Category Archives: News

We can and must defeat this anti-LGBTQ family amendment

Every week we are faced with another gratuitous challenge to the gains LGBTQ people and our families had so recently made, or an affront to human decency. This week it’s both.

On Wednesday, the House Appropriations Committee approved a harshly anti-LGBTQ family amendment to an existing bill, allowing child service agencies widespread license to discriminate against LGBTQ people –or against interfaith couples, or single parents, or any other prospective parents who don’t pass the agency’s or its staff’s religious muster.

And more: the bill not only enshrines discrimination based on “religious or moral beliefs,” but it would discriminate against states who ban anti-LGBT discrimination in child placement services – such as ours – by denying such states 15% of their federal annual adoption dispersals. The effect: the federal government would disproportionately fund adoption and foster placements in “religious recusal” or legally discriminatory states.

This is more than outrageous, this is inhumane. More than 440,000 children are in foster care right now; 117,000 are waiting for adoption; more than 20,000 age out before finding a permanent family. Two million LGBTQ adults have expressed interest in becoming foster or adoptive parents: it’s beyond time to end this pointless discrimination, in the best interest of the children.

Because the amendment is attached to the bill that provides funding for the Department of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, to kill this amendment representatives need to vote against the entire funding package. But House Democrats and moderate Republicans could work together against, and they must.

We know from impacts on the Affordable Care Act and family separation that public outcry has an impact. Our voices can and will make a difference!

Here’s what you can do today:

  • Contact your representative. Demand they oppose this inhumane attempt to enshrine anti-LGBTQ discrimination nationwide. If they’re already on record in opposition, encourage them to raise their voice louder, and assure them you have their back.
  • Join the mailing list of the Every Child Deserves a Family campaign to stay updated: ECDF is a federal act – introduced last year by John Lewis (D-GA) in the House and Kirsten Gillebrand (D-NY) in the Senate – calling on child welfare agencies to make placement decisions on the basis of the best interest of the child, not an agency’s or its workers’ religious beliefs.
  • Share your story: Our Family Coalition is always interested in collecting and publishing your story, whether you are a foster parent or youth, an LGBTQ parent, a child welfare professional, or an ally. Or join the Speaker’s Bureau at Our Family Coalition. In print or in person, your voice will help spread real understanding about real families. We need this now more than ever.

We are here for one another; we are here for the children, and we will continue fighting against bigotry, together, in the name of love.

Win, lose, or draw: we still have work to do!

Dear families and friends:

This morning’s Supreme Court ruling in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case wasn’t a win, or a loss: it was a draw.

“Religious exemption” arguments may not be used to justify discrimination against LGBTQ people. And LGBTQ people in the 19 states who are currently protected – as in California – remain just as protected today as we were yesterday.

But the court missed an opportunity to strike down those “religious exemption” arguments once and for all. The larger issues remain unresolved by the court, so we still have a lot of work ahead of us to ensure nondiscrimination protections nation-wide.

For those unfamiliar with the case, here’s a thumbnail sketch from the ACLU:

“In 2012, Mullins and Craig visited the Masterpiece Cakeshop to order a cake for their wedding.  After the bakery turned the would-be customers away because they were a same-sex couple, Mullins and Craig filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The commission found that the bakery had discriminated against the couple in violation of Colorado law, a decision the Colorado courts upheld. The Supreme Court today found that members of the Commission had made statements evidencing anti-religious bias, and thus had not given a fair consideration to the bakery’s claims.”

So: the ruling was in favor of the baker, but in a very narrow, “case-specific” way. What does that mean?

We still have work to do: we must continue to vigorously oppose “religious exemption” arguments to justify discrimination, and  we must continue to vigorously advocate for federal-level protections for all LGBTQ people via the Equality Act. Our Family Coalition Emeritus Board member and nationally-recognized family law expert Deborah Wald underscores the need for this kind of legistation:

“While we respect every person’s right to practice their religion, we cannot be a country where businesses can choose to cater to only one race, one religion, or one sexual orientation or gender.  Each of us must have the right to walk into any store on any street in America with confidence that we will be treated with respect.”

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees we all have the right to pracice our own religion, or no religion at all. But it has never meant that religion can be used as justification to discriminate. Father Richard Smith, Vicar of St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church in San Francisco, clarifies how important this is for all of us, regardless of faith:

“If it was morally reprehensible in the Jim Crow south for business owners to refuse to serve people who were black, it is equally reprehensible for them now to refuse to serve people who are gay. For too long, bogus theological and legal claims have justified discrimination. Let’s call this one what it is: sheer bigotry that denies the dignity of human beings created in God’s image.”

What can you do today?

