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Tear gas used to disperse Istanbul Pride participants

Turkish police arrested up to 22 people who defied ban

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Authorities in Istanbul on June 25, 2017, used tear gas and plastic bullets to disperse activists who defied a Pride march ban. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Turkish police on Sunday used tear gas and plastic bullets to disperse LGBT rights advocates in Istanbul who defied the city’s decision to ban a Pride event.

Istanbul LGBTI+ Pride Week on Saturday said in a statement that Istanbul’s governor banned the event because “the application for the event has not been done properly.” The Associated Press reported his office said authorities could not guarantee participants’ safety because “serious reactions by different segments of society” that include nationalist and religious groups.

Reports indicate authorities arrested more than 20 people. The Associated Press reported they also blocked suspected activists from entering Istiklal Avenue — a pedestrian-only street that begins at Taksim Square — in order to march.

“The lynch(ing) and threats posed by the aforementioned factions of society are not ‘serious reactions,’ they are (a) public offense,” said the Istanbul LGBTI+ Pride Week Committee on Sunday in a press release. “The different sectors of society have reacted, yet society itself has been waiting for long to attend this march. [The] Istanbul governor’s office has shown that they stand by perpetrators and not society.”

‘Security will be provided by protecting the rights of all humans’

A series of terrorist attacks has rocked Istanbul over the last year.

Three suicide bombers killed 44 people and injured more than 140 others during an attack at Ataturk Airport on June 28, 2016. Members of the Turkish military a few weeks later sought to oust President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in an unsuccessful coup.

Three suspected members of the so-called Islamic State reportedly planned to attack a transgender rights march in Istanbul last June.

Turkish police last June arrested gay German MP Volker Beck, German MEP Terry Reintke and more than a dozen others who challenged the Istanbul governor’s decision to ban the city’s Pride march. Reintke is among those who criticized the arrests and expressed their solidarity with the activists.

Istanbul’s governor in 2015 banned Pride-related events.

The Istanbul LGBTI+ Pride Committee on Saturday rejected authorities’ claims that security concerns prompted them to cancel the Pride event.

“Our security cannot be provided by imprisoning us behind walls, asking us to hide, preventing us from organizing and being visible and encouraging the ones who are threatening us,” it said in a press release. “Our security will be provided by showing how strong, how crowded, how brave we are.”

“Our security will be provided by protecting the rights of all humans, without discrimination, and protecting social peace,” added the Istanbul LGBTI+ Pride Committee. “Our security will be provided by recognizing us in the constitution, by securing justice, by equality and freedom. Our security will be provided in a country where we can have LGBTI+ Pride March.”

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The White House

Senate confirms Biden’s 200th judicial nominee

Among them are 11 LGBTQ judges, the same record-setting number who were nominated and confirmed under former President Barack Obama

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President Joe Biden speaks at the Respect for Marriage Act signing ceremony on Tuesday. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON — With the U.S. Senate’s confirmation of his 200th judicial nominee on Wednesday, President Joe Biden surpassed the number who were appointed to the federal bench by his last two predecessors at this point in their presidencies.

Among them are 11 LGBTQ judges, the same record-setting number who were nominated and confirmed under former President Barack Obama over the course of his two terms in office.

In a statement celebrating the milestone, Biden highlighted the diverse identities, backgrounds, and professional experiences of the men and women he has appointed over the past four years.

They “come from every walk of life, and collectively, they form the most diverse group of judicial appointees ever put forward by a president,” he said, noting that “64 percent are women and 62 percent are people of color.”

“Before their appointment to the bench, they worked in every field of law,” Biden said, “from labor lawyers fighting for working people to civil rights lawyers fighting to protect the right to vote.”

The president added, “Judges matter. These men and women have the power to uphold basic rights or to roll them back. They hear cases that decide whether women have the freedom to make their own reproductive healthcare decisions; whether Americans have the freedom to cast their ballots; whether workers have the freedom to unionize and make a living wage for their families; and whether children have the freedom to breathe clean air and drink clean water.”

The LGBTQ judges who were confirmed under Biden include Beth Robinson, the first LGBTQ woman to serve on a federal court of appeals, Nicole Berner, the 4th Circuit’s first LGBTQ judge, Charlotte Sweeney, the first LGBTQ judge to serve on a federal district court west of the Mississippi River, and Melissa DuBose, the first Black and the first LGBTQ judge to serve on a federal court in Rhode Island.

Echoing the president’s comments during a briefing with reporters on Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre noted Biden’s appointment of the U.S. Supreme Court’s first Black woman, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson.

“We’ve confirmed more Hispanic judges circuit courts than any previous administration,” she said. “We’ve confirmed more Black women to circuit courts than all previous presidents combined.”

Jean-Pierre added that while these milestones are “great news,” there is still “much more work to be done.”

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Federal Government

LGBTQ+ Rangers dismayed- Park Service: No uniforms at Pride

National Park Service issued a memo barring employees from attending Pride parades in uniform. Official participation appears uncertain

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Stonewall National Monument NPS park rangers marching in 2021 NYC Pride parade. (Photo Credit: NPS/Facebook)

By Erin Reed | WASHINGTON – On May 17, the National Park Service officially determined that park rangers and other employees cannot attend Pride festivities and parades in uniform. This decision reverses a long history of allowing such participation and even having official delegation in Pride parades across the United States.

Anonymous LGBTQ+ employees report feeling betrayed and note that official Pride participation in major cities is uncertain as multiple parades finalize and applications to participate in parades remain unprocessed.

The move comes amid increasing crackdowns on Pride flags and LGBTQ+ people nationwide. In most cases, Republican legislators and appointees have been behind such bans, but this time, it appears the National Park Service, led by a Biden-approved director, is restricting park participation in LGBTQ+ celebrations.

