WASHINGTON POST: LGBT RIGHTS UNDER ATTACK THIS YEAR: Amber Phillips of the Washington Post takes a closer look at the onslaught of anti-LGBT bills advancing at the state level. In the first five weeks of 2016, HRC is already tracking over 150 anti-LGBT bills in 31 states. The types of legislation vary from targeting the rights of transgender people, to eliminating local non-discrimination protections, to explicitly authorizing anti-LGBT discrimination by individuals, businesses and even taxpayer-funded programs. Some of the worst bills are already nearing passage…

IN FACT, TODAY IN SOUTH DAKOTA: HRC and the ACLU of South Dakota have given lawmakers a dire warning to stop a vehemently discriminatory bill that would make the state the first in the nation to pass a law attacking transgender children. Threatening the state’s reputation, H.B. 1008 is dangerously close to becoming law and could lead to a national outcry against the Mount Rushmore State. Already passed through the House of Representatives, the extreme legislation is being heard this morning in the Senate Education Committee and would prevent transgender youth in public schools from using restrooms and other facilities consistent with their gender identity. It would put South Dakota school districts at risk of losing federal funds under Title IX, forcing them into an untenable position of choosing between state and federal law. It would also tie the hands of school administrators and teachers who would no longer have the flexibility they need to find workable solutions in coordination with transgender students and their parents. HRC and the ACLU of South Dakota have repeatedly called on lawmakers to stop the attacks on transgender children. While H.B. 1008 is dangerously close to becoming law, two other anti-LGBT bills have also passed the South Dakota House of Representatives this year and a fourth anti-LGBT bill has been introduced. More here: bit.ly/23YW7MN

NEW STUDY SHOWS BROAD MENTAL HEALTH IMPROVEMENTS WITH TRANS HORMONE THERAPY: A new study in the journal Transgender Health adds to evidence that gender-affirming medical care broadly and markedly improves mental health for transgender people. Jaclyn White Hughto of Yale School of Public Health and Sari Reisner of Harvard Medical School analyzed three studies of transgender men and women who began hormone therapy as part of gender transition. Across studies, participants reported significantly less depression and anxiety three to twelve months after beginning to use hormones. Overall, the studies found improvements in almost every form of mental health and well being they measured. Previous research found that a combination of hormone therapy and gender-confirming surgeries is effective at improving transgender patients’ mental health, but this paper is the first to analyze studies of hormone therapy alone. The authors explain that medical treatment for gender dysphoria is individualized, but hormone therapy is a typical first step. While many public and private health plans recognize hormone therapy as medically necessary and effective, some still deny coverage due to bias or a failure to review the latest scientific evidence. Click here for more info on transgender-inclusive benefits and learn more about the study here: bit.ly/23YWxCV

OBAMA SHOWCASES COMMITMENT TO CRUCIAL HEALTH ISSUES AFFECTING THE LGBT COMMUNITY IN FINAL BUDGET: President Obama’s final federal budget, which was sent to Congress for review earlier this week, continues to demonstrate the administration’s commitment to addressing the HIV & AIDS epidemic. Increased health spending was allocated to the Ryan White Care program, which meets the health care needs of over 500,000 low-income, uninsured and underinsured individuals each year, and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will provide $20 million to fund a demonstration project to expand access and improve use of PreP among groups who are at a higher risk of contracting HIV. The proposal also included several new initiatives to address pressing healthcare issues such as the growing opioid epidemic, access to mental health services and drug pricing. HRC has been a vocal critic of the random and exponential price increases by Turing Pharmaceuticals and the company’s disregard for vulnerable patients. We applaud the president and the Secretary of Health & Human Service Sylvia Burwell for also including common sense and cost saving proposals to stem price gouging by drug manufacturers. More here: bit.ly/1Xjd6Vx



GOOD NEWS OUT OF THE VIRGINIA STATE LEGISLATURE: Earlier this week in Virginia, the House General Laws committee voted against advancing HB 781, a bill that would prevent transgender people from using facilities consistent with their gender identity in public schools and government-owned facilities, and HB 385, a bill that would have prevented local governments and school boards from adopting ordinances or policies protecting against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. HRC Legal Director called the development “a victory for fairness and equality,” and urged the House to take up Senate-passed non-discrimination bills so that “all Virginians can have a fair chance to earn a living and provide for their families, including LGBT people.” In April of 2014, the U.S. Department of Education issued guidance informing public schools that Title IX protects students against discrimination based on gender identity. In case you missed it, check out this op-ed from HRC Foundation’s Jay Brown, who tells lawmakers why these bills are bad for Virginia. More here: bit.ly/23Xvbgg and bit.ly/1Qs0N3M

KY BILL PROPOSES TO CREATE SEPARATE AND UNEQUAL SAME-SEX MARRIAGES: No, we are not kidding. Kentucky lawmakers are weighing whether to create different marriage license forms for opposite-sex couples and same-sex couples, “a move critics say harks back to the ‘separate but equal’ days of the early civil right movement.” The ridiculous bill, which is sponsored by Republican State Sen. Stephen West, removes the name of the county clerk from the license and would note either “bride” and “groom” or “first party” and “second party.” A Senate Committee advanced the bill yesterday, and it now goes to Senate floor for debate. The Associated Press reports, “Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo said the House would likely pass its own version, meaning the proposal’s final approval could drag on until the end of the session in April.”

