Texas Planned Parenthood Gets $1 Million Donation From Perot Foundation

The Huffington Post  | By   Posted: 08/30/2013           

The Perot Foundation of Dallas, founded by billionaire and former presidential candidate Ross Perot, announced Thursday that it is donating $1 million to Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas to help provide health care and education services.

“For nearly 100 years Planned Parenthood has helped to educate men and women regarding family planning and general family health,” said Margot Perot in a written statement. “Our family has supported this nonprofit for many years because we are impressed with the work they do — providing birth control; scientifically based education; breast health exams; and basic, life-saving healthcare for women who cannot afford services otherwise.”

The $1 million is undesignated, according to a Planned Parenthood spokeswoman, so the money can be used for the general mission of the organization.

“We also recognize the need to further inform the public of the mission of this great organization and the need to support it at this critical time,” said Perot.

The donation comes as Texas lawmakers have sought to restrict access to the organization’s services. Last winter, the state transitioned to the Texas Women’s Health Program, essentially cutting off funding to Texas Planned Parenthood providers. Recent abortion restrictions signed into state law in June have led to the closing of three clinics in Bryan, Huntsville and Lufkin, Texas.

“We are thrilled that this generous gift will enable us to continue providing basic, preventive health care to our patients who come to Planned Parenthood because they need access to quality, affordable care. More than one in four Texas women are uninsured, and our state’s cervical cancer rate is among the highest in the nation,” said Ken S. Lambrecht, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, the North Dallas Gazette reported. “Thanks to the generosity of The Perot Foundation and other community members, Planned Parenthood is proud to be here for the Texans who count on us, no matter what.”


Federal Judge Strikes Down Law Barring Same-Sex Couples From Receiving Veterans’ Benefits

posted on August 29, 2013 at 11:04pm EDT


          Chris Geidner                                            BuzzFeed Staff

Tracey and Maggie Cooper-Harris. Courtesy Kathleen Perrin

WASHINGTON — A federal judge in California on Thursday found that, as with the ban on federal recognition of same-sex couples’ marriages, federal veterans’ benefits laws that limit those benefits to opposite-sex spouses are unconstitutional.

Finding no rational basis for the definitions in Title 38 of the U.S. Code that limit provision of veterans’ benefits to opposite-sex couples, Judge Consuelo B. Marshall found those statutes unconstitutional — echoing the Supreme Court’s ruling earlier this summer striking down part of the Defense of Marriage Act.

Specifically, Marshall found:

The Court finds that the exclusion of spouses in same-sex marriages from veterans’ benefits is not rationally related to the goal of gender equality. …

The denial of benefits to spouses in same-sex marriages is not rationally related to any of these military purposes.

Additionally, Title 38 is not rationally related to the military’s commitment to caring for and providing for veteran families.

Marshall concluded, “Title 38 is unconstitutional under rational basis scrutiny,” specifically barring the government from enforcing either the DOMA marriage definition, also challenged in the case, or the two statutory definitions at issue in Title 38 “to deny recognition of Plaintiffs’ marriage recognized by the state of California.”

The case was brought on behalf of plaintiffs Tracey and Maggie Cooper-Harris by the Southern Poverty Law Center in February 2012. Tracey Cooper-Harris served in the Army for about 12 years — deployed and having served in Iraq, among other places — and completed her service and received an honorable discharge in 2003.

The American Military Partner Association president, Stephen Peters, said in a statement, “Title 38 clearly violated the constitutional rights of our military veteran families. This decision sets our nation on a path to honoring and serving all of our veterans and their families, regardless of their sexual orientation.”

[This story was updated as additional information became available, with the final update at 1:30 a.m. Friday.]

Meet Bayard Rustin, the gay socialist pacifist who planned the 1963 March on Washington


By Dylan Matthews, Published: August 28 at 6:34 pm

I had been planning on writing something about Bayard Rustin, the organizer of the March on Washington, but Steven Thrasher has done a fairly definitive take over at Buzzfeed, talking with the late activist’s partner, Walter Naegle, who will accept Rustin’s posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom on his behalf.

Rustin was a fascinating character. In his youth, he was a member of the Young Communist League — the youth branch of the Communist Party USA — owing to the fact that the Communists were just about the only political party in the 1930s to be fully opposed to segregation. ”Living in Harlem, he saw that whenever blacks got into trouble, it was invariably the Communists who were willing to defend them,” his biographer, John D’Emilio, writes. “Other radical groups, like the Socialist Party or assorted Trotskyist organizations, promised gains only after the revolution.” His ties to the party would get him investigated by the FBI once he became a well-known leader of the civil rights movement.

