New research from the UCLA WORLD Policy Analysis Center shows that the United States is falling behind its global peers when it comes to guarantees for key constitutional rights. “The new decade begins with clear constitutional gaps that place the United States in a global minority” for failing to guarantee rights to healthcare and gender equality, said Jody Heymann, founder of the nonprofit policy research center. “Globally, the U.S. now lags 165 other nations with stronger constitutional protections for women. And the U.S. is absent from the 142 countries globally … that provide some degree of constitutional protection for the right to health,” said Heymann, a distinguished professor of public policy, medicine, and health policy and management at UCLA. Worldwide, the center’s researchers found a considerable expansion of protections over the past 50 years but noted that millions are still left without human rights guarantees, leaving them vulnerable to discrimination. Groups experiencing the greatest gaps in rights guarantees include migrants, people with disabilities and the LGBTQ community. To produce the report, researchers analyzed the constitutions of all 193 United Nations member states. “Constitutions help shape social norms and send clear messages about who matters and what nations value,” Heymann said. The report is now available as an online resource featuring policy briefs, maps and downloadable data as well as the book “Advancing Equality,” available for download at UC Press. The book’s authors, Heymann, Amy Raub and Aleta Sprague, also wrote an op-ed for CNN arguing that it’s time for the United States to guarantee gender equality by enshrining the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution.
Kevin Medina of the UCLA Luskin undergraduate program's staff poses a question to candidate Tom Steyer.
A large UCLA Luskin contingent came face to face with a field of Democratic presidential candidates at a town hall in downtown Los Angeles that focused on LGBTQ rights. Students, faculty and staff from the School were among 160 UCLA guests invited by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, sponsors of the “Power of Our Pride” event broadcast live by CNN on Thursday, Oct. 10. Public affairs pre-major Ayse Seker was one of several students and staff selected to pose questions to the candidates. “How would you address the at times juxtaposing issues of religious freedom and LGBTQ rights?” Seker asked of candidate Cory Booker. Citing his own faith, Booker replied that he could not allow religion to be used as a justification for discrimination. Other staff and students invited to address the candidates included undergraduate Brandon Broukhim, public policy graduate student Tamera Hyatte and Kevin Medina, experiential learning advisor for the undergraduate program in public affairs. Candidates present at the forum included former Vice President Joe Biden, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Secretary Julian Castro, Sen. Kamala Harris, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, former Congressman Beto O’Rourke, investor and activist Tom Steyer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren. The town hall, held on the eve of National Coming Out Day, marked the first time a major cable news network aired a presidential event devoted to issues of importance to the LGBTQ community.
UPDATE, Sept. 5, 2019: The venue for the Oct. 10 presidential candidate forum has been changed to the Novo, an entertainment venue in downtown Los Angeles, in order to accommodate broadcast coverage. For further information, please contact Lucas Acosta of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation at email@example.com or 347-834-5063. The foundation will be the forum’s sole sponsor.
The UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the educational arm of the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer civil rights organization, will co-host a forum for 2020 Democratic presidential candidates this fall.
The conversation will take place on Oct. 10, 2019, — the eve of National Coming Out Day — at UCLA, and it will give candidates an opportunity to speak about their policy platforms and plans to move LGBTQ equality forward.
The forum will be part of UCLA’s Luskin Lecture Series, which enhances public discourse on topics relevant to the betterment of society. The series demonstrates UCLA Luskin’s commitment to encouraging innovative breakthroughs and creative solutions to formidable public policy challenges. Details regarding the RSVP process will be made available later on the UCLA Luskin website.
As in other presidential candidate forums, Democratic candidates can qualify for the event by receiving 1 percent or more of the vote in three separate national polls or by receiving donations from 65,000 different people in 20 different states.
