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Prominent Jamaican bishop backs sodomy law repeal

Howard Gregory heads country’s Anglican Church

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Bishop Howard Gregory (Screen capture courtesy YouTube)

A prominent Jamaican bishop has called for the repeal of his country’s law that criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual relations.

The Jamaica Gleaner on Sunday reported Bishop Howard Gregory, who is the head of the Anglican Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, expressed his personal opposition to the colonial-era statute in a letter he sent to a parliamentary committee that is studying the issue.

“Sexual activity engaged in public spaces is illegal and should continue to be so, whether of an heterosexual or homosexual nature,” wrote Gregory, according to the Jamaica Gleaner. “Beyond that, what happens in privacy between consenting adults should be beyond the purview of the government.”

The Jamaica Gleaner also reported Gregory wrote the Jamaican government should not hold a referendum on whether to repeal the law.

Section 76 of Jamaica’s Offenses Against the Person Act of 1864 imposes a prison sentence of up to 10 years of hard labor against anyone who is convicted of “the abominable crime of buggery, committed either with mankind or with any animal.”

The Jamaica Gleaner reported Prime Minister Andrew Holness said before his Jamaica Labor Party won last year’s general election that he would call a referendum on the sodomy law.

Maurice Tomlinson, a gay lawyer who lives in the resort city of Montego Bay and Toronto, alleges in a 2015 lawsuit the law violates the right to privacy and other provisions of the Jamaican constitution. Javed Jaghai in 2013 filed a separate lawsuit against the statute with the Jamaican Supreme Court, but withdrew it the following year because of what he described as concerns for his safety and that of his family.

A pastor who spoke with the Jamaica Gleaner described Gregory’s position on the sodomy law as “sad.” Mat Staver, chair of the Liberty Counsel, is among those from the U.S. who have traveled to Jamaica in recent years in order to attend events organized by groups that oppose efforts to repeal the law.

Glenroy Murray, policy and advocacy manager of J-FLAG, a Jamaican LGBT and intersex advocacy group, welcomed Gregory’s position.

“It is always a welcome sight when we see members of the clergy show support for human rights protection, given their general sphere of influence,” Murray told the Los Angeles Blade on Monday in a statement. “While Bishop Gregory is not the first clergyman to take such a position, his position as head of the Anglican Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands gives him a wider platform from which to air his views.”

Murray added Gregory made his arguments against the law from a “rights-based approach rather than the popular religious-themed ones.”

“We hope that more religious leaders and clergymen will, given the diverse communities they serve, recognize that the state has a responsibility to secure the rights of all Jamaicans regardless of the prevailing moral persuasion of members of the wider population,” Murray told the Blade. “Governance should be grounded in rights protection rather than appealing to the moral leanings of the masses.”

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U.S. Federal Courts

Federal appeals court hears oral arguments in SAFE Act appeal

As of last November, similar laws had been enacted in 22 states, and legal challenges have been mounted in several of them

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The Thomas F. Eagleton U.S. Courthouse in St. Louis. (Rebecca Rivas/Missouri Independent).

By Debra Chandler Landis | SAINT LOUIS, Mo. – Federal appeals court judges here on Thursday heard legal counsel for the national ACLU and the U.S. Department of Justice argue that transgender minors have a constitutional right to gender-affirming care, while Arkansas’ deputy solicitor general said a state law prohibiting such care was in the best interest of youth and not discriminatory.

At issue is the 2021 Save Adolescents from Experimentation (SAFE) Act, which bans physicians from providing gender transition treatments like hormones, puberty blockers and sex reassignment surgeries to individuals under age 18.

Four Arkansas families and two physicians, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, challenged the SAFE Act in federal court, where U.S. District Judge James Moody struck down the law in June 2023, saying, among other things, that the SAFE Act discriminated against transgender people and violated the U.S. Constitution’s First and Fourteenth Amendments. 

Arkansas Deputy Solicitor General Dylan Jacobs
 Arkansas Deputy Solicitor General Dylan Jacobs (second from left) and Senior Assistant Attorney General Amanda Land (third from left) leave the federal courthouse in Little Rock after the conclusion of the trial over Arkansas’ ban on gender-affirming care for minors in December. (John Sykes/Arkansas Advocate)

Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin appealed that decision in July 2023 to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The state has argued there is no scientific evidence that children benefit from gender-affirming care and that the consequences can be harmful and often permanent for them.

Asked by the appeals judges whether the state law would ban health care providers from prescribing testosterone for conditions other than gender-affirming care treatment, Dylan Jacobs, Arkansas deputy solicitor general, said, “The statute does not prohibit that. The legislature wasn’t saying it has problems with testosterone.”

Regarding the district court’s ruling to strike down the ban on transgender care in Arkansas, Jacobs said “there are certainly risks, including sterilization” in the treatment, and noted it was not up to the district court to impose its own policy judgments.

ACLU attorney Chase Strangio, deputy director for the organization’s LGBTQ & HIV Project, told the appeals court Thursday they should uphold Moody’s ruling, noting, in part, that the state law undermines constitutional guarantees of equal protection and “supplants the judgment of parents and their abilities to determine medical care.”

Griffin has said his office “is fighting to protect our state’s children from dangerous medical experimentation. Moody, in his 80-page ruling striking the Arkansas law, affirmed the testimony of medical experts who said in their testimony for the plaintiffs that gender-affirming care is safe for minors. 

The State of Arkansas, Moody wrote, “failed to prove that its interests in the safety of Arkansas adolescents from gender transitioning procedures or the medical community’s ethical decline are compelling, genuine, or even rational.”

In 2021, a letter from the American Medical Association to the National Governors Association referenced the Arkansas SAFE Act and said, in part: “Arkansas recently enacted SAFE Act and similar bills pending in several other states would insert the government into clinical decision-making and force physicians to disregard clinical guidelines.” 

Gender-affirming care for minors, the AMA said, “must be sensitive to the child’s clinical situation, nurture the child’s short and long-term development, and balance the need to preserve the child’s opportunity to make important life choices autonomously in the future.”

The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals did not indicate when it might rule on the Arkansas law.

As of last November, similar laws had been enacted in 22 states, and legal challenges have been mounted in several of them. The U.S. Supreme Court has not yet taken up any of those cases.

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Debra Chandler Landis is a freelance journalist and retired University of Illinois Springfield college media adviser. She currently lives in St. Louis.

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The preceding article was previously published by The Arkansas Advocate and is republished with permission.

The Arkansas Advocate is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization dedicated to tough, fair daily reporting and investigative journalism that holds public officials accountable and focuses on the relationship between the lives of Arkansans and public policy. This service is free to readers and other news outlets.

We’re part of States Newsroom, the nation’s largest state-focused nonprofit news organization.

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Political commentary & analysis

The Cass Review heralds how all trans medicine will die

In effect, the study research completely blew off the input of the people most affected by access to treatment

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UK Pediatrician Dr. Hilary Cass. (Screenshot/YouTube The Times and The Sunday Times)

By Brynn Tannehill | FAIRFAX, Va. – This past week, the Cass literature review for the UK’s National Health Service for transgender youth was completed after four years in development. Although touted as independent, it was anything but. Dr. Hillary Cass consulted with far-right religious anti-trans activists like Patrick Hunter, and took cues on how to ban trans health care from Florida’s rigged process. 

The results were predictable: it effectively recommends banning transition related care for anyone under the age of 25. Because of backlogs in the NHS system, this means that transgender people cannot even begin applying for care until they are 25 and will likely have to wait until they are 35, even if they have had a transgender identity since an early age. It also recommends a ban on social transitions, and any sort of social affirmation.

It arrived at these conclusions by disregaringd any studies deemed “low quality”—that is, any study that wasn’t a randomized control trial and wasn’t double-0blinded. This sets an impossible standard: you cannot double blind a study where both the patient and the doctor will notice the physiological changes that come with taking the drug (or getting the surgery). The Cass review also failed to include their own findings that none of the approximately patients reviewed were unhappy with the treatments, and only 8 detransitioned.

In effect, they completely blew off the input of the people most affected by access to treatment.

It’s also very difficult to get an randomized control trial study approved for youth, if the available evidence says a lack of treatment is likely to increase the risk of suicide. No IRB will sign off on something that is likely to turn into an LD50 study (kills half (50%) of the test subjects exposed to it). 

