L.A. County Kicks Off First Women’s Military and Veterans Program

By Monica Luhar, KCET, July 24, 2014

http://www.kcet.org/news/agenda/diversity/la-county-kicks-off-first-womens-military-and-veterans-program.html

The Los Angeles County Department of Military and Veterans Affairs last weekend kicked off the first countywide Women’s Military and Veterans program.

The program, based on results in a survey by the California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls, will encompass a series of yearlong events and resources to assist female veterans as they transition from military service.

From 1973 to 2010, the number of women actively serving in the military has risen from approximately 42,000 to 167,000 according to the Pew Research Center. This growth has signaled the need for more comprehensive resources for women veterans who are in transition.

In 2012, Stephanie Stone, chief deputy director at the MVA, came to the realization that while L.A. County is the second largest county for women veterans, there wasn’t a specialized program for them. “We recognized there was a need for it, so we started looking at what was done at the statewide level,” she said.

The MVA will explore several themes throughout the program. In August, it will launch “Transitioning,” a theme that explores the resources and challenges of female veterans as they transition from service, followed by other themes like housing and mental health.

Stone, a Navy veteran, has spent decades supporting the veteran community in Southern California. She has also been spreading awareness about military sexual trauma, a topic she learned about in great detail during a women’s veterans conference she had attended in 2009.

“We know that this has been an issue for generations. We want to do a couple things: Ultimately it’s connecting women to the resources and the benefits they’ve already earned which we don’t do as a community. We want to connect them to resources and recognize we can work together on these issues,” said Stone.

The VA defines military sexual trauma as “psychological trauma resulting from a physical assault of a sexual nature, battery of a sexual nature, or sexual harassment while the Veteran was serving on active duty or active duty for training.”

KCET’s news magazine, “SoCal Connected,” recently aired a story about Angie Peacock, an Army veteran who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and sexual assault. In 2009, she enrolled in Renew, a specialized 12-week sexual trauma program at Long Beach Veterans Affairs.

Women veterans who have experienced MST can apply for disability compensation through a VA Form.

Through the program, the MVA also hopes to address the issue of homelessness within the women veterans community in L.A. County and beyond.

“We want to see women connecting to their veteran benefits and we want to start seeing the end of homelessness for women veterans.”

The Women’s Military and Veterans program is open to female veterans every third Saturday of the month at Bob Hope Patriotic Hall.

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Obama Signs Executive Orders Protecting LGBT Employees

By Monica Luhar, KCET, July 21, 2014

http://www.kcet.org/news/agenda/diversity/obama-signs-executive-orders-protecting-lgbt-employees.html

President Obama signed two Executive Orders today that will protect employees of the federal government and its contractors and subcontractors from being discriminated against based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.

The orders are amendments to previous orders from two administrations of the 1960s.

Executive Order 11246, issued by President Lyndon Johnson in 1965, prohibits discrimination by federal contractors on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, and natural origin. Obama’s order added ” sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the list and applies to “24,000 companies designated as federal contractors whose 28 million workers make up a fifth of the country’s workforce,” according to Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post.

This isn’t the first time Johnson’s order has been amended. In 2002, President George W. Bush added a protection that would permit religiously affiliated entities to favor members of their own faith when making hiring decisions.

“[Today’s] order doesn’t change that,” Ilona Turner, legal director at the Transgender Law Center, told KCET. “Many of us believe that President Obama should in fact repeal that element of the existing executive order because it is pretty outrageous, frankly, to use taxpayer money to discriminate against anyone.”

Obama’s other action today amends President Richard Nixon’s 1969 order, which prohibits the federal government itself from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, or age. “Sexual orientation” was added to the list of protected classes in 1998 by President Bill Clinton and “gender identity” was added today.

18 states, including California, and the District of Columbia currently have laws that protect LGBT employees at private businesses from being fired on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity, but no federal law protects them from being fired, according to the White House.

“This is a very important day for LGBT Americans,” added Turner. “The president has sent a strong message to employers that discriminating because of who someone is or who they love, is not acceptable.”

