North Carolina’s HB2 Spurs NCLR Regional Convening Location Change

HB2 protestors sit on the steps of the North Carolina Museum of History during the Moral Monday rally in Raleigh. Photo: Nathania Johnson

HB2 protestors sit on the steps of the North Carolina Museum of History during the Moral Monday rally in Raleigh. Photo: Nathania Johnson

You can now count NCLR as one of the many businesses and organizations protesting North Carolina’s anti-LGBT law known as HB2. This week we announced that NCLR would be canceling its Northeast/Southeast Regional Leadership Convening scheduled for this October in Raleigh. Instead, we’ll be moving our meeting to Miami, a city where no such discrimination has been codified into law.

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Fulfilling the Promise of the Affordable Care Act for the Latino LGBT Community

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Since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law, nearly 18 million Americans, including four million Latinos, have gained access to health care. This open enrollment period alone has seen well over two million signups, including more than 700,000 new consumers in the federal health insurance marketplace. While we have made a lot of progress, we must continue to reach out to all groups, especially within the Latino community, where one in five remains uninsured.

The lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Latino population has long faced barriers preventing them from obtaining quality health care. The ACA works to address these disparities, providing important protections and benefits to ensure everyone in the LGBT community can access the care they need.

For many in LGBT community, living with HIV, diabetes, cancer, or other chronic conditions, presented a barrier to obtaining health services. A preexisting condition once meant someone could be legally barred from getting insurance, but thanks to the ACA, people with preexisting conditions can no longer be denied coverage.

To ensure everyone has the right to health care, recent civil rights protections in the ACA expressly prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, race, class, age, disability, and now sexual orientation. The provision, known as Section 1557, applies nondiscrimination protections to all health programs that receive funding from the federal government. Plans sold through the federal health insurance marketplace are covered under this law, as are hospitals, clinics, and other health care providers. Federal programs like Medicaid and Medicare are all covered under this provision as well.

The ACA has helped Latino LGBT individuals gain access to the health care they deserve. NCLR remains committed to communicating what the ACA means for LGBT people and ensuring the promise and benefits of the ACA reach our entire community!

It is important to make sure you and your loved ones stay healthy in 2016. Open enrollment is in full swing and the deadline to get covered is January 31, 2016. To find a health plan that best fits your needs, head to healthcare.gov or CuidadoDeSalud.gov and get covered!

In Harmony: Why Spirit Day Is Necessary

By Xorje Olivares, NCLR Blog guest contributor

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Xorje Olivares.

Waiting at the end of the long corridor that led to the exit of my junior high school band hall were Mario and his buddies. I knew them. Not well, though, considering we lived along the Texas-Mexico border in the type of small-town community where strangers were pretty much nonexistent. But I knew them. And I knew the sinister look on their faces. LGBT kids, particularly brown ones, know what I’m talking about. Very well, I’m sure.

As I approached them that fateful afternoon, my hands tightly gripping my backpack straps as a means of comfort, I quickly realized that I lacked a strategy. I also lacked supporters. Seriously, though—where were my friends? I had literally just seen them in the band hall, and they, too, were headed to their next class. Looking back on it, I should have told Mr. Martínez to work harder on accompaniments or how to play a second fiddle because it’s tough having to face the music alone.

Now even if my besties (all girls at the time) were to have shown up at the last minute to carry me away in a cloud of freshly applied powder, they wouldn’t have been able to save me from Mario’s impromptu two-second solo, sans trumpet. That day, his fast, vulgar mouth was his instrument.

Pinche maricón,” he said at me, slightly nodding to accent each word.

They hit me like a trombone slide to the back of the head. His buddies, now cackling in unison, barely moved away from the doorframe as I turned to walk out into the perceived safety of our general student population, my tears silently forming. Mario’s “solo” continued ringing in my ears that day despite repeated attempts to drown it out with better music. I think Linkin Park was still cool when I was in eighth grade.

Although I don’t remember the immediate aftermath of that performance, I can safely say that I’ve experienced the encore several times over the past 13 years. Mario’s use of that off-key, off-color remark forced me to confront parts of my identity that I had kept hidden away in my trumpet case for fear that my Tejano parents would find out and disapprove. I mean, in 2002, what Latino was out and proud? And no, the rumors about Juanga don’t count.

In all seriousness, I knew that more people laughed at “maricóns” than protected them. And I was already labeled by my classmates, who somehow learned that slur the same way I did: culturally.

I share this story because a lot has changed with regard to both LGBT acceptance and visibility in this country, especially within school settings, that today’s generation may take for granted. Not only are kids putting me to shame and coming out at far-younger ages than ever before, but their peers and loved ones are seemingly aware and completely understanding of what that process even means. I find that incredibly uplifting, though there are several areas where we must still seek improvement, including the Latino community’s historic reluctance to openly embrace its LGBT children. While I’ve been blessed to have had a supportive family, I admit that there are Latino households where issues of identity are a constant struggle.

nclrspiritdayBut as millions of Americans commemorate Spirit Day today, an annual event created in 2010 to highlight anti-LGBT bullying, it’s easy to see—and hear—how we’ve slowly but surely changed our once-hostile tune toward a minority group that desperately needs our attention. Society has thankfully started to recognize the plight of vulnerable youth, specifically those of varying sexual orientations and gender identities, and they have the purple shirts and online avatars to prove it. The best part is that countless Latino celebrities, newsmakers, and brands acknowledge the importance of participating in Spirit Day, and in turn, empower the same queer, brown youngsters who previously felt isolated by a lack of racial and ethnic representation in the media.

