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Task force launches New Beginnings initiative
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Task force launches New Beginnings initiative

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Staff Writer

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and a national collaboration of expert organizations announced last week the New Beginning Initiative, designed to push for concrete federal administration policy regulatory changes directly benefiting the lives of LGBT people and eliminating discrimination from federal policies.

The initiative began more than a year ago in preparation for a more LGBT-favorable administration, according to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. According to the Task Force, more than 80 initial policies have been identified and recommended for changes that span the authority of the White House and more than 30 federal agencies. The recommendations focus on pro-LGBT public policy changes the Obama administration can implement without legislative action.

According to the Task Force, The New Beginning Initiative is the first time such a coalition of LGBT and allied organizations has come together in this way to affect administration policy.

"We have an unprecedented opportunity to push the federal government for policy changes that will directly improve the quality of life for LGBT people and families. It is time for the government to step up and fulfill the promise of full equality," said Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. "By leveraging the expertise and resources of so many and advocating for these changes, we can directly challenge long-standing government-supported discrimination and get federal dollars and attention flowing to vital community services and support for LGBT people across the country."

She said progress is already being made on a number of policies in the initiative, including the Census Bureau's decision to reverse its previous policy and now count married same-sex couples in the 2010 census.

The initiative is funded through the Open Society Institute and includes concrete policy changes written by the participating organizations. In the coming months and years, each organization will identify the strategies for accomplishing the respective policy changes it is working on.

Some examples of recommended policy changes are: amending the nondiscrimination guidelines for the federal civilian workforce to include gender identity and expression; funding to reduce violence in schools, including preventing bullying and harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity; including sexual orientation and gender identity categories as a designated and mandated component for federally funded aging research and data collection; ensuring LGBT people are recognized as a population and marked by health disparities for appropriate inclusion in federally funded studies; requiring office of Housing and Urban Development to recognize unaccompanied homeless youth as a special-needs population requiring the development of targeted housing models; and encouraging U.S. diplomatic engagement on international LGBT issues as legitimate human rights concerns.

Copies of the initial policies identified and recommended for changes have been provided to the Obama transition team as well as key White House staff.

Participating organizations have already begun meeting with Obama administration officials to pursue some of the policy changes. As progress is made, more information will be disseminated to the LGBT community through the New Beginning Initiative's web page.

For more information about the New Beginning Initiative go to www.thetaskforce.org/newadmin/newbeginning_intro.html.

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