AIDS Healthcare Foundation Wins Federal Lawsuit
Sues ‘Whistleblowers’ for Publicly Disclosing Patient information
AIDS Healthcare Foundation has been smeared for so long by some AIDS activists that the Associate Press headline hardly raised an eyebrow. “Suit claims AIDS foundation scammed Medicare for $20M,” AP blared on April 8, 2015, referring to a fraud lawsuit filed against AHF by three fired former AHF employees. But in court, facts matter more than opinions and not only was the lawsuit thrown out but the court added its own “Statement of Interest” to underscore that the legal argument pitched by the three about how the Ryan White Program was “incorrect.”
Now the former employees, Shawn Loftis, Mauricio Ferrer, and Jack Carrel, face a lawsuit of their own for allegedly stealing and making public AHF proprietary information, including hundreds of names of AHF clients who are HIV positive.
The lawsuit was filed in 2014 by Loftis, Ferrer, and Carrel, who all had worked at and been fired from a Florida AHF clinic at different times and in different divisions. They alleged that bonuses and incentives paid to people hired to recruit subjects for HIV testing were essentially kickbacks to AHF since those who tested HIV-positive were directed into care and treatment provided by AHF. They claimed that those payments violated a federal anti-kickback law known as the False Claims Act, as well as a similar law in Florida.
Since neither the federal government nor the state joined the lawsuit, the three called themselves “whistleblowers,” as if they were acting on behalf of the government and the public, which would also entitle them to a portion of any expected multi-million dollar settlement.
In a ruling dated June 9 and formally unsealed June 20, 2017, Florida Southern District Court Judge Kathleen M. Williams dismissed the case as unfounded since the Ryan White CARE Act does allow a service provider to pay bonuses and incentives to employees for HIV testing and linkage to care. AHF’s outreach program used paid AHF employees and presented each individual who tested positive with a list of names of providers, including AHF, to which the person could be linked for care.
“The fact that the federal government and the State of Florida each formally declined to intervene in the legal action brought on behalf of three former AHF employees spoke volumes about the merits of the case, and today’s dismissal of these unfounded whistleblower claims by the court is a tremendous victory not only for AHF, but for the patients and public we serve daily,” AHF President Michael Weinstein said in a statement. “We thank the court for its wisdom in this ruling.”
“Although the United States has not intervened and is not a formal party, it remains the real party in interest in this action,” The Court wrote in its special “Statement of Interest.”
“The United States also has a significant interest in the proper interpretation and correct application of the False Claims Act …and the Anti-Kickback Statute…which play a central role in the government’s ongoing efforts to combat health care fraud,” the Statement continues. “The Relators [Loftis, Ferrer, and Carrel] do not appear to challenge AHF’s position that its ‘linkage coordinator’ was a bona fide employee, or that AHF provided appropriate services to the patients the employee referred. Rather, the Relators rest their claim on the purely legal argument that a bona fide employee of a Ryan White Program grant recipient, such as AHF, may not be paid for referring patients to his or her own employer to receive appropriate services. The Relators are incorrect.”
Jim Vellequette was among those deposed during the lawsuit. He had started working for AHF in California in 2007, moved to AHF’s Southern Bureau in 2009, and left for another AHF assignment in 2011. He would not speak on the record about his perceptions of the fired employees but did talk about his deposition.
“Plaintiff’s lawyer had me read an email I wrote 7 years ago outlining the initial parameters of the testing program that was sent to the AHF leadership within the Southern Bureau,” Vellequette said. “The lawyer was trying to create a point of evidence against AHF proving that the program was designed from the beginning to limit the linkage incentive to being applied only in instances where the client was linked to an AHF HCC exclusively, and nowhere else.
“I do not know if they chose the wrong document or they had not read it fully, but when they had me read aloud the email, it clearly stated in my own words that two appointments to any medical provider was acceptable and that care was not to be specifically limited to AHF. This lawyer had already been aggressive with me during my deposition, so I thoroughly enjoyed this moment of watching as they locked, cocked and shot a bullet right into their own foot.”
Vellequette said the documents he was shown “that were numbered in unique fashion were AHF proprietary documents” and it was made clear to him that they had “been stolen by the plaintiffs, and then submitted into evidence, and the federal record for the case.”
“I was handed a large multipage Excel spreadsheet that I created back in 2009/10 that contained a long list of names and the personal data and HIV status etc., of individuals who been diagnosed as HIV-positive through an HIV test at an AHF test site,” Vellequette said.
“The chart served as a record of the clients identified as HIV positive, and the status regarding the success of the linkage coordinators’ efforts to link them into medical services at an HIV med provider. I used this chart to determine the incentive compensation that was to be received by the linkage coordinators each pay period.
As I had created the first sheet and had worked with it for several years while I was AHF, my mind focused on the questions at hand,” he explained.
“Then the plaintiff’s lawyer had me read a sheet of names that was created after I had left my position that contained multiple pages of individuals’ names, personal information and status showing them as testing positive for HIV,” Vellequette said.
“Then a sudden shock in my head snapped as realized I had read a long list of names and personal information for individuals diagnosed as HIV positive, and that now this document had been entered into the evidentiary record of a federal lawsuit.”
Vellequette said personal information was c “high regarded within AHF” and violation was considered “a highly serious breach of the federal HIPAA medical information privacy statute.”
Therefore, Vellequette said, “I was dumbstruck to be holding pages of names for possibly hundreds of people diagnosed to be living with HIV in a legal process with a half-dozen of us in the room and seemingly no concern for the gravity of the situation and all of it being entered into the federal record.”
Vellequette noted that revealing a person’s HIV status “is subject to a $50,000 fine per name, but also, and additional charge can be filed for every piece of identifying information, such as address, phone number, social security number etc., for that same person. Thus, the breach of even one name, could quickly escalate into hundreds of thousands of dollars one line at a time.”
“We currently have a suit against the disgruntled former employees for disclosure of confidential patient information which will come before the court now that the fraud claim has been summarily dismissed,” Weinstein tells the Los Angeles Blade.
