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contact Carisa Cunningham at 617-426-1350, or contact by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Ending Conversion Therapy in New Hampshire

Following the passage of HB 1661 in the New Hampshire House, GLAD Executive Director Janson Wu is presenting testimony April 5 before the state Senate Committee on Health and Human Services in support of a statewide ban on so-called "conversion therapy" with minors. Read his senate committee testimony here.

Wu previously testified February 2, 2016 before the New Hampshire General Court Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee in support of HB 1661, which would ban the practice. The bill passed the New Hampshire House on March 23, 2016.

House Bill 1661 “prohibits persons licensed to provide professional counseling from engaging in the discredited and harmful practice of seeking to change a minor’s sexual orientation or gender identity.”

“The imposition of 'conversion therapy,' especially on minors, is a remnant of our nation’s shameful history of oppression of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people," Wu says in his testimony. "Its premise is that homosexuality is abnormal behavior and a mental disorder that must be changed.”

The New Hampshire legislature has a proud history of eradicating discrimination against LGBT people as well as enacting laws that ensure the health, safety, and welfare of children. The passage of HB 1661 is a critical step necessary to further these goals.

GLAD is working to pass HB 1661 in coalition with PFLAG New Hampshire, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Human Rights Campaign, and the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Ending Conversion Therapy in Vermont

On May 25, 2015, Governor Shumlin signed a bill making Vermont a safer and more welcoming place for LGBTQ youth – by banning the harmful practice of so-called “conversion therapy.”

With this historic step, Vermont became the first state in New England to join California, New Jersey, Oregon, Illinois, New York, and Washington D.C. in not only protecting LGBTQ youth from this practice, but sending those young people a message that they are perfectly okay. Read more

GLAD Staff Attorney Allison Wright submitted written testimony in support of the bill:

"This practice, most commonly known as 'conversion therapy,' strays from Vermont's long-standing history of preserving the safety and dignity of its LGBTQ residents. As the first state in the nation to offer legal recognition to same-sex relationships in the form of civil unions, the Vermont legislature has a proud history of eradicating discrimination against LGBTQ people as well as enacting laws that ensure the health, safety, and welfare of children. The passage of S 132 is a critical step necessary to further these goals."

Wright's testimony describes the consensus in the medical community that so-called conversion therapy is ineffective and, in fact, harmful, and asserts that the passage of this bill will send a positive message to all LGBTQ youth:  

"The harms that come to LGBTQ youth as a result of negative feelings about their own identities, as well as the prevalence of bullying and harassment by others, can be traced in significant part to the underlying notion of abnormality or "otherness." Passage of S 132 will send a powerful and important message to all people: there is nothing about one's sexual orientation or gender identity that needs to be changed because being gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or queer is normal and healthy."

Read the full testimony

GLAD’s Jennifer Levi Testifies in Support of Transgender Equality

Jennifer Levi, Director of the Transgender Rights Project for Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, testified today at the Massachusetts Statehouse in support of a bill providing protections in public accommodations for the state’s transgender citizens. 

Testimony on SB 735 and HB 1577 was heard before the Massachusetts Legislature’s Joint Committee on the Judiciary. Current non-discrimination law in the Commonwealth does not expressly protect transgender people in public accommodations, such as stores, restaurants, hospitals, public transportation, and parks.

“In failing to expressly protect its most marginalized citizens as they go about their daily business, Massachusetts is falling behind in its leadership role on equality for all,” said Levi in her testimony, the full text of which can be read here on GLAD’s website. “Being able to point to a statewide policy of inclusion and support will give me and many others the authority we often need to respond when others are telling us to leave a public space or that we are wrong to be there.”

An Act Relative to Transgender Anti-Discrimination would add “gender identity” to existing Massachusetts civil rights law for public accommodations. Massachusetts law currently prohibits discrimination in public accommodations on the basis of age, race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, sex, religion, and marital status. GLAD is a member of the coalition Freedom Massachusetts, which has been working for passage of the bill. 

Adding a Non-Discrimination Clause to the Rhode Island Children’s Bill of Rights

Update: Victory! The Rhode Island House passed the bill June 24 and the governor has signed it into law!

Read testimony submitted by GLAD's Youth Initiative Director Vickie Henry

June18, 2015 Rhode Island Action Alert

Rhode Island House Speaker Mattiello is holding up the addition of a non-discrimination clause to the Children's Bill of Rights for kids in DCYF care. The Senate version passed the Senate unanimously and was called a "no brainer" by the ACLU and the HEW committee members. In fact, throughout the hearing people seemed surprised to learn that this was not already included in that document. Both bills are now sitting in the HEW committee.

Please call the Speaker at 222-2466 and express support for H5586. This is not an LGBTQ specific bill but it does include sexual orientaiton and gender identity and expression in the language.

That language may be part of why the speaker is holding up the bill. Please reinforce that this is about ALL kids having knowledge of the rights that they already have. And it is important to also note that the Massachusetts Children's Bill or Rights lists their non-discrimination clause as item #1.