The decision was first disclosed in a memo to NPS employees that did not directly address Pride but stated that “requests from employees asking to participate in uniform in a variety of events and activities, including events not organized by the NPS” conflict with National Park policy.

The specific provision cited states that NPS employees cannot wear the uniform to events that would construe support for “a particular issue, position, or political party.” Applying this provision to bar Pride participation drew ire from LGBTQ+ employees who assert that LGBTQ+ Pride is not about an “issue, position, or political party,” but about identity and diversity. Employees also pointed out that the internal ERG guide allowed for participation in Pride events and that park employees had participated in Pride events with approval for years under the current set of rules.

In a follow-up, the National Park Service stated that the ERG resource known as the “OUTsiders Guide to Pride” conflicts with its policy and that it is in discussion with ERG leaders to review it and similar documents.

Meanwhile, it stated that NPS participation in Pride “could imply agency support… on a particular issue of public concern,” essentially stating that celebrations of LGBTQ+ employees would be considered an “issue of public concern” rather than a non-political celebration of diversity. As such, they determined that NPS official participation in parades “should be extremely limited.”

Concern immediately spread among National Park Service employees and LGBTQ+ members of the general public. They noted that the National Park Service has participated in Pride parades across the United States for years under the same set of rules, including during the Trump administration, which notably cracked down on LGBTQ+ Pride in government agencies, such as at embassies abroad.

They also noted that Stonewall National Monument is run by the National Park Service. Importantly, Stonewall National Monument’s founding documents state, “The purpose of Stonewall National Monument is to preserve and protect Christopher Park and the historic resources associated with it and to interpret the Stonewall National Historic Landmark’s resources and values related to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender civil rights movement.”

One Park Service employee, speaking under the condition of anonymity, stated that multiple Pride parade requests are currently sitting on desks “collecting dust” for participation and representation in major city Pride festivities. When asked about the determination that Pride festivals are an “issue of public concern,” they said, “Pride is not political, it’s not a cause, you just are LGBTQ+. It’s a celebration of who we are.” They added, “Morale is just so low right now. There’s not a lot of fight left in us.”

I reached out to an NPS spokesperson to ask about Pride parades in major cities and whether the NPS would continue participating this year as they have in previous years. The spokesperson stated that the policy “had not changed” and that “Previous interpretations of the uniform policy were inconsistent and, as you can imagine, approving participation in some events and not others could be seen as discrimination based on viewpoint.” They added that in-park Pride events have not been canceled and that community events outside of the parks that “directly relate to a park’s mission” could be approved. However, they did not indicate whether these events would include continued contingents in major U.S. city Pride parades and celebrations and could not be reached for a follow-up on this question.

The determination that participation in Pride events could be too political is questionable. The founding documents for Stonewall National Monument relate directly to the “resources and values” of the LGBTQ+ community. Furthermore, National Park Service Resources currently live on the site call for people to “Celebrate Pride,” citing Stonewall National Monument to state that “The LGBTQ experience is a vital facet of America’s rich and diverse past.” This resource emphasizes the importance of not rendering LGBTQ people invisible, stating, “By recovering the voices that have been erased and marginalized, the NPS embarks on an important project to capture and celebrate our multi-vocal past.” By barring employees from wearing pins showing their identities and by pulling out of Pride festivals, the NPS ironically may appear to be erasing and marginalizing its LGBTQ+ employees.

National Park Service employees have marched in uniform for years. According to the Bay Area Reporter, in 2014, Christine Lenhertz of the National Park Service requested that a group of LGBTQ+ park service employees be allowed to wear their uniforms in the Pride parade. They were initially banned from doing so, prompting the group to file a complaint. She then sought a ruling from the Office of the Solicitor for the Department of the Interior, who ruled that there was no reason to ban her and other LGBTQ+ people from participating in uniform. Since then, many National Park Service contingents have participated in Pride events.

The future of Pride parade participation with in-uniform NPS employees is uncertain. While it appears that there will be some Pride events in certain National Parks, such as Stonewall, external participation in major city Pride events seems to be on hold in at least some major American cities. The prospect of individual or small LGBTQ+-affiliated Park Ranger celebrations in city Pride events appears even dimmer, with little hope of being allowed to participate.

You can see the full response to the request for comment from an NPS spokesperson here:

The NPS uniform policy has not changed. There are no restrictions on wearing of uniforms in NPS-organized in-park events. There has been no directive to cancel NPS-organized in-park events. Superintendents have discretion to approve park-organized events, which support park purpose and mission, and departmental mission, initiatives, and priorities (e.g., diversity, inclusion, climate change, and Tribal engagement). This would include many of the events planned to celebrate Pride month. 

Official NPS participation in community events that directly relate to a park’s mission can be approved by the park superintendent, provided it is consistent with applicable laws, rules, regulations, and NPS policies.

Last week, the Service sent out a reminder about the uniform policy – specifically because there has been an in-flux of requests from folks asking to wear their uniforms for non-Park Service events. These requests run the gamut of topics, but could include weekend, off duty events that folks are of course able to do in their personal capacity, but not while wearing a uniform representing the federal government. Previous interpretations of the uniform policy were inconsistent and as you can imagine, approving participation in some events and not others could be seen as discrimination based on viewpoint. 

NPS employees represent a diversity of identities, cultures, and experiences, and we are committed to supporting all of our workforce. Like any large organization, we have a diverse workforce supporting myriad causes, and we welcome employees to express their personal support for various issues, positions, and political parties, provided they do not imply their presence or endorsement constitutes official NPS support for the same.  And, also like other large organizations, there are limits to what employees can do while on-duty and in uniform and seen as communicating on behalf of the NPS.

