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Hurricane Irma damages LGBT community center in Cuba

Cuba suffered a category 5 hit from Hurricane Irma along its northern coastline

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Victor Manuel Dueñas, a Cuban LGBT rights advocate, gives a presentation at the Centro Comunitario de Cultura, an LGBT community center in Santo Domingo, Cuba, on May 16, 2017. Hurricane Irma damaged the center, which is also his family’s home, as it skirted the north central coast of Cuba over the weekend. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Hurricane Irma on Saturday damaged an LGBT community center in central Cuba.

Victor Manuel Dueñas and his family live in the house in the town of Santo Domingo in which the Centro Comunitario de Cultura is located.

Dueñas told the Washington Blade early Monday in an email that Irma damaged the roof and walls. He said Irma also caused damage to the front of his house in which he and other local advocates were planning to open a press center and events space.

Dueñas told the Blade the town has been without electricity for three days. He said Irma has also cut Internet access, which was limited before the hurricane.

“We hope to receive help from abroad,” Dueñas told the Blade. “But the most important thing is life and this has been preserved. Our project will continue despite these difficulties and shortcomings.”

Dueñas and other advocates who support the community center work independently of Mariela Castro, the daughter of Cuban President Raúl Castro who directs Cuba’s National Center for Sexual Education and spearheads LGBT-specific issues on the Communist island.

The Blade in May attended an discussion group at the Centro Comunitario de Cultura that took place on the eve of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. Dueñas is also among those who are behind a campaign that urges Cuban lawmakers to discuss whether to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples.

Santo Domingo is roughly 45 minutes west of the city of Santa Clara on Cuba’s Carretera Nacional. The area is roughly three hours southeast of Havana.

Irma made landfall in the province of Camagüey on Friday night with winds of 160 mph. It caused widespread damage and flooding along Cuba’s north central coast and in low-lying areas near Havana’s oceanfront before it made additional landfalls in the Florida Keys and in Southwest Florida on Sunday.

The once-Category 5 storm caused widespread destruction in Barbuda, St. Barts, St. Martin, Anguilla and the U.S. and British Virgin Islands last week.

Cuban authorities on Sept. 6 detained two gay journalists — Carlos Alejandro Rodríguez and Maykel González — for several hours in a bayfront neighborhood in the city of Sagua la Grande after they tried to interview the vice president of the local Cuban Communist Party about hurricane preparations. Rodríguez on Sunday posted pictures to his Facebook page that showed collapsed buildings and widespread tree damage in the city.

“Buildings came down because they were not able to sustain the force of the hurricane,” he told the Blade on Sunday.

Hurricane Irma caused widespread damage in Sierra de Cubitas, Cuba, on Sept. 8, 2017, when it made landfall on the country’s north central coast. (Photo courtesy of Keyler Matos Moreira/Radio Cubitas)

Rodríguez said a little bit of water entered the Sagua la Grande apartment in which he and González live, but Irma did not cause any significant damage.

“It’s good, just as bad as it was before the hurricane,” he joked.

Maykel González Vivero, Cuba, gay news, Washington Blade

Maykel González, an independent journalist and LGBT rights advocate, speaks with the Washington Blade in his apartment in Sagua la Grande, Cuba, on May 17, 2015. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Rodríguez told the Blade there are no reported deaths in Sagua la Grande because of Irma. The Cuban government on Monday announced the hurricane killed at least 10 people across the country.


Victor Manuel Dueñas speaks (in Spanish) at the Centro Comunitario de Cultura in Santo Domingo, Cuba, on May 16, 2017. (Washington Blade video by Michael K. Lavers)

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District of Columbia

Founder of now-defunct D.C. LGBTQ group pleads guilty to wire fraud

Reduced charge says Ruby Corado stole at least $150,000 in COVID-relief funds

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Ruby Corado in El Salvador (Photo via Facebook)

Ruby Corado, the founder and executive director of the now-defunct LGBTQ community services organization Casa Ruby, pleaded guilty Wednesday to a single charge of wire fraud as part of a plea bargain deal offered by prosecutors with the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia.

The charge to which she pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for D.C. says she diverted at least $150,000 “in taxpayer-backed emergency COVID relief funds to private off-shore bank accounts for her personal use,” according to a statement released by the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Court records show that U.S. District Court Judge Trevor N. McFadden, who is presiding over the case, has scheduled a sentencing hearing for Jan. 10, 2025.

Corado’s guilty plea came a little over six weeks after prosecutors on May 31 filed a one-count criminal information charge of wire fraud against her that replaced an earlier criminal complaint charging her with bank fraud, money laundering, monetary transactions in criminally derived proceeds, and failure to file a required report of a foreign bank account.

The earlier complaint was filed at the time the FBI arrested Corado on March 5 of this year at a hotel in Laurel, Md., shortly after she returned to the U.S. from El Salvador. The initial complaint, like the new criminal information that replaced it, accused Corado of diverting at least $150,000 of federal pandemic relief funds to her own bank accounts in El Salvador. The charges say the funds were intended for use by Casa Ruby to support indigent LGBTQ clients in need of housing and other support services.