WHEN THE PUNISHMENT DOESN’T FIT THE CRIME: On Monday, a Pennsylvania court sentenced a woman to only five to ten months in prison for her participation in a horrible attack against a gay couple in Philadelphia in September 2014. Kathryn Knott and fifteen other individuals, while on their way to a birthday party, confronted the gay couple, screamed homophobic slurs, and violently attacked them. The senseless assault left one of the men with a broken jaw and the other with a pair of black eyes. In December, Knott was found guilty of simple assault and other misdemeanors, but she was acquitted of more serious felony charges. According to the The Associated Press, the court sentenced Knott to jail time less than the duration sought by prosecutors. The court also ordered her to receive anger management treatment and to stay out of Philadelphia during two years of probation. Only two others were identified as participants in the attack. Two co-defendants pled guilty and were placed on probation, required to perform community service, and ordered to stay out of Philadelphia. They did not receive jail time. The crime and lightly imposed penalties illustrate the pressing need for Pennsylvania to amend their hate crime law to protect LGBT residents from bias-motivated crimes. More here: bit.ly/1KG2I8b

DON’T MESS WITH… SCOTUS: Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is facing an ethics investigation for allowing local officials to refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples on religious grounds, despite the Supreme Court ruling. Originally filed in July of last year, the complaint, which alleges that Paxton encouraged officials to violate the Constitution and break the law, was eventually dismissed by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel of the State Bar of Texas. This month however, an appeals court reinstated the charges which could potentially lead to disbarment. More here: abcn.ws/1O3tzWA

“HE’S DOING A GOOD JOB OF GETTING HIS NAME OUT IN FRONT OF PEOPLE”: Dallas County Justice of the Peace Bill Metzger, who has stated he will refuse to marry same-sex couples, has delusionally decided that his stance will not result in any legal action against the county. This comes with criticism from several of his peers, who claim he is “endangering the taxpayers with a possible lawsuit.” He hasn’t had a chance to actually back up his words with actions, as no same-sex couple has yet to (or would particularly want to) ask him to marry them. This has led some, like Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, to question what Metzger is actually trying to accomplish. “He’s doing a good job of getting his name out in front of people,” said Judge Jenkins. And don’t miss this editorial by the Dallas Morning News which skewers Metzger for his decision. More here: bit.ly/1SIS5Vm

HUNTINGTON, WEST VIRGINIA CONTINUES TO LEAD THE WAY ON LGBT EQUALITY: Earlier this week, the city council of Huntington, WV -- a town which in 2013 outlawed discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing, and public accommodations -- unanimously approved a resolution asking state lawmakers to amend the state's hate crimes law to make it LGBT inclusive. Currently, the law includes protections for individuals on the basis of actual or perceived race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, political affiliation, and sex. The city’s LGBT Advisory Council has been leading on this issue since a same-sex couple was attacked for kissing in public last April, but hate crimes charges could not be brought against the perpetrator, because sexual orientation and gender identity remain unprotected classes. The resolution will be sent to local delegations, and the leaders of the West Virginia House and Senate for their consideration. We commend these lawmakers for working to ensure that LGBT people can live safely and openly in their community. More here: bit.ly/1Sjc4cC



SAME-SEX ADOPTION (FINALLY) COMES TO PORTUGAL: Portugal suffered quite a blow last month when President Anibal Cavaco Silva vetoed legislation to allow same-sex couples to adopt. His ridiculous reasoning? That Parliament passed the bill “too quickly” and did not allow enough time for debate. More like not enough time for him to impose his views. However, the country’s parliament stepped up in the name of equality and passed a motion overturning that veto, meaning that the conservative president will be required to sign it into law before his term ends in March. Congratulations to all the soon-to-be parents in Portugal! More here: reut.rs/1PDij5x

GRAVE CONCERN OVER CRIMEA’S ANTI-LGBTI DISCRIMINATION: The European Union, a partnership between 28 European countries, officially expressed grave concern over discrimination in Crimea against LGBTI people. The republic has shut down all LGBTI rights groups and discontinued its annual Pride parade after Russia’s “gay propaganda” law was imposed on the area in 2014, when Russia annexed the peninsula amid rising political tensions. The Prime Minister of Crimea has also expressed some dangerous rhetoric regarding LGBTI people, saying “We in Crimea do not need such people.” The Vice President of the European Parliament Intergroup on LGBTI Rights has called on members of the European Union to pressure Russian authorities. More here: bit.ly/1Q9i3AE

COMMUNITY MEETINGS IN MALAWI PUT DARK SHADOW ON FUTURE OF LGBT RIGHTS: Malawi Member of Parliament Bon Kalindo has publically stated that he does not support the legalization of homosexuality in the largely-religious African country. Kalindo’s announcement is the result of a meeting between him and his constituents from Mulanje South. The facilitator of the meeting, Liwu la Kumudzi Maxwell Lameck, said that the legalization of same-sex relationships has been a “hot topic” among the constituency,with many fearing that allowing LGBT rights into the country would be a sin against God. All Africa reports that this meeting has inspired other constituencies to call on their MPs to encourage them to also vote ‘no’ to LGBT rights, possibly setting back future discussions of Malawi LGBT rights. More here: bit.ly/1Tal7eR



Mother Jones profiles GOP hopeful John Kasich’s positively-homophobic spiritual advisor… Pink News highlights Twitter’s work to end homophobic abuse online… Foreign Policy asks, “Does the LGBT community have a trans problem?”...  U.S. News and World Report dissects a study of the long-term damage of anti-LGBT harassment… Tampa Bay Times checks out one tech company’s role in promoting LGBT rights… The Houston Press explores whether Texas is doing enough for transgender inmates, even with the new reforms… Forbes meets a couple tapping into the LGBT greeting card market… and WFSU looks at the future of LGBT rights in Florida following a Senate Committee’s failure to advance non-discrimination legislation.

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