 

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Erin Reed is a transgender woman (she/her pronouns) and researcher who tracks anti-LGBTQ+ legislation around the world and helps people become better advocates for their queer family, friends, colleagues, and community. Reed also is a social media consultant and public speaker.

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The preceding article was first published at Erin In The Morning and is republished with permission.

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Colorado

Colorado GOP tells parents the Democrats “turn more kids trans”

In a party-wide mass mailing the Colorado Republican Party is urging that all of the state’s parents pull their children from public schools

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Colorado State Capitol in Denver. (Screenshot/YouTube 9News Denver)

DENVER, Colo. – In a party-wide mass mailing Tuesday, the Colorado Republican Party is urging that all of the state’s parents pull their children from public schools because, according to the GOP leadership, “Democrats are using schools to “turn more kids trans.” 

In the email blast, Republicans allege: “Our next policy aims to save Colorado children from progressive Democrats who want to turn more kids trans by requiring teachers to use “pronouns” that do not make any sense and cause gender confusion.”

The email continues with an attack recent legislation signed into law by the state’s openly gay Governor Jared Polis:

“Sadly, with Democrats in the super majority in Denver, Non-Legal Name Changes- House Bill 24-1039, passed and was signed into law by Governor Polis. The bill, sponsored by four far-left progressives, two of whom do not know their own genders and do not have children, requires teachers in public schools to use “pronouns” for kids with gender confusion that do not align with their actual scientific gender, without parental consent.

If your child decides he identifies as a girl because he is angry with you, or all of his friends are doing it, the Colorado government will actively encourage his new fetish by allowing him to identify as “she,” “they,” or whatever nonsensical terms your son’s teachers and peers may dream up…all without notifying you of your child’s disturbing behavior, which should be treated rather then encouraged. 

The goal here is clear; the Colorado legislature seeks to break down the family unit while convincing kids that government knows best.”

Colorado has long been prominent in the culture wars over LGBTQ+ rights, reproductive rights, and being ground zero for the Evangelical Christian movement attacks on LGBTQ+ Americans.

Focus on the Family, founded in 1977 in Southern California by James Dobson, and based in Colorado Springs, has been one of the leading major conservative self labeled “family values” groups that has actively battled over same-sex marriage, equality rights, and trans rights.

NBC News affiliate 9News Denver reported:

Colorado Republicans’ 2022 nominee for Governor, Heidi Ganahl, issued a similar call for families to abandon the public education system last year. 

Speaking to the Truth and Liberty Conference in Woodland Park, which mixed anti-LGBTQ rhetoric with calls for Christian dominance of government, Ganahl said children should be removed from public schools and placed in church-run schools.

Ganahl said Colorado’s public schools teach “that parents are not to be trusted, that government is God, that sexual deviance is King.” 

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Canada

Canadian Pride events ban Conservative politicians

Pride festivals in Alberta and Saskatchewan Canada have banned lawmakers who have pushed anti-trans policies

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Edmonton Pride Festival at Churchill Square, 2023. (Photo Credit: Edmonton Pride Festival/Facebook)

By Rob Salerno | EDMONTON, Canada – Pride festivals in two of Canada’s most politically conservative provinces are putting their feet down and barring lawmakers who are pushing anti-trans legislation from participating in Pride festivities this season.

This week, nine Pride festivals across Alberta – including those in the largest cities Calgary and Edmonton – put out a joint statement that they will “not allow the participation of the United Conservative Party (UCP) in our 2024 pride celebrations.” The move came days after several Pride festivals in neighboring Saskatchewan announced they had barred the conservative Saskatchewan Party from participating in their parades.

Both provinces have recently passed or announced policies that would harm trans youth. 

Last year, Saskatchewan enacted a regulation that would require schools to out gender non-conforming children to their parents, and when the regulation was struck down by a court, the government enacted a law using the “notwithstanding” rule that allows governments to circumvent the federal Charter of Rights.

In January, Alberta’s conservative government announced it would bring forward legislation in the fall to ban gender confirming surgeries on minors, restrict hormone treatment for minors under 16, bar trans children from playing in gender-appropriate school sports, and require parental notification for students to use a preferred name or pronoun.

“This is a direct response to Premier Danielle Smith’s stated intention to infringe on the rights, freedoms, and healthcare of the transgender community in Alberta,” the statement put out by the Alberta Pride organizations reads. “You may not join our celebrations in June when you plan to attack us in September.” 

“Queer rights should not be a political decision. Trans rights are human rights. We invite Premier Smith to re-consider her harmful and damaging policies and engage in meaningful discussions with the Two Spirit, Trans, Non-Binary, and Queer community.”

Other Pride festivals barring the UCP from participating include festivals in Red Deer, Lethbridge, Banff, Canmore, Lacombe, Jasper, Fort Saskatchewan, and Okotoks. The statement was also joined by three queer service organizations.

“When queer people are being attacked by our government, we come together and get things done,” says James Demers, a community organizer with Queer Citizens United, the umbrella organization of Alberta Pride societies that put together the statement. 

Queen City Pride, which organizes the annual Pride festival in Saskatchewan’s capital Regina, was the first city to announce that it would not allow the Saskatchewan Party to participate in its events.

“We decided as a board that we might have to put some distance between us and the Saskatchewan Party. We were very hopeful that they would change course, but they’ve gone against our Charter of Rights. We’re not ok with this, and they’re not backing down,” says Queen City Pride co executive director Riviera Bonneau.

The Saskatchewan Party has participated in the Queen City Pride in the past, with Premier Scott Moe even marching in the parade in 2019. At the time, he told CTV News he believed it was the “right thing for a Premier to do.

