Friday, June 28, 2013

The HRC working on trans equality

by Autumn Sandeen
Originally Published: June 27th, 2013

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) bills itself as the largest LGBT civil rights organization in the U.S., but it has a reputation of not being trans friendly. In the 110th Congress (2007/2008), the HRC was the only LGBT civil rights organization that supported the non-trans-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) put forward in 2007 by congressional leadership. And recently there was an incident at the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) rally in Washington, D.C. involving a trans man holding a trans flag on the speaker stage and an HRC staffer asking the man three times to leave the stage with the flag because “marriage equality isn’t a transgender issue.” Marriage equality very much is a trans issue – a component of the discussion that hasn’t been messaged.
But the HRC has been recently working on trans issues in a way most trans people aren’t aware of, and if I could fault them on this aspect of their work is that they’re not highlighting it enough to the trans community. Being more vocal and transparent about their trans work is one of the ways that the HRC can build trust with trans people.
June 19 the governor of Delaware signed an anti-discrimination and hate crimes protection law based on gender identity. Field organizers Sarah Warbelow and Karl Bach were dispatched by the HRC to work on both that bill and the state’s marriage equality bill. Their strategy included working with local organizers, such as the Equality Delaware coalition (a coalition led by unpaid staffers Lisa Goodwin and Mark Purpura), and their tactics included keeping the gender identity bill as much as possible below the radar. They had trans people, such as trans men Jay and Matthew, who quietly organized community and allies to support the bill.
By quietly organizing on the gender identity bill, the opposition “heat” was almost exclusively directed at the marriage equality bill, and therefore representatives in both of their legislative branch houses were not deluged with anti-transgender emails, phone calls or snail mail.
The HRC raised money specifically to work on the gender identity bill, and hired six additional contract field organizers. The eight organizers began mobilizing on the ground in January. They used the human infrastructure for the marriage equality bill to go back to the same legislators, who were lobbied and voted for the marriage equality bill, to message that the gender equality bill was also an equality bill. And, 5,000 lobbying communications with legislators were logged for the gender identity bill; those included emails, postcards and in-person lobbying of Delaware legislators. The HRC field organizers also trained those in-person lobbyists prior to them visiting their legislators, and trained people how to write concise letters to the editor of local publications in support of the gender identity bill.
By staying low key, the coalition working on the gender identity bill didn’t have to deal with the “bathroom bill” meme. To sate the arguments by the concerns some legislators had about facilities with unavoidable nudity – such as locker rooms – the bill spelled out that trans people could not be required to use a facility that conflicted with their gender identities; however, reasonable accommodations could be made. So if a business, such as a gym, only had male and female facilities, then a trans person could be accommodated by being provided a curtain to change behind in the facility that corresponded to the trans person’s gender identity as a legal allowed public accommodation.
And it’s not like this is the first time the HRC has worked on trans anti-discrimination legislation. They provided field organizers and/or other resources to combat the Arizona “papers to pee” legislation, as well as providing field organizers and/or other resources toward passing anti-discrimination legislation in Maryland and New York – states where we haven’t as yet achieved antidiscrimination protections based on gender identity, but without a doubt will achieve in the future.
The HRC is actively working on achieving ordinary equality for trans people. Having the best funded, largest LGBT organization working for trans equality can’t be seen as anything but a great thing – especially when seen in the light of the big victory for trans equality in Delaware.
Frankly, I’m delighted to highlight the HRC’s efforts on transgender issues. These need to be highlighted for so many reasons, but especially because if the HRC is to build trust with the trans community, trans people need to know what the HRC is doing with and for them.

Read the original article from LGBT Weekly here: 

Female scientists campaign for change in gender inequality in science

Originally Published: June 28th, 2013

London’s Southbank will be transformed into a hub of scientific learning and discussion next Friday [5 July] as some of the UK’s leading female scientists take to their soapboxes to showcase science to the general public at an event co-founded by a University of Bristol researcher.

Soapbox Science, a collaboration between the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and L’OrĂ©al-UNESCO For Women in Science, aims to eliminate gender inequality in science by raising the profile, and challenging the public's view, of women and science.

Founded by Dr Seirian Sumner from Bristol's School of Biological Sciences and Dr Nathalie Pettorelli, a research fellow at the ZSL, Soapbox Science is championing a change in gender inequality in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) by highlighting the struggles many women face when pursuing a career in scientific research. Its long-term priorities are to change the game for women in science by campaigning for equality and good practice in society, academic institutions, and government.

