In This Issue
- Executive Director’s Message
- TLDEF Responds to Pentagon Plan to End Transgender Military Ban
- Transgender Women Prevail as West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles Changes License Policy In Face of TLDEF Lawsuit
- TLDEF Celebrates Historic U.S. Supreme Court Ruling Extending Marriage Protections to LGBT Couples Nationwide
- TLDEF Raises $300,000 for Transgender Rights at the Freedom Awards
- TLDEF Celebrates Pride!
- Meet Our Summer Interns
Executive Director’s Message
It’s been an extraordinary time in our movement. Just last week the Defense Department announced a concrete plan for putting an end to the discriminatory ban on open transgender military service that would finally allow more than 15,000 brave transgender service members to serve their country openly once and for all. And, of course, we witnessed the culmination of years of efforts as the United States Supreme Court extended marriage protections to LGBT people throughout the nation, instantly improving the lives of so many we serve.
In this latest newsletter we’ll address those historic actions and a host of other news about our advocacy on behalf of transgender people across the country.
We’re extremely pleased to share news of our recent victory in West Virginia on behalf of transgender women seeking to obtain accurate driver’s licenses. We’ll also update you on the latest health insurance victories in Nevada and New York.
In addition, we’ll recap our amazing Freedom Awards along with our numerous Pride activities, and introduce you to our newest board member and summer interns.
Finally, we’ll fill you in on the positive media attention we have received in high-profile outlets, including our appearance on MSNBC to applaud Caitlyn Jenner for her historic announcement on the cover of Vanity Fair, a phenomenal transgender rights segment on HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver that featured our West Virginia DMV case, and more.
We couldn’t do this work without your support. Thank you for making it possible! Enjoy summer!
On July 13, the Department of Defense announced that it is taking steps to lift the ban on open transgender military service. In announcing the formation of a six-month working group to study the “policy and readiness implications of welcoming transgender persons to serve openly,” Defense Secretary Ashton Carter acknowledged that transgender soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines “are being hurt by an outdated, confusing, inconsistent approach that's contrary to our value of service and individual merit.”
In addition to forming the working group, the Secretary has moved to immediately limit discharges by elevating all discharge decisions impacting transgender service members to Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Brad Carson.
In reaction to the news, TLDEF Executive Director Michael Silverman stated:
“It is time to allow transgender Americans to serve their country openly. We commend Defense Secretary Carter for acknowledging the untenable situation facing transgender service members and taking action to change it. His statement makes clear that the Pentagon’s outdated policy barring transgender people from serving is wrong and must end. Each day it continues to harm the more than 15,000 transgender people courageously putting their lives on the line despite the constant fear that they could be discharged at any time just because of who they are.
“Studies have already concluded that there is no rational basis for barring transgender people from serving. Indeed, Secretary Carter acknowledged that earlier this year when asked about open transgender military service: ‘I don’t think anything but their suitability for service should preclude them.’
“Our close allies Australia, Canada, England, and Israel, and 14 other countries have successfully integrated transgender people into their militaries. The United States should follow their example.
“We urge the Pentagon to move swiftly to lift the ban at the end of the six-month timeframe once and for all. The longer we wait, the more qualified and talented people we will lose and the more trauma we will create for those serving in the shadows who cannot risk coming out until a final policy is announced.
“We thank all of the brave transgender men and women who have sacrificed their lives in silence and all those who are serving our country with distinction today. Like all members of the armed forces who continually put their lives on the line, transgender service members deserve the respect and dignity that come with serving openly.”
Transgender Women Prevail as West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles Changes License Policy In Face of TLDEF Lawsuit
In early July, TLDEF celebrated news that the West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles had changed its license photo policy to allow transgender individuals to be photographed as they regularly appear. The new policy comes in response to TLDEF’s threat of litigation on behalf of a group of transgender women who were told by the DMV that they would not receive driver’s licenses unless they changed their regular appearance to try to look male in their license photos.
In 2014, Trudy Kitzmiller and Kristen Skinner attempted to update their driver’s licenses to reflect their new legal names and appearances at separate DMV offices in West Virginia. They were met with hostility and harassment by DMV officials who insisted that they remove their makeup, jewelry and other items in order to try to look male in their license photos. Both women were called “it” by DMV staff. The DMV’s existing license photo policy prohibited license applicants from “misrepresenting gender.”
