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HRC Honors Pro-Equality Female Senators for Women’s History Month

While the outcome in the 2016 Presidential race was devastating for many in the LGBTQ community, the election wasn’t all bad news. In down ballot races, the election proved that pro-equality women can still come out on top. Hillary Clinton didn’t break the highest and hardest glass ceiling, but four incredible women made history in their own right by winning U.S. Senate seats: Catherine Cortez Masto, Tammy Duckworth, Maggie Hassan and Kamala Harris.

This Women’s History Month, we’re honoring these female advocates who made U.S. Senate history: Cortez Masto is the country’s first-ever Latina senator; Duckworth is the first-ever Thai American senator, and the first woman senator to serve in a combat role in the U.S. Army; and Harris is the country’s first Indian American senator, and California’s first African American senator.

The 115th U.S. Senate has more women members than ever before — a record-breaking 21 — including Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin, who is the nation’s first openly-lesbian U.S. Senator.

Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV)

As Nevada’s Senator, Cortez Masto is committed to working with HRC to ensure that historic LGBTQ equality gains are protected and to fight LGBTQ discrimination. She has said, “It is outrageous that in 2016 people can still be at risk of losing their jobs in this country because of whom they love.. in the Senate I will focus on ensuring LGBT people are treated equally under the law by working to end discrimination.”

Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL)

Seantor-Elect Tammy Duckworth has been a strong LGBTQ ally in the House of Representatives. Duckworth received a perfect score on HRC’s Congressional Scorecard for both of her terms in the House of Representatives. She is a cosponsor of the Equality Act and the Global Respect Act, which would provide a means to prevent individuals who violate the human rights of LGBTQ people from entry into the United States.

When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the landmark marriage equality case, Obergefell v. Hodges, she said, “I am so proud that the Supreme Court ruled in favor of love, commitment and equality today. The LGBT community is entitled to the same rights afforded to everyone else and our nation has taken an enormous step towards being more fair and just.”

Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH)

Throughout her career, Maggie Hassan has fought for the rights of all citizens to participate fully in the civic and economic life of their communities. As a state senator, she worked tirelessly to achieve marriage equality, helping make New Hampshire one of the first states to pass legislation ensuring access to legal marriage for all. Last year, as Governor of New Hampshire, she took a bold and historic step by issuing an executive order extending vitally important non-discrimination protections to transgender people in New Hampshire with respect to government employment, contracts and programs.

Hassan’s commitment to LGBTQ equality is illustrated in a digital ad HRC released in support of Hassan, “Raymond Braun Reflects on Why He Came Out to Maggie Hassan.” “I’ve known Maggie Hassan for more than 10 years,” Braun said, “and I’ve seen firsthand what a great champion she is for equality. Maggie was one of the first people I came out to, and I am honored to be able to share my experiences with the great people of New Hampshire.”

Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA)

As California Attorney General, Kamala Harris stood up for LGBTQ rights. She led the team that helped bring down California’s Proposition 8 at the U.S. Supreme Court, and in 2015, worked to  stop an abhorrent and unconstitutional proposed ballot initiative that could have criminalized same-sex relationships, potentially threatening those convicted with death. She advanced a robust platform for LGBTQ equality in her Senate campaign, fighting for LGBTQ youth, and vowing to work to include essential protections for sexual orientation and gender identity in the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=daev6GxQz7I]

In 2014, Harris spoke at HRC’s Los Angeles Gala, where she shared her experience fighting for marriage equality in California and across the United States. She said, “Let us stand together on the side of fighting for justice and equality,” and called for LGBTQ equality, reproductive health rights, immigration reform and voting rights.

Despite the uphill climb for this congress to advance legislation protecting and defending the rights of the LGBTQ community, members of Congress plan to reintroduce the Equality Act during this legislative session — proving that these remarkable women will continue to stand on the right side of history. 

Lenten Devotional: Remember to Love

This year for the season of Lent, HRC Foundation launched a campaign that aims to tell the stories of LGBTQ people of faith. The Lenten season marks the days which lead up to Jesus’ crucifixion and subsequent resurrection.

For Christians, the resurrection is both a reminder and celebration of life, yet people continue to suffer, including members of the LGBTQ community.

“A central and inspiring part of my ministry has been working to make sure the institutional church — and religion in general — is affirming and inclusive of LGBTQ persons,” said the Reverend Dr. J. Edwin Bacon, author and reverend in the Episcopal Church. “I am a more joyful and faithful priest because of that part of my work.”

We hope the meditations offered every day from Ash Wednesday to Easter on April 16, will bless souls, revive spirits, renew minds and strengthen bodies. These stories will be hosted on the HRC website and on Twitter and Facebook.

