Wednesday, March 24, 2010

From NCLR: Why LGBT People Benefit from Health Care Reform

This week’s passage of historic health care legislation will improve the lives of millions of Americans, including many people in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. To quote President Obama, “This isn’t radical reform, but it is major reform,” and while LGBT anti-discrimination provisions were not included in the final bill (pdf), the passage of health care reform is a momentous achievement that will save lives and will improve access to much-needed health care. Once reform is fully implemented, more than 95 percent of the country will have health insurance coverage, including 32 million who are currently uninsured. This matters to LGBT people because:

1. A disproportionate number of LGBT people are poor (pdf) and/or homeless due to pervasive discrimination. Extending health care coverage to an additional 32 million economically disadvantaged people will help a critically vulnerable segment of our community gain access to basic medical care.

2. Under the new law, adult children under the age of 27 will be allowed to stay on their families’ insurance policies, even after they leave home and/or graduate from college. Between 1 million and 9 million children are being raised by LGBT parents in the United States today and poverty rates for children of same-sex couples are twice as high as poverty rates (pdf) for children of different-sex married couples.

3. According to the Williams Institute , studies show that people in same-sex couples are more likely to be uninsured than are people in married different-sex couples. A 2006 survey of national data showed that 20 percent of people in same-sex couples were uninsured, compared with only 11.5 percent of married individuals.

4. A study analyzing the National Health Interview Survey found that women in same-sex couples were statistically significantly less likely to have health insurance than women in different-sex relationships.

5. Women will no longer be subjected to “gender rating,” a practice used by insurance companies to charge women more than men for the exact same policies—and under reform, maternity care will be covered.

6. Community health centers would receive an additional $11 billion (pdf), doubling the number of patients who can be treated regardless of their insurance or ability to pay.

7. Health insurance companies will no longer be allowed (pdf) to deny people coverage because of preexisting conditions. This provision will be a tremendous benefit to transgender people, people with HIV, and people with cancer, including the disproportionate number of lesbians who suffer with breast cancer.

Given how many lives and personal economies have been ruined due to unaffordable health care, this legislation will prevent disaster for millions of people. But we recognize that this bill comes at a cost. There is no coverage of undocumented immigrants, which is shameful. There are restrictions on reproductive freedom, which are outrageous and must be remedied. And the failure to include specific anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people is unconscionable. The final package also did not include a provision which would have eliminated the tax paid on domestic partner health benefits offered by employers.

LGBT individuals are entitled to health care free of prejudice and we must continue our work to eradicate barriers faced by LGBT people in accessing health care. We must advocate for a woman’s right to choose, a physician’s right to provide the care that he or she believes is medically appropriate and necessary to his or her patients without unwarranted interference from the government, and full and equal access to health care for all people, including equal access to assisted reproduction. NCLR is working with other civil rights organizations to protect and advance these precious human rights.

While this legislation is imperfect—a product of compromise—it is a foundation upon which to build. And while there is much work to be done, including adding anti-discrimination provisions for LGBT people, this unquestionably is a historic moment. President Obama just signed one of the most significant progressive laws passed in decades. This is a tremendous, hard won victory, and we must continue our work to fill the gaps left by this bill.

There is much to be learned by the long journey to passing this legislation, which teetered on the brink of defeat on several occasions. Our nation remains deeply polarized, with opponents of health care reform resorting to familiar fear-mongering and hate-filled tactics. Members of Congress who supported health care reform were targeted in appalling ways, and Tea Party activists hurled racist and anti-gay epithets at African American and openly gay Representatives. Our community is all too familiar with these opponents, the very same who support anti-LGBT ballot measures. However, this week we rose to victory and trampled their campaign of scare tactics and lies. That victory reverberates across the nation, and we must sustain this momentum, stay true to our vision, and not fall prey to divisiveness.

In the coming weeks, we will be put to the test again. Already, the debate over the reconciliation bill rages on in the Senate. We will see similar debates as President Obama pushes for comprehensive immigration reform and as our community fights for long overdue workplace protections and the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

We are in historic times and we are witnesses to and participants in groundbreaking, but still flawed, victories. We all need to engage, get active, be involved, and sacrifice like never before to make certain that the changes we seek and the gains we make include our community. This has to be our time.

In Solidarity,

Kate Kendell
Executive Director

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From 365

Withers: Pentagon set to announce new rules about DADT

According to a Pentagon spokesperson, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates will soon announce modifications to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

“I think he is prepared to offer a way ahead on that subject this week. So stay tuned,” said Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell. “Hopefully you’ll be seeing him later this week and (he) can address the changes that he is going to be making.”

These supposed changes follow the 45 day review Gates called for after he and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified in front of of the Senate Armed Services Committee. No one really knows what Gates will suggest, but one theory is the Defense Department will cease disciplinary hearings against gay troops who are outed by others.