“The thing that triggered our announcement was that the Saskatchewan Party had put forward a registration to participate in our parade,” Bonneau says. “I don’t know why they’d want to participate, but they did try.”

Bonneau says she communicated with other Pride festivals in the province before announcing the decision publicly, as she didn’t want to pressure other festivals to make the same decision. In the event, Pride festivals in Prince Albert, Moose Jaw, Swift Current, and The Battlefords announced that they would not allow the Saskatchewan Party to participate, while a spokesperson for Saskatoon Pride told CBC that it would carefully vet any application to participate, and the Party would be unlikely to be accepted.

While the federal Conservative Party has offered support for the anti-trans policies announced by both provinces, Bonneau says her organization has not banned the federal party yet for a simple reason: it hasn’t applied to participate. 

But Demers says his group’s stance is that the federal Conservatives are not welcome at the member festivals either.

“They’re not any nicer to us than the UCP are. I think the consequence extends to them as well,” he says.

Demers says that the federal Conservative Party often applies to participate in Alberta’s Pride festivals, but is typically rejected.

“We have an application process for all of our Prides, and they never pass the process. They’ll typically hold a barbeque somewhere and call it a Pride event, but they have not been invited,” Demers says. “We’ve now formally disinvited them. We would not like them to show up and pretend that they care about us as their constituents. It’s us making it clear that they are not welcome.”

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South America

La Pesada Subversiva in Bolivia battles anti-LGBTQ digital hate

“In this region, far-right and ultra-religious narratives are prevalent, pushed by very conservative authorities”

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Members of La Pesada Subversiva in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. (Photo courtesy of La Pesada Subversiva)

By Gabriela Rodríguez Hernández and Siân Kavanagh | SANTA CRUZ, Bolivia – In Bolivia, the collective La Pesada Subversiva faced an onslaught of digital violence they could have never imagined after showcasing their LGBTQ artwork. Thanks to Hivos’ Digital Defenders Partnership, they received critical support and training to protect themselves, and now have tools to fight against online aggression.

La Pesada Subversiva (The Subversive Troublemakers), a trans, feminist, and sexually diverse collective in Bolivia, has emerged as a form of resistance to patriarchy and gender-based violence. Founded in 2018 in Santa Cruz, one of Bolivia’s most conservative regions, the collective uses various art forms — audiovisual, writing, street happenings, and social media content — to express their views in demonstrations, protests, and the virtual realm.

Cristian Egüez (he/him), one of the founders, explains, “In this region, far-right and ultra-religious narratives are prevalent, pushed by very conservative authorities. In such a tough context, collectives are needed with the courage to confront them and maintain a critical approach to the violence that occurs.” 

Pride Month and ensuing violence

The Altillo Benni Museum, the largest in the city, commemorated Pride Month for the first time on June 1, 2022. They opened an LGBTQ art exhibition called “Revolución Orgullo” or “Pride Revolution” led by La Pesada Subversiva. The collective’s groundbreaking LGBTQ art exhibition faced vehement opposition.

“We adorned the museum facade with trans and LGBTIQ+ flags,” Egüez recounts, “but it lasted less than a day because a group of neighbors came to protest violently and aggressively.” 

Despite this, the exhibition attracted over 400 visitors, demonstrating growing public support for their cause. 

Confronting online harassment

To the collective’s surprise, the museum’s director defended the exhibition, stating that no artwork would be removed, and the exhibition would remain until the end of the month. But then an unimaginable wave of digital violence hit them. Egüez recalls the aftermath: “The event left us emotionally devastated. Throughout that year, every day, we had to endure threats and harassment online.” 

Alejandra Menacho (she/her), another founder of La Pesada Subversiva, shares her experience, saying, “They threatened to rape me, to teach me how to be a woman. It overwhelmed us; it started to really hurt because we felt … everything we said or did was being surveilled.” The collective faced constant harassment on social media, with anti-rights groups monitoring their activities and scaring them with false threats.

Seeking protection from the Digital Defenders Partnership

As the onslaught escalated, the collective sought refuge and support. They applied for a grant from the DDP to get digital protection and security. With DDP’s assistance, they underwent comprehensive training in digital security measures, enabling them to protect their online presence effectively. The members learned to protect themselves and their accounts, not to publish certain things, and to be cautious about disclosing their whereabouts. DDP’s training gave them a comprehensive understanding of digital security tools and provided clear guidelines for dealing with future incidents and how to report them. 

In addition to these digital security skills, they learned physical self-defense techniques, blending martial arts with a feminist approach. 

“This has strengthened us immensely. Now we understand digital security holistically and are always safeguarding our networks,” Menacho emphasizes. 

Members of La Pesada Subversiva in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.
(Photo courtesy of La Pesada Subversiva)

The ongoing struggle of online resilience

Despite the challenges, La Pesada Subversiva remains steadfast in their mission. 

“Digital security must be integrated across the board; it’s not something you attend a workshop for and forget. It must be practiced continually,” Egüez asserts. 

For Menacho, even though she has experienced a lot of frustration and anger, learning to combine these digital tools with psychology and art has helped her express themselves and achieve emotional balance. 

“Because we are rebellious, we want to do these things. Also, because we don’t want these injustices to continue in Santa Cruz. That’s why we keep coming back and reinventing ourselves,” Menacho said. 

La Pesada Subversiva’s journey exemplifies the resilience and determination of marginalized communities in the face of adversity. Through collective empowerment and solidarity, they navigate the complexities of digital violence, emerging stronger and more united in their pursuit of equality and justice. 

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The Digital Defenders Partnership (DDP), managed by Hivos, is an emergency grant mechanism for digital activists under threat launched by the Freedom Online Coalition in 2012. It provides a holistic response to digital threats and creates resilient and sustainable networks of support to human rights defenders.