Using this method, the Cass review was able to exclude well over a hundred studies on transgender youth health care and declare that there was no evidence supporting affirming care. It then recommended a “treatment” for which there is no evidence (talk therapy for 20 years, and hoping it goes away before the patient unalives themselves). 

Sound like conversion therapy? Yes, that’s basically what it is. Hard stop.

You might think, “Oh, this is just the United Kingdom,” and that it doesn’t affect you. But it does. We have concrete evidence that Cass was coordinating with Ron DeSantis appointees, who in turn were selected for their religious fervor and connections with anti-LGBT hate groups in the US like the Alliance Defending Freedom. The Cass review illustrates how they are planning to end access to transgender health care for all adults in the US.

Basically, the process is to get a decision-making body (like the FDA) to commission a “review” of the evidence for health care for trans adults. The reviewers will be people who already know the outcome they want and who are only interested in p-hacking their way to a non-conclusion. The formula looks like this:

  • Do a lit review.
  • Find filters that excludes all of the evidence in support of health care for trans people (i.e. requiring RCT and double-blind for inclusion).
  • Declare that there is no evidence for transition related care.
  • Recommend “neutral” interventions like talk therapy, when there’s no evidence this works.
  • The FDA or state medical boards use the phony lit review to justify bans on the use of any off-label treatments for gender dysphoria, along with any gender confirmation surgeries.

With the death of Roe v. Wade, this is entirely legal. SCOTUS won’t stop it; they’re likely to uphold the decision-making authority of supposedly neutral medical authorities, and the lit reviews commissioned by them. If Trump is elected, this will happen nation-wide. If he isn’t, we’re going to see roughly 25 states eventually ban health care for trans adults the way they did  to trans youth. 

related

The mass migration of trans people will become a stampede. They will flee either to blue states or seek asylum elsewhere. Transgender people will go back to the bad old days of self-medication, buying drugs from Vanuatu, and back-alley orchiectomies. The trans community won’t disappear merely because of this, but it’s part of the overall plan to “eradicate transgenderism” in the United States. Between banning access to care, making it a crime to appear in public dressed in accordance with your gender identity, mandating conversion therapy, de-recognizing transgender people and invalidating their IDs, kicking them out of the military, revoking their clearances, segregating them from the population by banning them from public places, and Trump promising internment camps capable of “processing” millions of people (including political enemies), the strategy for how the trans community in the US could be disappeared like it’s 1942 is coming into extremely sharp focus.

It won’t happen all at once. But the Cass review shows us how they plan on justifying the initial rules and regulations with the goal of making trans people flee, because most of the tuned-in trans will see the writing on the wall. The Cass review fulfills the same role as race science: it’s meant to justify the horrors that come next.

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Brynn Tannehill is a senior analyst at a Washington D.C. area think-tank, and is the author of “American Fascism: How the GOP is Subverting Democracy.”

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New Hampshire

New Hampshire Senate tables anti-trans bill

“We hope that they will uphold the same rights when they vote on HB 396, a bill that would also allow discrimination”

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The State House, located in Concord houses the General Court, Governor, Senate, & House. (Photo Credit: State of New Hampshire)

CONCORD, NH – The New Hampshire State Senate last week unanimously voted to table a bill that would have rolled back some of the nondiscrimination protections that outlaw discrimination against transgender people in public spaces. This effectively stops the bill from moving forward. 

The bill, SB 562, would have rolled back key provisions of the 2018 law against discrimination that was updated to include transgender people and promoting the exclusion of transgender people from sports including recreational leagues, as well as restrooms. SB 562 would also subject transgender people to carceral settings where they would be more likely to face violence on the basis of their gender identity. 

“In 2018, I was proud to have managed the campaign that made New Hampshire the first-ever state to pass nondiscrimination protections for transgender people in public spaces,” said Linds Jakows, founder of 603 Equality. “Today, the NH State Senate rightly took a stand against discrimination in voting down SB 562. But it’s not over yet – they must again say no to discrimination when HB 396, which is nearly identical to SB 562, comes to the State Senate floor for a vote.” 

“In 2019 Governor Sununu signed a law that extended New Hampshire’s transgender-inclusive nondiscrimination protections to public schools, bolstering the rights that all public school students have to equal educational opportunities,” said Sarah Robinson, Education Justice Campaign Director with Granite State Progress. “All students, including those who are transgender, must be treated with dignity and respect as they are in order to have a safe learning environment. We thank the NH State Senate for standing up for that right today, and expect them to do the same when they vote on HB 396.”

“NH has a long and proud tradition of creating communities where every child can thrive,” said Heidi Carrington Heath, Executive Director of Seacoast Outright. “LGBTQ+ youth deserve safe schools, healthy communities, and opportunities for joy and participation just like their peers. We are thankful that today the NH State Senate stood up for their right to live free, and be fully who they are at home, at school, and every space in between. That is what it means to build a brighter future where everyone is understood, valued, and protected.”

“In 2018, a strong bipartisan majority passed a law signed by Governor Sununu to protect transgender Granite Staters from discrimination. Today, the Senate rejected a cruel bill that would have written discrimination into the law,” said Chris Erchull, Attorney at GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders. “This vote affirms the New Hampshire value that everyone deserves the same opportunity to live their lives on fair terms, free from discrimination. I hope the Senate will take the same stand when they vote on a nearly identical bill, HB 396.”

“NH has protected the rights of all of its residents in the past and despite multiple threats to those rights this legislative session, we are grateful to see the NH State Senate uphold those rights by voting against SB 562,” said Grace Murray, Political Director of NH Youth Movement. “We hope that they will take the same stance and uphold the same rights when they vote on HB 396, a bill that would also allow discrimination against trans people. No person should be discriminated against based on who they are.”

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Political commentary & analysis

EU elections, empowering queer women & need for safe spaces

It’s not only a matter of choice to preserve; it is a commitment to a world where everyone has the right to be safe, heard & celebrated

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The European Parliament is one of the legislative bodies of the European Union and one of its seven institutions. Its headquarters is located in Strasbourg, France. (Photo Credit: Press & Media Relations, EU Parliament)

By Amber Laenen | WASHINGTON – As the European Union anticipates the upcoming elections in June, a disconcerting wave of transphobic rhetoric has swept across the continent, notably in 21 EU member states, according to a recent report by ILGA-Europe.

The 13th Annual Review of the Human Rights Situation of LGBTQ People in Europe and Central Asia stresses the alarming rise in hate speech targeting the LGBTQ and intersex community. This growth in negativity — which particularly is directed at transgender people — raises profound concerns about the state of inclusivity, human rights and democracy within the EU. 

The alarming surge of transphobia in European politics

According to the report, there is a trend of hate speech coming  from politicians across 32 European countries of which 21 being EU member states. Painting a stark picture of the challenges faced by the LGBTQ community. In a staggering list that includes Austria, Germany, Spain and others, politicians have increasingly weaponized anti-trans rhetoric. Exploiting children is a tactic often used as part of scare strategies to create opposition to trans minors’ access to healthcare and educational facilities, extending this divisive approach to a broader trend where politicians argue that restricting information about LGBTQ people is a necessity to protect minors.

The Hungarian Parliament in Budapest, Hungary, on April 4, 2024. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his government over the last decade has cracked down on LGBTQ rights in the country. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The rise in transphobic rhetoric is not only confined to politics but it has other tangible consequences. The report highlights a concerning escalation in suicide rates and mental health issues, particularly in LGBTQ youth. Violent protests outside schools and libraries have created unsafe environments, adding to the growing list of challenges faced by the community.

The far-reaching impact of demonization by politicians and the introduction of restrictive legislation underscores the need for urgent action. Hate speech is not merely an affront to people’s rights, it is an assault on the very core values upon which the EU was founded. As ILGA-Europe Advocacy Director Katrin Hugendubel notes, human rights, especially those of LGBTQ people, are facing a significant challenge from far-right forces. The exploitation of LGBTQ rights to undermine democracy, human rights and the rule of law highlights the divisive nature of the current political landscape. 