The Lenten Devotional is a faith-filled resource that compiles meditations written by 47 faith leaders from across the United States. This project and other public education work with faith leaders in HRC Alabama, HRC Arkansas and HRC Mississippi is made possible in part by the generous support of the  E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation.

The culture we live in defines everybody.

And they define everybody for us.

They tell us what thoughts to think about people. They provoke the emotions we should feel about them. In many cases, society even dictates how we relate to them, live in relationship to them.

This includes us.

Elements of our being have been categorized as positive or negative by popular culture. Whether or not we want to be, we are exposed to society’s opinion of us. Some days there is ease in combating the tendency to believe those opinions because we know better. Then, there are those days where we question our worth and wonder, are they right?

What do you think? What is your opinion of yourself?

Deeper than that, what is God’s opinion of you?

The psalmist reminds us:

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my

mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully

made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My

frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret,

intricately woven in the depths of the earth (Psalms 139:13-14).

These days, we are called to look ourselves in the mirror and make sure the loudest voice we hear is our own…reflecting God’s love for us. We cannot forget that God values us. Therefore, we cannot misappropriate the value we have of ourselves either.

We must not equate our love of self with the way others devalue or look down upon us. Instead, it we must see God in ourselves and in one another and honor that in our interactions.

It is up to us to stand in solidarity with each other in a way that creates a new culture, a culture that has the potential to transform lives. We do that by radically loving one another no matter who we are, where we come from or what our situation is.

Let our love reflect God’s love so that the virtue of our being promotes togetherness and healing.

God loves us all.

Let us love one another. 

To the immigrant who has been told “you don’t belong here,”  you are God’s creation, made with a purpose.

You will always belong. (Jeremiah 29:11)

To the LGBTQ community whose love and life have been invalidated.

You are a child of God, and God is love. (1 John 4:8)

To the indigenous peoples who have experienced disrespect, devastation and/or loss, God is your refuge. (Psalm 147:3)

To the poor often overlooked, God sees you, and God cares. (Matthew 10:30-31)

To the differently abled, people underestimate you. Don’t believe them. Focus on whatever you want and do it.

Knowing God is with you; you will succeed! (Philippians 4:13)

To women who have not been honored fully, God loves you and delights in everything you do and all that you are! (Isaiah 43:4a)

To the veteran who has fully known war but struggles to live in peace, God will be your strength! (2 Corinthians 12:9)

To native Africans, now known as African-Americans whose people continuously experience oppression, suppression and depression in many forms, redemption is yet at hand!  (Isaiah 41:10)

No matter what we’ve been through in our lives, let us never forget that we are loved, valued and cared for.  After all, we are STILL God’s very own!

The Reverend Carissa Rodgers, Pastor

Quapaw Quarter United Methodist Church

Little Rock, Arkansas

Faith Leaders Gather to Pray for Justice and Equality for the Transgender Community

This weekend more than 125 congregations from a variety of faith practices will be participating in National Weekend of Prayer for Transgender Justice. HRC is proud to be a sponsor of the event and HRC Foundation’s Religion and Faith Program has worked to ensure that HRC members, supporters and our advisory council are participating.

Why is this important to us?

Faith tells us embraces to marginalized, care for the sick, protect the vulnerable and embrace the different. We are called to act with humility and stand up for justice.

We are three months into 2017 and already eight of our sisters have died at the hands of hate. These transgender women of color did not deserve to have their lives brutally ended for being true to themselves and to us. Their lives, and that of every trans, gender-expansive, genderqueer and agender person is a precious gift from God, ultimately made in their image.

The gospel calls us to love one another as we love ourselves and yet trans individuals are denied basic rights afford to all. Access to facilities, health care and other basic necessities in life are often denied while citing selected bible verses as justification to injury.

Furthermore, this year alone we have seen more than 115 bills introduced in legislative sessions, many of which are focused on our transgender siblings, particularly trans youth and the elimination of current protections. These attacks are growing and we, as people of faith and believers in a welcoming, embracing world, must reject them with all our might, as evidenced by Texas’ SB6 and Tennessee’s SB 771, two bills that double down on discrimination.

Today we call on congregations and faith communities across the country to take a moment to reflect on how our communities can become sanctuaries to our trans community and to all who suffer discrimination. Today we call on all our communities of faith to work for transgender justice today, tomorrow and always.

HRC Mississippi Discusses Faith on Local Radio Station

Post submitted by Daniel G. Ball, Mississippi HRC Faith and Outreach Organizer

HRC Mississippi recently took part in Jackson station WPBQ’s morning talk show to discuss faith and religion. Jim Carstensen, who is also Chair of The Mississippi Religious Leadership Council, hosted the dialogue, which was titled, “Why Millennials are Leaving the Church.” 

