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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.”

Southern California

Triple A: Gas prices move up slightly, but more increases expected

The average price for self-serve regular gasoline in California is $4.57, which is five cents higher than last week

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Fuel types by octane ratings at a Chevron in SoCal ( Screenshot/YouTube KTLA 5 )

LOS ANGELES – Southern California gas prices moved very little in the past week, but increases are expected in coming weeks related to the process to switch to selling summer-blend gasoline, according to the Auto Club’s Weekend Gas Watch. 

The average price for self-serve regular gasoline in California is $4.57, which is five cents higher than last week. The average national price is $3.50, which is the same as a week ago.

The average price of self-serve regular gasoline in the Los Angeles-Long Beach area is $4.57 per gallon, which is two cents higher than last week, seven cents higher than last month, and 13 cents lower than last year. In San Diego, the average price is $4.59, which is one cent higher than last week, six cents higher than last month, and six cents lower than last year.

On the Central Coast, the average price is $4.51, which is the same as last week, one cent lower than last month, and 12 cents lower than last year. In Riverside, the average per-gallon price is $4.44, which is two cents higher than last week, seven cents higher than last month and 18 cents lower than a year ago. In Bakersfield, the $4.57 average price is four cents higher than last week, two cents higher than last month, and one cent lower than a year ago today.

“Los Angeles wholesale gas prices are almost ninety cents higher than at their lowest point of last year in December, but retail average prices have risen by less than 20 cents,” said Auto Club spokesperson Doug Shupe. “We expect prices will continue rising during the spring months. For drivers who are interested in avoiding these high prices by going electric, AAA has a new resource available – the AAA Used EV Buyer’s Guide.”

The Auto Club reminds drivers of the following tips to save money on gas:

  • If you use premium unleaded fuel, make sure it is required for your vehicle, not just recommended. The Auto Club’s Automotive Research Center found that vehicles with recommended premium fuel performed safely with regular unleaded gasoline.
  • Make sure your tires are properly maintained and inflated to the correct level.
  • Maintain your car according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Regular service will ensure optimum fuel economy.
  • Avoid “jackrabbit” starts and hard accelerations. These actions greatly increase fuel consumption.
  • Slow down and drive the speed limit. Fuel economy peaks around 50 mph on most cars, then drops off as speed increases. Reducing freeway speeds by 5 to 10 mph can increase fuel economy by as much as 14%.
  • Use cruise control on the highway to help maintain a constant speed and save fuel. However, never use cruise control on slippery roads because you could lose control of the vehicle.
  • Minimize your use of air conditioning.
  • Avoid extended idling to warm up the engine, even in colder temperatures. It’s unnecessary and wastes fuel.
  • Remove unnecessary and heavy items from your car.
  • Minimize your use of roof racks and remove special carriers when not in use.
  • Download the AAA App to find the cheapest gas prices near you. 

The Weekend Gas Watch monitors the average price of gasoline. As of 9 a.m. on Feb. 2, averages are:

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European Union

Finland to allow Transgender people to change gender without sterilization

Country’s MPs approved series of amendments on Wednesday

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Finnish flag (Photo by feofan4ik via Bigstock)

HELSINKI — Lawmakers in Finland on Wednesday voted to allow Transgender people to legally change their gender without proof they had been sterilized or were unable to have children.

The Associated Press reported the amendments that Finnish MPs approved by a 113-69 vote margin will also allow Trans people who are at least 18 to legally change their name without medical intervention. Prime Minister Sanna Marin said the amendments’ passage was a priority for her government ahead of the country’s general election that will take place in April.

Seta, a Finnish LGBTQ+ and intersex rights group, described the vote as a “victory for human rights.”

ILGA-Europe also praised the vote.

“We are thrilled to hear that the Finnish Parliament just adopted Translaki — a new law making legal gender recognition based on self-determination for adults,” said ILGA-Europe. “While there is more work to do, this is a significant step! Congratulations to all who have worked for so long on this!”

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Europe

ILGA-Europe: New program for racialized LGBTQ+ communities

The new initiative will be supporting up to 15 organizations’ work on socio-economic justice for racialized LGBTI communities

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Photo Credit: ILGA-Europe

BRUSSELS, Belgium – ILGA-Europe announced a new two part 12-month program focused on the work being done by and for racialized LGBTQ+ communities across Europe this week.

According to the international LGBTQ+ advocacy non-profit, the new initiative will be supporting up to 15 organizations’ work on socio-economic justice for racialized LGBTQ+ communities through a combination of grants and other resources.

