Connect with us

News

California latest to affirm N.C. travel ban despite HB2 replacement

Published

on

single-payer health care, gay news, Washington Blade

California won’t lift its travel ban to North Carolina despite the new law replacing HB2. (Photo by Martin Jambon; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

California has joined the growing number of jurisdictions keeping in place travel bans to North Carolina enacted in protest over House Bill 2 despite the state’s governor signing into law a replacement for the anti-LGBT measure.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced Wednesday his state with keep in place its ban on state-funded and state-sponsored travel and expenditures to North Carolina, citing criticism the new law continues anti-LGBT discrimination.

“California is inclusive,” Becerra said in a statement. “We take pride in protecting the rights of all our people. Discrimination is unacceptable and we intend to protect LBGT rights. California’s law was enacted to ensure that, with limited exceptions, our taxpayer resources are not spent in states that authorize discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. North Carolina’s new law does not cure the infirmity of this type of discrimination.”

The new North Carolina law, House Bill 142, prohibits prohibits municipalities, state agencies and the University of North Carolina from the “regulation of access” to bathrooms, locker rooms and showers without the legislature’s permission. It also bans municipalities from enacting LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination measures that would apply to private employment or public accommodations until 2020.

Much to the consternation of LGBT advocates, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, signed the law after closed-door negotiations with Republican leaders of the state legislature. Their agreement was intended to alleviate economic boycott to the state as a result of HB2 in time for a deadline set by the National Collegiate Athletic Association to repeal the law, or lose championship games for years to come. The NCAA later announced the new law was “minimally” acceptable to again consider championships in the state.

Becerra has authority to determine whether a state should be subject to a travel ban under Assembly Bill 1887, a law signed last year by Gov. Jerry Brown prohibiting state-sponsored travel from California to state that roll backs LGBT rights. North Carolina was already among the states where California banned travel as result of HB2 in addition to Mississippi, Tennessee and Kansas.

The announcement makes California the second state to affirm its ban on state-sponsored travel ban on North Carolina will remain in place despite the replacement law. Gov. Mark Dayton has signaled he’ll keep Minnesota’s ban prohibiting state employees from engaging in non-essential travel to the state.

The other states that enacted travel bans to North Carolina after the enactment of HB2 — Vermont, New York, Connecticut and Washington State – have yet to declare they’ll keep their bans in place. In fact, Washington State has indicated its ban is now lifted now that North Carolina has modified HB2.

As the nation’s largest state, California assertion its travel ban will remain in place carries significant weight and could encourage the other states to follow suit.

Municipalities that have declared they’ll keep their travel bans to North Carolina in place are New York City; Washington, D.C.; San Francisco; Seattle; Portland, Ore.; Atlanta; Baltimore; Los Angeles; Oakland; Santa Fe; Cincinnati; Salt Lake City; Palm Springs, Calif.; West Palm Beach; Portland, Maine; Burlington, Vt; and Wilton Manors, Fla.

Advertisement
FUND LGBTQ JOURNALISM
SIGN UP FOR E-BLAST

Politics

After Biden signs TikTok ban its CEO vows federal court battle

“Rest assured, we aren’t going anywhere,” Chew said in the two-minute video posted to TikTok’s main corporate account

Published

on

TikTok mobile phone app. (Screenshot/YouTube)

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden signed an appropriations bill into law on Wednesday that provides multi-billion dollar funding and military aid for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan after months of delay and Congressional infighting.

A separate bill Biden signed within the aid package contained a bipartisan provision that will ban the popular social media app TikTok from the United States if its Chinese parent company ByteDance does not sell off the American subsidiary.

Reacting, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew said Wednesday that the Culver City, Calif. based company would go to court to try to remain online in the United States.

In a video posted on the company’s social media accounts, Chew denounced the potential ban: “Make no mistake, this is a ban, a ban of TikTok and a ban on you and your voice,” Chew said. “Rest assured, we aren’t going anywhere. We are confident and we will keep fighting for your rights in the courts. The facts and the Constitution are on our side, and we expect to prevail,” he added.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre adamantly denied during a press briefing on Wednesday that the bill constitutes a ban, reiterating the administration’s hope that TikTok will be purchased by a third-party buyer and referencing media reports about the many firms that are interested.

Chew has repeatedly testified in both the House and Senate regarding ByteDance’s ability to mine personal data of its 170 million plus American subscribers, maintaining that user data is secure and not shared with either ByteDance nor agencies of the Chinese government. The testimony failed to assuage lawmakers’ doubts.

In an email, the former chair of the House Intelligence Committee, California Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff, who doesn’t support a blanket ban of the app, told the Blade:

“As the former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, I have long worked to safeguard Americans’ freedoms and security both at home and abroad. The Chinese Communist Party’s ability to exploit private user data and to manipulate public opinion through TikTok present serious national security concerns. For that reason, I believe that divestiture presents the best option to preserve access to the platform, while ameliorating these risks. I do not support a ban on TikTok while there are other less restrictive means available, and this legislation will give the administration the leverage and authority to require divestiture.”

A spokesperson for California U.S. Senator Alex Padilla told the Blade: “Senator Padilla believes we can support speech and creativity while also protecting data privacy and security. TikTok’s relationship to the Chinese Communist Party poses significant data privacy concerns. He will continue working with the Biden-Harris administration and his colleagues in Congress to safeguard Americans’ data privacy and foster continued innovation.”

The law, which gives ByteDance 270 days to divest TikTok’s U.S. assets, expires with a January 19, 2025 deadline for a sale. The date is one day before President Biden’s term is set to expire, although he could extend the deadline by three months if he determines ByteDance is making progress or the transaction faces uncertainty in a federal court.

