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Bipartisan legislation introduced to protect transgender servicemembers

House bill companion to Senate bill introduced last month

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California Rep. Jackie Speier (Photo from Rep. Speier)

California Reps. Jackie Speier and Susan Davis joined four other members of Congress on Friday to introduce a bipartisan bill intended to protect transgender military servicemembers under siege by the Trump administration. H.R. 4041 prohibits the Department of Defense from discharging trans members of the Armed Forces based solely on their gender identity.

Sec. of Defense Jim Mattis has repeatedly said the current policy of trans open service remains in effect until he has had a chance to develop a policy, under President Trump’s orders, based on recommendations from a panel of experts. Trans servicemembers have been serving openly since June 2016 without incident. However, in a sudden series of tweets last July 26, Trump issued a directive ordering Mattis and the Pentagon to reverse the Obama-era policy and kick out all transgender individuals working in any capacity and prevent any recruitment or promotion through the accessions policy. Trump gave Mattis six months to come up with a new personnel policy, while Mattis is simultaneously preparing for the possibility of nuclear war. LGBT groups have urged Mattis to recruit trans people with military or national security experience to sit on that panel of experts.

“Kicking out members of the United States Armed Services solely based on their gender identity is hateful, discriminatory, and on the wrong side of history,” Speier said in a statement.  “News flash, Mr. President – thousands of transgender troops already serve our country with pride and dignity. Our military should be focused on recruiting and retaining the best troops, not on rejecting qualified service members on the basis of discrimination.”

Republican Reps. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida are co-authors of the new House bill, along with Democratic Reps. Adam Smith of Washington and out bisexual Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. Last month, the Senate, lead by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, introduced a similar bipartisan bill, S. 1820, co-authored by Sens. Jack Reed, Susan Collins, and to the surprise of many, John McCain.   According to a reliable source in the Pentagon, McCain was asked to join Gillibrand’s efforts by Defense Sec. Mattis who really does not want to change to current pro-LGBT policy.

“I stood proudly with the previous administration when we lifted the ban on ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’” said Davis, a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee who represents military-heavy San Diego. “Many of the arguments against transgender servicemembers are the same we have heard for gay service members, and the same we heard for women before that. Transgender servicemembers have and are serving with honor, distinction, and courage. No evidence has been presented to warrant a ban, which is based solely on discrimination. Our servicemembers should be focused on the singular objective of protecting Americans. This ban will only serve as a disruptive distraction of that effort.”

“Congress’ intention with the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was to allow our brave servicemembers to openly serve in our armed forces without fear of being discriminated against,” said Ros-Lehtinen, who has a trans son and has been very critical of the Trump administration’s attitudes towards trans people.   “The decision by the Administration to not allow transgender individuals to serve in the military is a sad reminder of the dark chapters in our nation’s history that should never be repeated. The courts have usually been forced to adjudicate what constitutes discrimination but once again Congress is saying: no more. Any patriot, as long as they are qualified to serve, should have the ability to, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. These individuals are willing to sacrifice their lives for our freedom, a freedom that they should also be able to enjoy.’

“I cannot begin to stress how utterly immoral it would be for brave men and women who are currently serving in the U.S. military to be kicked out, and lose their careers, purely because of discrimination,” said Smith, Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee. “This bipartisan legislation would prevent that kind of mindless discriminatory purge, and it is an important step toward reversing President Trump’s ban on transgender military service. We will continue to fight so that all individuals who are willing and able can volunteer in defense of their country.”

“Any American willing to risk his or her life to protect and serve our country deserves our gratitude and support,” said Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema. “I’m proud to work with this bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers, including Arizona’s Senator John McCain, in standing with our military.”

As outlined by Speier in her press release, the bill would: 

  • “Express a sense of Congress that individuals who are qualified and can meet the standards to serve in the military should be eligible to serve;
  • Prohibit DoD from involuntarily separating, or denying the reenlistment or continuation in service in the Armed Forces of currently serving transgender service members solely on the basis of the service member’s gender identity; and
  • Require Secretary Mattis to complete his review of accession of transgender individuals into the Armed Forces by the end of this year and report the results to Congress.”

