Issues: Youth

Like all young people, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer or questioning (LGBTQ) youth need the support of friends, family, and community. Too often, however, LGBTQ youth face rejection, harassment, and isolation. With nowhere else to go and few resources, many end up homeless, in foster care, or trapped in the juvenile justice system.

NCLR’s Youth Project advances the rights of LGBTQ youth through education, public policy, and precedent-setting casework. By bringing the issues faced by LGBTQ youth front and center, we are changing the legal landscape for all youth, and ensuring health and safety for the next generation of all young people.


news & opinion

Press Release

Federal Appeals Court Allows Enforcement of California Law Prohibiting Dangerous Psychological Practices to Change Minors’ Sexual Orientation
08.29.13 (San Francisco, CA, August 29, 2013)—Today, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that a 2012 California law prohibiting licensed therapists from attempting to change the sexual orientation or gender expression of a patient under 18 years old may be enforced by state licensing officials. The ruling states that the plaintiffs in two legal challenges to the law cannot succeed on their claim that the law infringes the free speech rights of therapists who wish to engage in these dangerous and long-discredited practices.

Press Release

Governor Brown Signs Historic Transgender Student Bill into Law
08.12.13 (San Francisco, CA, August 12, 2013)—Today, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed the historic School Success and Opportunity Act into law, ensuring that transgender youth have the opportunity to fully participate and succeed in schools across the state. Assembly Bill 1266—which goes into effect on January 1, 2014—was authored by Assemblymember Tom Ammiano and passed the California State Senate and Assembly earlier this summer. The law is the first of its kind in the country. It requires that California public schools respect students’ gender identity and makes sure that students can have equal access to all school activities, sports teams, programs, and facilities.

Press Release

Federal Government Resolves Complaint Filed by CA Transgender Student
7.24.13 (San Francisco, CA, July 24, 2013)—Today, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights and U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division announced a resolution to a complaint filed by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) on behalf of a transgender student in California’s Arcadia Unified School District. The resolution requires the school district to treat the student as male in all respects and keep his transgender status private.

Press Release

Agreement Reached in Lawsuit Against Indianapolis Public Schools For Failing to Protect Gay Student
7.10.13 (Indianapolis, IN, July 9, 2013)—Today, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), Kirkland & Ellis LLP, and Waples & Hanger announced an agreement resolving a lawsuit against the Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) filed by Dynasty Young, a former student who sued the district after officials failed to address relentless harassment he experienced at school because he is gay and does not conform to gender stereotypes.

Press Release

CA Senate Passes Bill Supporting Transgender Student Success
7.05.13 (Sacramento, CA, July 3, 2013)—Today, the California State Senate passed the School Success and Opportunity Act (Assembly Bill 1266), sending the bill that ensures transgender students have the opportunity to succeed in school to Governor Jerry Brown for his signature. Authored by Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, the bill passed the Senate with a 21-9 vote (unofficial). The bill passed the California State Assembly last month with 46-25 vote.

Press Release

Bill Supporting Transgender Students Goes to the Senate Floor
6.12.13 SACRAMENTO—Today the California Senate Education Committee passed AB 1266 (Ammiano), the School Success and Opportunity Act, a bill that provides crucial support for transgender students, by a vote of 5-2. The bill will ensure that California public schools understand their responsibility for the success and well-being of all students, including transgender students, and will allow transgender students to fully participate in all school activities, programs, and facilities. AB 1266 is authored by Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, and is co-authored by Senator Mark Leno, Senator Ricardo Lara and Assemblymember Toni Atkins.

Press Release

Maine Chapter of American Academy of Pediatrics Joins Other Child Welfare Organizations on Brief Supporting Transgender Girl
5.3.13—Today, the Maine Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and other child welfare organizations filed an amicus curiae ("friend of the court") brief with the Maine Supreme Judicial Court in support of a transgender girl who experienced discrimination and harassment at her Orono school.

