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Schiff blasts LGBT data erasure from U.S. Census

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troubled teen industry, Adam Schiff, gay news, Washington Blade
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)

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California Politics

Congressional candidate Christy Smith & EQCA’s Tony Hoang

Race to the Midterms 2: The Future of Democracy, Abortion Rights and Climate Change and on winning in November

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By Karen Ocamb | WEST HOLLYWOOD – Here’s the unvarnished truth: if MAGA Republicans win the November 8 midterm elections, Donald Trump wins and we can kiss our democracy and our freedom goodbye.

Think this is an exaggeration?

No one really thought the US Supreme Court would overturn Roe v. Wade and put politicians in charge of women’s bodies – but they did. No one thought there would ever be an actual coup attempt to overturn a legitimate election and a violent insurrection against the US Capitol on January 6, 2021 during the peaceful transfer of power — but we watched it live on TV in real time, as did the coup-prompting defeated president who was inciting the rioters. 

Will Congress’ January 6th Committee explain the unthinkable? Will the Department of Justice prosecute the evil domestic terrorists, including their cult leader? Or will we have to endure this chaos until either the Democrats safely secure both chambers of Congress or the MAGA Republican terrorists award their dark orange prince his hellish authoritarianism? 

It all depends on us turning out in massive numbers to vote for Democrats this November 8.  

There are patches of blue in the black sky. Tony Hoang, Executive Director of Equality California, whom we interview for the second episode of Race to the Midterms, has quietly created a rainbow staff that reflects our diverse state. “We really want to make sure that we reflect the diverse communities that we serve, whether that’s around gender, gender identity, race and ethnicity,” Tony says during our Zoom interview. 

Tony Hoang, Executive Director of Equality California, with U.S. Senator Alejandro ‘Alex’ Padilla, (D-CA)
Photo by Sam Garrett-Pate

Equality California Votes, their new 501.C4 political action committee, posted their first ad for out gay candidate Will Rollins (see our interview with Will in Episode 1). “Obviously, this is one of the most consequential election cycles in our lifetimes. And if we want to protect the pro-equality majority that we have in the House, that road runs through California. And so, CA-41, the district where Will Rollins is in, is one of the most important congressional flip opportunities in California.

His opponent, Congressman Ken Calvert, for 30 years has voted against things like lowering prescription drug costs for seniors, against abortion rights and reproductive freedom and LGBTQ equality.” 

This victory in the Palm Springs area would be a major LGBTQ victory, turning this red seat blue. 

“Going back to 1994, how Congressman Calvert came into office is that he was attacking a number of folks in our community, specifically Congressman Mark Takano, who has was not publicly out at the time but [Calvert] was using his LGBTQ identity in those attack ads. Obviously two decades later Congressman Takano is now an out member of Congress, proudly representing California,” Hoang says.

“But for us, the sweet irony of being able to flip this seat by taking out a member who has been 100% against our community for years and years with someone that is openly LGBTQ is something that we are definitely committed to and pouring a number of resources into. I think on top of that, one thing that we were proud of in the redistricting cycle is given that this district represents the Greater Palm Springs area, and we were really committed to ensuring that we could maximize the political power of LGBTQ voters and our pro-equality allies in this district.”

Hoang says Equality California is also working to win back reproductive rights. “We have been working hand in glove with their partners like Planned Parenthood and as well as others around California because we understand that abortion rights, reproductive rights, are LGBTQ rights. At the end of the day, we are talking about bodily autonomy and privacy. And we know after the Dobs decision, these attacks have been coming for quite some time.”

“But,” he continues, “as shown from the Supreme Court decision, they’re not going to stop with just abortion rights. They’re coming for LGBTQ rights. And for us, it’s important that we stand in solidarity with our partners in the reproductive movement. And so, as part of that, what we are educating quite a lot of California members and our allies about is specifically around Proposition One that would enshrine the right to abortion access and contraception in the California Constitution….And so for me, it’s been heartening to see all of our allies come together in this moment and really fight back against the hate that is out there.”

