Increasing LGBTQ family visibility & support for our diverse communities

This past weekend, the 2nd Annual LGBTQI+ Family Formation Symposium was held in Santa Rosa, California, where Our Family Coalition Executive Director Renata Moreira delivered the keynote address.

The family formation symposium was hosted by North Bay LGBTQI Families, a parent-led, volunteer-led organization aimed at serving and supporting LGBTQI families in Sonoma County. Their impact, however, reaches far beyond the North Bay.

It was a welcome invitation to participate at this year’s symposium and a message Executive Director Renata Moreira made clear to all in attendance: “We are thrilled to be supporting LGBTQ parent leadership on the ground in Sonoma county and hope to see many more groups popping up across the state to continue increasing LGBTQ family visibility & support for our diverse communities.” Event organizer Leslie Wiser described what it meant to her in moving terms: “The Symposium was the culmination of a 3-month labor of love by 5 committed Sonoma County parents to build community in a rural and isolated area. We wanted to streamline the information needed in the family formation process, raise awareness of the hoops we have to jump through to build and protect our families, amplify the voices of QTPOC and their families, and bring issues of justice, diversity, and school safety to North Bay parents, educators and administrators. It was a smashing success for the 2nd year in a row. Ana Flores-Tindall, Zahyra Garcia, Sara Flores, Emily Gaines and I look forward to continue to uplift the voices of the most oppressed in our queer community of families at our next annual events – the Sonoma County Queer Family Campout and Pride Parade March the first weekend in June.”

The symposium was split into three blocks, Build, Protect, and Advocate: panel discussions and information surrounded topics such as family formation options for prospective parents or existing families wanting to expand; legal considerations for both existing and prospective families; and advocacy to create safe and welcoming schools for our children and LGBTQ youth.

Education Director Tarah Fleming led a workshop during the all-day symposium outlining practical ways local schools can foster a more inclusive classroom environment and school community. With recent wins for the State of California in the implementation of the FAIR Ed Act, enacting change in school curricula is an essential step in creating safer, more inclusive schools and changing the climate in which our children learn and grow.

Moving into the second year of the Trump administration’s leadership and oftentimes, wanton abuse of power, as an organization at the forefront of LGBTQ family equity and justice, Our Family Coalition understands the ever-pressing urgency in advocacy, education and support for our communities, both locally and nationally. With recent findings showing a drop in LGBTQ acceptance across the States, it is imperative that we continue to create and foster extant LGTBQ community organizations, especially in areas where accessibility to resources and support are harder to come by. Thanks to the hard work of the folks in Sonoma, Napa, Marin, and Solano counties, that is changing. One symposium and one family at a time.

 

OFC Condemns Trump Administration’s License to Discriminate

Our Family Coalition joins the many reproductive rights, LGBTQ, and civil rights groups in strongly condemning the Trump Administration’s new “Conscience and Religious Freedom” division in the U.S. Department Health and Human Services, announced yesterday.

Directing federal resources to provide additional protections for health care providers “who refuse to perform, accommodate, or assist with certain health care services on religious or moral grounds” is a de facto license to discriminate, plain and simple.

Debates about medical ethics and freedom of conscience refusals have been around long before this administration. But according to the American Medical Association’s own Principles of Medical Ethics, the medical profession has never undermined physicians’ right to “choose whom to serve and whom to associate with, excepting emergencies.”  However:

conscientious objection must be tempered by the statements of principle 8; which states when caring for a patient, physicians must regard the interests of the patient as “paramount;” and principle 9 which states that physicians shall support access to medical care for all peoples.

And over ten years ago, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Committee on Ethics made clear:

In an emergency in which referral is not possible or might negatively affect a patient’s physical or mental health, providers have an obligation to provide medically indicated and requested care regardless of the providers moral objections.1

The establishment clause of the Constitution’s First Amendment also makes it clear: the federal government has no business in the religion business. Neither in prohibiting the free exercise of it, nor in elevating one in particular.  

We’ve already seen the impact on LGBTQ families of this federally promoted religious conservatism. In their brief to the Supreme Court case on the Makepiece Cakeshop last October, our colleagues at Family Equality Council shared testimony from a lesbian couple in Texas, who faced denial of service from a pediatric dentist, in spite of their two-year-old crying and bleeding from a knocked-out front tooth after a fall:

H.C. recounts: “I was at work at the time. When my wife and daughter arrived at the dentist’s office, he asked my wife ‘who is the real mother?’ … My wife … explained that M.C. has two mothers. The dentist told my wife that ‘a child cannot have two mothers’ and said that he would only see the biological mother (me) of our daughter with a birth certificate as proof. My wife called me sobbing, and told me, ‘They want the real mom to be here. You have to come and bring M.C.’s birth certificate before they will treat her.’ I was shocked. … We were blindsided by this whole encounter.