Press Release

NCLR Applauds Introduction of Bi-Partisan Student Non-Discrimination Act
4.18.13— Today, Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) announced the bi-partisan reintroduction of the Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA). Despite the frequency with which youth are targeted for harassment based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity in schools, there are currently no federal comprehensive anti-bullying protections. This legislation would protect students from bullying, violence, and harassment based on actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity. The bill enjoys significant support and is being introduced with over 100 original co-sponsors.

Press Release

School Success and Opportunity Act Passes Assembly Education Committee
4.17.13—The School Success and Opportunity Act (AB 1266), authored by Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, has passed the Assembly Education Committee by a vote of 5-2. The bill, which is co-sponsored by Equality California, Transgender Law Center, ACLU of California, GSA Network and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, addresses the exclusion of transgender students from classes and activities, and clarifies existing anti-discrimination law to provide clear protections to transgender students.

Press Release

California Bill Will Ensure the Success and Well-being of Transgender Students
3.4.13—California Assemblymember Tom Ammiano has introduced the School Success and Opportunity Act, Assembly Bill 1266, co-authored by Senator Mark Leno and Senator Ricardo Lara. The bill will ensure that California public schools understand their responsibility for the success and well-being of all students, including transgender students, and will allow transgender students to fully participate in all school activities, programs, and facilities.

Press Release

Kansas Supreme Court Rules to Protect the Interests of Children in All Families, Regardless of Parents’ Sexual Orientation
2.22.13—Today, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that when a same-sex couple has a child together, both parents can be fully recognized as parents under Kansas state law. The court explained that Kansas parentage laws apply equally to women and non-biological parents, and that courts must consider the reality of who a child’s parents are in order to protect the interests of children. The court also ruled that an agreement to co-parent and share custody can be enforceable.

Press Release

Special Fund Helps LGBT “DREAMers” Get Work Permits and Relief from Deportation—LGBT Dreamers Helped So Far Share Their Stories
2.19.13—Nearly 200 lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) undocumented young people have either received or are in the process of receiving two-year work permits and reprieves from the threat of deportation, thanks to a fund made possible by over four dozen LGBT organizations.

Press Release

Leading Mental Health Professional Organizations, Health Care and Constitutional Scholars, and Social Services Providers Urge Appeals Court to Uphold California Law Prohibiting Dangerous Psychological Practices to Change Minors’ Sexual Orientation
2.8.13—A diverse group of prominent mental health professional organizations and social services providers, scholars of constitutional and health care law, civil liberties and religious organizations, the City and County of San Francisco, and individuals and family members filed ten friend-of-the-court briefs this week urging the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to uphold a 2012 California law that prohibits licensed therapists from trying to change a young person’s sexual orientation or gender expression.

Press Release

NCLR and EQCA Respond to Temporary Delay of CA Law Protecting LGBT Minors from Dangerous Practices that Try to Change Their Sexual Orientation 
12.21.12—Today, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily delayed the start date of a new California law that protects lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth from therapists who try to change their sexual orientation despite warnings by medical experts that these discredited practices put youth at risk of serious harm. 

Press Release

Federal Court Gives Green Light to California Law Protecting Youth from Dangerous Practices by Therapists Who Claim to Change Sexual Orientation
12.4.12—Today, Judge Kimberly Mueller of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California denied a request by an anti-LGBT group to postpone the January 1, 2013 start of the state’s new law protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth from psychological abuse at the hands of state-licensed therapists who use dangerous practices to try to change their clients’ sexual orientation or gender expression. The ruling means that the law will go into effect as scheduled.

Statement

NCLR Responds to Federal Court’s Decision on California Law Protecting LGBT Youth from Dangerous Practices by Therapists Who Claim to Change Sexual Orientation
Statement by NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter, Esq.
12.03.12—Today, Judge William B. Shubb of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California issued an order temporarily exempting three plaintiffs from the enforcement of a new law preventing licensed therapists from trying to change a minor’s sexual orientation or gender expression. The order applies only to the three plaintiffs and does not prevent the state from enforcing the law against other licensed mental health professionals. The new law goes into effect on January 1, 2013.

