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HHS seeks to dump LGBT elders from U.S. health survey

Trump administration questions reliability of sample

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LGBT seniors, gay news, Washington Blade

HHS is seeking to eliminate a question for LGBT elders in a health survey.

LGBT advocacy groups are opposing the Trump administration’s announced plans to remove questions seeking to identify gay, lesbian and bisexual elders in a U.S. health survey, saying the move represents a systematic plan to undermine LGBT progress.

Services & Advocacy for LGBT Elders announced Monday the launch of a campaign to oppose the Department of Health & Human Services’ proposed elimination of the questions from the National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants, or NSOAAP. The survey is intended to evaluate the effectiveness of programs funded by the Older Americans Act, such as services for home-delivered meals, homemaker services and the National Family Caregiver Support Program.

Michael Adams, CEO of SAGE, said in a statement the proposed change jeopardizes assurances LGBT elders will receive benefits under those programs.

“Caring about our LGBT elders means making sure they have access to publicly funded senior services, which can be literally life-saving,” Adams said. “Now, it appears that the Trump administration wants to make believe LGBT older people don’t exist, by erasing them from this critically important survey. We insist that this decision be reversed and that the federal government commit to serving all elders in need, including those who are LGBT.”

The Trump administration announced plans to remove the sexual-orientation questions from the NSOAAP shortly after the confirmation of Tom Price as secretary of health and human services.

As a U.S. lawmaker, Price had an anti-LGBT record, including support for a U.S. constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage nationwide and opposition to hate crimes protections legislation, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal and a version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. In 2013, Price participated in an event call hosted by Tea Party Unity and said a caller was “absolutely right” about potentially negative health and fiscal impacts of measures promoting LGBT rights.

The declaration that HHS was considering eliminating the notices was published March 13 in the Federal Register, the daily journal of the U.S. government that includes rule changes.

LGBT elders or questions on U.S. surveys are nowhere explicitly found in the notice. Instead, the notice provides a link to descriptions of previous surveys and a link to a proposed draft of the 2017 survey, incorrectly saying there will “no change” to the new survey. But a look at the survey reveals a change: The elimination of a question on whether respondents identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual, which had been included in each annual survey since 2014.

According to the notice, federal agencies are required under the Paperwork Reduction Act to allow 60 days for a public comment period on changes in the collection of information and those are due May 12.

Laura Durso, vice president for LGBT research and communications at the Center for American Progress, said in a statement the proposed roll back makes it impossible to know whether the Department of Health and Human Services is equitably serving LGBT people in need.

“Without the information provided in these surveys, we can’t ensure that LGBT seniors have equal access to important government services or that LGBT people with disabilities have equal access to independent living services that empower them to live full and self-determined lives,” Durso said. “We can’t ensure that the administration is fulfilling its duty to eliminate the barriers that shut vulnerable LGBT people out of the safety net. By walking back data collection on LGBT populations, this administration is saying that they would rather erase disparities than end them.”

No question in the survey ever addressed transgender status. Even during the Obama years, the U.S. government never included a question in its surveys seeking to identify the transgender population in the United States, citing difficulty in asking the questions and being assured of responses. The absence of those questions was a source of frustration at the National Center for Transgender Equality, which collected its own information on the transgender population in its 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey.

Kelly Mack, an HHS spokesperson, said in response to the criticism the question on sexual orientation was included in previous surveys as part of a trial effort, but is now being eliminated because it didn’t yield sufficient information.

“The questions have been included in previous ACL surveys as part of a pilot test,” Mack said. “These pilot questions are no longer proposed for inclusion in the surveys. The sample size of responses to these questions while piloted has not been sufficient enough to date to allow for reliability and reporting.”

Mack added HHS will seek to receive public comment on the proposed 2017 survey for an additional 30 days beyond the 60 days required under the Paperwork Reduction Act. A clarification for the Federal Register notice, Mack said, will “be out soon to highlight the proposed changes.”

The proposed elimination of the questions on sexual orientation in the NSOAAP is the latest move from the Trump administration to reverse administrative changes in favor of LGBT people seen under President Obama.

Most notably, one such change was the elimination of guidance to schools assuring transgender kids have access to the restroom consistent with their gender identity. Earlier this month, the Department of Housing & Urban Development also withdrew plans seeking to ensure homeless shelters notify transgender people they can’t be subject to discrimination there and for a survey to evaluate the effectiveness of the LGBTQ Youth Homelessness Prevention Initiative.

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, drew a contrast in a statement between these LGBT rollbacks and the State Department’s appointment of anti-LGBT activists to the U.S. delegation to the U.N.’s 61st annual Commission on the Status of Women.

