In This Issue
- Executive Director’s Message
- Victory for Chase Culpepper! TLDEF Reaches Settlement in Landmark Federal Lawsuit Against South Carolina DMV
- The Name Change Project by the Numbers
- Update on Anti-Transgender Legislation
- TLDEF Applauds EEOC Ruling Affirming Right to Bathroom Access for Transgender People
- See you at the Freedom Awards!
- TLDEF Applauds Justice Department's Historic Action Supporting Transgender Prisoner's Right to Hormone Treatment
- Calamus Foundation, Henry van Ameringen Foundation and David Bohnett Foundation Support TLDEF
- March with TLDEF at NYC Pride!
Executive Director’s Message
Happy Spring! We hope you’re enjoying this beautiful time of year.
Since our last newsletter, we’ve been advocating on a host of issues impacting the transgender community. In this latest newsletter we’ll share the inspiring story of Chase Culpepper and her historic settlement with the South Carolina DMV after she fought for the right to be herself in her license photo. We’ll also tell you about our ongoing work to help transgender women obtain accurate driver’s licenses in West Virginia, which was featured in an extraordinary editorial about transgender issues in The New York Times.
In addition, we’ll talk about Bruce Jenner’s historic coming out and the positive impact we hope that will have. We’ll also give you a progress report on our expanding Name Change Project, now available in nearly a dozen U.S. cities. And we’ll tell you about the upcoming Freedom Awards on June 1st, honoring the Golden Globe Award-winning series Transparent and hosted by beloved actress and LGBT advocate Judith Light.
Plus, we’ll explain why we’re applauding the Justice Department, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and the White House for their recent transgender-focused actions.
You’ll also learn the status of anti-transgender bills that we’ve alerted you about over the past few months. And we’ll introduce you to our new Director of Development, announce three generous grants from the Calamus Foundation, Henry van Ameringen Foundation and David Bohnett Foundation, and show you the tremendously positive media coverage of our work.
And we discuss marriage equality, as the United States Supreme Court considers challenges to restrictions on the freedom to marry in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee, setting the stage for a landmark ruling next month.
The year is racing by and our work never stops. It’s an honor to fight for justice each day and help bring the world closer to equality.
Thank you for your support!
Victory for Chase Culpepper! TLDEF Reaches Settlement in Landmark Federal Lawsuit Against South Carolina DMV
In April, TLDEF announced a settlement in its historic federal lawsuit against the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles on behalf of Chase Culpepper, a transgender girl who was targeted for discrimination in March 2014 when she attempted to get her first driver’s license. She was told by DMV employees that she could not take her photo unless she removed the makeup that she wears on a regular basis. They told her that she needed to “look male” in her license photo and refused to provide her with a driver’s license if she did not remove the makeup she was wearing.
In September 2014, TLDEF filed suit on Chase’s behalf, asking the court to rule that denying Chase the freedom to wear her everyday makeup in her license photo constituted sex discrimination and violated her right to free speech and expression under the United States Constitution.
Under the terms of the settlement, the South Carolina DMV will (1) change its photo policy to allow license applicants to be photographed the way they appear regularly, even when their hair, makeup or clothing doesn’t match the DMV’s expectations of how a man or a woman should look; (2) implement training for DMV employees that addresses the new policy and the professional treatment of transgender and gender nonconforming individuals; (3) allow Chase to return to the DMV to get her license photograph taken wearing makeup; and (4) apologize to Chase for how she was treated at the DMV.
“This settlement agreement sends a strong message about equal rights,” said TLDEF Staff Attorney Ethan Rice. “Transgender and gender nonconforming people are entitled to be themselves without interference from the DMV. It is not the role of the DMV or its employees to decide how men and women should look. People should be able to get a driver’s license without being subjected to sex discrimination. The policy changes and training that the DMV will implement in response to Chase’s lawsuit will help all transgender and gender nonconforming South Carolina residents in the future.”
“I am thrilled with the outcome of my lawsuit,” said Chase Culpepper. “My clothing and makeup reflect who I am. From day one, all I wanted was to get a driver’s license that looks like me. Now I will be able to do that. It was hurtful to be singled out for being transgender and made to feel that somehow I wasn’t good enough. With this settlement, the DMV can no longer force transgender people to look like someone they’re not. I’m so glad that I stood up for what’s right and helped make positive change for transgender and gender nonconforming people.”