The program has two interconnected components:

  • Financial support for the implementation of a project (up to 20.000 euro per project), AND
  • Learning and networking that will bring grantees together (on-line) on a regular basis to exchange learning, share challenges and solutions, build solidarity and find points for collaboration and inspiration.

The aim of this program is to:

  • Bring together a group of up to 15 European LGBTI organizations/groups across Europe that work on addressing the intersectional impact of socio-economic injustice, racialization, racism and supremacy and specific harms affecting the lives of racialized LGBTI communities across Europe.
  • Support, strengthen and advance their work on socio-economic justice for racialized LGBTI communities through a combination of grants and regular peer-learning/networking meetings.

ILGA-Europe noted that currently, the LGBTI movement across Europe operates in an increasingly hostile environment that directly affects the lives of LGBTI communities and the work of activists.

This environment is marked by anti-rights opposition, anti-democratic developments, rising unemployment, economic crises, ongoing and brewing geo-political conflicts, deepening structural inequalities, fear-mongering, mounting transphobic, and sexist and racist rhetoric and violence.

In a statement, ILGA-Europe said:

“So many organizations and groups have been doing incredible work and contributing to change, while at the same time being historically excluded from funding. By supporting these groups, we also wish to recognise and acknowledge the specialized knowledge and skills involved in addressing intersectionality. This can mean anything from exposing structural oppressions that shape harm; building and sustaining the resilience of racialized communities; developing and applying anti-racist, feminist and alternative approaches; to working through – and in spite of – institutional violence and trauma.

This programme expresses our commitment to continue our engagement with socio-economic justice and to strengthen our work on anti-racism. We see a great value for the wider movement in making the work of the organizations supported, disseminated and visible. We see an opportunity to bring the learning from this programme to the wider movement, as we believe that solutions and approaches that include a few will pave the way and point to the solutions for many.”

Key information & details:

In selecting proposals, ILGA-Europe will prioritise projects that:

  • Demonstrate clear understanding of how the intersection of LGBTI identities, socio-economic injustice and racialisation works in their local contexts
  • Present a clear plan for how the envisaged change is going to come about in these contexts
  • Seek to establish practices/tools/solutions that can live beyond the project’s lifetime
  • Have the potential to enhance the movement’s thinking on anti-racism and working towards socio-economic justice in general and for socio-economic justice for racialised LGBTI communities in particular.
  • Respond to the framework, aim, objectives, and areas of work of this call
  • Are implemented by LGBTI-run organisations and initiative groups in Europe that have history and practice of working with and for racialised LGBTI communities

Deadline & Timeline:

  • Proposals should be submitted using the attached application form and budget template. The last day to submit your application (deadline) is 2 April 2023, Sunday, 23:59 CEST.
  • We will review applications, decide on projects to be supported and inform all applicants about the results of the review via the e-mail address provided in the application by 5 May 2023.
  • Contracts will be signed with organisations in May 2023. Successful applicants should be available to respond to requests during that period. The project must start on 1 June 2023.
  • To submit an application or if you have any questions in the preparation of your project proposal, please contact: [email protected]

Questions?

If you have any questions in the preparation of your project proposal please submit them via e-mail to [email protected]

We will answer all of your questions via e-mail and then publish answers on a dedicated ilga-europe.org website page on 27 February and on 23 March, in order to share the information among all applicants.

Call for Applications DOWNLOAD

Application Form DOWNLOAD

Budget Template DOWNLOAD

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The Vatican

Activists around the world welcome Pope Francis’ decriminalization comments

Church teaching about homosexuality remains unchanged

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Pope Francis (Photo by palinchak via Bigstock)

CURITIBA, Brazil — Activists around the world say Pope Francis’ comments against criminalization laws are a milestone for the global LGBTQ+ and intersex rights movement.

Toni Reis, president of Aliança Nacional LGBTI+, a Brazilian LGBTQ+ and intersex advocacy group, told the Washington Blade that Francis’ comments are “a message that needs to be assimilated by at least 70 countries that still criminalize homosexuality in some way, including 11 countries in which the death penalty can be applied.”

Reis and his husband, David Harrad, in 2017 baptized their three adopted children at a Catholic cathedral in Curitiba, a city in southern Brazil. Reis later received a letter on official Vatican letterhead that said Francis “wishes you happiness, invoking for your family the abudance of divine graces in order to live steadfastly and faithfully as good children of God and of the church.”

“We are unable to find in the recorded words of Jesus Christ, on whom the Christian faith is founded, any reference to homosexuality as a sin,” Reis told the Blade. “There is no longer room for deliberately decontextualized interpretations of the Old Testament and the books of certain Apostles in this sense.”

