On the Docket, In the Field
Standing Up For Immigrant Rights In Arizona
Lambda Legal joined more than 100 civil rights, faith-based and community groups to urge the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold a ruling against Arizona’s anti-immigrant law. In a friend-of-the-court brief filed March 27, we argued that the law, known as SB 1070, will lead to racial profiling, discrimination and anti-immigrant extremism.
“The LGBT community knows all too well how easily people who are perceived to ‹look different› or ‹act different› can be singled out for harassment and persecution,” said Lambda Legal Staff Attorney Iván Espinoza-Madrigal. “LGBT immigrants and people of color are particularly vulnerable, because SB 1070 authorizes the police to stop and question people based on their appearance. SB 1070 will also deter people from seeking medical care and lifesaving treatment for HIV/AIDS.”
Adding Insult to Injury
More than 8,000 people have signed a petition supporting Lambda Legal plaintiffs Jenny and Jessica Buntemeyer asking the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) to stop erasing same-sex parents.
The Buntemeyers met while serving in Iraq, and married in Iowa in 2010. Last year, Jessica became pregnant through in vitro fertilization, but their son Brayden was stillborn. The grieving couple filled out the paperwork for a death certificate, listing each of their names as parents in the spaces provided. IDPH sent them a death certificate with Jenny’s name whited out.
“To erase Jenny’s name from the death certificate was like trying to erase all the love, commitment and work we had both put into planning a family,” said Jessica.
Camilla Taylor, Lambda Legal’s National Marriage Project Director, said, “This is an egregious display of insensitivity and disregard for Iowa law, which states that the spousal presumption of parentage applies to children born to same-sex spouses in the same manner it applies to children of different-sex spouses. Death certificates and other vital records like birth certificates document legal parentage, not biology.”
In February, Lambda Legal sued IDPH on the Buntemeyers’ behalf. The previous month, in another Lambda Legal case, a court had ordered IDPH to issue a birth certificate naming both same-sex spouses as parents. That court ruled that Iowa’s birth certificate statute must be interpreted in a gender-neutral way. (IDPH has appealed that ruling.)
In March, the Iowa Attorney General’s office filed court documents saying that the state will persist in refusing the Buntemeyers an accurate death certificate.
Lambda Legal continues to pursue the matter in court.
Unsafe Practices In New York State
Police and prosecutors currently can attempt to use possession of condoms as evidence of prostitution and related offenses. On April 5, Lambda Legal submitted a memo to state lawmakers, urging them to support a bill which would outlaw this practice. In the memo, we argued that this law would help protect the health of all New Yorkers, including members of communities disproportionately impacted by HIV, such as gay and bisexual men, transgender people, at-risk youth and sex workers. “The government has wisely promoted the free distribution of millions of condoms throughout New York City for decades in the name of public health,” said Deputy Legal Director Hayley Gorenberg. “It is unfair and misleading to encourage New Yorkers to take advantage of these programs and then turn around and use the condoms to try and build a criminal case against them.”
Lambda Legal and the ACLU secured a crucial victory for transgender rights on March 26, when the U.S. Supreme Court allowed a 7th Circuit Court ruling to stand that struck down a Wisconsin law barring medically necessary treatment for transgender people in prison. The Court refused to hear the state’s appeal following Lambda Legal, the ACLU and the ACLU of Wisconsin’s successful challenge to the so-called Inmate Sex-Change Prevention Act.
The law—the only one of its kind in the nation—underscored the widespread ignorance surrounding the health needs of transgender people. Transition-related care is often dismissed as cosmetic or experimental, but for years the medical community has understood these treatments to be effective, indispensible and even life-saving.
Lambda Legal and the ACLU sued in 2006 on behalf of several transgender women in prison who experienced severe physical and psychological harm after the medical treatment they had been receiving under prison doctors’ care was abruptly cut off under this draconian new law.
“Although this victory does not mean that all transgender people in prison now have full access to transition-related care,” said Lambda Legal Transgender Rights Attorney M. Dru Levasseur, “it does send a clear message that medical care should be left in the hands of doctors, not legislators who may be operating on bias and misinformation about the medical needs of a marginalized population."