Veterans Affairs Refuses To Recognize Veteran’s Wife And Child….

Melissa Perkins-Fercha

The Department of Veterans Affairs has ordered an Iraq war veteran to pay back federal benefits she earned for her wife and child, claiming that she was issued them by mistake, since her home state of Texas does not recognize her marriage.

After serving in the military for five years, including during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Melissa Perkins-Fercha left active duty and received a 50 percent disability rating from the Department of Veterans Affairs, reports LGBT organization the American Military Partner Association. Perkins-Fercha and her wife traveled to Washington to legally marry in 2012, and in 2014, her wife gave birth to the couple’s daughter in El Paso, Texas. Shortly thereafter, Perkins-Fercha added her wife and daughter as dependents on her VA benefits plan, according to AMPA.

In response, the VA sent a letter informing Perkins-Fercha that it could not legally add her wife and child as dependents because the couple lived in Texas, which does not recognize same-sex marriages. But the VA apparently failed to remove the dependents from Perkins-Fercha’s record, meaning the benefits she received included compensation for her wife and child, according to AMPA.

Perkins-Fercha twice appealed the VA’s denial of her family, but it wasn’t until this month that she received another letter informing her that all of her disability benefits would be withheld until the compensation which the VA mistakenly overpaid was “paid back in full,” reports AMPA.

“I was shocked, angry, and hurt all at once,” Melissa Perkins-Fercha told AMPA. “Who are they to tell me that my marriage is not valid and my daughter is not mine? More importantly, how does the rest of the federal government recognize my marriage and daughter but the Department of Veterans Affairs does not?”

Even though a federal court in 2013 struck down Title 38 of the U.S. Code, which denied veterans with same-sex spouses equal benefits, and the Department of Justice stopped enforcing that portion of law in September 2013 in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision striking down the so-called Defense of Marriage Act that year, Title 38 is still being used to deny equal spousal benefits to veterans who live in states without marriage equality.

“Nothing angers me more than to find out a veteran is being denied earned veterans benefits and compensation for the sole reason they live in a state that does not respect their marriage or family,” said AMPA President Ashley Broadway-Mack. “No veteran should be treated like this. Melissa put her life on the line for our country, and now our country is telling her that her family doesn’t count just because her spouse happens to be the same sex.”

In August 2014, AMPA filed a federal lawsuit against the VA’s continued reliance on Title 38 to deny veterans in non-marriage states equal benefits, which is currently pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

Sunnivie Brydum – The Advocate

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Celibacy Challenge….

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Reports: Transgender Americans Face Staggering Rates Of Poverty, Violence….

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In a year when transgender Americans are experiencing unprecedented visibility in the State of the Union address, the media, and popular culture, while simultaneously suffering extreme violence, two new reports released Wednesday detail the widespread discrimination and inequities the transgender population faces, particularly transgender women and transgender people of color.

From high rates of poverty, harassment, violence, poor health, limited job opportunities, and isolation from their larger communities, transgender people are among the most vulnerable communities in the country.

“Transgender Americans are experiencing a unique moment in history, as growing visibility leads to greater familiarity and understanding of transgender lives,” said Ineke Mushovic, executive director of MAP. “At the same time, many transgender people, particularly transgender women and transgender people of color, still face enormous barriers to their safety, health, and well-being.”

The two reports, Understanding Issues Facing Transgender Americans and Paying an Unfair Price: The Financial Penalty for Being Transgender in America, are co-authored by the Movement Advancement Project (MAP), the Center for American Progress, the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), and the Transgender Law Center.

The two reports detail the myriad issues transgender Americans face. Paying an Unfair Price: The Financial Penalty for Being Transgender in America, paints a stark portrait of the economic insecurities that leave transgender people at high rates of unemployment and poverty.

Transgender Americans face clear financial penalties simply because they are transgender and are left economically vulnerable because of two primary failures of law, the report finds:

Pervasive discrimination and a lack of legal protections mean that transgender people struggle to find work and safe housing, make less on the job, and have higher medical costs than their non-transgender peers.
Failure to adequately protect transgender students means that transgender people and their families often face a hostile, unsafe, or unwelcoming school environments.

Harassment, bullying, and violence make it difficult, if not impossible, for transgender students to obtain the skills and education they need to succeed. As a result, they are ill-prepared to compete for good jobs and see reduced earnings and fewer opportunities for successful jobs and careers.