Today, in 30 states, LGBTQ people remain at risk of being fired, evicted or denied services because of who they are. Thirty-five states have yet to outlaw the dangerous and debunked practice known as “conversion therapy.” LGBTQ youth continue to face elevated levels of bullying and rejection, and many associated physical and mental health challenges. According to FBI hate crimes statistics from 2017, the most recently available data, the bureau reported a surge in hate crimes disproportionately affecting LGBTQ people, black people and religious minorities, especially those living at the intersection of multiple identities. And at least 100 transgender people — most of whom are transgender women of color — have been murdered in the United States since the beginning of 2015.
“If any LGBTQ person were to take a cross-country drive from HRC headquarters in Washington, D.C., to UCLA’s campus, their rights and protections under the law would change dozens of times at every city line and state border,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “That’s why we’ve fought to elect a pro-equality majority in Congress that would pass the Equality Act — and it’s why we’ve got to make sure the next president will fight for our community and establish full federal equality once and for all. HRC’s 3 million members and millions of LGBTQ voters across America will be key to victory in the 2020 election, and we’re excited to create an opportunity to hear candidates’ agendas for moving equality forward.”
The forum will be held in the midst of UCLA’s centennial year, when the campus will recognize its many contributions to Los Angeles, the nation and the world since its founding in 1919, as well as looking ahead to another century of discovery and achievement.
“The Luskin School of Public Affairs is dedicated to enhancing the well-being of all Americans through an informed electorate and educated social leaders,” said Gary Segura, dean of UCLA Luskin. “We are beyond excited to partner with the Human Rights Campaign in raising LBGTQ issues and the policy stances of candidates to greater public attention in this cycle. UCLA is the perfect host for this conversation.”
HRC worked to mobilize the powerful LGBTQ voting bloc in the 2018 midterms, endorsing more than 480 pro-equality candidates nationwide, and deploying 150 staff to organize and mobilize voters in more than 70 congressional, targeted U.S. Senate and other key races across 23 states. On Election Day, exit polling showed that more than 7 million LGBTQ voters — 6 percent of total turnout — cast ballots, making the difference in key races from coast to coast. Electing a pro-equality majority in the U.S. House of Representatives has already made a huge impact; Speaker Nancy Pelosi has made it a top priority to pass the Equality Act, a federal LGBTQ civil rights bill that will provide consistent and explicit non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people from coast to coast. This legislation is expected to be introduced soon amid an unprecedented level of support from members of Congress, national advocacy organizations and leading U.S. companies.
HRC last hosted presidential forums in 2004 and 2007. In 2004, HRC’s forum included Sen. John Kerry, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, Gov. Howard Dean, Sen. Joe Lieberman, Rev. Al Sharpton and Rep. Richard Gephardt. In 2007, HRC’s forum included then-Senator Hillary Clinton, then-Senator Barack Obama, Sen. Mike Gravel, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, former Sen. John Edwards and Gov. Bill Richardson.
Despite recent gains in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights in the United States such as gay marriage and the right to serve openly in the military, the fight against equality for LGBT people appears to be gaining strength, according to Kian Goh, assistant professor of urban planning. Violence against LGBT people has continued “unabated, however, during the recent period of legislative wins,” Goh writes in a recently published article, “Safe Cities and Queer Spaces: The Urban Politics of Radical LGBT Activism.” In the online article in Annals of the American Association of Geographers, Goh cites data from GLAAD and the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, indicating that 2015 and 2016 were the “most deadly on record for transgender people in the United States, overwhelmingly affecting transgender women of color.” In LGBT communities, homelessness continues to be an issue, and socioeconomic disparities are reinforced, “particularly among women, people of color, young and old, and gender-nonconforming.” Goh adds that these overlapping identities and “systems of oppression exacerbate the marginalization of LGBT-identified people, creating ‘unjust geographies’ that intertwine race, class gender and sexuality.” Goh looks at how researchers, planners and others who contribute to the “making of cities” can understand and contribute to social movements, change and justice, and — through participatory observation and working with these groups — examines the efforts of two New York-based queer activist groups fighting for social and spatial change. — Stan Paul