Soapbox Science strips away the PowerPoint presentations and jargon to bring the best of science to the streets. Now in its fourth year, the event features some of the UK’s top female scientists from the fields of biology, physics, chemistry and engineering. The speakers will take to their soapboxes to talk passionately about their subjects and answer any of the public’s burning science questions.

The event has gathered support from renowned institutions including the British Ecological Society, Society of General Microbiology, Francis Crick Institute and the British Society for Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, demonstrating the importance of tackling gender inequalities in science. And, this year, actor, writer, comedian and science populariser Robin Ince is lending his support by hosting a Speaker’s Workshop to meet the Soapbox Science speakers and provide insight into science communication to the masses.

Dr Pettorelli said: "Now in its fourth year, Soapbox Science is a platform to showcase the most eminent female scientists in the UK, and to highlight some very serious issues that we have witnessed as mid-career scientists: the disappearance of our female peers. We cannot afford to lose any more brainpower to gender inequality, as it is unfair that women should have to accept that they are battling against all odds if they want a career in science.”

Dr Sumner added: "Through events like Soapbox Science and our Campaign for Change, we want to actively bring women of all career stages together and promote that women can have a career in science. More broadly, the STEM community needs visible female role models, like our speakers who are willing to engage, and share their experiences to push for implementation of new measures. We hope that our event will inspire a new generation of scientists and highlight that with a few small changes, such as career breaks and part time working, the female ‘brain drain’ doesn’t have to exist."

This year's event takes place on Friday 5 July from12pm to 3pm at The Southbank, (Gabriel’s Wharf), London, SE1 9PP

Campaign for Change

Institution-based support for scientists in the early years must improve. In science, the early career years demand a high level of instability with scientists moving between short-term, low paid contracts in order to build the experience and diverse skill set required to secure the much sought-after permanent positions. With these years perhaps coinciding with the time when many may wish to start a family, there can be conflicting demands which put enormous pressure on young scientists. Without institution-based support, such as affordable child care, most early career scientists who become parents find the bulk of their salaries consumed by nursery fees, often making it unaffordable to continue working. Institutes and universities must take responsibility in reducing pressures on early career scientists by making it acceptable for them to balance work demands and personal responsibilities, and help them to do so.

Government policy should change to allow men to take equal responsibility in family life. The power for change also lies with men. In relationships where the man and woman take an equal role in childcare and parental leave, the woman is likely to find it much easier to have a career in science. However, it is currently not perceived as socially acceptable for men to be taking on part-time work, flexible work or substantial parental leave. To increase the representation of women in STEM fields, we need to make career breaks and part-time work more acceptable to men. Changing social norms to reduce the loss of women from science is perhaps the most challenging yet important and wide-reaching change needed.

The visibility of women in science must be enhanced. Visibility is an important component of a scientist’s career. Helping female scientists improve their profile is a powerful way to help build opportunities for themselves, and increase the likelihood of them staying in STEM careers. The STEM community needs visible female role models, willing to engage and share their experiences to ensure women's representation in science improves. Events such as Soapbox Science help to raise female scientists’ profiles.

Read the original article from University of Bristol here: 

27 years in jail to end racism: Why South African children love Mandela

Originally Published: June 28th, 2013

Children hold candles and sing the song
Children hold candles and sing the song "Amazing Grace". Picture: AP