Soon after, TLDEF contacted the DMV on behalf of Trudy and Kristen in an attempt to resolve the matter without litigation. TLDEF explained that Trudy and Kristen were transgender women who just wanted license photos that looked the way they do on a regular basis. The letter further explained that forcing Trudy & Kristen to remove their makeup and other items to try to make them look male before allowing them to take their license photos restricted their free speech rights and amounted to sex discrimination in violation of state and federal constitutional protections. TLDEF asked that the women be given the opportunity to have their license photos taken while appearing as they normally do.
In its response, the DMV refused to budge, claiming that it was attempting to “prevent fraudulent actions” and stating that Trudy & Kristen’s “appearances were considered an attempt to conceal or alter their identities.” TLDEF then threatened to sue on behalf of Trudy, Kristen and Valerie Woody, a third transgender woman who contacted TLDEF after she was denied a learner’s permit that looked like her.
As of July 1, the DMV replaced its discriminatory photo policy. The new policy prohibits DMV staff from asking license applicants to “remove or modify makeup, clothing [or] hairstyle” for their photos. It opens the door for Trudy, Kristen, Valerie, and all other transgender West Virginians to update their driver’s licenses to reflect their true selves, free from discrimination. The new policy took effect along with a second updated DMV policy allowing transgender West Virginians to correct the gender marker on their driver’s licenses upon submission of a form signed by a doctor.
“I am thrilled that we won. Getting my license updated has been a long struggle. I am relieved that the DMV will finally allow me to have a license that reflects the real me and will treat transgender people fairly,” Trudy said. “This is who I am – a transgender woman – and I have overcome many obstacles to be my true self. What happened to me at the DMV was wrong. I am so glad this policy has changed so that no one else will have to experience the humiliation I faced at the DMV.”
“I am so happy that I can update my driver’s license to reflect who I truly am as a transgender woman,” Kristen said. “It has taken me a long time to embrace my authentic self, and it has not been easy. No one deserves to be treated with the disrespect I encountered at the DMV. This new policy ensures that transgender West Virginians will be treated fairly at the DMV. Transgender people need accurate driver’s licenses that reflect who we truly are, and now we will be able to get them.”
“This victory sends a strong message about equal rights,” said TLDEF Staff Attorney Ethan Rice. “Transgender people are entitled to be themselves without discrimination. It is not the role of the DMV or its employees to restrict any transgender person’s freedom to express who they truly are. People should be able to get a driver’s license without being subjected to sex discrimination. The policy change that the DMV has implemented will help all transgender West Virginians in the future and we thank the DMV for agreeing to this change without litigation.”
Robert D. Goodman, Brandon Burkart, Veronica R. Glick and Jarrod L. Schaeffer of Debevoise & Plimpton LLP and Jack D. Hoblitzell of Kay Casto & Chaney PLLC were pro bono co-counsel for Trudy, Kristin and Valerie with TLDEF. We are grateful for their help.
TLDEF Celebrates Historic U.S. Supreme Court Ruling Extending Marriage Protections to LGBT Couples Nationwide
On Friday, June 26, TLDEF joined millions of advocates across the nation in applauding the United States Supreme Court’s landmark ruling extending the freedom to marry throughout the nation. The decision will improve the lives of tens of thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender families who have experienced tremendous hardship as a result of discriminatory restrictions on the freedom to marry.
The Supreme Court’s ruling brings marriage equality to LGBT couples who will now have the same opportunity as all Americans to love, take care of, and be responsible for one another and their families. Those families, including the transgender families we serve, will no longer be denied the protections that all loving, committed couples and their families deserve.
This decision caps off decades of tireless work by marriage equality advocates and allies, and courageous plaintiffs and attorneys, who have never wavered in the pursuit of justice. We applaud all who have made this day possible because they refused to give up hope or let momentum slip for even one moment.
The tide continues to turn in favor of fairness for LGBT people with this momentous victory. Much was at stake for our community. The Supreme Court’s decision will affect real people and families whose lives and well being will now be more fully protected.
On Monday, June 1, we celebrated a decade of advocacy at the Freedom Awards. Through the generous support of nearly 400 guests, we raised more than $300,000, making our 10 year anniversary benefit the largest-ever fundraiser for transgender rights. It was just the kind of boost we need to lead us into our second decade working for equal rights.
We are extremely grateful to everyone who made the event possible, including our phenomenal host, actress and LGBT rights champion Judith Light, the incredible and talented Alexandra Billings, and our Presenting Sponsors BNY Mellon, Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP and Kirkland & Ellis LLP.
Alexandra accepted Amazon’s award for its groundbreaking series Transparent and brought down the house with her speech about resiliency in the face of discrimination and the importance of living your truth. You can view photos from the Freedom Awards on our Facebook page. And while you’re there, please “like” our page. Social media is one of the best ways to stay in touch with us.