“In some cases, employment discrimination, lower wages, and lack of legal protections make it harder for transgender people to cover basic necessities like rent, food, clothing, and healthcare, let alone save for the future,” said Kris Hayashi, executive director of the Transgender Law Center. “In other instances, legal inequalities mean that transgender people are forced to pay higher costs for needs like housing, healthcare, and education.”

The second report, Understanding Issues Facing Transgender Americans provides a high-level introduction of the issues facing transgender Americans, including:

Violence: According to the 2013 Hate Violence Report from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, transgender people were much more likely to experience threats, intimidation, harassment, discrimination, and sexual violence than non-transgender people. The report found that transgender women and transgender people of color are much more vulnerable to violence, especially at the hands of law enforcement. In 2013, more than half of all LGBT homicide victims were transgender women of color.

Suicide Risk: 41% of respondents to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey reported having attempting suicide at some point in their lives. This compares to 1.6% of all Americans who have reported attempting suicide. Respondents who were bullied, harassed, assaulted, or expelled because they were transgender or gender non-conforming in school reported elevated levels of suicide attempts (51%).

Homelessness and Discrimination in Housing: One in five transgender people has experienced homelessness at some time in their lives because of discrimination or family rejection. Transgender people facing homelessness also face discrimination from agencies that should be helping them, with nearly one in three (29%) reporting being turned away from a shelter. One in five transgender people (19%) in the United States has been refused a home or apartment, and more than one in ten (11%) have been evicted, because of their gender identity.

Health: Unequal access to healthcare and discriminatory healthcare exclusions deny transgender people coverage for medically necessary care, including hormone therapy, counselling, and other transition-related care. Even when transgender people have full health insurance coverage, however, they often face discrimination by health care providers.

HIV/AIDS: Transgender people, specifically transgender women of color, are at heightened risk for HIV. Estimates are that one in four black transgender people in the United States is living with HIV/AIDS. Discrimination, stigma, social isolation, bias among health and social service providers, and a lack of targeted prevention efforts have all contributed to these high levels of infection.

Discrimination in Public Accommodations: In a 2014 study conducted in Massachusetts, 65% of transgender people reported experiencing discrimination in a place of public accommodation in the past 12 months. The study revealed that bathrooms in restaurants, libraries, cinemas, shopping malls, airports, and other places open to the public were locations of frequent, sometimes serious harassment and abuse of transgender people. Only 17 states and the District of Columbia prohibit discrimination in public accommodations on the basis of gender identity, covering 36% of Americans.

Identity Documents: Official identity documents, particularly drivers’ licenses, birth certificates, social security numbers, and passports, that do not match with a transgender person’s gender presentation can obstruct employment and travel, as well as ex­pose transgender people to harassment, violence, refusal of ser­vice, job loss, and more.

“Transgender people, especially transgender people of color, experience life-threatening situations, including violence, higher rates of HIV and AIDS, homelessness, and extreme poverty,” said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. “There is an urgent need for protections so transgender people can live safe, healthy, and thriving lives.”

LGBTQ Nation

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Can’t Say “Lesbian” With Nutella….

Nutella-soc

A French Nutella marketing campaign has banned the word “lesbian”.

“Say It With Nutella” allows users to create a custom jar of the famous chocolate spread with their own phrase, to share on social media. The site says: “Here you can create your custom messages and share them with those you love.”

However, users have discovered a long list of words the site will not allow you to use. Along with swear words, drugs, and violent terms, the site does does not allow “lesbian”, “Muslim” or “Jewish”.

The full list of banned words was found by viewing the site’s source code, RTL reports. Health-related words such as “obesity, “cancer” and “diabetes” as well as “palm oil”, the controversial ingredient in Nutella, are banned. Clearly anticipating that people would use the site to highlight the controversy surrounding the use of palm oil, which reportedly threatens orangutan habitats, words such as “boycott” and “orangutan” are not permitted. While “gay” is fine, “lesbian” is not, and “Christian” is allowed despite the ban on “Jewish” and “Muslim”.

Ferrero, the company who make Nutella, said in a statement: “The negative or insulting messages were directly removed from the field of possibilities, the idea being to use the jar of Nutella as a communication medium to share enthusiasm. Similarly , words of communities that are often subject to attacks by malicious people were removed from the proposals. “

Pink News

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Gay Man’s New Billboard Corrects The Record….

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Kyle Roux is back up on a billboard – only this time it’s with his consent.

