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Trump’s voter-data collection efforts could be disastrous for LGBT voters

LGBT people are still haunted by archaic, criminalizing laws

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Alex Padilla is the Secretary of State for California. (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla was among the first secretaries of state in the country to refuse to comply with the Trump administration’s demand to turn over voter data to the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. The commission, headed by Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Sec. of State Kris Kobach, was created by President Trump after he narrowly won the Electoral College but lost the popular vote to former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton because, he claims, “between 3 million and 5 million” votes were cast illegally—an assertion for which Trump provided no evidence and which has been repeatedly discredited.

In a June 28 letter sent to the nation’s secretaries of states, Kobach asked for voter roll data, “including, if publicly available under the laws of your state, the full first and last names of all registrants, middle names or initials if available, addresses, dates of birth, political party (if recorded in your state), last four digits of social security number if available, voter history (elections voted in) from 2006 onward, active/inactive status, cancelled status, information regarding any felony convictions, information regarding voter registration in another state, information regarding military status, and overseas citizen information.”

So far, 45 states and the District of Columbia say they are unwilling or unable to provide all the information requested by the Voter Fraud commission.

But even the release of publicly available information could be disastrous and terrifying for LGBT voters. Would name-change requests by transgender voters be considered voter fraud by biased, over-eager commission staffers? Would uncorrected dishonorable discharges under the gay military ban and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell result in an LGBT voter being deemed unworthy to vote and be scrubbed from the rolls? Anti-gay sodomy laws were overturned in Texas and 14 other states under Lawrence v. Texas in 2003, but some states still have anti-sodomy laws on the books. Additionally, now-archaic anti-gay laws were often handled by biased prosecutors as felonious sex offenses that landed the accused on the sex offender registry, a lifelong stain.

In many states, a person convicted of a felony is prohibited from voting.

Even California has some cleaning up to do: being HIV positive and having unprotected sex without telling your partner your status is still a felony in California, despite taking medications and having an undetectable viral load. And there are still gay men on the sex offender registry convicted of felonies when homosexuality was a crime. Two bills to correct these issues by out state Sen. Scott Wiener and Equality California passed the Senate and are making their way through the Assembly.

One of the reasons cited by Padilla as part of his principled stance against the commission’s request is the susceptibility of the massive data collection to hackers, not just Russian or Chinese but scam artists and blackmailers, the fear of which could result in suppression LGBT voters from registering and turning out to vote.

In response to a recent Trump tweet complaining about states balking—“What are they trying to hide?”—Padilla was forceful.

“I’m not trying to hide – I’m trying to protect,” Padilla, the co-chair of the national secretaries of state’ elections committee, which is meeting in Indianapolis on Thursday, told POLITICO on Wednesday.  ‘I’m trying to protect people’s privacy and their personal information, and the integrity of the election,” he said, calling the request “a hacker’s dream come true.”

“One of the main points of why we’re safe now is because the elections are very decentralized. Right now, there is no nationalized centralized voter registration database,” Padilla told Politico. The administration’s request makes clear that what it is proposing is “not a secure site … and their plan was to make all the information publicly available.”

“So at a minimum, it’s a gift to anyone who wants to wreak havoc on the elections,” Padilla said. “If you want to do Vladimir Putin a favor, put it all in one location.”

In addition to his ‘Just Say No’ posture toward the Trump administration’s voter suppression efforts, Padilla has been touting his plans to enhance voter participation, especially approaching the incredibly important 2018 mid-term elections. But, the Los Angeles Blade asked Padilla at a recent Stonewall Democratic Club meeting in West Hollywood, how could any voter trust the voting process these days, with both left and right claiming the “system is rigged?”

“I’m hopeful and optimistic,” Padilla told the Blade. “If you recall, it was as early as last year, August, when Donald Trump started stoking the fears of the potential for the election to be rigged. And we didn’t know who he was referring to—he probably had inside information.

“But we had record turnout in California, record voter registration and record turnout so that attempt didn’t work,” Padilla said. “But as time goes on, as he continues and others continue to allege that there’s voter fraud, massive voter fraud, millions of illegal votes, my big concern is two fold: that it gets into people minds that maybe it won’t matter so why should I turn out the next time. That’s voter suppression 101. Number two—that in future elections, they’re creating an environment for elections for both Congress and the president where they can roll back the clock on voters rights, as I see it—change the law, change policies, change how we conduct elections that has the net effects of making it more difficult for people who are eligible to register and to vote. And that, frankly, is just un-American, un-democratic.”

