August 11, 2017 by
Advocates said the statistic — which doesn't include the Pulse nightclub shooting — "should be a wake-up call." More LGBT people have been killed in what advocacy groups categorize as hate-violence-related homicides so far in 2017 than in all of 2016, according to data from an LGBT rights organization. As of August 2017, there have been 33 hate-violence-related homicides of LGBT people, according to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs' count. In 2016, there were 28 — that number excludes the 49 people killed in the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando. The numbers translate to roughly one hate-violence-related death every 13 days in 2016. So far in 2017, the pace of those deaths is at about one every six days. Fifteen of those who were killed in 2017 were transgender women of color, and at least 12 were cisgender gay men. The reports came from all over the US, from Texas to New York to Wisconsin. The NCAVP said that there’s no one clear explanation for the increase, but that it could be driven by a combination of increased media reporting, more accurate identification of victims by law enforcement, and a possible increase in violence. Increased media attention to LGBT rights — and particularly transgender rights — in recent months could also be part of the explanation. "I think whether it’s an increase in reporting, an increase in violence, or some combination thereof, it should be a wake-up call for us across our communities that hate violence is not going away, it’s certainly not decreasing, and it’s symptomatic of larger and deeper problems in our society that we still haven’t addressed," Beverly Tillery, executive director at the New York City Anti-Violence Project, told BuzzFeed News. Her group coordinates with the NCAVP and is the lead agency that puts together the violence report. The NCAVP's tally is not definitive, but it's the most comprehensive yearly indicator — in the absence of reliable nationwide government data — of how many homicides of LGBT people are being reported around the country. The organization gathers data from media reports, friends and family members of victims, and member organizations across the country. They categorize homicides as "hate violence" if it appears that the victim was targeted because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. That doesn't necessarily mean the cases were classified as hate crimes by law enforcement, which has a different set of legal standards. Dallas Drake, senior researcher at the Center for Homicide Research, says that the rate of homicides of trans women and gay men are worth studying, but that there's no way of knowing if these figures represent an actual increase in violence. Either way, he said, the NCAVP is likely undercounting the real number. "There are a lot more homicides of LGBT people than what they report," Drake said. "They don't report generally from communities that are smaller or where cases are not easily identifiable as LGBT homicides." Vanessa Panfil, an assistant professor of sociology and criminal justice at Old Dominion University in Virginia, said that an increase in violence is in line with a real backlash against progress made on LGBT rights in recent years. That backlash, she says, has been encouraged in part by the Trump administration walking back Obama-era guidances and policies that were LGBT-inclusive, such as supporting trans students' rights and signaling a ban on allowing trans people to serve in the military. As a result, transgender people across the country are relying on courts to decide if they’re allowed to access bathrooms in line with their gender identities — a decision the Supreme Court decided not to weigh in on when it sent a landmark trans rights case back to a lower court earlier this year. On the state level, transgender “bathroom bills” aren’t gaining much traction since the defeat of North Carolina’s HB2 — but some state legislatures are now considering bills that would prevent cities and local councils from having nondiscrimination ordinances. The increase in violence could be "influenced by heterosexism, transphobia, and homophobia that have always existed but now partly fueled by backlash,” said Panfil, who studies hate crimes against LGBT people. Chyna Gibson   Ciara McElveen   Two of the trans women of color killed this year were in New Orleans. Chyna Gibson, 31, was shot and killed outside a shopping mall, and Ciara McElveen, 25, was stabbed to death in the city's 7th Ward. The incidents were unrelated. Gibson, who grew up in New Orleans but lived in Sacramento, was in the city to celebrate Mardi Gras, friends told the Times-Picayune in March. She was gunned down on a Saturday in February outside the Bella Plaza shopping center, where she’d gone to pick up a dress for a party that night. She was a well-known performer on the drag scene nationally, where she went by the stage name Chyna Doll Dupree. "It's a shocker to everyone because she didn't have any drama with anyone, and I've never heard her say she was into something,” Dayshawn Brown, a friend of Dupree’s, told the paper. The following Monday morning, Ciara McElveen was stabbed several times and found on a sidewalk. The Times-Picayune reported that a witness told police he saw a man driving a black car, with McElveen riding in the passenger seat, pull over to the side of the road. The man then took something out of the trunk of the car, went around to the passenger’s side, and stabbed McElveen, before dragging her out of the car and slamming her head into the pavement. He then drove away. “She was outgoing... and she had a good head on her shoulders," a