We also interviewed Christy Smith, candidate for the CA-27 — my second-ever endorsement was for Christy Smith. Christy ran for Katie Hill’s seat after Hill resigned. That race against Mike Garcia was so nail-bitingly close, she ran again. That race was also heartbreakingly close. But Garcia has become a full-throated Trump fanboy, hanging around with cultists like Marjorie Taylor Green. He was among the MAGA Republicans who signed the amicus brief to the US Supreme Court asking them specifically to overturn Roe v. Wade. 

Christy Smith, candidate for California Congressional District-27
(Screenshot/YouTube The Time is Now with Karen Ocamb)

“Subsequent to that,” Christy says in our interview, “he’s one of the people who coauthored ‘The Life Begins at Conception Act, which — don’t let them fool you — is their roadmap for a national abortion ban. So, while my opponent now tries to hide in safe spaces and say, ‘Well, abortion is safe in California — why are you so upset?’ Really? They have clearly signaled — and Lindsey Graham the other day just doubled down on the fact that they plan to pursue a national abortion ban. 

“But even aside from that,” she continues, “we should never live in the kind of dystopian country where any person’s rights vary from state to state. And you and I both know — we saw that for a very long time with gay marriage rights in this country, right? Where depending on where you live determines whether or not you can marry the person they love.”

MAGA Republicans in Congress are “very comfortable operating in these spaces where they continue to chip away at fundamental rights to privacy and freedom,” she says. “My opponent is right there on those extremes with these people. And the extremes are where our government is heading.” Mike Garcia also voted against a bipartisan bill authored by Jan. 6 Committee members Reps. Zoe Lofgren from California and Liz Cheney from Wyoming that would help clear up and correct confusion underlying the belief system Trump touts as the “Big Lie.”

My opponent is so extreme, he refused to vote for it,” Christy says. “So, you can’t say that you stand for democracy when you’re literally actively working to take away – not only people’s freedoms  -but the structure of the democratic institutions and the structure that protect those freedoms.”

Flipping this seat is a necessity. 

Christy says that her top priorities if elected would be first addressing the needs of the North Los Angeles County communities she represents, especially transportation issues for commuters.

“We need to work on local and regional economic growth so people aren’t commuting so far to have gainful employment,” she says. “We really need to focus on an investment in our public schools. We are facing a national teacher shortage right now that could really devastate our public schools….If we don’t come to terms with the fact that we have got to pay our teachers better, support them well, and keep politics out of their classroom, it’s really going to be devastating to our kids and our schools.”

Christy is also keen on urgently addressing climate change, which she considers “our biggest national security threat.” 

And,” Christy says, “I agree with Tony. I think the LGBTQ community is next [on the GOP hit list. “That is really important work that we have to do to stem the tide of the very extreme movement that they’re trying to push on America.

“You will always have an ally in me,” she says to our LGBTQ people. “I came to the movement based on the work that my mom did. My mom was a home healthcare nurse and she was doing home health right at the time that the HIV/AIDS crisis gripped the country. And the stories that she would come home and share with me about what gay couples were going through and how their rights were being violated. And they were really left with so little support at a time of great crisis and need in their life. That just affirmed for me that everything that the LGBTQ community goes through are civil rights issues. And if we’re going to get to true equity and parity in this country and have a future that speaks to the needs of everyone, this movement very much needs to continue to have a seat at the table. And that is work that I’m invested in doing. And it’s more than just preaching to it — it’s actually practicing it. So, I’m very proud of the diversity of my team that reflects the Rainbow Coalition and will continue to do so while I’m in public life.”

Go to ChristyforCongress.org to find out more about how to elect Christy Smith to Congress. 
Go here for the first Episode of “The Time is Now: Race to the Midterms” with Los Angeles County Democratic Party Chair Mark Gonzalez and CA-41 candidate Will Rollins.

