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Democratic Governors Association planning conference in anti-LGBT North Carolina

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Has the Democratic Party lost its soul or just its mind by forfeiting its allegiance to LGBT equality?

For the past few months, the Democratic Governors Association (DGA)—an organization operating separate from but under the auspices of the National Democratic Committee—has been planning a policy conference in North Carolina, according to a very reliable source with knowledge of the action.

Apparently the planning started after a former staffer for newly elected North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper joined the DGA. The source did not know if the conference was a counter-measure to the backlash from such prominent LGBT organizations as the Human Rights Campaign, Equality North Carolina and Equality California over Cooper’s “compromise” with conservative state Republicans to “repeal” the transphobic HB2 law in order to appease business boycotters such as the NCAA.

The appeasement worked. On April 18, the NCAA announced that North Carolina is again free enough from anti-LGBT discrimination to hold championship games. “The NCAA has fallen ‘hook, line, and sinker’ for this ‘bait and switch’ sham ‘deal’ doubling down on discrimination,” JoDee Winterhof, HRC Senior Vice President for Policy and Political Affairs, said in a press release. “[T]he NCAA has undermined its credibility and is sending a dangerous message to lawmakers across the country who are targeting LGBTQ people with discriminatory state legislation.”

HB 142 still prohibits local anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people in public accommodations or private employment practices until Dec. 1, 2020 and leaves regulation of multiple occupancy restrooms, showers or changing facilities to the state. “I think this will address issues of who we are, how inclusive we are and whether everyone is valued,” said Senate Democratic Leader Dan Blue about the “reset” back to pre-HB2 days, according to the News & Observer.

But the LGBT community isn’t buying what that Blue man is selling. “The governor threw the LGBT community under the bus,” Victory Fund President & CEO Aisha C. Moodie-Mills told the Washington Blade last month. “It was the LGBT community that ultimately pushed Roy Cooper into victory and he would be wise to remember that. I’m disheartened but I’m not surprised. At the end of the day opportunism is not partisan.”

It was an opportunity the Trump Justice Department couldn’t resist, withdrawing its complaint against HB2 citing the purported repeal.

“Here is yet another instance of the Trump administration and Attorney General Jeff Sessions withdrawing the federal government’s support from transgender individuals, and they are using the fake repeal of HB2 as cover,” said Lambda Legal’s Jon W. Davidson, noting that Lambda Legal and the ACLU are still pursuing legal challenges to the law.  

Already facing erasure in Trump’s America, the LGBT community may now be facing the slow betrayal of once reliable friends. Democratic pundits now talk about shucking off “identity politics” in favor of economic issues that appeal to overlooked Trump voters. But economic issues are LGBT issues when an LGBT person can be legally disqualified from applying or fired for simply being LGBT. According to a 2015 Center for American Progress report, “America’s 5.1 million LGBT women face lower pay, frequent harassment, compromised access to health care, and heightened violence” and are at high risk for poverty, especially lesbians with children.

The Democratic Governors Association Facebook page offers this glowing tribute to North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper.

Isn’t poverty an issue of concern to America’s Democratic governors?

The Los Angeles Blade source says the DGA has “contacted” the offices of the DGA Executive Committee about the planned conference in North Carolina. The committee is made up of: incoming Chair Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington; New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo; Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe; Oregon Gov. Kate Brown; and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock.

The Blade made repeated calls to the offices of the executive committee members and made numerous calls and sent several emails and even Tweeted DGA Communications Director Jared Leopold, to discuss the planned conference but received no response.

Gov. Inslee’s office did respond, but noted that the DGA question was political and outside the scope of the governor’s office. However the staffer noted, Inslee signed a renewed travel ban to North Carolina and therefore it was unlikely that the governor would violate state law to travel to the conference.

Brown’s press office said the question should be put to the governor’s reelection campaign. An email and two calls to campaign manager Thomas Wheatley were not returned. When HB2 first came out, bisexual Gov. Kate Brown said she was “appalled” by the new law but has not commented on the new law.

Rich Azzopardi, a spokesperson for Cuomo, previously told the Washington Blade’s Chris Johnson:  “Our review of the new North Carolina law is ongoing, and the Governor’s Executive Order ‎currently remains in effect.”

North Carolina travel bans are being upheld by Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton and California Gov. Jerry Brown.

“Discrimination is unacceptable and we intend to protect LGBT rights,” Attorney General Xavier Becerra said. “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.”

Cities keeping their travel bans include: 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, Florida—where a series of egg-throwing attacks in the city’s gay corridor are being considered as hate crimes.