IMAGINE living in a country where your political leader is an internationally revered hero who changed the world.
A person who spent 27 years in prison for his beliefs - the fight to end racism against his people.
A man whose bravery and amazing deeds inspired a world movement to free him - and who walked from jail with an air of humility and an infectious grin.
As politicians in Canberra spent the week knifing each other and Australians watched on, South Africans this week were absorbed with the failing health of perhaps the greatest and the most humble politician on the planet.
Legendary anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela, 94, is lying in hospital and citizens and schoolchildren are gathered outside singing and praying for their beloved "Tatu" - the nation's grandfather.
As an antidote to days of treachery in this country's capital, decided to look at the incredible life and politics of Nelson Mandela.
Here's how and why a man branded as a "terrorist" and a "revolutionary" became a symbol for peace and racial equality:
1. The son of an African tribal chief, Rolilahla "Nelson" Mandela trained as a lawyer and became a founding member of the African National Congress (ANC) which rose up against the new Afrikaaner government of 1948 and its policy of apartheid, or racial segregation which institutionalised poverty and inequality for black people in South Africa.
Nelson Mandela, pictured in the early 1960s, before he was sentenced in 1964 to life in prison for sabotage. The government did not release photos of Mandela during his many years in prison, and few people knew what he looked like at the time of his release. Picture: News Limited.
2. As a political activist and a black man under a white extremist government, Mandela went underground to prevent being arrested for his anti-government activities. He became known as the "Black Pimpernel" - a take on the fictional French revolutionary figure the Scarlet Pimpernel - because of his because of his ability to avoid the police using disguises, a favourite of which was a chauffeur's uniform.
A young Nelson Mandela boxing. Picture: News Limited
A young Nelson Mandela boxing. Picture: News Limited
3. He formed the ANC's military wing, the Umkhonto we Sizwe or MK, in 1961 and led a bombing campaign against governments targets. Accused of treason against the South African government, he was arrested in 1962 and charged with sabotage and conspiracy to overthrow the government by violence. He was brought to trial along with other ANC and anti-apartheid leaders.
 The jail on Robben Island where Mandela was held for 18 of his 27 years in prison. Picture: Supplied.
The jail on Robben Island where Mandela was held for 18 of his 27 years in prison. Picture: Supplied.
4. On June 12, 1964, he was sentenced to life imprisonment and was jailed at the Robben Island Prison (pictured above), 12km from Cape Town, off the coast of South Africa where he spent the first 18 years of his incarceration. His Robben Island prison number was 46664, which later became a symbol in the campaign for his freedom. While in prison he was allowed only one visit a year of 30 minutes duration, and permitted to write and receive only a few letters.
The man who changed the world
The man who changed the world
5. During his imprisonment he contracted tuberculosis, which caused the lung damage which makes him susceptible to the pulmonary infection he is suffering from today. He was moved to another penitentiary, Pollsmoor Prison on the mainland, for the final nine years of his custody.
6. An international campaign lobbied for his release. A song Free Nelson Mandela, written by Jerry Dammers and performed by his British band The Special A.K.A became an anthem for his release.
Nelson Mandela and wife Winnie raise fists upon his release from, 11 February 1990. Picture: AFP.
Nelson Mandela and wife Winnie raise fists upon his release from, 11 February 1990. Picture: AFP.
7. Amid growing civil strife, the South African Government freed him on February 11, 1990. Mandela walked from prison with his then wife, Winnie, waving and smiling. He then spoke to a crowd of about 50,000 people, who had waited for hours to see him, expressing his sincere and warmest gratitude to the "millions of my compatriots and those in every corner of the globe who have campaigned tirelessly for my release".
8. Mandela became ANC president and led negotiations with the Afrikaaner President F.W. de Klerk to abolish apartheid and establish multiracial elections in 1994, in which he led the ANC to victory.
9. As his country's first black president, Mandela formed a Government of National Unity to ease ethnic tensions and established a new constitution which abolished racism. He instituted an inquiry into human rights abuses and introduced policies to encourage land ownership for black South Africans, to combat poverty and to provide health care.
Mandela in July 2012. Picture: AP.
Mandela in July 2012. Picture: AP.
10. Mandela and de Klerk were jointly awarded the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize "for their work for the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime, and for laying the foundations for a new democratic South Africa". Mandela stepped down from office in 1999 and in retirement he established the Nelson Mandela Foundation to combat poverty and HIV/AIDS. He has received more than 250 international awards, including the US Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Soviet Order of Lenin.

Read the original article from here: 

Supreme Court: The state of civil rights in America

by Kate Daily
Originally Published: June 27th, 2013

Wmoen celebrate in front of the Supreme CourtProponents of gay marriage celebrated in front of the Supreme Court