Future of Democracy, Abortion Rights and Climate Change | Featuring Tony Hoang & Christy Smith:

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California Politics

Race to the Midterms: Christy Smith & Tony Hoang

Karen Ocamb & Max Huskins along with the Los Angeles Blade present a limited YouTube series “The Time is Now: Race to the Midterms”

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Screenshot/YouTube

By Karen Ocamb | WEST HOLLYWOOD – The unimaginable is happening. Two years ago, Marc Elias, founder of the voting rights and elections-watcher Democracy Docket, warned that “we are one or two elections from losing our democracy.”

Complete and comprehensive voting rights legislation was needed to prevent that. Nothing happened and now several states are running slates of Trump cultist election deniers and MAGA Republican are “flooding the system” with anti-voting lawsuits. “It’s getting worse. It’s not getting better,” Elias told MSNBC’s Nicole Wallace on Friday.

“The real threat to America’s electoral system is not posed by ineligible voters trying to cast ballots. It is coming from inside the system,” the New York Times Editorial Board wrote Friday, Sept. 23

“All those who value democracy have a role to play in strengthening and supporting the electoral system that powers it, whatever their party. This involves, first, taking the threat posed by election deniers seriously and talking to friends and neighbors about it. It means paying attention to local elections — not just national ones — and supporting candidates who reject conspiracy theories and unfounded claims of fraud. It means getting involved in elections as canvassers or poll watchers or precinct officers….And it means voting, in every race on the ballot and in every election.”

A warranted panic is slowly moving through minority communities across the country — but there is still little concerted national outreach to LGBTQ voters who have our very lives, rights and future at stake in the upcoming Nov. 8 midterm elections. Not that LGBTQ organizations and candidates don’t want to reach out – it’s just incredibly hard to break through all the news noise.

That’s why we — Karen Ocamb and (ally) Max Huskins — have teamed up with the Los Angeles Blade to produce a limited YouTube series “The Time is Now: Race to the Midterms.” Our intention is to bring visibility to candidates and organization leaders and encourage LGBTQ people to get engaged, donate, do whatever they can to ensure a huge turnout for both local and statewide candidates and ballot measures, as well as electing candidates who will keep the US House of Representatives and the US Senate in Democratic hands. 

If MAGA Republicans win, Trump wins and we can kiss our democracy and our freedom goodbye. Think this is an exaggeration? No one really thought the US Supreme Court would overturn Roe v. Wade and put politicians in charge of women’s bodies – but they did. The unthinkable is happening. 

Meet Tony Hoang, Executive Director of Equality California. During the height of the AIDS crisis, the disease was perceived to be isolated to the gay community and gay meant “white.” The result was that many people of color avoided seeking prevention and help. Today, California is a minority-majority state and EQCA has a rainbow staff that reflects that. “We really want to make sure that we reflect the diverse communities that we serve, whether that’s around gender, gender identity, race and ethnicity,” Tony says during the Zoom interview. 

Equality California Votes, their new 501.C4 political action committee, just posted their first ad for out gay candidate Will Rollins (see our interview with Will in Episode 1). “Obviously, this is one of the most consequential election cycles in our lifetimes. And if we want to protect the pro-equality majority that we have in the House, that road runs through California. And so, CA-41, the district where Will Rollins is in, is one of the most important congressional flip opportunities in California. His opponent, Congressman Ken Calvert, for 30 years has voted against things like lowering prescription drug costs for seniors, against abortion rights and reproductive freedom and LGBTQ equality.” 

It would be a “sweet irony” for LGBTQ voters to turn this red seat blue. 

Tony also talks about working with Planned Parenthood to explain why abortion rights is an LGBTQ issue and the importance of voting for Proposition One on the California ballot.

Tony is our first interview in tomorrow’s show. 

Full disclosure: since I am no longer a journalist, I get to express my own opinions and make endorsements. My first endorsement was for former EQCA executive director Rick Chavez Zbur, who I’ve known forever and who’s now running for the state Assembly. My second-ever endorsement was for Christy Smith

Meet Christy Smith, candidate for the CA-27. Christy ran for Katie Hill’s seat after she resigned. That race against Mike Garcia was so nail-bitingly close, she ran again. That race was also heartbreakingly close. But Garcia has gone from a dullard Republican to a major Trump fanboy, hanging around with cultists like Marjorie Taylor Green. He was among the MAGA Republicans who signed the amicus brief to the US Supreme Court asking them specifically to overturn Roe v. Wade. 