friend of McElveen’s, named Ayrielle, told the paper at a vigil a few days later. "Justice needs to be served." The New Orleans Police Department said they are investigating Gibson's murder as a hate crime, but not McElveen's. They say the determination is ultimately made by the FBI after local authorities refer the case to them (hate crime laws in Louisiana and 12 other states cover sexual orientation, but not gender identity). The Orleans Parish District Attorney’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Sgt. Frank Robertson, the New Orleans Police Department's LGBT liaison, said that in the two years he's been in his role, he feels he's made progress on improving the relationship between police and LGBT residents of the city. "The challenges that we do face with members of the trans and gay community is that members are reluctant to come and speak to us for obvious reasons that they’re either afraid or they don't trust the police," Robertson said. CoBella Monroe, 20, an advocate at the New Orleans trans activist group BreakOUT, told BuzzFeed News that without antidiscrimination protections, many trans and gender-nonconforming people nationally are left without the protections that come with having a steady income and place to live. "We have to make sure that our community has resources so those numbers go down so that people aren’t being harassed and attacked on the streets," she said. Across the US, 28 states have no housing or employment laws specifically protecting LGBT people from discrimination. Two other states, Wisconsin and New Hampshire, have those protections, but only for sexual orientation, not gender identity. In another case in March this year, Andrew Nesbitt was stabbed to death in his apartment in Madison, Wisconsin. It was the day of his 46th birthday. Nesbitt had been out celebrating his birthday with friends at a local bar the evening before, the Wisconsin State Journal reported, and it’s not clear how he met the man charged with his murder. Nesbitt’s roommate found him dead, with multiple stab wounds, in their apartment the morning after his birthday party. Darrick E. Anderson, 23, was charged with first-degree homicide after a blood sample found in Nesbitt’s kitchen matched his own. Nesbitt's killing is not currently being investigated as a hate crime. The Madison Police Department and Dane County District Attorney’s Office didn’t immediately return a request for comment. Andrew Nesbitt Kathy Flores, an LGBTQ anti-violence program manager for the Wisconsin advocacy group Diverse & Resilient, knew Nesbitt well — she first met him after he was attacked and severely injured in a hate crime outside a gay bar in 2011. "I work with a number of survivors who have been attacked in their homes, outside their workplaces, in and outside of LGBTQ bars, in parks downtown, things like that. The message this sends to LGBTQ folks is clear: that we may not be safe anywhere," she said. She says the value of a tally like the NCAVP's is that it draws attention to killings that may not fit the strict legal definition of "hate crime" but where it's anecdotally clear that the victim died because they were targeted for their sexual orientation or gender identity. "I think the distinction is different for advocates than it might be by the legal definition," she said, giving an example of a bartender in Milwaukee who was killed after leaving a gay bar earlier this year, whose case was not treated as a hate crime. "The intent may have been robbery but the victimization could have been related to the fact that he was gay and seen coming out of an LGBTQ establishment. So I think the targeting definitely does have hate and homophobia bias." source

August 10, 2017 by
Media commentator and retired NYPD detective, Tom Verni, is suing a local LGBT organization for allegedly creating a Twitter page with his images with tweets that suggest that he sexually molests underage boys. “There are a number of Twitter posts and then a blog page that popped up with my name and picture on it stating that I was using my police ID to lure underage kids off the internet to have sex with them,” Verni said. The page has since been taken off Twitter, but Verni has printouts with tweets that say things like “kids, I could touch them” and “I love children.” Then, there's a website claiming "not Tom Verni" has been engaging in sexual molestation of underage boys. Verni alleges these even made their way to his husband’s boss. The alleged smear campaign began after his relationship soured with some at the LGBT Network—where he was a volunteer—after he came forward with accusations of wrongdoing. “There was a number of EEO type of situations taking place with the mistreatment of employees. There were some allegations of some financial misgivings and some other false reporting of grant applications, grant work and what not,” Verni said. Verni's attorney Anthony Colleuluori says what it comes down to is fraud. He is now suing the Woodbury-based LGBT Network, its CEO David Kilmnick, and others for $5 million. Verni says things first went south at the end of 2014 when Kilmnick and Verni had a disagreement on Facebook over police turning their backs on the mayor at a slain officer's funeral and Verni was unfriended. “As a result of that Facebook dust up that we had, that's when people started coming forward and messaging me saying, ‘hey, do you know what's going on over there at the LGBT Network?’” Verni said. He and his attorney did not go into detail about the alleged mishandling of money but the lawsuit alleges that under the direction of Kilmnick, someone created the internet pages as an act of retaliation against Verni. A spokesperson for the LGBT Network says the allegations against the organization are completely false, baseless, and frivolous. source