Late last year, Roux learned that photos of him were being used on a billboard erected in Virginia by an ‘ex-gay’ group.

The billboard on I-95 in Richmond by Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX) read: ‘Identical twins. One is gay, one is not. Nobody is born gay.’

Roux, who is gay, does not have a twin.

Both images are from a portfolio shot of him about a decade ago for use in commercial and corporate ads and other materials. He signed away his rights to the photo and has had no control over how they are used.

Now he is appearing in a new billboard just one exit south on Interstate 95 of where the original one was. It has been paid for by the progressive nonprofit group Planting Peace, according to The Advocate.

The billboard features updated photos of Roux and replicates the look of the original and reads: ‘Dear PFOX: Identical Twins? I’m not. I’m gay. Regardless of what you believe, I was BORN gay. And I’m proud of who I am.’

The billboard will stay up for at least one month unless Planting Peace can raise more money through crowdfunding to keep it up longer.

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Greg Hernandez – Gay Star News

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Doctor Refuses To See Six-Day-Old Baby As She Has Lesbian Parents….

Krista and Jamie Contreras with daughter

A doctor will not look after a six-day-old baby because she has lesbian parents.

Krista and Jamie Contreras, from Michigan, has said Dr Vesna Roi had initially agreed to be the pediatrician to their daughter Bay.

But they were dumbfounded when they received a letter from the doctor, saying after ‘much prayer’, Roi had a change of heart.

The couple had went to Eastlake Pediatrics in Roseville to get a check up for Bay, and were told another doctor would have to see their daughter.

‘I was completely dumbfounded,’ Krista told the Detroit FreePress. ‘We just looked at each other and said, “Did we hear that correctly?”‘

Jamie told myFOXDetroit.com: ‘As far as we know Bay doesn’t have a sexual orientation yet so I’m not really sure what that matters…

‘We’re not your patient – she’s your patient. And the fact is that your job is to keep babies healthy and you can’t keep a baby healthy that has gay parents?’

Following the appointment, Roi sent them a letter.

‘After much prayer following your prenatal, I felt that I would not be able to develop the personal patient doctor relationship that I normally do with my patients,’ Roi said.

‘Please know that I believe that God gives us free choice and I would never judge anyone based on what they do with that free choice…

‘Again, I am sorry for the hurt and angry feelings that were created by this. I hope you can accept my apology.’

Unlike 22 US states, Michigan has no law banning doctors from discriminating based on sexual orientation.

The parents, who were married in Vermont in 2012, said it was ‘embarrassing’ and ‘humiliating’.

‘Here we are, new parents trying to protect her,’ Jami said.

‘And we know this happens in the world and we’re completely prepared for this to happen other places. But not at our six-day-old’s wellness appointment.’

Joe Morgan – Gay Star News

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Trans boy, 15, Commits Suicide And Leaves Goodbye Note On Tumblr….

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A 15-year-old trans boy has committed suicide.

Zander Mahaffey, from Austell, Georgia, took his life on Sunday (15 February), announcing his death with a heartbreaking suicide note published on Tumblr.

In it, he blamed his disabled mother calling her an ‘abusive piece of shit’ and said he had been raped when he was younger.

‘I’m sorry I wasn’t strong enough, that I gave up,’ Mahaffey said. ‘But I just couldn’t, I couldn’t take it anymore.’

He shared memories of his family, his friends, and said goodbye to many of them in turn.

A funeral took place yesterday (18 February), under Mahaffey’s dead name. His family asked that donations be made to the Susan G Komen breast cancer charity.

Mahaffey’s story is similar to Leelah Alcorn, the 17-year-old trans girl who killed herself by walking into incoming traffic in December 2014. She also left a suicide note on Tumblr, calling for her death to ‘mean something’. It attracted huge international attention.

Like Alcorn, people are paying tribute to Mahaffey by using the hashtag #HisNameWasZander. A blog has been launched in his memory.

Mahaffey concluded the letter: ‘Time will go on, hopefully no one will be too bothered from me for too long. Just continue as you normally would be, that is what I want.

‘I’m selfish, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry that I only think about myself in this situation. I know there’s going to be people hurt and devastated by this. And I’m so, so, sorry about that. I don’t know what else to say. I’m just so tired, I’m so tired and I just want to go to sleep.

‘XOXO Goodbye to everyone, Zander Nicholas Mahaffey’

Joe Morgan – Gay Star News

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