“Transgender troops serve this nation with distinction and honor, and President Trump’s unpatriotic attack on their service is unconscionable,” said Stephen Peters, HRC National Press Secretary and Marine Corps veteran. “Qualified Americans who are willing to put their lives on the line for their fellow citizens should be allowed to do so — regardless of their gender identity. We thank Representatives Jackie Speier, Charlie Dent, Susan Davis, Ileana Ro-Lehtinen, Adam Smith, and Kyrsten Sinema for their leadership in defending transgender service members.”

The legislation was also praised by the American Military Partner Association, the nation’s largest organization of LGBT military families.

“These members of Congress believe all service members, regardless of their gender identity, deserve to be treated with dignity and respect — not shamefully targeted for discrimination by their commander-in-chief,” said AMPA President Ashley Broadway-Mack. “After being assured by the Defense Department that it was safe to come out, our transgender service members are now facing a great deal of uncertainty, and it’s compounding the strain on their families that already comes with military service. Instead of singling them out for blatant discrimination, President Trump should be praising transgender service members and their families for their selfless sacrifice and service to our nation. As the nation’s largest organization of LGBT military families, we are thankful for the support from these members of Congress who are demonstrating true leadership.”

AMPA is an organizational plaintiff in Karnoski v. Trump, a lawsuit challenging Trump’s ban in court. The suit is brought by Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN on behalf of several transgender individuals, AMPA, the Human Rights Campaign, and Gender Justice League.

The trans military servicemembers ban is expected to be the top topic at OutServe-SLDN’s 2017 LGBT Military Community Conference  in Washington, DC from October 19 – 21. Out former Sec. of the Army Eric Fanning and trans former Deputy Assistant Defense Sec. Amanda Simpson are scheduled to attend on Oct. 19.

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CDC extends eviction ban as White House pushes to get relief money out

The order expires on October 3 & applies in U.S. counties experiencing substantial & high levels of community transmission levels of COVID

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Screenshot of President Biden's press conference Aug. 3, 2021 via NBC News YouTube

ATLANTA – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, on Tuesday issued a new moratorium on evictions that would last until October 3, while the White House spent the day trying to tamp down rising critique from Democrats and other groups angered over the decision to let the ban expire over the weekend.

Progressive lawmakers including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, (D-NY) and Missouri Democratic Representative Cori Bush, who has been camped outside on the steps of the U.S. Capitol building since Saturday midnight, were leading a passionate protest urging the White House to do more to prevent about 3.6 million Americans at risk of saying that the administration was allowing vulnerable renters to lose their homes during a pandemic by not acting.

The freshman congresswoman once lived in her car as a young mother and identified with those Americans that would be negatively impacted. A point made in a tweet by MSNBC anchor and host Mehdi Hasan Tuesday after the evictions ban was extended.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky signed the order determining the evictions of tenants for failure to make rent or housing payments could be detrimental to public health control measures to slow the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

This order will expire on October 3, 2021 and applies in United States counties experiencing substantial and high levels of community transmission levels of SARS-CoV-2.

The eviction moratorium allows additional time for rent relief to reach renters and to further increase vaccination rates. In the context of a pandemic, eviction moratoria—like quarantine, isolation, and social distancing—can be an effective public health measure utilized to prevent the spread of communicable disease, the statement from the CDC read.

During an afternoon press conference, President Joe Biden addressed the extension of the ban by his administration.

Biden was asked, “On the evictions and the moratorium that lapsed on Saturday night: What is your strategy to prevent potentially millions of people from being evicted from their homes, given what we are told your administration is considering — a targeted moratorium — is likely to face legal challenges?”
 
In response the President said;  “Any call for a moratorium based on the Supreme Court recent decision is likely to face obstacles.  I’ve indicated to the CDC I’d like them to look at other alternatives than the one that is in pow- — in existence, which the Court has declared they’re not going to allow to continue.  And the CDC will have something to announce to you in the next hour to two hours.”