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Louisiana

La. library board members launch federal suit over removal

The library board repeatedly refused to limit access to 150 books deemed sexually explicit by critics. Most of the titles have LGBTQ+ themes

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Opponents and a supporter of restrictions on library content talk before a St. Tammany Parish Council meeting Aug. 30, 2023. (Piper Hutchinson/Louisiana Illuminator)

By Piper Hutchinson | COVINGTON, La. – Three St. Tammany library board members removed after a years-long fight over book content are suing the parish council and one of its district representatives in an attempt to block their removal. 

Their federal lawsuit comes after the parish council voted earlier this month to replace five of the six members of the St. Tammany Library Board of Control, a volunteer body that oversees the parish library system. Their removal culminated months of contentious fights. 

Conservative activists in the parish, led by the far-right St. Tammany Library Accountability Project, attempted to ban more than 150 books it deemed sexually explicit. Most of the titles challenged have LGBTQ+ themes. The library board repeatedly refused to limit access to the books, rejecting arguments that the books were sexually explicit. Their refusal put them crosswise with the new, more conservative parish council that took office earlier this year. 

The three board members — Bill McHugh, Anthony Parr and Rebecca Taylor — are suing the St. Tammany Parish Council and Councilman David Cougle, a founder and attorney for the Accountability Project who led the charge to remove the members. The plaintiffs have asked the court for a temporary restraining order on their removal, which would allow them to stay in their positions while the lawsuit plays out. 

In a statement, the plaintiffs emphasized the lawsuit was undertaken by them as individuals, not as an official action by the library board. They also noted Kelly LaRocca, the parish’s library director, is not involved in the suit. 

Cougle has not yet responded to a request for comment for this report. 

On May 4, the parish council voted to replace five board members, ostensibly because the council had discovered the board was not serving in staggered terms, as required by state law. But rather than staggering the current board members, the council used the opportunity to remove board members that resisted book restrictions. 

That violated the First Amendment rights of the ousted board members, the plaintiffs charge. 

“Plaintiffs were engaged in constitutionally protected activity when they spoke and acted at Library Bord [sic] meetings, as well as when they spoke out on matters of public concern such as the controversy over books with LGBTQ themes and characters, the presence or absence of sexually explicit material in libraries, whether or not certain materials available in libraries is ‘pornography’ or constitutes ‘obscenity,’ and whether and how minors have access to such materials,” the lawsuit reads. 

The lawsuit alleges the concern over staggered terms was an “obvious ploy” used to retaliate against their protected speech and their refusal to restrict access to books.

“Supreme Court precedent has focused “not only on the role of the First Amendment in fostering individual self-expression but also on its role in affording the public access to discussion, debate, and the dissemination of information and ideas,” the lawsuit says. “And it has recognized that ‘the State may not, consistently with the spirit of the First Amendment, contract the spectrum of available knowledge.’”

The suit has been filed in federal court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. If the court opts to grant a temporary restraining order, the existing library board would be allowed to continue serving pending the outcome of the lawsuit, which seeks to permanently block the council’s resolution to remove members. 

“Preventing the Parish Council from engaging in unlawful patronage dismissal will preserve the integrity and independence of the Library Board, rather than leaving it subject to the political whims of the Parish Council,” the lawsuit says. 

The lawsuit also says allowing the members to continue serving would continue to protect the public’s constitutional rights to receive information by maintaining their access to library books. 

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Piper Hutchinson is a reporter for the Louisiana Illuminator. She has covered the Legislature and state government extensively for the LSU Manship News Service and The Reveille, where she was named editor in chief for summer 2022.

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The preceding piece was previously published by the Louisiana Illuminator and is republished by permission.

Louisiana Illuminator is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Louisiana Illuminator maintains editorial independence.

Follow Louisiana Illuminator on Facebook and Twitter.

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Mexico

Authorities in Puerto Vallarta abruptly shutter LGBTQ hotel

The hotel’s American owner, Paul Crist, is known for his support of the LGBTQ community. The shutdown came days before Puerto Vallarta Pride

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Mexican police stood outside Hotel Mercurio May 17 as items such as patio furniture were removed after they shut it down. (Screenshot/PR Vagabond)

By Ed Walsh, BAR Contributor | PUERTO VALLARTA – Mexican authorities abruptly and without warning shut down a longtime LGBTQ hotel in Puerto Vallarta Friday night, leaving some guests with their belongings tossed in the street.

Hotel Mercurio had been in operation for 22 years in the heart of the resort city’s gay-popular Zona Romantica neighborhood, south of downtown.

The hotel’s American owner, Paul Crist, is well known for his work in support of the LGBTQ community. The shutdown came days before Puerto Vallarta Pride, scheduled to run May 22-26.

The May 17 forced closure was apparently the result of a long simmering lawsuit stemming from the sale of the property from a German owner to Crist in 2002. In an open letter published by the Puerto Vallarta LGBTQ publication Out and About Puerto Vallarta on Sunday, May 19, Crist wrote that his financial issues cascaded as a result of the previous hotel owner granting him a two-year mortgage to pay off part of the $400,000 purchase price.

Crist wrote that the owner eventually refused to give him the receipts he needed to take the tax deduction for the mortgage payments. Crist believes that may have been done so that the previous owner could avoid paying taxes on those payments.

“I tried to renegotiate regarding his willingness to follow tax law, but he was adamant,” Crist wrote. “And I refused to pay without a factura [invoice] for each payment. I tried to report him to SAT, the Mexican tax authorities, and nothing ever came of it. And then he sued me for non-payment in 2005.”