Former President Donald Trump’s executive order in 2020, which sought to to ban TikTok and Chinese-owned WeChat, a unit of Beijing, China-based Tencent, in the U.S., was blocked by federal courts.

TikTok has previously fought efforts to ban its widely popular app by the State of Montana last year, in a case that saw a U.S. District Court judge in Helena block that state ban, citing free-speech grounds.

The South China Morning Post reported this week that the four-year battle over TikTok is a significant front in a war over the internet and technology between Washington and Beijing. Last week, Apple said China had ordered it to remove Meta Platforms’ WhatsApp and Threads from its App Store in China over Chinese national security concerns.

A spokesperson for the ACLU told the Blade in a statement that “banning or requiring divestiture of TikTok would set an alarming global precedent for excessive government control over social media platforms.”

LGBTQ+ TikToker users are alarmed, fearing that a ban will represent the disruption of networks of support and activism. However, queer social media influencers who operate on multiple platforms expressed some doubts as to long term impact.

Los Angeles Blade contributor Chris Stanley told the Blade:

“It might affect us slightly, because TikTok is so easy to go viral on. Which obviously means more brand deals, etc. However they also suppress and shadow ban LGBTQ+ creators frequently. But we will definitely be focusing our energy more on other platforms with this uncertainty going forward. Lucky for us, we aren’t one trick ponies and have multiple other platforms built.”

Brooklyn, New York-based Gay social media creator and influencer Artem Bezrukavenko told the Blade:

“For smart creators it won’t because they have multiple platforms. For people who put all their livelihood yes. Like people who do livestreams,” he said adding: “Personally I’m happy it gets banned or American company will own it so they will be less homophobic to us.”

TikTok’s LGBTQ+ following has generally positive experiences although there have been widely reported instances of users, notably transgender users, seemingly targeted by the platform’s algorithms and having their accounts banned or repeatedly suspended.

Of greater concern is the staggering rise in anti-LGBTQ+ violence and threats on the platform prompting LGBTQ+ advocacy group GLAAD, in its annual Social Media Safety Index, to give TikTok a failing score on LGBTQ+ safety.

Additional reporting by Christopher Kane

Continue Reading

Alabama

Alabama House approves expansion of state’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law

The bill would extend a ban on discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity from fifth grade to eighth grade

Published

on

Rep. Mack Butler, R-Rainbow City, speaks during a debate over his bill expanding Alabama’s “Don’t Say Gay” law in the Alabama House of Representatives on April 23, 2024 at the Alabama Statehouse in Montgomery, Alabama. The bill would expand the current prohibitions on discussions of gender or sexuality from fifth grade to eighth grade. (Brian Lyman/Alabama Reflector)

By Alander Rocha | MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The Alabama House of Representatives Tuesday approved a major expansion of the state’s “Don’t Say Gay” law after a two-hour debate. 

HB 130, sponsored by Rep. Mack Butler, R-Rainbow City, would expand the limitations on teachers addressing sexual orientation and gender identity, currently banned in kindergarten through fifth grade instruction, to kindergarten through eighth grade. The bill would also limit pride flags in the classroom.

“We’ve had a few teachers go rogue, and you’d be appalled at some of the things that are being taught. You’d be appalled at some of the things right now that you’re seeing on Chromebooks,” Butler said.

The House approved the measure on a 74-25 vote.

The bill would have previously expanded the ban through 12th grade, but Rep. Barbara Drummond, D-Mobile, offered an amendment to limit the ban on sexual orientation and gender identity instruction to the eighth grade.

Butler said that was a friendly amendment supported by the Alabama State  Department of Education and thanked Drummond for bringing it.

“I’m trying to put lipstick on something that I think is going to be scarring our kids,” Drummond said.

Democrats said the bill could have unintended consequences, especially as it related to children’s mental health.

Rep. Marilyn Lands, D-Huntsville, said that in her background as a counselor, she’s worked with LGBTQ+ youth that have been ostracized and bullied for of their identity.

Lands named Nigel Shelby, a 15-year-old from Huntsville who died by suicide because of bullying. She said to the body that each legislator “knows people that have been personally affected by this kind of cruelty.”

Several Democrats expressed concerns the bill could contribute to suicide rates. Asked by Rep. Phillip Ensler, D-Montgomery, to respond, Butler said he didn’t believe that would be the case “at all.”

“You still would be able to go to your teacher and talk to your teacher. You wouldn’t be able to raise your hand in class and have an open discussion about what you’re going through, which I doubt is what would happen anyway,” Butler said.

Ensler said he was missing the point. He said that what children will take away from the legislation is that the Legislature is homophobic. He said anytime lessons on identity are prohibited, such as discussion on religion and ethnicity, it makes people feel like they don’t matter and are not seen as equal. 

“That is so disturbing, and I just cannot believe that we’re going to potentially now pass something any moment here that could lead to a child — a child — taking his or her own life because of something that we’re going to do here today,” Ensler said.

Other Democrats questioned which rainbow flag the legislation would outlaw. 

Rep. Neil Rafferty, D-Birmingham, asked whether the bill would be banning the traditional rainbow flag or the solidarity flag, also known as the progress flag. There are at least 25 pride flags, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

“At what point would you know that you’re coming upon another insignia or symbol that would be showing a student that might be struggling, hurting or are really trying to just make the best of what they can and talk to a teacher?” Rafferty asked.