“I do not know if the statute of limitations for law enforcement to pursue criminal charges against the three (and their lawyers) for stealing and publishing the protected patient data has expired or not,” says AHF Communications Director Ged Kenslea. “But the very concept of it goes to the seriousness of their misguided actions versus the ultimate vindication of AHF and our successful business model of HIV testing and linkage to care in Florida and elsewhere.”
Just days after the federal lawsuit was dismissed, AHF opened a new HIV clinic in Liberty City, Florida, to serve the predominantly African-American community. The clinic will provide free, rapid, 1-minute HIV testing, testing for Hepatitis C and information on pharmacy and healthcare services.
“We think this is a critical situation and we look at the opening of this healthcare center as an opportunity to both be a partner in the community [and] address the HIV/AIDS epidemic within this community and within the broader community,” AHF’s Imara Canady told the Miami Herald newspaper.
Los Angeles County
New on the LA County Channel
You can watch on Channel 92 or 94 on most cable systems, or anytime here. Catch up on LA County Close-Up here
New on the County Channel
END OF COVID-19 EMERGENCY
The COVID-19 emergency is ending. Here’s what that means for you.
LA County’s declaration of a local public health emergency for COVID-19 ends on March 31, 2023. That means changes in some programs, but many services will continue to be available to support County residents. Here is an overview of what the public can expect in several key areas—from the availability of free testing to resources for tenants and landlords. We’ve also got details on what residents need to do to avoid interruption of their Medi-Cal health benefits.
For more detailed information, visit lacounty.gov/covid-emergency-ending.
When LAUSD teachers and staff went on strike, County libraries stepped up with a range of programming including pop-up events and e-learning programs to help the students and their families and provide a safe, supportive and welcoming environment.
You can watch more stories like this on Channel 92 or 94 on most cable systems, or anytime here. Catch up on LA County Close-Up here.
At Your Service
Free Dispute Resolution Help for Families, Individuals, and Businesses
There is help available for County residents dealing with a dispute. The Los Angeles County Dispute Resolution Program (LADRP) has provided free dispute resolution services to families, individuals and businesses for more than 30 years in a friendly, confidential, accessible, and no-cost manner.
A decision by a court judgment usually ends up with a winning party and a losing party. Mediation, an alternative method of resolving disputes, supports parties in the tailoring of agreements that mutually meet participants needs and interests. The aid of a skilled and neutral mediator promotes communication by guiding conversations that help parties identify issues, find points of agreement, reduce misunderstandings, and explore areas of compromise.
LADRP is made up of nine dispute resolution organizations, each having their unique services, languages, and cultural capacities. You can find more information about them HERE.
Healthy Food Kickstarter Project
The Healthy Food Kickstarter (Kickstarter) ARP Program has officially launched. Kickstarter program will provide grants of $20,000 (new projects) or $200,000 (expansion of existing projects) to non-profits and private/for-profit enterprises to support projects that provide affordable, fresh, healthy food options to the County’s most food insecure communities in order to strengthen and contribute to a more equitable, post-pandemic food distribution system. Kickstarter aims to address and alleviate historic food insecurity further compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic in Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) populations, low to moderate income individuals and families, and those living in County-identified Target Communities.
Out and About
Youth Sailing Camp
WATER Youth Sailing Camp is back for Spring Break, ready to share exciting outdoor adventures with eager campers (11-17 years old) in Marina del Rey!
Taught by LA County WATER Program Lifeguards.
DAYS: Monday – Friday, April 10-14
TIMES: 10 AM – 4 PM
COST: $375 for the 5-day session
AGES: 11 to 17
** Financial aid available for qualifying families.
Click here for more information or to sign up.
César Chávez Celebration: Create a Paper Garden
Join LA County Library to learn about César Chávez’s legacy as a civil rights advocate and farm labor leader who championed nonviolent social change and environmental rights.
Create a beautiful paper garden of your own and learn about nutrition, protecting the environment, and how to grow your own vegetables! The program will take place in the Children’s Area. All materials will be provided.
For ages 5 – 12 with parent or caregiver.
No registration is required.
For more information on this event and others at your local library, check out visit.lacountylibrary.org/events
Confronting COVID-19: take a look back at Los Angeles County’s mobilization and response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Click here to access more photos of LA County in action.
NYC grand jury indicts Donald Trump
Former commander-in-chief is first former president indicted
NEW YORK — A New York grand jury on Thursday voted to bring criminal charges sought by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office against former President Donald Trump in connection with his alleged orchestration near the end of the 2016 presidential race of a hush money payment to an adult film actress.
The contents of the indictment triggered by the grand jury’s decision will almost certainly be kept under seal, however. And it is not clear when the charges will be filed, nor when an arrest and arraignment might come, or even whether Trump will surrender himself.
The uncertainty also extends to the consequences of America’s first-ever indictment of a former president, the prospect of which had already roused Trump’s allies in Congress to accuse prosecutors of politically motivated misconduct while prompting the former president’s supporters to heed his call for protests.
The New York Times reported on March 9 that Trump’s attorneys had received the signal from prosecutors that they were considering criminal charges, according to four people with knowledge of the matter.
Republican members in House leadership, meanwhile, signed on to a letter issued by Trump ally and chair of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), which demands testimony and documents from Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg on his office’s case against the former president.
The move closely followed Trump’s Truth Social post previewing the coming indictment in which he wrote that charges would be filed on March 21 and urged his supporters to “protest, take our nation back!” The message recalls Trump’s Dec. 19, 2020, tweet promoting the “wild” protests in D.C. that were scheduled for Jan. 6, 2021.
Evidence from court testimony in the criminal cases against several defendants who were charged with crimes including seditious conspiracy for their involvement in the deadly insurrection on the U.S. Capitol that day has shown that tweet was a major factor in the instigation of the riots.
In a notice to senators’ offices on March 20, the Senate sergeant at arms said U.S. Capitol Police are taking security precautions, because “while law enforcement is not tracking any specific, credible threats against the Capitol or state offices, there is potential for demonstration activity.”
Trump’s former longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen is a key witness for the government, reportedly meeting with prosecutors 20 times to testify to his involvement in facilitating the payment to Daniels under Trump’s instruction.
