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HRC Global Innovators Provide Briefing on the Marriage Equality Movement in Taiwan

Last week, the Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline Association, a leading Taiwanese LGBTI organization, partnered with Open Society Foundations to host a panel discussion on the marriage equality movement in Taiwan. If marriage equality legislation passes or one of several ongoing court cases succeeds, Taiwan could become the first place in Asia to have full marriage equality.

Jennifer Lu and Sean Sih-Cheng Du, senior staff at the Hotline, led the panel. Lu participated in HRC’s inaugural Global Innovative Advocacy Summit last year where she was able to present on her recent campaign for a seat in the Taiwanese Parliament and the importance of LGBTQ leaders becoming involved in politics and the political process. Sih-Cheng Du will attend this year’s Summit in April to discuss his innovative use of crowdfunding to advance the LGBTQ movement in Taiwan.

During the panel, Lu and Sih-Cheng Du provided an update on current legislation and various court cases related to marriage equality that are moving forward. They explained that while advocates have been fighting for marriage equality for the past three decades, the movement gained momentum recently following the death of a well-known openly gay professor, Jacques Picoux. The suspected suicide of Picoux, a man who had been denied inheritance rights to the property he shared with his late partner of 35 years, rallied the LGBTQ community of Taiwan and increased pressure on the government to move forward with marriage equality legislation.

Though same-sex couples can legally register their partnerships in 11 cities and counties in Taiwan, these partnerships lack many of the same rights afforded by marriage. Advocates are pushing for the proposed bill, which would amend the existing Civil Code, rather than adopting a separate policy which would provide equal benefits to same-sex couples.

In October 2016, legislators from three leading parties introduced parliamentary bills that would amend the Civil Code and legalize marriage equality. The bills passed the first reading in November and were combined into one version during committee review and revisions in December. A separate bill proposed at the same time also passed committee review and revision. There are two more readings before the bills can become law. It is likely that this process will continue after the release of the opinion of the Constitutional Court in May of this year.

Marriage equality is being considered in a number of ongoing court cases as well. One such case is being reviewed by the Constitutional Court, which is weighing whether or not it is unconstitutional to continue denying same-sex couples the right to marry.

Conservative groups, including Christian fundamentalists, have launched a campaign motivated by fear and hatred in a desperate attempt to halt the forward momentum of equality in Taiwan, but LGBTQ organizations like the Hotline are working to combat these negative campaigns based on misinformation. Both President Tsai Ing-wen and over 50 percent of Taiwanese people support marriage equality. Unlikely allies have recently made headlines, including an HSBC Taiwan CEO who agreed to walk his lesbian employee down the aisle after her father refused.  

HRC Global will continue to support Taiwanese LGBTQ activists and monitor the situation. We also look forward to welcoming Sih-Cheng Du and nearly 30 other activist to Washington, D.C. for our Global Summit in April.

Bisexual Health Awareness Month: Mental Health in the Bisexual Community

Post submitted by Helen Parshall, HRC Diversity & Inclusion Assistant

Although the LGBTQ community reports high rates of anxiety and mood disorders, recent statistics show that bisexual people are far more likely to experience mental health issues than either lesbians or gay men within the community.

HRC’s Supporting and Caring for Our Bisexual Youth found that “only five percent of bisexual youth reported being ‘very happy,’ compared to 21 percent of non-LGBT youth surveyed.”

The survey also revealed startling stories of harassment, exclusion and isolation among bisexual youth. Only 44 percent of bi+ youth said they have an adult they can turn to, compared with 54 percent of lesbian and gay youth, and 79 percent of non-LGBTQ respondents.

These alarming trends continue into adulthood.

According to the Bisexual Resource Center (BRC), approximately 40 percent of bisexual people have considered or attempted suicide, compared to just over a quarter of gay men and lesbians.  

HRC’s Health Disparities Among Bisexual People found that “when compared to heterosexual adults, bisexual adults reported double the rate of depression and higher rates of binge drinking.”

Those numbers are even higher for the bisexual people who are also transgender, people of color and/or people with disabilities.

The prevalence of biphobia in LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ spaces alike contributes to these shocking numbers. BRC defines biphobia as “mislabeling bi+ people as lesbian, gay or straight, even when they come out as bi+.”  

Biphobia seeks to undermine the legitimacy of bisexual identities and comes in many forms: jokes, stereotypes, non-inclusive language and even abuse. The fear of being dismissed as “too gay” or “too straight” often makes it hard to be open.

The Williams Institute found that approximately a third of bisexual people reported not disclosing their sexual orientation to their healthcare providers, leaving them without full access to medically necessary care.

