Open Letter to President Trump and Attorney General Sessions Concerning Transgender Children and Youth

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Media Contact: 
BStrider@eleisongroup.com

Presidential Executive Order Harmful to Transgender Children and Youth Prompts Faith in America Board to Send Letter to President Trump and Attorney General Sessions

Hickory, NC -- Faith in America (FIA) today releases the attached open letter, signed by the board of directors, sent to President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions regarding a Presidential Executive Order that, if enacted, will bring undue stress and pain to many of America’s children and youth.

Faith in America (FIA) is a non-profit dedicated to educating the public about ongoing harm caused to LGBTQ persons, especially children and youth, by religious-based prejudice. FIA seeks to change hearts and minds of religious communities on the nature of sexual orientation and gender identity, removing it permanently from “the sin list.”

The Save yOur Kids project is the most assertive project by FIA to date. SYK will bring to light the public health crisis facing America’s LGBTQ children and youth community. This executive order concerning transgender children and youth and their treatment within public spaces is an example of what SYK will fight against.

Faith in America has one of the strongest and most noted boards in America dedicated to protecting our children and youth, including signing the letter attached to this release:

Mitchell Gold: In addition to running one of America's most prestigious home furnishings manufacturing and retail businesses, Mitchell is co-founder of Faith in America.

Robert Hoffman: Co-Chair and Interim CEO for Faith in America. A former Fortune 500 Apparel Executive, Robert now works professionally as Managing Partner of Piedmont Counseling and Development Group and teaches undergraduate psychology at Lenoir Rhyne University.

Sherri Jaquays: Co-Founder of Lauren Jaquays LGBTQ Youth Alliance, formerly High Country (NC) LGBTQ Youth Alliance; successfully assisted in placing GSA in ‘conservative’ country schools.

Roberta Kaplan: Litigation partner at Paul, Weiss LLP. One of “The 100 Most Influential Lawyers” in the United States. Represented Edith Windsor in landmark civil rights case leading to Supreme Court mandating marriage equality nationwide two years later.

Shannon Price Minter: Legal Director, National Center for Lesbian Rights. Argued successfully before California Supreme Court for same sex couples. A transgender man, he is recognized as a leading expert of transgender legal issues.

Kris Perry and Sandy Stier: Paved the way for marriage equality through leadership in the landmark Supreme Court Case Hollingsworth v. Perry, leading to the defeat of California’s Prop 8 and ultimately making marriage equality the law of the land. Executive Director of the First Five Years Fund.  FIA’s first board couple.

Howard Vine: Former Partner, Public Policy and Law, Dickstein Shapiro, LLP. Founding member of FIA BOD; Howard’s partner is well known talk show host, Randi Rhodes.

Phil Wells (Council): Former BOD member of Equality NC and BOG HRC. Prior to joining Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams as Corp. Counsel, he practiced at NC law firm Williams Mulllen and was Corp Counsel for Compass Group.

Bob Williams: Co-founder, President of Design, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams. Served on Equality NC BOD, Chair of Hickory Museum of Art, and other non-profits.

Chely Wright: Country Singing sensation, author and activist, mother of gorgeous twin boys, married to Lauren Blitzer.

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Open Letter to U.S. President Trump and U.S. Attorney General Sessions

Thursday, February 23, 2017

RE: Transgender Students in Public Schools

President Trump and Attorney General Sessions:

We, the board of Faith in America are writing to publicly implore you to heed the guidance of your Secretary of Education regarding the draft executive order regarding transgender students in public schools.  In fighting not to overturn the current protections, it’s clear that Secretary DeVos recognizes the severe risk faced by transgender youth each day they travel the halls of the schools for which she has been tasked with providing oversight.  

The stigma attached to transgender identity creates a profound public health crisis for these kids.  One-in-four transgender youth attempt suicide and at least half struggle with suicidal ideation.  And, they are 8x more likely to succeed at taking their own lives than their straight peers.  A rule that focuses on whether this is a matter for the states or federal government misses the point. Historically, civil rights have not been adequately protected by “state’s rights.”  In fact, a “states rights” strategy has aided and abetted opportunities for bad actors in the religious community to discriminate, or encourage discrimination, within the public.

The first question we must be asking is whether we are keeping our kids safe, and that must be the lens through which we decide whether states or the federal government are better at doing so.  The canard that these laws protect a young woman from having perverted men in the bathroom or locker room is extremely misleading. There are laws against indecent exposure and harassment.  In all the media hoopla, there is little mention of the real needs of these vulnerable transgender youths.  Who will protect them?  We must.  Recent studies show dramatic decline in suicide rates among LGBT kids prior to Obergefell in states that passed marriage laws compared to those that did not. Certainly, this is an indication why we need to tackle these issues as a nation, rather than allow piecemeal protections by states. 

Such sobering statistics are well accounted for by the Meyers Minority Status Stress Model which recognizes the role stigma plays in inordinately higher rates of suicide, homelessness, serious mental illness and substance use disorders.  Fear of discrimination and violence are legitimate concerns on the part of the Secretary.  Research supports that 65% of these students encounter derogatory terms such as “faggot” or “dyke” on a daily basis, 85% have been verbally harassed in the last year, and 30% have missed at least one day of school due to feeling unsafe. 

The insufficiency of the additional verbiage the Secretary of Education resigned herself to, “Schools must ensure that transgender students, like all students, are able to learn in a safe environment,” grossly fails to grasp the unique challenges to safety these students face each day.  For this reason we ask in the strongest possible terms:  if you decide to replace the protections enacted by the previous administration for LGBT kids in our public schools, please ensure that they are replaced with measures that will be applied nation-wide and serve the protections of our transgender youth with commensurate force. 

Sincerely,

Mitchell Gold

Robert Hoffman

Sherri Jaquays

Roberta Kaplan

Kris Perry

Shannon Price Minter

Sandy Stier

Howard Vine

Phil Wells

Bob Williams

Chely Wright

Board of Directors, Faith in America