Although my wife and I … expected we might face discrimination at some point in our lives …, we never expected to face discrimination from a medical provider—especially from someone taking care of our child. I don’t think anything could have prepared us for this.”

Something similar happened in Michigan. And these are just two cases of many.  Our colleagues at Lambda Legal have outlined the legal problems and social impact  this new division will cause, and outline its roots in the Trump Administration’s abuse of arguments on behalf of “religious freedom,” which it has used to justify attacks on LGBTQ people and women since its first month in power.

Religious freedom means a lot of things to a lot of people. So, evidently, does democracy. If the past several years in American politics have shown us anything, it’s that these fundamentals are more vulnerable than we may ever have thought. Our communities, our children, and indeed our love of these basic tenets demands that if we cherish them, we have to fight vigilantly for them. Our Family Coalition is here, side by side with our communities and allies, to do so.

Join us!  By submitting a post for this blog or our newsletter, or getting on our Speakers’ Bureau, or coming with us to Sacramento to speak with legislators, or coming to volunteer at any of our dozens of monthly community events. Together, we will ensure that the bright spirit of our democracy remains undimmed, for the whole of the extended American family.

 

 1. Both the American Medical Association statement and theAmerican College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Committee on Ethics statement can be found in Felipe Vizcarrondo, MD, MA, FCP’s “Freedom of Conscience Revisited,” in the March 2016 American College of Pediatricians Issues in Medical Ethics.

“You’ll get there together”: Jimmie and Marco’s Surrogacy Journey

Over the cooing sounds of their three-month-old baby, we recently spoke with new dads Jimmie and Marco Chavez-Lopéz. Their journey to fatherhood has included two very consequential visits to the Men Having Babies/ OFC Surrogacy Conference and Expo, now in its 5th year and taking place this upcoming weekend, January 13th and 14th, at San Francisco’s Marines’ Memorial Club and Hotel in the Union Square area. The speed of their journey went from moderate – they’d known each other for ten years before beginning to build their family – to high speed, as of last year’s Surrogacy Conference and Expo. Read on for more…


Polly Pagenhart, Our Family Coalition: How long was this journey, from having the twinkling of the idea in your head – like “Oh, we can do this, we’re gonna be dads!” – to now, when your baby is in your arms and you’re launched into fatherhood?

Marco and Jimmie Chavez-Lopez with baby Marisela.

Marco and Jimmie Chavez-Lopez with baby MariElisa.

Marco Chavez-Lopéz: I think it was about 18 months. But the fun thing that I like to tell people about this wonderful conference is that we went to the first one years back, in 2014. It was very overwhelming and not at all what we were expecting. We didn’t hear the word baby a lot, and it was like sticker shock, terminology shock.

Jimmie Chavez-Lopéz: We were getting married that year, so it was really just to get baseline information. And then we skipped 2015 and went 2016, and it was during that conference that we organically met our surrogate.

OFC: Wow, at the conference? That’s wonderful.

Jimmie: I think what was really different about the 2016 conference for us was that we were able to hear stories. For us, being able to listen to multiple surrogates giving their descriptions of their experience was very different. Jokingly I said I would love to work with (one we were listening to) – and ultimately we chatted, and that’s kind of how it worked out.

I think at that point just after that conference is when we decided, “We’re doing it now!”

Marco: And along the lines of going to that second conference: we were more ready. We had gone through finally getting married, and major things in our life that we needed to get through, and we were like, “The conference is back, let’s return.” It was a different feel, a different set-up. We heard a lot of engaging stories and at that point we were like, “There are so many different ways to create a family. Look at all these choices. Look at all these options.”

The break-out sessions were great. This time we were much more organized, and had a much more structured look at what we wanted to get out of this conference. And because we met our surrogate and listened to her story, and just by chance that worked out, we seemed to really be lucky through our entire journey.

Starting off with meeting our surrogate and just by chance creating a relationship with her – whether or not we ended up being on that journey together, she was a great resource from the beginning.  She was going to help us get there no matter what –  if it was her or someone else. So we really lucked out.

Jimmie: Just going into contract and identifying an egg donor, that went really fast as well. We had met Dr. Bankowski of Oregon Reproductive Medicine (ORM) also at the conference. We had already taken a look into the the different clinics that were going to be there and some clinics that weren’t; looked at their success rates and estimated costs, so for us we were determining if we were willing to pay a little bit more for a higher success rate, knowing that it’s possible, that one way or the other, we might not get pregnant right away.

Ely, our baby MariElisa, actually, was (conceived on) the first transfer.

So in January we met our surrogate; I think we were in contract officially around April or May, and then we were pregnant the next January. Our embryo transfer was actually the same weekend as the conference. We got pregnant exactly one year later. It gives me all the tingles.

This little nugget was definitely meant to be ours.

OFC: Did you feel that right away, when she was in your arms?