As a bisexual person who struggles with anxiety, this fear was very real to me. It took several months in college to feel comfortable enough with my therapist to even mention the word “bisexual.”  

And that’s just my story.

Studies have found that bisexual-identified people make up approximately half of the total population of the LGBTQ community — but only 28 percent of bisexual people report being out to those closest to them.

With the focus of this year’s Bisexual Health Awareness Month on social health, it’s important to examine these startling statistics and take concrete steps towards creating support for the bisexual community.

For more information, please visit hrc.org/bisexual.

#AM_Equality Tipsheet: March 24, 2017

HRC LEGAL DIRECTOR TESTIFIES AT NEIL GORSUCH’S SCOTUS NOMINATION HEARING: Yesterday, HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding Gorsuch’s nomination, where she detailed the equality case against the nominee. “We might not agree with every decision a Supreme Court Justice may make. But we must believe in their commitment to reaching impartial judgments based upon fact, not political ideology or bias,” said Warbelow during the hearing. “And they must agree that LGBTQ people have fundamental rights protected by the Constitution and that we, as individuals and as a community, are entitled to equal treatment under the law. We need a Justice who recognizes our basic equality and shared humanity. Judge Gorsuch has never met this bar.” Warbelow’s written testimony can be found here. And her oral testimony is here. More from HRC.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JDnVBHdn3Y4]

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has asked his fellow Democrats to join him in filibustering the Gorsuch vote. More from The Washington Post.

VA GOV MCAULIFFE VETOES “LICENSE TO DISCRIMINATE” BILLS: Yesterday, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe vetoed SB 1324 and HB 2025 — discriminatory legislation seeking to give taxpayer-funded agencies and service providers a license to discriminate against LGBTQ people under the guise of religion. “Governor Terry McAuliffe continues to solidify his place in history as a stalwart champion of fairness and equality,” said JoDee Winterhof, HRC Senior Vice President for Policy and Political Affairs. “In truth, this vile legislation had nothing to do with protecting the right to practice one’s religion and everything to do with enshrining taxpayer-funded discrimination against LGBTQ people into state law. By vetoing this discriminatory legislation, Governor McAuliffe has sent a powerful and inclusive message that Virginia is welcoming and open for business to all. We urge the Virginia Legislature to uphold this decision.” SB 1324 and HB 2025 sought to allow taxpayer-funded organizations, like homeless shelters and adoption agencies, a special license to discriminate by refusing service to same-sex couples, transgender people, and anyone suspected of having intimate relationships outside of a heterosexual marriage (such as single mothers or a cohabiting straight couple) without losing taxpayer funding, contracts, licensing, or other forms of state recognition. More from HRC.

FRIDAY CLAPBACK — NEARLY 600 ACADEMICS DEBUNK ANTI-TRANS SO-CALLED “EXPERT”: Yesterday, nearly 600 academic and medical experts responded to essays written by Dr. Paul McHugh, a psychologist who has never performed any research on gender and sexual orientation, but who has become the go-to “expert” for anti-equality extremists. McHugh’s writings have been cited by anti-LGBTQ, and in particular anti-transgender, activists in courthouses and state legislatures. The letter was lead by two experts at Vanderbilt’s Program for LGBTI Health, Drs. Lauren Beach and Jesse Ehrenfeld. “Dr. McHugh’s essays misrepresent established research, run contrary to the overwhelming medical consensus, and cause real harm to LGBTQ people across the country,” said Ashland Johnson, HRC Director of Public Education and Research. “Dr. McHugh has no formal expertise or research on gender or sexual orientation, and avoids rigorous peer-review for his work. The more than 600 experts included represent a diverse array of academics and experts from across the country and send a clear message that McHugh’s work is deeply misleading and, most of all, dangerous.” More from HRC.

HOUSE DELAYS VOTE ON AMERICAN HEALTH CARE ACT: The vote was postponed yesterday as Donald Trump and Paul Ryan struggle to gain support for this disastrous bill. CNN reports that the president delivered an ultimatum to House Republicans demanding that the vote happen today or we will be “stuck with Obamacare” (Um… yes please?). The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the Republican alternative to the Affordable Care Act would result in 14 million people losing their health care coverage next year, and 24 million by 2026. The Republican plan would place in jeopardy coverage for thousands of low-income people living with HIV who have been able to obtain health insurance through the ACA’s Medicaid expansion. It would also cut federal funding for Planned Parenthood, which could endanger the ability of clinics to deliver preventive health services, including HIV testing and transition-related care, and would eliminate ACA’s public health and prevention fund that invests in the nation’s public health infrastructure — disproportionately affecting people living in rural and isolated areas. Earlier this month, HRC sent a letter to Congress opposing the GOP’s unconscionable plan. More from CNN.