Statement

NCLR Applauds Congresswoman Speier’s Resolution to Protect LGBT Youth from Harmful Attempts to Change their Identity
Statement by NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell, Esq.
11.28.12—Today, United States Congresswoman Jackie Speier introduced the landmark “Stop Harming Our Kids” resolution, which calls on states to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth from dangerous and discredited practices by mental health professionals who falsely claim to be able to change their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Press Release

NCLR and EQCA Move to Intervene in Lawsuit to Defend Law Protecting LGBT Youth From Psychological Abuse
10.20.12—Late Friday, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and the law firm of Munger, Tolles & Olson filed court papers seeking to intervene in a federal lawsuit challenging the new California law protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender young people from dangerous and potentially deadly psychological abuse. NCLR and Munger Tolles filed the motion on behalf of Equality California asking the federal district court in Sacramento to permit them to join California Attorney General Kamala Harris in defending Senate Bill 1172, which prohibits state-licensed therapists who claim to be able to change their clients’ sexual orientation or gender expression from using dangerous practices that can lead to extreme depression and suicide.

Press Release

NCLR and EQCA Say Anti-LGBT Groups Are “Grasping at Straws” with Lawsuits Challenging Law Protecting LGBT Youth From Psychological Abuse
10.4.12—Today, two anti-LGBT groups, the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality and Liberty Counsel, filed a second federal challenge to the new law signed Saturday by California Governor Jerry Brown that will protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender young people in the state from dangerous and potentially deadly psychological abuse. Senate Bill 1172 was authored by Senator Ted Lieu, co-sponsored by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), Equality California, Gaylesta, Courage Campaign, Lambda Legal, and Mental Health America of Northern California, and supported by dozens of organizations.

from the docket

Pending (California)

Pickup et al. v. Brown et al.
and Welch et al. v. Brown et al.

On September 29, 2012, California Governor Jerry Brown signed the first law in the nation prohibiting state-licensed therapists from trying to change the sexual orientation or gender expression of a patient under 18 years old. Every leading medical and mental health organization in the country has warned that these practices do not work and put young people at risk of serious harm, including depression, substance abuse, and suicide. NCLR and Equality California, the state’s leading LGBT political organization, were the primary organizational sponsors of the law, which was authored by Senator Ted Lieu.

Pending (Indiana)

Young v. IPS
Dynasty Young is a seventeen-year-old openly gay young man. Just before the beginning of his junior year of high school, he moved to Indianapolis and enrolled in Arsenal Technical High School. From the first day of school, Dynasty was subjected to relentless, severe harassment and abuse by his peers because he was perceived as gay and gender non-conforming and because he sometimes dressed in clothes and accessories such as knee-high boots, rings, and bangles, and carried a purse.

Pending (Minnesota)

Doe v. Anoka-Hennepin School District No. 11 and
E.R. v. Anoka-Hennepin School District No. 11

All students should be able to receive an education in an environment that is safe and inclusive. Unfortunately, many schools in the Anoka-Hennepin School District in Minnesota have become a frightening and harmful toxic environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students. Many students in the district are harassed every day by their peers because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender expression. NCLR joined the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and Faegre & Benson LLP in investigating the school district in the fall of 2010 after four LGBT students from the district died by suicide.

Victory! (Ohio)

In re D.B.
In August 2010, NCLR, the National Juvenile Defender Center, and the Juvenile Law Center filed an amicus brief arguing that the conviction of a 12-year-old boy, charged and prosecuted for statutory rape—a first degree felony—for intimate conduct with an 11-year-old male friend, was unconstitutional. On June 8, 2011, in a unanimous decision, the Ohio Supreme Court agreed that the law was unconstitutional as applied to any child under 13, and reversed the conviction.

