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    NCLR Advances LGBT Equality Through Policy and Legislation

    Anti-LGBT conversion therapy survivor Ryan Kendall is actively involved with helping NCLR advocate for laws protecting minors from these practices.

    Anti-LGBT conversion therapy survivor Ryan Kendall is actively involved with
    helping NCLR advocate for laws protecting minors from these practices.

    By Maya Rupert, Esq.

    NCLR’s public policy and legislative team has been busy in Washington, D.C., working with the Obama administration and our friends on Capitol Hill to make sure federal law and policy are as LGBT-inclusive as possible. As the only national LGBT organization with both a litigation team and a public policy team in D.C., NCLR is uniquely situated to lead the way on many types of advocacy.

    Most recently, we teamed up with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) this month to launch an unprecedented campaign aimed at focusing on the particular needs of LGBT people and families living in rural communities. The campaign, #RuralPride, will engage in unprecedented outreach to the LGBT rural community.

    The goal of the campaign is to challenge the stereotype that LGBT people live only in metropolitan areas by elevating the voices and stories of LGBT people living in rural America. The campaign will also raise awareness of the particular issues faced by LGBT rural communities. Such issues include increased rates of economic insecurity, lack of family protections, lack of nondiscrimination protections, and the heightened challenges facing rural LGBT youth and rural LGBT people of color. The centerpiece of the campaign will be a series of daylong summits hosted by USDA, NCLR, and local partners based in rural communities across the country. We are incredibly excited to be working with USDA on this initiative.

    NCLR has also partnered with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to travel across the country to highlight the HUD Equal Access Rule and other fair housing issues in the LGBT community. We have worked with organizations in over a dozen states to educate fair housing advocates, housing providers, academics, and LGBT community members on the crucial work being done at the federal level to ensure that LGBT people and families have access to fair and affordable access.

    NCLR has also been busy on the legislative front, securing a number of historic victories. One of the most important was the 2013 Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) that, for the first time, included explicit protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity for all VAWA services and resources. Recently, NCLR worked with other organizations to get express assurance from the Department of Justice (DOJ) that the new law prohibits discrimination against LGBT people in all VAWA funded services, including access to domestic violence shelters for transgender victims based on their gender identity.

    NCLR has also been at the forefront of the effort to protect LGBT young people from the dangers of anti-LGBT conversion therapy, securing legislation banning these dangerous practices in California in 2012 and New Jersey in 2013. We’re now working with legislators and LGBT leaders in more than a dozen states, helping to advance legislation protecting LGBT youth from state-licensed mental health providers who attempt to change another’s sexual orientation or gender identity. These practices—including the use of shame and electric shock—are linked to serious harms, including depression, substance abuse, and suicide. Every leading medical and mental health organization across the country has warned against them.

    NCLR is excited to continue these areas and find even more ways to put our unique combination of expertise in policy, legislation, public education, and litigation to work for our community in the coming year.

    Maya Rupert is the policy director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights.