Around the Region: Stevens Point passes transgender-inclusive housing protections


Stevens Point passed housing protections for transgender people, the Pointer reports:

On Monday, Aug. 14, the Stevens Point Public Protection Committee met to discuss, not only a change in the housing law, but a change in many people’s lives.
Robert Steinke, a Plover resident, brought the request of having specific protection be added to the housing laws to better defend transgender individuals. The change had no objections and became official on Aug. 21, 2017.

According to The National Center for Transgender Equality, when in search of housing, one in five transgender persons is discriminated against. If housing is found, one in 10 of these persons is then evicted and forced to go through the process again. Because of this, it is thought that up to 40 percent of the homeless youth are LGBTQ-identified.
After quoting the 14th amendment, Alderperson Mary Kneebone states “I wholeheartedly support this change in our ordinance to make Stevens Point even more inclusive.”
City Attorney Andrew Beveridge, supported the change as well by saying “…few words can have a large impact…” when it comes to equality, and the ability of Stevens Point to become an example for others.

Last week, the first lawsuit was filed in the State of Iowa that will test the 2007 law that added gender identity to anti-discrimination laws, Iowa Public Radio reports:

The ACLU of Iowa has filed what is believed to be the first transgender rights lawsuit in Iowa since the state amended the Iowa Civil Rights Act in 2007 to include gender identity protections.
Jesse Vroegh, a transgender nurse, worked at Iowa’s Department of Corrections for seven years. After he publicly transitioned to male, Vroegh says he was barred from using the men’s bathroom and locker room, and denied medical coverage for surgery.
“All sorts of psychological and physical discomfort go along with not getting medically necessary care,” says ACLU of Iowa Legal Director Rita Bettis. “The harms from not being allowed to use the same facilities that other men who work at the prison are able to use really can’t be understated. It’s stigmatizing, it’s isolating.”
The lawsuit’s defendants are the Iowa Department of Corrections, Patti Wachtendorf, the former warden at the Iowa Correctional Institute for Women, the Iowa Department of Administrative Services and Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Iowa, which provides health insurance to DOC employees.
“What we’d really like to see is the state of Iowa take a leadership role in enforcing the provisions of the Iowa Civil Rights Act, instead of pushing back on those rights the legislator has given to Iowans,” says Des Moines employment discrimination attorney Melissa Hasso, who is working with the ACLU to represent Vroegh.

Little Village Magazine has more:

Jesse Vroegh, a transgender man, has filed a civil rights lawsuit alleging state agencies and a major insurance company violated Iowa laws forbidding discrimination on the basis of gender identity. It’s believed to be the first such lawsuit filed in the state.
Vroegh, who worked as a nurse at the Iowa Correctional Institute for Women (ICIW) in Marshalltown from 2009 to 2016, is suing the Iowa Department of Corrections (IDOC), the former warden of the ICIW and the Iowa Department of Administrative Services (IDAS), claiming that the IDOC refused to make reasonable accommodations for him as he transitioned from female to male. Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Iowa, which provides health insurance policies for IDOC employees, is also named in the lawsuit for allegedly not covering medically prescribed treatments related to Vroegh’s transition.
“It’s important that transgender people in our state be treated equally, and that means they must be treated the same way in the workplace as people who are not transgender are treated,” Veronica Fowler, communications director for the ACLU of Iowa, told Little Village.
The state chapter of the ACLU, the ACLU LGBT project and Des Moines attorney Melissa Hasso are representing Vroegh.

The Associated Press notes that Iowa’s governor opposes Trump’s ban on transgender troops:

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds says she disagrees with President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender individuals joining the military.
The Republican governor told reporters Monday that anyone who signs up for military service deserves appreciation and respect. Her office later said Reynolds doesn’t plan to take any action in response.

LGBTQ students at Iowa State will return to school with a new center, Iowa State Daily reports:

The Center for LGBTQIA+ Student Success is rebranding themselves to better reflect their services and who they serve.
“The Center” for short, students are given a new name that better recognizes their identities while also being easier to roll off the tongue.
Formerly known as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Student Services (LGBTSS), The Center made the official name change over the summer.
Clare Lemke, assistant director of The Center, said that the change has been an ongoing conversation for some time. The Center has gone through many changes throughout its history, slowly making it more inclusive to various members of the LGBTQIA+ community.
“This has really been a conversation that’s been going on for really years, longer than I’ve been here, really probably about the last 10 years,” Lemke said.
The office was created in 1992, under the name Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Student Services. Transgender was added to the name years later, to address a wider array of LGBTQIA+ individuals who used the center.

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Andy Birkey has written for a number of Minnesota and national publications. He founded Eleventh Avenue South which ran from 2002-2011, wrote for the Minnesota Independent from 2006-2011, the American Independent from 2010-2013. His writing has appeared in The Advocate, The Star Tribune, The Huffington Post, Salon, Cagle News Service, Twin Cities Daily Planet, TheUptake, and much more. His writing on LGBT issues, the religious right and social justice has won awards including Best Beat Reporting by the Online News Association, Best Series by the Minnesota chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, and an honorable mention by the Sex-Positive Journalism awards.