He offered an amendment that would instead prohibit a teacher from having discussions intended to change a student’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

“Very simple. It changes that from regarding to getting to really what the intent of this bill is, and that is to protect children,” Rafferty said.

The amendment was defeated on a 70-27 vote.

Rep. Patrick Sellers, D-Birmingham, said that the issue was not in school, but at home and social media. He said the body was trying to “legislate morality within the home.” 

“I have a little pause because I think we’re trying to do something that we cannot do,” Sellers said.

He added that teachers don’t have the time to teach material outside of the school curriculum.

“Their time is so scheduled, along with dealing with all that they deal with, especially with discipline issues that they deal with within the school system, they don’t have time to teach what I think what you’re suggesting that has been taught,” Sellers said.

Republicans spoke in support of the bill, saying that teachers need to focus on teaching the subject they are assigned.

Rep. Ernie Yarbrough, R-Trinity, said that it is “not the job of public education to sexualize our kids.” He said it was “disingenuous” to say it’s a “ban on teaching historical facts.”

“The sooner we realize that teachers need to focus on teaching, reading, writing and arithmetic, and leaving the purity and the minds, in regard to sexual knowledge, to the parents of our families, the better off our country will be,” Yarbrough said.

The bill goes to the Senate for consideration.

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

Alander Rocha

Alander Rocha is a journalist based in Montgomery, and he reports on government, policy and healthcare. He previously worked for KFF Health News and the Red & Black, Georgia’s student newspaper. He is a Tulane and Georgia alumnus with a two-year stint in the U.S. Peace Corps.

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

The preceding article was previously published by the Alabama Reflector and is republished with permission.

The Alabama Reflector is an independent, nonprofit news outlet dedicated to covering state government and politics in the state of Alabama. Through daily coverage and investigative journalism, The Reflector covers decision makers in Montgomery; the issues affecting Alabamians, and potential ways to move our state forward.

We’re part of States Newsroom, the nation’s largest state-focused nonprofit news organization.

Continue Reading

Northern California

West Hollywood Poetry Team brings home Poetry Slam Trophy

“The West Hollywood team brought brilliance to the Chill List stage,” said Chill List founder and host Sam Pierstorff

Published

on

Courtesy of West Hollywood Poetry Team

By Paulo Murillo | MODESTO, Calif. – The West Hollywood Poetry Team brought home the winning trophy after competing at the Chill List Poetry Slam Invitational in Modesto on Saturday, April 20. Amongst a competitive field, the West Hollywood poets emerged triumphant, claiming the top prize in a dynamic display of original verse.

The event, renowned for spotlighting the nation’s premier slam poetry collectives, saw teams vying for a $2000 award through a series of group and solo performances. Five judges from the audience awarded points to teams based on the strength of their poems and the quality of their performance. West Hollywood won with a cumulative score of 113.4, beating our competing teams from Oakland (111.4), Salt Lake City (110.1), and Visalia (108.7).

“The West Hollywood team brought brilliance to the Chill List stage,” said Chill List founder and host Sam Pierstorff. “Our Modesto audience loved their range from the humorous to the deeply emotional, intellectual, and inspirational.”

The genesis of the West Hollywood Slam Team dates back to July 2023, initiated by former West Hollywood Poet Laureate Brian Sonia-Wallace and poet/coach Nate Lovell, the architects behind The Mic @ Micky’s WeHo. Comprising both founders and five standout poets from Micky’s, including Meliza “Missy Fuego” Bañales, Dan “Pastiche Queen” Lovato, Tee Gardiner, and Raul Herrera, the team embodies the vibrant spirit of its locale.

According to Pastiche Queen, a team member, the collective mirrors the essence of West Hollywood itself, fostering a sense of community and mutual support. “The team operates as a microcosm of West Hollywood itself; nobody is gonna take care of us like we take care of us.”

Missy Fuego, a seasoned slam veteran and team member, underscored the historic significance of their ensemble. “The West Hollywood team is not only the first slam team in WeHo, it’s the first all Queer/Non-Binary/Non-Labeled Slam Team in North America,” they said. “For years, slam has typically been dominated by heterosexual and cis narratives, with one or two members representing the LGBTQ community. The West Hollywood Slam Team steps forth, proudly, as the first all-inclusive team to prioritize LGBTQ issues and culture as well as regularly center sexual orientation and gender.”

The West Hollywood Slam Team is currently creating a showcase performance with  revolving guest poets, and is available for Pride performance bookings through rentpoet.com.

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

Paulo Murillo is Editor in Chief and Publisher of WEHO TIMES. He brings over 20 years of experience as a columnist, reporter, and photo journalist. Murillo began his professional writing career as the author of “Love Ya, Mean It,” an irreverent and sometimes controversial West Hollywood lifestyle column for FAB! newspaper. His work has appeared in numerous print and online publications, which include the “Hot Topic” column in Frontiers magazine, where he covered breaking news and local events in West Hollywood. He can be reached at [email protected]

The preceding article was previously published at WeHo Times and is republished with permission.

Continue Reading

Tennessee

Tennessee: Anti-LGBTQ parents can now foster, adopt LGBTQ kids

Advocates have pushed back to say that plain language of the law does not require the state to take into account the child’s own wishes

Published

on

Jace Wilder, education manager of the Tennessee Equality Project, says the new law “puts kids at risk of being abused, neglected and harmed again.” (Photo: John Partipilo)

By Anita Wadhwani | NASHVILLE, Tenn. – With Gov. Bill Lee’s signature, Tennessee last week became the first state in the nation to establish the right of adults who claim moral or religious objections to LGBTQ identity to foster and adopt LGBTQ kids.