The US Supreme Court this week made it more difficult to ensure voting access and recognised more benefits for gay couples. As the court comes to a close, was it a good week or a bad week for civil rights?
The Supreme Court has published its final opinion of this term, closing on what some are calling a banner note for civil rights.
The court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, opening the door for couples who are legally married in states that recognise gay marriage to receive the same federal benefits as heterosexual couples.
It also declined to rule on California's Proposition 8 banning gay marriage, deciding instead to send the case back to a lower court, which had already invalidated the ban.
Game director Jason Rubin echoed the thoughts of many when he tweeted: "Strike down of #DOMA and death of #Prop8 are big steps in the civil rights movement of my lifetime. I am proud to witness and support."
But the rulings related to gay marriage came just a day after other rulings - including one on the federal law that protects the rights of minority voters - had activists worried that civil rights could be in peril.
In the voting rights case, justices revisited the Voting Rights Act, a 50-year-old law designed to protect minority voters. In part, it requires jurisdictions in 15 US states to receive federal approval when changing election laws.
While the court did not invalidate the law, it did require that Congress update the formula used to determine which states needed monitoring.
"The ruling is a major blow to civil rights advocates as it is widely believed that Congress, which currently uses data from as far back as the 1970s to determine that formula, will not be able to pass a new formula into law," wrote Sahil Kapur at Talking Points Memo. "As a result, the ruling has the practical effect of neutering the pre-clearance requirement."
As the week comes to a close, we asked experts: was it a good one or a bad one for civil rights?
States' rights rule supreme
The rulings both speak to the rights of the states to determine and protect the rights of their citizens, whether it's the federal government deferring to states' definitions of marriage or the right of states to determine their own voting regulations.
"They both support the notion of a reduced federal voice and limited federal power," said Jose Gabilondo, professor of law at Florida International University.
That fits with the general direction of the court under Chief Justice John Roberts, which favours the rights of states and businesses over federal intervention, Mr Gabilondo said. The trend can dangerous for the rights of minority groups who often benefit from consistent federal protection, he said.
Still, making a blanket statement about civil rights can be difficult, in large part because there is seldom consistency within the world of civil rights, which is a fairly broad term applied to a multitude of topics.
"The term 'civil rights' is a broad umbrella that is applied to a lot of issues, but if you look at the various subsections, they all have a different history," said Andrew Cohen, a national correspondent for
"Voting rights is rooted in the Civil War, while gay rights is recent," with most changes coming in just a generation.
The long history of voting rights as a civil rights issue, in fact, might make it more of a target for attack than gay marriage, which is relatively new.
"The sense of urgency that accompanies the immediate achievement of civil rights victories fades over generations," said Seth Kreimer, professor of law at the University of Pennsylvania.
"We have a generation of jurists emerging who have forgotten some of the reasons why predecessors made some of the decisions that they did."
Supporters of voting rightsSupporters of voting rights were more solemn
The Voting Rights Act's detractors say a formula created 40 years ago is useless in a world with a black president. There is a pervasive attitude that laws created to help rectify racism in the century after the Civil War have outworn their welcome, creating more of a burden than a benefit.
"Our country has changed, and while any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions," Justice Roberts wrote for the court.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in her dissent, said neutralising the Voting Rights Act was akin to "throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet".
Political pressure
By contrast, gay marriage is a civil rights issue that has moved with lightning speed, from being written off as impossible in the 1990s to being a defining issue of the gay community today.
Support for gay marriage, which now polls above 50% nationwide, also may have come into play.
"The Roberts court couldn't afford to look like a fossil," Mr Gabilondo said.
"The only thing the Supreme Court has is appearing credible. That means they have to be very nuanced, very hedged, very political."
But the small steps he sees the court taking have him concerned about civil liberties overall - especially considering some of the less-publicised decisions, like Vance v Ball State University, which narrowed the definition of who could be called a "supervisor" when workers sue for discrimination or harassment.
"That's not a civil right, but it's a proxy for power, abuse and structural inequality in society," he said.
Mr Kreimer, on the other hand, sees reasons for civil rights supporters to be hopeful, including another voting rights case, Arizona v Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, which upheld voting rights for Native American populations.
"The losses are losses that can be remedied, and the wins are wins that mark a way upward in American society," he said.
Of course, it is hard to predict the temperament of a court that so often changes.
"It's a fluid situation," said Mr Cohen. "In five years, it's very likely the make-up of the court will be different."

Read the original article from BBC News here: 

Hiring Need Spurs CEO Push for Diversity Among College Graduates

By Thomas Black, Carol Hymowitz and Duane D. Stanford
Originally Published: June 28th, 2013

General Mills CEO Ken Powell
“It’s very important for the company to capture and have within our ranks employees who really understand the broad spectrum of American society in order for us to be an effective consumer goods company,” General Mills CEO Ken Powell said in an interview. Photographer: Jin Lee/Bloomberg

Bloomberg News

General Electric Co. (GE), Xerox Corp. (XRX) andGeneral Mills Inc. (GIS) have a message for U.S. courts: Hiring more women and minorities is good for profits.
That trio was among 57 large corporations that urged the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold affirmative action in college admissions this week. Now, with the University of Texas case handed back to a federal appeals court, they want to protect the programs that have provided an increasingly diverse talent pool.
Chief executive officers are weighing in as they try to build workforces to match shifting U.S. demographics. Private employers account for more than 80 percent of U.S. jobs, and they will fill future positions from a population that the U.S. Census Bureau projects will tip to a non-white majority by 2043.
“It’s very important for the company to capture and have within our ranks employees who really understand the broad spectrum of American society in order for us to be an effective consumer goods company,” General Mills CEO Ken Powell said in an interview. “We strongly believe in that.”
The Supreme Court voted 7-1 this week in a case involving the University of Texas to leave intact a 2003 decision allowing the use of race in considering student applications. At the same time, justices told the U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans to review whether diversity can be achieved without taking race into account, leaving the ultimate outcome in doubt.