As ILGA-Europe prepares to launch the “Come Out 4 Europe” campaign in response to these alarming trends, the need for visible and supportive queer female spaces is more apparent than ever. The campaign, seeking commitments from European Parliament candidates to protect the rights of LGBTQ people, underscores the urgency of safeguarding human rights, democracy and freedom. 

The crucial role of queer women in European elections

Belgium, amid this backdrop of rising transphobia, is preparing for the European elections on June 9, 2024. The importance of this electoral process cannot be overstated, especially for queer women. With citizens aged 16 and above casting their votes to elect 22 members of the European Parliament (MEPs), it’s a pivotal moment for the LGBTQ community.

The voting process in Belgium follows EU law, utilizing a proportional representation system. Voters choose one party, either by marking the box above the party list or selecting individual candidates on the list. The total ballot forms for each party determine seat distribution, and preferential votes then decide which candidates secure a seat in the European Parliament.

Educated voting in the European elections is essential to queer women and the importance cannot be stressed enough. Throughout history they have faced unique battles, but this community holds the power to shape policies that directly influence their lives. By engaging in the democratic process, queer women can actively challenge the current surge in hate speech towards trans people by voting for electing representatives who actively advocate for LGBTQ rights. 

Representation is more than a mere buzzword. It matters. Understanding candidates’ positions on LGBTQ issues is key and requires educating oneself on candidates’ stances as to allow queer women to vote for representatives who genuinely champion LGBTQ rights. A diverse and inclusive representation ensures that the concerns and voices of the queer community are not just heard but which are acted upon. Decisions within the European Parliament influence policies ranging from anti-discrimination laws to access to healthcare. An informed vote makes sure that legislation promotes equality, acceptance and the protection of LGBTQ rights.

By being educated on the European elections and its candidates, queer women embark on a journey of self-empowerment. By supporting candidates who prioritize inclusive curricula, they contribute to addressing LGBTQ history, health and rights, encouraging a more accepting future.

The undeniable need for physical queer women spaces

Since the European elections are nearing, the importance of physical spaces for queer women to gather and discuss voting and the candidates becomes increasingly evident. While online spaces offer the chance to connect and discuss, they come with their own unique challenges, including the spread of misinformation and miscommunication. In navigating the democratic landscape, the value of in-person gatherings for education and discussion cannot be stressed enough.

The world is saturated with digital information, and misinformation can easily infiltrate online spaces. Physical gatherings allow for a more controlled environment with direct feedback from peers, where queer women can share accurate and reliable information, ensuring a more nuanced understanding of candidates, policies and the electoral process. 

In the lead-up to the European elections, we have to recognize that physical spaces for queer women are crucial. They do not only combat misinformation, disinformation and miscommunication but also serve as a vital space for shared learning. In-person gatherings create the foundation for an informed and engaged electorate, promoting a collective voice that resonates in the democratic process. The power of change lies not just in our votes but in the shared wisdom and unity forged in the physical spaces we create together.

The plight of the Crazy Circle and the call for investment in queer women spaces

After the closing of Brussels’ iconic Crazy Circle, a feminist queer space that has served as a safe haven for the LGBTQ community, it becomes increasingly evident that the struggle for queer women-only spaces in Belgium is a critical issue demanding our attention.

For the past five years, Crazy Circle has been a testament to the resilience of the LGBTQ community, creating a safe and celebratory space for queer women and their allies. However, its closure after the previous management leaving for unknown reasons and current fundraising attempt by the new owners to reopen highlight the challenges faced by such spaces in Belgium. These establishments play a vital role not only as social hubs but as catalysts for education, empowerment and advocacy. Fortunately for the new owners they recently reached their fundraising goals and raised over 50,000 euros to reopen Crazy Circle. 

The loss of a space like this underscores the broader struggle faced by queer women-only spaces in Belgium. Beyond being social hubs, these spaces are vital agents of change, providing a haven for education, empowerment and advocacy. We must recognize that our commitment to the LGBTQ community extends beyond words.

The “Come Out 4 Europe” campaign by ILGA-Europe serves as a proactive response to the alarming trends in hate speech. It calls for clear political commitments on safeguarding human rights, democracy and freedom from candidates in the upcoming European Parliament elections in June. Belgium, with its own elections on the horizon, stands at a crossroads where the choices made will resonate far beyond its borders.

If we want to inform queer females about campaigns like “Come Out 4 Europe” we need spaces like the Crazy Circle. Its closure is a stark reminder of the fragility of these vital spaces. It’s a call to action, urging us to invest more in preserving and expanding queer women-only spaces. The struggle faced by Crazy Circle is not an isolated incident; it reflects a broader challenge that demands a collective response all over the world. 

By fighting to preserve and expand queer women-only spaces, we are not merely safeguarding physical venues. We are investing in the education, empowerment and advocacy of the LGBTQ community. These spaces are not mere bars or gathering spots; they are crucial agents of change and empowerment.

Building a future of inclusivity

As we see what happened to Crazy Circle in Belgium, let us use this moment as a catalyst for change. It is time to rally together behind existing queer women spaces, ensuring their survival and actively working towards expanding and creating new ones. By doing so we empower individuals to educate, advocate, and, most importantly, vote for a future where safety, equality and acceptance prevail for all members of the LGBTQ community. It’s not only a matter of choice to preserve these spaces; it is a commitment to a world where everyone has the right to be safe, heard and celebrated. 

In navigating the complex tapestry of the European elections, the empowerment of queer women spaces through informed voting and the preservation of physical queer women spaces become integral threads. As we stand on the precipice of change, our choices today will shape the inclusive and accepting future we envision. Together, let us weave a tapestry that celebrates diversity, protects human rights and builds a future where every voice, especially those of queer women, is not just heard but cherished.

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Amber Laenen is a senior at Thomas More Mechelen University in Belgium. She is majoring in journalism and international relations. Amber is interning with the Blade this semester as part of a continued partnership with the Washington Center.

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Africa

Congolese bill would criminalize LGBTQ+ people

Constant Mutamba’s measure seen as distraction from country’s long-standing problems

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Congolese MP Constant Mutamba (Photo courtesy of Mutamba's X account)

KINSHASA, Congo — A member of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s National Assembly who is a leader of the country’s opposition party has introduced a bill that would criminalize LGBTQ+ people.

Part of the bill that Constant Mutamba, leader of the Dynamic Progressive Revolutionary Opposition platform, has put forth states anyone who “commits a homosexual act (including acts and gestures) will be liable to a 5- or 10-year prison sentence.”

The country in recent years has seen government leaders and civic society target the community with anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments.

The Superior Council for Audiovisual and Communication, Media Regulatory Authority last June cautioned the media against showing LGBTQ+-specific conversations. Several activists have criticized Mutamba’s bill, saying it seeks to move attention away from governance, service delivery and other pertinent issues in the country.

Sirius Tekasala, a human rights activist, said a person’s sexual orientation does not impact issues of governance.

“The proposed bill does not go in the direction of improving the socio-economic life of the Congolese people,” said Tekasala. “It’s not homosexuals who prevent you from doing your job well or from breathing. This is a violation of human rights.”

Mbuela Mbadu Dieudonné, a social analyst and trade unionist, said the bill is just a way of deviating people from the pertinent issues.

“He should suggest how to get the Congolese people out of this precariousness of life which is growing on a daily basis,” said Dieudonné. “When we don’t know the real problems of the Congolese people, he sets himself up as the great director of scenes to distract the Congolese people.”

Many Congolese, however, seem to support the bill and have applauded Mutamba for drafting it.

This is not the first time that such kind of a bill has been drafted.

An anti-homosexuality bill introduced in 2010 would have sentenced people who engage in consensual same-sex sexual relations to between three and five years in prison. The measure, however, did not become law.

Mutamba’s bill, however, may pass with Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act in effect. The country’s Constitutional Court earlier this month upheld it. Burundi, Tanzania and other neighboring countries are also considering similar measures.

Many Congolese people view LGBTQ+ rights as a Western phenomenon that disregards their religious and cultural beliefs. LGBTQ+ Congolese are among those who have fled the country and sought refuge in the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya and other places.

Consensual same-sex sexual relations are not criminalized in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but Congolese law does not recognize same-sex marriages.