The LGBT community has had problems with the DNC before and has been expected to just “grin and bear it.” That time’s long gone. LGBT grassroots have glimpsed full equality and won’t settle for crumbs doled out by DGA smart-ass sell-outs. If the party wants to regain power, it needs to reclaim its soul—and that means embracing the struggle of America’s official second-class LGBT citizens.

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U.S. Federal Courts

White House blocked from ending Title 42

Advocacy groups say policy further endangered LGBTQ+ asylum seekers

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The Mexico-U.S. border in Mexicali, Mexico, on July 22, 2018. A federal judge in Louisiana has blocked the Biden administration from terminating Title 42, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention policy that closed the Southern border to most asylum seekers and migrants because of the pandemic. The previous White House's policy was to have ended on May 23, 2022. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

LAFAYETTE, La. — A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rule that closed the Southern border to most asylum seekers and migrants because of the pandemic was to have ended Monday, but it remains in place after a federal judge blocked the Biden administration’s plans to end it.

The White House last month announced it would terminate Title 42, a policy the previous administration implemented in March 2020.

U.S. District Judge Robert Summerhays in Louisiana on May 20 issued a ruling that prevented the Biden administration from terminating the Trump-era policy. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre in a statement announced the Justice Department will appeal the decision, while adding the administration “will continue to enforce the CDC’s 2020 Title 42 public health authority pending the appeal.”

“This means that migrants who attempt to enter the United States unlawfully will be subject to expulsion under Title 42, as well as immigration consequences such as removal under Title 8 (of the U.S. Code),” said Jean-Pierre.

Advocacy groups and members of Congress with whom the Washington Blade has spoken since Title 42 took effect say it continues to place LGBTQ asylum seekers and other vulnerable groups who seek refuge in the U.S. at even more risk.

Oluchi Omeoga, co-director of the Black LGBTQIA+ Migrant Project, last month described Title 42 as a “racist and harmful policy.” ORAM (Organization of Refuge, Asylum and Migration) Executive Director Steve Roth said Title 42 “put asylum seekers in harm’s way in border towns and prevented them from seeking safety in the United States.”

Title 42 was to have ended less than a month after five members of Congress from California visited two LGBTQ+ shelters for asylum seekers in Tijuana.

The Council for Global Equality, which organized the trip, in a tweet after Summerhays issued his ruling described Title 42 as a “catastrophe.”

“The Biden administration cannot breathe a sign of relief until it’s a matter of the past,” said the Council for Global Equality on Saturday. “We remain committed to end Title 42.”

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Maine

High school students in Maine rescue Pride parade & festival

Maine’s motto is “Dirigo” Latin for “I Lead.” In keeping with that spirit a group of teens stepped up to make sure Pride happens this year

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Belfast Area High School/Facebook

BELFAST, Me. – Located at the mouth of the Passagassawakeag River estuary on Belfast Bay and Penobscot Bay, Belfast is a coastal city of 6,938 people and county seat for Waldo County, 51 miles Southwest of Bangor.

The city is known for being a significant tourist destination in the region over the years due to its antique buildings, historic districts, theater and arts, delicious food, and opportunities to get out into nature.

This year it will be a destination for LGBTQ+ Mainers to celebrate Pride- thanks to some dedicated high schoolers.

The state motto of Maine is “Dirigo” which is Latin for “I Direct” or “I Lead.”  In keeping with that spirit, The Bangor Daily News reported that when no adults would revive the community Pride parade in Belfast, a group of motivated Belfast Area High School students stepped up to make sure that the event — which has been on a pandemic hiatus — happens this year.

The city’s first-ever Pride parade and festival took place in 2016, and became an annual tradition. But no adult organizers had come forward this year to keep the tradition going, the paper reported.

Enter members of the Gender and Sexuality Alliance, which formed at Belfast Area High School eight years ago. According to the Daily News, Willa Bywater, 17-year-old president of the school’s GSA decided that keeping Pride alive, especially after the lock-downs and isolation of the coronavirus pandemic, was a critical need not just only for Belfast’s LGBTQ+ community but others as well.

Bywater and her fellow 20 club members secured a permit from the city of Belfast, found sponsors, raised money for banners, flags and other expenses and grappled with the procuring of liability insurance. Ultimately, the high school agreed to cover the event under the school’s policy, a move that surprised and pleased the teens, Annie Gray, the club’s co-advisor told the Daily News.

Bywater noted that it has been a lot of work to organize the parade — but it’s well worth it.

“I think that this is the Pride parade for Waldo County, and it feels really important,” she said. “After all these years of COVID, it’s important to remind ourselves that we’re all still here and still going.”