Victory!(Minnesota)

Shelton v. Anoka-Hennepin School District
In January 2011, NCLR and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) filed an lawcuit against the Anoka-Hennepin School District in Minnesota demanding that they allow Desiree "Dez" Shelton and Sarah Lindstrom to walk together in their school assembly. The two, who were girlfriends, were elected by their classmates as part of the royal court for the "Snow Days" dance. To avoid allowing them to participate in the assembly leading up to the dance, schol officials canceled the event. NCLR and SPLC filed a demand letter outlining the District’s violations of the girls’ rights under the First Amendment, the Equal Protection Clause, and the Minnesota Human Rights Act. Days later, after mediation talks, the school allowed the girls were able to participate in the assembly as a couple.

Victory! (California)

California Education Committee, LLC, et al. v. Jack O’Connell et al.
In November 2007, anti-LGBT organizations filed a lawsuit in federal court, challenging California’s safe schools laws that, among other things, protect students from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. NCLR clients Equality California and the Gay-Straight Alliance Network got involved in the case in order to defend and protect the anti-discrimination laws.

Victory! (Florida)

D.A. v. J.W.
Seventeen-year-old J.W. and 18-year-old D.A. had been dating for almost six months when J.W.’s mother, Ms. W., learned about their relationship. Because she disapproved of her daughter dating another woman, in December 2007, Ms. W. petitioned a Florida court to get a restraining order to prohibit any contact between the two. Ms. W. admitted in court that she was seeking a restraining order only because she did not want her daughter to have a relationship with another woman.

Victory! (Florida)

Davis v. Fleming High School
NCLR represented Kelli Davis, a senior at Fleming High School, who was denied the right to appear in her senior yearbook because she wore a tuxedo rather than stereotypically feminine clothing.

program highlights


NCLR Submits Comments to DOJ on Standards Developed by the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission (NPREC)


Since August 2005, NCLR has played a crucial role in the conversation to eliminate sexual violence in prisons. On May 10, 2010 the National Center for Lesbian Rights joined the nation’s leading LGBT civil rights groups and the nation’s leading juvenile justice reform organizations in submitting two sets of comments to Attorney General Eric Holder, urging him to adopt the proposed NPREC standards to prevent sexual abuse in prisons, jails, and youth facilities. NCLR expressed its strong support for the standards with suggested modifications to strengthen the protection of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people from sexual abuse. Research on sexual abuse in jails, prison, juvenile facilities, and immigration detention consistently documents the heightened vulnerability of LGBTI people to sexual victimization. The sexual abuse of LGBTI people violates their basic human rights and violates the government’s constitutional obligation to provide safe and humane conditions of confinement.

Individuals who are – or are perceived to be – LGBTI make up a significant percentage of those currently in jails, prison, juvenile facilities, and immigration detention. A recent survey of juvenile facilities found that more than 12 percent of youth reported a sexual orientation other than heterosexual. A 2006 survey found 11 percent of prisoners in men’s facilities and 28 percent of prisoners in women’s facilities identified as lesbian, gay, or bisexual. And research on sexual abuse in these settings consistently documents the heightened vulnerability of LGBTI people to sexual victimization. For example, the Bureau of Justice Statistics survey of youth in juvenile facilities found that youth with a sexual orientation other than heterosexual were almost ten times as likely as heterosexual youth to report they had been sexually abused by other youth while in custody (12.5 percent vs. 1.3 percent). A study of sexual abuse in prison found gay and bisexual men made up 26 percent of the sexually victimized men and lesbian and bisexual women made up 38 percent of the victimized women. And other data starkly illustrate that transgender women and girls are highly vulnerable to sexual abuse, especially when housed in facilities for men or boys. A 2007 study from California found that 59 percent of transgender women in men’s prisons reported sexual abuse – 13 times the rate for non-transgender inmates. The sexual abuse of LGBTI people violates their basic human rights, violates the government’s constitutional obligation to provide safe and humane conditions of confinement, and impedes the likelihood of a successful transition back into the community. Each day that passes without these critically important standards leaves LGBTI people in confinement at substantial risk of harm.