In the days since the law became effective, the Department of Children’s Services (DCS) has shelved a 10-year-old policy that said children in state custody must receive care that “promotes dignity and respect for all children/youth and families inclusive of their gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation.”

That policy is now “under review and will be updated on the web site once the review is complete,” DCS spokesperson Ashley Zarach said. New guidelines for how the state will navigate foster kids’ sexual orientation and gender identity in deciding where to place them are expected to be hashed out in the coming months.

The law’s passage has raised alarms among advocates for LGBTQ youth in Tennessee and elsewhere, who say it upends a central principle of child welfare systems: prioritizing the best interest of a child.

Instead, they say, the law gives gives greater weight to a prospective parent’s religious and moral beliefs over the need of a child for a loving, safe and supportive home.

“What’s really sad about this is there’s a really high volume of LGBTQ+ kids in the foster system whose needs aren’t being met now,” said Molly Quinn, executive director of OUTMemphis. Among the LGBTQ nonprofit’s programs is one that aids 18- to 24-year-old LGBTQ youth facing homelessness, many of whom are former foster kids who faced a tough time in the child welfare system.

“The fact that the state would accept a family that is willing to discriminate into this broken system with such vulnerable kids is difficult to understand,” she said.

Best interests of the child?

The law, formally called the Tennessee Foster and Adoptive Parent Protection Act, was backed overwhelmingly by Tennessee Republican lawmakers, who two years ago also approved a first-of-its-kind law allowing private adoption and foster care agencies that accept tax dollars to reject prospective parents for a variety of religious or moral reasons, including their faith or whether they are LGBTQ.

In advocating for this year’s bill, Dickson Republican Rep. Mary Littleton characterized it as a necessary safeguard for families who want to offer loving homes to foster and adoptive kids but worry that they would have to compromise their faith or moral beliefs. Littleton also cited an urgent need for more willing families to step forward. Tennessee currently has 4,948 fully approved foster homes, but needs 400 more.

At the end of the day the state should be acting in the best interest of the kids and this doesn’t do this. This puts emphasis on beliefs of foster and adoptive parents.” – Laura Brennan, Family Equity

Littleton stressed that the new law says DCS is not precluded from taking a child’s preferences into account before placing them in a home.

“This bill does not disregard the values and beliefs of the child,” Littleton said, noting state child welfare officials can still take into account “a comprehensive list of factors.” before placing any child in any home.

Advocates have pushed back to say that plain language of the law does not require the state to take into account the child’s own wishes.

They also criticized what they call a mischaracterization by the law’s supporters that prospective foster and adoptive parents in Tennessee have been rejected for holding anti-LGBTQ beliefs.

Parents in Tennessee have not been required to be gender- or sexual-orientation-affirming as a condition of becoming approved as a foster or adoptive parent. They have, however, been required to promote dignity and respect of a child’s identity if they take an LGBTQ kid in their home — until now.

DCS: parents preferences already taken into account

According to the Department of Children’s Services,  prospective parents’ “preferences” have routinely been taken into account before a child is placed in a home, a spokesperson for the Department of Children’s Services said in a statement.

“Prior to this legislation, the DCS home study process included asking prospective foster and adoptive parents a series of questions to identify their placement preferences,” a statement from DCS said.

“Among those are questions regarding willingness to parent a child who identifies as LGBTQ+. Our goal always is to find the most appropriate placement to meet the unique needs of each child in our care,” the statement said.

Tennessee currently has 8,854 kids in state custody — 6,686 of them residing in foster homes. Up to a third of all foster youth nationwide identify as LBGTQ — often kicked out of home or winding up in state custody as a result of mistreatment or rejection based on their gender identity, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Jace Wilder, education manager Tennessee Equality Project, an LGBTQ+ advocacy organization that has vocally opposed the law, pointed to his own tough childhood as an example of the importance of supportive adults in a child’s life.

Wilder, who is transgender, was raised, in part, by a friend’s parents after suffering abuse at the hands of his father, he said. His mother was disabled and frequently hospitalized.

Wilder said the abuse wasn’t solely because of his gender identity, but “it kind of gave him more ammo to use against me, so that did not help.” He was also able to connect with LGBTQ people for support in his teens and college years, he said.

“Without finding people that accepted me and really helped me grow, I think I would have been stuck in the position of being too afraid to transition, too afraid of being out.” he said. “I think this puts kids at risk of being abused, neglected and harmed again.”

The nature of discourse over LGBTQ youth in Tennessee already exemplifies the need for safe and affirming homes, said Eli Givens, a college freshman from Tennessee who also serves as an advocate for the Tennessee Equality Project.

“It’s been just really unbelievable watching this session,” Givens said. “I’ve had adults telling me I need to go gas myself, that I was clearly molested when I was younger, just a wide array of threats,” they said.

“It’s bewildering that the same adults who told me to gas myself can adopt an LGBTQ child. That’s an extremely scary reality.”

Tennessee AG pushes back on proposed federal LGBTQ foster protections

The law was enacted on the heels of proposed new rules currently being considered by the U.S. The Department of Health and Human Services related to the placement of LGBTQI+ youth in foster care. Among the proposed rules for all foster homes is they “establish an environment free of hostility, mistreatment, or abuse based on the child’s LGBTQI+ status.”

In November, Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti led a 17-state coalition opposing the rules, saying in a letter to the federal government that they would shrink the pool of available foster families and “further divert resources away from protecting foster children from physical abuse and toward enforcing compliance with controversial gender ideology.”

Laura Brennan, associate director for child welfare policy for Family Equality, which advocates for LGBTQ families, said national advocates are keeping a close eye on what’s happening in Tennessee. The state’s 2022 law allowing publicly-funded private adoption and foster care agencies to exclude LGBTQ parents has seen been adopted by 13 other states, she said.

“At the end of the day the state should be acting in the best interest of the kids and this doesn’t do this,” she said. “This puts emphasis on beliefs of foster and adoptive parents.”

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

Anita Wadhwani

Anita Wadhwani is a senior reporter for the Tennessee Lookout. The Tennessee AP Broadcasters and Media (TAPME) named her Journalist of the Year in 2019 as well as giving her the Malcolm Law Award for Investigative Journalism. Wadhwani is formerly an investigative reporter with The Tennessean who focused on the impact of public policies on the people and places across Tennessee.

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

The preceding piece was previously published by the Tennessee Lookout and is republished with permission.

Now more than ever, tough and fair journalism is important. The Tennessee Lookout is your watchdog, telling the stories of politics and policy that affect the people of the Volunteer State.

We’re part of States Newsroom, the nation’s largest state-focused nonprofit news organization.

Continue Reading

Southern California

Bonta files for permanent ban of Chino school’s forced outing policy

Bonta noted that the policy was detrimental to the physical, emotional safety, well-being, & privacy of trans students

Published

on

California Attorney General Rob Bonta along with California's Secretary of State Shirley N. Weber at a April, 2024 Sacramento press conference. (Photo Credit: Office of the Attorney General/Facebook)

OAKLAND, Calif. — California Attorney General Rob Bonta today filed a motion for final judgment in Bonta v. Chino Valley Unified School District seeking injunctive and declaratory relief to ensure that the Chino Valley Unified School District Board of Education (Board) does not reenact or implement their recently-rescinded forced outing policy.

In a press release, the Attorney General noted that the policy – Policy 5020.1 – was detrimental to the physical and emotional safety, well-being, and privacy of transgender and gender-nonconforming students.

In August 2023, Attorney General Bonta sued to challenge the policy on the basis that it violated students’ civil and constitutional rights under California law, and in October 2023, obtained a preliminary injunction enjoining the facially discriminatory provisions of the forced outing policy. While the District voted to rescind the forced outing policy on March 7, 2024, in response to the San Bernardino County Superior Court’s preliminary injunction order, the District’s Board continues to stand “proudly” by Policy 5020.1, the District’s counsel continues to maintain that it was “common sense and constitutional,” and the District continues to make comments echoing the anti-trans comments they made publicly before enacting the policy.

As a result, Attorney General Bonta is seeking a permanent injunction and declaratory relief to protect students’ civil rights and ensure that the Board does not reenact or implement its original, discriminatory policy.   

“Chino Valley Unified has an obligation to protect the safety and well-being of the students it is charged to serve, especially our most vulnerable student communities who are susceptible to violence and harassment,” said Attorney General Bonta. “It took a lawsuit and court order to get Chino Valley to rescind their discriminatory forced outing policy, but even now, the Board has continued to assert that it was lawful, and board members continue to echo the anti-trans rhetoric they relied upon when passing it. Today’s motion seeks to ensure no child becomes a target again by blocking Chino Valley Unified from ever adopting another forced outing policy. As we continue to defend the rights of transgender and gender-nonconforming students, I urge all school districts to take note and ensure every student can enjoy their right to learn and thrive in a school environment that promotes safety, privacy, and inclusivity.”

Even though Attorney General Bonta issued a letter to the Board on July 20, 2023 stressing the potential harms and infringements on students’ civil rights from the adoption of Board Policy 5020.1, the Board enacted the policy nonetheless. The forced outing policy required schools to inform parents, with minimal exceptions, whenever a student requested to use a name or pronoun different from that on their birth certificate or official records, even without the student’s permission and even when disclosure would cause physical or mental harm to the student.

The policy also required notification if a student requested to use facilities or participate in programs that did not align with their sex on official records. In August 2023, Attorney General Bonta announced a lawsuit challenging the enforcement of Policy 5020.1, asserting it violated several state protections safeguarding students’ civil and constitutional rights.

Shortly after securing a temporary restraining order, the San Bernardino Superior Court issued a preliminary injunction against the Board’s forced outing policy in October 2023. The Court held that several provisions violated California’s equal protection clause and discriminated against transgender and gender-nonconforming students, causing them irreparable harm.

In today’s motion seeking a permanent injunction and declaratory relief against the forced outing policy, Attorney General Bonta underscores the importance of the Court’s issuance of final adjudication to guarantee the safety and well-being of transgender and gender-nonconforming students from future identical or similar forced outing policies, and declare that the forced outing policy violates students’ constitutional and statutory rights to be free from unequal and discriminatory treatment on the basis of sex, gender, and gender identity.  

As part of today’s motion, Attorney General Bonta urges the Court to issue a final judgment because a live controversy exists, as the District’s conduct signals that it could re-adopt the discriminatory policy absent a final ruling by the Court, the discriminatory message communicated by the enactment of a discriminatory policy must still be redressed, and the case presents clear issues of public interest broadly affecting students, parents, school officials, and teachers that are likely to recur.

The Attorney General underscores the importance of securing final injunctive and declaratory relief against Policy 5020.1 to:

  • Prevent the Board from re-enacting the discriminatory forced outing policy in the absence of a final injunction.
  • Provide relief against the stigmatic harms inflicted by the Board’s adoption of the forced outing policy.
  • Declare that the Board’s forced outing policy violates California’s equal protection and antidiscrimination laws.