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U.S. Federal Courts

Senator Wiener’s Net Neutrality law is upheld by Federal appeals court

Supporters of the California law were enthusiastic over the 9th Circuit’s decision including the current Chair of the FCC

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Los Angeles Blade graphic

SAN FRANCISCO – In a unanimous decision Friday, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit published a ruling upholding SB 822, California’s Net Neutrality law. Out State Senator Scott Wiener, (D-SF) authored SB 822 in 2018, and Governor Jerry Brown signed it into law. It has undergone multiple legal attacks from the telecom and cable industries and from the Trump Administration. 

“Today marks a huge win for a free and open internet. California’s Net Neutrality law was enacted in 2018, and remains the strongest in the nation. This is a victory for everyone who uses the internet – who needs it for work, school, or simply connecting with family and friends. Given the importance of the internet in our society – now more than ever – this is a landmark day for our state,” Wiener said in a statement released by his office.

During oral arguments from the telecom and cable industries before a panel of the 9th Circuit, their lawyers appealed a decision from February of 2021 where a U.S. District Court judge denied their request to issue a preliminary injunction against the law.

Tech reporter Andrew Wyrich writing for The Daily Dot noted at the time:

A federal judge denied a request by groups representing internet service providers (ISPs) on Tuesday to issue a preliminary injunction against California’s net neutrality law.

Lawyers for both California and the trade groups went back-and-forth before Judge John A. Mendez on Tuesday, arguing both for and against the state’s law, which has been hailed as the “gold standard” for states to follow because it goes further than the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) 2015 Open Internet Order, which established net neutrality rules.

While the Department of Justice (DOJ) withdrew from its lawsuit challenging California’s law earlier in February, the trade groups continued its lawsuit. The DOJ filed a lawsuit against California over the law in 2018 during the Trump administration.

Supporters of the California law were enthusiastic over the 9th Circuit’s decision including the current Chair of the Federal Communications Commission, Jessica Rosenworcel, who tweeted; “When the last Administration rolled back #NetNeutrality rules, states stepped into the void and put in place their own policies. Today the 9th Circuit upholds California’s effort. It’s good news. I support Net Neutrality and we need once again to make it the law of the land.”

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Florida

Florida school district removes 16 books after complaints

The decision came after the County Citizens Defending Freedom, an ultra-conservative, Christian group, complained about the book

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Screenshot via WFLA NBC 8 Tampa

BARTOW, Fl. – Polk County Public Schools (PCPS) Superintendent Frederick Heid asked middle and high schools in the Florida county to remove 16 books, many of which deal with LGBTQ themes or racism, from libraries after a conservative political group complained that they contained pornographic materials. 

The Lakeland Ledger reported that Heid sent an email Monday to middle and high school principals and librarians that said a “stakeholder group” alleged that the books violate a Florida law banning the distribution of obscene or harmful materials to children. 

“While it is not the role of my office to approve/evaluate instructional or resource materials at that level, I do have an obligation to review any allegation that a crime is being or has been committed,” Heid wrote. “It is also my obligation to provide safeguards to protect our employees. The district will be taking the following steps to ensure that we address this issue honestly, fairly, and transparently.” 

In an email, PCPS spokesperson Jason Geary said the books had been placed “in quarantine,” according to the newspaper. 

“It is important to note that these 16 books have NOT been censored or banned at this time,” he said. “They have been removed so a thorough, thoughtful review of their content can take place.” 

Geary added that the “process is traditionally done at the individual school level. However, copies of some of the named titles are currently housed in multiple secondary school media centers, so this review will be conducted at the district level. It is important to note that these books will not be available during this period of review.”

The decision comes after the County Citizens Defending Freedom (CCDF-USA), an ultra-conservative, Christain group, complained to Heid about the books. 

“CCDF-USA believes the content within the pages of these books is not appropriate for distribution to minors, especially in a public-school library,” read a statement from the group responding to articles by the Ledger and LkldNow

As listed by the Ledger, the books are: 

“Two Boys Kissing” by David Levithan

“The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini 

“Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” by Jonathan Safran Foer 

 “Thirteen Reasons Why” by Jay Asher 

“The Vincent Boys” by Abbi Glines 

“It’s Perfectly Normal” by Robie Harris and illustrated by Michael Emberley

“Real Live Boyfriends” by E. Lockhart 

 “George” by Alex Gino 

“I am Jazz” by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings

“Drama” by Raina Telgemeier

“Nineteen Minutes” by Jodi Picoult

“More Happy Than Not” by Adam Silvera

“Beloved” by Toni Morrison 

“The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison 

“Tricks” by Ellen Hopkins

“Almost Perfect” by Brian Katcher

Many of the above books – including “I am Jazz,” “Two Boys Kissing” and “It’s Perfectly Normal” – deal with LGBTQ themes and characters. In addition, Toni Morrison, included twice on the list, is a world-renowned author whose award-winning books deal with racism. 

