The legal landscape for LGBT people today is quickly changing and hard to predict, but the trend over the last few years has been overwhelmingly positive—from the U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning the federal Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 being ruled unconstitutional, to the growing legion of states that have come to recognize same-sex marriage either by legislation or litigation. However, the work is far from done and marriage equality is only one front of the war—and potentially not even the most important.
What is truly at the center of the LGBT human-rights movement is the effort to advance state and federal legislation protecting people from workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The effort has crystallized around the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which has been introduced in every session of Congress since 1994 except one. If, after 20 years of congressional limbo, it’s signed into law, ENDA would bar employers from firing or not hiring someone because of their “actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Sports are often a mirror of society — the good and the bad. Yet while sports is often the one area where talent overrides racial, gender, and religious biases and prejudices, transgender athletes are still battling for acceptance.
A recent lawsuit filed by a California woman against CrossFit illustrates the challenge that transgender athletes face when attempting to compete in sexually divided sports. Chloie Jonsson, a personal trainer, charges the CrossFit company with discrimination, intentional infliction of emotional distress and unfair competition for prohibiting her from competing in a strength competition as a female. She is seeking $2.5 million in damages.
Ms. Jonsson’s struggle to compete as a woman after undergoing sexual reassignment surgery and hormone treatment raises many difficult legal questions about how athletic organizations should handle transgender athletes’ requests to compete in a given gender classification. To answer some of those questions I turned to the top LGBT lawyer in Philadelphia, Angela Giampolo. Ms. Giampolo, who runs PhillyGayLawyer.com, specializes in Corporate Law, Real Estate, International Law (Asia and Africa), Civil Rights, LGBT Law, and Estate Planning.
Home may be where the heart is, but having a roof over one’s head is one of the most basic of human needs. Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights includes “housing” on its list of essentials that everyone should have access to, alongside food, medicine and social services. Federal law in the United States largely agrees. Title VIII of the Civil Rights act of 1968, known as the Fair Housing Act, states that “it shall be unlawful to refuse to sell or rent … or otherwise make unavailable or deny, a dwelling to any person because of race, color, religion, sex, familial status or national origin.” Great! That means that no landlord or Realtor can ever discriminate against a person seeking a place to live based on who they are and what they look like … right? But what about LGBT people? Could a landlord or Realtor discriminate against a potential tenant or buyer based on his or her sexual orientation? What about based on gender identity? The answer in more than half of America — including in most of Pennsylvania — is, unfortunately, yes. This is a real problem.
Kim Stephan and Kate Peck spent a recent evening in the living room of their cozy home in Philadelphia reminiscing about the night they got engaged. Peck was a smooth operator: She invited Stephan to what she claimed was an exclusive Moby concert at a local concert hall, but there was no concert. Stephan was confused, at first, when she walked into the dark empty room. But then a spotlight clicked on, illuminating Peck, standing on stage dressed in a suit, a bucket of ice chilling a bottle of champagne at her feet. Peck didn’t even have to ask the question. Stephan said yes.
Regardless of the year, June 26 is a date that LGBT Americans will never forget. On that day in 2003, the Supreme Court of the United States found Texas’ anti-sodomy laws unconstitutional in Lawrence v. Texas and, 10 years later, the top court gave us another huge victory when it ruled that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional because it violated our Fifth-Amendment rights.
It was a palpable moment where our government validated and deemed equal the love shared between two people in the LGBT community. But the tears of joy have long since dried, the rainbow flags have been folded and put away and here we are in Pennsylvania still waiting for our state to acknowledge us. I don’t know about you, but as state after state (TEXAS?!) begins to stand on the right side of history, my patience for Pennsylvania is wearing thin. Yet, as we look back 50 years ago to the not-too-distant past, the timeline for same-sex marriage is shockingly on par with that of the anti-miscegenation laws overturned to fully legalize interracial marriage.
Remember the good old days of marriage when all you had to worry about choosing was a centerpiece and whether or not to invite that annoying second cousin on your mother’s side of the family? These days, as the battle for national recognition of same-sex marriage rages on, choosing what state you get married in is more important than ever—and not just the venue.
What very few heterosexual people know and, shockingly, very few gay people realize, is that while 18 states will now grant and recognize same-sex marriages, they almost all have residency requirements, often for up to a year, in order to file for a divorce—essentially leaving a couple “wedlocked.” Your state of celebration and state of residence might not see eye to eye on the issue of same-sex marriage and, while the federal government will now recognize your nuptials after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was unconstitutional because it violated Fifth Amendment rights in United States v. Windsor, 133 S. Ct. 2675 (2013), you could find yourself wedlocked if you do not choose wisely.
Philadelphia has gained national recognition for its growing number of influential lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI) organizations. Organizations such as The Attic Youth Center, the Mazzoni Center, Galaei and the Black Gay Men’s Leadership Council have been trailblazers concerning progressive grass roots efforts on behalf of the LBGTQI communities. This notoriety can be greatly attributed to the work of Philadelphia entrepreneurs and organization founders, leaders and staff. These community leaders have revolutionized how LGBTQI political and social rights are fought for, how services are formed and how eventually these services will be provided. These leaders have increased the level of intra-community compromise and cooperation to ensure the protections afforded one community would be shared with the others. Introduced below are seven of the most influential Philadelphia LBGTQI leaders we think you should know.
Rainbow ribbons were ceremoniously cut this week at the John C. AndersonApartment building at 249 S. 13th Street in the heart of Philadelphia’s Gayborhood. The residences are the third of its kind in America — after Los Angeles and Minneapolis — offering affordable housing to Philadelphia’s LGBT seniors, and the first to be developed in the country financed in part with the sale of low-income housing tax credits.
When Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into Russian legislation a law that criminalized all conduct supporting, encouraging or positively portraying the LGBT orientation in June 2013, it sparked an international outcry that has been growing in intensity, especially leading into the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. This broad law specifically bans “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations,” making it illegal to distribute information on gay rights or even suggest that homosexual relationships are equal to their heterosexual counterparts. The law was originally conceived and enacted to protect the well-being of minors, but it has been enforced through countless brutal civil rights violations that have outraged human rights activists and world leaders alike.