Today’s motion also asserts the Board’s plain motivations in adopting Policy 5020.1 were to create and harbor animosity, discrimination, and prejudice towards transgender and gender-nonconforming students, without any compelling reason to do so, as evidenced by statements made during the Board’s hearing.

In discussing the policy before its passage, board members made a number of statements describing students who are transgender or gender-nonconforming as suffering from a “mental illness” or “perversion”, or as being a threat to the integrity of the nation and the family. The Board President went so far as to state that transgender and gender nonconforming individuals needed “non-affirming” parental actions so that they could “get better.”

The Attorney General has a substantial interest in protecting the legal rights, physical safety, and mental health of children in California schools, and in protecting them from trauma, harassment, bullying, and exposure to violence and threats of violence. Research shows that protecting a transgender student’s ability to make choices about how and when to inform others is critical to their well-being, as transgender students are exposed to high levels of harassment and mistreatment at school and in their communities when those environments are not supportive of their gender identity. 

  • One-in-10 respondents in a 2015 national survey said that an immediate family member had been violent toward them because they were transgender, and 15% ran away from home or were kicked out of their home because they were transgender. Fewer than one-in-three transgender and gender nonbinary youth found their home to be gender-affirming.
  • Nearly 46% of transgender students reported missing at least one day of school in the preceding month because they felt unsafe or uncomfortable there and 17% of transgender students reported that they left a K-12 school due to the severity of the harassment they experienced at school.
  • Seventy-seven percent of students known or perceived as transgender reported negative experiences such as harassment and assault, and over half of transgender and nonbinary youth reported seriously considering suicide in the past year. 

A copy of the motion seeking declaratory and injunctive relief is available here.

Continue Reading

Politics

Kenyatta may become first LGBTQ statewide elected official in Pa.

Penn. state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, who is running for auditor general is an active surrogate in the Biden-Harris 2024 reelection campaign

Published

on

President Joe Biden, Malcolm Kenyatta, and Vice President Kamala Harris (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)

PHILADELPHIA County, Penn. — Following his win in the Democratic primary contest on Wednesday, Pennsylvania state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, who is running for auditor general, is positioned to potentially become the first openly LGBTQ elected official serving the commonwealth.

In a statement celebrating his victory, LGBTQ+ Victory Fund President Annise Parker said, “Pennsylvanians trust Malcolm Kenyatta to be their watchdog as auditor general because that’s exactly what he’s been as a legislator.”

“LGBTQ+ Victory Fund is all in for Malcolm, because we know he has the experience to win this race and carry on his fight for students, seniors and workers as Pennsylvania’s auditor general,” she said.

Parker added, “LGBTQ+ Americans are severely underrepresented in public office and the numbers are even worse for Black LGBTQ+ representation. I look forward to doing everything I can to mobilize LGBTQ+ Pennsylvanians and our allies to get out and vote for Malcolm this November so we can make history.” 

In April 2023, Kenyatta was appointed by the White House to serve as director of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence and Economic Opportunity for Black Americans.

He has been an active surrogate in the Biden-Harris 2024 reelection campaign.

Continue Reading

The White House

Biden announces action plan targeting pollutants in drinking water

The administration has led more than 500 programs geared toward communities most impacted by health and safety hazards like pollution

Published

on

President Joe Biden speaks with reporters following an Earth Day event on April 22, 2024 (Screen capture: Forbes/YouTube)

WASHINGTON — Headlining an Earth Day event in Northern Virginia’s Prince William Forest on Monday, President Joe Biden announced the disbursement of $7 billion in new grants for solar projects and warned of his Republican opponent’s plans to roll back the progress his administration has made toward addressing the harms of climate change.

The administration has led more than 500 programs geared toward communities most impacted by health and safety hazards like pollution and extreme weather events.

In a statement to the Washington Blade on Wednesday, Brenda Mallory, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said, “President Biden is leading the most ambitious climate, conservation, and environmental justice agenda in history – and that means working toward a future where all people can breathe clean air, drink clean water, and live in a healthy community.”

“This Earth Week, the Biden-Harris Administration announced $7 billion in solar energy projects for over 900,000 households in disadvantaged communities while creating hundreds of thousands of clean energy jobs, which are being made more accessible by the American Climate Corps,” she said. “President Biden is delivering on his promise to help protect all communities from the impacts of climate change – including the LGBTQI+ community – and that we leave no community behind as we build an equitable and inclusive clean energy economy for all.”

Recent milestones in the administration’s climate policies include the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s issuance on April 10 of legally enforceable standard for detecting and treating drinking water contaminated with polyfluoroalkyl substances.

“This rule sets health safeguards and will require public water systems to monitor and reduce the levels of PFAS in our nation’s drinking water, and notify the public of any exceedances of those levels,” according to a White House fact sheet. “The rule sets drinking water limits for five individual PFAS, including the most frequently found PFOA and PFOS.”

The move is expected to protect 100 million Americans from exposure to the “forever chemicals,” which have been linked to severe health problems including cancers, liver and heart damage, and developmental impacts in children.

An interactive dashboard from the United States Geological Survey shows the concentrations of polyfluoroalkyl substances in tapwater are highest in urban areas with dense populations, including cities like New York and Los Angeles.

During Biden’s tenure, the federal government has launched more than 500 programs that are geared toward investing in the communities most impacted by climate change, whether the harms may arise from chemical pollutants, extreme weather events, or other causes.

New research by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law found that because LGBTQ Americans are likelier to live in coastal areas and densely populated cities, households with same-sex couples are likelier to experience the adverse effects of climate change.