Crist stated that he owns everything in the property, including the furniture and appliances that were removed from the hotel, and has instructed his hotel manager to sell everything and distribute the proceeds to his 24 employees.

Crist added that his attorney believes that the eviction was carried out illegally and is drawing up papers to fight it but Crist, 66, said he was not optimistic he would prevail.

“I have failed my staff most of all,” Crist wrote. “I have failed my hotel clients. I have failed my community. I have failed the people I love the most, especially my husband, who I had hoped to leave a great legacy. I feel deeply humiliated, very, very tired, and very much a failure.”

Jorge Gonzalez, who had worked for two decades at the hotel’s bar affectionately called “Jorge’s Bar,” told the Bay Area Reporter that there was no warning about the closure.

“We are just a little in shock,” Gonzalez said in a Facebook voice message. “Everybody’s dealing with this in their own way.”

Hotel Mercurio, in the heart of the LGBTQ-popular Zona Romantica in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
(Photo by Michael Williams)

He said multiple police officers first approached the hotel’s receptionist and the word circulated back to him at the bar that they were locking the hotel and everyone must go. He said they took everything out of the hotel, including the refrigerators. Photos and videos on social media show furniture, including mattresses, being removed from the hotel.

Gonzalez said it reminded him of the last scene in the “Friends” TV show where everything was emptied from the apartment where most of the series was set.

Another longtime Mercurio employee, Briam Robles, told the B.A. R. that the shutdown happened on his day off and he didn’t know if he would get severance pay.

“I was awaiting for the answer of the hotel, afterwards will see what I gonna do,” he texted to the B.A.R. over a Facebook direct message.

San Francisco resident Michael Williams, who was visiting Puerto Vallarta, witnessed the scene outside the hotel when he went to stop by on Saturday morning to say hello to his friends who work there.

“I thought they were remodeling. Then I learned they had closed Mercurio without warning. All guests and belongings were put on the street. The owner’s keys were confiscated. I went by and saw men tearing down everything in the lobby and the kitchen was completely gone.”

A guest with the handle PR Vagabond wrote on Tripadvisor.com that he was staying at the hotel when the closure happened. He had paid in advance when he arrived at the hotel, with four more days left on his stay when he was told to get out. He posted photos of the police action on Tripadvisor.

“Dozens of people were removing everything, furniture, washing machine, everything, and guests were simply told to move out immediately. Police were supervising the entire process,” he wrote.

In a Facebook post Sunday afternoon, Crist linked to his open letter. He wrote in part, “I will not be on social media from here forward, will not be in public at all, and will not be responding to messages and phone calls.

“If you wish, and are able to help my staff, and by that I mean some money, please contact Gabriel Bojorquez by Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp (+52) 322 135 8048,” he added. “Please do not flood him with messages of concern and help if he needs ‘someone to talk to.’

“And please, no need to respond to this post,” Crist wrote. “I appreciate your love and concern. But I cannot respond right now.”

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The preceding article was previously published by the Bay Area Reporter and is republished with permission.

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California

1,000+ reported acts of hate in first year of Calif. vs hate hotline

This reporting system is 1st of its kind – operating separately from law enforcement & partnering with community organizations across Calif.

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California Civil Rights Department officials and other stakeholders come together for a press conference on May 22, 2023 to launch CA vs Hate. (Photo courtesy of the California Civil Rights Department)

SACRAMENTO – The California Civil Rights Department (CRD), alongside state and community partners, today released new data highlighting the impact of California vs Hate in its first year of operation and announced new and ongoing initiatives to combat hate across the state.

Officially launched a year ago this month by Governor Gavin Newsom, CA vs Hate is the state’s first-ever multilingual statewide hotline and online portal that provides a safe, anonymous reporting option for victims and witnesses of hate acts. In the first full year of operation, initial data submitted to CRD shows approximately 1,020 acts of hate reported to the hotline.

“CA vs Hate is about recognizing and protecting the incredible diversity of our state and sending a clear message that hate will never be tolerated,” said Governor Newsom.

“When California was confronted by an alarming increase in hate, we didn’t just sit back and hope it got better,” said CRD Director Kevin Kish. “We came together and launched an array of nation-leading programs to ensure all our communities feel welcome and protected. I’m incredibly proud of our state’s resilience and commitment to a California for all. This work is only just beginning, but it would not be possible without the advocacy of our community partners and the foresight of our state’s Administration and Legislature. With CA vs Hate, we’re doing our part to ensure that when people report they get support.”

Many hate crimes have historically gone unreported due to a variety of factors, including fear of retaliation, lack of culturally competent resources, concern around potential immigration consequences, and distrust of law enforcement. CA vs Hate aims to help address some of these issues by offering people targeted for hate — and their communities — additional resources to report acts of hate through a community-centered approach that does not require engagement with the criminal legal system.

Hotline services are confidential and provided for free, regardless of immigration status. CA vs Hate accepts all reports of hate and is not limited to only receiving reports that are criminal in nature. Whether individuals report to CA vs Hate online or by phone, they are eligible to receive ongoing care coordination to ensure people impacted by hate are able to access resources and support, including legal, financial, mental health, and mediation services.

As part of the effort to make CA vs Hate as inclusive and easy-to-use as possible, individuals who report an act of hate can remain anonymous and, recognizing that hate can target multiple aspects of a person’s identity, may select multiple bias motivations related to the report. To the extent that individuals who report are comfortable doing so, CA vs Hate staff engage extensively with them through initial contacts over the phone or follow up care coordination to better understand the incident and services needed.

In the first full year of operation, initial data submitted to CRD shows approximately 1,020 acts of hate reported to the hotline, across nearly 80% of the state’s counties. 