Another reporter asked, “Mr. President, a question on COVID, if I could, really quickly.  It’s the eviction moratorium.  Can you explain a little bit more why it took so long to have a possible eviction moratorium be put into place?  There was — there are people — this expired on Saturday.  I’m wondering — there are folks who are saying it took too long for this to happen.”

Biden responded; “Well, look, the courts made it clear that the existing moratorium was not constitutional; it wouldn’t stand.  And they made that clear back in, I guess, July 15th or July 18th. 
 
In the meantime, what I’ve been pushing for and calling for is we have billions of dollars that were given to states to provide for rent and utilities for those people who can’t afford to stay in their homes because they can’t — an apartment — they can’t pay their rent.  And so, we’re urging them to distribute those funds to the landlords.  I believe that would take care of the vast majority of what needs to be done to keep people in their — in their ho- — in their apartments now. 
 
And so that’s what we’re working on.  Some states have done it and some communities have, but they have not.  The money is there.  It’s not — we don’t have to send it out.  It’s been sent out to the states and counties — billions of dollars — for the express purpose of providing for back rent and rent for the people who are in the middle of this crisis.  And that’s there; that’s what we’re pushing now.  And we’ve been pushing that.  That’s the immediate thing to do.”

The CDC identified a legal authority for the new, different moratorium for areas with high and substantial increases in COVID-19 infections. 

There have been difficulties ensuring the federal housing aid makes it to renters and landlords with many saying that some states are reporting a lot of logistical problems in dispersing their funds, from websites getting overloaded and crashing to renters not being able to track down all the verification documents. 

During a teleconference briefing Tuesday with House Democrats, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told lawmakers the work was underway to ensure the federal housing aid makes it to renters and landlords. She provided data so that lawmakers could see how their districts and states are performing with distributing the relief, according to a person on the call, Voice of America reported.

The Chair of the House Financial Services Committee, Democratic California Congresswoman Maxine Waters, has been urging the Treasury secretary to use her influence to push states to get the money out to renters and landlords. 

After the CDC’s announcement, Rep. Waters released a statement thanking President Biden “for listening and for encouraging the CDC to act! This extension of the moratorium is the lifeline that millions of families have been waiting for.” 

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Jenner’s campaign to replace Newsom in recall race in debt

A recent Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies/Los Angeles Times poll showed her tied for fifth place with 3 percent support

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Caitlyn Jenner (Blade file screenshot)

LOS ANGELES – According to campaign filings as reported by Politico Monday, the gubernatorial recall campaign of Trans reality-television personality Republican Caitlyn Jenner to replace Democratic California Governor Gavin Newsom has amassed significant debt.

In required disclosure of campaign finances to the California Secretary of State, Jenner’s campaign has raised through to the end of July from its launch $747,000 and spent some $910,000, leaving her campaign with about $156,000 in unpaid bills and roughly $21,000 on hand for the race’s critical final stretch.

Politico noted that; “The campaign has sent about $67,000 to Parscale Strategy, LLC, the firm run by former Trump campaign strategist Brad Parscale. It spent $25,000 on former Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer’s media strategy company Ari Fleischer Communications.

Among Parscale Strategy’s reported spending was a $1,800 “staff meeting” at Nobu, a fancy Malibu restaurant, and $1,300 for a limousine service that ferried Jenner to Los Angeles meetings.”

Jenner is temporarily residing in Australia filming a reality-television show, although her campaign told the online portal for the San Francisco Chronicle in a statement that “Caitlyn has not paused her campaign at all,” and will be back in California for a bus tour in August.

Jenner,71,  has barely gained momentum since her entrance to the race this past April. A recent Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies/Los Angeles Times poll  showed her tied for fifth place with 3 percent support. Politico pointed out that media buys statewide in California are several million dollars and with her campaign in debt it makes gaining traction with potential voters difficult.

The date set for the recall is September 14 and midway through this month the mail-in ballots will be sent out by elections officials statewide.