August 5, 2017 by
"When Jeff collapsed in the newsroom, he was down to two T cells. In a bit of gallows humor, he called them Frick and Frack." New York Times columnist Samuel Freedman related this poignant anecdote about his friend and colleague, the reporter Jeffrey Schmalz, who died of AIDS-related complications in 1993. Freedman's story was part of a keynote address he gave at "Bodies on the Line: A Memorial to Honor AIDS Journalists," held June 22 at New York City's LGBT Community Center. Linda Villarosa speaking at "Bodies on the Line: A Memorial to Honor AIDS Journalists" The powerful tribute was co-sponsored by NLGJA: The Association of LGBTQ Journalists, HIVandHepatitis.com, PLUS Magazine, Positively Aware, POZ Magazine, Pride Life Magazine and TheBody.com, with support from the Elton John AIDS Foundation. Fifteen journalists, writers and activists who died as a result of their HIV infection were honored by their peers, admirers, friends and loved ones via recollections and readings. In addition, more than 200 journalists were identified and honored in a visual tribute. Freedman's anecdote about Jeffrey Schmalz, which sent a gasp through the room, was one of many stunning observations. In his recent book, Dying Words, Freedman chronicles Schmalz's courageous 1990s HIV/AIDS reporting amidst the homophobia and oppression of the era. Yet, as the event at the community center unfolded, it became clear that Schmalz had not been alone in his fight to cover HIV/AIDS while fighting for his own life. The event resonated with current events: At a time when the veracity of journalists is routinely questioned by the Trump administration and citizens alike, the tributes were a reminder of what journalism at its best offers: desperately needed truth-telling through investigation, personal reflection and testimony. "Many journalists were pioneering AIDS journalists while themselves dying of AIDS," said Anne-christine d'Adesky, the award-winning HIV/AIDS journalist and social justice activist who organized "Bodies on the Line." d'Adesky recently released a memoir, The Pox Lover: An Activist's Decade in New York and Paris, which looks back at the intense experiences of HIV/AIDS journalists and activists in the '90s. She conceived of the event as a memorial and celebration of HIV/AIDS journalists who have been lost, and as a forum to celebrate their voices and accomplishments. Anne-christine d'Adesky "One of the true pleasures of [retaining] my '90s diaries has been the ability to introduce people to some of the journalists and artists who were my colleagues who died of AIDS," d'Adesky told TheBody.com. "I want to use The Pox Lover to have conversations about what their decade meant for us -- as a living history we can take forward. It's not nostalgia. There's huge value in reading it now for what we have to do." The honored journalists left behind a body of work that provides a multi-faceted look at the nexus of HIV, homophobia, fear, government response and grassroots activism. Their archives illuminate how individuals and communities navigated those complex issues with intelligence, rage, horror, humor and, sometimes, denial. "The heightened tragedy of these losses (to HIV/AIDS) is that they just wanted to do their work," Freedman noted. "Their personal lives should not have been a risk factor. And yet, they were slain." Journalist Linda Villarosa honored the late gay black writer Craig Harris, while activist A. Toni Young described the impact that ABC World News's Max Robinson, who struggled with coming out as gay and HIV-positive, had on her as a black gay reporter. Buzzfeed editor Mark Schoofs remembered the Bay Area Reporter's Mike Hippler, one of the first journalists to cover Ward 5B at San Francisco General Hospital, which cared for people diagnosed with AIDS. Writer and editor Liz Highleyman paid tribute to the little-known Michelle Wilson, who created The Positive Woman, the first newsletter for HIV-positive women. JD Davids Other pairings included writer Charles-Rice González remembering Joseph Beam, writer Ann Rower on the actor and writer Cookie Mueller and TheBody.com's JD Davids remembering Kiyoshi Kiyomira, creator of the seminal online HIV/AIDS resource Critical Path. Along with Adam Pawlus of the NLGJA, d'Adesky announced the Kiki Reporting Scholarship, named for d'Adesky's friend and colleague Curtis "Kiki" Mason, an outspoken and incisive POZ Magazine columnist and HIV cancer trial pioneer who died of AIDS complications in 1996. The scholarship will be administered yearly; further details are forthcoming. source

July 31, 2017 by
Whether it’s being murdered for who they are or being told by the commander-in-chief that they can’t serve their country, transgender individuals don’t exactly have it easy. Despite winning some legal protections over the years at the federal level, more and more state legislatures are going out of their way to curb the rights of the LGBT community as a whole. According to a joint investigation by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Washington Post, state lawmakers have introduced 348 bills since 2013 aimed at restricting LGBT civl rights, and 23 became law, going against years of shifting public opinion. More worryingly, the number of bills introduced each year has risen steadily, until this one: “In the first half of 2017 alone, at least 70 bills that could limit LGBT rights have been introduced, a steep increase from previous years.” The bills in question appear to be divided into two categories: religious freedom and 1st Amendment protection bills that allow businesses and individuals to refuse service to LGBT customers and “bathroom bills.” While the former has fallen off, “bathroom bills” are becoming more and more common, even though they have proven to be economically disastrous. The bills appear to be aimed solely to combat federal regulations, such as then-Attorney General Eric Holder saying Civil Rights Act covers discrimination based on gender identity. Soon after that proclamation, Arizona passed Senate Bill 1191 which makes the process of changing one’s name more difficult and bars transgender people from changing the sex on their birth certificates. The raft of creative, petty bills go into areas like adoption and foster care and life on college campuses, but perhaps the cruelest of all are preemption bills, “which prohibit local governments from passing anti-discrimination bills that exceed protections given by the state.” Economically harmful legislation targeting vulnerable groups is nothing new for Republicans, but it’s still shocking to see it presented in such staggering terms. source

July 8, 2017 by
Lawyers for a lesbian security guard who claims she was discriminated against because of her failure to adhere to gender norms will appeal their case to the U.S. Supreme Court. The move comes after the full 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals refused to rehear the case. Jameka Evans, a security guard at Georgia Regional Hospital, initially sued her former employer in April 2015 for discriminating against her, claiming the hospital had violated her rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits sex-based discrimination. Jameka Evans – Photo courtesy of Lambda Legal. A federal court dismissed Evans’ lawsuit, saying that Title VII did not protect her as a lesbian. Lambda Legal, representing Evans, appealed to the 11th Circuit, arguing that discrimination based on sexual orientation is a form of sex discrimination — a contention that other courts have agreed with, as well as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In March, a three-judge panel on the 11th Circuit rejected Evans’ appeal, agreeing with the lower court’s finding. Evans’ lawyers then petitioned for en banc review, in which all currently serving members of the circuit would agree to rehear the case. That request was officially rejected on Thursday. “We plan to take this to the Supreme Court,” Greg Nevins, counsel and employment fairness strategist for Lambda Legal, said in a statement. “This extremely troubling decision does not slow the momentum that is building behind our efforts to combat employment discrimination against lesbian, gay and bisexual workers in the courts. “We will continue to press the legally correct argument, recognized by so many other courts, that the Civil Rights Act protects all workers against sexual orientation discrimination, whether they are gender-conforming in particular ways or not.” The crux of Evans’ case relies on whether there is a distinction between discrimination based on sexual orientation, and discrimination based on failure to adhere with traditional gender norms — the latter of which the Supreme Court has determined violates Title VII. Recently, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a community college in Indiana had violated Title VII when it denied an adjunct professor various promotions and full-time status after they found out she was a lesbian. In its 8-3 ruling, the majority found that “the line between a gender nonconformity claim and one based on sexual orientation” is “gossamer-thin,” adding that such a distinction “does not exist at all.” Evans’ lawyers want federal courts, including the Supreme Court, to reach that same conclusion. If the courts fail to recognize that there is no distinction between sexual orientation discrimination and discrimination based on a person’s gender nonconformity, it will rest in the hands of Congress to pass an amendment to Title VII that explicitly protects LGBTQ people. Evans’ case is not the only one dealing with Title VII currently working its way through the courts. In May, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently granted en banc review in a similar case, in which a gay skydiver, prior to his death, had sued, alleging that his former employer had fired him because of his sexual orientation. While there’s no guarantee that the Supreme Court will agree to hear a case over the extent of Title VII, the split between the 7th and 11th Circuits, as well as other cases pending in other circuits, are likely to make a “compelling petition” for the court to take up the case and resolve the issue once and for all, Nevins told Metro Weekly in response to a follow-up inquiry. Meanwhile, Evans hopes that the high court will decide in her favor. “My job was important to me and I was good at it, but because I was a lesbian my supervisor zeroed in on me and punished me,” she said in a statement. “If I looked and carried myself like the other women, or worse, if I had hid my sexual orientation, today I would still be in that job. Now, I have not only been let down by my employer, I have been closed off from justice by a court that is supposed to protect my rights. It’s not right. Something needs to change.” source Read More: Members of Congress express support for security guard suing employer for discrimination

July 7, 2017 by
