Tuesday, March 5, 2013

White House LGBT Update: March 5, 2013

The White House

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


Good morning,

In this White House LGBT Update, you will learn more about the Obama Administration's ongoing efforts to advance equality for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community.  

Feel free to share this news with your colleagues and networks, and please encourage them to sign up for updates.

Gautam Raghavan
Office of Public Engagement
The White House

Department of Justice Files Briefs in Supreme Court Cases on Prop 8 and DOMA

On Thursday, February 28, the Department of Justice filed an amicus brief for the United States in Hollingsworth v. Perry, the constitutional challenge to California's Proposition 8 pending before the Supreme Court.  After doing so, Attorney General Eric Holder released the following statement:

In our filing today in Hollingsworth v. Perry, the government seeks to vindicate the defining constitutional ideal of equal treatment under the law. Throughout history, we have seen the unjust consequences of decisions and policies rooted in discrimination. The issues before the Supreme Court in this case and the Defense of Marriage Act case are not just important to the tens of thousands of Americans who are being denied equal benefits and rights under our laws, but to our Nation as a whole.

President Barack Obama delivers a statement and answers questions regarding the sequester budget cuts, in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, following his meeting with Congressional leadership, March 1, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

At a press conference on Friday, President Obama, in response to a question, described the Administration's filing:

As everybody here knows, last year, upon a long period of reflection, I concluded that we cannot discriminate against same-sex couples when it comes to marriage; that the basic principle that America is founded on -- the idea that we're all created equal -- applies to everybody, regardless of sexual orientation, as well as race or gender or religion or ethnicity. 
And I think that the same evolution that I've gone through is an evolution that the country as a whole has gone through.  And I think it is a profoundly positive thing.  So that when the Supreme Court essentially called the question by taking this case about California's law, I didn't feel like that was something that this administration could avoid.  I felt it was important for us to articulate what I believe and what this administration stands for.

And although I do think that we're seeing, on a state-by-state basis, progress being made -- more and more states recognizing same-sex couples and giving them the opportunity to marry and maintain all the benefits of marriage that heterosexual couples do -- when the Supreme Court asks, do you think that the California law, which doesn't provide any rationale for discriminating against same-sex couples other than just the notion that, well, they're same-sex couples, if the Supreme Court asks me or my Attorney General or Solicitor General, do we think that meets constitutional muster, I felt it was important for us to answer that question honestly -- and the answer is no.

In addition, on Friday, February 20, the Department of Justice filed briefs for the United States in United States v. Windsor, the case challenging Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

The White House Commends Passage of LGBT-Inclusive VAWA

Also last Thursday, the House joined the Senate in passing the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).  This reauthorization bill includes important new protections for a number of communities -- including LGBT victims of violence.

In response, President Obama released the following statement:

I was pleased to see the House of Representatives come together and vote to reauthorize and strengthen the Violence Against Women Act.  Over more than two decades, this law has saved countless lives and transformed the way we treat victims of abuse. Today's vote will go even further by continuing to reduce domestic violence, improving how we treat victims of rape, and extending protections to Native American women and members of the LGBT community. The bill also reauthorizes the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, providing critical support for both international and domestic victims of trafficking and helping ensure traffickers are brought to justice. I want to thank leaders from both parties – especially Leader Pelosi, Congresswoman Gwen Moore and Senator Leahy – for everything they've done to make this happen. Renewing this bill is an important step towards making sure no one in America is forced to live in fear, and I look forward to signing it into law as soon as it hits my desk.

Vice President Biden also released a statement in which he described the origin and importance of VAWA:

Today Congress put politics aside and voted to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. Eighteen years ago, I envisioned a world where women could live free from violence and abuse.  Since VAWA first passed in 1994, we have seen a 64% reduction in domestic violence.  I am pleased that this progress will continue, with new tools for cops and prosecutors to hold abusers and rapists accountable, and more support for all victims of these crimes. 

Learn more about the importance of VAWA for LGBT victims of domestic violence.

HUD Launches First Fair Housing App

Last week, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) unveiled the first housing discrimination mobile application (app).  Developed by HUD's Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) and HP, the app uses the latest technology to provide the public with a quick and easy way to learn about their housing rights and to file housing discrimination complaints, and inform the housing industry about its responsibilities under the Fair Housing Act.

"Having this first fair housing mobile application equips people everywhere with the information they need to combat housing discrimination," said John Trasviña, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. "We are maximizing the latest technology to make the process for filing fair housing complaints faster and easier and arming our fair housing partners with the information they need to understand their fair housing rights and responsibilities."

Last year, HUD announced an important Equal Access to Housing Rule that says clearly and unequivocally that LGBT individuals and couples have the right to live where they choose.  Learn more about the Equal Access to Housing Rule.

State Department Launches LGBT Travel Information Site

Recently, the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs launched a Smart Traveler Day campaign to encourage U.S. citizens to travel smart by learning about their destinations before they travel, and by staying connected when they are abroad by enrolling in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). 

As part of these efforts to engage U.S. citizen travelers about becoming safe and smart travelers, the Bureau of Consular Affairs launched a new site for LGBT travelers on travel.state.gov, where they can learn more attitudes toward LGBT persons internationally and programs and resources offered by the State Department for LGBT travelers.

Visit (and bookmark!) the State Department's LGBT Travel Information site

Ensuring Safe Schools for LGBT Youth

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Education.

Last month, Michael Yudin, Acting Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services at the U.S. Department of Education, participated in the 4th Annual National Educator Conference focused on creating safe, supportive, and inclusive schools for LGBT youth. 

A goal of the conference, presented by the Center for Excellence in School Counseling and Leadership (CESCaL), was to bring together education leaders and LGBT experts to empower and provide educators and school personnel with the knowledge and skills necessary to create safe, welcoming and inclusive school environments for all youth, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. 

In addressing the conference, Assistant Secretary Yudin asked educators in attendance to help improve the school experience of our LGBT youth.  Read more about Assistant Secretary Yudin's visit.

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