Q&A With Shannon Minter

| September 26, 2013 | Comments (0)

        Shannon Minter is the legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights and he was lead counsel in the California marriage equality case that held that all couples have the right to marry and that laws that limit rights based on sexual orientation are inherently discriminatory. 

Join Basic Rights Oregon for Marriage and More: The Future of the LGBT Rights Movement, a talk given by Shannon on October 2nd in Portland and October 3rd in Eugene and learn more here!

1)      There’s been a lot of movement on trans inclusive healthcare in 2013! Oregon became the first state to ban exclusions in private insurance, followed quickly by California, Colorado, Washington, DC, and Vermont. What do you think the next steps are to move this issue nationally and ensure that all trans people are able to access the medically necessary care many of us need to live healthy and authentic lives?

 I am thrilled that we are, finally, creating greater access to medically necessary care for transgender people—and Basic Rights Oregon deserves huge credit for its leadership on this issue.  On some issues, such as workplace nondiscrimination or hate violence, LGB and transgender people have much in common, and it is relatively easy for LGB people to understand our issues and be supportive. But the urgent need for access to medical treatments for gender transition is unique to transgender people.  It can be difficult for those who are not transgender to understand why being able to access hormone therapy, surgeries, and other treatments is necessary for some of us to be ourselves—as you say, to live healthy and authentic lives.  It says a lot about the strength and vitality of our movement that a growing number of our LGB allies and LGBT organization—and BRO is leading the way here—have not only devoted the time and energy to understand this issue, but are putting serious resources into changing law and policy. That is an amazing accomplishment.  To keep this progress building, we need a multi-faceted strategy. We need to push more states to bar discrimination based on gender identity in health insurance. We need to push more insurance companies to get rid of discriminatory exclusions in their policies. We need to push more employers to provide non-discriminatory coverage for their workers. And, perhaps most important, we need to challenge discriminatory coverage bans in health care programs for low-income, disabled, and elderly people.           


 2)     Trans immigrants face some of the biggest challenges in navigating our immigration system, and attaining adequate ID documentation. Trans immigrants also face some of the worst abuses in immigration detention centers. How can trans organizations and allies contribute to the fight for citizenship for all?

 We can support trans immigrants by highlighting their stories and raising awareness of issues of concern to transgender immigrants, including undocumented immigrants. We can speak out against anti-immigrant measures and public figures taking anti-immigrant stances. Transgender organizations can also offer resources to transgender immigrants seeking legal help, or to immigration attorneys representing transgender clients.

 We can also do much more to highlight and celebrate the work of immigrant leaders who have been outstanding  allies to the transgender community. Transgender advocates and advocates for immigrants are natural allies on so many issues.  We can work in coalition to enact policy changes on a local, state, and national level, including advocating for: the elimination or reduction of use of immigration detention; the improvement of conditions in immigration detention, including access to communities of support (many immigrants are placed in detention far from their families and communities, which is not only an additional unnecessary harm in itself, but also is an obstacle in obtaining or maintaining legal support); reducing barriers to obtaining ID such as drivers licenses; making available alternative forms of ID such as municipal or county ID cards; increasing accountability for police misconduct and profiling; prohibiting or putting in place stricter restrictions on referrals to immigration by local law enforcement.


3)      Most LGBT statewide organizations have primarily focused on marriage, and many have not engaged trans communities and/or communities of color. This makes many trans people and LGBT people of color nervous when marriage campaigns come to our states. How can marriage campaigns be an opportunity to build stronger movements for racial justice and trans justice?

Marriage campaigns must be trans-inclusive and responsive to the issues faced by people of color from the beginning, and at the highest levels. This means going beyond discussions of “messaging” to seeking and supporting leadership by transgender people and people of color within the state, and working in coalition with organizations working in communities of transgender people and people of color. Also, campaigns for marriage equality must place themselves within the larger context of changing the culture to eradicate homophobia, transphobia, and racism – marriage is not the only goal of any sustainable movement, nor is it the “final” goal of any sustainable movement. The momentum that marriage campaigns create, especially successful ones, can be an opportunity to reach white non-transgender allies about issues faced by people of color, transgender people, and our families.  Once again, Basic Rights Oregon is leading the way on these issues by helping to create a campaign to overturn Oregon’s marriage ban that is deeply informed by racial and trans justice values. The Oregon campaign is going to be a powerful example for other states.

Category: News: Marriage Equality, News: Racial Justice, News: Transgender Justice

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