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America the molested

Sexual harassment firestorm sweeps the country

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The #MeToo campaign helped spread the word and became a worldwide movement against predatory sexual misconduct. (Graphic by Los Angeles Blade)

It started with a joke at a small comedy club in Philadelphia on Oct. 16, 2014, a night that will live in infamy. Hannibal Buress’ riff on his disgust for moralizer Bill Cosby was part of his act. “I can talk down to you because I had a successful sitcom,” Buress said, mimicking America’s once beloved TV dad. “Yeah, but you raped women, Bill Cosby. So, brings you down a couple notches.” The joke went viral and scores of women accusers started coming out of the shadows.

A match was lit. Hollywood’s “casting couch” was set on fire, inspiring more and more women—and men—from all walks of life to come forward to tell their #MeToo stories. And the stories haven’t stopped, pounding away at the pillars of established male privilege, exposing the “normalcy” of economic leverage and alleged moral corruption among “good” men like Bill Cosby, George Takei and Alabama Judge Roy Moore.

And suddenly, the pillars toppled. Fox News media kingpin Roger Ailes and Fox’s $100 million TV host Bill O’Reilly were knocked down by irrepressible former Fox anchor Gretchen Carlson. And since the New York Times and the New Yorker exposed numerous victims, massive payouts and secret cover-ups for serial sexual harasser Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, the entertainment industry has been quaking in its high noon boots.

Weinstein’s accusers gave birth to the #MeToo movement, shattering the walls of silence protecting closeted gay harassers, as well. Actor Anthony Rapp’s allegation to Buzzfeed that “House of Cards” star Kevin Spacey sexually harassed him when Rapp was only 14 ripped off decades of veneers, prompting numerous victims to come forward. Reaction was swift: Netflix fired him from the TV hit and director Ridley Scott decided to cut Spacey out of his thriller “All the Money in the World”— scheduled for release Dec.22 — and reshoot with replacement Christopher Plummer. “I think it’s very sad what happened to him,” clueless Plummer told Vanity Fair. “Kevin is such a talented and a terrifically gifted actor, and it’s so sad. It’s such a shame.”

A decades-old accusation by former model Scott R. Brunton that gay Star Trek icon George Takei groped him drew a swift denial on Twitter. Takei even blamed the viral accusation on Russian bots because he’s criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin’s anti-LGBT policies.
But an audiotape emerged of Takei joking with radio host Howard Stern about how he would grab men to “persuade” them to have sex. It sounded to fans like Brunton’s story. Takei walked that back quickly, saying he was playing the character of a “naughty gay grandpa”—which he now regrets, saying “the joke was distasteful.”

“I want to be clear: I have never forced myself upon someone during a date. Sometimes my dates were the initiators, and sometimes I was,” Takei wrote on Facebook. “It was always by mutual consent. I see now that that it has come across poorly in the awkward sketch, and I apologize for playing along with Howard’s insinuation. Non-consensual acts are anathema to me and my personal code of conduct, and I would never do something against anyone’s will, period.”

Politics has also been rocked by the harassment eruptions, enabling women to break their silence at the California State Capitol. State Sen. Pro Tem Kevin de Leon hired outside investigators to look into the allegations against Sen. Tony Mendoza. This follows a “We Said Enough” letter signed by hundreds of professional women who say Sacramento has a culture of sexual harassment.

Women in the U.S. Capitol aren’t taking it anymore, either, with past and present lawmakers—including Californians Mary Bono, Hilda Solis, Linda Sanchez and Jackie Speier—speaking out about the secret “creep list” of colleagues with inappropriate behavior. “A lot of it has to do with being in a place where people who have power try to exert it to get what they want,” one Senate staffer said told CNN.

After a Nov. 14 House Administration Committee hearing on sexual harassment, Speaker Paul Ryan announced a policy to require anti-sexual harassment and anti-discrimination training for all members and staff. No mention of LGBT inclusion.

The showdown over Alabama Christian fundamentalist Judge Roy Moore, a Senate candidate and darling of the anti-LGBT Religious Right, is drawing attention to LGBT issues, however. At a news conference last week, Moore said, “The transgenders don’t have rights,” referring to Trump’s trans military ban.

But a detailed Nov. 9 Washington Post story on Moore is testing Republicans. Leigh Corfman, 14 years old in 1979, alleges that Moore, then a 32-year-old assistant district attorney, sexually molested her. “Roy Moore is a pedophile,” Steve Schmidt said on MSNBC.

So far, five women have accused Moore of sexual misconduct, including Beverly Young Nelson, who on Nov. 13 said Moore tried to force her to have oral sex when she was 16.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions told a House hearing that he had “no reason to doubt these young women.” No one asked the former Alabama senator if he knew that Gadsden Mall banned Moore because he repeatedly badgered teenage girls, according to the New Yorker. Speaker Ryan has asked him to step aside; Sen. Jeff Flake says he’ll vote to expel Moore if he wins the Dec. 12 election. And now, even big backer Steve Bannon is re-thinking his support.