Interests Aligned

Universities’ “interest here is to achieve a diverse student population,” said Yolanda Seals-Coffield, an attorney for PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, who led the firm’s involvement in a so-called amicus brief to the Supreme Court. “Our interests are aligned that way.”
While GE said this week that it was “pleased” that the Supreme Court left its 2003 affirmative action ruling in place, most corporations that sided with the University of Texas declined to comment on the specifics of the justices’ ruling.
“Our focus in joining the amicus brief was on the benefits that U.S.-based global companies like P&G gain from fostering a diverse workforce and inclusive culture,” said Mary Ralles, a spokeswoman for Procter & Gamble Co. (PG)
Since 1976, the share of non-white students enrolled at degree-granting institutions has climbed to 39 percent last year from less than 16 percent, according to Education Department statistics. Hispanics gained the most, jumping to 14 percent of total enrollment from 3.6 percent in 1976.

Educational Attainment

Department data from 2011 show the gaps that remain in educational attainment by race: Of whites 25 and older, 34 percent had obtained a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared with 20 percent for blacks and 14 percent for Hispanics. For Asians, the figure was 51 percent.
Not all companies are equal on inclusiveness, said Patrick McKay, who leads the Human Resource Management Department at Rutgers University in New Jersey. Many still meet only minimum affirmative-action requirements to bid on federal contracts, and U.S. corporate leadership remains overwhelmingly white and male, he said.
“Decisions are made in the boardroom, and there’s gross underrepresentation of women and minorities in the upper echelons of companies,” McKay said.
Women comprised 17 percent of independent corporate directors last year, up from 12 percent in 2002, according to a study by New York-based consultant Spencer Stuart. For the top 200 companies on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index (SPX), 16 percent of board members were minorities, excluding foreigners.

Tensions Persist

Recent legal history also shows the continuing tensions at the intersection of hiring, promotions and race.
FedEx Corp. (FDX) reached a $3 million settlement last year with the U.S. Labor Department in a hiring practices case without admitting wrongdoing. The department said it found evidence of discrimination against 21,635 rejected applicants based on sex, race and national origin at 23 facilities in 15 states. A FedEx spokeswoman, Bonny Harrison, said the company had no comment on the case.
In 2012, 16 Coca-Cola Co. (KO) employees in New York filed a discrimination lawsuit that was transferred from state to federal court. That was more than a decade after the Atlanta-based company agreed to pay $192.5 million and create an independent review panel to settle a racial-bias lawsuit brought by about 2,200 minority workers.
“Coca-Cola does not tolerate discrimination, harassment or retaliation,” a spokesman, Scott Williamson, said in an e-mail while declining to comment specifically on the 2012 suit. “We have a culture that welcomes and supports diversity.”

Review Board

Xerox is among the companies trying to signal the importance of diversity with an internal review board. Its members include executives who report directly to CEO Ursula Burns, the first black woman to lead an S&P 500 company.
“This isn’t a stand-alone silo, it’s integrated into our management,” said Damika Arnold, manager of global diversity and inclusion at Norwalk, Connecticut-based Xerox. “We see it as a competitive advantage.”
An inclusive workforce helps in recruiting and retaining minority employees, said Lucy Sorrentini, chief of the office of diversity and inclusion for consultant Booz Allen Hamilton Holding Corp. (BAH), which didn’t file a court brief in the University of Texas case.
“By having more and more of these role models, that’s directly impacting our attrition levels favorably,” Sorrentini said. “As we’re showcasing more of these diverse leaders, we have more people saying, ‘Hey, this is definitely the place where I want to stick around and grow my career.’”
McKay of Rutgers called the Supreme Court’s ruling a “near miss” on scrapping affirmative action for college enrollment. While U.S. business have a long way to go in ensuring diversity at all levels, support from some of the country’s largest corporations sets a good tone for the rest, McKay said.
“It’s good that they’re sensitive to the issue. I’m encouraged, actually,” he said. “It shows that they’re thinking in the right direction.”