Jimmie: Yeah, we did. I had never even changed a diaper before until she got here. But I’ve always known that I wanted children. When Marco and I first met, I was like, “I don’t want to scare you away, or ask you to marry me or have kids, but I don’t want to spend time with someone to find out later that kids are absolutely off the table.”

When Marco and I first met, I was like, “I don’t want to scare you away, or ask you to marry me or have kids, but I don’t want to spend time with someone to find out later that kids are absolutely off the table.”

We were together for about nine to ten years before we started officially talking about it. It’s just been wonderful. And we are gearing up to start a second journey, hopefully, later this year. So, we will probably go to the conference!

OFC: What were the things that you were most worried about that turned out the most different? Fears, concerns, natural things you were obsessing would be a problem but actually weren’t? What were your biggest discoveries?

Jimmie: I think for me, there were a couple of things. I thought it was going to take longer to get pregnant. I was afraid that – we are part of the MHB group, and we heard all of these stories, and some of them are heartbreaking to read – yet we had a relatively smooth journey, which I know that we are both really, really thankful for. But I think that getting pregnant on the first transfer –  that was really surprising to me.

Even though we did our research – that’s why we went with ORM, because they had high success rates –  I still thought we were going to be that 0.6% or whatever that’s not successful, and we have to be prepared for that. And I think in my mind I was ready to hear from them, “Oh, well it didn’t take. We’re going to have to do this again.” That we were pregnant just like that was fantastic.

Jimmie and Elly.

Jimmie and Ely.

Marco: While you were asking that question, I was asking myself to come up with three. The first one would be this fear of her not being my biological child: “Will I bond, would she see me as her father?” And she does. She does.

Jimmie: We’re having a moment here already.

(warm laughter all around)

OFC: That was exactly my same fear because I’m in the same boat. Non-bio parent.

Marco: We talked about that a little bit. How do we share in this experience – not once she’s here but even just before – and how do we plan what this process is going to be like? So, one of the things we agreed on was that I was going to hold her first, just to try and find something to help get to that point. And that meant a lot. So, you figure it out.

OFC: Your naming that is so big.  I feel like those of us who have gone on these journeys before our peers have learned things that are so important. I feel very, very similar. That the other (bio) parent and the child would have this deep thing and I would be on the outside waving my arms and crying or something.

Jimmie: Honestly, it’s kind of the reverse fear. Where I’ve been in the middle of the night, just crying, because Marco is a wonderful nurturer and soothes her so much easier than I can –  and I have had such a terrible fear that I’m going to be a horrible parent, that she won’t love me. And by no means is that true. The times where I am not able to comfort her have been really overwhelming for me. She’s amazing and she knows that.

Marco: The second discovery that I think a lot of people can relate to I’m sure is that financial piece – how do you get there? The sticker shock is crazy, and then when you see how many options there are to get there it can be overwhelming. It is overwhelming. That part gets a little scary. When you were asking what kind of things we were fearful of, for sure, the financial piece was scary: the challenge, “How do we make that work?”

Jimmie: We didn’t qualify for any of MHB’s Gay Parenting Assistance Program (G-PAP), nothing at all, so we started our journey with $20,000 and I basically maxed out my credit cards with cash advances. We took out completely separate loans that we’re paying back every month right now. And we would do it all over again. I just wish that there were other options to help people – we were able to make it work, but I think that there are a lot of people who might not be able to make it work because of that.

Marco: I think the third discovery is that place you get to when you finally let go of so many expectations, because you have timelines. You set these arbitrary timelines, like, “We’re going to do this by June, then we’re going to move here by December.” Well, you have to let all of that go, because it’s going to happen organically, all by itself.

You set these arbitrary timelines, like, “We’re going to do this by June, then we’re going to move here by December.” Well, you have to let all of that go, because it’s going to happen organically, all by itself.

And when we had our first bump in the road that delayed us a couple of months, it was a clear reminder to just let things happen the way they’re supposed to.

Jimmie: And that delay ended up with the embryo transfer on the one year anniversary of when we all met! It happened how it was supposed to be; and it’s ok, because we weren’t ready until then. For whatever reason – we don’t understand – but we weren’t ready yet.

OFC: That’s really wise. You don’t know it in the moment, just feels like a bump and very scary. Having the transfer the very same weekend a year later is just really beautiful.

OK last question: If you had the chance to talk to yourselves years ago, what would be the most critical advice you’d want to give yourselves, with the insight you have now that you’re on this side of the journey?

Jimmie: Don’t be so scared of it, and maybe start a little sooner!

Marco: I have two pieces of advice – that letting go piece: it adds a little more anxiety than you’ll ever need. It’ll feel so much better if you just let go of those expectations. And, just trust yourself and your partner: trust that you’re making this decision together, and that you have each other, that your intentions are clear. And you’ll get there together.