NCAA PUTS NC ON NOTICE — KEEP HB2 AND LOSE CHAMPIONSHIP EVENTS THROUGH 2022: The NCAA warned North Carolina yesterday that they must repeal HB2 by next week or risk losing championship games through 2022. “As the state knows, next week our various sports committees will begin making championships site selections for 2018-2022,” the NCAA said in a statement. “Once the sites are selected by the committee, those decisions are final.” The NCAA plans to announce the sites of future games on April 18. “The NCAA has put North Carolina on notice, and the stakes for the future of basketball in the state could not be any higher,” said HRC SVP for Policy and Political Affairs JoDee Winterhof. “North Carolina lawmakers have run out of time for their reckless political gamesmanship, and they must immediately vote for full and complete repeal of HB2. It’s beyond clear that North Carolina cannot afford one more day of this deeply discriminatory law.” More from The Charlotte Observer.

PRO-EQUALITY CONGRESSMAN LOWENTHAL ON THE EQUALITY ACT, ANTI-LGBTQ HATRED AND MORE: In an exclusive interview from Metro Weekly, Congressman Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) speaks out about the need for full federal protections for LGBTQ people — and how the Equality Act could make that possible. He also discusses a recent incident where a anti-equality man tore down the rainbow flag the congressman hangs outside of his office in support of the LGBTQ community before entering the Capitol Hill office and spewing anti-LGBTQ venom at the Lowenthal’s staff. Read the full interview from Metro Weekly.

OREGON JUDGE GRANTS PORTLAND RESIDENT RIGHT TO BE WITHOUT GENDER:  Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Amy Holmes Hehn granted Patch, a local video game designer, the right to list Patch’s gender as “agender” — defined as the absence of gender. Patch is the second person in the country to legally change their gender to a nonbinary option — in June 2016, Judge Holmes granted Jamie Shupe the right to change their gender to non-binary. More from NBC.

SHAMEFUL — CARIBBEAN RELIGIOUS OFFICIALS ASK U.S. TO STOP PROMOTING LGBTQ RIGHTS ABROAD: In a letter sent to President Trump, 289 religious figures from the Caribbean and Guyana have asked that the State Department and “other government agencies involved in foreign policy” cease promoting global LGBTQ rights. More from The Washington Blade.

WELCOMING SCHOOLS FACILITATOR WINS VOICE FOR EQUALITY AWARD: Earlier this month, Welcoming Schools Facilitator Lisa La Monica, who works for the Miami-Dade School District, received Equality Florida’s Voice for Equality Award at their annual Miami gala. Welcoming Schools is proud to have one of its own honored for her decades of advocacy on behalf of LGBTQ students. More from HRC.


BuzzFeed interviews a same-sex Taiwanese couple about what marriage equality in Taiwan would mean for them… The New York Times reflects on the life of George Weinberg, a pro-equality psychotherapist who coined the phrase “homophobia” in the 1960s…

Have news? Send us your news and tips at AMEquality@hrc.org. Click here to subscribe to #AM_Equality and follow @HRC for all the latest news. Thanks for reading!

Scholars, Clinicians Release Statement Rejecting Misleading Anti-LGBTQ “Report”

Nearly 600 researchers and healthcare providers have signed a statement rejecting a 2016 article that reinforced dangerous, unsupported anti-LGBTQ myths.

The statement, coordinated by Vanderbilt University researchers Lauren Beach and Jesse Ehrenfeld, explains that the article’s conclusions “do not reflect current scientific or medical consensus” on the nature of gender or sexual orientation, or on healthcare recommendations for LGBTQ people. Dr. Ehrenfeld directs Vanderbilt Medical Center’s Program for LGBTI Health, and Dr. Beach is the program’s Director of LGBTI Research.

The expert statement emphasizes that “the report’s conclusions should not be viewed as a source of scientific or medical justification to support any legislation, judicial action, policymaking or clinical decision-making affecting the lives of LGBTQ people or their families.” Frighteningly, the article—and other essays by its authors—are already being used to promote discrimination everywhere from the U.S. Supreme Court to the Tippecanoe County Board of Commissioners.

The flawed article’s authors, psychiatrist Paul McHugh and epidemiologist Lawrence Mayer, have never published research of their own on sexuality or gender. Nonetheless, McHugh has submitted anti-transgender opinion essays to political and religious publications.