“Apparently, President Trump doesn’t want the government to know, or want anyone else to know, basic information about the lives of LGBT older Americans, LGBT people with disabilities, or LGBT youth facing homelessness,” Keisling said. “He doesn’t want people to know they can’t be kicked out of shelters for being LGBT. But he does want a group like C-FAM — which promotes ugly lies and slurs about transgender people—to represent our country to the world.”

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Log Cabin GOP compares FBI raid on Trump’s Mar-A-Lago to Stonewall

In February, the National Archives asked the Justice Department to investigate Trump’s handling of White House records

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former President Donald J. Trump and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan stand in the main entrance to Trump's exclusive private club & Florida residence Mar-A-Lago on April 17, 2018 (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

WASHINGTON – As the outraged fallout continued in Republican Party circles Tuesday, after special agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation executed a search warrant Monday at the South Florida estate of former President Donald Trump, the LGBTQ political group Log Cabin Republicans, (LCR) joined the growing chorus on the right angered by the search.

“Just as the patrons of Stonewall were not intimidated by police, we will not be intimidated by the weaponization of the FBI and DoJ against President Trump or his home, Mar-A-Lago… …where (as we announced hours ago) we will be holding our annual gala later this year!” the group tweeted Monday after news of the search broke.

Reaction to the LCR tweet was swift ranging to from disgust as expressed by LGBTQ writer and radio host Rob Watson to outright anger as noted by former Advocate editor and LGBTQ journalist Matthew Breen.

The FBI’s action was described as unprecedented by legal experts and analysts, however the execution of the search warrant underscores the fact that U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland will order investigations into criminal wrong doing to include the former president.

Trump and his Republican allies in Congress have dismissed the FBI search as politically motivated.

While a copy of the search warrant was delivered to Trump’s attorneys, little is known about the predicate probable cause found significant enough that a federal judge authorised the search. The affidavit which is the foundational document showing that a crime had been committed and that evidence would likely be found during the search provided to the judge to make that determination has not been made public.

A Justice Department source told the Blade that last January Trump had been found in possession of 15 boxes of materials at his Florida home, which he relinquished to staff from the National Archives amid concerns he may have violated the Presidential Records Act, (44 U.S.C. Chapter 22).

A certain portion of the paperwork that Trump had in his possession was classified which the Justice Department official noted is by itself criminal in nature.

In February, the National Archives asked the Justice Department to investigate Trump’s handling of White House records. The National Archives said some of the documents Trump turned over to them had been ripped up and taped back together CBS News noted.

It remains to be seen whether the search will lead to criminal charges against the former president or anyone in his immediate orbit, but former prosecutors noted there are serious penalties for violating public records laws the Hill reported Tuesday.

“Highly classified information is treated that way because of its extreme sensitivity. There is a whole range of material that is really a crown jewel, national security, high-consequence sequence. And if that’s what a person carried away rather than leaving it in the hands of the government and complying with the Presidential Records Act, that’s a gravely serious matter,” said John Barrett, a former federal prosecutor who worked for the independent counsel investigating the Iran-contra scandal and served in the DOJ inspector general’s office.

The former president had issued a lengthy statement Monday evening in which he called the raid an “attack by Radical Left Democrats who desperately don’t want me to run for President in 2024.”

The House GOP minority leader Kevin McCarthy promised retribution in a tweet should his party retake control of Congress in the Fall midterm elections:

The Justice Department and the FBI both declined to comment.

Former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Home Being Searched Causes Immediate Political Fallout:

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The fascist circus comes to CPAC Texas

Republican politicians joined Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán for speeches laced with antisemitism and overt Christian nationalism

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Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán (Screenshot/YouTube)

By Steven Monacelli | DALLAS – Hundreds of die-hard right-wing activists descended on the Hilton Anatole in Dallas for the Conservative Political Action Conference this week. It’s the third CPAC event this year alone, following prior events in Orlando, Florida and Budapest, Hungary. It’s also the third CPAC event in a row which featured explicitly Christian nationalist and fascistic speakers.

Before the speeches kicked off on Thursday, Christian musician Natasha Owens—who wore an American flag dress branded with the logo of a Christian mobile phone company—gave a brief concert. 

“You know, President Trump coined the term ‘America First,’” she said. When she attempted to launch into the eponymously named song, the wrong music began playing instead. Incidentally, the term America First was initially popularized by pro-Nazi groups in the United States and was also used by the Ku Klux Klan. 