Peter Guirguis and David Schwartz of Norton Rose Fulbright US LLP and Marshall Winn and Wallace K. Lightsey of Wyche, P.A. served as pro bono co-counsel with TLDEF. We are grateful for their assistance.
The Name Change Project provides community members with free legal representation during the name change process, which can be challenging for many who do not have legal support. Since the program began as a pilot project in 2007, we have helped almost 2,000 people in nearly a dozen cities including Albany, Buffalo, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, New York City, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Rochester and others. There are more cities to come, too.
The project relies on the pro bono assistance of our many partners in the legal community. In 2014, those partners donated more than 8,000 hours, worth over $4 million, in support of TLDEF’s work in the community. We are extraordinarily grateful for their generosity and the impact that it has on the lives of the community members we serve.
Name Change Project clients are overwhelmingly young transgender women of color living in poverty. Almost 350 people contacted us for help through the Name Change project in 2014. (These intakes are separate from the hundreds of requests for legal assistance we receive unrelated to the Name Change Project.)
Nearly two-thirds were transgender women and over half were people of color, predominantly African American and Latino.
Name Change Project clients in 2014 were young, too: Over 40% were under 24; about 20% were 24 – 29, a little over 20% were age 30 – 39; and only 15% were over 40.
Project clients in 2014 were also largely poor or low-income. Nearly two-thirds received Medicaid or another form of public assistance. Nearly 60% of clients reported an annual income of less than $10,000. About 20% reported an annual income between $10,000 and $20,000. And only about 20% reported an income over $20,000.
Demand for services in 2015 has increased and we are on track to serve more than 400 people nationwide through the project this year. The Name Change Project offers vital assistance to the people we serve. We are proud to help all of our Name Change Project clients bring their legal names in line with their true identities to help them live authentic lives.
In recent months, numerous bills have surfaced around the country that target the transgender community for discrimination. We have been speaking out against these bills, and some have now failed. Three bills in Texas (HB 1747, HB 1748, HB 2802) and one bill in Florida (HB 583) were drafted with a common purpose: to criminalize transgender people for using restrooms and other public facilities consistent with who they are as men and women. The bills were crafted to impose jail time and hefty fines on violators. While the Florida bill has failed, the Texas bills are still pending. Texas’ legislative session ends on June 1st.
Bills in Kentucky (SB 76), Minnesota (HF 1456 and SF 1543), Nevada (AB 375) and Texas (HB 2801) took aim at transgender students. They were drafted to prohibit students from using bathrooms and locker rooms that align with their true selves. The Kentucky and Nevada bills have failed, but one version of the Minnesota bill is still pending (the MN legislative session ended yesterday with no vote yet taken on the measure at the time this newsletter “went to press”). Texas’ bill remains alive, too.
Targeting transgender people this way is discriminatory, wrong, and cannot be tolerated. TLDEF will continue to stand against any attempts to legislate discrimination against the transgender community.
TLDEF strongly commended an April ruling by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) which found that the Army discriminated against a transgender civilian employee when it required her to use a single-user restroom at work and reprimanded her for using the women’s restroom when the single-user restroom was unavailable. The EEOC concluded that Tamara Lusardi, a Software Quality Assurance Specialist in the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center in Huntsville, Alabama, “was subjected to disparate treatment on the basis of sex” in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The EEOC also found that Lusardi’s supervisors subjected her to a hostile work environment by continually referring to her with male pronouns as a way to “humiliate and ridicule” her. The commission called the behavior “offensive and demeaning.”
“We applaud this decision by the EEOC and congratulate Ms. Lusardi on her victory. No one should be subjected to harassment and discrimination on the job simply for being themselves,” said TLDEF Executive Director Michael Silverman. “Everyone deserves the same opportunity to earn a living and provide for their families in a workplace free of discrimination. The EEOC has made it clear that barring transgender people from using bathrooms consistent with who they are and harassing them by using improper pronouns constitutes sex discrimination. This latest victory builds upon prior EEOC rulings and underscores the agency’s position that transgender people are fully protected by Title VII in the workplace.”