In 2018, Cohen was charged with violating campaign finance laws and other crimes stemming from his involvement in the scheme, testifying under oath that he routed – “in coordination with” and “at the direction of” Trump, who was then “a candidate for federal office” – $130,000 to Daniels just before the 2016 presidential election to secure her agreement not to disclose that she and Trump had extramarital sex in 2006.
Cohen was convicted and then disbarred before serving 13.5 months of his 5-year prison sentence.
However, after his two-hour testimony before the grand jury on March 20, Trump ally Robert Costello publicly challenged Cohen’s testimony and credibility. He told reporters that Cohen, to whom Costello had once been a legal advisor, was lying about the former president’s involvement in the payment and had previously claimed credit for conceiving of and executing the payment to Daniels.
The Federal Election Commission opened an inquiry into the matter but dropped the probe following a split 2-2 vote along party lines by the bipartisan agency’s commissioners. A former FEC official previously told the Washington Blade that its investigations are almost always dropped, even in cases for which there is clear and substantial evidence that campaign finance laws were violated.
Trump faces more legal jeopardy amid the Justice Department’s ongoing separate probes into his role in the Jan. 6 siege of the Capitol and potentially criminal mishandling of classified documents.
According to reports last week, there were new developments in the case presented to members of a special grand jury that was convened in connection with charges brought by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis over allegations that Trump unlawfully interfered in the 2020 presidential election in Georgia.
Trump in a lengthy statement described the New York indictment as “political persecution and election interference at the highest level in history.”
Former President Donald Trump speaks out for the first time since his historic indictment. “This is Political Persecution and Election Interference at the highest level in history.” @NewsNation pic.twitter.com/Uqme7aP78I
— Kellie Meyer (@KellieMeyerNews) March 30, 2023
Calif. Senate leader moves to end LGBTQ+ related travel bans
The legislation being introduced as legislative attacks on the LGBTQ+ community and trans kids in particular has escalated
SACRAMENTO – Calif. State Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego) is introducing legislation that would lift California’s travel ban to other states and create in its place a program to encourage acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community.
The legislation being introduced as legislative attacks on the LGBTQ+ community and trans kids in particular has escalated in the past two recent years nationwide.
Atkins’ Senate Bill 447 legislation would end the ban and replace it with an advertising campaign in those states that promotes acceptance and inclusion for the LGBTQ community. The proposed measure will would create a donation-driven fund that could be used to create inclusive messaging, discourage discrimination, and help members of the LGBTQ+ community feel less isolated. Called the BRIDGE Project – Building and Reinforcing Inclusive, Diverse, Gender-Supportive Equality – the legislation would help California champion compassion and help build bridges to unite and unify communities.
When asked by reporters, Atkins, who is a lesbian said; “I think polarization is not working. We need to adjust our strategy. We know what we need to do, but we need to be able to be there to do it.”
“When I was a teenager growing up in rural Virginia, the idea of being accepted as a lesbian was a foreign concept. Times have changed, but for so many in the LGBTQ+ community, the feelings of isolation and fear remain. Lifting the travel ban and putting a program in its place that would infuse inclusive, non-partisan messages in other states is a way that California can help build a bridge of inclusion and acceptance,” she said.
“At a time when LGBTQ+ rights and protections are being rescinded, and the very words we use are being weaponized, putting understanding and kindness at the forefront is more important than ever. The goal here is to speak to people’s hearts and open minds. That’s a pursuit that would have made teen Toni – that southwestern Virginia girl afraid to be herself back then – so proud,” Atkins added.
California’s current law on the matter – AB 1887 – restricts state agencies, departments, boards, and commissions from using taxpayer funds to travel to states that have adopted discriminatory anti-LGBTQ+ laws. Currently, the law is applicable to 23 states.
Matthew Bajko, the Assistant Editor of the Bay Area Reporter, the LGBTQ newspaper in San Francisco, reported Atkins’ SB SB 447 legislation comes as the City of San Francisco leaders are also expected to lift the city’s similar travel ban policy.
During a press briefing with reporters Wednesday afternoon, Atkins was asked several times if the original travel ban was a failure. She denied that.
“I think AB 1887 was successful,” she said, referring to the bill authored by gay Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Cupertino), adding that leaders in states like North Carolina and Georgia initially did change laws or institute bans, such as the moving the NCAA men’s basketball tournament games out of the Tar Heel State in 2016. “It was effective in what we were trying to do. I think we sent a message loud and clear.”
While the law originally sent a clear, early, and effective message that California would not engage with states that allow discrimination against LGBTQ+ people, a new approach is needed for California to have a positive impact, Atkins noted in a statement released by her office.
As the years have passed, the travel ban has had the unintended impact of further isolating members of the LGBTQ+ community in those states, and hampering Californians from being able to conduct research, business, and engage with all people from those states. Examples include California’s public university systems experiencing challenges with being able to conduct academic research on LGBTQ+ or other equity issues in some of the very places where that work is most needed and jeopardizing opportunities for intercollegiate athletes to compete in games that could determine postseason eligibility.
The shift in direction also will help further position California as a national leader of inclusivity and beacon of hope and support for those who have been isolated by state-sponsored discrimination elsewhere.
This year alone, an unprecedented 434 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced in state legislatures across the country to date, targeting a host of issues, including civil rights, healthcare, schools, and free speech, according to an interactive report by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
In 2022, state legislatures around the country introduced 315 anti-equality bills, 29 of which were signed into law, according to a report by the Human Rights Campaign. Much of those discriminatory efforts were focused on LGBTQ+ youth, especially transgender and non-binary youth.
According to the 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health by The Trevor Project, 42 percent of LGBTQ+ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, and 94 percent reported that recent politics negatively impacted their mental health.
Contrasting rollbacks at the national level, the California Legislature has passed hundreds of bills and resolutions to advance LGBTQ+ rights and protections. This year alone, more than a dozen bills covering a host of issues related to the LGBTQ+ community have been introduced to date, along with several budget requests.
The Associated Press/KTLA 5 reported Thursday that Marc Stein, a history professor at San Francisco State University who is gay and does research on queer history, said he would want to hear from LGBTQ communities in other states before deciding whether he supports lifting the travel ban.