‘Between a Man and a Woman’ to Be Deleted from California Law Books

By Monica Luhar, KCET, July 10

http://www.kcet.org/news/agenda/diversity/gov-jerry-brown-signs-marriage-equality-bill.html

Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation to ensure that language used in California’s code books reflect the right of same-sex couples to marry. The law, Senate Bill 1306, will replace terms of traditional marriage like “husband” and “wife” and ascribe non-discriminatory, gender-neutral language, such as using “spouse.”

“What this law will do is it will catch up our state law and statutes so they are in line with last year’s Supreme Court decision, which restored the right to marry in California,” said Steve Roth, spokesperson for Equality California, which supported the bill.

The changes in language to the codified law will make it clearer for courts, state agencies, and individuals to understand that all spouses in California — regardless of gender — have the same rights, explained Catherine Sakimura, family law director and supervising attorney at the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “There are several places where the statutes explaining the process of entering a marriage use gendered phrases, and these are changed to be gender neutral.”

The bill, introduced by Senator Mark Leno, will also delete two sections in the Family Code, which first saw the phrase “between a man and a woman” in 1977. 23 years later, another section clearly defining marriage between a man and a woman was added after Proposition 22 was approved by voters.

“Both of these statutes were struck down as unconstitutional by the California Supreme Court in response to marriage cases, but have remained on the books,” said Sakimura.

The California State Constitution, however, will continue to define marriage as “between a man and a woman.” That language — put into place by voters approving Proposition 8 in 2008 — will still remain until it is challenged by voters and re-introduced as a possible ballot initiative.

SB 1306 will become law on January 1, 2015.

#Leh

The music video for “LEH” by Humble the Poet and Lilly Singh (aka Superwoman) is nothing short of amazing. The perfect ounce of sarcasm and “leh” is creatively laced in every scene.

From champagne popping to YOLO sunglasses and expensive purses, “LEH” pokes fun on materialism and the ridiculous nature of young adults doing, well, stupid things.

In a nutshell, “Leh” is a term that is the equivalent of “shaking your head” over things that are ridiculous and “tisk-worthy.”

The lyrics offer a critique on young adults and the double-standards that some individuals choose to live by. Superwoman says it well (with the interjection of “Leh,” of course):

“Booty shorts in the winter. Rocking open toes in the snow. Leh. Making out with your friend’s man. But you say that you hate hoes. Leh.”

Singh even takes a jab at Instagram users who have nothing better to do than post annoying selfies or “spend $4,000 on a purse.”

“4,000 dollars on a purse, still got tutition to pay.”

“OMG. LOL. You’re ridiculous as hell. Leh.”

The end of the video sends a pretty clear and powerful message: Be yourself, and nothing else. And…don’t be so glued to the superficial and materialistic.

“Never stop learning.”

“Spread love.”

“Do what makes your heart happy.”

“Chase your dreams.”

“Grab milk.”

“Be yourself.”

I don’t know about you, but I can’t get over this song. It’s on replay, all day long. What are your thoughts on the video? What message do you think it’s conveying?

~Monica Luhar

 

My dada’s Scrabble board

dadaI found this 1983 Scrabble box by Selchow & Righter tucked away in the attic, among other classic board game favorites.

Every summer, dada and I would play Scrabble religiously until we exhausted all of the words from our word bank.

After my dada’s passing, I never played a game of Scrabble again. The game became a bittersweet memory, and a forgotten pastime.

Yesterday, I somehow mustered the courage to open the contents of the vintage board game. I didn’t know what to expect, or whether I’d be able to play without getting too emotional.

But after I landed my first triple letter score, everything fell into place. It was almost as if my dada was sitting right across from me, cheering me on from the sidelines, and making some witty remarks as he tallied up the rest of the points.

Over the years, the box has traveled from the garage, to the patio, to the dining table, and the attic. It has never failed to charm our friends and family, despite its share of coffee stains, missing block letters and layers upon layer of scotch tape wrapped around the edges of the maroon box.

I’m happy to say that this box will always have a special place in our home. It’s a reminder of my grandfather’s beautiful legacy and his love for words.

~Monica Luhar