On Sunday, June 25, 2017, members of the HIV/AIDS activist group ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) marched in New York City’s annual LGBT Pride march. They carried black coffins, bearing the names of services that have been endangered by the Trump administration and the Republican-led Congress: the Ryan White CARE Act (passed in 1990, it is the largest federal HIV program); PEPFAR (President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, established in 2003, providing HIV/AIDS services globally); and Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act, under threat of repeal and replacement in the coming weeks. ACT UP at the June 2017 Pride March, New York City  ©Mark Apollo/Hashtag Occupy Media ACT UP at the June 2017 Pride March, New York City  ©Mark Apollo/Hashtag Occupy Media   ACT UP is one of many New York groups featured in AIDS at Home: Art and Everyday Activism at the Museum of the City of New York. The group celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, but its underlying message could not be more relevant: the politics of healthcare have life and death consequences. Lee Snider, ACT UP Rally at City Hall Park, 1988. Courtesy of the Estate of Lee Snider. One of ACT UP’s greatest accomplishments was pushing government agencies and drug companies to accelerate testing of medications, lower the costs of existing drugs, and bring people with HIV/AIDS into the process. By 1996 new antiretroviral treatments dramatically changed the prognosis for people living with HIV, making it possible for many people to live long-term with the virus. But ACT UP also had a uniquely expansive view of healthcare. As photographs by Lee Snider, a featured artist in AIDS at Home reveal, ACT UP demonstrations integrated and drew connections between a range of issues that impacted people with HIV/AIDS: treatment access, housing, needle exchange, insurance, government inaction, corporate greed, and social stigma. They also developed smaller “affinity groups” to lead targeted actions: as I wrote about last December in Slate, for example, the ACT UP Housing Committee led a demonstration at Trump Tower on Halloween in 1989 to protest city policies that prioritized developers like Trump, at the same time 10,000 people in the city who were living with AIDS and homeless. ACT UP was founded in March 1987 after writer and activist Larry Kramer critiqued the LGBT community for its complacency. Since the first cases of AIDS were diagnosed in 1981, many grassroots organizations in the city had created pioneering and essential services to support people living with AIDS, but rates of AIDS-related illness and death continued to rise. At a lecture at the Gay and Lesbian Center in the West Village, Kramer called for the creation of a direct action group to protest government agencies and drug companies for their slow and inadequate response. In the decade to come, ACT UP New York staged countless demonstrations throughout the city—from City Hall to St. Patrick’s Cathedral—and spurred the creation of ACT UP chapters across the United States and Europe. “Surrender Donald”: Lee Snider, ACT UP member Ronny Viggiani at a demonstration at Trump Tower, October 31, 1989. Courtesy of the Estate of Lee Snider. “Curse of the Greedy”: Lee Snider, Demonstration at Trump Tower, October 31, 1989. Courtesy of the Estate of Lee Snider.   The action at this year’s LGBT Pride march also recalled many ACT UP demonstrations from the 1980s and 90s: activist Tim Bailey, for example, was given a public funeral in front of the White House at his own request, but friends clashed with police when they tried to remove his casket from their van, as recorded by James Wentzy. In another protest—part of a series of city-wide demonstrations on January 23, 1991, declared by ACT UP a “Day of Desperation”—activists carried wooden coffins through downtown Manhattan and delivered them to city, state, and federal officials to protest government inaction. Lee Snider, ACT UP “Day of Desperation,” January 23, 1991. Courtesy of the Estate of Lee Snider. Other groups were less visible. Karin Timour recalled in an interview with the ACT UP Oral History Project how the Insurance and Healthcare Access Committee worked with the healthcare coalition New Yorkers for Accessible Health Coverage to change state laws governing insurance. That work ultimately enabled greater access to health insurance regardless of preexisting medical conditions—an important precursor to the ACA. Lee Snider, ACT UP “Day of Desperation,” January 23, 1991. Courtesy of the Estate of Lee Snider.   Lee Snider, ACT UP “Day of Desperation,” January 23, 1991. Courtesy of the Estate of Lee Snider.   ACT UP demonstrated the urgency of building a healthcare system designed to meet the needs of the most vulnerable. For people living with HIV/AIDS today, that sense of urgency remains, only there is far less public discussion. Linda Villarosa’s recent cover story in the New York Times Magazine shows that the highest rates of HIV in the world today are among gay and bisexual black men in the United States. The majority of HIV cases overall are in southern states, where there are far fewer support services and government programs for people with HIV/AIDS than there are in New York City. And only 40% of people living with HIV can access the medications needed to manage the virus. People living with HIV will only be put at greater risk if the Republican healthcare plan passes—with Medicaid cuts making it more difficult for poor people to access medications, and reduced insurance regulations making it easier to deny coverage to people with preexisting conditions including HIV/AIDS. The history of ACT UP should be instructive for our own moment, not because the battle they waged for healthcare was won but because it never ended. Join us for a conversation about the history of HIV/AIDS and the challenges of writing about the virus across literary genres at Chronicling a Crisis: Writers on the History of HIV/AIDS on Thursday, July 20, 6:30 pm. source