But Stein said he would like to see an exception made for social justice research. Shortly after California’s travel ban took place, he said he had trouble booking a trip to North Carolina shortly after the travel ban took effect so he could research the case of a transgender woman who had been arrested for sodomy in the 1960s.
Stein said the university eventually found a way to fund his research, but said the barrier remains for other researchers, particularly students studying for advanced degrees.
“I think Ph.D. students in California are being discouraged from pursuing research projects that would require extensive trips to the list of states which is now almost half the country,” he said.
Trans teacher targeted with bomb threat after Fox News coverage
Fox’s fixation on one California high school teacher fits a pattern a right-wing antagonists publicly vilifying openly trans people
By Eric Kleefeld | WASHINGTON – Fox News’ propaganda campaign to depict transgender people as public enemies just for existing is leading to harassment against private individuals. The Daily Dot writer Claire Goforth details how Fox News has built up an obsession targeting one transgender high school teacher in California, who goes by “Flint” on social media, resulting in a bomb threat and numerous hate mail.
Since September, Fox has published at least five stories about Flint (@justflintisfine), a transgender teacher in Orange County, California. The most recent was published on March 18.
Fox News has repeatedly written about Flint having books in their classroom that include content about LGBTQ sex—which they said were intended for a queer student group—honing in on passages that discuss group sex and BDSM. In its coverage, the right-wing network has not mentioned that the four titles it focused on are rated for the audience they are intended for: teens.
Flint said the district subsequently reviewed and removed the four titles out of hundreds in the library, which were intended for the queer student group. Yet Fox News’ subsequent coverage of Flint elides that, making it seem as if the titles are still available.
In an exclusive interview with the Daily Dot last week, Flint described what it’s like to be targeted by Fox News as part of the right-wing push against LGBTQ-affirming educators.
“It was hugely traumatic. I’d never been the focus of any kind of national attention, especially national attention that was homophobic,” said Flint, who uses they/them pronouns and asked to withhold their last name for safety reasons.
Flint also provided The Daily Dot with emails the school received the same day Fox published its first article about them One example declared: “You should lose your job and face criminal prosecution for endangering a minor. You are a straight up groomer.” That and another message also using the “groomer” slur echoed the relentless messaging from Fox News and other right-wing media outlets claiming without evidence that LGBTQ teachers are sexually abusing children.
Things got even more serious in December, when a threatening email falsely claimed that both Flint’s individual classroom and the school district offices had been targeted with bombs:
Flint provided the Daily Dot with an expletive-laced bomb threat. The email used the same rhetoric that conservatives have taken to lobbing at LGBTQ individuals, educators, and advocates. It accused the school of encouraging “sexually deviant and degenerate behavior from its staff” and of being “child abusers.”
“We won’t tolerate this, we won’t stand idly which is why we placed multiple pipe bombs in [Flint’s] classroom, as well as in other locations in the high school,” someone identifying themself as Zamina Tamaro wrote.
“The Capistrano Unified School District Education Center [has] also been rigged with explosives and will detonate shortly after receiving this email. The school district is equally as bad for ENCOURAGING this degeneracy. Fuck you all, we’ll see you burn in hell.”
Once again, Flint found themself in the gripped by terror.
“It was the kind of trauma that’s not easy to recover from,” they said last week.
The bomb threat turned out to be a hoax. The Capistrano Dispatch reports that local police and the FBI are investigating.
Fox News has not been deterred from its propaganda campaign against Flint, however, even in the wake of the December bomb scare. The network has continued to write up messages targeting the teacher, with the most recent one published on March 18. Goforth further reported: “The author of Flint’s articles did not respond to a detailed inquiry sent via email on March 21. Her author profile is filled with stories covering people in the education system. Fox News did not respond to a general inquiry about the articles and bomb threat.”
Fox has copied the playbook of online trolls, targeting individual LGTBQ people and demonizing them as a danger to society. Notably, the network has incited violence and further rage against LGBTQ people in the public education system, then minimized its coverage of anti-LGBTQ violence when it does occur. The network also responded to threats against children’s hospitals by further amplifying its scare scare campaign against gender-affirming care.
The network’s coverage fits into the larger right-wing media ecosystem, which has sought to dehumanize trans people as a “social contagion” and depict them as an active threat against the entire country.
Eric Kleefeld is a senior writer on the Rapid Response Team for Media Matters for America
The preceding piece was previously published by Media Matters for America and is republished with permission.
U.S. Federal Courts
U.S. Judge: No PrEP contraception & cancer screening under ACA
O’Connor’s ruling struck down the recommendations that have been issued by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force regarding preventive care
FT. WORTH – U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor ruled Thursday that employers in the United States cannot be forced to cover specified preventive health care services under the Affordable Care Act.
Thursday’s ruling means that more than 150 million Americans on employer-sponsored health plans will lose some cost-free coverage for immunizations, contraception, cancer screenings, and the HIV preventative PrEP.
O’Connor’s ruling struck down the recommendations that have been issued by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force regarding the preventive care treatments provisions required by the ACA directing insurers provide at no cost to the patient.
Last September he had ruled that ACA’s PrEP mandate unlawful, this was the ACA requirement that insurers and employers offer plans that cover HIV-prevention measures such as PrEP for free. Reed cited that under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a law that “ensures that interests in religious freedom are protected.” Thursday’s ruling was in follow-up in a broader context.
Axios noted: Under the ACA, most health insurance plans must cover certain recommended preventive services, including HIV testing for people aged 15-65 and HIV PrEP for adults who are at high risk of getting HIV.
The ruling stemmed from a case brought by six individuals and two Christian-owned businesses who argued that they should not be mandated to offer coverage of HIV PrEP because they did not want to encourage “homosexual behavior.”
According to a recent analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation, there are some services that will continue to be available at no charge under O’Connor’s ruling. These include vaccinations immunizations for the flu, hepatitis, measles, shingles and chickenpox although excluding COVID-19 vaccines, well-woman and well-child visits, and screenings for heart disease, cervical cancer, diabetes and breast cancer.