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World

Out in the World: LGBTQ+ news from Europe & Asia

LGBTQ+ news stories from around the globe including Monaco, Italy, Czech Republic, Germany, United Kingdom & Belarus

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Los Angeles Blade graphic

MONACO

Photo Credit: Principality of Monaco

MONACO – Monaco’s top court struck down two lower court rulings that would have required the tiny Mediterranean principality to recognize foreign same-sex marriages, in a ruling that has not yet been published.

The case centered around a binational Monegasque-American same-sex couple who married in Grand Rapids, Michigan in August 2019 while resident in that state. When they returned to Monaco the following year, the government refused to record them in the state register of marriages.

“Although valid, this union cannot be transcribed in the marriage register in view of its manifest contrariety with Monegasque public order characterized by the constitutional principle according to which the Catholic, Apostolic and Roman religion is the state religion,” stated a letter from the Public Prosecutor’s Office in a letter to the Civil Registrar on the matter.

The letter goes on to invite the couple to instead form a cohabitation contract, which has been available to same-sex couples in Monaco as a form of civil union since 2020.

The couple rejected that offer and appealed to the Attorney-General, who again refused to recognize the marriage, so the couple took their case to court.

In March 2022, the court of first instance ruled in the couple’s favor, citing the presumption in international private law that marriages validly concluded in one country are generally recognized in any country. The court also found that the same-sex marriages are not contrary to the public order simply because Catholicism is the state religion, and that the cohabitation agreements are inadequate to protect the family rights of married couples.

The prosecutor-general quickly appealed the decision, but the Court of Appeal once again ruled in September 2023 in the couple’s favor. The court also found that the state’s offer that the couple could protect their rights through a cohabitation agreement to be impractical, as the cohabitation law specifically says that agreements are unavailable to anyone who is already married. 

Still, the government appealed the decision to the Court of Revision, Monaco’s highest court dealing with administrative matters. That court finally ruled that the government is not obliged to record same-sex marriages, striking down the previous two rulings. 

LGBTQ+ rights have long been a contentious issue in the tiny city-state of approximately 39,000. While there are no local LGBTQ+ advocacy organizations, the state has been pushed to enhance the legal rights of its queer citizens by its larger European neighbors.

Monaco was one of the last states in Western Europe to offer legal recognition to same-sex couples through the 2020 Cohabitation Agreement Bill, which came about largely because Monaco recognized it was in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights, which courts have interpreted as requiring states to give equal recognition to same-sex couples. 

Still, the cohabitation agreement is explicitly unequal to marriage. Couples in cohabitation agreements are not considered families and can even include siblings or other relatives. They don’t enjoy equal treatment in terms of taxation or inheritance, can’t choose a common surname, and can’t adopt, and cohabitation with a Monegasque citizen doesn’t entitle a partner to residency rights the way marriage does.

Monaco also lacks any anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people, and trans people are not allowed to change their legal gender. 

ITALY

Italian prime minister Giorgia Meloni with President of Argentina Javier Gerardo Milei in February during a state visit. (Photo Credit: Office of prime minister Giorgia Meloni)

ROME, Italy – During a press briefing Friday at the conference ‘For a Young Europe: Demographic Transition, Environment, Future,’ Italian prime minister Giorgia Meloni took aim at the practice of surrogacy which is already illegal in Italy saying the practice is “inhuman.” 

The prime minister’s party recently introduced legislation in the Italian Parliament that would further criminalize the act by hiking fines from €600,000 to €1 million ($640,290 to $1,067,150) and increasing jail terms from three months up to two years.

“I continue to believe that surrogacy is an inhuman practice,” Meloni said. “I support the bill that makes it a universal crime,” she added.

Last week Pope Francis issued a papal document, the 20-page Dignitas infinita, which stated that surrogacy “violates” both the dignity of the child and the woman, who “becomes a mere means subservient to the arbitrary gain or desire of others.” The document also declared gender-affirming surgery to be a grave violation of human dignity.

CNN reported that the move to criminalize surrogacy is largely seen as a move against the LGBTQ+ community. Italy was the last European country to legalize same sex unions, which it did in 2016 but does not allow gay couples to be “married,” in line with the Catholic Church.

Under Meloni’s government, birth certificates were changed to list “mother” and “father” rather than “parent 1” and “parent 2.” In 2023 some communities where her Brothers of Italy leads the government, names of lesbian mothers were removed from birth certificates.

CZECH REPUBLIC

Parlament České republiky, Waldstein Palace-Malá Strana, Prague.
(Photo Credit: Parliament of the Czech Republic)

PRAGUE, Czechia – The Czech senate began consideration of bill that would enhance the rights of people in same-sex civil partnerships this week, continuing a tense legislative process that has seen pro-and anti-LGBTQ+ groups lobbying lawmakers to make changes to the bill.

The civil partnership bill passed through the lower house of parliament in February. It was a compromise after a bill that would have allowed same-sex marriage couldn’t get enough support to pass. 

The bill makes registered partnerships, which have been legal in Czechia since 2005, equivalent to marriage in all matters except adoption. Same-sex couples will have the right to stepchild adoption only – couples will not be allowed to jointly adopt.

Some senators have presented amendments to the bill that would allow same-sex marriage and full joint adoption, but some legislators think this strategy is risky – any amendments would send the bill back to the lower house, where it’s not clear they could pass. 

On the other hand, some senators are pushing amendments that would water down the bill further, by eliminating adoption entirely. 

Leading up to the senate debate, LGBTQ+ advocates were sanguine about the prospects of getting everything they want.

“Together with the majority of Czech society, we sent a clear message to our legislators: only the institute of equal marriage will ensure equal legal protection, social security and family stability for all couples and families with children,” wrote Lucia Zachariášová a lawyer who works with the LGBTQ+ advocacy organization Jsme Fér in an open letter to legislators this week. 

“However, the partnership can at this moment fulfill a promise repeated so much that if it is not a question of marriage, there will be no problem to accept such a solution. It is important to repeat again: it will help especially families with children to have a little more restful sleep,” she writes.

So far, three senate committees have examined the bill, recommending either that the senate pass the bill as is or simply not debate it. In the Czech system, if the Senate doesn’t address a bill passed by the House, it is sent to the president to be signed into law anyway. The president is expected to sign the bill, as he campaigned for full marriage equality.

One more committee is set to examine the bill next week before it’s scheduled for debate on the senate floor April 17. 

If the Senate rejects a bill, or passes it with an amendment, it returns to the lower house, where deputies can either accept the amendment or reaffirm the bill with the support of an absolute majority or 101 votes. The bill originally passed through the lower chamber of deputies with 118 votes in favor.

While Czech LGBTQ+ people are disappointed by the lack of progress on marriage equality, they’re also anxious to get the bill passed, as it would still offer a great improvement to the legal rights of many same-sex couples and their children.

“The House is not expected to improve the amendment. On the contrary, there is a fear that the situation could worsen or that everything would fall under the table,” Jsme Fér said of the progress on the bill in a post on X, (formerly Twitter). “[Senators] fear a debate that might not be dignified for hundreds of thousands of LGBT people, and after six years of debates in the House of Representatives, everything important has already been said.”

GERMANY

The Reichstag is a historic legislative government building on Platz der Republik in Berlin, and the seat of the German Bundestag [Parliament]. (Photo by Matthew Field/Bundestag)

BERLIN, Germany – The German Parliament voted 374-251 to pass a new law allowing trans people to change their legal gender by a simple administrative procedure, replacing outdated requirements from the 1980s for declarations of support from doctors and other invasive procedures.

The new law also imposes hefty fines of up to €10,000 on anyone intentionally disclosing a trans person’s previous name or gender for a harmful purpose. The law allows exceptions in cases where disclosure would be a legal requirement, for example in a court proceeding or a police investigation.

Under the new law, trans people may change their legal gender to male, female, or “diverse” – a third-gender option already available under German law. Applicants can also request that no gender details be recorded at all. Trans people will simply file a request, and then appear in person at a registry office three months later to make the change official. 

The new law is open to people over 18. Those between 14 and 17 will need a parent’s permission to file the application, while those under 14 will require parents to file the application on their behalf. 