July 3, 2017 by
New York City may be a cradle of gay rights, but for many in the gay community it is still not an easy place to grow old. Mary Ellen Green can attest to that. Her only refuge is a senior center in Manhattan that serves the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. She can sit down to a hot meal or settle in with a book without worrying about being harassed by her neighbors. “It would answer my prayers,” Mary Ellen Green, 61, said of planned new subsidized apartment buildings aimed at gay seniors. But when the center closes at night and on weekends, Ms. Green, 61, a freelance writer who is homeless, is on her own again. Ms. Green could soon have somewhere to go. The operator of the senior center, SAGE, a nonprofit advocacy and service organization, is working with private developers to build New York City’s first subsidized housing for older people like Ms. Green who need a place to live, may face discrimination from their neighbors, or simply want to spend their later years among those they feel most comfortable with. While such targeted affordable housing is new to New York City, it has been built in a handful of other cities, including Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco, amid a growing recognition that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are more likely to need help as they grow older because many of them are single, have no children and may be estranged from their families. These elders can find themselves isolated in traditional retirement communities or nursing homes, advocates say, and in some cases, may even feel compelled to go back into the closet just to fit in. A rendering of the Ingersoll Senior Residences, New York City’s first senior housing complex for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. Next month, work will begin on a $78 million apartment building at the Ingersoll Houses, a public-housing project in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, followed in the fall by a $40 million building across from Crotona Park in the Bronx. Both buildings are expected to open in 2019 and will feature SAGE-run senior centers that will also serve the local communities. “It would answer my prayers,” said Ms. Green, who has been living in church shelters and on the street since March. “We would all look out for each other, be our eyes and ears. I think that understanding and awareness would be there.” More than 100,000 of New York City’s 1.1 million residents 65 years and older are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, according to SAGE estimates. In recent years, the city has increased funding to expand senior centers and programs for them, but it has struggled to provide living spaces as the city faces an overall shortage of affordable housing. “This is one place where we’ve been lagging behind, and it’s time to catch up,” said Michael Adams, the chief executive of SAGE. Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration has called for more affordable senior housing for this population. “Many older L.G.B.T. adults remember the discrimination they faced in housing and other sectors, and they were silenced for far too long,” said Donna Corrado, the commissioner of the Department for the Aging. “The construction of housing for them creates a safe space and support system that allows L.G.B.T. seniors with limited incomes to live with dignity.” Felicia Holley, 78, said that, as a lesbian, she looked forward to living in the Ingersoll Houses. “You need to have neighbors you can talk to freely,” she said. Both buildings also aim to serve the homeless at a time when the city’s homeless population has soared. The Bronx building, the Crotona Senior Residences, will set aside 30 percent of its 84 apartments for older people who are homeless. It is the first collaboration between SAGE and HELP USA, a nonprofit that builds and manages homeless shelters and transitional and permanent housing for those who were homeless. The Brooklyn building, the Ingersoll Senior Residences, will also designate 25 percent of its 145 studio and one-bedroom apartments for the homeless. The building, which is being built on land leased from the New York City Housing Authority, will also give preference for some units to residents in city housing projects. While fair housing laws require that the buildings be open to anyone who meets the age and income qualifications, they are being heavily marketed to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities. The 17-story Brooklyn building, which will have three outdoor terraces, will be the largest gay-friendly affordable housing for seniors in the country, according to the developer, BFC Partners. “It’s our hope that we end up here with a building that is largely L.G.B.T. seniors or seniors who understand the L.G.B.T. community and are accepting of it,” said Donald A. Capoccia, a founder of BFC Partners. The buildings will select residents by lottery. Mr. Adams pointed out that in similar affordable housing developments in other cities, between 60 and 90 percent of the units are occupied by L.G.B.T. seniors. “In a sense, it’s a self-selection process,” he said. Ingersoll Houses, the site of New York City’s first senior housing complex for gay seniors, in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. Ros Davis, 69, a retired electrician, said that while she liked her neighbors, the new housing would allow her to live around people she had more in common with. “I feel like I could really enjoy myself,” said Ms. Davis, who is