At the request of Corado’s court-appointed attorney and against the wishes of federal prosecutors, who said Corado would be a flight risk, another judge agreed to release Corado into the custody of her niece in Rockville, Md., under a home detention order. The release order came seven days after Corado had been held in jail since the time of her arrest on March 5.

In addition to a prison sentence, the charge of wire fraud also includes a possible penalty of financial forfeiture for which Corado could be required to pay restitution to the government. The plea agreement filed in court includes this statement to Corado’s attorney: “Specifically, your client agrees to the entry of a forfeiture money judgment in an amount ordered by the court, which is equal to the value of any property which constitutes or is derived from proceeds traceable to the offense in Count One of the Information in which your client is pleading guilty.”

However, legal observers have said that under a plea agreement like the one offered to Corado, prosecutors most likely will ask the judge for a lesser sentence. Corado’s attorney is also expected to point out that this is a nonviolent, first-time offense for Corado, which merits a lesser sentence.

Corado has denied wrongdoing in her operation of Casa Ruby in response to a separate civil complaint filed against her and Casa Ruby by the Office of the D.C. Attorney General. That complaint is still pending in D.C. Superior Court.

In its July 17 statement the U.S. Attorney’s office refers to court documents showing that Corado, “on behalf of Casa Ruby, received more than $1.3 million from the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program.” The statement adds, “Instead of using the funds as she promised, Corado stole at least $150,000 by transferring the money to bank accounts in El Salvador, which she hid from the IRS.”

The statement says that in 2022, “when financial irregularities at Casa Ruby became public, Corado sold her home in Prince George’s County and fled to El Salvador.” It says FBI agents arrested her at the hotel in Laurel, Md. on March 5 “after she unexpectedly returned to the United States.”

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Politics

Adam Schiff calls on Biden to exit 2024 race

Calif. Democrat is frontrunner to win US Senate race

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U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

U.S. Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank), the leading candidate for U.S. Senate in California, has formally called for President Joe Biden to withdraw from the 2024 presidential race.

Schiff, who is heavily favored to win his Senate race, made his statement exclusively to the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday.

While praising Biden’s accomplishments, calling him “one of the most consequential presidents in our nation’s history,” Schiff expressed “serious concerns” about Biden’s ability to defeat Trump in November. He urged the president to “pass the torch” and allow another Democrat to secure the party’s nomination, arguing that this would help “secure his legacy of leadership.”

The move comes amid growing concern within the Democratic Party about Biden’s age and mental fitness, particularly in light of his recent debate performance against former President Donald Trump.

Anxiety within the Democratic Party has also risen exponentially since the Trump assassination attempt, which occurred just as the Republican National Convention began.

Though polling has shown little change in support nationally for Biden since his disastrous debate performance, there has been a pronounced increase in support for Trump in many of the swing states. CNN’s John King on Wednesday revealed that Trump’s support in seven of the eight swing states has surged dramatically and that the Electoral College now favors Trump.

The congressman’s call for Biden to step aside is particularly significant given his prominent role in the party and his history as a vocal critic of Trump. 

Schiff played a key role in the congressional efforts to impeach the former president and notably led the House inquiry on the Trump-led Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol. His involvement in these high-profile investigations has made him a well-known figure in national politics.

Recent polling suggests that nearly two-thirds of Democrats believe the 81-year-old Biden should step aside and allow the party to nominate someone else. This sentiment has been growing since Biden’s widely criticized debate performance last month, where he at times appeared confused and struggled to articulate his positions clearly.

Adding to the complexity of the situation, the Democratic National Committee recently announced plans for a virtual roll-call vote in early August to formally nominate Biden as the party’s candidate. This decision was reportedly made to comply with a candidate certification deadline in Ohio on Aug. 7. However, the move has been met with resistance from some party members who are calling for an open convention instead.

The controversy surrounding the nomination process has exposed divisions within the party. 

DNC Chair Jaime Harrison has defended the decision, stating that the party “will have this vote by Aug. 5.” However, some Democrats have criticized the move as a “terrible idea,” arguing that forcing through an early vote while discussions about replacing Biden continue could undermine party unity and morale.

In a significant development, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) have reportedly pushed for a delay in the nominating process. This information, coming from multiple sources speaking to ABC News, suggests that even top party leadership may be reconsidering Biden’s candidacy. Schumer’s recent private meeting with Biden in Rehoboth Beach, Del., which the Senate leader only described as a “good meeting,” has further fueled speculation about the party’s plans.

ABC News reported Wednesday night, July 17, that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer privately urged President Joe Biden to withdraw from the 2024 presidential race. According to ABC’s Jonathan Karl, reporting from the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee, Schumer made a compelling argument that Biden’s exit would benefit not only the president himself but also the Democratic Party and the nation as a whole.

Karl noted that Schumer’s office has not denied the report. Instead, they issued a statement saying, “Leader Schumer conveyed the views of his caucus.” This response suggests that Schumer’s position may reflect broader sentiments within the Democratic Senate leadership.

The reported conversation between Schumer and Biden adds to growing speculation about the president’s political future and the Democrats’ strategy for the upcoming election.

The growing calls for Biden’s withdrawal have not been limited to party insiders. 