CNN reported that certain free preventive services for children, such as autism and vision screenings and well-baby visits, and for women, such as mammograms, well-woman visits and breastfeeding support programs will continue to be covered.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Justice did not respond to requests for comment. It is expected that the Biden Administration will appeal.
The White House
Biden recognizes Transgender Day of Visibility
Statement comes against backdrop of anti-Transgender laws
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Thursday issued a proclamation that recognizes the Transgender Day of Visibility.
“Transgender Day of Visibility celebrates the joy, strength, and absolute courage of some of the bravest people I know — people who have too often had to put their jobs, relationships, and lives on the line just to be their true selves,” reads the proclamation. “Today, we show millions of Transgender and nonbinary Americans that we see them, they belong, and they should be treated with dignity and respect. Their courage has given countless others strength, but no one should have to be brave just to be themselves. Every American deserves that freedom.”
Biden said “Transgender Americans shape our nation’s soul — proudly serving in the military, curing deadly diseases, holding elected office, running thriving businesses, fighting for justice, raising families and much more.”
“As kids, they deserve what every child deserves: The chance to learn in safe and supportive schools, to develop meaningful friendships, and to live openly and honestly,” he said. “As adults, they deserve the same rights enjoyed by every American, including equal access to health care, housing, and jobs and the chance to age with grace as senior citizens. But today, too many Transgender Americans are still denied those rights and freedoms.”
Biden notes “a wave of discriminatory state laws is targeting Transgender youth, terrifying families and hurting kids who are not hurting anyone.”
“An epidemic of violence against Transgender women and girls, in particular women and girls of color, has taken lives far too soon,” he added. “Last year’s Club Q shooting in Colorado was another painful example of this kind of violence — a stain on the conscience of our nation.”
The full proclamation is below:
| TRANSGENDER DAY OF VISIBILITY, 2023 |
– – – – – – –
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
| Transgender Day of Visibility celebrates the joy, strength, and absolute courage of some of the bravest people I know — people who have too often had to put their jobs, relationships, and lives on the line just to be their true selves. Today, we show millions of Transgender and nonbinary Americans that we see them, they belong, and they should be treated with dignity and respect. Their courage has given countless others strength, but no one should have to be brave just to be themselves. Every American deserves that freedom.|
Transgender Americans shape our Nation’s soul — proudly serving in the military, curing deadly diseases, holding elected office, running thriving businesses, fighting for justice, raising families, and much more. As kids, they deserve what every child deserves: The chance to learn in safe and supportive schools, to develop meaningful friendships, and to live openly and honestly. As adults, they deserve the same rights enjoyed by every American, including equal access to health care, housing, and jobs and the chance to age with grace as senior citizens. But today, too many Transgender Americans are still denied those rights and freedoms. A wave of discriminatory state laws is targeting Transgender youth, terrifying families and hurting kids who are not hurting anyone. An epidemic of violence against Transgender women and girls, in particular women and girls of color, has taken lives far too soon. Last year’s Club Q shooting in Colorado was another painful example of this kind of violence — a stain on the conscience of our nation.
My administration has fought to end these injustices from day one, working to ensure that Transgender people and the entire LGBTQI+ community can live openly and safely. On my first day as president, I issued an executive order directing the federal government to root out discrimination against LGBTQI+ people and their families. We have appointed a record number of openly LGBTQI+ leaders, and I was proud to rescind the ban on openly Transgender people serving in the military. We are also working to make public spaces and travel more accessible, including with more inclusive gender markers on United States passports. We are improving access to public services and entitlements like Social Security. We are cracking down on discrimination in housing and education. And last December, I signed the Respect for Marriage Act into law, ensuring that every American can marry the person they love and have that marriage accepted, period.
Meanwhile, we are also working to ease the tremendous strain that discrimination, bullying, and harassment can put on Transgender children — more than half of whom seriously considered suicide in the last year. The Department of Education is, for example, helping ensure that Transgender students have equal opportunities to learn and thrive at school, and the Department of Justice is pushing back against extreme laws that seek to ban evidence-based gender-affirming health care.
There is much more to do. I continue to call on the Congress to finally pass the Equality Act and extend long-overdue civil rights protections to all LGBTQI+ Americans to ensure they can live with safety and dignity. Together, we also have to keep challenging the hundreds of hateful state laws that have been introduced across the country, making sure every child knows that they are made in the image of God, that they are loved, and that we are standing up for them.
America is founded on the idea that all people are created equal and deserve to be treated equally throughout their lives. We have never fully lived up to that, but we have never walked away from it either. Today, as we celebrate Transgender people, we also celebrate every American’s fundamental right to be themselves, bringing us closer to realizing America’s full promise.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR., President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim March 31, 2023, as Transgender Day of Visibility. I call upon all Americans to join us in lifting up the lives and voices of Transgender people throughout our nation and to work toward eliminating violence and discrimination against all Transgender, gender nonconforming, and nonbinary people.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirtieth day of March, in the year of our Lord two thousand twenty-three, and of the independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-seventh.
JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.
Kentucky lawmakers override veto, anti-LGBTQ+ bill now law
“While we lost the battle in the legislature, our defeat is temporary. We will not lose in court. And we are winning in so many other ways”
FRANKFORT, Ky. – Both chambers of the Kentucky Legislature voted Wednesday to override Governor Andy Beshear’s veto on Senate Bill 150, a sweeping bill that would severely restrict the lives of trans youth in the state.
The law will:
- Ban gender-affirming medical care, including treatments that delay puberty, other forms of hormone therapy and surgery, for trans and nonbinary people under 18 years old.
- Require revoking the licenses of doctors who provide such services.
- Tell public schools to block trans students from using bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity.
- Allow public school teachers to misgender trans students.
- Prevent public schools from allowing educational presentations that study gender identity or sexual orientation.
Democratic Governor Andy Beshear stressed that the bill conflicted with his faith and noted the bill’s repercussions would include an increase in LGBTQ+ youth suicides: “My faith teaches me that all children are children of God and Senate Bill 150 will endanger the children of Kentucky.” Beshear also called it, “too much government interference in personal healthcare issues and rips away the freedom of parents to make medical decisions for their children.”
