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HRC Submits Testimony in Support of UN Human Rights Council

HRC submitted testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in response to the committee’s hearing entitled “Assessing the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHCR).”

HRC strongly supports the work of the UNHRC because, as HRC’s Government Affairs Director David Stacy explained in his testimony, “the Council has taken historic steps to protect and promote the human rights and dignity of LGBTQ people.”

Stacy wrote about the UNHRC’s first-ever resolution on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI), which passed in 2011. With help from the U.S., the Council passed a South African-proposed resolution that directed the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to report on “discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.”

The ensuing report was enormously important for advancing LGBTQ human rights, as it detailed in a comprehensive way the violence and discrimination occurring against LGBTQ people in “every region of the world.” According to Stacy, the report also “called on UN member states to repeal any laws criminalizing same-sex conduct; to investigate and report all incidents of violence against LGBTQ people and those perceived to be LGBTQ; and to take steps to counter homophobia and transphobia among the general public.”

In 2016, the U.S. and other LGBTQ-friendly nations passed a resolution at the UNHRC appointing an Independent Expert on sexual orientation and gender identity. Prof. Vitit Muntarbhorn of Thailand is the first person to hold that position. He has already begun assessing LGBTQ human rights in various countries, meeting with LGBTQ advocates around the globe and engaging with governments and civil society to help combat violence and discrimination targeting LGBTQ people.

Unfortunately, the UNHRC has often been the subject of controversy, particular for members of Congress who believe that it unfairly targets certain countries while giving a pass to some of the world’s most egregious human rights abusers. The Trump administration is considering withdrawing the U.S. from the UNHRC, and various members of Congress have urged the Trump Administration – and past U.S. administrations – to do just that.

“Turning away from the Council will do nothing to advance U.S. foreign policy objectives or the protection of human rights,” Stacy wrote. “In fact, we have seen the Council at its worst when the U.S. is not providing leadership, which allows despotic leaders to control the agenda and push their own cynical goals.”

Stacy concluded that despite flaws, “the UN Human Rights Council has been a crucial body for supporting the human rights of LGBTQ people, and that work is greatly enhanced when the U.S. is fully engaged in its work and provides leadership.”

The Summer of Action Grassroots Organizing Training

The purpose of pride season has always been to join together, celebrate our progress and energize ourselves for the work that still needs to be done to achieve full equality.

And with the Trump Administration actively trying to destroy our progress … take away our rights … silence us … erase us, it’s critically important for LGBTQ Americans and allies to stand up and be visible.

That’s why this pride season will be HRC’s Summer of Action. We are kicking it off during Capital Pride — the day before the Equality March for Unity & Pride — with a 90-minute Summer of Action Grassroots Organizing training on Saturday, June 10. Can you make it?

HRC has a lot planned over Capital Pride weekend –– from turning our headquarters into an Action Center featuring a special art installation, to holding our grassroots activist training, to offering special giveaways, to gathering for the Equality March and remembering the victims and survivors of Pulse.

Whether you make it to HRC, go to the Capital Pride Parade or Festival, or attend the Equality March, we hope you get out there and take action!

Because when we unite, we are strong, we are loud and we cannot be ignored. Together, we can send a powerful message to the White House, Congress and state legislatures that our grassroots army is ready to FIGHT for our rights!

Jeremy, your participation in your pride this year couldn’t be more important. Please RSVP for HRC’s Grassroots Organizing training. It’s just blocks from the parade route — and we will teach you a heck of a lot about organizing.

Our goal is to empower YOU so that you have all the tools you need to effect real political change in your community. I hope you can make it!

Second National “I Am Jazz” School and Community Readings a Huge Success

Post submitted by Johanna Eager, Welcoming Schools Program Director

Last week, thousands of people across the country in 23 states came together to read I Am Jazz on May 18 in a tremendous show of support for transgender and non-binary children. The readings, part of the National I Am Jazz School and Community Readings by HRC Foundation’s Welcoming Schools, and the National Education Association (NEA), took place in schools, libraries, and community centers across the country. They occurred anywhere and everywhere to show transgender and non-binary youth that they are seen, supported, and loved.