The 5th Annual Surrogacy Conference and Expo takes place this weekend, January 13-14, 2018, at the Marines’ Memorial Club and Hotel, in San Francisco.

What legacy do you want to leave your children?

by Don Romesburg

I’ll be honest—back in my twenties, I wasn’t one of those gay men who knew I wanted to be a dad. In fact, I was thrilled that being gay could mean rejecting the whole marriage-and-kids deal. But 20 years ago, when I got together with my partner, David, I started to think differently about it. Still, we always faced the long journey to foster-adoption from a win-win perspective: Without kids we’d continue to have a great life together, and if we could bring kids into the mix, all the better.

In 2008, our older daughter joined our family as a foster kid and, a year later, we all adopted each other. In 2013, our little one also joined us. Taking the journey we have as transracial foster-adoptive dads in an open relationship with our kids’ first families is a road I never imagined taking when I was younger. Now, in my late forties, I can’t imagine a richer life to be living.

Our Family Coalition has been a part of our story since the late 1990s, when David and I would see their booths at Pride and the Castro Street Fair, always reminding us of parenting as a possibility ahead. What I didn’t know then was that OFC was advocating for pathways to fostering and adopting free from sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination. Since having kids, we’ve also been grateful for the many social events and ways to come into community with other LGBTQ families. In San Francisco, we can sometimes take a shared world of queer families for granted. But I never take OFC for granted. It is an essential organization for LGBTQ people and their kids throughout California.

Help keep Our Family Coalition going strong:
your donation now will be matched 1:1 through December 31!

As a professor, historian, and activist I’ve been fortunate to spend the last six years advocating for LGBTQ history to be taught in our schools. Our Family Coalition has been leading and supporting that work every step of the way, from the passage of the FAIR Education Act in 2011 – which ensures LGBTQ people be included in K-12 history and social science education – to the California Board of Education’s adoption of a first-in-the-nation LGBTQ-inclusive K-12 History Social Science Framework in 2016, and, most recently, the state’s approval of textbooks that accurately reflect that history. This work is perhaps the most important legacy I leave my daughters’ generation. But it would not have been possible without OFC steadfastly prioritizing it, directing resources, dedicating staff time, and remaining vigilant throughout the years it has taken to bring our state so far.

All of us, as LGBTQ families, are making history. This organization’s contributions to my family’s life, to the lives of countless others like us, and to the transformation of K-12 education in California, would never be possible without individuals like you and me stepping up and giving what we can.

Join me in supporting Our Family Coalition this year! We can leave our children an incredible legacy – of justice, of understanding, and more – when we work together.

Yours,
Don

OFC member and proud dad Don Romesburg is Professor Women’s and Gender Studies, Sonoma State University and lead scholar for the FAIR Education Act Implementation Coalition

Thank you in advance for your generous donation!

We made history!

Beloved community, we did it!

The California State Board of Education (SBE) just voted to adopt only those textbooks which reflect LGBT roles and contributions in history and social sciences – per the 2011 FAIR Education Act – making California the first state in the nation to adopt LGBTQ-inclusive textbooks for use in K-8 education!

LGBT inclusive curriculum advocates at California Dept of Ed

Pictured in the lobby of the California Department of Education, November 9, 2017: Bish Pleez, Capitol LGBT Association; Renata Moreira, OFC; Krystal Torres-Covarrubias; Rob Darrow, Safe Schools Santa Cruz County; Rick Oculto, OFC; Polly Pagenhart, OFC; Carolyn Laub, FAIR Education Act Implementation Coalition; Judy Appel, Berkeley Unified School District School Board; Callisyn Zielenski, OFC.

I wrote you last in late September, following the Instructional Quality Commission (IQC) meeting. They had just reviewed the textbooks that would be forwarded on for final adoption by the SBE. At that time, the IQC accepted every one of the edits proposed by the FAIR Education Act Implementation Committee, helmed by Our Family Coalition. If made, those edits would ensure our state’s instructional materials included LGBTQ roles and contributions in accordance with the FAIR Education Act.

We had worked hard to ensure that the IQC recommendations would be accepted at this final meeting. What we didn’t know was that the approval would be unanimous, and that ultimately every single publisher did everything they could to get on the right side of this history because of our collective advocacy and expertise. The new materials also expand lessons on the diverse, multicultural heritage of California and the importance of our state as a place of promise for all people, including immigrants and people with disabilities.

After thanking the FAIR Education Act Implementation Coalition for “showing us at the California Department of Education the path to justice and equality,” Tom Adams, Deputy Superintendent of Schools, called the adoption of these textbooks:

“One of the greatest reforms in the history of education in California!”

We couldn’t agree more. Here’s the California Department of Education’s press release on the decision.

After we sweep up the celebration confetti: back to work on the next chapter! In the coming months, school board after school board up and down the state will be launching into their examination of these textbooks and deciding what’s right for their community.