In an emailed statement to the Blade, Fairness Campaign Executive Director Chris Hartman reflected on the Assembly’s actions:
“While we lost the battle in the legislature, our defeat is temporary. We will not lose in court. And we are winning in so many other ways. Thousands of Kentucky kids came to the Capitol today to make their voices heard against the worst anti-trans bill in the nation. They are our hope for a Kentucky future that is more fair, more just, and more beautifully diverse and accepting than ever before.
I applaud the brave protesters who stood their ground in the Kentucky House gallery today before being removed by Kentucky State Troopers. Their chants and pain were heard by all in the chamber and were a necessary show of the grief and harm Senate Bill 150 will cause. Transgender children and their families in Kentucky are scared, rightfully so. We will do all we can to ensure they can continue to access the life-saving medical care they deserve.”
According to the Fairness Campaign Executive Director, “Brave, devastated protesters held each other in solidarity & chanted for 30 minutes in the House gallery before being taken out in zip ties by State Troopers.”
BREAKING: Police in the Kentucky State House Chamber are forcefully removing people who are protesting SB 150, which they consider to be an extreme anti-trans bill. @LEX18News pic.twitter.com/urqwPa9Ij0— Ricky Sayer (@RickyReports) March 29, 2023
SB 150 protesters had arms linked together, preventing police from removing them all at once. @LEX18News pic.twitter.com/gd0XvdrF4L— Ricky Sayer (@RickyReports) March 29, 2023
Rep. Maxwell Frost demands action on LGBTQ rights, gun control
Frost spoke out against Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Act which he categorized as a “bigoted law made by bigoted people”
WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Maxwell Alejandro Frost (D-Fla.) during an exclusive interview with the Washington Blade on March 24 called for President Joe Biden to “speak out about” the wave of anti-LGBTQ legislation across the country.
The congressman said the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education “should be heavily involved in investigating what’s going on in Florida and in all these states where these bills are being passed.” Frost added that Biden is “the perfect person” to warn voters about the consequences of extreme anti-equality policies; noting the pro-worker, pro-union “Joe from Scranton” frequently promotes his working-class roots.
“That [message] coming out of his mouth, the story of these policies impact everyone, I think would have a really big impact,” the congressman said.
Frost, 26, in 2022 became the first Gen Zer elected to Congress.
He represents Florida’s 10th Congressional District that includes Pulse, a gay nightclub in which a gunman killed 49 people on June 12, 2016.
Frost co-organized the March for Our Lives, which took place in D.C. on March 24, 2018, less than two months after a gunman killed 17 people in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. His gun control advocacy efforts began when he became a volunteer for the Newtown Action Alliance, a group that formed in the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in 2012.
DeSantis ‘a dictator’
Frost during the interview spoke out against Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Act — more commonly known as the “Don’t Say Gay” law — which he categorized as a “bigoted law made by bigoted people.”
The law aims to regulate classroom discussions about gender identity and sexual orientation from kindergarten through third grade. It also prohibits public schools from using confidentiality forms in the case of a student disclosing sensitive information that includes their gender identity and sexual orientation and requires personnel to inform their parents if they were to ask for the information.
“They’re starting to change our education system because they want to try to counteract the inherent progressive and, you know, decent values that young people have,” explained Frost.
While Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis focuses on preparing legislation that otherwise helps “take away” history, Frost notes the governor does not put forth measures that seek to improve his state.
“He’s not focusing on raising wages, ensuring people have a livable planet, ensuring that we end gun violence, the rocketing housing prices,” Frost said. “And these things impact everybody.”
The congressman was weary of the overall repercussions that the “Don’t Say Gay” law would have on the mental and physical health of LGBTQ people across Florida, and he went as far as saying it could result in deaths. Frost further pointed out the number of hate crimes in his state has increased since DeSantis took office.
“This is going to have real impacts to LGBTQ+ students, parents, etc. Just people in the district and across Florida, that can result — that will result and is resulting in — trauma and people being hurt and hate crimes, and we probably will see death from it,” said Frost.
“This [governor] is a dictator,” he concluded.
State lawmakers and other members of Congress have introduced Florida-style ‘Don’t Say Gay’ laws.
Republican Louisiana Congresswoman Julia Letlow introduced a Parental Bill of Rights Act in March that looks “to ensure the rights of parents are honored and protected in the nation’s public schools.” Frost maintains, however, that these types of bills only serve to spread bigotry and hate “under the guise of parental rights.”
Frost perceives what he contends is the extremist overhaul of the country’s educational system as a “long-term plan” from Republican politicians. A plan that, in his view, goes back to the overturning of the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling.
White House spokesperson Robyn Patterson in a statement to the Blade said Biden “has been outspoken in his support of LGBTQI+ Americans and he’ll continue to speak out against vicious political attacks against them.”
Biden earlier this month during an interview with Kal Penn for “The Daily Show” described efforts to restrict the rights of transgender people in Florida and elsewhere as “close to sinful.”
Four LGBTQ advocacy groups earlier this month filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of four families with trans children who are challenging the Florida Boards of Medicine and Osteopathic Medicine’s ban on gender affirming healthcare for minors.
Patterson in her statement stressed Biden “is grateful for the leadership of Congressman Frost and other leaders who share his commitment to supporting LGBTQI+ Americans and speaking out against dangerous policies that seek to vilify our fellow Americans.”
Frost survived gun violence in 2016
Frost spoke with the Blade a day after Capitol Police arrested Manuel Oliver, whose son, Joaquin “Guac” Oliver, was killed in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre.
Officers arrested Manuel Oliver after he and his wife, Patricia Oliver, challenged U.S. Reps. Pat Fallon (R-Texas) and Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) during a joint House Oversight and Judiciary Committee hearing on gun control.
The two Republican congressmen asked officers to remove the Olivers from the hearing.
Frost, a vocal gun control supporter who survived a gun violence incident in 2016, told the Blade the hearing was full of “lies.”
“Folks were in town and people came out [because of my recently introduced gun bill]; glad they came to the hearing. And they sat through all of those lies,” Frost said. “And I think when you hear those lies, sometimes you just want to say something.”