The students found support from local businesses the Daily News also reported.

Seth Thayer, a local businessman who was delighted that the high school students have taken the initiative to organize the event and that it will happen again this year. There’s something special about the way that rainbow flags fly from homes and businesses all over the city during Pride, he told the paper.

“The thing I love about Pride is that the whole town is involved,” he said. “It’s such an isolating feeling, to have to hide yourself. And just to see that visual support from people that you don’t know, just seeing the Pride flag, it’s a powerful thing. I’m excited that it’s going to happen.”

Thayer said he was glad to make a financial contribution to the students, who have been canvassing for donations.

“I’m really happy that the high schoolers took it over,” he said. “I think they’ll do a good job. Kids always bring a new energy to things.”

Those interested in participating in the Belfast Pride parade are asked to meet at Belfast Area High School at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, June 4, and the parade will begin at 11 a.m. The parade will end just before the Public Landing and Heritage Park.

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U.S. Military/Pentagon

U.S. Army considering letting LGBTQ+ troops transfer out of hostile states

This policy tweak to the existing Army regulations pertaining to compassionate reassignment would clarify the current standard rules

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Top Army G-1 officer & enlisted advisor speaking with Joint Base Lewis-McChord single and dual military parents (Photo Credit: U.S. Army)

ARLINGTON, Va. – A draft policy is circulating among top officials of the U.S. Army that would allow soldiers to be able to request a transfer if they feel state or local laws discriminate against them based on gender, sex, religion, race or pregnancy.

Journalist Steve Beynon writing for Military.com reported last week the guidance, which would update a vague service policy to add specific language on discrimination, is far from final and would need approval from Army Secretary Christine Wormuth. But if enacted, it could be one of the most progressive policies for the Army amid a growing wave of local anti-LGBTQ+ and restrictive contraception laws in conservative-leaning states, where the Army has a majority of its bases and major commands.

“Some states are becoming untenable to live in; there’s a rise in hate crimes and rise in LGBT discrimination,” Lindsay Church, executive director of Minority Veterans of America, an advocacy group, told Military.com. “In order to serve this country, people need to be able to do their job and know their families are safe. All of these states get billions for bases but barely tolerate a lot of the service members.”

This policy tweak to the existing Army regulations pertaining to compassionate reassignment would clarify the current standard rules, which are oft times fairly vague.

A source in the Army told Beynon the new guidance has not yet been fully worked out through the policy planning process or briefed to senior leaders including the Army Secretary or the Office of the Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.

“The Army does not comment on leaked, draft documents,” Angel Tomko, a service spokesperson, told Military.com in an emailed statement. “AR 600-100 and 600-200 establish the criteria for which soldiers may request for a compassionate reassignment. The chain of command is responsible for ensuring Soldiers and Families’ needs are supported and maintain a high quality of life.”

A base member wears rainbow socks during Pride Month Five Kilometer Pride Run at Joint Base Andrews, Md., June 28, 2017.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Valentina Lopez)

The Crystal City Virginia based RAND Corporation had published a study on Sexual Orientation, Transgender Identity, and Health Among U.S. Active-Duty Service Members in 2015 that listed approximate numbers of LGBTQ+ troops are 6% gay or bisexual and 1% is transgender or nonbinary.

A senior analyst for RAND told the Blade on background those numbers are likely much lower than in actuality as 2015 was less than 4 years after the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell’ and prior to the Trump enacted Trans service ban in 2017 which was then repealed by the Biden Administration which has had a chilling effect on open service. Another factor is that the current 18-24 year old troops colloquially referred to as ‘Gen Z’ are much more inclined to embrace an LGBTQ+ identity and that would cause the numbers to be higher than reported.

Also factored in is uncertainty in the tweaking of policy in light of the recent leak of the draft U.S. Supreme Court decision that would effectively repeal Roe v Wade.

According to Military.com it’s unclear whether the Army’s inclusion of pregnancy on the list would protect reproductive care for soldiers if Roe v. Wade is overturned. That language could be intended to protect pregnant service members or their families from employment or other discrimination, but could also be a means for some to argue for transfers based on broader reproductive rights.

One advocacy group pointed out that the current wave of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation will negatively impact the moral of service members:

“What we’re seeing across the board is a small group of elected officials who are trying to politicize and weaponize LGBTQ identities in despicable ways. They’re not only doing that to our youth, but the collateral damage is hurting our service members,” Jacob Thomas, communications director for Common Defense, a progressive advocacy organization, told Military.com. “[Troops] can’t be forced to live in places where they aren’t seen as fully human.”

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