For a subset of 560 reports where data were further validated by CA vs Hate staff, the most cited bias motivations included:

  • race and ethnicity (35.1%)
  • gender identity (15.1%)
  • sexual orientation (10.8%)

Most common reasons for reporting: 

  • Discriminatory treatment 18.4% 
  • Verbal harassment 16.7% 
  • Derogatory names or slurs 16.7%

Most common locations where incidents occurred: 

  • Residential 29.9% 
  • Workplace 9.7% 

More granular data verified through that process is also included below. While CA vs Hate data serves as an important indicator, the hotline is new, and the data should not be treated as being representative of all acts of hate in California. In all, people who reported to CA vs Hate were directed to more than 100 different forms of resources and support. In the first full year of operation, CA vs Hate:

  • Had 2,118 contacts from members of the public seeking assistance — including non-hate related reports — and directed people to resources, regardless of whether a report was tied to an act of hate. Of those contacts:
  • The most common reasons cited for the reports were discriminatory treatment (18.4%), verbal harassment (16.7%), and derogatory names or slurs (16.7%).
  • The most common location types for where an incident occurred were residential (29.9%), workplace (9.7%), and public facilities (9.1%).
  • Received 1,020 actual reports of hate based on the information provided by the individual reporting the act. Of those reports:
  • Roughly four out of six people agreed to follow up for care coordination services, including direct and ongoing support accessing legal aid or counseling.
  • Nearly 80% of California’s counties were represented, including all 10 of the state’s most populated counties.
  • Further validated bias motivation information for 560 reports through additional CA vs Hate staff review. Of those reports:
  • Race and ethnicity (35.1%), gender identity (15.1%), and sexual orientation (10.8%) were the most cited bias motivations.
  • Anti-Black (26.8%), anti-Latino (15.4%), and anti-Asian (14.3%) bias were the most cited reasons for reports related to race and ethnicity.

As reported hate crimes have risen in recent years, California has led the charge in responding through increased grant funding, innovative programs, and expansive outreach efforts across state government and in collaboration with community-based organizations.

These partnerships — whether through the Stop the Hate Program or Ethnic Media Outreach Grants — are critical to CA vs Hate’s success. As CA vs Hate continues to grow, the program is launching new initiatives and building on existing efforts aimed at strengthening the hotline’s statewide support network and improving access to resources for all of California’s diverse communities. These ongoing or upcoming efforts include:

Outreach Campaigns

  • Kicking off CA vs Hate’s first-ever billboard campaign to support increased awareness of the hotline and available resources across half a dozen cities.
  • Launching targeted outreach materials to support increased access to CA vs Hate resources for historically hard-to-reach and underserved Californians, including new digital assets developed in coordination with tribal partners and members of the AAPI community.
  • Developing new pathways to reach members of the public, including through a digital ad partnership with the California Department of Motor Vehicles and in-person event engagement with California-based sports teams.

Capacity Building

  • Launching a partnership with UC Berkeley’s Possibility Lab to support increased data collection and analysis going forward.
  • Exploring the launch of a text-responsive reporting option to support increased access to the CA vs Hate hotline.
  • Stepping up statewide coordination efforts through ongoing collaboration with United Against Hate Week.

Community Engagement

  • Bolstering community-specific engagement through the Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act grant to ensure communities most targeted for hate have access to resources, including a new partnership with California Black Media.
  • Establishing new quarterly meetings with city and county government partners to support increased responsiveness to local communities and build on existing feedback mechanisms in place for community-based organizations.
  • Standing up a coalition of faith-based leaders from a range of backgrounds to better address acts of hate targeting Californians on the basis of religion.

Information about the hotline and online portal:

CA vs Hate is a non-emergency, multilingual hate crime and incident reporting hotline and online portal. Reports can be made anonymously by calling (833) 866-4283, or 833-8-NO-HATE, Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. PT or online at any time.

Hate acts can be reported in 15 different languages through the online portal and in over 200 languages when calling the hotline.

For individuals who want to report a hate crime to law enforcement immediately or who are in imminent danger, please call 911.

For more information on CA vs Hate, please visit CAvsHate.org.

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Research/Study

2024 GLAAD Social Media Safety Index: Social media platforms fail

Despite moderate score improvements since 2023 on LGBTQ safety, privacy, and expression, all platforms insufficiently protect LGBTQ users

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Failing Grade image courtesy of photos-public-domain.com

NEW YORK – GLAAD released its fourth annual Social Media Safety Index (SMSI) on Tuesday giving virtually every major social media company a failing grade as it surveyed  LGBTQ safety, privacy, and expression online.

According to GLAAD, the world’s largest LGBTQ+ media advocacy organization, YouTube, X/Twitter, and Meta’s Facebook, Instagram, and Threads – received failing F grades on the SMSI Platform Scorecard for the third consecutive year.

The only exception was Chinese company ByteDance owned TikTok, which earned a D+.

Some platforms have shown improvements in their scores since last year. Others have fallen, and overall, the scores remain abysmal, with all platforms other than TikTok receiving F grades.

●     TikTok: D+ — 67% (+10 points from 2023)

●     Facebook: F — 58% (-3 points from 2023)

●     Instagram: F — 58% (-5 points from 2023)

●     YouTube: F — 58% (+4 points from 2023)

●     Threads: F — 51% (new 2024 rating)

●     Twitter: F — 41% (+8 points from 2023)

This year’s report also illuminates the epidemic of anti-LGBTQ hate, harassment, and disinformation across major social media platforms, and especially makes note of high-follower hate accounts and right-wing figures who continue to manufacture and circulate most of this activity.