 

NCLR’s Youth Project Director to Serve on California’s First State-Run LGBTQ Advisory Committee

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has formed a groundbreaking 20 member advisory committee for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Questioning (LGBTQ) Children and Youth in Child Welfare. This initiative is the first of its kind in the state and is created in partnership with with the Annie E. Casey Foundation. NCLR Youth Project Director Jody Marksamer is serving on the advisory committee.

The LGBTQ Advisory Committee will assist CDSS with policy analysis in order to improve the experiences of LGBTQ children and youth in the child welfare system throughout California’s 58 counties. The Committee’s initial goals are to provide a forum to raise these important issues, develop a model that identifies best practices and tools, and educate various entities serving California’s LGBTQ youth and families in the child welfare system. Long term, the Committee will develop a more formalized plan to increase leadership throughout the state in order to integrate the needs of LGBTQ youth into current child welfare initiatives.

The Committee will meet quarterly over the next two years. John Wagner, Director of CDSS is the Committee Chairperson.

publications & downloads

Guidelines for Managing Information Related to the Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression of Children in Child Welfare Settings - 2013

This groundbreaking new publication is a product of the Putting Pride into Practice Project, a project of Family Builders by Adoption to help child welfare professionals better serve LGBT children and youth in foster care. These guidelines provide much-needed direction to child welfare agencies on how best to collect, record, and disclose information on the sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression of children and youth in foster care. Developed in partnership with Legal Services for Children, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the Center for the Study of Social Policy, these guidelines will help agencies develop, track, and assess needs of LGBT children and youth.

A Place of Respect: A Guide for Group Care Facilities Serving Transgender and Gender Non-conforming Youth

A pioneering new report authored by the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Sylvia Rivera Law Project urges group care facilities to reassess their treatment of transgender and gender non-conforming youth and to adopt policies and practices that provide these youth with appropriate, fair and equal care. The report is the first to provide comprehensive guidance about the treatment of transgender and gender non-conforming youth in group care facilities,—including detention centers, correctional facilities, and group homes. The report also provides model policies and a framework for staff to ensure that all youth are given a safe and healthy living environment.
read the official press release

Hidden Injustice: LGBT Youth in Juvenile Courts

Hidden Injustice, published by the Equity Project, a collaboration of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Legal Services for Children, and the National Juvenile Defender Center, represents the first effort to examine the experiences of LGBT youth in juvenile courts across the country. Drawing from first-hand accounts of more than 50 LGBT youth and in-depth interviews of more than 60 juvenile justice professionals, this groundbreaking report sheds light on the numerous barriers to fair and effective treatment of court-involved LGBT youth. Hidden Injustice is an invaluable resource for anyone who is committed to pursuing a fair and just juvenile delinquency system where all youth are treated with dignity, fairness, and respect.

Child Welfare League of America(CWLA) Best Practice Guidelines: Serving LGBT Youth in Out-of-Home Care (pdf)

This easy-to-use resource contains the first-ever set of comprehensive professional guidelines for how child welfare and juvenile justice professionals can best serve LGBT youth in state care. The Best Practice Guidelines for Serving LGBT Youth in Out of Home Care developed out of recommendations from the Model Standards Project, a collaboration between Legal Services for Children and the National Center for Lesbian Rights. A hard copy can be ordered online

Health Clinics Specializing in the Treatment of LGBT Patients

The enclosed document lists various clinics, health centers, and other healthcare resources that specialize in the treatment and wellness of the LGBT community including LGBT youth.

Breaking the Silence: LGBTQ Foster Youth Tell Their Stories

The ten youth-produced digital stories included on the Breaking the Silence DVD are powerful tales of both the successes and failures of the foster care system for these ten LGBTQ youth. Each DVD also comes with a CD containing more than 25 useful and informative training tools and resources. order the DVD and Resource CD (pdf)order online!

The Legal Rights of LGBT Youth in the Juvenile Justice System Fact Sheet (pdf)

LGBT young people in the juvenile justice system have clearly-established civil rights under the U.S. Constitution as well as state and federal statutes. This user-friendly fact sheet provides an overview of these rights.