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Schiff blasts LGBT data erasure from U.S. Census

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Adam Schiff, gay news, Washington Blade

Rep. Adam Schiff represents California’s 28th Congressional District. (Photo courtesy Congressman Schiff)

If the fracas in Washington, D.C., wasn’t so existentially serious for American democracy, Trumpmania would look like a bunch of concerned citizens trying to break up an amateur drunken WrestleMania brawl.

Donald Trump continues to toss out Twitter zingers to rile up his staunchest supporters and deflect from the FBI and congressional investigations into Russian intervention in the U.S. electoral process with possible collusion from the Trump campaign. Leading the citizen brigade in finding the truth about Russiagate is Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, who told the Los Angeles Blade last month that there is an “absolute sense of alarm at how this administration is conducting itself.”   

“Adam Schiff is the adult in the entire Congress right now on foreign policy and intelligence,” Rep. Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) told the Los Angeles Times. He is also a legislator who keeps an eye on his California constituency, including the under-covered attempts by the Trump administration to erase the LGBT community.

Schiff’s skills as a former federal prosecutor resulted in FBI Director James Comey revealing March 20 that there is an ongoing FBI investigation into Russiagate and “whether there was any coordination between people associated with the Trump campaign and the Russians.” Comey added that if any Americans colluded with Russian officials, “then that is a very serious matter.”

Comey also said the “FBI and the Justice Department have no information to support’’ Trump’s tweeted claims that President Obama and his administration wiretapped Trump Tower before the 2016 election.

Nonetheless, Republican Intelligence Chair Devin Nunes, who served on the Trump transition team, plunged into a series of Three Stooges-worthy capers trying to help prove Trump’s discredited tweet and wound up the ridiculed fall guy.
On March 31, Schiff went to the White House to see classified documents that Nunes touted as pro-Trump but failed to provide other committee members, a violation of protocol. Schiff and Trump “had a brief and cordial meeting in the Oval Office for about 10 minutes,” according to a committee aide. The “major topic” of discussion was an “infrastructure package,” something very much on the mind of California Gov. Jerry Brown during his March 20 trip to D.C.

Strict adherence to core principles and keeping an eye on California constituents may be why other members of Congress are facing tough town hall meetings—while Schiff is being applauded. On Saturday, April 29, Stonewall Democratic Club is honoring Schiff at Traxx Restaurant at Union Station with its Elected Official of the Year Award.
Indeed, as an elected official, Schiff can be swamped with Russiagate and stand up for the LGBT community. Before he went to the White House, Schiff released a letter, coordinated with Arizona Rep Raúl M. Grijalva and out Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin, sent to U.S. Census Bureau Director John Thompson and Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney “expressing strong disapproval of the Census Bureau’s decision to remove data collection on LGBT individuals for consideration for the 2020 Census and the American Community Survey (ACS).” The letter soon had 91 signatories from both the House and Senate.

The letter was in reaction to the discovery that a report submitted to Congress with a list of categories for data collection during the 2020 Census originally proposed including “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” but had been “corrected” by the Trump administration to omit those categories.
The LGBT Task Force found and highlighted the redactions. The Census Bureau explained that the categories had been “inadvertently listed.”

A week earlier, the Department of Health and Human Services removed a question about sexual orientation from the National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants. Additionally, the Department of Housing and Urban Development withdrew two notices impacting data collection and implementation guidelines for a homelessness prevention initiative targeting LGBTQ youth, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

Schiff, Grijalva and Baldwin are leaders in advocating for LGBT data collection. On April 5, 2016, Schiff and Florida Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (who has a transgender son) sent a letter to House appropriators requesting funding for the U.S. Census Bureau to conduct LGBT data collection for FY 2017 and FY 2018. Grijalva and Baldwin also introduced the LGBT Data Inclusion Act last April that would require federal agencies to collect data on the LGBT population in federal population surveys so law and policymakers would have the necessary data to address the LGBT communities’ specific needs.

“[W]e are deeply troubled that in follow-up statements, Director Thompson claims that the rationale for excluding LGBT identities is that there is no federal need for such information,” the legislators said in their Census letter, noting that without such demographic data, “the number of people who identify as LGBT – is undeterminable.”

“LGBT Americans continue to face discrimination in facets of everyday life such as in employment, housing, and even in the justice system,” they said. “There is also compelling evidence that many, particularly transgender people, are at greater risk of being victimized by violence and experience significant health disparities and vulnerability to poverty. While the Census Bureau took an important step forward in 2013 by including the marital status of same-sex couples as part of ACS data on families, the fact remains that we know little else about the social and economic circumstances of the LGBT population at large.”

The lawmakers ask that the Census Bureau “acknowledge the concerns regarding the lack of reliable data on the LGBT population in the United States,” the lawmakers write, adding that they want “additional explanation” about why the categories were not included and “justification for stating there being no federal need for data on the LGBT population.”

LGBT Americans,” the legislators conclude,  “like every American – deserve to be counted and recognized in all federally-supported surveys. We appreciate your attention to this important matter and look forward to your response.”

Here’s the full letter with the 91 signatories as of Friday, March 31:

Dear Directors Thompson and Mulvaney:

We write to express our strong disapproval of the Census Bureau’s decision to not include consideration of data collection on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals in the 2020 Census and American Community Survey. While the Subjects Planned for the 2020 Census and American Community Survey (ACS) report released on Tuesday, March 28th appears to have initially considered including sexual orientation and gender identity as a proposed subject, we are concerned that the finalized report does not include any reference to proposed inclusion of LGBT identities in the Census or ACS. Additionally, we are deeply troubled that in follow-up statements, Director Thompson claims that the rationale for excluding LGBT identities is that there is no federal need for such information.

As you know, the Bureau routinely collects demographic information through the decennial census and the annual ACS. The federal government, states, and local communities rely on Census and ACS data to determine how resources should be allocated to meet the needs of certain populations. Despite this critical mission, neither of these assessments, nor any other major federal population survey, currently asks respondents to share their sexual orientation and gender identity. This means that even the most basic of statistics – the number of people who identify as LGBT – cannot be counted.

A number of pieces of federal legislation passed by Congress, implicitly or explicitly, include protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Countless programs implemented under these, and other laws, serve LGBT people; some to a distinctly disproportionate extent. There is no doubt that there is both a statutory benefit and a programmatic need to collect sexual orientation and gender identity data if we want federal agencies to undertake their work in the most efficient and effective manner possible.

Despite tremendous progress in the fight to secure equal recognition under the law, LGBT Americans continue to face discrimination in facets of everyday life such as in employment, housing, and even in the justice system. There is also compelling evidence that many, particularly transgender people, are at greater risk of being victimized by violence and experience significant health disparities and vulnerability to poverty. While the Census Bureau took an important step forward in 2013 by including the marital status of same-sex couples as part of ACS data on families, the fact remains that we know little else about the social and economic circumstances of the LGBT population at large.

Expanded data collection on LGBT people is needed to help policymakers and community stakeholders understand the full extent of these disparities, as well as identifying the needs of these communities so they can be better served. It is also crucial to our ability to respond with effective and sensible policy solutions that address the unique needs of this vulnerable population. For these reasons, we believe that the Census Bureau should advance plans to expand LGBT data collection in future national surveys and urge you to assist us in reaching this goal.

In your recent statement, you said that the Census Bureau’s goal is to conduct a “complete and accurate census.” If this is indeed the goal, then the availability of data on the size, location, and circumstances of the LGBT population should be taken into account. Therefore, the Bureau must acknowledge the concerns regarding the lack of reliable data on the LGBT population in the United States. We ask that you provide additional explanation as to why sexual orientation and gender identity were not included in the Subjects Planned for the 2020 Census and American Community Survey (ACS) report, including justification for stating there being no federal need for data on the LGBT population.

The Census Bureau’s data collection efforts have always played a significant role in our ability to understand the communities that we represent and how best to serve them. LGBT Americans – like every American – deserve to be counted and recognized in all federally-supported surveys. We appreciate your attention to this important matter and look forward to your response.
Sincerely,

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA)
Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ)
Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)

Senate

Dianne Feinstein

Patty Murray

Elizabeth Warren

Ron Wyden

Al Franken

Richard J. Durbin

Jeffrey A. Merkley

Kirsten Gillibrand

Bernard Sanders

House

Jerrold Nadler

Diana DeGette

Rick Larsen

Eleanor Holmes Norton

Danny K. Davis

Chellie Pingree

Gregory W. Meeks

Hank C. Johnson

David N. Cicilline

Gwen Moore

Betty McCollum

Keith Ellison

Adam Smith

Barbara Lee

Nydia M. Velázquez

Peter Welch

Carolyn B. Maloney

Linda T. Sanchez

Al Green

William R. Keating

Serrano, José E.

Lowey, Nita M.

Judy Chu

John Garamendi

Suzan DelBene

Frederica S. Wilson

Ted Deutch

Brian Higgins

Dina Titus

Jackie Speier

Alan Lowenthal

John Yarmuth

Salud Carbajal

Michelle Lujan Grisham

Elizabeth H. Esty

Jimmy Panetta

Ted W. Lieu

Frank Pallone, Jr.

Val Bulter Demings

Pramila Jayapal

Colleen Hanabusa

James P. McGovern

Suzanne Bonamici

Ro Khanna

Julia Brownley

Lois Frankel

Earl Blumenauer

Scott Peters

Susan A. Davis

Bill Foster

Sander Levin

Jared Huffman

Seth Moulton

Katherine Clark

Mark DeSaulnier

Ruben J. Kihuen

John Lewis

Jamie Raskin

Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Mark Pocan

Mark Takano

Bonnie Watson Coleman

Grace F. Napolitano

Adriano Espaillat

Niki Tsongas

Kyrsten Sinema

Peter DeFazio

Ben Ray Lujan

Lloyd Doggett

Joe Courtney

Jan Schakowsky

Mike Quigley

Jim Langevin

Kurt Schrader

Sheila Jackson Lee

Donald S. Beyer Jr.

Steve Choen

Sean Patrick Maloney

Jared Polis

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Politics

American Library Association; 155 efforts to ban LGBTQ+ & Black authors

Falsely claiming that these works are subversive, immoral, or worse, these groups induce officials to abandon constitutional principles

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"Books" via Petapixel

CHICAGO – The American Library Association (ALA) released a statement Tuesday noting that the organization has documented 155 separate incidents of efforts to remove or ban books that focus on LGBTQ+ issues and books by Black authors or that document the Black experience or the experiences of other BIPOC individuals.

Since June 1, 2021, OIF has tracked 155 unique censorship incidents and provided direct support and consultation in 120 of those cases.

In recent months, a few organizations have advanced the proposition that the voices of the marginalized have no place on library shelves. To this end, they have launched campaigns demanding the censorship of books and resources that mirror the lives of those who are gay, queer, or transgender or that tell the stories of persons who are Black, Indigenous, or persons of color.

Falsely claiming that these works are subversive, immoral, or worse, these groups induce elected and non-elected officials to abandon constitutional principles, ignore the rule of law, and disregard individual rights to promote government censorship of library collections. Some of these groups even resort to intimidation and threats to achieve their ends, targeting the safety and livelihoods of library workers, educators, and board members who have dedicated themselves to public service, informing our communities, and educating our youth,” the statement by the American Library Association Executive Board read.

ALA strongly condemns these acts of censorship and intimidation. We are committed to defending the constitutional rights of all individuals of all ages to use the resources and services of libraries.  We champion and defend the freedom to speak, the freedom to publish, and the freedom to read, as promised by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. 

We stand opposed to censorship and any effort to coerce belief, suppress opinion, or punish those whose expression does not conform to what is deemed orthodox in history, politics, or belief. The unfettered exchange of ideas is essential to the preservation of a free and democratic society,” the ALA board noted.

The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) is actively involved in providing confidential legal guidance and strategic support to libraries and library professionals in communities across the country impacted by the recent surge in book challenges.

“We’re seeing an unprecedented volume of challenges in the fall of 2021,” said Deborah Caldwell-Stone, OIF Director. “In my twenty years with ALA, I can’t recall a time when we had multiple challenges coming in on a daily basis.”

The Williamson County, TN chapter of the group Moms for Liberty had filed an 11-page complaint with the state, claiming that the “classroom books and teacher manuals reveal both explicit and implicit Anti-American, Anti-White, and Anti-Mexican teaching,” as The Tennessean reports.

In South Carolina, Governor Henry McMaster sent a letter to South Carolina Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman asking her to “begin a comprehensive investigation into the presence of obscene and pornographic materials in public schools in South Carolina.”

A Flagler County, Florida, school board member is seeking criminal charges against school officials for allowing copies of the LGBTQ+ themed book “All Boys Aren’t Blue” to remain in two of the county high school’s libraries.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott sent a letter directing the Texas Education Agency, the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, and the State Board of Education to immediately develop statewide standards to restrict access to certain content in public schools, but highlighted as examples books by LGBTQ authors that tell the stories and explore the identities of LGBTQ people.

In Spotsylvania County, Virginia, the County School Board voted 5-2 to rescind their ban on “sexually explicit” books in the libraries of the district’s schools that the board enacted last week in a 6-0 vote.

The original directive came last week after two parents raised concerns at a board meeting about books available to students, particularly LGBTQ+ fiction.

A recent article in Raw Story details some of the book ban efforts by Moms for Liberty, a far-right so-called ‘family values’ group founded in January 2021in Florida, which claims to be a ‘grassroots’ non-profit organization that advocates for parental rights.

Headquartered in Melbourne, Florida, the group which has 142 chapters in 35 states and 56,000 members and supporters, has campaigned against COVID-19 restrictions in schools, including mask and vaccine mandates, and against school curriculums that mention LGBT rights, race, and discrimination.

Raw Story reported; “Among their demands are that lessons about Martin Luther King, Jr. and Ruby Bridges be cut for being divisive, lessons about civil rights crackdowns be cut for “negative views of firemen and police,” and lessons about Galileo be revised for being too anti-church. The story of Johnny Appleseed was also condemned as “sad and dark,” Greek and Roman mythology for depicting the goddess Venus naked, and textbooks explaining the effects of hurricanes as too violent for first graders.

But one of the oddest crusades of the group is against a children’s picture book on seahorses, which they believe, according to Weill, “is too sexy.””

Established Dec. 1, 1967, the OIF is charged with implementing ALA policies concerning the concept of intellectual freedom as embodied in the Library Bill of Rights, the association’s basic policy on free access to libraries and library materials.  The goal of the office is to educate librarians and the general public about the nature and importance of intellectual freedom in libraries.

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Politics

“Moms for Liberty” seeks to ban MLK Jr. book- Tennessee Ed. Dept refuses

The group appears to suggest slavery and Jim Crow were “positive achievements, like unity and the overall improvement of our country”

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Robin Steenman, head of Moms for Liberty’s Williamson County chapter (Screenshot via CBS News)

By David Badash | NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Dept. of Education is refusing to investigate a far right group’s claims that a second grade curriculum which includes books about Black Civil Rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is “anti-American” and “anti-white” – but on a technicality.

The Williamson County, TN chapter of the group Moms for Liberty had filed an 11-page complaint with the state, claiming that the “classroom books and teacher manuals reveal both explicit and implicit Anti-American, Anti-White, and Anti-Mexican teaching,” as The Tennessean reports.

“The relentless nature of how these divisive stories are taught,” the group’s complaint continues, “the lack of historical context and difference in perspective, and the manipulative pedagogy all work together to amplify and sow feelings of resentment, shame of one’s skin color, and/or fear.”

The complaint is signed by the local group’s chairperson, Robin Steenman, who Reuters has called “an Air Force veteran and white mother of three.” It claimed the Williamson County Schools district is violating the law:

Steenman also appears to suggest slavery and Jim Crow were “positive achievements, like unity and the overall improvement of our country.”

Her comments to some may sound straight out of a Fox News or right wing media reports. They claim the curriculum amounts to a “heavily biased agenda,” one that “makes children hate their country, each other, and/or themselves.”

Rather than be concerned that these events actually happened, Steenman appears to be suggesting teaching they happened is anti-Americanism:

ThinkProgress and Popular Information founder Judd Legum:

The Tennessean reports “the department declined to investigate the allegations because the lessons occurred during the 2020-21 school year.”

The department is only authorized to investigate allegations that have occurred during the 2021‐ 2022 school year and subsequent school years, according to the letter sent to Steenman by Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn on Nov. 23.

Which means the complaint could be filed again.

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David Badash (@davidbadashis the founder and editor of The New Civil Rights Movement, an award-winning news & opinion site.

********************

The preceding article was first published by The New Civil Rights Movement and is republished by permission.

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California Politics

Kick Big Tobacco OUT of California Political Campaigns launches

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Los Angeles Blade graphic

LOS ANGELES — The OUT Against Big Tobacco coalition supported by Equality California Institute launched a pledge last week urging California legislators and candidates to voluntarily refuse campaign contributions from the tobacco industry.

A total of sixteen legislators and candidates have taken the pledge thus far, with more expected to sign on as the 2022 campaign season gets underway.

The pledge was launched in conjunction with the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout, a national day in recognition of tobacco users who are looking to quit tobacco for good. LGBTQ+ people are more than TWICE as likely to smoke as our non-LGBTQ+ peers, and nearly 30,000 LGBTQ+ people across the country die every year of tobacco-related causes.

Initial signers of OUT Against Big Tobacco’s pledge not to take tobacco industry campaign contributions include:

  • Senator Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach)
  • Senator Dave Min (D-Irvine)
  • Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco)
  • Assemblymember Sabrina Cervantes (D-Corona) 
  • Assemblymember Tasha Boerner Horvath (D-Encinitas)
  • Assemblymember Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Laguna Beach)
  • Annie Cho, candidate for Assembly District 38
  • Supervisor Matt Haney, candidate for Assembly District 17
  • Daniel Hertzberg, candidate for Senate District 18
  • Mayor Christy Holstege, candidate for Assembly District 42
  • Bilal Mahmood, candidate for Assembly District 17
  • Mayor Lily Mei, candidate for Senate District 10
  • Caroline Menjivar, candidate for Senate District 18 
  • Andrea Rosenthal, candidate for Assembly District 36
  • Rick Chavez Zbur, candidate for Assembly District 50

“For decades, Big Tobacco has used their profits to place themselves as friends of our community. This year we are kicking them OUT; out of our Pride, out of our organizations, and out of our politics,” said Equality California Program Manager, Dr. Shannon Kozlovich. “We are calling all 2022 California State legislative candidates to stand with us and pledge to run tobacco free campaigns.

“The tobacco industry is killing our children, killing people of color, killing people that have underlying health conditions. We have to take a stand by not accepting tobacco contributions!” said Senator Lena Gonzalez.

In California’s 2020 Senate and Assembly election cycle, tobacco companies spent $6 million on campaign contributions, while spending millions more lobbying against legislation to prohibit the sale of flavored tobacco products — products disproportionately targeted towards LGBTQ+ people, people of color and our young people. 

“The tobacco industry serves no purpose other than to make people sick. Tobacco money is not essential for people to win” states Senator Scott Wiener. 

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