Moderate House Democrats have expressed frustration with the president’s campaign strategy and performance. In a recent call between Biden and a group of moderate House Democrats, participants described the president as “defensive” and “rambling” in his answers. Colorado Democrat Jason Crow went so far as to say on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that there is now a “high risk” Democrats will lose the election “unless there is a major change.”

The White House reports that President Joe Biden tested positive for Covid on July 17. (Screen shot/Independent UK)

Biden, however, has continued to defend his record and mental acuity.

In a Monday interview with NBC News, he stated, “I’ve gotten more done than any president has in a long, long time in three and a half years. So I’m willing to be judged on that.” The president has also resumed campaigning in battleground states like Nevada, joined by some of his top defenders, including U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) and the chairs of the Congressional Black Caucus and Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

The growing calls for Biden’s withdrawal, including from prominent figures like Schiff, indicate significant uncertainty within the party about its presidential nominee at a time when GOP voters have rallied more strongly than ever to support Trump.

Schiff is recognized as a key ally to the LGBTQ community and served as one of the vice chairs of the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus, a status that is likely to fuel LGBTQ politicos concern about Biden’s chances for success.

There is a growing sense of fear among Biden’s LGBTQ supporters as second Trump presidency could lead to significant setbacks for the community: The rollback of LGBTQ protections in areas like healthcare, employment, and housing; the appointment of conservative U.S. Supreme Court justices who might weaken or overturn LGBTQ rights decisions; further restrictions on transgender rights; expanded religious exemptions allowing discrimination; cuts to HIV/AIDS programs; removal of LGBTQ-inclusive materials from schools; reduced global advocacy for LGBTQ rights; discrimination in adoption and foster care; elimination of LGBTQ demographic questions in federal surveys; and a general worsening of the social climate for LGBTQ people. 

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India

Schools in India’s Kerala state adopt gender-neutral curricula

Initiative encourages administrators to change uniform policies

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A page from the Kerala state government’s new textbooks that introduces non-traditional gender roles to students. (Photo courtesy of Kerala State General Education Minister V. Sivankutty’s Facebook page)

When schools in India’s Kerala state reopened on June 3 after a long summer break, students walked into classrooms with the usual excitement. This year, however, they were greeted with a surprising and groundbreaking change. The textbooks they received were unlike any they had seen before — filled with gender-neutral images and instructions.

The initiative, driven by the state’s commitment to fostering equality from a young age, aimed to break down traditional gender roles and promote inclusivity. Students found pictures of boys and girls engaging in various activities without gender-specific expectations.

One of the images showed the father grating coconut in the kitchen while his wife cooked food. Another picture showed the father cooking food for his daughter.

In an unprecedented move, some schools in Kerala have committed to gender neutrality beyond textbooks, introducing gender-neutral uniforms. This change marks a significant departure from the traditional Indian school uniform, where boys typically wear shirts and pants, and girls don skirts, often in different colors. Many schools in Kerala have introduced the same school uniform for all students including shirts and knee-length pants.

More than 12 schools in Kerala have shifted to gender-neutral dresses so far. While there are a total of 4,504 government-run schools in Kerala, the Kerala Child Rights Commission last year decided to remove the use of words like “sir” and “madam” for teachers and instead encouraged to use of universal terms like “teacher” on school premises, but the Department of General Education, a state government body that overseas education in schools, refrained from any changes.

The National Council of Education Research and Training, a government-autonomous body of India’s Education Ministry, in 2023 introduced a manual that directs schools to implement transgender-inclusive curricula, safe washrooms, and gender-neutral dress for students to prevent gender-based discrimination and violence.

The Mumbai-based Aditya Birla World Academy, a private international school, in 2022 adopted gender-neutral uniforms and language in its 138 branches across the country. The school replaced “ladies” and “gentlemen” and other gender-specific words with “dear guests” or “hello everyone.” The school sent an email to parents that told them how to reduce gender differentiation in uniforms so students of various genders and those who are gender non-conforming or questioning their gender can feel safe discovering and expressing themselves at the school.

The Aditya Birla World Academy has also established the Rainbow Club, an LGBTQ support group led by students and guided by teachers, to create an environment of activism in the classroom, shifted to allow students to choose the length of their hair as long as it is neatly tied up, along with other activities that include workshops with teachers and parents under the initiative of “move away from the cis heteronormative environment in the education world.”

While talking to the Washington Blade, Harish Iyer, an equal rights activist, said children should be allowed to dress the way they want. He also said the idea of uniforms in schools is that a student should feel included, regardless of what strata of society to which they belong.

“Adding gender-neutrality to uniforms would only extend the whole purpose of the uniforms,” said Iyer. “It should be appreciated by all as there is no question of any debate here. What should be debated is that some people are forced to wear what is not part of their gender identity.”

Iyer told the Blade there should not be any gender assigned to clothes. He said uniforms should be based on comfort and not based on gender.

Indrani Chakraborty, a mother of a trans child and an LGBTQ activist based in northeast India, told the Blade the Kerala government’s decision to implement gender-neutral uniforms is welcome. She said her organization, Annajoree, is also trying to sensitize people on the same issue in Assam state.