California Representative Jackie Speier read I Am Jazz on the floor of the U.S. House. Educators in Berkeley showed up in force thanks to an ongoing, strong Welcoming Schools partnership with Our Family Coalition, and hundreds of children in California had the chance to read the book. One teacher used the reading as an opportunity to help her students understand a non-binary teacher at their school.

From the Zumba instructor in Wisconsin who began his class with a reading of the award-winning book to the librarian who opened up her backyard and invited her neighbors to pull up a lawn chair and listen, people like you across the country used their passion and creativity to support transgender and non-binary children.

Each event was unique, but they all shared a  common thread: affirming transgender and non-binary students. In a year of difficult setbacks for the transgender community, and transgender youth in particular, these readings took on even greater significance.

Interested in joining us next time? Email us at welcomingschools@hrc.org and we’ll let you know when we’re gearing up for our next reading!

HRC’s Welcoming Schools is the nation’s premier program dedicated to creating respectful and supportive elementary schools in embracing family diversity, creating LGBTQ-inclusive schools, preventing bias-based bullying, creating gender-expansive schools, and supporting transgender and non-binary students.

HRC Launches Summer of Action to Spur Millions of Supporters to “Unite. Resist. Enlist.”

HRC launched a nationwide summer of action anchored by more than 250 grassroots events from coast to coast. The theme of these events — “Unite. Resist. Enlist.” — reflects the goal of HRC’s summer of action: to empower and mobilize millions of equality voters to fight back against attacks that undermine the LGBTQ community.

As part of the summer of action, HRC staff and thousands of volunteers will be fanning out to lead more than 250 local events in more than 45 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. They will register thousands of new voters, host grassroots advocacy trainings, and step up visibility and outreach at LGBTQ Pride parades, equality marches, festivals and other events.

“Through his hateful rhetoric and dangerous policies, Donald Trump has awakened a sleeping giant. Never before have Americans been more eager to participate, to advocate and to fight back. Instead of dividing us, he has unified us. And it is our responsibility as advocates to keep that momentum alive, and keep the pressure on,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “During this historic Summer of Action, HRC’s grassroots army will help harness the full power of our democracy to unite, enlist and resist.”

During the weekend of June 10 & 11, which coincides with the June 11 National Equality March in Washington and the #ResistMarch in Los Angeles, HRC will hold a Weekend of Action at events coast to coast. HRC is supporting both marches and will host an Action Center at Washington, D.C., headquarters, where volunteers and visitors will be able to engage in direct action, from grassroots advocacy training and writing letters to elected officials, to unique social media opportunities. For supporters outside Washington, D.C., HRC will create online training and other opportunities to participate in the weekend’s events.

“When any American’s rights are under threat, all our rights are threatened. We are LGBTQ, and we are also people of color and of different faiths. We are immigrants and dreamers, parents, allies and people with disabilities. But most of all, we are American,” said Brian Pendleton, Founder of #ResistMarch. “On June 11, we will be marching in unity with HRC and thousands of others who believe that America’s strength is its diversity, and that together we can and will #Resist forces — including in our own government — seeking to deny us our hard-won human rights.”

This historic effort comes as HRC is ramping up efforts to resist the Trump Administration’s rollback of LGBTQ equality and the annual onslaught of anti-LGBTQ state legislatures across the nation. So far this year, HRC and major state partners have battled more than 130 anti-LGBTQ bills introduced in 30 states; to date, seven of those bills have been signed into law. The summer of action will also help lay groundwork for HRC’s efforts to go on offense in key states ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.

HRC has also joined a broad coalition of progressive organizations in Equality Florida’s #HonorThemWithAction campaign to pay tribute to the 49 people — most of them LGBTQ and Latinx — whose lives were taken at the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, and is supporting related community events.