It’s going to be a big job: over six million California public school students are educated by nearly 300,000 teachers in over 1,000 school districts. We are more than ready for it: in collaboration with educators and partners across the state, and with the support of community members like you, we’ll ensure that every student in California has access to fair and accurate portrayals of the LGBTQ community and our contributions.

Join us in writing this next chapter of California’s history by donating what you can, and by contacting us at education@ourfamily.org to see where your passion can connect with this movement.

With pride and joy,

Renata Moreira
Executive Director, Our Family Coalition

P.S. Again, we need the support of members and allies to continue advocating for full LGBTQ-inclusive textbook adoption by districts across the state. Your support will allow hundreds of teachers to receive the training they need to bring these new materials to our families and students. Won’t you pitch in today to help us continue working hard to advance inclusive education? Thank you, from the bottoms of our hearts.

CA APPROVES LGBT-INCLUSIVE TEXTBOOKS FOR ADOPTION BY STATE BOARD OF ED

Last Friday we were thrilled to issue the following Press Release, along with our partners in the FAIR Education Act Implementation Coalition (available also as a PDF here):

SAN FRANCISCOOn Thursday, September 29th, the California Department of Education’s Instructional Quality Commission (IQC) voted to approve 10 History-Social Science K-8 textbooks which were inclusive of the LGBT content mandated by the state’s 2016 History-Social Science Framework. Most were approved conditional upon edits provided by the FAIR Education Act Implementation Coalition, a group of LGBT advocacy and educational organizations formed to ensure implementation of the state’s 2012 FAIR Education Act, which requires the inclusion of the political, economic, and social contributions of LGBT people and people with disabilities in California textbooks.

The IQC also voted to reject the two textbooks that did not include the content, and whose corrective edits represented such a substantial portion of the text as to be considered a re-write of content, impermissible at this stage of the review process.

FAIR-Ed-supporters

Parents, teachers, FAIR Ed Act organizational partners, and a middle schooler, following the August 17, 2017 Instructional Quality Commission meeting.

“We are very pleased with the responsiveness of most of the publishers, and with the care the Commission took to abide by the state subject matter Framework and Social Content Standards,” said Carolyn Laub, an educational consultant working with the FAIR Education Act Implementation Coalition. Laub, along with Professor Don Romesburg of the Committee on LGBT History and Our Family Coalition’s Education team, helped provide research and analysis of the textbooks.  

The group notes, however, that it will keep advocating for changes to one of the recommended textbooks, which continues to fall short of Framework guidelines.  “We’re grateful to the IQC and to the majority of publishers involved for taking our concerns into account, but Studies Weekly fails to include reference to Native American ‘two spirit’ people in Grade 4, and continues to exclude LGBT families in Grade 2, both of which are stipulated by the Framework,” says Renata Moreira, Executive Director of Our Family Coalition, a lead organization of the FAIR Education Act Implementation Coalition.

“Ensuring that LGBTQ people, families and their contributions to our nation and communities are fully represented is crucial to making sure that students in California schools are safe, accepted and free from bullying,” said Rick Zbur, Executive Director of Equality California, which sponsored the FAIR Education Act in 2011. “It’s one thing to get a law passed, but another to make sure that everyone – from those who publish the materials our children learn from to those who teach that material – understand and live up to their responsibilities under the law.”

The History-Social Science Framework requires that: “Through studying the stories of a very diverse collection of families, such as families headed by solo parents, immigrant families, families with lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender parents and their children, extended families, families with disabled members, families from different religious traditions, and adoptive families, students can both locate themselves and their own families in history and learn about the lives and historical struggles of their peers.”

“We cannot simply offer our students and future generations a few token references; they deserve fodder for rich, critical thinking, that allows them to understand the true diversity of California,” said Moreira.

The IQC recommendations now go to review by the State Board of Education, to be considered and ratified at meetings in November.  At that point, the textbooks become approved for purchase by schools statewide.

The FAIR Education Act Implementation Coalition is led by Our Family Coalition and includes Equality California, GSA Network, The Committee on LGBT History, Los Angeles LGBT Center, ACLU, National Center for Lesbian Rights, Transgender Law Center, and the Safe Schools Project of Santa Cruz County.

We stand with 114 other national organizations: this ACA repeal attacks America’s most vulnerable

This morning, Our Family Coalition joined with 114 other national organizations in expressing our opposition to the Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson proposal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. From the letter: “We are deeply concerned about the negative impact that the Graham-Cassidy bill would have on many vulnerable and marginalized communities—including the LGBTQ community—that already face systemic discrimination and healthcare disparities.”

Full text below and in PDF form here.