“We are promoting safe-spaces in schools in Assam so that kids can complete their basic education without any mental harassment at school,” said Chakraborty. “Kerala is doing great work, it’s a great initiative and everyone should come forward to support it. It should be everywhere in our country.”

Indrani Chakraborty (Photo courtesy of Indrani Chakraborty)

She also told the Blade that schools not sensitized to LGBTQ issues creates a fear of bullying. Students, according to Chakraborty, in particular face bullying and they are not allowed to join classes in their preferred uniforms and do not have access to gender-neutral bathrooms. 

She has started an initiative called the “No More Holding Pee Initiative” in schools.

Ankush Kumar is a reporter who has covered many stories for Washington and Los Angeles Blades from Iran, India, and Singapore. He recently reported for the Daily Beast. He can be reached at [email protected]. He is on Twitter at @mohitkopinion. 

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Politics

Anti-LGBTQ GOP Senate hopefuls target immigration in RNC speeches

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.)’s Republican opponent among Tuesday speakers

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Wisconsin Senate candidate Eric Hovde (R) at the 2024 Republican National Convention in Milwaukee (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

MILWAUKEE — Taking the stage at the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee on Tuesday were a handful of anti-LGBTQ GOP Senate candidates whose remarks centered largely around immigration.

“Biden, with his border czar Vice President Harris, opened our Southern border allowing criminals and terrorists to enter our country,” said Eric Hovde, a real estate and banking tycoon who will face off against U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) in November.

Like the other speakers, Hovde sought to link President Joe Biden’s immigration policies to the scourge of fentanyl “killing over 100,000 Americans every year” while his own campaign has been marred by accusations of transphobia.

The Human Rights Campaign, for instance, notes that Hovde once said that being transgender is “insanity.”

Appearing on a right-wing talk radio show earlier this year, Hovde said about Baldwin, “She actually earmarked, in the last budget, $400,000 for a transgender-affirming clinic that doesn’t even tell parents that they’re doing that, with their own kids.”

Baldwin’s office said the funds could not be used for that program and instead would go entirely to cover counseling and to provide a social worker for kids experiencing homelessness. 

Additionally, former President Donald Trump’s administration gave $350,000 to the same clinic.

Baldwin became the first openly gay member to serve in the Senate in 2012, and she is considered a trailblazer as one of the country’s first out elected leaders dating back to her time in the Wisconsin General Assembly in the 1990s.

“The American dream that I live is under attack with Joe Biden and his enablers in the Senate, like Sherrod Brown who encouraged millions of illegals to invade America,” said Bernie Moreno, a GOP candidate who is challenging the senior senator from Ohio.

(The state’s junior senator, JD Vance, was tapped by Trump to join the 2024 GOP ticket.)

“Joe Biden’s border czar Kamala Harris and a Democrat Senate have put the welfare of illegals ahead of our own citizens,” said Moreno.

LGBTQ issues have loomed large in his race, too.

Leading up to the 2024 Republican primary election, the Associated Press reported that an account linked to Moreno’s email was set up on Adult FriendFinder seeking “men for 1-on-1 sex,” though the candidate’s lawyer said a former intern claimed credit for the “aborted prank.”

Moreno’s companies sponsored Cleveland and Akron’s hosting of the 2014 Gay Games and were on record in support of an LGBTQ-inclusive non-discrimination law in 2020. The businessman also shared that his eldest son is gay during an interview in 2016.

However, the AP notes, “he began to distance himself from his past activism, professing to be unfamiliar with the anti-discrimination legislation” during his first Senate run in 2021, and “during his current Senate campaign, Moreno has accused advocates for LGBTQ rights of advancing a “radical” agenda of “indoctrination.”

“I have never seen anything like the Biden-Harris open border policy,” said Mike Rogers, who is running for the Senate seat that will be vacated by the retirement of U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.).

“They are rolling out the red carpet for violent gangs, fentanyl, Chinese spies, [and] individuals on the terrorist watch list,” he said.

In 2014, Equality Alabama and the Alabama Association of Realtors accused Rogers, who then represented Michigan’s 8th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, of making homophobic comments.

Equality Alabama Chairman Ben Cooper wrote in an open letter to the congressman, “when you marginalize our community, we will not be silent.”

“You allegedly joked about how nice it was to be called ‘Honey’ and ‘Sweetie’ by a woman at an Alabama restaurant rather than a D.C. men’s room,” Cooper wrote. “And you went on to mock our nation’s capital as a ‘cross between Detroit and San Francisco’ — an obvious reference to Detroit’s racial makeup and San Francisco’s vibrant gay culture. Comments like these are racist, homophobic, and hurtful, and they will not be tolerated.”

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California Politics

Newsom signs law banning schools’ gender notification policies

Assemblymember Chris Ward (D-San Diego) introduced AB 1955

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(Graphic courtesy of PFLAG)

Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 1955 on Monday, banning forced outings in California schools after facing fierce opposition.

The signature comes after Newsom faced pressure to sign, leaving many to question his stance on LGBTQ issues after vetoing a bill that would have considered parents’ acceptance of a child’s identity or orientation in legal custody battles.