The Oliver family spoke out against Fallon’s defense of guns, saying how guns were the very thing that took their son away. Fallon then insisted that they be taken out of the hearing.
Frost later said the “real story” was the fact that there were “two parents who lost their son who was in high school, because he was shot to death and died in a pool of his own blood.”
Frost, who’s vice chair of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, recently introduced a gun control bill that, according to a press release, “would bring together those most impacted by gun violence with leaders across federal agencies to advance policy, collect and report data, expand state and local outreach, and maximize existing programs and services related to preventing gun violence.”
Frost introduced the bill alongside U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.)
Frost opposes oil drilling project
The congressman also spoke about Biden’s controversial Willow Project, an oil drilling venture that will take place in Alaska. Climate activists are among those who strongly oppose the plan.
“A lot of times in life, but also a lot in politics, you have to hold multiple truths,” Frost emphasized. “And there’s a lot of truths to hold at the same time. The president approving this project is directly against, I believe his values, but also [the] campaign promises that he had made.”
The Trump administration originally approved the Willow Project in 2020, and up to 600 million barrels of oil are located in the area in which the drilling will take place.
The Biden-Harris White House felt it could not do much since Houston-based ConocoPhillips has the existing and valid leases for the area.
Even so, Frost emphasized that although the current administration is in favor of drastically cutting emissions, it also recognizes the fact that “at least for the next decade or two we’ll need a reliance on oil and fossil fuels as we transition, which is another truth.” He did stress, nonetheless, that he does not “subscribe” to the idea that society needs “more capacity to scale back emissions over the next few decades.”
“And we’re also here to tell the administration that, you know, there’s a lot more that can be done, there’s more projects pending,” Frost said. “We’d love to see them do the right thing on that. So, we’re talking with the administration directly. We’re working with organizations, especially like youth organizations, that are really thinking through the climate crisis.”
Additional reporting from Christopher Kane and Michael K. Lavers
U.S. Federal Courts
Alabama School District agrees to adopt critical LGBTQ protections
“There is no amount of money in the world that could ever replace Nigel,” said Nigel’s mother. “You can’t put a price on a child”
HUNTSVILLE, Al. – The family of Nigel Shelby, a Black, openly gay teenager who died by suicide after experiencing severe, unchecked anti-gay harassment and race discrimination while attending Alabama’s Huntsville High School, reached a settlement with the Huntsville City Board of Education, concluding the federal civil rights lawsuit brought by Shelby’s parents following his tragic death.
Nigel was 15 when he died by suicide on April 18, 2019. His parents and estate subsequently filed a federal lawsuit against the Huntsville City Board of Education and school administrator Jo Stafford for violating Nigel’s civil and constitutional rights.
Their complaint, filed in July 2021, alleged that Nigel was deprived of educational opportunities, and ultimately his life, because of deliberate indifference by the Board and Stafford to the anti-gay peer harassment Nigel was experiencing.
The lawsuit also cited a lack of adequate training to prevent and address such harassment, and school officials’ own intentional discrimination against Nigel based on his sexual orientation, nonconformance with sex-stereotypes, and race.
The settlement announced today requires the Board to implement a series of policy and training changes designed to better protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) students from sex-based harassment, including by:
- Making Title IX policy changes clarifying that sex-based discrimination includes conduct based on a person’s sexual orientation and nonconformity to gender stereotypes;
- Ensuring additional, readily accessible resources and information on how to identify and report bullying and harassment, including harassment of LGBTQ students, are available for all district students and parents;
- Implementing professional development and external training on best practices for all school administrators, faculty and other personnel who regularly interact with students or are involved in receiving or investigating bullying and harassment complaints, including harassment of LGBTQ students;
- Hiring external consultants with expertise in schools’ prevention and response to LGBTQ harassment and racism to conduct a comprehensive review of the district’s relevant policies, practices, procedures, and training; conduct climate assessments; and make recommendations for improvement;
- Conducting annual school climate surveys to identify and assess harassment and bullying in the district’s schools;
- Developing and implementing district-wide procedures for electronically recording and tracking all incidents of bullying and harassment;
- Continuing to implement a suicide prevention program for students and considering any improvements recommended by the external consultants; and
- Providing annual reports for three years to counsel for Nigel’s family showing compliance with the non-monetary terms of the settlement.
The settlement also includes $840,000 in financial compensation to the family, including damages and attorneys’ fees.
The family’s legal complaint noted that students at his school routinely subjected Nigel to anti-gay slurs and told him that he should kill himself for being gay, resulting in him never feeling safe in the school environment.
Additionally, the complaint alleges that the school’s lead administrator for the freshman class, Jo Stafford, knew about the anti-gay harassment Nigel was experiencing, and the self-harm and suicidal ideation that resulted, yet took inappropriate action to address it, instead blaming Nigel for his own harassment, saying it was the price he had to pay for being gay.
The complaint notes that Stafford also mocked Nigel’s depression, telling Nigel and a classmate dance to “black people’s music” to make Nigel feel better. Stafford never informed Nigel’s parents about the harassment or mental health crisis he was experiencing, nor did she offer Nigel any professional help.
Nigel died by suicide approximately one week after a classmate had taken Nigel to Stafford for help out of concern over Nigel’s self-harming conduct and Nigel had told Stafford how deeply upset he was over the anti-gay harassment he was experiencing.
“There is no amount of money in the world that could ever replace Nigel,” said Camika Shelby, Nigel’s mother. “You can’t put a price on a child. This lawsuit was about bringing change. It was about acknowledging that there needs to be change. It was about saving someone else’s child so that they don’t have to go through the horrible tragedy that I have. I hope this settlement will help bring about that change.”
With more than 300 anti-LGBTQ bills introduced by state lawmakers in the past year, Alabama lawmakers have sought to advance a record number of bills targeting LGBTQ rights, including passing one of the most anti-transgender legislative packages in history. Currently, Alabama joins 24 other states that don’t have laws protecting LGBTQ students from bullying on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
“We’re very pleased that Huntsville City Schools has agreed to make substantial changes to ensure that students like Nigel are protected during a time when LGBTQ students are under attack nationwide,” said Public Justice Students’ Civil Rights Project Director Adele Kimmel. “We know that LGBTQ students and students of color experience discrimination at disproportionately high rates, so it’s critical that schools take proactive steps to protect these students. By amending its Title IX policies to clarify that sex-based discrimination includes conduct based on sexual orientation and nonconformity to gender stereotypes, Huntsville is taking an important step in the right direction.”