The report notes that previous research, including a study that used “national Census data on same-sex households by census tract combined with data on hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) from the National Air Toxics Assessment” to model “the relationship between same-sex households and risk of cancer and respiratory illness” found “that higher prevalence of same-sex households is associated with higher risks for these diseases.”

“Climate change action plans at federal, state, and local levels, including disaster preparedness, response, and recovery plans, must be inclusive and address the specific needs and vulnerabilities facing LGBT people,” the Williams Institute wrote.

With respect to polyfluoroalkyl substances, the EPA’s adoption of new standards follows other federal actions undertaken during the Biden-Harris administration to protect firefighters and healthcare workers, test for and clean up pollution, and phase out or reduce use of the chemicals in fire suppressants, food packaging, and federal procurement.

Continue Reading

Africa

For queer Nigerians, being on gay dating apps is still risky

Homophobes target users for violence

Published

on

(Bigstock photo)

By Elvis Kachi | LAGOS, Nigeria — Gay hookup apps like Grindr, and dating apps like Tinder and Bumble have managed to proliferate queer communities in countries like Nigeria. 

Those who seek one night stands find what they want while those looking for love equally find what they seek. These platforms have managed to position themselves as safe spaces for queer people in anti-gay Nigeria. In recent times, however, it is proving to be unsafe, as homophobic people are quickly learning about the apps, and opening accounts that either seek to outrightly threaten queer people, or pretend to be queer, have long chats with gay people, invite them over, and inflict violence on them.

Take the case of Biodun, a queer Nigerian man who joined Grindr to meet up with guys like him. 

After Biodun had built a connection and agreed to meet with someone whose display name was “Mamba,” they decided to meet up only for him to be met with violence. Apparently, Mamba ran a catfish account. 

“I’ll never forget that day,” Biodun, who asked the Washington Blade not to use his last name because of safety concerns, said. “I still think about it, and sometimes blame myself for being very careless, even though Grindr was supposed to be our safe space.” 

Biodun’s experience isn’t peculiar to him. 

In Nigeria, draconian laws that criminalize same-sex relationships exist, making queer people turn to the digital realm to explore their identities and seek connections beyond the confines of societal oppression that comes with the physical environment. Gay dating apps such as Grindr, therefore, have emerged as virtual sanctuaries, offering spaces for queer Nigerians to forge friendships, find solidarity, and pursue romantic or sexual relationships. Spaces like this, however, have morphed into a landscape fraught with danger, as homophobic people have weaponized these platforms to perpetuate hate and violence. 

“Sometimes, I often wonder how they learned about these platforms,” Daniel, which is not his real name, told the Blade. “You would think that it is just us in the platforms, until you find out that the accounts are rooted in homophobia.” 

One time, someone’s bio read, “I’m only here to deal with the gay people. I know all of you, and I will find and kill you. We no want una for here (translates to “We do not want you here,” in English.)” It was a stark reminder that these spaces are no longer LGBTQ+-friendly for Nigerians. In 2014, there was the passage of the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act by former President Goodluck Jonathan, which not only criminalized same-sex unions, but also imposed severe penalties on anyone involved in LGBTQ+ advocacy or support. 

This law catalyzed a surge in discrimination and violence against queer Nigerians; emboldening regular civilians, religious extremists, and even law enforcement agencies to target individuals perceived as deviating from traditional gender and sexual norms. Again, amid this hostile environment, gay dating apps emerged as lifelines for many queer Nigerians, offering avenues for discreet communication, community building, and the pursuit of intimate relationships.

The very anonymity and freedom these apps provided, however, became double-edged swords. 

The advent of screenshot and screen-recording capabilities on these apps, for example, reduced the risks of exposure, strengthening the safety and privacy of users. However, this also comes with its own lapses, as queer people using Grindr have often relied on screenshots and screen recordings to confirm the identities of potentials with their friends, before accepting to meet. 

“Before the removal of the screenshot option, I usually shared photos of others with my trusted friends,” Biodun shared. “But since that was taken off, there was no way for me to do that.” 

Although, according to Grindr’s terms and conditions, the removal came with privacy concerns, as it was to facilitate a safe dating experience.

This erosion of digital safe spaces is depriving queer Nigerians of vital avenues for self-expression and affirmation, and is exacerbating the psychological toll of living in a society that continues to systematically demonize their identities. Moreover, the normalization of homophobic rhetoric and violence in both physical and digital realms has perpetuated a cycle of fear and oppression, and is reinforcing this notion that LGBTQ+ individuals are inherently unworthy of dignity and respect. Despite these challenges, though, the resilience of queer Nigerians continue to persist, as they defy societal norms and assert their right to love and be loved.

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

Elvis Kachi is a Nigerian fashion and culture journalist. He’s had in pieces featured across platforms like BBC, Thomson Reuters, Essence Magazine, Condé Nast’s Them, etc. www.elviskachi.com

Continue Reading

Research/Study

90 percent of trans youth live in states restricting their rights

Slightly more than 75% of trans youth live in 40 states passed laws or had pending bills that restrict access to gender-affirming care

Published

on

March for Queer & Trans Youth Autonomy. (Michael Key/Washington Blade)

LOS ANGELES – According to a new report by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, 93% of transgender youth aged 13 to 17 in the U.S.—approximately 280,300 youth—live in states that have proposed or passed laws restricting their access to health care, sports, school bathrooms and facilities, or the use of gender-affirming pronouns.  

In some regions, a large percentage of transgender youth live in a state that has already enacted one of these laws. About 85% of transgender youth in the South and 40% of transgender youth in the Midwest live in one of these states.