Applicants are limited to one name and gender change within 12 months. The law also allows the government to suspend applications to change legal gender from male to female or diverse made up to two months before a national emergency is declared.

The law continues to allow operators of women-only spaces, such as gyms or changing rooms, to decide on their own who is allowed to access them. 

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said the law was about showing respect to gender-diverse people.

“We show respect to trans, intersex and non-binary people – without taking anything away from others. This is how we continue to drive the modernization of our country. This includes recognizing realities of life and making them possible by law,” Scholz wrote in a statement on X.

The law was part of the governing agreement made by the current governing coalition. The upper house of parliament does not need to vote on the bill. The law will come into effect in November.

Under the 1980 Transsexuals Law, trans people were required to get two expert reports from doctors attesting that the applicant will not be likely to want to return to their previous legal gender. These reports often required trans people to undergo invasive psychological and physical examinations and would add months of delay and average additional costs of up to €2000 (approximately $2130).

The Constitutional Court struck down a requirement that trans people have sex reassignment surgery and be sterilized in 2011. The same court required the government to create a non-binary option for intersex people in 2017, which the government did a year later.

Germany’s coalition government, in place since September 2021, has promised to introduce several pro-LGBTQ+ policies, including creating a hate crime law, amending the Basic Law to ban discrimination based on sexual identity, and automatic parenthood recognition for same-sex parents.

UNITED KINGDOM

The Palace of Westminster is the meeting place of the Parliament of the United Kingdom and is located in London. (Photo Credit: UK Government)

LONDON, UK – A government-commissioned review of gender care services for trans youth in England and Wales has sparked an outcry from trans activists who say that the review discounted decades of research showing the value of gender care treatment to reach a conclusion that care should be restricted for youth.

The “Cass Review” was commissioned by the National Health Service England in 2020 to examine gender care services for young people following reports showing a large increase in the number of youth accessing care at the now-closed Gender Identity Development Service. The Review was led by a former president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, Dr. Hilary Cass.

The disputed report concluded that there isn’t good scientific evidence to support most forms of gender care, including puberty blockers, hormone therapy, or social transition.

“While a considerable amount of research has been published in this field, systematic evidence reviews demonstrated the poor quality of the published studies, meaning there is not a reliable evidence base upon which to make clinical decisions, or for children and their families to make informed choices,” reads an excerpt of the report’s executive summary.

But trans advocates criticized that conclusion, pointing out that Cass held existing studies of gender care to an impossible standard. Her report discounted any study that wasn’t based on double-blind trials, which they say would not be possible or ethical.

“The Cass Review dismisses a very large number of studies and omits studies from the past two years. Hence, it neglects a vast amount of evidence on the benefits of gender affirming medical treatment for trans youth in its analysis,” writes Dr. Hane Maung of the trans healthcare service GenderGP.

“For many medical interventions, including gender affirming medical treatment for trans youth, randomised controlled trials are unfeasible and unethical, because the consequences of not intervening would be very apparent to the participants and also would be unacceptably harmful,” he says.

The Cass Review urges caution in treatment for trans youth, including a new recommendation that medical consultations be undertaken before youth are allowed to socially transition – a major expansion of the medicalization of gender identity. Some trans activists also noticed that the review suggests increased surveillance of trans care through age 25, suspecting this implies further restricting care into adulthood.

The day the Cass Review was published, NHS England announced it would be launching a review of adult gender care, alleging whistleblower complaints.

The Guardian reports that Cass also advised the government to be cautious with the proposed ban on conversion therapy, which the government has put under review, but which is unlikely to be introduced before an election is held. Cass reportedly urged the minister responsible to ensure that doctors providing gender care are insulated from accusations of conversion practices, claiming that doctors are already afraid to take a more cautious approach to providing treatment.

The Cass Review has already made waves across the UK, with transphobic author JK Rowling claiming that it vindicates her years-long anti-trans campaigning, and claiming she would “never forgive” Harry Potter stars Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson for supporting trans rights.

Prime minister Rishi Sunak endorsed the report’s findings.

“We care above all about the wellbeing of children and it’s clear that these things are not neutral acts, whether that’s social transitioning, any kind of medical intervention, we simply do not know the long-term effects of these things,” he says. “And that’s why anyone involved in considering these issues, of course, has to treat people with sensitivity and compassion, but also have to be extremely cautious when it comes to taking any action.”

The opposition Labour Party, which is expected to win national elections later this year, has already said it would implement all of the Cass Review recommendations when in government. Labour’s shadow minister for health told The Sun that he no longer stood by the statement that “trans women are women” in the wake of the review. 

The NHS Scotland and NHS Wales, which hold devolved responsibility for care in those countries, said they were reviewing Cass’ findings.

BELARUS

Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko. (Screenshot/Belarusian Telegraph Agency)

MINSK, Belarus – The government of Belarus issued a decree this week declaring that depictions of LGBTQ+ people may be considered illegal pornography, whether or not sexual acts are depicted.

The Culture Ministry amended a decree on “erotic materials” to include homosexuality or transgender as “non-traditional sexual relationship or behavior,” equivalent to necrophilia, pedophilia, and voyeurism. 

That may mean that depictions of LGBTQ+ people are considered pornography. Under Belarussian law, production, distribution, and public displays of pornography are punishable with up to 4 years in prison, or up to 13 years for child pornography. 

Using these new definitions, an innocuous picture of a same-sex couple with their child, or a picture of a trans child, or a picture of two same-sex teens on a date, could all be considered child pornography.

According to Human Rights Watch, it is not yet clear how the government plans to interpret and enforce the new decree.

Belarus is one of the least free countries in Europe according to the human rights advocacy group Freedom House. Often considered a client state of neighboring Russia, Belarus tends to follow its larger neighbor culturally and politically. The country has bene governed by president Alexander Lukashenko since 1994, with political dissidents routinely jailed and media heavily censored. 

LGBTQ+ Belarussians lack any protections from discrimination, and anti-LGBTQ+ violence is common. Officials have floated introducing a Russia-style “gay propaganda” law over the years, but one has never been formally enacted.

Global LGBTQ+ news gathering & reporting by Rob Salerno

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North Carolina

“Rainbow Story Time” gets bomb threat, closes Durham N.C. library

Durham police said the bomb threat remains under investigation and no further information will be released at this time

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The Durham County Main Library, 300 N. Roxboro St. Durham, N.C. (Photo Credit: Durham County Main Library/Facebook)

DURHAM, N.C. – An bomb threat caused evacuation and closure of the Durham County main library just before 10:35 a.m. on Saturday morning. A spokesperson for the Durham Police Department said in a press release: “An anonymous caller informed the library of the threat. The building has been evacuated as a precaution, and access is limited.”

Durham Police units and the Durham County Sheriff’s Office’s bomb dog searched “the entire building,” according to the news release. The facility was closed for the rest of the day.

At approximately the same time an emailed bomb threat was sent to the CBS TV affiliate WBTV News 3 in Charlotte, located 145 miles southwest of Durham. WBTV reported that the threat mentioned an author, Maya Christina Gonzalez, whose book was scheduled for a “Rainbow Story Time” reading at the Durham County library at noon.

Gonzalez is a 60-year-old queer Chicana artist, illustrator, educator and publisher. She lives and works in San Francisco. The event was sponsored by Rainbow Collective for Change, a non-profit that’s mission is connecting LGBTQ+ families with young children in the Triangle area of North Carolina through events like the library reading program.

Rainbow Collective for Change made a statement in response to the incident. On Facebook, the organization said: “We were not notified by the police or the library that the bomb threat was made explicitly due to our Rainbow Story Time. We learned this through a news article and have since confirmed that a bomb threat was made towards our Rainbow Story Time at the library.”

The group in its statement also noted:

“RCC has been hosting monthly Rainbow Story Times and other events for 2 years now and this is our first experience with a serious threat…We will continue to advocate for LGBTQIA+ and gender-affirming schools and build community spaces where our children can be who they are and celebrate that love makes a family. We – together with RCC families and partner organizations — will not let hate win and will continue advocating for a safe and affirming community that all our children deserve.”

Durham police said the bomb threat remains under investigation and no further information will be released at this time.