Francis during an exclusive interview with the Associated Press on Jan. 24 described criminalization laws as “unjust” and said “being homosexual is not a crime.”

The pontiff acknowledged some Catholic bishops support criminalization laws and other statutes that discriminate against LGBTQ+ and intersex people. Francis told the Associated Press that cultural backgrounds contribute to these attitudes, and added “bishops in particular need to undergo a process of change to recognize the dignity of everyone.”

Toni Reis, second from left, with his children after their baptism at a Roman Catholic cathedral in Curitiba, Brazil, on April 23, 2017. Reis has received a letter in which Pope Francis congratulated him and his husband, David Harrad, for baptizing their three adopted children. (Photo courtesy of Toni Reis)

Chantale Wong, the U.S. director of the Asian Development Bank who was born in Shanghai, is the first openly lesbian American ambassador.

Wong’s aunt and uncle enrolled her in a Catholic bording school in Macau, which at the time was a Portuguese colony, after she fled China with her grandmother in 1960. Wong was baptized and given the name Chantale after St. Jane Frances de Chantale.

She later attended an all-girls Catholic high school in Guam.

“He is definitely my pope,” tweeted Wong on Jan. 25.

Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, who is openly gay, in a tweet thanked Francis “for your strong and clear words against the criminalization of LGBTIQ+ persons in the world.” Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the independent U.N. expert on LGBTQ+ and intersex issues who traveled to Cambodia last month, echoed Bettel.

“Criminalization based on sexual orientation is contrary to international human rights law,” tweeted Madrigal-Borloz on Jan. 25. “I welcome this recognition by (the pope.)”

Homosexuality is the ‘real sin’

The Vatican’s tone towards LGBTQ+ and intersex issues has softened since Francis assumed the papacy in 2013.

Francis — who vehemently opposed a marriage equality bill in his native Argentina before then-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner signed it into law in 2010 — a decade later publicly backed civil unions for same-sex couples.

The pontiff in 2013 said gay men and lesbians should not be marginalized. 

Francis in 2016 later said the Roman Catholic Church should “ask forgiveness” from gay people over the way it has treated them. The pontiff in 2017 compared politicians who use hate speech against LGBTQ and intersex people and other minority groups to Adolf Hitler.

The Vatican in 2020 gave money to a group of Transgender sex workers in Italy who were struggling to survive during the coronavirus pandemic. Francis in 2021 named Juan Carlos Cruz, a gay Chilean man who is a survivor of clergy sex abuse, to a commission that advises him on protecting children from pedophile priests.

Francis last year during several of his weekly papal audiences met with trans people who were living at a Rome church. 

Church teachings on homosexuality and gender identity remain unchanged despite these overtures. 

Francis during the Associated Press interview referred to LGBTQ+ and intersex issues within the context of “sin.” The pontiff later sought to clarify the comment.

“When I said it is a sin, I was simply referring to Catholic moral teaching, which says that every sexual act outside of marriage is a sin,” wrote Francis in a handwritten letter he sent to the Rev. James Martin, editor of Outreach, a website for LGBTQ+ and intersex Catholics, on Jan. 27.

Pedro Julio Serrano, founder of Puerto Rico Para Todes, a Puerto Rican LGBTQ+ and intersex rights group, during an interview with the Blade acknowledged Francis “is giving a message that criminalization of the LGBTQ+ community must be fought.” Serrano added, however, the pontiff’s comments do not change church teachings.

“There is no change in dogma, there is no change in doctrine and nothing has changed in the catechism of the Catholic Church. Everything remains the same,” Serrano told the Blade. “As long as all that remains the same, there is no change.”

Serrano further stressed Francis’ categorization of homosexuality as a “sin” is paradoxical.

“Homophobia: That is the real sin,” said Serrano.

Pedro Julio Serrano, founder of Puerto Rico Para Todes, a Puerto Rican LGBT advocacy group, shows his tattoo that pays tribute to the LGBT Puerto Ricans who died inside the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., during an interview in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on July 7, 2016. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, a Ugandan LGBTQ+ and intersex rights group, on Tuesday noted to the Blade that he is Catholic.

Uganda is among the dozens of countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized.

Singapore, Barbados, St. Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, Botswana, Bhutan and India have decriminalized homosexuality in recent years.  

Mugisha said Sexual Minorities Uganda welcomes Francis’ statement, which he made ahead of his trip to Congo and South Sudan. (Consensual same-sex sexual activity is legal in Congo, while South Sudan continues to criminalize it.) 