Though only two of the speakers on Thursday were Texas politicians, the introductory session—”Texas: The Start of the Big Red Wave”—placed the state at the center of the American conservative movement.

“There are two big red engines to our politics and economy,” said Matt Schlapp, chairman of CPAC. “As many of you know we had CPAC Florida, and it’s right to be here in Texas.”

“IF YOU WANT TO PITCH IN AND HELP OUT, YOU CAN BUY YOUR OWN BORDER BUS.”—GREG ABBOTT

Governor Greg Abbott was the first guest brought to the stage, where he spoke in front of a more than half-empty room about the border, Elon Musk, California liberals, critical race theory, the ongoing program to bus undocumented immigrants to Washington, D.C., and why he thinks Republicans will win big with Hispanics and Latinos in Texas. 

“If you want to pitch in and help out, you can buy your own border bus,” Abbott said to the crowd. “You can help fund sending all these folks to Washington, D.C. and make them deal with the problem.”

Out of all of Abbott’s statements, this one seemed to garner the most excitement from the crowd.

A major theme among speakers at the conference—aside from the officially stated one, “Fire Pelosi: Save America”—was Christian identity and nationalism. In addition to leading the crowd in prayer, Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick took a page right out of the John Birch Society playbook by proclaiming that the Constitution was literally written by God.

 

“We’re a nation founded upon not the words of our founders, but the words of God because he wrote the Constitution,” Patrick said to the crowd. “We were a Christian state and lost that for many years.”

So much for James Madison. But if Patrick is correct, one has to grapple with the difficult questions of whether God also wrote the Articles of Confederation or perhaps signed off on the deeply racist Three-Fifths Compromise, as well as how this all squares with the notion that God doesn’t make mistakes.

“WE’RE A NATION FOUNDED UPON NOT THE WORDS OF OUR FOUNDERS, BUT THE WORDS OF GOD BECAUSE HE WROTE THE CONSTITUTION.”—DAN PATRICK

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán—who recently gave a speech criticizing “race mixing” which caused a long-time advisor to resign and describe it as a “pure Nazi diatribe”—spoke severely about the ostensible Judeo-Christian roots of his nation and urged Christian nationalists across the world to unite together in a struggle against the so-called “woke globalists.” 

Orbán’s language dovetailed with the John Birch Society-tinged talking points around “globalists” and Christian government that have become so common in contemporary politics, and the crowd was so excited by what he had to say that Orbán had to pause for uproarious applause on several occasions. One young man from Oklahoma told me that Orbán was the only speaker he was excited to see, and an elderly couple said they particularly enjoyed Orbán’s speech.

“Globalists go to hell, I have come to Texas,” Orbán bellowed as he concluded his speech.

But not everyone was thrilled with the Hungarian’s presence in Dallas. In the atrium of the hotel, two groups of protesters expressed their displeasure. One group covertly hung a banner and dropped flyers condemning the conference before dashing away. Another group, which included a legendary civil rights activist who worked alongside Martin Luther King Jr., Reverend Peter Johnson, held banners specifically condemning Orbán’s presence before being escorted out by Dallas Police.

“Dr. King told me that as long as I’m alive, I ought to stand up against bigotry, antisemitism, and racism,” Johnson told the Texas Observer. “So I’m standing up.”

Johnson was joined by Mary Ann Thompson-Frenk, a socialite from Dallas, who also spoke out against Orbán. “It’s very important for people to know that Orbán stands for Holocaust denial, antisemitism, racial purity, and is against interracial marriage,” Thompson-Frenk said. “I don’t think a lot of Republican people actually agree with that, but they need to speak out and let their leaders know they don’t endorse that.”

Former Republican Congressman Alan Steelman issued a statement in response to Orbán’s presence as well. “Is this what the party of Lincoln, Eisenhower, Reagan and Bush has come to?” Steelman wrote. “Orbán’s record and spoken word during his 12 years in office are clearly those of a white supremacist, an anti-Semite, and anti-immigrant leader.”

A sense of subtle antisemitism pervaded a number of comments made by speakers, Orbán included. Orbán claimed that all the worst things in history were orchestrated by people who hate Christianity and juxtaposed these comments by describing George Soros—a Hungarian-Jewish investor and philanthropist who is a common boogeyman among the far right—as his “opponent.”

“Papa John” Schnatter told the crowd there are “five evil entities” that own the processed food and pharmaceuticals industries (suggesting the former make you sick so you take the latter) as well as media and academia. But he was not talking about the recently released conspiracy-theory themed Mike Myers show, The Pentaverate. He claimed this all somehow ties back to the Frankfurt School, a group of primarily Jewish left-wing intellectuals and academics founded during the Weimar Republic in the lead-up to Nazi Germany that has become the villain of the far-right “Cultural Marxism” conspiracy theory, which itself is a rehashing of the Nazi propaganda term “Cultural Bolshevism.”