United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
September 25, 2017/

Dear Senator:

On behalf of the undersigned organizations representing millions of people who support equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people nationwide, we write to express our opposition to the Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson (Graham-Cassidy) proposal, and its underlying provisions to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA). We are deeply concerned about the negative impact that the Graham-Cassidy bill would have on many vulnerable and marginalized communities—including the LGBTQ community—that already face systemic discrimination and healthcare disparities.

The ACA has served as a lifeline for millions of LGBTQ people who too often have found themselves cut off from critical healthcare services.(1) Prior to implementation of the ACA, LGBTQ people had some of the lowest insured rates of any population in the country. The individual market reforms, including the ban on preexisting condition exclusions, have made it possible for many in our community to obtain health insurance for the first time in their lives. Thanks to the ACA, from 2013-2017, the uninsurance rate for low- and middle-income LGBTQ people was reduced by 35%.(2) There is evidence that this reduction has been greater in states that opted for the Medicaid expansion,(3) and currently 1.8 million LGBTQ people rely on Medicaid.4 For those with particularly low incomes – under 250% of the federal poverty level – 40% of LGBTQ, compared with 22% of non-LGBTQ people, rely on Medicaid. For many people living with HIV, as one example, protections for those with pre-existing conditions has made insurance affordable and treatment accessible. Tens of thousands of people living with HIV have qualified for care under the Medicaid expansion, gaining access to life-saving treatments before becoming disabled by the virus. As a result, people living with HIV are able to have healthier and longer lives.

The Graham-Cassidy proposal will have a detrimental impact on the positive trend of health coverage for LGBTQ people and so many other vulnerable populations. Under previous repeal and replace legislation with comparable provisions for block-granting Medicaid the Congressional Budget Office projected 32 million people could ultimately lose coverage.(4) These projections foreshadow an unacceptable growth in the uninsured rate and an equally unacceptable exacerbation of health care disparities.

The Graham-Cassidy proposal fundamentally changes the Medicaid program, imposing a per capita cap funding structure and terminating the expansion of the program under the ACA. The magnitude of the lost funding will have a swift, stark, and devastating impact on the most vulnerable among us: women and children, the elderly, people with disabilities, and persons living with HIV. The legislation also strips the requirement to cover essential health benefits under the Medicaid expansion, leaving millions without access to the critical benefits that often save lives, such as substance abuse treatment and mental healthcare services.

The bill will also increase premiums for people with pre-existing conditions, including many significant, chronic health conditions for which LGBTQ people are at greater risk of experiencing relative to their peers. For example, people with major depressive disorder will see a premium surcharge of $8,490, while someone with breast cancer will see a surcharge of $28,660.(5) Research shows that 65% of LGBTQ people have a pre-existing medical condition, such as diabetes or heart disease.(6) Rather than increasing coverage, passage of this bill will cause millions of people to lose coverage while making coverage unaffordable for those who remain in the market.

Graham-Cassidy would give states broad waiver authority to eliminate the ACA’s core protections for people with pre-existing health conditions. Insurers would still have to offer coverage to those with pre-existing conditions, but they could make such coverage so expensive that it would be essentially meaningless. For LGBTQ older adults, many of whom face pronounced health disparities in physical and mental health, including depression, high blood pressure, heart disease, cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, and HIV/AIDS, cost increases of this magnitude would result in the loss of health care coverage.

Prior to the ACA, employer-provided health plans frequently limited the maximum amount of coverage employees could receive over their lifetime. In 2009, 59% of covered employees had health plans with lifetime maximums, meaning they could face bankruptcy if they encountered serious health problems and were left unable to cover their healthcare costs.(7) By allowing states to seek waivers to specified essential health benefit requirements, the Graham-Cassidy proposal gives states—and subsequently employers—the ability to narrow the definition of these essential health benefits. Ultimately, this would dismantle the ACA’s ban on lifetime limits and annual out-of-pocket spending limits for essential health benefits, once again leaving individuals to risk bankruptcy in order to obtain basic healthcare.(8)

LGBTQ people, particularly people of color and those living with HIV, face systemic discrimination and health disparities, which the ACA was helping to address. Graham-Cassidy would take us backward, shredding the health care safety net and leaving many in our community to risk bankruptcy in order to obtain basic health care. The one-two punch of gutting Medicaid and eliminating the ACA’s marketplace subsidies would strip coverage away from millions and inflict some of its worst harm on LGBTQ people, who already experience health disparities because of economic disadvantage and discrimination.

The provision barring Planned Parenthood and its affiliated clinics from participating in essential public health programs not only violates the procedural requirements of legislation adopted under budget reconciliation, it constitutes terrible health policy. Barring these clinics from receiving federal reimbursement for care provided will jeopardize the ability of these providers to deliver preventive healthcare services, such as cancer screenings and STD and HIV testing, as well as services like gender transition-related care that may not be offered elsewhere in many communities. Often, health centers such as Planned Parenthood offer the only culturally competent healthcare available to LGBTQ people, especially in rural and isolated areas. Rather than improving care options, Graham-Cassidy would disproportionately impact people— including people of color, immigrants, young people, and members of the LGBTQ community— who already face structural barriers to accessing care.