 “In addition to these egregious levels of inadequately moderated anti-LGBTQ hate and disinformation, we also see a corollary problem of over-moderation of legitimate LGBTQ expression — including wrongful takedowns of LGBTQ accounts and creators, shadowbanning, and similar suppression of LGBTQ content. Meta’s recent policy change limiting algorithmic eligibility of so-called ‘political content,’ which the company partly defines as: ‘social topics that affect a group of people and/or society large’ is especially concerning,” GLAAD’s Senior Director of Social Media Safety Jenni Olson said in the press release annoucing the report’s findings.

Specific LGBTQ safety, privacy, and expression issues identified include:

●      Inadequate content moderation and problems with policy development and enforcement (including issues with both failure to mitigate anti-LGBTQ content and over-moderation/suppression of LGBTQ users);

●      Harmful algorithms and lack of algorithmic transparency; inadequate transparency and user controls around data privacy;

●      An overall lack of transparency and accountability across the industry, among many other issues — all of which disproportionately impact LGBTQ users and other marginalized communities who are uniquely vulnerable to hate, harassment, and discrimination.

Key Conclusions:

●      Anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and disinformation on social media translates to real-world offline harms.

●      Platforms are largely failing to successfully mitigate dangerous anti-LGBTQ hate and disinformation and frequently do not adequately enforce their own policies regarding such content.

●      Platforms also disproportionately suppress LGBTQ content, including via removal, demonetization, and forms of shadowbanning.

●      There is a lack of effective, meaningful transparency reporting from social media companies with regard to content moderation, algorithms, data protection, and data privacy practices.

Core Recommendations:

●      Strengthen and enforce existing policies that protect LGBTQ people and others from hate, harassment, and misinformation/disinformation, and also from suppression of legitimate LGBTQ expression.

●      Improve moderation including training moderators on the needs of LGBTQ users, and moderate across all languages, cultural contexts, and regions. This also means not being overly reliant on AI.

●      Be transparent with regard to content moderation, community guidelines, terms of service policy implementation, algorithm designs, and enforcement reports. Such transparency should be facilitated via working with independent researchers.

●      Stop violating privacy/respect data privacy. To protect LGBTQ users from surveillance and discrimination, platforms should reduce the amount of data they collect, infer, and retain. They should cease the practice of targeted surveillance advertising, including the use of algorithmic content recommendation. In addition, they should implement end-to-end encryption by default on all private messaging to protect LGBTQ people from persecution, stalking, and violence.

●      Promote civil discourse and proactively message expectations for user behavior, including respecting platform hate and harassment policies.

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South America

Argentina charges 10 police officers with murder of trans woman

The case has uncovered not only entrenched institutional violence, but also the ongoing struggle against impunity for hate crimes

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Mabel Valdez demands justice for her sister, Sofia Fernández (Courtesy photo)

By Esteban Rioseco | LA PLATA, Argentina – Argentine authorities have arrested 10 police officers and charged them with murdering a transgender woman in 2023.

In the historic development in the fight for LGBTQ justice in the country, the officers who were arrested on May 1 face murder and hate crime charges in connection with Sofia Fernández’s brutal death on April 11, 2023. The case has uncovered not only entrenched institutional violence, but also the ongoing struggle against impunity for hate crimes.

The initial investigation, which began last September, faced numerous obstacles, with only three points of expertise completed out of the 16 required for a formal indictment. Ignacio Fernandez, a lawyer who represents Sofia Fernández’s family, told the Washington Blade “the lack of confidence in the initial prosecutor and the need to recuse him marked the beginning of an arduous but vital legal battle.”

Ignacio Fernández described the long process to unravel the truth behind the brutal murder.

The legal and forensic teams faced numerous challenges that included coordination with gender-specialized prosecutors to the meticulous analysis of thousands of pieces of data on seized cell phones.

“The forensic report revealed the gruesome nature of the crime; Sofia was killed by asphyxiation with a piece of mattress and her own underwear, in addition to suffering beatings and physical torture,” Ignacio Fernández told the Blade. “The investigation also highlighted the alleged involvement of police officers in the crime, which triggered intense scrutiny of the conduct of law enforcement.” 

The indictment, according to Ignacio Fernandez, “not only covers the triple homicide, but also the cover-up and falsification of documents by seven other police officers.” 

“The application of a gender perspective in the judicial process has been crucial, underlining the importance of recognizing and addressing violence directed towards transgender people,” he added.

Ignacio Fernández represents Sofia Fernández’s family (Photo courtesy of Ignacio Fernández)

The road to justice, however, has been far from smooth. 

Despite the arrests, defense lawyers have requested the dismissal of certain charges, arguing the lack of hearings with the victim and rulings that could be questionable in their gender-specific perspective.

Sofia Fernández’s family, fearful for her safety, hopes the defendants will remain in pre-trial detention during the judicial process. They also yearn for a speedy and fair trial, aware that prolonged time may undermine the search for truth and justice.

Ignacio Fernández indicated “the inaction of the Ministry of Women of the province of Buenos Aires” is serious because “with Estela Diaz at the head, it is added that the defense lawyers of all the police officers charged and with a very clear conflict of interest are from the Directorate of Police Legal Counsel of the Ministry of Security of the province of Buenos Aires.”

Although the judicial investigation could take between two and four months, with possible delays due to legal appeals, it is estimated the trial could be delayed at least another year. The fight for justice, in the meantime, continues with the hope that Sofia Fernandez’s case will set a precedent in the fight against transphobic violence and impunity in Argentina.

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Photo Credit: Movilh

Esteban Rioseco is a Chilean digital communicator, LGBT rights activist and politician. He was spokesperson and executive president of the Homosexual Integration and Liberation Movement (Movilh). He is currently a Latin American correspondent for the Washington Blade.

On Oct. 22, 2015, together with Vicente Medel, he celebrated the first gay civil union in Chile in the province of Concepción.

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