The bill sponsors are: Diaz, Slater, Ruggiero, Tanzi, Maldonado  and the bill proposes adding the following language:

(q)  No child shall be discriminated against on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, socioeconomic status or mental, physical, developmental, or sensory disability, or by association with an individual orgroup who has or is perceived to have one or more of such characteristics.

Why Add Nondiscrimination Language to Children’s Bill of Rights?

•   The Children’s Bill of Rights is a document given to children who come into DCYF care to explain all the rights they have within the child welfare system. The right to be free from discrimination is the most fundamental right they have and should be added.

•   The nondiscrimination language proposed for the Children’s Bill of Rights includes only protected classes that are currently included in Rhode Island State law. Including it in this document insures youth know that this law exists and that they are protected by it.

•   The children within the child welfare system are already a vulnerable population and need to know they will be protected against all forms of discrimination. Seeing nondiscrimination language within their Bill of Rights shows them that the state is paying attention to their treatment.

•   Children from minority populations have often faced discrimination in other settings and need to know they will be respected within state care.

•   All child welfare experts and agencies agree this is important for children in state care including the Department for Children, Youth and Families, the Child Advocates Office, Family Services, Child and Family Services, Adoption RI, Foster Forward, and St. Mary’s Home for Children among others.

•  Expressly informing youth of their rights might provide some protection to the state from liability for damage claims. This is for two major reasons: 1) it reminds staff of their obligations; and 2) it helps youth self-advocate and avoid the need for legal action.

•   The Massachusetts’ Foster Children’s Bill of Rights includes nondiscrimination language as their first bullet point.

GLAD Senior Attorney Ben Klein Testimony in Support of RI S 480, to Prohibit Conversion Therapy

GLAD Senior Attorney Ben Klein submitted testimony March 31 in support of Rhode Island S 480, which would prohibit licensed health care professionals from engaging in the discredited and harmful practice of seeking to change a minor’s sexual orientation or gender identity. 

Excerpts from Klein's testimony:

  • So-called “conversion therapy” is a remnant of our nation’s shameful history of oppression of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.  Its premise is that homosexuality is abnormal behavior and a mental disorder that must therefore be changed.  The Rhode Island legislature has a proud history of eradicating discrimination against LGBT people as well as enacting laws that ensure the health, safety, and welfare of children. The passage of S 480 is a critical step necessary to further these goals.  
  • So-called “conversion therapy” has been proven ineffective, is contrary to modern medicine, and subjects young people to the risk of suicide and other serious psychological harms. 
  • The passage of S 480 is also a significant step that Rhode Island can take to create a better world for those LGBT youth who will never be subjected to “conversion therapy.” Many LGBT youth still grow up believing that there is “something wrong” with who they are, increasing their risk of adverse mental health outcomes. The prohibition of “conversion therapy,” which has its roots in the notion that it is not normal to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, is a powerful step the legislature can take to counter that harmful message. 
  • Courts have upheld the constitutionality of bans on conversion therapy as within the state’s well-established power to regulate healthcare and legislate for the welfare of children.  

Read the full testimony here

Testimony on RI H 5383: An Act Related to Education - School Committees and Superintendents

GLAD Youth Initiative Director Vickie Henry submitted testimony March 11 on H 5383: An Act Related to Education - School Committees and Superintendents.

H 5383 would amend Section 16-2-17 of the Rhode Island General Laws in Chapter 16-2 entitled "School Committees and Superintendents" to "direct all school superintendents to review discipline data for their school district, to decide whether there is an unequal impact on students based on race, ethnicity, or disability status, and to respond to any disparity."

GLAD supports the adoption of this amendment, but also urges that gender identity and sexual orientation, if known, be added to the categories for which data is collected.

In her written testimony, Henry presents evidence demonstrating that LGBTQ youth suffer punishments by school authories that are disproportionate to their rates of transgressive behavior, and that nine percent of students report being disciplined simply for indentifying as LGBTQ.

Read the full testimony here.

Act Relative to Abusive Practices to Change Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Minors

HD 3202 sponsored by Representative Kay Khan and also known as the "conversion therapy ban bill," would ban practices, erroneously called “therapy,” that purport to heal or change a minor’s same-sex attraction or transgender identity.

Specifically it would:

  • Prohibit any licensed medical, mental health, or human service professional as defined in Chapter 112 from engaging with a minor in therapeutic practices aimed at changing or healing the minor’s sexual orientation, in particular same-sex attraction.
  • Prohibit any licensed medical, mental health, or human service professional as defined in Chapter 112 from engaging in therapeutic practices aimed at eliminating a minor’s sincerely held conviction that their birth assigned gender is different or inappropriate from their actual gender identity, and related practices aimed to discourage that minor from seeking a transition to the gender they identify as.
  • Charge state mandatory reporters to report cases of suspected instances where a minor is being subjected to reparative or conversion therapy by a state licensed professional.
  • Define advertisements of such reparative therapy or conversion therapy as deceptive acts or practices in violation of state consumer protections laws, and subject to rules and regulations by the state Attorney General. 