The bill, proposed by Assemblymember Chris Ward (D-San Diego) earlier this year, bans schools from creating or enacting policies that would out students to their parents about their gender, pronouns, name change, or sexual orientation.

“This comes from a growing national attack on LGBTQ+ people and in particular transgender individuals, with several California school districts and other states enacting policies that explicitly compel teachers to tell parents that their child identifies as transgender,” said Ward during a hearing last month.

“Forced outing policies harm everyone: Parents, families, and school staff by unnecessarily compelling the staff to involve themselves in family matters and removing the opportunity for families to build trust and have conversations on their own terms.”

The introduction of the bill follows a string of policies requiring counselors, administrators, teachers, school staff, and anyone else at the school to notify parents about their child’s transition or change of pronouns.

AB 1955 supports the Support Academic Futures and Educators for Today’s Youth Act (SAFETY Act) in preventing schools from enforcing or enacting forced outing policies.

“As a nonbinary educator working at a middle school, I definitely feel relieved to have some solid protection at the state level, and I feel empowered to continue advocating for my LGBTQ+ students,” said Amanda Estrada, a middle school teacher at Los Nietos Unified School District.

Lawmakers were discordant last month at a hearing that erupted in emotions over the issue. Following the hearing, legislators sent the bill to Newsom to stop these policies against LGBTQ students, families, and educators who felt passionately about the issue.

Last summer, Chino Valley Unified School District began enforcing the policy notifying parents of any requests “to change any information contained in a student’s official or unofficial records.” The policy was later blocked in court, sparking a civil rights lawsuit from California, bringing in Attorney General Rob Bonta to advocate against the policy.

Earlier this year, the school district revamped the policy, leaving out terms like gender, biological sex, and bathrooms but continues to push for outing students based on any changes they may request.

Existing law regarding the polarizing issue requires the State Department of Education to develop school-based resources and update previous resources that aim to support LGBTQ students. The new law now requires the State Department of Education to develop community-based resources for LGBTQ students and their families as well.

Existing law also prohibits discrimination against students participating in any program or activity conducted that receives or benefits from state-level funding. The new law will now include “any governing body or body of those educational entities from enacting or enforcing policy, rule, or administrative regulation that requires an employee or a contractor to disclose any information related to a pupil’s consent unless otherwise required by law.”

The law also states that students should feel “safe, supported, and affirmed for who they are at school.” This requires allowing them to choose when and how they want to make their new identities or orientation public and making resources available for them and their families.

This legislative push for laws and policies that protect LGBTQ youth will continue to face opposition as transition and gender identity continues to be a heavily polarizing and political issue among families.

The proposed bill cites research by the Trevor Project, stating that affirming school environments significantly lower the odds of transgender and LGBTQ youth attempting suicide.

Further findings also suggest that educators often face harassment and retaliation attempts because of their lawful efforts to uphold student privacy and protect them from discrimination.

“Over the past couple of years, I started to worry more about the creep of homophobic and transphobic rhetoric across the state, mostly through small districts like mine,” said Estrada. “Now that we have this law in place, I’ve got some peace of mind, and hopefully going forward, my students will too.”

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World

Out in the World: LGBTQ news from Europe and Asia

The Polish government has moved forward with a civil unions bill

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(Los Angeles Blade graphic)

UNITED KINGDOM

The UK’s new Labour government is defending the previous Conservative government’s ban on the use of puberty blockers for transgender children and moving to make the ban permanent, the new health minister announced this weekend.

Wes Streeting, who was appointed Secretary of State for Health and Social Care on July 5, one day after Labour’s landslide election victory, posted a thread on X over the weekend defending the new government’s policy.

Streeting said the Cass Review — the previous government’s official review of gender care, which has been derided by trans activists as misleading and one-sided — found there was a lack of evidence that puberty blockers were safe and effective for use in gender questioning youth.

“We don’t yet know the risks of stopping pubertal hormones at this critical life stage. That is the basis upon which I am making decisions. I am treading cautiously in this area because the safety of children must come first,” Streeting wrote.

The Labour government is continuing to defend the previous government’s emergency ban on puberty blockers in court. This week, the court was told by counsel for trans groups challenging the ban that the policy stems only from the previous minister’s personal views about trans people, rather than medical expertise.

“The evidence shows that the impetus and only disclosed rationale for the making of the order was the personal view of [former Health Secretary Victoria Atkins] that the Cass report required immediate action,” Jason Coppel said.

“Officials were then tasked with working up arguments in favor of a banning order to fit that personal view. No clinical or other scientific advice was taken on whether the statutory criteria were, or were capable of being, satisfied. This was a wholly insufficient basis for invocation of the emergency process.”

While Streeting has previously supported trans rights, more recently he’s walked back that support, saying he no longer stands by the belief that “trans women are women.”

POLAND

The Polish Sejm in Warsaw (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Poland’s government has finally agreed to a draft civil union bill, long after Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s initial promise to pass the bill within 100 days of taking office.

The government plans to debate the bill during the fall session of parliament, beginning in September, and have it passed by the end of the year, but recent cracks in the governing coalition have put some doubt on that timetable.