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Out for America; nearly 1,000 elected LGBTQ+ officials but more needed

Lack of representation has consequences, as LGBTQ elected officials are best positioned to defend against anti-LGBTQ legislative attacks

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Victory Institute Out for America report cover Image of Delaware State Senator Sarah McBride (D First District) being sworn in to office

WASHINGTON – In its annual report the Washington D.C. based LGBTQ Victory Institute noted that there had been an increase of 17 percent in the past year of LGBTQ Americans serving as elected officials. According to the data in the Out for America 2021 report released this past week, there are 986 known out LGBTQ elected officials in the United States.

The Victory Institute reported that total included two U.S. senators, nine U.S. representatives, two governors, 189 state legislators, 56 mayors and six statewide executives. While this is considered a large increase, LGBTQ people hold just 0.19 percent of elected positions in the United States, despite making up at least 5.6 percent of the U.S. adult population.

Americans must elect 28,116 more LGBTQ people to public office for LGBTQ people to achieve equitable representation (serving in 5.6 percent of elected positions) the report went on to note.

KEY FINDINGS:

The report found that in the past year (between June 2020 and June 2021):

  • LGBTQ elected officials of color increased by 51 percent, with Black LGBTQ elected officials growing at the fastest pace (a 75 percent increase);
  • Trans women elected officials increased by 71 percent (from 21 to 36), yet trans men saw no increase (with just five serving nationwide);
  • Queer-identified elected officials increased by 83 percent, faster than all other sexual orientations; and
  • LGBQ cisgender women state legislators surpassed the number of GBQ cisgender men state legislators for the first time.

The report also found that:

  • LGBTQ elected officials are significantly more racially and ethnically diverse than the overall elected official population, but are less diverse than the U.S. population;
  • Mississippi is the only state in the nation with zero known out LGBTQ elected officials serving;
  • 23 states have transgender elected officials serving and 29 states have non-cisgender elected officials;
  • LGBTQ people are equitably represented among mayors of top 100 cities for the first time (with six), but are underrepresented among mayors overall and in all other public positions; and that
  • 84 percent of LGBTQ elected officials are Democrats and just three percent are Republicans.

In an emailed statement, former Houston, Texas Mayor Annise Parker, who currently serves as the President & CEO of LGBTQ Victory Institute reflected, “While LGBTQ elected officials are growing steadily in number, at this pace it will still take decades to come anywhere close to achieving equitable representation in government.” 

Parker went on to note, “This lack of representation has enormous consequences, because LGBTQ elected officials are best positioned to defend against anti-LGBTQ legislative attacks and to change the hearts and minds of colleagues in supporting inclusive policies. A moonshot effort to increase our numbers is essential to advancing equality at every level of government – and a large part of that is showing LGBTQ people that running for office is our best bet to achieve lasting social change.”

In addition to changes in representation over the last year, the report also looks at trends since the first Out for America report was released in November 2017. In that time, LGBTQ elected officials increased by 121 percent (from 448 to 986) overall, and LGBTQ elected officials of color increased by 201 percent (from 92 to 277). 

Since November 2017, there is a 296 percent increase in Black LGBTQ elected officials (from 23 to 91), 135 percent increase in Latinx LGBTQ elected officials (from 51 to 120) and a 117 percent increase in Asian American and Pacific Islander elected officials (from 12 to 26). Trans women increased by 800 percent (from four to 36) and bisexual elected officials by 787 percent (from eight to 71).

“LGBTQ elected officials are significantly more diverse than the overall elected official population – so their impact extends beyond LGBTQ equality alone,” said Ruben Gonzales, Executive Director of LGBTQ Victory Institute. “LGBTQ elected officials are on the frontlines in legislative efforts to end police brutality, defend voting rights and secure inclusive healthcare reform. LGBTQ people are represented in every community in America and that diversity allows for more thoughtful policy changes when we are in office.”

The Out for America report is an annual analysis of LGBTQ elected representation in government based on Victory Institute’s LGBTQ elected officials database – the largest and most comprehensive listing available. The interactive Out for America map, updated daily, displays all known LGBTQ elected officials and is available at outforamerica.org.

Read the full Out for America 2021 report at victoryinstitute.org/out-for-america-2021.

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