“Being Catholic, I know the Catholic Church will respect the pope’s views and I hope the church in Africa starts working with us towards discrimination of homosexuality,” Mugisha told the Blade.

ILGA World Co-Secretaries General Luz Elena Aranda and Tuisina Ymania Brown in response to Francis’ comments said “such a simple statement has now the potential to initiate a much-needed change and will provide relief to millions of persons in our communities across the world.” ILGA World Executive Director Julia Ehrt, like Serrano, said Vatican doctrine towards LGBTQ and intersex people needs to change if the pontiff’s position against criminalization laws will have any meaningful impact. 

“We urge the Holy See to turn these words into concrete action,” said Ehrt. “The Catholic Church and its institutions can and should play an active role in supporting decriminalization efforts across the world and within the United Nations and multilateral fora, where demands to scrap these profoundly wrong laws have long been reiterated.”

Outright International, a New York-based global LGBTQ+ and intersex rights group, in its response to Francis’ comments also noted church teachings.

“We welcome Pope Francis’ message of inclusion and acceptance,” said Outright International in a statement to the Blade. “Discrimination, persecution and marginalization are common experiences for LGBTIQ individuals and communities around the world. In some countries, many are subjected to conversion practices and its lifelong physical and emotional damages, which are often performed and sanctioned in the name of church teachings.” 

“Religious leaders have a storied history of perpetuating misconceptions about same-sex relations, promoting them as threats to society. As such, LGBTIQ people are subject to violent attacks, harassment and social stigmatization. The church’s actions have also influenced efforts to oppose the advancement of human rights for LGBTIQ people,” added Outright International. “Our hope is that the pope’s statement will foster respect, dignity and conversations that will lead to change in attitudes and lasting legal protections in this arduous journey for full equality.”

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Congress

FBI probes Santos GoFundMe scheme & separate SEC complaint

Republican Rep. George Santos faces yet another law enforcement probe, this time over allegations he ran a GoFundMe scam in 2016

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Republican Rep. George Santos (N.Y.) being trailed by reporters Tuesday, January 31, 2023 (Screenshot/YouTube)

WASHINGTON – Republican Rep. George Santos (N.Y.) faces yet another law enforcement probe, this time over allegations that the congressman ran a GoFundMe scam in 2016 by crowdsourcing for a U.S. Navy Veteran and his cancer-stricken service dog before absconding with the money.

POLITICO reported on Wednesday that the veteran, Richard Osthoff, furbished text messages to FBI agents who were working on behalf of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, which is reportedly conducting a parallel investigation into Santos’s campaign finances.

The news comes a day after Santos resigned from his two committee assignments following a meeting with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Monday.

Meanwhile, Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.) announced on Twitter Wednesday that he filed a complaint against Santos with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) “for violating federal securities law.”

Torres wrote that his GOP colleague “illegally operated as a broker without a license, raising funds from unsuspecting investors for Harbor City Capitol, a 17 million dollar Ponzi Scheme.”

Last month, Torres and fellow New York Democratic Rep. Dan Goldman filed a U.S. Federal Elections Commission (FEC) complaint against Santos over his alleged violations of campaign finance laws. And over the weekend, the U.S. Department of Justice reportedly asked the FEC to yield to federal prosecutors – likely a sign that the campaign finance issues are the subject of a criminal probe.

Santos reportedly faces investigations by the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office and the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James. He has been embroiled in controversy since his arrival to Washington following revelations that nearly every part of his biography and identity were complete fabrications.

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California

Governor Newsom announces new gun safety legislation

In 2021, Calif. was ranked as the #1 state for gun safety by the Giffords Law Center, seeing a 37% lower gun death rate than national average

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Governor Newsom announcing new gun safety legislation to modernize and strengthen California’s public carry laws (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor)

SACRAMENTO – In the wake of multiple mass shootings that took the lives of 19 Californians in just 72 hours last week, Governor Gavin Newsom, Attorney General Rob Bonta, and Senator Anthony Portantino (D-Burbank) announced new gun safety legislation to modernize and strengthen California’s public carry laws.

“Only in America do we see the kind of carnage and chaos of gun violence that destroys our communities and our sense of safety and belonging,” said Newsom. “America is number 1 in gun ownership and we far surpass every developed nation on Earth in gun deaths – it’s not complicated. In California, we’ve passed common sense gun safety laws and they work: we have a 37% lower gun death rate than the national average. We’re doubling down on gun safety and strengthening our public carry law to protect it from radical Republican attacks.”