Since December, Poland has been governed by a rocky coalition of left and center-right parties who united to oppose and increasingly anti-democratic right-wing party that had governed Poland since 2014. But the coalition partners don’t see eye-to-eye on a number of social issues, including LGBTQ and reproductive rights.

The center-right Polish People’s Party had threatened not to support the civil union bill if the bill provided unions that were too similar to marriage, which would effectively kill its chances of passing. As a compromise, the center and left-leaning coalition partners agreed to amendments that would block same-sex couples from being able to adopt their partner’s children.

But a similar compromise on a landmark abortion bill failed in parliament last week.

Poland is one of only two European Union countries in which abortion is not legal – the other is Malta. Tusk had promised to decriminalize abortion up to 12 weeks, a position broadly agreed to by the left and center wings of his coalition government. But the Polish People’s Party voted against the bill, and it failed by three votes, killing it in parliament.

The Left Party in the coalition has vowed to reintroduce the bill over and over until it is passed.

An additional hurdle to both the abortion and civil union bills is President Andrzej Duda from the far-right Law and Justice Party, who has vowed to veto any abortion bill and has not committed to signing the civil union bill.

The next presidential election is in May 2024. Duda is termed out.

JAPAN

A court in Japan has allowed a trans woman to change her legal gender without undergoing gender-affirming surgery for the first time last week.

The ruling by the Hiroshima High Court handed down on July 10 overturns a lower court decision that had denied her the gender change because she hadn’t undergone surgery.

Under Japanese law, in order to legally change gender, a trans person must have a diagnosis of “gender identity disorder” and must have had surgery. The law also used to require that the person seeking a gender change has no ability to reproduce, forcing them to be sterilized, but that provision was struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Japan last October.

The claimant, a trans woman in her late 40s argued to the court that the surgical requirement would be an unfair financial and physical burden.

One of her lawyers has said that when she was told of the ruling, she cried in relief, the Associated Press reports.

The ruling still requires trans people who want to change their legal gender to have received a “gender identity disorder” diagnosis and to have undergone hormone therapy.

LGBTQ rights have become a growing political issue in Japan. Last year, the national parliament failed to pass a nondiscrimination bill, instead passing a bill it hoped would “promote understanding” of the LGBTQ community. A majority of Japan’s prefectures have instituted recognition and registration of same-sex couples, while a series of court cases have been pressing for full equal marriage rights nationwide.

PHILIPPINES

Mandaue City on the island of Cebu is the latest city in the Philippines to pass a comprehensive anti-discrimination ordinance to protect is LGBTQ community, with the publication of implementing rules and regulations July 10.

The regulations prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression in health care, education, and public accommodations, and from impediments to free association and organization.

Mandaue Mayor Jonas Cortes says the aim of the ordinance is to make everyone feel welcome.

“The [regulations] provide the detailed guidelines on how we will implement and enforce this ordinance, ensuring that our commitment to equality is not just words but real actionable steps,” Cortes said.

More than 30 cities across the island nation have passed anti-discrimination ordinances to protect the LGBTQ community, but a bill to ban SOGIE (sexual orientation and gender identity and expression) discrimination nationwide has been stuck in the Philippine Congress for more than 20 years, having been first introduced in 2001.

A lawmaker has also attempted to get a bill to recognize same-sex civil unions passed, but it has stalled in committees.

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South LA Pride celebrates diversity and unity

Annual event took place in Baldwin Hills this past weekend

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Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass speaks at the South LA Pride festival in Baldwin Hills, Calif. (Photo courtesy of Koi Sojer/Snap’N U Photos)

The sixth annual South LA Pride festival went off without a hitch this weekend at the Michelle and Barack Obama Sports Complex in Baldwin Hills, in what organizers are calling a testament to the community’s unwavering spirit and commitment to equality.

The festival was organized around the theme “It’s Giving,” nodding to the popular phrase used to describe a person who exudes confidence and commitment and encouraging everyone to showcase their full selves and uniqueness with pride. It also nods to the spirit of giving back to the community.

South LA Pride is an annual festival dedicated to celebrating and advocating for the BIPOC LGBTQ community in South Los Angeles. Since 2017 — with a 2-year break during the COVID-19 pandemic — the festival has produced events and outreach celebrating the diversity of South LA.

This year’s headliner was out R&B artist JeRonelle, best known for competing in the second season of Fox’s “The Four: Battle for Stardom.”

“I’m thrilled and super excited to have headlined South LA Pride this year,” JeRonelle says. “In a time and election year where so much of our freedom seems to be at stake, it’s important for us to have spaces where LGBTQ folks can come together, have fun, feel safe, and literally take center stage.”

Other performers this year included singer Choklate, out rappers Billy the Goat and boysfloveflowers, R&B singing duet Sunday, disco funk artist Javi, alternative music artists Topaz Faerie and Luna Scar, pop singer Cristina Hron, drag artists Sasha Thickerfish and Miss Heaven Lee, singer Arashi Supanova, and DJs Higher Intentions, HJC, The Hound, and Dante Luv.

Showcasing BIPOC queer talent goes to the heart of South LA Pride’s mission to foster representation and empowerment in the community, says festival Entertainment Chair Aunt Jackie.