The case is Lusardi v. McHugh, EEOC Appeal No. 0120133395, dated April 1, 2015.
On Monday, June 1st, TLDEF will commemorate a decade of transgender advocacy at the Freedom Awards. The event will honor the award-winning television series Transparent, and long-time TLDEF partners BNY Mellon and Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP for their extraordinary contributions to the advancement of transgender rights. The Freedom Awards will be held at The Art Directors Club Gallery in New York City.
Transparent star and longtime LGBT rights champion Judith Light will host and Transparent star Alexandra Billings will accept the award on the show’s behalf.
When: Monday, June 1, 6:30 - 8:30 pm
Where: The Art Directors Club Gallery, 106 West 29th Street, New York City
Why: To celebrate TLDEF’s 10 extraordinary years working for equal rights!
Buy your tickets today!
TLDEF Applauds Justice Department's Historic Action Supporting Transgender Prisoner's Right to Hormone Treatment
In early April, TLDEF responded to news that the United States Department of Justice had filed a brief supporting a transgender prisoner’s right to hormone treatment in her federal lawsuit against the Georgia Department of Corrections. This was reportedly the first time the Justice Department had taken action in support of a prisoner’s effort to compel hormone treatment for gender dysphoria, the diagnostic term used to refer to discomfort or distress caused by a difference between a person’s gender identity and their sex assigned at birth.
Ashley Diamond, a 36-year old transgender woman and nonviolent offender, had been denied hormone treatment since she first entered the Georgia State Prison in 2012. Although she had been receiving hormone treatment for 17 years prior to her incarceration, the Georgia Department of Corrections denied her treatment after she was jailed. The Justice Department’s brief explained how her lack of access to health care in the ensuing years caused Diamond to suffer severe physical consequences and psychological distress and led to multiple suicide attempts. The brief concluded: “Failure to provide adequate treatment for transgender inmates with gender dysphoria constitutes cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment.”
In a press release about its brief, the Justice Department stated: “By taking action in this case, the Justice Department is reminding departments of corrections that prison officials have the obligation to assess and treat gender dysphoria just as they would any other medical or mental health condition.” It went on to say that policies excluding such care “can have serious consequences to the health and well-being of transgender prisoners, who are among the most vulnerable populations incarcerated in our nation’s prisons and jails.”
“We applaud the Department of Justice for taking this stand in support of health care for transgender prisoners. Treatment for gender dysphoria must be provided on the same terms as treatment for other medical conditions,” said TLDEF Executive Director Michael Silverman. “Denying prisoners like Ashley Diamond the medically necessary care they need violates the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which bars cruel and unusual punishment. We hope the Justice Department’s strong stance in this case brings a positive outcome for Ashley Diamond and all incarcerated transgender people seeking access to medically necessary care.”
In response to the advocacy on Ashley’s behalf, prison officials have allowed Ashley to resume hormone treatment, but reports indicate that the level of treatment is insufficient to address her medical needs. On a related note, on May 8th, Ms. Diamond, who had been housed primarily in men’s maximum-security prisons where she was subjected to abuse and violence, was transferred to a medium-security prison where she was previously housed and where she sought to return.
We are thrilled to announce a $100,000 challenge grant from the Calamus Foundation, a $50,000 grant from the Henry van Ameringen Foundation and the second year of our two-year $50,000 grant from the David Bohnett Foundation!
Help us meet the match!
Through the Calamus challenge grant, you can double your giving. The challenge applies to new and increased giving. For new donors, Calamus will match every dollar you donate. For returning donors, Calamus will match every dollar above your previous donation (for example, if you give $50 and previously gave $30, Calamus will match $20). Please give generously at this time of incredible momentum and help us meet the match!
On Sunday, June 28th, help us honor our diverse and vibrant community by marching with our contingent in the New York City Pride March. The Pride march gives all of us the opportunity to walk together in solidarity, show our courage in being out and proud, and celebrate our achievements on the path to equality.
Let us know you’ll be marching with us so we can prepare for your attendance. Click here to RSVP.