a lesbian. “Especially as an L.G.B.T., you want to be around people you can relate to more.” In turn, some Fort Greene residents said they welcomed their new neighbors. Bebe Saldana, 31, a housekeeper walking by the grassy corner where the building will rise, said that she would like to get to know some of the L.G.B.T. seniors. “They’re people,” she said. “They’re beautiful people at that.” Deloris Harvin, 69, a retired day care worker, said she planned to check out the building for her 90-year-old uncle, Eugene Robinson, who is not gay. He recently moved in with her because other senior housing buildings had long waiting lists. Referring to the planned building, Mr. Robinson said, “I don’t mind living there.” The Brooklyn building cannot open soon enough for Felicia Holley, 78, who is a lesbian. Ms. Holley, a retired word processing supervisor on a tight income, had to move in with her younger daughter in the Bronx four years ago because she could not find an apartment she could afford. “It’s not comfortable,” she said. Ms. Holley has already walked around Fort Greene to see if she would like living there. She said she would. “You need to have neighbors you can talk to freely,” she said. “When you’re younger, you can always go party out of your neighborhood, but when you’re older, where can you go?” source

July 2, 2017 by
Civil rights and LGBT activists say they are concerned about President Donald Trump's nomination Thursday of Eric Dreiband to head the Justice Department's civil rights division because of his work defending major corporations and others against discrimination lawsuits. Dreiband, a labor attorney in Washington, D.C., who served as general counsel of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission under George W. Bush, has represented such companies as R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. in an age discrimination case, Bloomberg in a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit, CVS Pharmacy in an employee severance agreement lawsuit brought by the EEOC, and Abercrombie & Fitch in a Supreme Court case involving a Muslim woman who was not hired by the company because she wore a headscarf.   Eric Dreiband.   The nomination of Dreiband, an attorney with Jones Day whose partners included White House Counsel Donald McGahn, serves to undermine " fundamental civil rights priorities," the NAACP Legal Defense Fund said in a statement Thursday. "Dreiband has devoted most of his career to defending corporations in employment discrimination cases and advocating for weaker antidiscrimination protections in the workplace," the statement said. "He also has a troubling lack of experience, having done no significant work in other issue areas central to the Division's mission, including urgent priorities like voting rights and policing reform."   Vanita Gupta, who led the department's civil rights division under President Barack Obama and now heads the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said in a statement: "Whoever leads the 'crown jewel' of the Justice Department must have deep relationships with stakeholders and marginalized communities, and have a deep, abiding faith in our nation's civil rights laws. They must respect the laws that touch everyone, rights that people have literally died for. They must respect the role of what has been called the conscience of the federal government. In all those regards, Eric Dreiband is woefully unqualified to lead the Civil Rights Division." The White House countered that assertion Friday.   "The White House judges nominees on the merits of their character and not on the clients they once represented as counsel," White House spokeswoman Kelly Love told CNN Friday. "Mr. Dreiband is highly qualified to run the civil rights division, and we are privileged to have his service."   Washington attorney Leslie Silverman, who worked closely with Dreiband at the EEOC, affirmed the nominee's belief in the country's civil rights laws in an phone interview with CNN on Friday, saying that "when people are critical of Eric and civil rights, they should take a look at what he did" because his record "stands for itself."   "Eric was incredibly respected and well-regarded at the agency by the career employees and pretty much everybody that dealt with him," Silverman said. "He's a lawyer's lawyer. He's a hard worker. He has incredible integrity. He's very bright and I think that he's going to do a great job."   LGBT groups criticized Dreiband, however, for his more recent representation of the University of North Carolina in defense of its decision to honor the provisions of the state's controversial "bathroom bill" that banned people from using public bathrooms that do not correspond to their biological sex as listed on their birth certificates. Those provisions were repealed in March.   "I think that Mr. Dreiband has a great deal to answer for, and the best way to give him an opportunity to acquit himself of these concerns shared by the Log Cabin Republicans and other LGBT advocates is to give him the benefit of a hearing," Gregory Angelo, president of the Log Cabin Republicans, a conservative group that advocates for LGBT rights, told CNN in a phone interview Friday.   Jesselyn McCurdy, deputy director of the ACLU's Washington Legislative Office, characterized Dreiband as someone "with a history of restricting civil rights" in a statement Thursday and urged lawmakers to "ask the tough questions during his confirmation process."   "Dreiband has made a career going against women and LGBT rights," McCurdy said, noting his defense of the University of North Carolina in the "bathroom bill" case. McCurdy added that as an EEOC lawyer, Dreiband testified before Congress against legislation to prevent wage discrimination, and as a private attorney, "represented organizations seeking religious exemptions to avoid providing contraceptive coverage to women in the workplace."   But the Public Interest Legal Foundation, a conservative voting watchdog group, accused Obama's Justice Department of selectively enforcing voting rights laws for partisan gain, saying Dreiband's nomination would reverse such alleged practices.   "Eric Dreiband is the right pick to return the Civil Rights Division to a tradition of enforcing the law free from politics," the group's president, J. Christian Adams, said in a statement Thursday. "The DOJ should again enforce laws requiring clean voter rolls and clean elections." source