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West Hollywood

Out stylist found beaten outside Heart WeHo nightclub recovering

Family is asking for public’s assistance in locating the person or persons responsible for the criminal assault

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54-year-old brother, Albert Jimenez, was discovered last Friday night, on April 5, 2024 in a parking lot next to Heart WeHo nightclub. (Family photos)

By Paulo Murillo | WEST HOLLYWOOD – The family of 54-year-old Albert Jimenez, an acclaimed hair stylist with some celebrity clientele is asking for the public’s assistance in finding the suspect or suspects responsible for his being badly beaten and hospitalized recovering from traumatic head injuries.

Jimenez was discovered last Friday night, April 5, 2024, in a parking lot behind Heart WeHo at 8911 Santa Monica Blvd, in West Hollywood’s Rainbow District. Gloria Jimenez tells WEHO TIMES that her family is unclear about what happened to brother.

“All the information we have is that it occurred near two local West Hollywood bars, Heart WeHo and another one named Gym Bar. I guess they’re both close together. All we know is that he was struck by something on the head. He was found in the parking lot by a bystander who was walking by and who called the emergency crew to come out and pick him up. They brought him to Cedars.”

According to Ms. Jimenez, the last time someone spoke to Albert was at 7:45 p.m. The family does not know when he sustained his injuries or at what time he was picked up and rushed to the hospital. They were not notified until the following Tuesday, after a friend called Albert’s phone and a nurse answered the call.

Jimenez’s sister also noted: “We do not know if he was randomly attacked by a stranger in what could be a homophobic or racist hate crime, or if he was attacked by someone he interacted with at one of the bars.”

Ms. Jimenez said her brother has a long road to recovery.

“Albert has suffered brain swelling, and they had to remove bone fragments. He’s been in the hospital in critical condition for a week. He is expected to survive, but he will need multiple surgeries and could have possible brain damage.”

“He’s a harmless person and was just enjoying his Friday evening,” She said of her brother. “He would never hurt anyone. We are all shocked that this has happened to him. He’s the baby of the family, and his entire family is just shocked by it all. This is something we never thought would happen. He’s an independent guy, and that’s why we thought he was just out and about, you know, until we got that call on Tuesday.”

The family has filed a report with the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station. Anyone with information is asked to reach out to West Hollywood Deputy Franklin at (310) 855-8850.

The family’s GoFundMe campaign: (Link)

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Paulo Murillo is Editor in Chief and Publisher of WEHO TIMES. He brings over 20 years of experience as a columnist, reporter, and photo journalist.

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The preceding article was previously published by WeHo Times and is republished with permission.

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West Hollywood

Vinson is leading riders in 2024 WeHo Pride & Dyke march

This year, the call is on to gain more attention, greater participation and a call for women who ride to join the parade

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Photo courtesy of Katrina Vinson

By Catherine Eng | WEST HOLLYWOOD – In anticipation of Weho Pride 2024, WeHo resident Katrina Vinson sat with WEHO TIMES for an interview to discuss being the lead Biker and organizer of Pride Riders in this year’s WeHo Pride Parade on Sunday, June 2, 2024 and the Dyke March on Saturday, June 1, 2024.  

Over the years, the Dyke March took place on Fridays. After much lobbying, the L Project (Producers of Women’s Freedom Festival) were able to get the event moved to Saturday-  greatly increasing participation. This year, the call is on to gain more attention, greater participation and a call for women who ride to join the parade. We spoke to Katrina about this year’s event, how she came to lead the contingency and the outreach to riders.

Photo courtesy of Katrina Vinson


Q:  Hello Katrina! Let’s hear about your journey to the City of Weho;  where are you from, what brought you to the city and how long have you resided in Weho? 

I grew up in San Jose, CA.  About 15 years ago, while I was still living in San Jose, I had a long distance relationship with a woman living in Santa Monica. I would visit for about a week or more at a time and we would always go out to WeHo. I slowly started falling in love with the City. Years later, after we broke, I was offered a job in LA, and I moved to Palms, a short drive from WeHo. I quickly made friends and we enjoyed the WeHo nightlife weekly. After about 4 years in Palms, the opportunity opened up for me to move to WeHo and I never looked back. Once I moved here I began to learn and appreciate so much more about this City. I never loved a City that I’ve lived in as much as I love WeHo. I’ve been here for 8 years now.

Q:  What started your activism in our city?

I would have to say my former partner. I mostly supported her and attended events she was leading or participating in. She was unstoppable and the events and network grew immensely. Over time, she became heavily involved in the City, inspiring me and others along the way. Slowly over-time I got more involved. We all have different strengths in this life. Mine are far different from hers and I never considered myself an organizer or activist. I helped how I could with whatever strengths and resources I had. Over time, our whole network of friends became primarily activists and I showed up in whatever capacity I could. I must have picked up a few things along the way since more and more people are calling me an activist. I’ve always been diplomatic, and stuck up for what’s right, and cannot stand to see any injustice, racism, sexism, inequality, or bigotry. 

Q:    You formerly served on the City’s Planning Commission but you resigned after 1 year. Can you talk about this experience?

I had come to know Sepi Shyne quite well as well as volunteered in both her campaigns for City Council. She knew quite a bit about my education and experience in construction. I believe she trusted my moral compass and desire to do good. Once she was elected to City Council she asked me if I would serve on the Planning Commission as her appointee. I believe she thought I could bring something to the position given my construction experience. Unfortunately, I had some major life changes arise where my bandwidth changed and I knew I couldn’t give the Planning Commission the dedicated time that it deserved and needed. I do hope to serve again someday. 

Photo courtesy of Katrina Vinson

Q:   In your professional capacity – you hold some unique positions; both as a Commercial Construction Superintendent and as a Carpentry instructor @ LA Trade Tech College. Tell us about these roles, how you feel you’ve been able to trailblaze in these positions and what obstacles you’ve felt as a lesbian female in this field.

Oh boy, how much time do you have? Becoming a Commercial Construction Superintendent wasn’t easy. I worked my butt off going to Carpentry school full time while also working full time. I was doing 13 hour days but I absolutely LOVED it. LA Trade Tech College lit me up. I couldn’t get enough, I couldn’t absorb enough.That passion that was ignited in me along with my mechanical aptitude, and my skills at building put me at the top of my class. I won several carpentry competition awards and ended up graduating first in my class with honors and scholarships.

Given my love for the school and especially the Carpentry program, I made it known to the instructors, as well as the head of the department, that I hoped to come back and teach someday. After graduating, I was very saddened to no longer be involved with the program but I would have to work at least two years in the construction industry to even be eligible to be an instructor, not to mention that positions rarely ever opened up.

After being heavily recruited, I ultimately decided to take a job with a General Contractor as an Assistant Superintendent. I was only able to enter the construction workforce at such a high level due to my many years experience as an operations manager coupled with excelling so quickly in the Carpentry and Construction technologies. I was promoted from Assistant Superintendent to Superintendent in just one year and I’ve never looked back. Recently I completed a 10 million, 30,000 sq ft project with high end finishes. 

Luckily, after just over two years in the industry, I got a request from Trade Tech College to apply for an adjunct teaching position that was opening up. I wasn’t sure I could handle the load on top of my insanely demanding Superintendent Position but I knew I could not let the opportunity pass. Those positions almost never open up. I ended up getting the position and I’m happy to say that I’ve been able to make it work. There are plenty of female carpentry instructors at LATTC but I am the only queer carpentry instructor. I’ve had quite a few LGBTQ+ students in my class over the semesters and I think it’s important for them to see that representation.

I haven’t met many obstacles as a lesbian but more obstacles as a female in general in construction. The number of women in construction is growing but more in the office roles. Women make up about 10-14% of the workforce in construction but only 4% working onsite in the field and even less in a position as high as mine. There are very few female Superintendents in all of Southern CA. It’s hard to know how many for sure but my educated guess is that it’s less than 5. For the first 4 years, I was the only woman on my jobsite each and every day.  I’m constantly running into architects, clients, designers, and construction managers that say to me, “I’ve never met a female Superintendent before!” Mostly in an excited tone. That gets me excited and lights me up. I usually think, “and wait until you see what I can do”. It’s important to me to put my best foot forward, produce the highest quality of work that I can, and try everyday to blow people away knowing that I am representing women in the field. I have two goals/hopes. 1) To prove to the industry that women are valuable assets to the industry and bring different sets of skills, creativity, and points of view. 2) To show and inspire other woman to join the construction industry. 