“By highlighting these voices, South LA Pride underscores the rich cultural diversity and unique experiences of the BIPOC queer community, challenging mainstream narratives and promoting a more inclusive and authentic portrayal of LGBTQ+ life. This focus not only elevates emerging talents but also strengthens community bonds, affirming that every identity and background is valued and essential to the fabric of South Los Angeles,” Aunt Jackie says.

Other attendees included Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass, City Attorney Hydee Feldstein-Soto, and Councilmembers Marqueece Harris-Dawson, Heather Hutt, and Hugo Soto-Martinez, who reiterated their efforts to foster a more inclusive city for the LGBTQ community.

The sixth annual South LA Pride at the Michelle and Barack Obama Sports Complex in Los Angeles on July 13, 2024. (Photo courtesy of Koi Sojer/Snap’N U Photos)

Events at this year’s festival included the Outside Kiki Ball for BIPOC LGBTQ youth, a Best Dressed contest hosted by Queen Shannon Gipson and Mother Devine Gorgeous Gucci, and a softball game hosted by the Greater Los Angeles Softball Association.

The festival also featured a vibrant marketplace with local vendors, artisans, and community organizations offering handcrafted jewelry, apparel, and diverse food options, giving attendees a chance to learn about and support local entrepreneurs.

South LA Pride organizers say plans are already underway for next year’s festival, which they promise will be even more spectacular and inclusive.

The sixth annual South LA Pride at the Michelle and Barack Obama Sports Complex in Los Angeles on July 13, 2024. (Photo courtesy of Koi Sojer/ Snap’N U Photos)

“We are thrilled with the success of this year’s event and are excited to build on this momentum. We invite everyone to join us next year as we continue to celebrate diversity and strive for equality,” says Jasmyne Cannick, director of South LA Pride.

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Politics

Trump picks anti-LGBTQ JD Vance as running mate

HRC, GLAAD highlight vice presidential nominee’s record

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U.S. Sen. JD Vance (R-Ohio) speaks at the 2023 Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Md. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Former President Donald Trump announced anti-LGBTQ U.S. Sen. JD Vance (R-Ohio) as his 2024 running mate in a Truth Social post on Monday.

A political neophyte who was first elected in 2022 thanks to Trump’s endorsement, Vance once compared the presumptive Republican presidential nominee to Adolf Hitler, also calling him “cultural heroin” and “an opioid of the masses.”

The Ohio senator’s journey from critic to acolyte was cemented over the weekend.

After Trump walked away from an assassination attempt and both of the major candidates said it was time to turn down the rhetoric, Vance went further than many on the right and directly blamed President Joe Biden and his campaign for the gunman’s actions.

“The central premise of the Biden campaign is that President Donald Trump is an authoritarian fascist who must be stopped at all costs,” he said on X. “That rhetoric led directly to President Trump’s attempted assassination.” 

LGBTQ organizations and advocates issued statements on Monday blasting Trump’s vice president pick.

“Donald Trump has been a bully for years — and his pick of MAGA clone JD Vance is a reminder that nothing has changed. This is anything but a unity ticket,” Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson said.

“We are not simply choosing between two campaigns. We are choosing between two fundamentally different visions of America. One, with Trump and MAGA ‘yes man’ JD Vance at the helm, where our rights and freedoms are under siege. And the other, with Joe Biden and Kamala Harris leading the way, where we are advancing toward freedom and equality for all,” she said.

“Everything is at stake and the contrast could not be clearer. We must defeat Trump, Vance, and their brand of chaos and division, and send Joe Biden and Kamala Harris back to the White House.”

In a press release, HRC listed some of the ways in which Vance has denigrated LGBTQ people.

GLAAD, meanwhile, has a lengthy entry for Vance in the GLAAD Accountability Project. Positions, statements, and actions by Trump’s running mate that were noted by the two organizations include:

  • His endorsement of the “groomer” slur against Democrats for their support of LGBTQ people,
  • His statement “strongly disagree[ing]” that LGBTQ people should be protected from discrimination,
  • His opposition to the Equality Act, which would federalize and codify LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination protections,
  • His extreme anti-choice views, including opposition to exceptions to abortion restrictions for victims of rape and incest and opposition to IVF,
  • His introduction of a bill to charge healthcare providers with a felony for providing medically necessary health care to transgender youth,
  • His statement that he would have voted “no” on the Respect for Marriage Act, which codified federal protections for married same-sex couples and was supported by a dozen GOP senators,
  • His defense of U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) for appearing at a white supremacist conference with host Nick Fuentes, who has spread racist, anti-Semitic and anti-LGBTQ conspiracy theories, and
  • His claim, a week before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, that Biden was risking war with Russia because President Putin doesn’t believe in trans rights.
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Africa

Burkina Faso moves to criminalize homosexuality

Justice Minister Edasso Bayala made announcement on July 10

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Burkina Faso flag (Photo by rarrarorro/Bigstock)

Burkina Faso has become the latest African country to move to criminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations.

Justice Minister Edasso Bayala on July 10 after a Cabinet meeting said same-sex sexual acts and similar practices would now be prohibited and seen as a violation of the law.