For those who couldn’t join us or would like to do more, there’s still time to give. And through a generous $100,000 Calamus Foundation challenge grant, new donors will double their donations and returning donors’ contributions will be matched every dollar above their previous gifts.
Thank you again for making the Freedom Awards a huge success! We’re looking forward to the next ten years!
TLDEF was busy during Pride month with a number of speaking engagements and activities. TLDEF Executive Director Michael Silverman and TLDEF Board Member Katherine Cooper spoke about TLDEF’s work on a panel hosted by Viacom. Michael also spoke at a Pride event at Google, while TLDEF Staff Attorney Ethan Rice and TLDEF Board Member Stephanie Battaglino spoke on a transgender rights panel hosted by the Clinton Global Initiative. Ethan also spoke at Cooley LLP’s Pride event.
On Sunday, June 28th, TLDEF honored our diverse and vibrant community by marching in the New York City Pride March. The Pride March gave all of us the opportunity to walk together in solidarity and celebrate our achievements on the path to equality.
And on the heels of the Pride march, TLDEF held its 6th annual Pride month cocktail party on June 30. Hosted by our friends at Shearman & Sterling LLP and their LGBT employee resource group, Sterling Pride, the event included cocktails, conversation and hors d’oeuvres and afforded TLDEF the opportunity to share information about our groundbreaking transgender rights work. It was the perfect evening to meet other people who are interested in LGBT rights, have a great time and celebrate LGBT Pride Month. We’ve posted photos from the party on our Facebook page.
We are pleased to introduce you to our summer interns. Read more about them below.
Carly Calhoun just finished her first year at the University of Alabama School of Law. Originally from Kennesaw, GA, she earned her undergraduate degree in social work from Georgia State University. During her undergraduate experience, she interned with the Atlanta Long Term Care Ombudsman Program investigating nursing homes and volunteered with a domestic violence resource center. Between college and law school, Carly worked in various settings in Frankfort, KY and Portland, OR, and volunteered as a visitor for people in hospice care. As a law student, she is active with the school’s Public Interest Institute, recently earning the Dean’s Community Service Award. She is also a member of both the law school’s student run LGBTQ organization, OUTlaw, and the University’s faculty, staff, and graduate student LGBTQ organization, Capstone Alliance. Carly’s goal is to work for LGBTQ equality with her law degree. In her spare time, she likes to snuggle up with her four rescue animals and her partner of four years and watch stand-up comedy.
Katie Cullum is a rising third year law student at Indiana University Maurer School of Law. Originally from Philadelphia, Katie earned her B.A. in English and Gender Studies from Skidmore College, where her passion and activism for LGBTQ issues began. As a law student, Katie is active in several progressive student organizations. She is the current student director of the LGBT Legal Project, President of Maurer’s chapter of the National Lawyer’s Guild, and serves on the executive board for OutLaw, Law Students for Reproductive Justice, American Constitution Society, and Inmate Legal Assistance Project, among other projects. Katie plans to use her law degree to serve the LGBTQ community, focusing on issues affecting transgender individuals, and concerning the intersections of racial justice, prison abolition, and reproductive justice. In her free time, Katie loves enjoying the outdoors, reading a great book, volunteering, and spending time with her rescue cats.
Rachel Frank just finished her first year at Stanford Law School. She grew up in the Seattle area and graduated from the University of Washington in 2014 with a BS in economics and minors in math and political science. While in undergrad, she completed a thesis on higher education costs and participated in student government. As a law student, she works on the Stanford Journal of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties and participates in the Stanford Law Association. In her spare time, she enjoys running, powerlifting, and skiing.
Taylor Ruggieri just finished her first year at Widener University School of Law in Wilmington, Delaware and will be transferring to Rutgers School of Law in the Fall 2015. She earned her undergraduate degree from Stockton University in Galloway, NJ with a BA in Psychology and minors in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Political Science. She was a member of the Pride Alliance at Stockton and scheduled diversity events to raise awareness on LGBTQ issues. During her studies at Stockton University, Taylor and her girlfriend slept outside the Supreme Court of the United States for fifty-three hours to view the DOMA Oral Arguments. Taylor was a volunteer with New Jersey United for Marriage before starting law school. She was a member of the Public Interest Law Association, OUTlaws, and Women’s Law Caucus at Widener University and was named to the Dean’s List in her first year. She received the Taischoff Family Endowed Scholarship for her continued involvement in community service and public outreach. Taylor plans to continue to work towards LGBTQ equality through continued participation in volunteer work, through her law school career, and in her future career. In her spare time she likes to go to karaoke bars, try different foods, and binge on Netflix.