Q:  You are the new lead of Pride Riders, the Motorcycle group which leads the Weho pride parade and the Dyke March. How exciting to see a new generation of riders!  How long have you been riding?  How did you come to lead this group for Pride?

I’ve been riding for 24 years now. I got my motorcycle license as well as my first bike when I was just 18. Organizing the motorcycle group for the March and for WeHo Pride was unexpected. The leader of the motorcycles in previous years has been a mentor of mine. I have spent years at her side helping her lead pride parades and the Dyke March. In 2022, she came down with covid the day before the parade and needed someone to step in to lead and pace the parade. She called me and I gladly accepted. I was honored. The following year in 2023, due to unforeseen circumstances the opportunity to lead a new contingent of bikers for the Dyke March presented itself when the leader of the motorcycle contingent withdrew  from the event.

Riders, who still wanted to ride, participate, and be seen; were left confused and didn’t know what to do or how to enter. They had less than a week’s notice and some riders had family flying to see them ride in the parade but were left stranded. I was torn. I needed to step up for the riders that were left stranded without an organizer. I worked with Jackie Steele to come up with the name Pride Riders so I could register us in the parade and I worked with The  L-Project to help organize riders for the Dyke March. If it wasn’t for The L-Project the Dyke March wouldn’t have happened and wouldn’t have been moved to a Saturday. Jackie helped organize the riders while I registered as the leader of Pride Riders. 

We had a pretty decent turnout of riders given the extreme short notice. The L-Project helped us in procuring parking for all the riders so they could stay for the day and enjoy the Women’s Freedom Fest prior to riding in the Dyke March. They also organized an amazing entrance for the riders to ride in as the Festival was ending and rev up the crowd to transition into marching behind us in the Dyke March. It was quite awesome. Riders were happy, spectators were happy, and the Dyke March got more exposure.

Q:   Do you remember your first Pride?  Where/when was it and how do you think that experience has shaped your development of Pride Riders/what you’re trying to create?

Barely. I was a gaybe back then. My first Pride was in San Francisco since I lived in San Jose. I remember the Dyke March especially. There’s nothing like Dolores Park and the Dyke March in San Francisco. I was in awe. It was a sea of queer women as far as I could see in every direction. We marched for what felt like forever but I didn’t want it to end. The community cheering for us was overwhelming. It was incredible. Then the next day I saw the Dykes on Bikes lead the parade and I knew I wanted to be one of them one year (I already had a motorcycle). It just wasn’t a thing I knew about or how to get into. All those years I lived in San Jose and went to countless SF Pride Parades and Dyke Marches and I never ended up riding my motorcycle in a parade or march until I moved to LA. I would LOVE to see that type of turnout here in WeHo and a big obstacle to the turnout was not having it on the weekend. Now that the Dyke March is moved to Saturday we hope the participation can finally grow and we can bring the Dyke March the visibility it should have. 

Dyke March 2023 – Photo by Mike Pingel for WEHO TIMES

Q:  What are the goals for Pride Riders and the Dyke March?  What would you like to see from the city and the community,  as we prepare for this year’s Pride?  What are you most looking forward to?

Last year was such a success, we saw more diversity and so many folks joining for the march. The city shared that this was the most heavily attended Dyke March in years. Our goals are an even greater turnout, greater visibility, and greater diversity. It’s so important to be seen and heard and to celebrate with our community and share our herstory. All are welcome to join in and ride. 

I am most looking forward to this year’s Women’s Freedom Fest. Last year’s event was such a good program and line-up and just an overall good time! L-Project has an even better program in store for Pride this year. I’m really looking forward to that event as well as working with the L-Project to breathe new life into the Dyke March and bring it the exposure it deserves. 

Q: What outreach are you doing for more participation, greater awareness?
How can riders, or supporters, get involved? What actions from the community would enhance the Dyke March?

We promote on social media and the City promotes the events under the Overall Pride weekend advertising. We’d love for everyone to help get the word out. I attend motorcycle events to spread the word and I’m hoping this article will also help. Motorcyclists tend to have many friends who also ride so I’m hoping it will spread by word of mouth as well. L-Project is also a huge help in marketing and spreading awareness. It’s been great working with the L-project to link Women’s Freedom Fest with the Dyke March. It just makes sense to link the two and bring with it more participation.
(Note:  more info can be found here:  https://www.instagram.com/pride_riders_la/

Riders can register here: [email protected]

Q:  And finally – what hopes do you have for the future of West Hollywood? How do you see this city evolving?

My hopes for the City are for there to be greater diversity and equity here. I like to see less people priced out from living here and more gender equality and diversity across our residents,  businesses, patrons, boards, commissions, and city council. 

Thank you for engaging with us, congratulations on all your accomplishments and have a safe, successful Pride Ride.

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Catherine Eng

Catherine Eng is a long time resident of the City of West Hollywood. She currently serves as a West Hollywood Business License Commissioner, was a journalism major, and is a supporter of Weho Times @thedamecat

The preceding article was previously published by WeHo Times and is republished with permission.

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Idaho

Idaho ends legislative session, anti-LGBTQ+ bills sent to governor

Legislators missed their self-appointed adjournment deadline twice due to in-fighting and behind-the-scenes debates

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The Idaho House of Representatives in session at the State Capitol building in Boise on Jan. 23, 2024. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

By Clark Corbin | BOISE, Idaho – Idaho’s sometimes brutal and bruising 2024 legislative session came to a quiet end at the Idaho State Capitol in Boise on Wednesday, as without overriding any vetoes or introducing any new major bills.

After passing a controversial transportation budget on April 3, Idaho legislators recessed until Wednesday to give themselves an opportunity to try to overcome any late-session vetoes issued by Gov. Brad Little. The Idaho Senate adjourned for the year shortly before 2:45 p.m. Wednesday, and the Idaho House of Representatives adjourned a few minutes later, at 2:49 p.m.

Little did issue two vetoes on bills this week during the legislative recess – one relating to the jurisdiction of the Idaho Public Utilities Commission, another relating to a bill that would have granted the state treasurer the authority to keep a portion of state funds in physical gold and silver. The Idaho Senate attempted to override Little’s veto of Senate Bill 1323, the public utilities commission bill, but fell short of the necessary 23 vetoes. That means Little’s veto stands. 

On the other hand, Little allowed two of the most controversial late-session bills to become law. Little signed House Bill 710, which would require library’s to move so-called harmful materials upon a written request or face a lawsuit. Little also allowed House Bill 770, the transportation services budget that revokes the state’s authority to carry out the $51 million sale of the Idaho Transportation Department’s flooded former Boise headquarters on State Street, to become law without his signature. Little also allowed House Bill 726, a related budget bill for the Department of Administration, to become law without his signature.

Little addressed revoking the sale in a transmittal letter that was sent to House Speaker Mike Moyle, R-Star, on Wednesday. 

“However, I did not sign these bills because the intent language unwinds statutory policy language about how the state handles surplus properties and it increases overhead for office space needs around the state,” Little wrote. “In addition it unfairly cancels an agreed upon sales process, causing future reputational risk for the State of Idaho.”

Idaho legislators missed adjournment targets partially because of GOP infighting

Wednesday was the 94th day of the session, which gaveled in back on Jan. 8. 

Legislators missed their self-appointed adjournment deadline twice due to in-fighting and behind-the-scenes debates. Legislative leaders originally hoped to wrap up the session on March 22. But the Idaho House got bogged down in a leadership struggle and contentious budget debate that set legislators back at least a week. On Feb. 8, House Republicans took what is widely viewed as the unprecedented step of removing a major member of leadership, former House Majority Leader Megan Blanksma, R-Hammett, from her leadership post during an ongoing session. Leadership elections traditionally take place in December of even numbered years following a general election. The vote or action to remove Blanksma appeared to happen behind closed doors. There was no announcement on the floor Feb. 8, and Blanksma quietly walked off the floor that day and was eventually replaced by new House Majority Leader Jason Monks, R-Meridian.

Several legislators on Wednesday agreed that it was time to wrap up the session for the year.