He quit the party in June 1941, after the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union led the U.S. party to switch gears into building American opposition to fascism, and racial justice issues fell by the wayside. By the end of his life, Rustin was the chairman of  Social Democrats USA, the pro-Vietnam War successor party that emerged out of the Socialist Party’s collapse in the 1970s, and which  was a breeding ground for many neoconservatives (indeed, the word “neoconservative” was first used as a term of abuse for members of the Social Democrats USA). Rustin opposed the war but also opposed withdrawing without a negotiated settlement. As late as 1975, Rustin sent President Gerald Ford a letter urging him to “do whatever is possible to secure the freedom of Vietnamese whose lives are now threatened by the communist military victors.”


Despite that link, Rustin was a deeply committed pacifist, owing largely to his Quaker background, and got thrown in jail for conscientiously objecting to service in World War II. He was the one who introduced Gandhi’s tactics of nonviolent resistance (which he learned from visiting independence activists in India) to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. King’s links to Rustin occasionally caused him trouble, not just because of his dalliances with Communism but because Rustin was openly gay, an astonishing fact at the time. Both segregationists and other civil rights leaders would use this against him and King, as Steven Thrasher explains:

In 1960, Rustin and MLK were preparing to lead a boycott of blacks outside the Democratic National Convention. This would have deeply embarrassed the leading elected black politician of the day, Rep. Adam Clayton Powell. Powell threatened to spread a rumor that Rustin was having a sexual relationship with King. King canceled the protest, and Rustin resigned from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. […] Rustin’s sexual arrest record terrorized him again in 1963, when segregationist Sen. Strom Thurmond read its entire contents into the congressional record, in an attempt to make the march lose its best organizer. It backfired. Civil rights leaders, taking an “enemy of my enemy is my friend” approach, were not supporters of Thurmond and backed Rustin.

Rustin didn’t live long enough to see legal recognition for relationships like his and Naegle’s, so he creatively opted to adopt Naegle as his son, which allowed Naegle to inherit Rustin’s belongings upon his death (which, given that Rustin was 37 years older, was an important consideration). While there was barely a gay rights movement to speak of when Rustin began his activism, toward the end of his life he became more involved, saying on one occasion, “The question of social change should be framed with the most vulnerable group in mind: gay people.

But he always resisted the notion that his activism was driven by personal motives. “My activism did not spring from my being gay, or for that matter, from my being black,” he wrote in a letter. “Rather it is rooted, fundamentally, in my Quaker upbringing and the values that were instilled in me by my grandparents who reared me. Those values are based on the concept of a single human family and the belief that all members of that family are equal.

It’s important, today, to remember the incredible impact that Dr. King had on Aug. 28, 1963. But it’s worth taking a moment to remember the man behind the event, who hasn’t been given his due because of decades of prejudice.


Dylan Matthews

Dylan Matthews covers taxes, poverty, campaign finance, higher education, and all things data. He has also written for The New Republic, Salon, Slate, and The American Prospect. Follow him on Twitter here. Email him here.

Starting Junior High as a Transgender Student


It’s back to school season in Rhode Island. There’s an ever so subtle hint of fall in the air and schools around the state are opening their doors again for students after the long summer break.

With the first day of school comes that familiar mix of nerves and excitement. Will my friends be the same?  What new people will I meet? Will I like my teachers? And perhaps no start of school is quite as nerve-wracking as the first day of junior high.

Now imagine that you are not only starting junior high school, you are doing it as an openly transgender student. That’s what Hannah Rini of Pawtucket did.  Wednesday was her first day of school at Goff Junior High School.











Credit Elisabeth Harrison / RIPR
Hannah Rini and her mother Michelle of Pawtucket prepare for the first day of middle school.  Hannah began living as a girl last year.


At 7:15 in the morning, 12-year-old Hannah Rini stands in front of the mirror brushing her teeth before the first day of school. She’s wearing a brand new outfit picked out just for this day: a sparkly purple and black plaid shirt and sparkly blue jeans. She takes a moment to make sure she has everything she needs in her backpack.

“I packed a lunch and then there’s my notebook and pencil and then just a folder. That’s it,” said Hannah.