Read the original article from Bloomberg Business Week here: 

Study Says Housing Discrimination Still Prevalent in U.S

Originally Published: June 27th, 2013

Special to the NNPA from The Final Call
Hispanics, Asians and African-Americans who are looking to purchase a home still face discrimination in subtle forms, according to a new national study.
According to the study, commissioned by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), minority customers were shown fewer available homes than Whites with similar qualifications.
Minorities were also asked more questions about their finances and given fewer offers of help financing a loan.
The $9 million study, based on research in 28 metropolitan areas, said that because the discrimination is subtle, it is harder to detect.
Minority consumers who were looking to rent were also shown fewer choices than White consumers.
“Although we’ve come a long way from the days of blatant, in-your-face housing injustice, discrimination still persists,” said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan.
“And just because it’s taken on a hidden form doesn’t make it any less harmful,” he added.
The study was conducted among 8,000 pairs, a White person and a minority. The pairs that were tested had similar financial backgrounds.
In one test, a White customer looking for a two-bedroom apartment was shown a two-bedroom and a one-bedroom and given applications for both, while a Hispanic customer who arrived two hours later was told that nothing was available.
In another, a real estate agent refused to meet with a Black tester who was not prequalified for a loan, while a White tester was given an appointment without being asked if she had prequalified.
Because the paired testing only included well-qualified, similar applicants, the findings “probably understate the total level of discrimination that occurs in the marketplace,” said Margery Turner, a senior vice president at Urban Institute.
There is evidence that mortgage lending discrimination also continues in the U.S.
According to the Department of Justice, from 2004 through 2008, more than 200,000 African-American and Hispanic borrowers who qualified for loans were charged higher fees or placed into subprime loans.

Read the original article from Black Voice News here: 

Men, Women, and Their Employers Would Benefit From Working Together to Arrange Flexible Workplace Policies

by Rep. Carolyn Maloney
Originally Published: June 27th, 2013

Over the last 50 years, the American workforce and demographics have shifted tremendously; it's a shift as great as the difference between Ozzie and Harriet and Modern Family.
Data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that more than 70 percent of children are raised in families that are headed by either a working single parent or two working parents. According to a study last month from Pew Research, "breadwinner moms" are the sole or primary provider in more than four in ten households with children under age 18.
And more of those parents are also caring for older relatives, as medical advances extend life expectancy. A 2009 report from the National Alliance for Caregiving found that almost 60 percent of those who provide unpaid care to an adult or to a child with special needs are employed themselves. These often-competing needs mean more workers are looking for ways to balance their responsibilities, such as driving to doctors' appointments, physical therapy, or just food shopping.
Flexible work arrangements are one way to help workers do that, which is why I and Sen. Bob Casey are introducing the Flexibility for Working Families Act today.
This legislation guarantees employees the right of an employee to request flexible work arrangements in terms of hours, schedules, and work location, and provides employers with flexibility by encouraging them to review these requests, propose changes, and even deny them if they are not in the best interest of the business. Such voluntary arrangements between employees and employers include changing the time, amount, and/or place that work is conducted in order to allow workers to more easily meet the needs of both work and family life.
Similar "right to request" laws have successfully increased productivity, attendance and overall job satisfaction in Great Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, and New Zealand.
Studies such as the Workplace Flexibility 2010 initiative have shown that these voluntary arrangements boost employees' satisfaction and their physical and mental health, as well as improve businesses bottom line by helping to reduce turnover, cut absenteeism, and improve productivity. Furthermore, President Obama's Council on Economic Advisors found that as more firms adopt flexibility practices, the benefits to society, in the form of reduced traffic, improved employment outcomes, and more efficient allocation of workers to employers, may be greater than the gains to individual firms and workers.
Last month, the House GOP put forward a bill that would provide only employers with flexibility -- and take away the rights of workers under the Fair Labor Standards Act that provides guaranteed time off. Passed on a party-line vote, such top-down legislation ignores the realities of the modern workforce. The true intent of the Republican bill is shrouded in a worker-friendly title -- "The Working Families Flexibility Act" -- so do not be deceived.
The good news is that for the past 38 months, the U.S. has seen continuous job growth and the unemployment rate has dropped to 7.5 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Despite these improvements, it's important that this workforce have options such as flexibility to help them handle the demands of work and family. Such policies are a win-win for business and workers.