July 1, 2017 by
On Wednesday, June 28, Eric Sawyer and about 10 other HIV activists were arrested while engaging in civil disobedience in protest of the Republican-led Senate’s version of a health care reform bill that they say will be devastating to those living with HIV. It’s not a new experience for Sawyer, who is the vice president of public affairs and policy at the New York-based Gay Men’s Health Crisis and a founding member of Housing Works and ACT UP, the grassroots group of activists credited with raising awareness of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and 1990s. Photo: GMHC’s Eric Sawyer being arrested by Capitol Police – Photo: Berlin Rosen. The protesters were arrested in the hallway outside of Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s (R-Alaska) office. Murkowski is considered a crucial swing vote in the health care fight. If three or more Republican members vote against the bill, it has no chance of passing the Senate. After their arrest at around 2 p.m., Sawyer and the other activists were put in a holding cell at Capitol Police headquarters, where they were kept in custody for almost 10 hours without food or bathroom breaks as they were shuttled between various briefing rooms. “The thing we’ve learned over time is you have to speak truth to power, and you have to be willing to challenge people in ways that make them uncomfortable as well as yourselves,” he says. “You basically have to confront people in away that they know you’re serious about your opposition. “If you let people basically do whatever they want behind closed doors, horse-trade small favors, in order to give away the right to healthcare for their citizens to get some minor special interest desire filled, the people of the U.S. and individual states are going to suffer,” Sawyer adds, noting that the publicity that comes from being arrested and the chaos that results from people engaging in civil disobedience and disrupting normal proceedings can give lawmakers pause before throwing their full support behind the Republican health care reform bill. This week, Sawyer has been on Capitol Hill with AIDS United, a coalition of 40 service organizations that help provide health care and other support for people living with HIV, particularly low-income populations. Group members have been meeting with senators from both parties, hoping to educate them about the impact that the Senate effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act would have on vulnerable communities. Chief among their objections to the Senate bill are that, by repealing the Affordable Care Act, it will remove the avenue by which 22 million people currently access health care via expanded Medicaid or federal subsidies used to purchase private insurance, according to estimates from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The CBO also estimates that cuts to Medicaid could rise as high as $772 billion over the next 10 years. The activists also object to removing protections under the Affordable Care Act that protect consumers from being charged exorbitant premiums or denied coverage altogether if they have pre-existing conditions. “The main thing we’re hoping to accomplish is to kill the current health care bill. The health care bill, as it has been drafted in both the House and Senate, is extremely detrimental to people living with HIV,” says Sawyer. “We’re now at a point where we could end the HIV epidemic because of the medications we have which get individuals’ HIV under control, giving them an undetectable viral load and making them uninfectious. So by getting people tested and on treatment, we could potentially eliminate new infections. This new bill, with the cuts it has to both individual health care, and the Medicaid system, will prevent that from happening.” Sawyer notes that more than 60 percent of people living with HIV get their medications through a public funding system, whether it’s the Ryan White Care Act, Medicaid or Medicare, Veteran’s Administration health care services, or the Indian Health Service, which provides health care to Native Americans and Alaska Natives. That’s why the Republican-led efforts at health reform, and the Republicans’ proposed budget, are so concerning, says Sawyer, because they make dramatic and detrimental cuts to forms of public health care funding across the board, as well as cuts to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health. “It’s really important for people to continue to express their outrage and concern over this health care bill,” he says. “The Republicans’ desire, their goal to shut down the safety net will be very much advanced by this bill. If anybody in America cares about the safety net being around to help them if they’re in need because of disability or disease…they really need to express their concern and urge their senators to kill this bill.” source