In a press release, officials say the school board approved the agreement Tuesday.
“First and foremost, we continue to extend our thoughts and prayers to Nigel’s family, friends and school community,” Huntsville City Schools superintendent Christie Finley said. “While we understand nothing can replace the life of a student, it is our hope that the settlement will bring a sense of peace and closure for all involved.”
“All students have the right to go to school without fear of bullying and harassment for who they are,” said Joseph Wardenski, Founder & Principal of Wardenski, P.C., a civil rights law firm based in New York. “Nigel was denied that right. By bringing this lawsuit, Nigel’s parents are honoring his memory by ensuring that Huntsville will create a safer, more inclusive environment for LGBTQ+ students.”
“While Camika and Patrick lost a son, the world lost a smart, handsome, funny young person with limitless potential,” said retired district judge Martha Lynn Sherrod, who served as co-counsel. “We will not know what or who Nigel would have become, but his legacy inspires all of us to cherish, protect and advocate for our children without regard to sexual orientation. Dr. Martin Luther King said ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.’ Injustice or insensitivity aimed at the LGBTQ community affects all of us, and we must continue to work to eradicate prejudice in any form. Schools are not an exception to this rule, but must remain at the forefront to protect our children.”
Nigel’s family is represented by Adele Kimmel, Alexandra Brodsky, and Mollie Berkowitz of Public Justice; Joseph Wardenski of Wardenski P.C.; and M. Lynn Sherrod and Kenneth B. Cole, Jr. of Conchin, Cole, Jordan & Sherrod.
8 in 10 Americans support LGBTQ rights at odds with state assaults
10 percent of Americans identify as LGBTQ (3 percent gay or lesbian, 4 percent bisexual and 2 percent as something other
WASHINGTON – A new national survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute revealed reassuring findings that Americans of almost all religions and no religion are growing ever more supportive of LGBTQ rights.
For instance, eight in 10 Americans (80 percent) in the Public Religion Research Institute survey support laws against discrimination in jobs, public accommodations and housing against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
Even 62 percent of white evangelical Protestants, tied with Hispanic Protestants, favor such nondiscrimination laws. Jehovah’s Witnesses were at the bottom of the barrel, yet half support nondiscrimination protections.
Interestingly, in states showing the lowest level of support for nondiscrimination (Alabama, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota), two-thirds of state citizens themselves are against such discrimination, showing that state legislatures are not keeping up with demographics. (Scroll to Figure 5 to see where your state falls on this issue.)
In what seems contradictory, given widespread disapproval of discrimination by places of public accommodation, Americans are slightly less supportive of LGBTQ rights when it comes to a business owner refusing to serve LGBTQ individuals.
This is a hot-button issue — with a case, 303 Creative, involving such discrimination by a website designer awaiting a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. Nevertheless, nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of Americans oppose permitting businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ customers on religious grounds.
Those most willing to discriminate are Mormons (only 46 percent oppose such discrimination) and white Protestants (only 37 percent support LGBTQ rights to service). The political parties are polarized over this question, with nearly nine-in-10 Democrats and about two-thirds of independents opposing religiously based refusals, but 57 percent of Republicans supporting them.
The 2015 Obergell v. Hodges Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage is threatened by the current extremist-majority Supreme Court, making the survey’s findings on marriage equality very timely. On this subject as well, the institute similarly found that overall, 68 percent of Americans support same-sex marriage. In fact, support for same-sex marriage is steadily increasing in the United States, up from 58 percent in 2016 to 69 percent today.
Once again, white evangelical Protestants are the odd ones out, with only about a third (38 percent) supporting marriage equality. Even so, support is growing among their ranks. In 2014, only a quarter of Mormons supported same-sex marriage, but today half do.
The survey found that Hispanic Protestants, white evangelical Protestants and Jehovah’s Witnesses show lowest support for marriage equality, with 43 percent, 38 percent and 19 percent respectively supporting it.
Meanwhile, the religiously unaffiliated show the greatest acceptance, with nine in 10 in favor of marriage equality. Support for same-sex marriage from white mainline Protestants and white Catholics has risen from about two-thirds to three-fourths.
Of note, while 10 percent of Americans identify as LGBTQ (3 percent gay or lesbian, 4 percent bisexual and 2 percent as something other), they are twice as likely as the general population to identify as religiously unaffiliated. The institute identifies 26 percent of the general population as unaffiliated, but 50 percent of LGBTQ are in that category. About two-in-10 non-Christians (including Unitarian Universalists, religiously unaffiliated, Buddhists, Jews, Muslims, Hindus and other non-Christians) identify as LGBTQ.
LGBTQ Americans are twice as likely to belong to Generation Z, with almost half of them under age 30. Although whites make up the majority of the LGBTQ community, LGBTQ individuals are less likely to be white than the population at large. And LGBTQ Americans are six times as likely to identify as Democrats than as Republicans.
The Public Religion Research Institute found that attitudes toward structural racism correlate closely with attitudes toward LGBTQ rights. “Americans who strongly favor protections for LGBTQ people score lower on the Structural Racism Index,” it says.
Similarly, Christian nationalism adherents are about five times as likely as Christian nationalism rejecters to support allowing religiously based service refusals. Americans who agree that in truly Christian households women must submit to a man’s leadership are (no surprise) about twice as likely to favor allowing religiously based service refusals as those who disagree with this idea (49 percent vs. 25 percent).
“These findings are extremely eye-opening in combating those religiously motivated state legislators, governors and members of Congress who are eager to take us back to the bad old days of closets and rampant homophobia,” says Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president. “The religiously diverse American people have spoken — and huge majorities of us support LGBTQ rights.”
PRRI (Public Religion Research Institute) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to conducting independent research at the intersection of religion, culture, and public policy.
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