Read the original article from Huffington Post here: 

DOMA’s Effect On Same-Sex Couples In The Military

by Michael DeVilliers
Originally Published: June 27th, 2013

The DOMA ruling handed down by the United States Supreme Court yesterday has generated much discussion over what it means and what the next steps will be. Early analysis has indicated that much of what was overturned yesterday deals specifically with federal law, specifically tax law. However, there was little or no discussion as to what this ruling meant for married same-sex couples serving in the Armed Forces. Since the military is regulated by federal law, will it now mean that married same-sex couples will now enjoy the same benefits as their heterosexual colleagues? The Department of Defense released a statement yesterday which contained the following:
The Department of Defense welcomes the Supreme Court’s decision today on the Defense of Marriage Act. The department will immediately begin the process of implementing the Supreme Court’s decision in consultation with the Department of Justice and other executive branch agencies. The Department of Defense intends to make the same benefits available to all military spouses — regardless of sexual orientation — as soon as possible. That is now the law and it is the right thing to do. Every person who serves our nation in uniform stepped forward with courage and commitment. All that matters is their patriotism, their willingness to serve their country, and their qualifications to do so. Today’s ruling helps ensure that all men and women who serve this country can be treated fairly and equally, with the full dignity and respect they so richly deserve.
This brief statement seems to answer questions in regard to how the DoD intends on proceeding with providing benefits for married same sex- couples. However, individual states will still have jurisdiction over who can and cannot get married. This proposes an interesting question on how the DoD intends to proceed with providing service members equal benefits in states where same-sex marriage is still not recognized. It is important to note that nothing that occurred yesterday compels states, where same-sex marriage is not recognized, to recognize a same-sex marriage from a state that does. In other words what will the DoD ‘s policy be for a couple that was married at FT. Drum New York, but has since been assigned to duty at FT. Hood Texas, where their marriage will not be recognized ?
Yesterday was a day to celebrate for the LGTBQ community along with their advocates and supporters. However, there is still much work to be done and relentless advocacy must resume until we have answered all the questions regarding all marriages,in every state.

Read the original article from Social Justice Solutions here: 

A big step for civil rights: Supreme Court gives gay marriage a historic boost

Originally Published: June 27th, 2013

Andrew Scheiner/Daily Journal Sue Rochman, Robin Romdalvik and Maddox Rochman-Romdalvik react to news that the U.S. Supreme Court allowed same-sex marriage in California yesterday at San Francisco City Hall.
WASHINGTON — In a historic day for gay rights, the Supreme Court gave the nation’s legally married gay couples equal federal footing with all other married Americans on Wednesday and also cleared the way for same-sex marriages to resume in California.

In deciding its first cases on the issue, the high court did not issue the sweeping declaration sought by gay rights advocates that would have allowed same-sex couples to marry anywhere in the country. But in two rulings, both by bare 5-4 majorities, the justices gave gay marriage supporters encouragement in confronting the nationwide patchwork of laws that outlaw such unions in roughly three dozen states.

Gay-rights supporters cheered and hugged outside the court. Opponents said they mourned the rulings and vowed to keep up their fight.

In the first of the narrow rulings in its final session of the term, the court wiped away part of a federal anti-gay marriage law, the Defense of Marriage Act, that has kept legally married same-sex couples from receiving tax, health and pension benefits that are otherwise available to married couples.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, joined by the four liberal justices, said the purpose of the law was to impose a disadvantage and “a stigma upon all who enter into same-sex marriages made lawful by the unquestioned authority of the states.”

President Barack Obama praised the court’s ruling against the federal marriage act, labeling the law “discrimination enshrined in law.”

“It treated loving, committed gay and lesbian couples as a separate and lesser class of people,” Obama said in a statement. “The Supreme Court has righted that wrong, and our country is better off for it.”

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said he was disappointed in the outcome of the federal marriage case and hoped states continue to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Boehner, as speaker, had stepped in as the main defender of the law before the court after the Obama administration declined to defend it.

The other case, dealing with California’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, was resolved by an unusual lineup of justices in a technical legal fashion that said nothing about gay marriage. But the effect was to leave in place a trial court’s declaration that California’s Proposition 8 ban was unconstitutional. Gov. Jerry Brown quickly ordered that marriage licenses be issued to gay couples as soon as a federal appeals court lifts its hold on the lower court ruling. That will take least 25 days, the appeals court said.

California, where gay marriage was briefly legal in 2008, would be the 13th state, along with the District of Columbia, to allow same-sex couples to marry and would raise the share of the U.S. population in gay marriage states to 30 percent. Six states have adopted same-sex marriage in the past year, amid a rapid evolution in public opinion that now shows majority support for the right to marry in most polls.