Ashland Johnson, HRC’s Director of Public Education and Research, praised the release, explaining that “Dr. McHugh’s essays misrepresent established research, run contrary to the overwhelming medical consensus, and cause real harm to LGBTQ people across the country. Dr. McHugh has no formal expertise or research on gender or sexual orientation, and avoids rigorous peer-review for his work. The nearly 600 experts that signed this statement represent a diverse array of academics and experts from across the country and send a clear message that McHugh’s work is deeply misleading and, most of all, dangerous.”

To join the statement, signatories had to be healthcare providers serving LGBTQ people, or researchers who had published papers on gender or sexual orientation. Experts like these are normally asked to provide feedback and correct misstatements before an article is published, a core tradition of modern science. The misleading article, innocuously titled “Sexuality and Gender: Findings from the Biological, Psychological, and Social Sciences,” skipped that expert review process: it was printed not by a legitimate scientific journal, but by a conservative think tank called the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

Trump Appoints Radical Anti-LGBTQ Activist to Lead HHS Civil Rights Office

HRC blasted President Trump’s decision to appoint anti-LGBTQ activist Roger Severino to lead the division charged with enforcing civil rights law at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Trump quietly selected Severino this week to serve as Director of the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at HHS. Severino’s extreme views opposing transgender people and women’s rights have garnered praise and prominence from the far right.

Until this week, Severino served as Director of the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society for the Heritage Foundation where he wrote scathing opinions on transgender issues, abortion rights, and gay marriage. He repeatedly denounced and worked to oppose OCR’s implementation of Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, which provides critical non-discrimination protections based on gender identity and sex stereotyping  in federally-funded health programs. He also referred to the Obama Administration’s guidance to allow transgender students to use the bathroom that matched their gender identity as a “radical social experiment.

Severino is also a staunch opponent of access to contraception and other sexual and reproductive health services, opposing the ACA’s contraceptive access provision and calling for defunding Planned Parenthood.

“I could not think of a more dangerous person to head up the Office of Civil Rights at HHS,” said JoDee Winterhof, Senior Vice President of Policy and Political Affairs of HRC. “Once again, Donald Trump is declaring war against our community by appointing anti-LGBTQ people at all levels of his administration. Mr. Severino takes pride in being a stark opponent of the LGBTQ community and has made it clear that his number one priority is to vilify and degrade us. We will fight tooth and nail against any attempts to roll back civil rights including access to healthcare.”

The head of HHS, Secretary Tom Price, has a long, disturbing record of opposing basic civil rights for LGBTQ people and is serving in a position of unique importance to the LGBTQ community.

This appointment is yet another example of President Trump’s increasingly long list of anti-LGBTQ extremist nominees who are in a position of power to roll back progress and do harm to LGBTQ people.

HRC and CMSI Announce Three-Year Partnership to Support LGBTQ Students at HBCUs

The HRC Foundation and the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions (CMSI) announced a new three-year partnership to increase diversity and inclusion for LGBTQ students at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and other Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs).

The partnership between the two organizations includes a commitment to creating and co-sponsoring a series of initiatives that will develop LGBTQ-inclusive programming at HBCUs around the country. Both CMSI and HRC expect their collaboration to help create resources and spread information about best practices for engaging LGBTQ students.

“We at the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions are excited about partnering with the Human Rights Campaign and aligning ourselves with the great work they do involving LGBTQ communities,” said Marybeth Gasman, Penn professor and director of CMSI. “HBCUs around the country are improving their institutional support for these students, and we hope this partnership will help provide them the tools and resources they need to achieve their goals.”

“For more than a decade, HRC has worked shoulder to shoulder with students, faculty, and administrators in building LGBTQ-inclusive and -affirming HBCUs across the country,” said Mary Beth Maxwell, HRC’s Senior Vice President for Programs, Research, and Training. “We look forward to expanding our already strong relationship with the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions to expand and enhance this vital work in the years ahead.”

CMSI and HRC have agreed to disseminate best practice guidelines relevant to LGBTQ health and wellness to Student Health Centers on MSI and HBCU campuses; develop and host webinars on topics such as “LGBTQ Inclusion” and “Residence Life Strategies”; and recruit a focus group of HBCU presidents to develop a program to recognize LGBTQ-inclusive institutions.

Later this year, HRC will hold its annual HBCU Leadership & Career Summit, which will be part of a program that empowers LGBTQ HBCU students to be change-agents on their campus and lead resourcefully through the intersections of race, religion, gender identity, class, and sexual orientation. For the last 11 years, HRC has hosted an annual HBCU Leadership Summit to train and prepare student leaders and administrators to advocate for LGBTQ inclusion and safety.

As of 2013, only 21 of the nation’s 105 HBCUs have LGBTQ student organizations, but this number has been increasing rapidly as national support for LGBTQ rights has gained momentum in recent years.