LGBT Civil Rights Under Attack

This week the Trump administration took two aggressive actions against the rights of LGBT people that could certainly have a direct, significant, and negative impact on LGBT law enforcement professionals.  First, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a memo overturning President Obama’s interpretation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act to include employment protections for transgender people under the existing definition of gender in the Act.  In his memo, Sessions wrote:

“Title VII’s prohibition on sex discrimination encompasses discrimination between men and women but does not encompass discrimination based on gender identity per se, including transgender status.”

This action gives employers, including law enforcement executives, the ability to legally fire someone because they are transgender.  While there are a few states with protections against this kind of discrimination, the majority of states in the country do not have laws to protect against this kind of action, even for law enforcement officers.

Perhaps the most sweeping and potentially damaging act came today when the Attorney General released a second directive related to religious freedom.  He wrote:

“Religious liberty is not merely a right to personal religious beliefs or even to worship in a sacred place, Except in the narrowest circumstances, no one should be forced to choose between living out his or her faith and complying with the law,” Sessions wrote. “To the greatest extent practicable and permitted by law, religious observance and practice should be reasonably accommodated in all government activity.”

The Attorney General has given license to government officials and private business owners to refuse service to LGBT people on the basis of their individual and personal religious beliefs.  Again, in states where laws exist to protect access to service from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, this directive has no impact, but for much of the country, LGBT people could face harsh forms of discrimination.

We condemn both of these actions and urge every member of the LGBTQ+ community and our allies to speak out in protest. This is a call to action.  Every member of our community needs to take some level of action to oppose this administration’s efforts to undermine our rights and to relegate further into second-class status.  Give to a local LGBT civil rights organization or to a national organization.  The National Center For Lesbian Rights and Human Rights Campaign both are fighting hard against this administration.  No matter your feelings about these two organizations, they are the ones in Washington with the greatest ability to fight for us.  We can expect this problem to grow worse.  We are beyond “waiting to see what will happen.”

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Model Recruitment Campaign

San Jose, California is the nation’s tenth largest city and located in the heart of Silicon Valley where companies like Apple and Google call home.  The San Jose Police Department is actively recruiting to fill hundreds of police officer jobs and Chief Eddie Garcia has created a model recruitment campaign targeting the LGBT community.  Chief Garcia is committed to hiring a rank and file that represent the diversity within San Jose and he recognizes that LGBT people are currently not represented as prominently in his department as they should be.

We had a chance to meet with Chief Garcia at his request earlier this year and are pleased to share with the world the model recruitment campaign he and his talented staff produced.

The campaign includes posters and videos with a consistent theme and message intended for lesbian and gay officers.  And while they don’t specifically call on transgender people by name, they do clearly include couples of various gender combinations.  The heart of the recruitment message is that “all families” are welcome to join the San Jose PD family.  It’s brilliant.

It’s one thing to put on a recruitment flier some generic “all minority applicants are encouraged to apply” message and quite another to design one that messages a specific minority group with a direct call to apply.  This is how departments should be designing recruitment campaigns for all groups under represented in the rank and file.  Potential applicants need to see themselves in the images used and the text should call to them specifically.  If you want lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender applicants, then say it.

The videos San Jose PD created can be used on television and of course on social media.  They will be seen by current potential applicants and, most importantly, by aspiring applicants who might not otherwise have even considered law enforcement as a career because of stereotypical beliefs that LGBT people either wouldn’t be welcome or even eligible to apply.  It’s one thing to say you want LGBT applicants and even more to show what that looks like.

Each version of the video includes the same message and campaign theme.  The message is clear and strong – “we want your family to join our family.”

San Jose PD is launching this campaign during the annual Pride celebration in San Jose.  In addition, Chief Garcia created an LGBT Liaison position to continue this relationship building effort moving forward.  LGBT Liaison officers are essential for every law enforcement agency, large and small.  They not only help with recruitment, but they work on building trust between sexual orientation and gender non-conforming minorities.  Unlike race and other visible minorities, LGBT people are largely invisible, so without a visible point of contact through a designated LGBT Liaison officer, law enforcement agencies are working in the dark with any effort to connect with the LGBT community.