“It’s a privilege to be able to do this, but it’s time to be done,” Rep. Jack Nelsen, R-Jerome, told the Sun just before the Idaho House was called to order at noon Wednesday. 

What passed during Idaho’s 2024 legislative session?

  • House Bill 722: The fiscal year 2025 budget for the Workforce Development Council provides $71 million to implement grants for the Idaho Launch program that Gov. Brad Little champions. The Idaho Launch program provides Idaho high school and home school graduates with $8,000 grants to prepare for an in-demand career. Little said the program will help train the next generation of Idahoans for a trade, allow them to remain home in Idaho and support businesses. But some prominent Republicans in the Idaho Legislature, including House Speaker Mike Moyle, R-Star, targeted Launch as a “handout.” 
  • House Bill 521: According to Idaho Education News, House Bill 521 creates ways for the state to spend an estimated $2 billion on school facilities over the next 10 years. Little made school facilities a prominent feature in his Jan. 8 State of the State address, highlighting a school that has sewage leaking under its cafeteria and telling the Idaho Legislature to stop kicking the can down the road on addressing the state’s deteriorating school buildings. “The can we are kicking is getting heavier, and we are running out of road,” Little warned in his State of the State address. 
  • House Bill 399: After Idaho became the only state not to review maternal death data, this bill authorizes the Idaho Board of Medicine to collect and review that data. Before the Idaho Legislature allowed the state’s Maternal Mortality Review Committee to expire last summer, data between 2018 and 2021 had shown a steady increase in deaths among pregnant women and new mothers, the Sun previously reported.   
  • Senate Bill 1234: This bipartisan bill co-sponsored by Sen. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, and Rep. Jack Nelsen, R-Jerome, allows insurance enrollees to receive up to a six-month supply of contraceptives. Currently, many insurance plans only reimburse for a one-month to three-month supply, according to the bill’s statement of purpose. 
  • House Bill 770: The fiscal year 2025 enhanced transportation services budget revokes the state’s authority to carry out the $51 million sale of the Idaho Transportation Department’s flooded former Boise headquarters on State Street and provides the third successive $200 million installment to repair and replace aging and poorly rated local bridges across Idaho. The debate over whether to block the sale of the State Street headquarters at least partially led to delaying the end of the 2024 legislative session and caused the would-be buyers from Hawkins Companies, the Pacific Companies and FJ Management to weigh their legal options after they said they thought they had struck a deal with the state. “We’re obviously extremely disappointed in the passage of this legislation,” said Brian Huffaker, CEO of Hawkins Companies, in a statement on behalf of Hawkins, The Pacific Companies and FJ Management. “This governmental overreach is a massive waste of taxpayer dollars, and we’re confident the courts will agree this kind of legislative interference in the free market violates the state constitution. We will be exploring legal action.”
  • House Bill 421: The bill states the Idaho Legislature only recognizes two sexes in human beings; male and female. The bill also states the word “gender” shall be a synonym for the word “sex” and shall not be considered a synonym for gender identity. Both the Idaho House and Idaho Senate passed the bill, and Little signed it into law Tuesday.  
  • House Bill 710: This year’s version of “the library materials bill” would require libraries to move materials deemed harmful to minors upon written notification from a parent, legal guardian or child, or be faced with a lawsuit for $250 dollars in statutory damages, plus uncapped actual damages and any other relief available by law. The Idaho House passed the harmful materials bill March 13, and it was one of the final bills of the year passed by the Idaho Senate on April 3. Little signed it Wednesday.
  • House Bill 538: This bill enacts protections for public employees and teachers who are unwilling to use a person’s preferred pronouns. Idaho Education News reported that under the bill teacher’s will not be able to refer to a student by a name or pronoun that does not align with their birth sex without parental permission. Little signed the bill into law Monday. 
  • Senate Bill 1377: This bill requires people who are paid to gather signatures for a ballot initiative or a referendum to disclose that they are being paid. Little signed it into law on April 4, and it is scheduled to take effect on July 1.  
  • House Bill 599: Republican House Speaker Mike Moyle, R-Star and Rep. Brandon Mitchell, R-Moscow, co-sponsored the bill as a way to combat what supporters  described as “ballot harvesting.” Under the bill, it is illegal for someone to collect and turn in another person’s absentee ballot or unvoted ballot. If someone collects 10 or more ballots during any election a violation of the bill would become a felony. The bill includes exceptions for caregivers of voters, relatives of voters and a person who is a member of the voter’s household. However, opponents including the voting advocacy group Babe Vote, described the bill as a voter suppression law that criminalizes Idahoans for helping their neighbors turn in their absentee ballots. Little signed the bill into law Tuesday.

What didn’t pass or didn’t get done in Idaho this legislative session?

  • Health of the mother legislation: Under Idaho’s strict felony abortion ban, the law does not allow for a doctor to terminate a pregnancy to protect the health of the mother – only to save the mother’s life. Most Americans support an exception to abortion bans that allows for the medical professional to protect the health or save the life of the pregnant patient, the Sun and States Newsroom previously reported. Last year, Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa, worked on an unsuccessful bill that would have added an exception “to treat a physical condition of the woman that if left untreated would be life-threatening.” Crane pulled the bill back last year, the Sun previously reported, but vowed to continue working on a compromise on the issue, telling States Newsroom, “It has to be dealt with.” Legislators did not pass a bill this year that created a new exception to protect the health of the pregnant patient.  
  • House Bill 753: This bill was a Texas-style immigration bill sponsored by Rep. Jaron Crane, R-Nampa, which would have created a new state crime of illegal entry into the state, allowed local law enforcement officials to check a person’s immigration status and allow a magistrate judge to order someone who violates the bill to return to their country of origin. The Idaho House voted 53-15 to pass the bill on March 29, but the Idaho Senate never took up the bill. 
  • Senate Concurrent Resolution 135: This was an anti-racism and anti-hate speech resolution condemning the racist harassment allegedly directed at University of Utah women’s basketball team while visiting Coeur d’Alene Resort last month. The Senate voted 33-1 to adopt the resolution March 28, but the Idaho House never took up the resolution, and it died when the legislative session adjourned for the year. 
  • Senate Bill 1273: This bill would have required the Idaho secretary of state to mail a new informational voter guide to every household in the state 30 days before an election. The Idaho Senate voted 22-13 to pass the bill on Feb. 26, but the House State Affairs committee never took up the bill after it was referred to the committee in late February. 
  • Senate Bill 1445: This additional budget for the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare would have provided $545,300 in state funding to provide summer lunches for low income children, Idaho Education News reported. The federal government would have covered half of the administrative costs for the program and 100% of the lunch money, Idaho EdNews reported. But the Idaho Senate rejected the budget on a 10-25 vote March 28 after Sen. Cindy Carlson, R-Riggins, and others said the state would be sending the wrong message by providing something free without requiring something in return. The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee rewrote the budget without funding for the summer lunch program, killing the program in Idaho.  
  • House Joint Resolution 4: This proposed amendment to the Idaho Constitution was promoted as a way to block ranked choice voting, which is a component of the open primary ballot initiative. The proposed amendment sought to limit elections to one round of voting, with the person with the highest number of votes being elected. But some legislators worried passing the bill would create unintended consequences for nonpartisan judicial primary elections. Amending the Idaho Constitution requires a two-thirds majority vote of both the Idaho House and Idaho Senate. But the proposed amendment died in the Idaho House on March 11 on a 42-27 vote after falling short of the necessary 47 votes. The proposed amendment is now dead for the year.

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Clark Corbin

Idaho Capital Sun senior reporter Clark Corbin has more than a decade of experience covering Idaho government and politics. He has covered every Idaho legislative session since 2011 gavel-to-gavel.

Prior to joining the Idaho Capital Sun he reported for the Idaho Falls Post Register and Idaho Education News. His reporting in Idaho has helped uncover a multimillion-dollar investment scam and exposed inaccurate data that school districts submitted to the state.

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The preceding article was previously published by the Idaho Capital Sun and is republished with permission.

The Idaho Capital Sun is the Gem State’s newest nonprofit news organization delivering accountability journalism on state politics, health care, tax policy, the environment and more. We’re part of States Newsroom, the nation’s largest state-focused nonprofit news organization.

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