The ugly moral irony is that they all continue to support President Donald Trump, who has at least 14 accusers. Last month, ThinkProgress founder Judd Legum posted their names on Twitter, including: “8. Kristin Anderson. Said Trump reached under her skirt and grabbed her vagina through her underwear in the early 1990s.” That’s similar to the “grab ‘em by the pussy” behavior Trump confessed to Access Hollywood’s Billy Bush. “And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything,” Trump said on tape.

Perhaps Trump meant it as a joke. But no one’s laughing now.

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Virginia

Virginia Senate subcommittee tables anti-Trans student athlete bill

SB 20, which would have exposed school districts to costly lawsuits for failing to protect trans students, was defeated in subcommittee

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Virginia State Senate (Photo Credit; Commonwealth of Virginia government)

RICHMOND – A Virginia Senate subcommittee on Thursday tabled a bill that would have banned transgender students from joining school sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity.

Senate Bill 766, which state Sen. Jennifer Kiggans (R-Virginia Beach) introduced on earlier this month, would have required “each elementary or secondary school or a private school that competes in sponsored athletic events against such public schools to designate athletic teams, whether a school athletic team or an intramural team sponsored by such school, based on biological sex as follows: (i) ‘males,’ ‘men,’ or ‘boys’; (ii) ‘females,’ ‘women,’ or ‘girls’; or (iii) ‘coed’ or ‘mixed.’”

“SB 766 (trans sports ban) was passed by indefinitely (it died!) after a long line of speakers testified against it, affirming trans students’ rights to participate in sports just like their cisgender peers,” tweeted the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia after the vote. “Trans students belong in sports. Period.”

Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin during his campaign said he does not support allowing trans children to play on sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity.

The General Assembly’s 2022 legislative session began on Jan. 12 with Republicans in control of the House of Delegates. Democrats still control the Senate by a 21-19 margin.

A bill that would have eliminated the requirement that school districts implement the Virginia Department of Education’s trans and non-binary student guidelines died in a Senate subcommittee on Thursday. The Senate General Laws and Technology on Thursday also tabled a religious freedom measure that would have undermined Virginia’s LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination law.

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Arizona

Arizona Republicans introduce ‘no promo homo’ bill in 2022 session

“I’m extremely disappointed with the Arizona Republicans who continue to perpetuate homophobia and transphobia”

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Arizona Democratic State Rep. Daniel Hernandez is defending LGBTQ+ rights (Photo Courtesy of Rep. Hernandez)

PHOENIX – State Representative Jake Hoffman, (R-12), during a state House Education Committee meeting this week told fellow lawmakers that certain materials he discovered in schools is a foundational reason the committee should pass House Bill 2495

“This one is a teenager masturbating. Here’s another teenager masturbating. Here’s two teenagers engaged in sex,” said Hoffman, presenting what he alleged are examples of what was available to students although he admitted that the materials weren’t in all schools. “There is nothing more sacred than the innocence of a child,” said Hoffman who co-sponsored the bill.

The bill defines ‘sexually explicit materials’ as “Textual, visual or audio materials or materials accessed via any other medium” that depict any of the following matters:

A. NOTWITHSTANDING ANY OTHER LAW, A PUBLIC SCHOOL IN THIS STATE MAY NOT REFER STUDENTS TO OR USE ANY SEXUALLY EXPLICIT MATERIAL IN ANY MANNER.

B. FOR THE PURPOSES OF THIS SECTION, “SEXUALLY EXPLICIT MATERIALS” INCLUDES TEXTUAL, VISUAL OR AUDIO MATERIALS OR MATERIALS ACCESSED VIA ANY OTHER MEDIUM THAT DEPICT ANY OF THE FOLLOWING:

1. SEXUAL CONDUCT. FOR THE PURPOSES OF THIS PARAGRAPH, “SEXUAL CONDUCT” MEANS ACTS OF MASTURBATION, HOMOSEXUALITY, SEXUAL INTERCOURSE OR PHYSICAL CONTACT WITH A PERSON’S CLOTHED OR UNCLOTHED GENITALS […]

2. SEXUAL EXCITEMENT.  […]

3. ULTIMATE SEXUAL ACTS. FOR THE PURPOSES OF THIS PARAGRAPH, “ULTIMATE SEXUAL ACTS” MEANS SEXUAL INTERCOURSE […]

The bill’s definition of homosexuality as ‘sexual conduct’ has drawn sharp criticism from LGBTQ+ advocates including members of the Arizona Legislative LGBTQ Caucus.

Democratic State Rep. Daniel Hernandez accused Hoffman and other Republicans pushing for the bill’s passage as engaging in a campaign to turn back LGBTQ+ progress in the state to an earlier era under a law colloquially referred to as the ‘no promo homo,’ which banned the state’s schools from acknowledging or ‘promoting’ a so-called ‘homosexual lifestyle.’