From Salon:

Military to tighten rules on gay firings

The change is seen as a quick fix until a complete repeal of the ban can be passed by Congress

Defense Secretary Robert Gates will insist on high-level scrutiny of dismissals under the military's ban on openly gay service.

Gates was expected to announce on Thursday that that firings of enlisted personnel who violate the ban must be approved at the one-star level.

Make the jump here to read the full article

From JMG: Georgia Teen Derrick Martin Kicked Out Of House Over Gay Prom Date

Only yesterday we were cheering the news that Derrick Martin's Georgia high school had approved his request to bring a male date to the prom. But now his parents have kicked him out of the house. Derrick is staying with a friend for now, but has been getting kind messages of support from the LGBT community.
Many gay-rights activists are now posting the story on their Facebook pages. And an Atlanta filmmaker said he hopes to document the story. “I sent flowers to his high school,” said Randi Reitan, a resident of Eden Prairie, Minn., who sent a bouquet of yellow flowers with a rainbow-colored balloon to Bleckley County High on Tuesday to show her support. “We have a gay son. I wish he could’ve danced with a young man at his prom,” Reitan said. She also has offered to buy Martin and his date, who is from Tift County, boutonnieres to wear on prom night. Drew Dowdell from Pittsburgh is setting up a link on his Web site for people to leave donations for Martin to help buy the 18-year-old a limo ride to the prom. “I want to help Derrick have the best prom he can because I worry that anti-gay people in his school will be doing their best to ruin it for him,” Dowdell said. “I’m proud that he was willing to go to the school to make an issue about it.”

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another important repost from JMG

Since When is Fixing a Problem a Liberal Cause?

Vice President for Medical Center Clinical Affairs for NYU Langone Medical Center

Our health care system is broken. There is no perfect legislation that could ever solve all the problems we have today and make everyone happy at the same time.

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Why would you suddenly put up this sign, just so we can see it from our backyard?

From the Courage Campaign

Courage Campaign

We would like to share with you this open letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi from Cleve Jones, a pioneering equal rights activist featured in the film "MILK," creator of the AIDS Memorial Quilt, and Senior Advisor to the Courage Campaign.

Please click here if you would like to join the Courage Campaign and our friends at GetEQUAL in signing on to Cleve's letter and petition to Speaker Pelosi asking her to prioritize the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act:

Rick Jacobs
Chair, Courage Campaign

Dear Speaker Pelosi --

I would like to express my deep appreciation and gratitude for your relentless perseverance in the passage of health care reform. Along with President Obama, your steadfast leadership and personal commitment has fundamentally changed the lives of millions of Americans.

You and I have known each other for a long time, since we first met as political organizers in San Francisco. I was proud when you were elected Speaker and proud again on Sunday night when you gave a powerful speech on the floor of the House of Representatives about the meaning of health care reform, eloquently asserting that:

"When it comes to health care for all Americans, 'All politics is personal.' It's personal for the family that wrote to me who had to choose between buying groceries and seeing a doctor. It's personal to the family who was refused coverage because their child had a pre-existing condition..."

This profound statement about the power of politics to change the lives of everyday people touched me deeply. And it reminded me of the opportunity we have right now to transform the lives of Americans again -- the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

As shocking as it may be to believe in the year 2010, LGBT people can still legally be fired from their jobs in at least 29 states of our country simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. That's why the Employment Non-Discrimination Act is so vitally important.

Once passed, ENDA would provide to all Americans basic protections against workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. As my friends at Pride at Work describe it, ENDA is "based on the labor principle that every worker should be judged solely on his or her merits as a worker" and is similar in nature to other federal civil rights laws like Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

We've seen the passion you've brought to the challenge of passing health care reform. Now more than ever, we need your passion and skill to achieve the passage of ENDA.

As you know, many Americans in the LGBT community -- especially young people -- are increasingly frustrated and cynical about the pace of progress in Washington.

We want you to show them that cynicism is not the response at this time. They need to believe in the process, Madame Speaker, and you can restore their faith in this process by moving expeditiously to bring ENDA to a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives.

I know your values, Madame Speaker, and I know that you strongly support ENDA. Now I want these young people to know what is in your heart.

With the knowledge that health care reform has been achieved and that enough votes now exist in the House today to pass ENDA, will you work with Rep. George Miller, Chair of the House Committee on Education and Labor, to ensure that ENDA is passed out of committee and brought to the floor of the house immediately?

I am writing this open letter to you and sharing it with my friends in the Courage Campaign and GetEQUAL communities, thousands of whom will sign a petition to you asking that ENDA be prioritized for passage now. You can read the petition -- and Americans can sign on to it -- here:

Congratulations again on your historic achievement. Along with thousands of other people reading this letter, I wish you the best.

Cleve Jones
Senior Advisor, Courage Campaign