Read more

Addressing LGBTQ Youth Homelessness in Massachusetts

GLAD Staff Attorney Allison Wright submitted testimony to support the Boston City Council’s effort to address unaccompanied youth homelessness, an epidemic impacting the health and safety of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) youth in Massachusetts.

Excerpts from her testimony:

"In order to address this epidemic, homeless shelters within the city of Boston must be held accountable under Massachusetts anti-discrimination laws as well as Boston City ordinances, and should adopt LGBTQ inclusive policies to ensure LGBTQ youth are receiving services at homeless shelters free of discrimination."

"National studies estimate that up to 40% of youth who are homeless or are at-risk of becoming homeless identify as LGBTQ. Family rejection on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is the primary factor contributing to homelessness amongst LGBTQ youth - most of whom are youth of color."

"Once homeless, LGBTQ youth are at higher risk of physical and sexual violence and exposure to sexually transmitted diseases, including, but not limited to, HIV. Unaccompanied homeless LGBTQ youth are also at higher risk of developing substance abuse issues, mental health issues, and physical health issues.  Finally, unaccompanied homeless LGBTQ youth are more likely to engage in survival crimes like sex work and petty theft.  Thus, they are at higher risk of interacting with the criminal justice system." 

"The city of Boston should encourage homeless shelters within the city to adopt transgender-inclusive policies that ensures the full inclusion and equal treatment of transgender people who reside at the shelter."

Read Allison Wright's full testimony, and see the Sample Gender Identity Policy

Adding a Non-Discrimination Provision to Rhode Island’s Children’s Bill of Rights

Update 6/17/14  -  Urgent: Calls Need Today to Rhode Island Speaker Matiello

Help move this bill forward - call the Speaker's Office today at (401) 222-2466 and tell him:

"Senate Bill 2385 Passed Unanimously in the Senate. Please ask the Speaker and the House to take this up. This is a AN ACT RELATING TO STATE AFFAIRS AND GOVERNMENT - DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN, YOUTH, AND FAMILIES  and would create a nondiscriminatory clause under the ALREADY EXISTING children's bill of rights for all children who are under the supervision of the department of children, youth, and families.Thank you.

-----

GLAD Senior Staff Attorney Vickie Henry submitted testimony for a hearing May 8 to add a non-discrimination provision to Rhode Island's Children's Bill of Rights.

The Children’s Bill of Rights enumerates the specific rights of children in the custody and/or care of the Department of Children, Youth & Families (DCYF). To help ensure that the rights of children in DCYF care are respected, a copy of the Children’s Bill of Rights must be posted in a conspicuous place in all secure facilities and/or residential placement facilities. The Children’s Bill of Rights is remarkable for the absence of a non-discrimination provision. What a message that omission sends. 

This bill will make explicit what we hope is policy now: the right of youth to be free from discrimination based on race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression, socioeconomic status or mental, physical, developmental, or sensory disability, or by association with an individual or group who has or is perceived to have one or more such characteristics. 

Read the full testimony.

An Act Relative to Bullying in Schools

Massachusetts House Bill 454 and Senate Bill 206 would make much needed improvements to the state’s anti-bullying law. The act includes important provisions for enumerating protected classes - including LGBTQ students - for tracking and reporting bullying behavior, and for a student school climate survey.

GLAD supports the passage of this bill to strengthen protections for students in Massachusetts.  Senior Attorney and leader of GLAD’s Youth Initiative Vickie Henry testified in support of the bill before the Education Committee on May 30, 2013.  You can read her testimony here.

Statement by Attorney Vickie Henry Before The Massachusetts Commission on GLBT Youth

GLAD presented testimony June 20 before the MA Commission on GLBT Youth panel addressing the needs of youth across the state.  Here is an excerpt from the testimony presented by Senior Attorney Vickie Henry, who leads GLAD’s Youth Initiative:

Chairman Lipkin and Members of the Committee:

As the leader of GLAD’s youth work, I have had the opportunity to speak to hundreds of youth across the Commonwealth, from Boston to Pittsfield to Salem to Hyannis to Holyoke and more.  GLAD has been co-presenting a Got Rights? workshop for students with youth from BAGLY, The Boston Alliance of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Youth.  I have been able to speak directly with these young people as well as GSA advisors and teachers about what they need and how schools and the law can do better by our youth.  I have also spoken to youth who experienced our foster care system.  The theme of this testimony is that adults can and must do better – we need to enact stronger laws and we need the adults charged with implementing those laws to set the tone that the Commonwealth, its agencies, and the school districts within it support LGBTQ youth and will not permit discrimination against them.

Key Points From the Testimony:

  • Out-of-Home Youth Need Safe Shelter
  • LGBTQ Youth Need Transparency and Accountability From Schools When They Report Bullying
  • LGBTQ Youth Need Advocates in Every School, Not Just in the Statehouse
  • Creating a Positive School Climate Will Not Only Protect Youth From Bullying, But Also Improve Academic Performance

Read the full testimony here.