“What this bill does is once and again try and erase the LGBTQ community from Arizona public schools, under the guise of protecting children,” said Hernandez, during the meeting.

“It’s not the mere of status of being a homosexual, it is the act of homosexuality, so the act of sexual intercourse between two people of the same gender. That is a completely different thing than you represented it to be,” Hoffman retorted.

In an email to the Blade Hernandez noted, “Republicans in the legislature are pushing legislation to effectively ban sex education in Arizona schools and roll back the clock. Even mentioning the LGBTQ+ community will be against the law. As someone who knows what it’s like to grow up under an antiquated law that keeps the LGBTQ community from being seen in the classroom, I can tell you this makes our kids less safe.”

Hernandez, who is campaigning for a seat in the U.S. Congress to represent the Second Congressional District, wrote in an email to supporters; “I’m extremely disappointed with the Arizona Republicans who continue to perpetuate homophobia and transphobia. So, I’m speaking out against this shameful targeting of LGBTQ children and erasure of the LGBTQ community. Because as one of four gay members in our state’s legislature, I have a duty to stand up for the LGBTQ Arizonans who can’t be in our state’s Capitol to defend their own rights.”

In 2019, Republican Governor Doug Ducey signed Senate Bill 1346 which repealed the1991 law, which made it illegal for K-12 public schools to provide HIV prevention instruction that “promotes a homosexual lifestyle,” “portrays homosexuality as a positive alternative lifestyle” or “suggests that some methods of sex are safe methods of homosexual sex.”

The law had been the subject of a federal lawsuit challenging its constitutionality.

New York blogger Joe Jervis reported that Hoffman has been in the national news this week as he is one of Arizona’s fake electors. In 2020 he was banned by Twitter for running a paid teenage pro-Trump troll farm with Charlie Kirk.

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Georgia

Georgia school official says gay art is same as Nazi flag

There are ongoing complaints that this current administration has been discriminatory against women, LGBTQ people & English language learners

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Courtesy of a Oglethorpe Avenue Elementary parent

ATHENS, Ga. – A display of student artwork at Oglethorpe Avenue Elementary School in Athens this past week created a controversy, when a poster that was hung in the collection by a faculty member for a student that had rainbow colors and the words; “Gay is OK,” was taken down by an school administrator who labeled it comparable to exhibition of a Nazi flag.

Atlanta’s NBC affiliate WXIA-TV 11 reported that some parents whose children attend Oglethorpe said they are concerned about how this situation and others have been handled.

“There are ongoing complaints about this current administration has been discriminatory against women, being discriminatory against LGBTQ people, being discriminatory against English language learners or emerging bilinguals, emerging multilingual and Spanish speakers. So we have seen a pattern of inequity at our school and we have been asking for support at this point for years,” said Jemelleh Coes, a parent and professor at the University of Georgia. 

WXIA-TV 11 heard from staff and faculty at the school expressed their disagreement with the characterization of Oglethorpe. A current teacher, who wished to remain anonymous, told the station: 

On behalf of a majority of the staff at Oglethorpe Avenue Elementary School, we are disheartened that these words and actions have happened in our school building during this time. This does not represent why we chose this profession, and it does not represent the feelings, beliefs, values, and attributes our amazing school family has within these four walls. We are disheartened that there has been no action taken by CCSD or our building administration to rectify the divide that has been caused. We will continue to seek resolution and promote a community of love, acceptance, and tolerance within our building and community. 

Parents want action.

The Clarke County School District released a statement this week:

January 25, 2022

Dear Oglethorpe Avenue Elementary Community, 

I write this letter to acknowledge a situation at Oglethorpe Avenue Elementary that has caused a great deal of anger and frustration in our community.

It has been alleged that a piece of student artwork was compared to Nazi symbolism. We have investigated the situation and are working to address the issues with all parties involved. To be clear, we condemn this comparison and discrimination in all its forms. 

The Clarke County School District embraces diversity and inclusion for all students and staff. We stand with our LGBTQIA+ community and are dedicated to proving our commitment to diversity and inclusion. 

To that end, we will continue having sensitive and appropriate conversations with our school communities.

Sincerely,

Brannon Gaskins
Acting Superintendent

Athens Pride weighed in on their social media accounts raising awareness on the issue and then asking people to donate to help LGBTQ people in need. 

Athens Pride is appalled to hear of the actions that transpired at a local elementary school. Our organization is committed to providing resources and support to LGBTQ+ students, parents, and community members- especially now. We are in contact with all parties involved, who at this time request privacy. We will keep the community updated on further information as it becomes available. We are reminded today that our school, city, and people have a lot of work to do to create true safe spaces for our children. Homophobia, Anti-semitism, and all forms of hate have should have no home here in Athens – especially in our public schools.”

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