“On June 12, 2016, our community was rocked with shock, disbelief and anger by the Pulse nightclub massacre that claimed the lives of 49 Latinx and LGBTQ people. In the year since, a deep resilience has emerged from the survivors, the victims’ loved ones, Orlando residents and leaders, and LGBTQ people and our allies all across the country and around the world,” said Equality Florida Executive Director Nadine Smith. “Our #HonorThemWithAction nationwide campaign is a call to action for our society to address and combat hate violence and pledge to uproot hate and bigotry of all kinds as we commemorate the 49 lives taken from us one year ago. We welcome HRC’s continued partnership in this effort.”

Prolific Out Blogger Martyn Hett Among Those Killed in the Manchester Terror Attacks

Twenty-two people were killed following a terrorist attack that took place at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, on Monday night.

As the world continues to mourn the tragedy, identities of the victims are still being confirmed. Among the latest to be identified was 29-year-old prolific out blogger Martyn Hett.

Family and friends have confirmed Hett’s death on Twitter and are still reeling from the loss.

“We got the news last night that our wonderful iconic and beautiful Martyn didn’t survive,” wrote Russell Hayward, who identified himself as a “soulmate” of Hetts. “He left this world exactly how he lived, centre of attention…I love you Martyn, I always will.”

A popular blogger, Hett’s wrote about “strong women” and pop culture, according to his website. His jubilant personality garnered him appearances on UK-based shows and other publications. BuzzFeed even featured Hett trying to help his mom’s flailing knitting career by advertising her work on Twitter, in which his persistence paid off and made his mom — and her crochet creations — a viral sensation.

Hett spent the weekend celebrating his soon departure to the U.S. with his friends and family. Tragically, one his last tweets was spent with his partner before he heading off to the Ariana Grande concert that fateful evening.

Hett’s outgoing personality was infectious to those closest to him and his death is a tragic loss to the LGBTQ community. HRC mourns him as well as the other victims in this heinous attack. Our prayers are with their loved ones during this extraordinarily difficult time. 

Equality NC and HRC Respond to NBA’s Decision to Return 2019 All-Star Game to Charlotte

Equality NC and HRC responded to the NBA’s decision to bring back the All-Star Game to Charlotte in 2019. The NBA had previously moved their 2017 All-Star game from Charlotte in response to HB2, the deeply discriminatory law that put LGBTQ North Carolinians in harm’s way and cost the state over $600 million. Since then, HB2 has been replaced by another law — HB 142 — that continues the same anti-LGBTQ scheme put forward by the original measure.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver stated that event sites, hotels, and businesses involved with the NBA All-Star Game must put in place non-discrimination policies inclusive of the LGBTQ community. However, no such protections have been publicly proposed by the city or the state of North Carolina at this point.

“We need to see concrete guidelines and policies put in place that will live up to the proposed principles put forward by the NBA designed to protect all of its players and fans,” said Equality NC Interim Executive Director Matt Hirschy. “As we move forward with the NBA All-Star Game returning to Charlotte, LGBTQ people must be invited to the discussions between the NBA, the city of Charlotte and NCGA leadership to provide input and feedback on how to best protect LGBTQ people.”

“North Carolina’s discriminatory law prohibits the city of Charlotte from implementing non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ residents and visitors attending the All-Star Game. Nothing has changed that fact,” said HRC Senior Vice President for Policy and Political Affairs JoDee Winterhof. “It’s critically important that people understand the gravity of this situation, which has had the effect of extending discrimination and endangering LGBTQ people across the state of North Carolina.”

The NBA has been an outspoken opponent of HB2. However, HB 142 is not an HB2 repeal and replaces one discriminatory, anti-transgender bathroom bill with another. It bans local LGBTQ non-discrimination protections statewide through 2020, and it substitutes the previous anti-transgender bathroom provisions with a new provision that forbids state agencies, public universities, primary and secondary schools, and cities from adopting policies ensuring transgender people have access to restrooms consistent with their gender identity.