We strongly urge the members of the Senate to reject provisions such as those contained in the Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson proposal that would harm millions of Americans and deny them the health benefits that save lives.

Sincerely,

Adolescent Counseling Services/Outlet • AIDS Foundation of Chicago • AIDS United • Alaskans Together For Equality • Alliance For Full Acceptance (AFFA • American Civil Liberties Union American Psychological Association • APLA Health • Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum • Basic Rights Oregon • BiNet USA • California LGBT Health and Human Services Network • Callen-Lorde Community Health Center • Center For Black Equity CenterLink: The Community of LGBT Centers • Colorado Consumer Health Initiative • Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR) • Community Research Initiative of New England • Consumer Health First • Dab the AIDS Bear Project • Equal Rights Washington • Equality Arizona • Equality California • Equality Federation • Equality Florida • Equality Michigan • Equality North Carolina • Equality Ohio • Equality Pennsylvania • Equality Texas • Equality Utah • Equality Virginia Equality • Maine • Fair Wisconsin • Family Equality Council • Fenway Health • Forward Together • Freedom Oklahoma • Gender Health Center • Georgia Equality • Georgians for a Healthy Future • GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) • GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBT Equality • HealthRIGHT 360 • HIV Medicine Association • Human Rights Campaign • Jackson Cty Democrats (OR) LGBTQ Caucus • JCD LGBTQ Caucus (Oregon) • Justice in Aging • Lambda Legal • LGBT Center of Raleigh • Liberty City Democratic Club • Los Angeles LGBT Center • Lotus Rising Project • LPAC • MassEquality.org • Mazzoni Center • Minnesota AIDS Projec • MomsRising • Montana Human Rights Network • Movement Advancement Project • NASTAD • National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) • National Black Justice Coalition • National Center for Lesbian Rights • National Center for Transgender Equality • National Coalition for LGBT Health • National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs • National Council of Jewish Women • National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) • National Health Law Program • National LGBT Bar Association • National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund • National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA) • NEAT – the National Equality Action Team • NMAC • One Colorado • Our Family Coalition • Out2Enroll • OutFront Minnesota • OutServe-SLDN • Palmetto Projec • People For the American Way • PFLAG National • Pride at Work • Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada • PROMO • Resource Center (Dallas, TX) • Rogue Rainbow Elders • Ryan White Medical Providers Coalition • Sacramento LGBT Community Center • SAGE (Advocacy & Services for LGBT Elders) • SC Equality • SCPHCA-SCMHP • Secular Coalition for America • SEIU District 1199 WV/KY/OH • Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S. (SIECUS) • Southern AIDS Coalition • Southern HIV/AIDS Strategy Initiative • The AIDS Institute • The Center for American Progress • The Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada • The Health Initiative • The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center • The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health • The Pride Center at Equality Park • The Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition • The Trevor Project • Transgender Law Center • True Colors Fund • Universal Health Care Action Network of Ohio • URGE: Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity • Whitman-Walker Health • Wyoming Equality • Young Invincibles

(1) http://hrms.urban.org/quicktakes/Uninsurance-Rate-Nearly-Halved-for-Lesbian-Gay-and-Bisexual-Adults-sinceMid-2013.html

(2) https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/lgbt/news/2017/03/22/428970/repealing-affordable-care-act-badmedicine-lgbt-communities/

(3) https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/lgbt/reports/2014/11/17/101575/moving-the-needle/

(4) https://www.cbpp.org/research/health/like-other-aca-repeal-bills-cassidy-graham-plan-would-add-millions-touninsured

(5) https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/healthcare/news/2017/09/18/439091/graham-cassidy-aca-repeal-billcause-huge-premium-increases-people-pre-existing-conditions/

(6) https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/lgbt/news/2017/07/06/435452/senate-health-care-bill-devastating-lgbtqpeople/

(7) https://kaiserfamilyfoundation.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/7936.pdf

(8) https://www.brookings.edu/blog/up-front/2017/03/24/new-changes-to-essential-benefits-in-gop-health-billcould-jeopardize-protections-against-catastrophic-costs-even-for-people-with-job-based-coverage/

https://www.brookings.edu/2017/05/02/allowing-states-to-define-essential-health-benefits-could-weaken-acaprotections-against-catastrophic-costs-for-people-with-employer-coverage-nationwide/

Our Annual LGBTQ-Inclusive Preschool & Kindergarten Fair: an SF Tradition

by OFC Education Director Tarah Fleming

Our Family Coalition’s 5th Annual LGBTQ Inclusive Preschool & Kindergarten Fair was an incredible success!