An estimated 300,100 youth ages 13 to 17 in the U.S. identify as transgender. Nearly half of transgender youth live in 14 states and Washington D.C. that have laws that protect access to gender-affirming care and prohibit conversion therapy.

All transgender youth living in the Northeast reside in a state with either a gender-affirming care “shield” law or a conversion therapy ban, while almost all transgender youth in the West (97%) live in a state with one or both protective laws.

“For the second straight year, hundreds of bills impacting transgender youth were introduced in state legislatures,” said lead author Elana Redfield, Federal Policy Director at the Williams Institute. “The diverging legal landscape has created a deep divide in the rights and protections for transgender youth and their families across the country.”

KEY FINDINGS:

Restrictive Legislation

Bans on gender-affirming care

237,500 transgender youth—slightly more than three-quarters of transgender youth in the U.S.—live in 40 states that have passed laws or had pending bills that restrict access to gender-affirming care.113,900 transgender youth live in 24 states that have enacted gender-affirming care bans.123,600 youth live in 16 additional states that had a gender-affirming care ban pending in the 2024 legislative session.

Bans on sports participation

222,500 transgender youth—nearly three-quarters of transgender youth in the U.S.—live in 41 states that have passed laws or had pending bills that restrict participation in school sports.120,200 transgender youth live in 27 states where access to sports participation is restricted or state policy encourages restriction.102,300 transgender youth live in 14 additional states that had a sports ban pending in the 2024 legislative session.

School bathroom bans

117,000 transgender youth live in 30 states that have passed laws or had pending bills that ban transgender students from using school bathrooms and other facilities that align with their gender identity.38,600 transgender youth live in 13 states that explicitly or implicitly ban bathroom access.78,400 transgender youth live in 17 additional states that had a bathroom ban pending in the 2024 legislative session.

Bans on pronoun use

121,100 transgender youth live in 31 states that have passed laws or had pending bills that restrict or prohibit the use of gender-affirming pronouns.49,100 transgender youth live in 14 states that have restricted or banned pronoun use, particularly in schools or state-run facilities.72,000 transgender youth live in 17 additional states that had a restriction or prohibition pending in the 2024 legislative session.

Gender-affirming care “shield” laws

163,800 transgender youth—over half of transgender youth in the U.S.—live in 18 states and D.C. that have passed gender-affirming care “shield” laws or had pending bills that protect access to care.146,700 transgender youth live in 14 states and D.C. that have passed these protections.17,100 transgender youth live in four additional states that had a “shield” law pending in the 2024 legislative session.

Conversion therapy bans

204,800 transgender youth live in 31 states and D.C. that ban conversion therapy or had pending bills that prohibit the practice for minors.198,000 transgender youth—about two-thirds of transgender youth in the U.S.—live in 27 states and D.C. that ban conversion therapy for minors.6,800 transgender youth live in four additional states that had a ban pending in the 2024 legislative session.
“A growing body of research shows that efforts to support transgender youth are associated with better mental health,” said co-author Kerith Conron, Research Director at the Williams Institute. “Restrictions on medically appropriate care and full participation at school exacerbate the stress experienced by these youth and their families.”

Read the report: (Here)

Continue Reading

Ventura County

“Queers in the Valley” Ojai launches & is ready to celebrate Pride

Queers in the Valley are fundraising for Ojai’s first ever Pride Picnic & Celebration following the 33rd annual Pride Walk on June 30th, 2024

Published

on

Queers in the Valley-Ojai (Photo Credit: JoEllen Depakakibo)

OJAI, Calif. – JoEllen Depakakibo, founder of Pinhole Coffee in San Francisco’s charming Bernal Heights has resettled in northeastern Ventura County with a new mission, a Pride Picnic & Celebration in Ojai.

Depakakibo along with her wife and child now call Ojai home and when not running a Pinhole Coffee EV-van have gathered with other LGBTQ+ community members launching the effort to raise funds for Ojai’s first Pride Picnic & Celebration.

The Pride Picnic & Celebration following the 33rd annual Pride Walk on Sunday, June 30th, 2024. According to a Facebook Post by Depakakibo, organizers enlisted the help of Rachel Lang the first out LGBTQ+ Ojai City Councilmember and support from Ojai Mayor Betsy Stix.

In a GoFundMe page and on the group’s ‘Queers in the Valley’ website the group is soliciting assistance to fund their efforts:

We are Queers in the Valley, and are fundraising for Ojai’s first ever Pride Picnic & Celebration following the 33rd annual Pride Walk on Sunday, June 30th, 2024!

Our mission is to find, build, strengthen, support and inspire the Queer Community in Ojai Valley. Our intention is to make it as Ojai as possible, and lay a foundation of safety and inclusion for our Trans, BIPOC, Disabled, and Low-Income Queer Family.

Help us raise $3000 to:

– pay our Queer Entertainers

– pay our Queer Graphic Designer and build out our website

– print signs and flyers

– rent Libbey Park

– make the event as accessible as possible for BIPOC, Disabled, and Low Income folx through things like ASL interpretation, non-police security, free covid testing, discounts for food options, etc.

– purchase 1-day event insurance

– pay for materials for such things as a kids crafting corner

Send us a message if you want to get involved!

gofundme.com/ojaipride

instagram/@queersinthevalley

The group noted:

If you are a local Queer artist, vendor or organization that wants to be featured on our website/want to volunteer/have any suggestions or questions…reach out to us (contact info on website).

This group was started with the yearning of mentioned intentions above from many people. Representation matters

Continue Reading

Popular