I know a lot has happened in my hometown since I met Mario at the end of that long corridor more than a decade ago. Both my father and sister teach at one of the local high schools and are currently witnessing the (key) change. Two years ago, students there elected a same-sex couple representing the then newly formed gay-straight alliance as their homecoming queens. Several of my sister’s kids also talk to her about queer-related issues since she makes no secret about her openly gay brother—you know, the one who also dealt with growing up beige and confused. In fact, her classroom is widely known as a safe space for LGBT students seeking guidance or empathy.

But I’d argue that it’s still somewhat difficult for Latino LGBT students, mostly because of the lingering stigma associated with homosexuality in a culture defined by machismo and, oftentimes, Catholicism. It’s also much harder to find out Latinos being portrayed in movies, music, and television today compared to other ethnicities. Believe me, it makes a huge difference since youth are constantly consuming various forms of media and use them as resources to better understand their complicated lives.

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NCLR staffers show their support for Spirit Day 2015

Which is why wearing purple or changing the color of our profile pictures today matters. It’s our way of gently telling LGBT kids we see them and care for them. I guarantee you that such a gesture will be music to their ears.

 Xorje Olivares is a self-identified Tejano from Eagle Pass, Texas, with degrees in Mexican-American Studies and Broadcast Journalism from UT-Austin. He’s currently a writer, producer and radio personality living in New York City. His work has been featured on SiriusXM Satellite Radio, ABC News, OUT Magazine, and The Advocate.

The “Equality Act” Offers a Path Toward Eliminating LGBT Discrimination

Last month, the country took an important step toward guaranteeing equality for LGBT Americans when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage. With varying levels of enthusiasm, all states are acknowledging that marriage equality is now the law of the land. However, same-sex couples are not out of the woods yet when it comes to discrimination. In more than half of all states, an LGBT person who simply tells a coworker about his or her nuptials could be given a pink slip for no other reason than their sexual orientation.

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Although many Americans assume that workers cannot be fired for identifying as LGBT, the fact is that in 29 states, laws banning discrimination in the workplace, as well as in housing and public accommodations, do not protect people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Workers can be fired simply for being gay. In a move that we hope will address this problem, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled earlier this month that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act bans workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation. However, as we’ve seen in the past, the courts frequently disagree, and this decision only protects against anti-LGBT discrimination at work.

Thankfully, we have at our fingertips the permanent solution we need. Last week, Democrats in both chambers of Congress introduced the “Equality Act,” robust antidiscrimination legislation designed to protect the LGBT community not just in the workplace, but also in housing, education, public accommodations, and federal programs. The bill would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Fair Housing Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes and will prevent individuals from using the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to legally discriminate against the LGBT community.

The decision for our lawmakers is simple. Acceptance of the LGBT community is well beyond the tipping point in this country. According to a poll released earlier this year by the Human Rights Campaign, almost 70 percent of likely voters support a federal nondiscrimination law. Another poll released earlier this month found that nearly 60 percent of small business owners across the political and religious spectrum oppose laws allowing individuals, associations, or businesses to legally refuse service to anyone based on religious beliefs.

In a relatively short amount of time this country has made dramatic progress toward equality for LGBT individuals, yet discrimination persists. To root out inequality and discrimination, our lawmakers must take a proactive approach to protecting our most vulnerable communities. We hope that Congress will capitalize on the promise of the “Equality Act” to make our country safer and more equal for LGBT Americans, including our Hispanic LGBT brothers and sisters.

Marriage Equality is Now the Law of the Land

Today, in a 5-to-4 decision, the Supreme Court affirmed the legality of same-sex marriages, granting gay and lesbian couples across the nation the right to marry. We applaud this decision, which is a monumental victory for equal treatment and justice for all.

“The decision handed down today ends once and for all an injustice that millions of Americans have endured,” said Janet Murguía, President and CEO of NCLR. “We are pleased to see that the Court agrees with the majority of Americans who believe that LGBT couples deserve equal rights, benefits and protections under the law.”

A 2012 study released by NCLR found that Hispanics were as tolerant as their fellow Americans, if not more tolerant, toward the LGBT community. Nearly half of all Latinos polled supported gay marriage, while about 60 percent supported civil unions. Similar to the overall population, Latinos have since increased their support for same-sex marriage and show high support for legal protections for hate crimes and job discrimination toward LGBT individuals. Read the full decision here.

NCLR was at the Supreme Court today to get reaction from some gay Latinos who were there to show solidarity.

Joyous cries erupted shortly after 10 a.m., when decisions are handed down, indicating that the Supreme Court had ruled in favor of legalizing same-sex marriages across the country.

Numerous married couples were also at the Supreme Court, including Ruben Gonzalez (pictured below, right) and Joaquin Tamayo. RubenJoaquin Ruben shared his reaction to the news and why being at the Court on this decision day was so special.

Also in attendance was Latino GLBT History Project board member, Jesse Garcia. As a long time civil rights activist, Jesse felt privileged to be able to join marriage equality supporters on the steps of the Supreme Court for this historic day.

Jesse Garcia (center) joins Latino GLBT History Project members at the Supreme Court.

Jesse Garcia (center) joins Latino GLBT History Project members at the Supreme Court.

Jesse shared with us what today’s decision meant to him and what he hopes the LGBT rights movement goes next.

Today’s decision was indeed a historic one and we look forward to working with the LGBT rights movement for equality and justice for all.