Over 35 schools set up display tables at San Francisco Day School to show off their teachers and curriculum that foster respectful learning environments for all families. Over 90 caregivers strolled through with toddlers and infant carriers to have introductory conversations with school leaders. Families learned about the different community partners that worked together with Our Family Coalition to host this important and informative evening. The San Francisco Library displayed books featuring all kinds of families, and Community Well served fresh scones and berries while informing caregivers about the free classes they host for parents. San Francisco Unified and Parents for Public Schools took the mic and talked about the school enrollment process and People of Color in Independent Schools shared about their upcoming workshops.

As we enter into an era more aware and inclusive of LGBTQ families in schools, it is important to remember that it is also a time where the opposition is feeling emboldened to try and limit visibility, access and even rights. For this reason OFC is fully committed to creating spaces like the LGBTQ Inclusive Preschool & Kindergarten Fair, which also compliments the work of the FAIR Education Act, signed into law in 2011 and designed to ensure LGBTQ People are fairly represented in California public school curriculum and text books.

As we continue to engage families, teachers, community partners and school leaders in the work of creating equitable and just schools for all, we are reminded of the values many of us learned in kindergarten; love yourself and love others. This is much easier to do when your family is not only reflected back to you in all your school books, but loved and respected by the entire school community.

Check out the schools that participated here.

Three Things Parents of Toddlers and Young Kids Need to Know

We’re offering a fantastic workshop this Thursday, September 14: The First Five Years: Developmental Milestones and Parenting Matters.  In anticipation of it, we spoke with Dr. Dhara Meghani from University of San Francisco’s Parentline, an incredible local resource for parents offering free, confidential counseling (!) for parents of children 0-3 years old, and the source of our expert workshop facilitation.

Our question to Dr. Meghani: What three things do you think are most important for parents and caregivers to know about their babies, toddlers, and young kids, and yet most commonly misunderstood? Here’s what she had to say.

One: it’s normal for a baby to take a while to settle into a compatible sleep pattern. This is definitely a large source of family stress and anxiety. Knowing more about what a baby is capable of can help. And setting expectations realistically may alleviate concern.

Two: cognitive development is not a linear process: backsliding is not just common, it’s necessary. Just prepare for regressions and try to enjoy the ride. Dr. Meghani’s example was  brilliant: you know when you’re cleaning out the fridge? And the first thing you have to do is empty it all out on the kitchen counter? Well, that’s what kids are doing when they’re on the verge of a major developmental leap: in order to create the capacity for that new cognitive capacity, their brains literally prune out unnecessary neuronal pathways.

Three: it is totally normal to be freaked out! Rather than beat yourself up about being stressed, just keep your pediatrician on speed dial, or contact Parentline for support. Support groups for parents and caregivers – like those offered from organizations like Our Family Coalition – can provide critical life lines as well. Knowing others are going through what you’re going through can offer perspective, companionship, and sometimes some helpful new angles on a sticky challenge.

Want more of all this? Lindsey Rogers and Alicia Ranucci, doctoral students in the Clinical Psychology PsyD Program at USF work at Parentline, and will have a whole lot more to say at our workshop The First Five Years: Developmental Milestones and Parenting Matters, held this Thursday, September 14, 6-8pm at our San Francisco office. Advance registration always helpful (we calculate dinner and childcare based on it), but drop-ins welcome.

Help us get the expanded Parental Leave bill across the finish line!


From our colleagues at the California Work and Family Coalition:

Great news! It looks like we have a deal with the Governor’s office on our priority legislation – parental leave bill (SB 63 – Jackson) – and he is planning to sign! 

This is exciting news, but we still need to get the bill through the Assembly. Please call your Assemblymembers TODAY in their Capitol offices to urge them to vote “AYE” on SB 63. (Find your representative’s office number here.)

Here’s a sample script:
Hello, I live in Assemblymember __________________’s district (optional: I am a mother, father, health care provider, teacher, small business owner etc) and I’m calling to urge his/her ‘aye’ (or yes) vote on SB 63 (Jackson) the New Parent Leave Act. This is an important bill that allows more parents to bond with their new children. Do you know how the Assemblymember plans to vote on SB 63?

If you have a relationship with your Assemblymember or their office, and can have an even more detailed conversation, here’s what we’re stressing regarding the amendments to the bill: this provision creates a new mediation pilot program within the Department of Fair Employment and Housing so that the parties can elect to mediate their dispute before moving to the stage of filing a lawsuit.

Are you able to do more than call? If you are available, please also join us in the Capitol on Monday, September 11 or Tuesday, September 12 as we make the rounds to Assemblymember offices. We’ll be meeting at the 6th Floor Cafeteria at 10:00 am and again at 12:30 to connect before making the rounds.

I do hope some of you will join us at the Capitol on Monday or Tuesday next week. The bill is likely to be voted on on Tuesday in the Assembly.

In Solidarity,

Jenya Cassidy
CA Work and Family Coalition