The 12 other states are Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

The day’s rulings are clear for people who were married and live in states that allow same-sex marriage. They now are eligible for federal benefits.

The picture is more complicated for same-sex couples who traveled to another state to get married, or who have moved from a gay marriage state since being wed.

Their eligibility depends on the benefits they are seeking. For instance, immigration law focuses on where people were married, not where they live. But eligibility for Social Security survivor benefits basically depend on where a couple is living when a spouse dies.

This confusing array of regulations is reflected more broadly in the disparate treatment of gay couples between states. And the court’s decision did not touch on another part of the federal marriage law that says a state does not have to recognize a same-sex marriage performed elsewhere.

Indeed, the outcome of the cases had supporters of gay marriage already anticipating their next trip to the high court, which they reason will be needed to legalize same-sex unions in all 50 states.

The Human Rights Campaign’s president, Chad Griffin, said his goal is to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide within five years through a combination of ballot measures, court challenges and expansion of anti-discrimination laws.

The rulings came 10 years to the day after the court’s Lawrence v. Texas decision that struck down state bans on gay sex. In his dissent at the time, Justice Antonin Scalia predicted the ruling would lead to same-sex marriage.

On Wednesday, Scalia issued another pungent dissent in the Defense of Marriage Act case in which he made a new prediction that the ruling would be used to upend state restrictions on marriage. Kennedy’s majority opinion insisted the decision was limited to legally married same-sex couples.

Scalia read aloud in a packed courtroom that included the two couples who sued for the right to marry in California. On the bench, Justice Elena Kagan, who voted to strike down DOMA, watched Scalia impassively as he read.

“It takes real cheek for today’s majority to assure us, as it is going out the door, that a constitutional requirement to give formal recognition to same-sex marriage is not at issue here—when what has preceded that assurance is a lecture on how superior the majority’s moral judgment in favor of same-sex marriage is to the Congress’ hateful moral judgment against it. I promise you this: The only thing that will ‘confine’ the court’s holding is its sense of what it can get away with,” Scalia said.

Scalia and Justice Samuel Alito, who also wrote a dissenting opinion, said their view is that Constitution does not require states to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry.

Outside the court, some in the crowd hugged and others jumped up and down just after 10 a.m. EDT when the DOMA decision was announced. Many people were on their cellphones monitoring Twitter, news sites and blogs for word of the decision. And there were cheers as runners came down the steps with the decision in hand and turned them over to reporters who quickly flipped through the decisions.

Chants of “Thank you” and “U-S-A” came from the crowd as plaintiffs in the cases descended the court’s marbled steps. Most of those in the crowd appeared to support gay marriage, although there was at least one man who held a sign promoting marriage as between a man and a woman.

In New York City’s Greenwich Village, the Stonewall Inn, where a riot in 1969 sparked the gay rights movement, erupted in cheers and whooping.

Mary Jo Kennedy, 58 was there with her wife Jo-Ann Shain, 60, and their daughter Aliya Shain, 25.

She came with a sign that could be flipped either way and was holding up the side that says “SCOTUS made our family legal”.

They have been together 31 years and got married the day it became legal in New York.

Others were not celebrating.

“We mourn for America’s future, but we are not without hope,” said Tim Wildmon, president of American Family Association, in a statement.

Said. Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council: “Time is not on the side of those seeking to create same-sex ‘marriage.’ As the American people are given time to experience the actual consequences of redefining marriage, the public debate and opposition to the redefinition of natural marriage will undoubtedly intensify.”

The federal marriage law had been struck down by several federal courts, and the justices chose to take up the case of 84-year-old Edith Windsor of New York, who sued to challenge a $363,000 federal estate tax bill after her partner of 44 years died in 2009.

Windsor, who goes by Edie, married Thea Spyer in 2007 after doctors told them Spyer would not live much longer. Spyer had suffered from multiple sclerosis for many years. She left everything she had to Windsor.

Windsor arrived at a news conference in New York after the ruling to applause from her supporters and said she felt “joyous, just joyous.”

Windsor would have paid nothing in inheritance taxes if she had been married to a man. Now she is eligible for a refund.

In the case involving the federal Defense of Marriage Act, Justice Kennedy was joined by the court’s four liberal justices. In the California ruling, which was not along ideological lines, Chief Justice John Roberts’ opinion was joined by Scalia and three of those liberal court members: Kagan, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer.

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