According to the National Pew Review, millennials’ affiliation with organized religion has declined by more than 5 percent over the past year. I discussed how faith communities who advocate for anti-LGBTQ legislation and promote efforts to limit equal rights for diverse groups of people have an impact on how younger generations view organized religion. Though there are many other factors that have caused this decrease, anti-LGBTQ rhetoric from faith leaders and religiously affiliated organizations have a large impact on what drives people away from religion.

HRC Mississippi is very grateful to have had an opportunity of this magnitude to discuss the roles of our faith communities and ways in which they can stand up and speak out against social and civil injustices in order to gain the confidence and trust of millennials. HRC Mississippi would like to thank WPBQ for the opportunity to engage in dialogue around this issue. We are committed to continuing discussions such as these so that we can help build a state in which everyone feels welcomed and valued.

Time to THRIVE Special Guest Speakers Nominated for Daytime Emmy Award

Nayyef Hrebid and Btoo Al Lami, who are slated to speak at HRC Foundation’s fourth annual Time to THRIVE Conference in April, have been nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award for their documentary film Out of Iraq, which aired on Logo TV in June 2016.

The documentary, which has been nominated for Daytime Emmy – Outstanding Special Class Special, features Hrebid and Al Lami, both of whom were enlisted in Iraq, Al Lami as an Iraqi soldier and Hrebid as a translator. After falling in love, the duo was forced to flee the country separately after being targeted for homosexuality.

“Through thousands of miles, they fight to stay connected and to be reunited,” Logo TV reads.

Hrebid and Al Lami will address the audience and bravely share their powerful and emotional journey at Time to THRIVE. The inspiring couple also appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show where they were presented with a surprise donation from Shutterfly and its “Celebrating Everyday heroes” campaign.

Other special guests at Time to THRIVE include Katie Couric, executive producer of National Geographic’s Gender Revolution, New York Times op-ed columnist Charles Blow and transgender youth advocate Jazz Jennings.

HRCF’s fourth annual Time to THRIVE Conference is the premier national convening of educators and youth-serving professionals to build awareness and cultural competency, learn current and emerging practices and gather resources from leading experts and national organizations in the field. Time to THRIVE will take place April 28-30 in Washington, D.C., with Toyota and AT&T as the presenting sponsors. Register now at TimeToTHRIVE.org.

View the entire list of nominees for the 44th annual Daytime Emmy Awards here.

American Health Care Act Pulled From Vote; Thousands of LGBTQ People Will Retain Health Care

HRC released the following statement after Speaker of the House Paul Ryan pulled the American Health Care Act (AHCA) from consideration by the House of Representatives. The Congressional Budget Office projected that the provisions of the legislation would result in 14 million Americans losing their health insurance by 2018, and skyrocketing to 24 million by 2026.

“Today is a win for the thousands of LGBTQ Americans who will retain life-saving health care under the Affordable Care Act. The Republican proposal would have ripped away care from millions of people, with a particularly devastating impact on low-income senior citizens, women, children, LGBTQ people, people living with HIV and others,” said HRC Government Affairs Director David Stacy. “This move is an example of the power of constituents and their stories, which weighed heavily on Members of Congress. Thankfully, Members did not turn their backs on the very people they represent.”

The AHCA would have undermined core provisions of the landmark Affordable Care Act (ACA). As a result of the ACA, thousands of low-income people living with HIV have been able to obtain health insurance through the Medicaid expansion. This critical coverage ensures that people living with HIV have access to lifesaving treatments. The AHCA’s drastic changes to Medicaid would have stripped these people, and other vulnerable populations, of essential healthcare coverage.

The tax credit structure embedded in the proposed health care act would have left thousands of low-income individuals and families without coverage due to cost increases. Systemic discrimination of LGBTQ Americans has historically contributed to the community having some of the lowest rates of insurance coverage in the nation. This trend is reversing as a result of the Affordable Care Act. The LGBTQ community has benefitted from the ACA’s tax credit structure and the Medicaid expansion, and the rescission of both of these critical components would have had devastating consequences for a community already facing significant health care disparities.

Beyond repealing these key provisions of the ACA, the AHCA would have also cut federal funding for Planned Parenthood, which could jeopardize the ability of clinics to deliver preventive health services critical for the LGBTQ community, including HIV testing and transition-related care. The ACA’s public health and prevention fund, established to expand investments in the nation’s public health infrastructure, would also be repealed. Health centers, like those operated by Planned Parenthood, often offer the only culturally competent healthcare available, especially in rural and isolated areas.

In considering the ACA in 2009 and 2010, the House held 79 hearings over the course of a year, heard from 181 witnesses and accepted 121 amendments. The current House leadership moved this unacceptable repeal and replacement legislation through the House in a matter of weeks with no hearings or meaningful debate. The Senate adopted the ACA only after approximately 100 hearings, roundtables, walkthroughs and other meetings, and after 25 consecutive days in continuous session debating the bill.