  • If they don’t already, urge your representative to support the Equality Act, which amends the Civil Rights act to include LGBTQ people – and if they do, thank them!
  • If they don’t already, urge your representative to support Do No Harm Act, which amends the Religious Fredom Restoration Act to ensure it’s not used in a discriminatory way– and if they do, thank them!
  • Join our Speaker’s Bureau and help amplify the voices of LGBTQ family in all these issues affecting us.
  • Support Our Family Coalition’s ongoing efforts to ensure equity for all of us.

It was never about the cake. And: the baker’s win is not, in simple terms, our loss. But we still have work to do. We’re honored to do it together with you.

Yours in solidarity,

Renata Moreira
Executive Director

P.S. Our friends at the National Equality Action Team and the ACLU have made it easy to find a rally in your area to show your support of nondiscrimination protections and opposition to the use of religion as a weapon.

Guess who’s being honored in this year’s SF Pride Parade?

Hello, beautiful families and friends,

Our Family Coalition is honored to be among this year’s San Francisco Pride Community Grand Marshals and Honorees!

We will be accepting San Francisco Pride’s José Julio Sarria History Maker Award * on behalf of the FAIR Education Act Implementation Coalition, for which we’re the convening and lead agency.  We’re honored to accept the award on behalf of our many FAIR Education Act Implementation Coalition partners: The Committee on LGBT HistoryGSA Network,  the LA LGBT Center, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Equality California, the Safe Schools Coalition, and leaders such as Don Romesburg, Carolyn Laub, and Judy Appel, who worked hard in or alongside Our Family Coalition for years to get LGBT history into CA’s textbooks.

Fourteen individuals and organizations have also been recognized among this year’s Community Grand Marshals and Honorees for the inspiring work they have been doing on behalf of our community. We offer them our hearty congratulations, and invite you to check them out here.

San Francisco Pride’s José Julio Sarria History Maker Award is given to “Bay Area people who make extraordinary changes in the way society views the LGBTQ community.”  And what an honor for the FAIR Ed Act Implementation Coalition to be awarded it! Because that’s exactly the aim of our work.

Our goal, shared by the half-dozen-plus agencies we lead in this coalition, is to ensure that the six million students in California’s K-12 public schools – along with all our future generations – receive an education that includes knowledge about LGBTQ people, our families, and our contributions in history and social science.

It has taken more than a village and more than a decade to get this far, and the work is far from done to make this goal into a reality.  Please help us keep working county by county, district by district, to ensure that teachers are able to receive the training and support they want and need to deliver this curriculum effectively. For our kids, and for the generation that’s growing up alongside them.

And stay tuned for more! Because we just may be marching a little closer to the front of the parade this year. 😉

With pride and gratitude,

Renata Moreira,
Executive Director, Our Family Coalition

New GOP “license to discriminate bill reintroduced.” Act now.

The GOP is bound and determined to use the calamity of Trump’s presidency and their current House and Senate majorities to do as much damage to our communities as possible.  Yesterday brought another very consequential threat, and it must not go unnoticed.

Republican senators just re-introduced the so-called “First Amendment Defense Act” (FADA). This news remains out of the media limelight today, but it’s huge: this bill would weaponize a narrow spectrum of conservative religious beliefs about marriage and sexuality, granting agencies across the country even more widespread license to discriminate against LGBTQ families, LGBTQ individuals, unmarried folks of all kinds, and a host of others. For example:

  • government employees could refuse to serve married same-sex couples and their families in critical ways such as not processing tax returns, visa applications, or Social Security checks;
  • employers could refuse to grant employees family or medical leave to take care of their same-sex spouses;
  • employers could fire an unmarried female employee for getting pregnant;
  • hospitals could refuse to allow visitation to same-sex partners and spouses;
  • social services like homeless shelters, drug treatment programs, and adoption agencies could turn away anyone who has had sex outside of a man-woman marriage; and
  • commercial landlords could refuse to provide housing to a single mother.

They’ve been at this for years, but ramped up big time when Trump took office. With last year’s Justice Department guideline on “religious freedom,” anti-LGBTQ discrimination became more than tolerated: it’s receiving tax advantages. The recently established federal “Division of Conscience and Religious Freedom” is meant to accomplish the same aims.

So now, GOP senators have re-introduced First Amendment Defense Act. It’s a body blow to LGBTQ people, to the separation of church and state, and to our constitutional democracy.

We at Our Family Coalition join with hundreds of partners across the state and nation to push back against ill-informed leaders who use religion as a weapon to hurt LGBTQ families and communities.

What can you do?

We cannot allow our communities’ rights to be rolled back to medieval times. Let us take action, let us pool our resources,  and let us be guided by our love – of our children and of justice.

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.

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/

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