Unlike other countries where lawmakers have to introduce and pass bills, this scenario will likely not be the case in Burkina Faso because the country is currently under military role. Captain Ibrahim Traorè in 2022 led a coup that removed President Roch Kaboré and Prime Minister Lassina Zerbo.

Although some have signaled there still needs to be a parliamentary vote, there will be “legal” ramifications for those who are found to be LGBTQ or advocating for the community.

Consensual same-sex sexual relations or identifying as LGBTQ were regarded as legal in Burkina Faso before the July 10 announcement. Same-sex marriages were — and remain — illegal.

Members of the Transitional Legislative Assembly last September met to discuss regional issues that included the prohibition of and penalization of homosexuality and restricting the creation of groups that advocate on behalf of sexual minorities. The TLA incorporated the suggestions into a report and submitted it to Burkina Faso’s leadership.

Some of the country’s LGBTQ groups and human rights organizations have called upon the current leadership to respect and acknowledge other genders.

“We are all equal in dignity and rights,” said the National Consultive Commission on Human Rights, which is known by acronym CNDH (Commission Nationale des Droits Humains in French), in a statement. “CNDH is fighting against all forms of discrimination based on race gender, religion or social origin.”

“In Burkina Faso, thousands of people suffer from prejudice and injustice every day,” added CNDH. “We must take action. Discrimination weakens our society and divides our communities. Every individual deserves to live without fear of being judged or excluded.”

The organization further stressed “every action counts. Every voice matters.”

“Together we can change mindsets,” it said. “We must educate, raise awareness and encourage respect for diversity.”

CNDH President Gonta Alida Henriette said the government’s decision “would be the greatest violation of human rights in Burkina Faso and would condemn hundreds of thousands of LGBT+ people in Burkina Faso.” Alice Nkom, an African human rights activist, echoed this sentiment.

“Why politicize a privacy matter among consenting adults while making it a crucial topic for Africa? I answer you: Stop spying on your neighbor for the wrong reasons,” said Nkom. “Mind your own life and, if you care about your neighbor, worry about their health, if water is coming out of the tap, if there is electricity in the house, or food to feed their children.”

“Why are they prioritizing the issue of saying no to homosexuality in Africa instead of no wars or armed conflict in Africa, no poverty in Africa, no hunger in Africa, no misery in Africa?,” asked Nkom. “We should stop being distracted by topics that take away nothing and add nothing to our lives.”

Other activists say the proposal would expose the LGBTQ community and its allies to imprisonment and other punishments. They say the repercussions would go beyond legal implications; making human rights and sexual minority activists more vulnerable to criminal action, persecution, and arbitrary arrests. 

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National

FBI investigates failed assassination attempt on Donald Trump

LGBTQ groups have condemned the shooting that took place in Pa.

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(Screen capture via CNN)

Authorities are investigating a failed assassination attempt against former President Donald Trump at a rally Saturday in Butler, Pa., where a bullet pierced the ear of the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

One attendee was killed, along with the suspected shooter. Two others were critically injured in the attack.

The gunman was identified as 20-year-old Thomas Matthew Crooks, a registered Republican from Bethel Park, Pa., who gave to Democratic donation platform ActBlue in January 2021.

“I want to thank The U.S. Secret Service, and all of law enforcement, for their rapid response on the shooting that just took place in Butler, Pennsylvania,” Trump wrote in a post on Truth Social.

Former first lady Melania Trump wrote on Sunday that “When I watched that violent bullet strike my husband, Donald, I realized my life, and Barron’s life, were on the brink of devastating change.”

“A monster who recognized my husband as an inhuman political machine attempted to ring out Donald’s passion — his laughter, ingenuity, love of music, and inspiration,” she wrote.

President Joe Biden was scheduled to receive a briefing on Sunday at the White House with homeland security and law enforcement officials while the Republican-led House Oversight and Accountability Committee said it would be investigating the assassination attempt and had asked U.S. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle to testify at a hearing on July 22.

“I’ve been thoroughly briefed by all the agencies in the federal government as to the situation, based on what we know now,” Biden said in remarks from Rehoboth Beach, Del., just after the assassination attempt on Saturday night.

“I have tried to get a hold of Donald,” the president said, “He’s with his doctors.” (The two would talk later on Saturday.)

“There is no place in America for this kind of violence,” Biden said. “It’s sick. It’s sick. It’s one of the reasons why we have to unite this country. We cannot allow for this to be happening. We cannot be like this. We cannot condone this.” 

“We are shocked by tonight’s apparent assassination attempt on President Trump in Pennsylvania and relieved that he is safe and in good condition,” Log Cabin Republicans President Charles Moran said on X.

“Our prayers are with President Trump, his family, and our country while we wait to learn further details,” he said. “We are also praying for the family of the innocent bystander who was killed. Our movement will not be deterred.”

Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson said on X, “Political violence has no place in America. The attack at today’s rally in PA is an affront to our democracy, and our thoughts are with the former president and all those affected. As a nation, we must unite to condemn political violence in all its forms.”

Congressional leaders from both parties issued statements condemning political violence.

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