According to the Center for American Progress, efforts to weaken concealed carry laws across the country have increased violent crimes – with studies showing gun homicides increased by 22% in states that passed permitless carry laws and violent crimes with a firearm went up 29%.

Newsom signed a package of gun safety laws last year, making it easier for Californians to sue manufacturers of illegal assault weapons and those spreading them, allowing lawsuits against irresponsible gun industry members, strengthening prohibitions on ghost guns, as well as restricting marketing to minors. 

“The mass shooting incidents we have seen over recent weeks bring to light the need for stronger protections for our communities. The fact is, individuals who are not law-abiding, responsible citizens simply shouldn’t possess firearms — and they especially shouldn’t be allowed to carry a concealed weapon in public. When a gun is placed in the wrong hands, it is deadly,” said California Attorney General Rob Bonta. “The Second Amendment is not a regulatory straightjacket — we must protect our communities. The time for thoughts and prayers has long passed, we need brave and immediate action by our leaders – here in California and beyond. We owe our community stronger protections. I urge our state leaders to quickly adopt SB 2. We can’t afford to wait even one minute more.”

Last June, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a New York law, aspects of which mirrored California’s public carry laws, and the legislation announced today – Senate Bill 2 by Senator Portantino – would make fixes necessary to update the standards and processes for obtaining a public carry permit in California.

Senate Bill 2 strengthens California’s restrictions regarding public carry laws by:

  • Enhancing the existing licensing system – ensuring those permitted to carry firearms in public are responsible and law-abiding individuals;
  • Protecting children – setting a minimum age requirement of 21 years of age to obtain a CCW license;
  • Advancing stronger training requirements – ensuring proper handling, loading, unloading, and storage of firearms; and
  • Identifying certain sensitive public places – establishing safe community places where people should expect freedom from gun violence.

“In the wake of the recent tragedies in Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay and the continued threat of mass shootings, it’s critical that California leads on the issue of gun safety and reform. I am proud to be working with Governor Newsom, Attorney General Bonta and activists on SB 2 to strengthen our existing public carry laws and ensure every Californian is safe from gun violence.  We must be diligent in addressing the gun violence epidemic in our country and public carry laws are a key component of this,” said Senator Anthony Portantino.

California launched an 18-month campaign to promote gun violence restraining orders – “red flag laws” – that allow law enforcement, family, coworkers or friends to petition a court to temporarily remove weapons from people deemed dangerous to themselves or others. A study from the Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California, Davis found that California’s red flag law was used to stop 58 threatened mass shootings since 2016.

California’s gun safety laws work. In 2021, California was ranked as the #1 state for gun safety by the Giffords Law Center, and the state saw a 37% lower gun death rate than the national average.

According to the CDC, California’s gun death rate was the 44th lowest in the nation, with 8.5 gun deaths per 100,000 people – compared to 13.7 deaths per 100,000 nationally, 28.6 in Mississippi, 20.7 in Oklahoma, and 14.2 in Texas.

Moms Demand Action Founder Shannon Watts noted: “The Supreme Court’s reckless Bruen decision opened up the floodgates for more guns in more places — but with this bill California once again renewed its commitment to being a national leader in the fight against gun violence. While the gun industry celebrated the ruling that put their profits over our safety, our grassroots army is proud to stand with our Gun Sense Champions in California to pass this critical bill and make our communities safer.”

“Following the Supreme Court’s egregious decision in the Bruen case, it is vital that the Golden State takes meaningful action to protect all Californians from the threat of gun violence. SB2 would do just this by updating and improving the state’s already strong concealed carry license system, and ensure that loaded and concealed weapons are not allowed in certain sensitive places. With SB2, leaders in California are continuing their leadership in prioritizing the public health and safety of all its citizens,” said Brady Campaign President Kris Brown, adding “Brady applauds Senator Portantino for introducing this important bill, and thanks Governor Newsom and Attorney General Bonta for their continued leadership on this issue, and urges the California legislature to pass it without delay.”

Giffords State Policy Director Ari Freilich stated: “In the face of tragedy, California’s leaders act. They’ve led the nation on gun safety reform and made California a much safer state than most. But today, grieving communities know all too well how much more work there is to do. California achieved an all-time record low gun fatality rate in 2019. But like the rest of the country, we have faced record spikes in gun sales and violence since the start of the pandemic and a flood of new weapons in public spaces as a result of the US Supreme Court’s dangerous Second Amendment ruling last year. Passing SB (2) will strengthen communities’ ability to respond to these threats by requiring stronger vetting and safety training to carry weapons in public and by designating vital community spaces like parks and playgrounds as off-limits to weapons throughout the state. We thank leaders like Governor Newsom, Attorney General Bonta, and Senator Portantino for their work and commitment to make all Californians safer and freer from violence.”

