicides, where teens who have been bullied and harassed to the point where they feel that they have no other options. These young people are Tyler Clementi, Asher Brown, Seth Walsh, Billy Lucas, Justin Aaberg, Jaheem Herrera, Eric Mohat, Carl Hoover and Raymond Chase who in one way or another had been isolated and persecuted because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Sexual and gender identity issues need to be discussed openly, and we all need to become a support system for people who are trying to come out. It is a point of transition that is difficult to put into words and it is not made easier by harsh peer harassments and mistreatment. Even if you don’t identify yourself as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or queer person, ask how you can become an ally.

“This is a moment where every one of us — parents, teachers, students, elected officials and all people of conscience — needs to stand up and speak out against intolerance in all its forms.” – NY Times

For more info on National Coming Out Day check out Human Rights Campaign’s website.

By Stephanie Rodriguez, Policy Intern

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The folks over at Latinovations invited me, Senior Policy Analyst here at NLIRH, to write a guest blog for them.  The blog, where I wrote about the experiences with health care immigrant Latin@s have in detention, was posted at La Plaza today:

As a reproductive health organization, sometimes people are surprised to learn that the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health does immigrants’ rights work.  The truth is that immigration and reproductive justice are inextricably tied, and the health and struggles of immigrant detainees is an area that is particularly ripe for action.

To read more about health care and the experiences of pregnant women and transgender persons in immigration detention, make sure to check out the rest of the piece here.

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Proposition 8 Ruled Unconstitutional
A federal judge ruled yesterday that Proposition 8 – California’s ballot-measure that revoked the state’s same-sex couples’ right to marry – is unconstitutional on grounds that it violates due process and equal protection clauses.  Judge Vaughn Walker’s decision stated that proponents of Proposition 8 were unable to give any rational basis for the measure, and went on to say:

“In the absence of a rational basis, what remains of proponents’ case is an inference, amply supported by evidence in the record, that Proposition 8 was premised on the belief that same-sex couples simply are not as good as opposite-sex couples…this belief is not a proper basis on which to legislate.”

Though this represents a huge victory for the marriage equality movement, many LGBT activists and allies believe strongly that this is not enough, and want to go beyond marriage to afford the benefits of this institution to all people, regardless of marital status.  Advocates of same-sex marriage point out its importance in terms of sharing of benefits and assets.  However, a number of advocates rooted in economic justice and people of color organizing point out that the legal rights afforded by state-recognized marriage benefit largely those couples who have access to a number of resources already, and call for the recognition of alternative family structures and the separation of basic human rights – such as access to health care – from marriage altogether.  Yesterday’s ruling is an important milestone for LGBT persons being regarded equally under the law, but we have much further to go.

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