The question running over and over again in her mind as she stops for one last check of her layered brown hair is will people accept me, and she has good reason to wonder because Hannah Rini is transgendered. She started living as a girl last year, as a 6th grader. She says most of her friends took the change in stride.

“They didn’t really react like surprised. They knew. I don’t know how but they knew I was trans cause like, maybe how I was acting? I don’t know. They weren’t surprised one bit,” said Hannah.

Those friends will be with her again this year in middle school, but there will also be new people, who will only know her as she looks today, like a sporty, pre-teen girl with long hair and glasses and a nervous laugh that sometimes punctuates the ends of her sentences. Or at least that’s how she hopes they will see her, but in the gossip mill that is Junior High, chances are her story will get out.

“If one person starts a rumor and says hey, well the truth, but as a rumor, and spreads it, and says I’m trans. Then I’m going to have to tell them the truth. Cause I don’t think they’ll understand the full definition,” said Hannah.

The full definition, as Hannah Rini and her family usually put it, is that Hannah has a girl’s head and a boy’s body. She was born Sebastian and lived as a boy until she was about 10 years old. That’s when she heard a story on the radio about a man getting a sex change operation. After that, she went straight to her mother, Michelle Rini and told her she wanted the operation too.

“I was caught completely off guard. She walked in the house and said she wanted to have it as if I was going to make the appointment and next week we would go,” said Michelle.

Michelle Rini works as a mental health counselor in a home for troubled teens, so she may have been better equipped than some parents to find out that her son wanted to be a girl. Still, she was surprised and a little taken aback. She did a lot of research and the family starting working with a therapist and a pediatrician who specializes in transgender children. Then came hormone therapy. Michelle Rini says what cemented it, in her mind, was the day she watched her older daughter Alexis give Hannah a makeover.

“I was able to see the bathroom from where I was sitting at the computer, and her face absolutely just lit up and glowed like I’ve never seen it before, and I have to say it’s been a year and a half and she has not looked back,” said Michelle.

She may not be looking back, but what lies ahead for Hannah is the minefield of adolescence. It’s tricky enough for anyone to navigate, let alone someone growing up trans.

“What we see a lot in middle school is everyone’s trying to, categorize everything in their lives,” said Jaye Watts.

Watts works with the organization YouthPride, which provides support for gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgendered young people.

Their brain development at that time is very much everyone’s gonna fit in one box or another box. And so the masculinity and femininity and boys and girls. So there’s a lot of pressure to fit into a box regardless of what that box is.

Watts met with Hannah Rini’s teachers in elementary school before she transitioned to living as a girl and he recently met with staff at her new middle school. He tells teachers to be vigilant about bullying and name-calling, and let students know right away that it won’t be tolerated. Watts also reminds them about more practical issues like making sure a student’s chosen name is on the class roster, not their birth name, so new teachers won’t make a mistake. And then there’s the question he says many adults think of first: which bathroom will the student use?

“Yes. Unfortunately everyone’s worried about where someone’s gonna pee but everyone needs to pee, and everyone needs to be able to do that in peace and we’ve gotta get over that,” said Watts.

After she became Hannah in elementary school, Hannah Rini used the nurse’s bathroom. This year, the school left it up to the family, and they would like her to do just what she wants, use the girls’ room. Rhode Island state law protects transgendered people from discrimination but there is no specific policy for how schools should accommodate them. Hannah’s father, Nick Rini, says he thinks she will fit in just fine.

“She might have an easier time than other kids going through something similar. She doesn’t hold back anything and she, I wouldn’t say doesn’t care, but she is who she is and people accept her or they don’t, and she’s okay with that,” said Nick.

Hannah, her mom and little brother arrive at Goff Junior High School just as the school bus rolls up. Michelle Rini pauses for a minute, looks at her daughter and gives her a kiss.

“Good luck to me. I hope I have a good day. I’m not even that much nervous but, I’m okay,” she said.

And with that Hannah heads off to join the crowd of students milling around outside the school doors. She and her parents are hopeful the year will go by without incident, and they are encouraged by how well she was accepted in elementary school. But they know middle school is a different ballgame. There has already been one problem with name calling on Facebook over the summer. The Rinis say they will be watching and staying in contact with the school if there’s any problem. And they hope that by speaking publicly about their story, they will encourage others to be more accepting of transgender people like their daughter Hannah.