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Politics

Trump to weaponize Feds against trans Americans if reelected

He detailed these plans in a video shared on the platform Rumble, which is popular among conservative and far-right users

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Donald Trump (Screenshot/Rumble)

PALM BEACH – Former president Donald Trump promised to weaponize the might of the federal government against transgender Americans if voters send him back to the White House next year.

He detailed these plans in a video shared on the platform Rumble, which is popular among conservative and far-right users.

Some would restore policies enacted during his administration by executive orders that were overturned by President Joe Biden, while other proposals were more extreme or would face an unclear path to implementation because they would require acts of Congress.

Trump began by inveighing against guideline-directed medical care for the treatment of gender dysphoria in minors – practices that are approved by every major mainstream American and international scientific and medical institution with relevant clinical expertise.

“I will sign a new executive order instructing every federal agency to cease all programs that promote the concept of sex and gender transition at any age,” Trump said, promising also to urge Congress to ban certain procedures for minors nationwide.

“I will declare that any hospital or healthcare provider that participates in the chemical or physical mutilation of minor youth will no longer meet federal health and safety standards for Medicaid and Medicare and will be terminated from the program immediately,” the former president said, referring again to healthcare interventions whose safety and efficacy has been demonstrated in hundreds of peer reviewed studies in scientific and medical journals.

Trump also said he would create a private right of action allowing for lawsuits against doctors and healthcare providers for administering or facilitating access to treatments for transgender and gender non-conforming youth.

“The Department of Justice will investigate big pharma and the big hospital networks to determine whether they have deliberately covered up horrific long term side effects of sex transitions in order to get rich at the expense of vulnerable patients,” Trump said.

The former president then looked beyond healthcare, promising to erase transgender people from schools and refuse to recognize them by the U.S. government.

“My Department of Education will inform states and school districts that if any teacher or school official suggests to a child that they could be trapped in the wrong body, they will be faced with severe consequences including potential civil rights violations for sex discrimination and the elimination of federal funding,” Trump said.

As part of credentialing for America’s teachers, messages promoting “the nuclear family” and child-rearing by “mothers and fathers” would be required, Trump said, adding that he would ask Congress to “pass a bill establishing that the only genders recognized by the United States government are male and female and they are assigned at birth.”

“The bill will also make clear,” Trump said, “that Title IX prohibits men from participating in women’s sports and we will protect the rights of parents from being forced to allow their minor child to assume a gender which is new and an identity without the parents’ consent.”

Trump concluded his message with the false assertion that gender dysphoria “was never heard of in all of human history” until “the radical left invented it just a few years ago.”

Transcript of Trump’s remarks:

The left wing’s gender insanity being pushed on our children is an act of child abuse. Very simple. Here’s my plan to stop the chemical, physical and emotional mutilation of our youth.

On day one, I will revoke Joe Biden’s cruel policies on so-called gender affirming care. Ridiculous. A preposterous test that includes giving kids puberty blockers, mutating their physical appearance, and ultimately performing surgery on minor children.

Can you believe this? I will sign a new executive order instructing every federal agency to cease all programs that promote the concept of sex and gender transition at any age. I will then ask Congress to permanently stop federal taxpayer dollars from being used to promote or pay for these procedures and pass a law prohibiting child sexual mutilation in all 50 states.

It will go very quickly. I will declare that any hospital or healthcare provider that participates in the chemical or physical mutilation of minor youth will no longer meet federal health and safety standards for Medicaid and Medicare and will be terminated from the program immediately.

Furthermore, I will support the creation of a private right of action for victims to sue doctors who have unforgivably performed these procedures on minor children. The Department of Justice will investigate Big Pharma and the big hospital network to determine whether they have deliberately covered up horrific long term side effects of sex transitions in order to get rich at the expense of vulnerable patients. In this case, very vulnerable.

We will also investigate whether Big Pharma or others have illegally marketed hormones and puberty blockers which are in no way licensed or approved for this use.

My Department of Education will inform states and school districts that if any teacher or school official suggests to a child that they could be trapped in the wrong body, they will be faced with severe consequences, including potential civil rights violations for sex discrimination and the elimination of federal funding. As part of our new credentialing body for teachers, we will promote positive education about the nuclear family, the roles of mothers and fathers, and celebrating rather than erasing the things that make men and women different and unique.