In its statement, the CCDF-USA acknowledged that the books “have been written by award-winning authors and produced by renowned publishers.” However, “the issue at hand is the content of the books in question describing in graphic detail several sensitive topics including sexual assault, rape, failure to address mental illness as a cause of suicide, racism, incest, child molestation, offensive language, sexually explicit material, bestiality, necrophilia, infanticide, and violence,” the group wrote. 

The news comes as Florida’s state legislature is pushing through a bill that critics say would simply empower homophobic parents to challenge reading materials that contain affirming LGBTQ+ characters or content.

“The authoritarian march toward DeSantis’ Surveillance State of Florida continues as GOP leaders hijack an unrelated bill to try and force costly book banning onto Floridians,” Equality Florida Press Secretary Brandon J. Wolf told the Blade in an email. “We should be using state funding to fill our public schools’ bookshelves with resources to expand the knowledge and wonder of our youth, not emptying them out through government censorship.”

Conservatives across the country are attempting to ban books in schools that deal with LGBTQ issues and racism. 

Last December, the American Library Association (ALA) announced that it had documented 155 separate incidents of efforts to remove or ban books by or about LGBTQ+ and Black people since June 2021.

The ALA noted that the groups and people trying to ban such books “falsely [claim] that these works are subversive, immoral, or worse, these groups induce elected and non-elected officials to abandon constitutional principles, ignore the rule of law, and disregard individual rights to promote government censorship of library collections.”

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Indiana

Indiana anti-Trans sports bill passes House

If passed Indiana would become the 11th state to ban Trans students from playing sports in accordance with their gender identity

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Indiana State Capitol building (Photo Credit: Library of Congress)

INDIANAPOLIS – Lawmakers in Indiana’s House voted Thursday to advance a bill that would ban Trans women and girls from participating in K-12 school sports that align with their gender identity. 

House Bill 1041, which passed the Republican-dominated House by a 66-30 vote, takes aim at Trans women and girls but does not prevent trans men from playing on men’s sports teams. 

Initially, the bill would have also banned trans women from playing sports at a collegiate level, but a Monday amendment took out language regarding post-secondary institutions. 

The legislation now heads to the state Senate, which is also controlled by conservatives. 

The bill cleared the House Thursday, even as Democratic lawmakers and LGBTQ+ advocates in the state denounced the measure as unconstitutional and transphobic. 

“This bill is not only unconstitutional, it sends a cruel message to vulnerable trans kids that they are not welcome or accepted in their communities,” tweeted the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Indiana, adding that it “will continue to fight every day to ensure this discriminatory ban never sees the light of day.”

Indiana Democrats made similar arguments during Thursday’s brief debate on the bill, adding that the Indiana High School Athletic Association already has a policy in place surrounding trans participation in sports. The rules require that Trans girls complete “a minimum of one year of hormone treatment related to gender transition” or undergo “a medically confirmed gender reassignment procedure.”

“When we pass laws on issues like this, we are usually trying to put an end to discrimination,” said state Rep. Tonya Pfaff (D-43). “This law puts discrimination into Indiana law.”

State Rep. Matt Pierce (D-61) contended that the proposal was a waste of time and that Republicans were hypocritical for believing in small government and introducing this legislation. “Well, what are you doing with this bill?” he asked his colleagues. 

Proponents of the bill argue it is about “protecting” the integrity in women’s sports, seeing Trans people as having an “unfair” advantage over cisgender peers. 

“I know from experience that female athletes deserve fair competition and an even playing field, and this bill ensures just that — a fair opportunity,” said state Rep. Michelle Davis (R-58), who authored the legislation. 

The Associated Press reported that Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray (R-37) said Republican senators hadn’t yet discussed whether they would take up the House proposal. 

“It’s a fairness for young ladies who are trying to compete and, at least to some folks, it doesn’t feel fair if you allow somebody who at least started out as a male to go in and compete with them in the same sport, so that’s an issue that has some folks’ interest over here,” he said.

If passed, Indiana would become the 11th state in the country to ban Trans students from playing sports in accordance with their gender identity. However, the Movement Advancement project notes that temporary injunctions block enforcement of such bans in two states: Idaho and West Virginia. 

The ACLU of Indiana has maintained that it will file a lawsuit if the bill is signed into law.

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