One of the intended outcomes of this targeted recruitment campaign is to encourage still closeted San Jose PD personnel to come out.  There are several lesbian officers who are “out”, but only two gay men who are “out” on the department of over 800.  The Chief has said that he recognizes changing the culture within a police department is difficult and a slow process, but he is committed to the idea that everyone in his rank and file should be able to bring there entire self to work.  Campaigns like this one show commitment to his word and send a strong and visible message to the agency culture that LGBT employees are valued and that you can be “out.”

We applaud Chief Garcia and the San Jose Police Department for creating a model for all law enforcement agencies on how to effectively recruit applicants from under represented groups within the community.  We are especially pleased to see such an effort being made to call out to LGBT applicants.  Bravo!

For information about this recruitment campaign, please call:

Officer James Gonzales at James.gonzales@sanjoseca.gov
Officer John Reinert at John.reinert@sanjoseca.gov

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Transgender Military Policy

The recent action taken by Trump to ban transgender people from the United States Military harkens of President Eisenhower’s infamous Executive Order 10450, issued in 1953, banning non-heterosexuals from serving in the United States government and labeling them “perverts.”  Is this the next step?  A role back of the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” or will he go even further?”  Perhaps even more disrespectful than the action itself was the fact that Trump issued this order via Twitter without so much as one bit of consideration for the dedicated citizens under “his command.”

Executive Order 10450 was based in fear created largely by Senator Joe McCarthy who, after not being able to find enough communist in the government, had to find another source to fear.  This presidential order lead to a witch-hunt that spread far beyond the federal government and it stigmatized the entire gay community.  We are far beyond that today, but Trump seeks to create the same kind of witch-hunt in order to appease conservatives who refuse to become educated and informed about gender identity issues.  But no matter the reason for the fear, the action taken by Trump is aggressively discriminatory.  UCLA’s William’s Institute estimates there are already 15,500 transgender people in the military.  This order doesn’t just prevent further recruitment, it puts in jeopardy the livelihood and rights of existing members.

We condemn this action and see it as directly and overtly hostile to the rights of U.S. citizens who happen to be transgender.  It’s a step toward threatening non-heterosexual identities and it must be stopped.  We fully support OutServe’s position and intent to fight this order using the United States Constitution and the 14th Amendment to suppress this discriminatory action.

Matthew F. Thorn, Executive Director of OutServe-SLDN, released the following statement:

“The President’s order to remove transgender service members from the United States armed forces is nothing less than a purge. He is implementing this purge based on bigotry, motivated by agents of an ideology that has no concern for the national defense, and in blatant disregard of the experience of career officers who spent more than a year developing and implementing the current policy.

It is inconceivable that a man with a demonstrated incompetence in managing the small staff of the White House should have any credibility when it comes to making sound personnel decisions that will effect a fighting force of more than 1.8 million men and women.

We recognize this purge for what it is – a discriminatory attack on the people who have volunteered their lives for the defense of the country. It is arbitrary and capricious, a callous and questionable exercise of constitutional authority which is beneath the dignity of a Commander-in-Chief.

We condemn the actions of the White House in initiating this purge. We condemn the disregard that the President has shown to transgender men and women who wear the uniform. We condemn the intent of any person who would make it the mission of United States military to discriminate against the very citizens they are charged to defend. And we condemn the indifference of any elected official who does not now stand up for both military personnel and the LGBT community by opposing this purge.

OutServe-SLDN with our partner Lambda Legal will be immediately filing a lawsuit in federal court to challenge this action.

To all of the police chiefs and sheriffs who have already taken a stand and made a public statement to their officers and the community welcoming and supporting transgender members of law enforcement – thank you.  Your words and support are critical and appreciated.

We encourage every chief of police and sheriff to speak out and communicate to the rank and file and to their respective communities that the discriminatory actions of a President do not represent the opinions and actions of your department and local community.