I will ask Congress to pass a bill establishing the only genders recognized by the United States government are male and female, and they are assigned at birth.

The bill will also make clear that Title IX prohibits men from participating in women’s sports. And we will protect the rights of parents from being forced to allow their minor child to assume a gender which is new and an identity without the parent’s consent.

The identity will not be new, and it will not be without parental consent. No serious country should be telling its children that they were born with the wrong gender, a concept that was never heard of in all of human history. Nobody’s ever heard of this. What’s happening today? It was all when the radical left invented it just a few years ago.

Under my leadership this madness will end. Thank you very much.

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The White House

Doug Emhoff visits memorial to gay victims of the Nazis in Berlin

Second gentleman marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day at Auschwitz

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The Memorial to Homosexuals persecuted under Nazism in Berlin on July 23, 2022. Second gentleman Doug Emhoff visited the memorial on Jan. 31, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

BERLIN — Second gentleman Doug Emhoff on Tuesday visited a monument to gay victims of the Nazis in Berlin.

A readout from Emhoff’s office notes he visited the Memorial to the Persecuted Homosexuals under National Socialism with Philipp Braun of the Lesbian and Gay Federation of Germany, a German LGBTQ+ and intersex rights group. Christopher Schreiber and Alexander Scheld of the Berlin-Brandenburg Lesbian and Gay Federation were also with Emhoff.

“The Memorial to the Persecuted Homosexuals under Nazi Socialism is intended to honor the homosexual victims of National Socialism and at the same time ‘set a constant sign against intolerance, hostility and exclusion towards gays and lesbians,'” notes the readout.

Emhoff on Tuesday visited other memorials that honor the Sinti and Roma and people with disabilities who the Nazis killed. The second gentleman also visited Berlin’s Holocaust memorial before he met with five people who survived it.

The second gentleman earlier in the day participated in a roundtable with Jewish, Muslim and Christian leaders and met with Ukrainian refugees at Berlin’s New Synagogue. Emhoff on Monday participated in a meeting at the city’s Topography of Terror Museum that focused on antisemitism.

International Holocaust Memorial Day, which commemorates the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Poland in 1945, took place on Jan. 27. 

Emhoff traveled to the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Memorial and Museum and participated in ceremonies that commemorated the camp’s liberation. He later attended a Shabbat dinner with members of the Jewish community in Krakow, visited Oscar Schindler’s factory and met with Ukrainian refugees at a U.N. Refugee Agency community center before he traveled to Germany.

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Crime & Justice

Suspect in 29 year old murder of Trans woman arrested

“Forensic evidence” was found at the scene of the crime that eventually led to the arrest of James William Grimsley

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Terrie Ladwig, 28, was found murdered in her Concord, Calif. apartment on Dec. 2, 1994. (Photo Credit: Concord Police Department)

CONCORD, Calif. – The suspect in the murder of Terrie Ladwig, a 28-year-old trans woman beaten and strangled in her Concord apartment on Dec. 2, 1994, has been arrested in Utah by a Salt Lake City Police and United States Marshals Service Fugitive Task Force a spokesperson for the Concord Police Department announced Monday.

Lieutenant Sean Donnelly told reporters that “forensic evidence” was found at the scene of the crime that eventually led to the arrest of James William Grimsley, 55. “I can tell you it was a violent scene, looked like there was a violent struggle between Terrie and the suspect,” said Donnelly.

Asked if police were classifying the case as a hate crime, Donnelly responded: “You know we’re not certain of the motive but that is certainly a possibility.” 

In an article published by the Contra Costa Times on December 2, 2004, a decade after the murder, the Times reported:

Concord police Detective Mike Warnock said he thinks the Ladwig case is solvable. The department has pulled it out of the cold case file within the past year. “Individuals who were originally interviewed are being reinterviewed,” Warnock said.

Ladwig’s husband, Steven Ladwig, was quickly cleared as a suspect in 1994. He had been on a submarine at sea and then at his Navy base in Bangor, Wash., when his wife was killed.

The Ladwigs were married in July 1994, Steven Ladwig told the Times after the killing. He considered his wife, who was born Larry Earl Thompson Jr., female. She was preparing to have gender-reassignment surgery, he said.

After their marriage, Ladwig went back to sea. He had returned to base when, on Nov. 28, Terrie Ladwig called to say someone was trying to break down the apartment door.

No one called police, Warnock said, but Steven Ladwig rushed home. According to a coroner’s report, he found his wife beaten and strangled on their bed. There was no sign of forced entry and she had a small amount of alcohol and methamphetamine in her blood. Neither Steven Ladwig nor his wife’s family could be located for this story. Warnock said police have not heard from them for years.