“Subsequent to that,” Christy says in our interview, “he’s one of the people who coauthored ‘The Life Begins at Conception Act, which — don’t let them fool you — is their roadmap for a national abortion ban. So, while my opponent now tries to hide in safe spaces and say, ‘Well, abortion is safe in California — why are you so upset?’ Really? They have clearly signaled — and Lindsey Graham the other day just doubled down on the fact that they plan to pursue a national abortion ban. 

“But even aside from that,” she continues, “we should never live in the kind of dystopian country where any person’s rights vary from state to state. And you and I both know — we saw that for a very long time with gay marriage rights in this country, right? Where depending on where you live determines whether or not you can marry the person they love.”

Flipping this seat is a necessity. 

But one of the aspects about Christy Smith that folks may not know is that she’s a policy nerd – and a policy nerd who likes to get things done. 

Here’s a quick clip of Christ talking about how climate change is a paramount national security issue. Please check back here Sunday for our full Episode 2 show of “The Time is Now: Race to the Midterms.”

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Politics

Pennsylvania Republicans advocating broader ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law

“The intent of these bills seems to be to wipe out any discussion and pretend that [LGBTQ people] don’t exist”

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Pennsylvania State Capitol building (Photo by Michael Key, The Washington Blade)

HARRISBURG – A conservative self described ‘Christian Mom’ Republican lawmaker along with other members of her party championed a anti-LGBTQ ‘parental rights bill’ Tuesday during a rally at the Pennsylvania State Capitol building.

State Rep. Stephanie Borowicz (R-Centre/Clinton) along with Republican Cumberland County Rep. Barbara Gleim as co-sponsor introduced House Bill 2813, Bororwicz telling rally attendees that the measure is set to guarantee parental oversight and control over the availability of school materials that she portrayed as increasingly obscene.

State Rep. Stephanie Borowicz (R-Centre/Clinton)
(Screenshot via Office of Rep. Borowicz)

“Many of the mothers joining us today in the state Capitol Rotunda have discovered sexually explicit content and pornographic images in children’s books in school libraries,” Borowicz said. “Passage of my (bill) will fundamentally guarantee that our children can remain children by allowing parents to vigilantly protect their innocence for as long as possible.”

“This is a bill to protect our children from gender ideology and sexual orientation being taught in our schools,” Borowicz added. 

Critics of the measure labeled it another Republican “don’t say gay” law effort, arguing the language goes even farther than the controversial Florida legislation which inspired it.

“It is patterned after the Florida bill, but mine goes further,” Borowicz acknowledged.

Pennsylvania Patriot News reported that the key part of the bill states that any public or charter school “may not offer instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity to a student in kindergarten through fifth grade.”

Florida’s bill, which became law earlier this year, contains nearly identical language, but applies it only through third grade. Borowicz made it clear Tuesday that her desire would be to extend the prohibition all the way through high school, even though the current text of her bill goes only through grade five.

“It really needs to be protected up through 12th grade, we need to go all the way,” she told reporters, voicing support for the similar Senate Bill 1278, which would allow schools to be sued for material that is “not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate” at any grade level.

“This will really add to the existing targeting and bullying of LGBTQ kids in schools,” said Sharon Ward, senior policy advisor for the Education Law Center of Pennsylvania. “The intent of these bills seems to be to wipe out any discussion and pretend that [LGBTQ people] don’t exist.”

Victor Madrigal-Borloz, a Harvard Law school researcher who authored an independent United Nations Human Rights Council study titled; ” “Violence and Discrimination based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity,” in his research noted “The adoption of comprehensive sexuality education inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity can significantly reduce physical and psychological health risks for LGBT and gender-diverse youth.”

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