 

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Book Club Reviews COFBTB

The AAUW-OML book club in my home town recently reviewed the newest edition of “Coming Out From Behind The Badge.”  We couldn’t be more happy!

“This book includes valuable documentation of the key events and evolution of the gay rights movement and courageous personal stories. I was very moved by Greg’s journey and the anecdotal accounts of other officers–male and female-who risked their lives and their careers every day, who found their way to come out. Both the original publication, written a decade ago, and the updated 2nd edition reflecting the dramatic changes in gay rights, support a charitable foundation that helps LGBT law enforcement professionals in their career struggles.”

To read the full article, click here: omlcabookreview

Posted in Announcements

Remaining United as a Community and a Movement

I’m troubled by fractures I’m witnessing in the LGBT community where groups are pitting one against the other to the extent we are excluding groups from participating in events like pride.  In the last six months, I’ve seen examples of LGBT law enforcement officers specifically targeted and deliberately excluded from participating in LGBT community events because another LGBT group claims discomfort or dissatisfaction with law enforcement – not the individual officers being excluded, just generally with law enforcement.  And I’m hearing more threats from anarchist-type extremist groups who wish to disrupt pride parades this year if law enforcement participates in the event.  That’s right, these groups don’t even want other lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, who happen to be law enforcement officers, marching because they somehow pose a threat.

The very reason we have pride celebrations today is to mark the occasion of several notable conflicts between police and the LGBT community.  Some of these conflicts, such as the Compton Cafeteria riots and Stonewall riots were exceptionally violent, but they caused a shift to happen.  The created change that today includes LGBT people serving in the rank and file in law enforcement.  Straight allies in law enforcement work to support the community and have, for more than a decade, marched together with the community in pride parades across the country.  In those early years, we were screaming for acceptance, support, and respectful treatment by police.  We worked to build a relationship and the police worked with our community.  It’s unacceptable that a small minority voice who has a beef with police would be able to exclude members of the LGBT community from participating in our community event.

Look, these are challenging times.  There are wide ranging opinions and beliefs about law enforcement, but exclusion is not the answer to fixing these problems or to building community.  I’ve said many times that you can’t have it both ways – wanting a relationship and trust, but not wanting participation by police in community events – especially when those participating are also members of the community.  Aside from the obvious hypocrisy, it’s not in our interest as a community to fragment.  We need EVERYONE, including allies, to be with us in our fight for equality and to stand against the challenges we face to our civil rights.  The very last thing we need to have happen in our community is to break apart, to lesson our numbers, or to become any less visible than we have been.  In fact, the opposite needs to happen.  We need to become more united, more visible, and recruit additional allies.

To those who reject corporate sponsorship and participation in pride celebration, I say don’t be a fool.  The money sponsors bring to the event pays for the permits, venues, and our ability to be seen and to share our message with the world.  The visibility corporate contingents bring to a parade shows the strength and commitment of our allies.  This is what we were craving in the early years and what we desperately need to continue our fight.  We cannot do it alone and any extremist group that thinks we don’t need the involvement of large organizations and corporate funding is naive.  Every gain we’ve realized over the last 8 years has happened in part because of strong support from allies and corporate America.  United with our allies we must remain.

The anarchists and extremists who advocate exclusion and disruption of pride events are working against the movement and our community.  They seek to harm, not help.  In fact, I question the motivation of these groups and suspect they create disruption for the sake of doing it and for whatever personal gain and satisfaction it might bring to the individuals involved.  I doubt it reflects at all their commitment to the movement as a whole.  Disrupting or stopping a pride parade is not an effective way to address grievances with law enforcement.  It will only alienate our own community and those who stand with us.

I call upon all LGBT organizations, large and small, to stand together and to reject the efforts of any group to exclude law enforcement or other LGBT people from participating in community events like pride.  LGBT organizations needs to take a stand and condemn obstructionist behaviors.  We must reject fragmentation and we must stay focused on achieving our goals for civil rights and equality.

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