RAMBO-TRUMP CUTOUTS, BEDAZZLED PURSES IN THE SHAPE OF .45 PISTOLS, AND EVEN A MOCK JAIL CELL COULD BE SEEN ON THE EXHIBITION FLOOR.

Friday and Saturday will feature other guests and speakers that have their own histories of antisemitism, including Jack Posobiec, a fascistic media figure who the Southern Poverty Law Center reports has “collaborated with white nationalists, antigovernment extremists, members of the Proud Boys, and neo-Nazis in his capacity as an operative.”

The speakers are only one part of the CPAC experience. Rambo-Trump cutouts, bedazzled purses in the shape of .45 pistols, and even a mock jail cell could be seen on the exhibition floor. Nearby, our federally indicted Attorney General Ken Paxton—who recently teamed up with other Republican attorneys general to sue the federal government for the right to take lunch money from LGBTQ+ kids—mingled with an AM radio host. Toward the end of the day, Posobiec spoke in front of the Patriot Mobile booth with Leigh Wambsganss, a woman who has played a major role in the PACs that have helped elect far right school board candidates across Texas.

This is all to say that the mask of this movement has slipped, if not fallen off completely. It has revealed its illiberal, anti-democratic, deeply prejudicial tendencies, even if it comes across as completely absurd. The entire scene, a veritable circus of far-right fascistic kitsch, brings to mind what legendary journalist Hunter S. Thompson wrote about Las Vegas: “The Circus-Circus is what the whole hep world would be doing Saturday night if the Nazis had won the war. This is the sixth Reich.” 

An exaggeration, certainly, but an apt one. But don’t just take it from me. Norm Ornstein, an emeritus scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, described the event as the “Neo-Nazi movement in America.”

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Steven Monacelli is an investigative journalist in Dallas. His reporting has been featured in Rolling Stone, The Daily Beast, The Real News, Dallas Observer, Dallas Weekly, and more. He is also the publisher of Protean Magazine, a nonprofit literary publication. Follow him on Twitter @stevanzetti.

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The preceding article was previously published by The Texas Observer a nonprofit investigative news outlet and is republished by permission.

The Texas Observer believes that journalism is crucial to holding the powerful accountable and essential in the development of a world that protects the lives, and rights, of all human beings. It’s with this spirit that they hope to partner, collaborate and share resources with news outlets also working in the public’s interest.

Sign up for the Texas Observer’s weekly newsletter, or follow on Facebook and Twitter.

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Near total ban in Indiana signed into law by governor to take effect Sept. 15

“The government should not be making health decisions for women,” said Rep. Robin Shackleford, D-Indianapolis

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Indiana Republican Governor Eric Holcomb (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor)

INDIANAPOLIS – After a bitter and contentious day long session by both Houses of the state legislature, Senate Bill 1 which effectively outlaws abortion in the state except for several narrow exceptions, was sent to Republican Governor Eric Holcomb within an hour of the final vote and passage.

“Following the overturning of Roe, I stated clearly that I would be willing to support legislation that made progress in protecting life,” Holcomb said in a statement released after signing the measure.

The near-total ban on abortion will take effect Sept. 15.

“The government should not be making health decisions for women,” said Rep. Robin Shackleford, D-Indianapolis. “The decision to have an abortion is extremely personal, one that should be left up to a woman and her doctor.”

Late Friday, the Indiana Senate voted 28-19 to accept Senate Bill 1 as passed by the House earlier in the day – making the legislature the first in the nation pass such restrictions since the U.S. Supreme Court opened the door by overturning Roe v. Wade the Indianapolis Star reported.

The White House issued a statement by White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre late Friday on the Indiana abortion ban:

The Indiana legislature took a devastating step as a result of the Supreme Court’s extreme decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and eliminate women’s constitutionally-protected right to abortion. And, it’s another radical step by Republican legislators to take away women’s reproductive rights and freedom, and put personal health care decisions in the hands of politicians rather than women and their doctors.
 
Yesterday’s vote, which institutes a near-total abortion ban in Indiana, should be a signal to Americans across the country to make their voices heard.  Congress should also act immediately to pass a law restoring the protections of Roe – the only way to secure a woman’s right to choose nationally. 
 
Until then, President Biden is committed to taking action to protect women’s reproductive rights and freedom, and access to care they are afforded under Federal law.

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