Warnock said one theory is that someone reacted violently after finding out that Terrie Ladwig was a biological man.

ABC7 Bay area reported that police say the suspect in Ladwig’s murder, Grimsley, is a truck driver. They won’t say how they linked him to the killing but do say, “There is forensic evidence in the case.” They had been working closely with the FBI and Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office over the last six to eight months to make the arrest.

Grimsley is being held in the Salt Lake County Jail on $1 million bail pending an extradition hearing to return him to California. Grimley’s first court appearance in Salt Lake City was scheduled for Wednesday.

Salt Lake City NBC affiliate KSL TV 5 reported it was not immediately known how long Grimsley, who would have been 25 at the time of the killing, has been living in Utah. Court records show Grimsley as having a West Valley City address in 2018, and he may have been living in Kearns in 2008. His criminal history in Utah includes one minor traffic violation.

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South America

Gay man’s murder in Argentina underscores growing hate crimes concerns

Alejo Portillo stabbed 42 times last month in Misiones province

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Alejo Portillo (Photo courtesy of Alejo Portillo's Facebook page)

COLONIA AZARA, Argentina — Authorities in Argentina’s Misiones province on Dec. 30 found a 20-year-old gay man dead with 42 stab wounds to his body.

Alejo Portillo was found in the town of Colonia Azara. His murder underscores an increase in hate crimes in Argentina over the last year, even though queer people have more rights than almost any other country in Latin America.        

Data from the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans Federation of Argentina indicates hate crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity increased in Argentina in 2022. The group recorded 129 deaths last year, compared to 120 the previous year. 

Portillo’s mother, Alejandra Benítez, found his body after she tirelessly searched for him when the Argentine police refused to help her. She said she sensed that something “horrible had happened to him” from the moment her son disappeared.

The main suspect is a 20-year-old man with whom Portillo was in love and with whom he had a hidden relationship. Argentine media reports indicate Portillo’s body was found naked and showed signs that he had been raped.

Benítez spoke with Misiones Cuatro TV, a local television station.

She said she saw her son for the last time on Dec. 28 when she said goodbye to him after he borrowed his sister’s bicycle. 

“He was invited by someone he knew to the place where my son went,” said Benítez. “He wasn’t going to go to that place for nothing. He knew who he was going to meet.”

She said on Dec. 29 she was already worried because her son did not return to the house where he lived, and he was not answering her WhatsApp messages. Benítez began to search for him herself, even though she did not have access to a vehicle. 

“I don’t know what happened, I can’t understand,” Benítez told Misiones Cuatro TV. “My son was not hurting anyone.” 

A march took place in Colonia Azara a few weeks ago. Participants demanded justice for Portillo’s death and urged authorities to classify it as a hate crime.

Trans Travestis No Binarie Maricas Gay y Lesbianas de Oberá Misiones, a local queer rights group known by the acronym TTNBMGLOM, condemned Portillo’s murder and pointed out “we want to publicly pronounce our voices and feelings in relation to the murder of Ema Portillo (self-perceived as Alejo,) that occurred in the town of Azara-Misiones.”

“In view of the facts, we believe it is important to highlight and underline that the homicide of Alejo Portillo is a case of hate crime,” said TTNBMGLOM on Instagram. “Alejo was stabbed because he was homosexual, because of his orientation and gender identity. For being a person of non-heterosexual identity.”

“Alejo Portillo’s hate crime is clearly a symptom of the reality that LGTB existences and identities live in the province of Misiones, especially removed from the large urban epicenters,” María Alejandro, a nonbinary activist from Misiones, told the Washington Blade, referring to Buenos Aires, the country’s capital.

María Alejandro added “(people with) LGBT identities live in a situation of extreme discrimination, marginalization and violence. And this was what was happening to Alejo in his community. He was one of the few people who publicly expressed his identity and sexual orientation, therefore, he was clearly pushed towards exclusion and discrimination.”

María Alejandro said “the particularity of the crime, the excessive and symbolic violence that provokes Alejo’s death and the deep context of discrimination, stigmatization and marginalization that he lived in his community allow us to sustain that it is a hate crime. Alejo’s body shows clear signs of an act committed with a high degree of violence. There are 42 stab wounds.”

María Alejandro mentioned to Blade that they demand an investigation similar to the case of Evelyn Rojas, a Transgender woman who was murdered by her partner in Misiones. 

Authorities determined Rojas’ murder was a hate crime, and her partner last year received a life sentence.

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