Connect with us

National

‘A great day for Alabama’

Jones stuns homophobe Moore in win seen as rebuke of Trump, Bannon

Published

on

Doug Jones is the first Democrat to win a statewide race in Alabama in 25 years. (Photo courtesy Jones campaign)

In a stunning political development celebrated by LGBT rights advocates, Democrat Doug Jones defeated notorious homophobe Roy Moore in an Alabama special election Tuesday for a U.S. Senate seat.

According to New York Times estimates, Jones, a former U.S. prosecutor, won 50 percent of the vote over Moore, who has a long career as an attorney and judge and who captured about 48 percent of the vote. Major media outlets called the election for Jones at 10:25 p.m. EST.

Jones told supporters in Birmingham after his win he thinks he’s “been waiting for this all my life, and now I just don’t know what the hell to say.”

“I have always said that the people of Alabama have more in common than what divides,” Jones said. “We have shown the country the way that we can be unified.”

Jones gave thanks to the black community in Alabama, which had a large turnout widely seen as a major factor in his win, as well as Latinos. Jones also wished his Jewish friends a “happy Hanukkah.”

Concluding his remarks, Jones said Alabama has often been at the crossroads of U.S. history, but voters that night “took the right road.” The audience chanted “U-S-A! U-S-A!”

Jones pulled off a stunning win against Moore in a deep red state that President Trump won by a handy margin in 2016. Jones is the first Democrat to win statewide election in Alabama since 1992.

Endorsed by the Human Rights Campaign, Jones has expressed support for LGBT rights. The senator-elect was caught on camera telling a supporters the Trump administration was “wrong” to have rescinded Title IX guidance assuring transgender kids access to the school restrooms consistent with their gender identity. Further, Jones said Trump’s transgender military ban was “wrong.”

Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement the election demonstrates “attacking and demonizing the LGBTQ community is a sure-fire way to get yourself beat on Election Day.”

“Doug Jones’ victory in Alabama is monumental, and was made possible by the overwhelming and unprecedented, grassroots resistance of ordinary Alabamians against the politics of hate and division,” Griffin said. “From our victories in North Carolina, Virginia, and now in Alabama, equality voters have proven that LGBTQ people and our allies are a voting bloc to be respected, sought-after and feared by candidates on both sides of the aisle.”

Moore faced accusations of sexual misconduct from nine women over his campaign, including three accusations of sexual assault, which likely affected Alabama voters.

The most prominent accuser was Leigh Corfman, who said Moore sexually assaulted her in 1979, when she was 14 and he was 32. Another, Beverly Young Nelson, said when she was 15 in 1977 she received unwelcome attention from Moore. Nelson said one year later Moore sexually assaulted her. Other women accused of him pursuing inappropriate relationships with them when they were teenagers.

Moore was already well known in the LGBT community for his hostility toward LGBT rights, even when it meant abandoning the rule of law. Many LGBT observers predicted a Moore win would have been tantamount to a revival of late Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina, who championed homophobic policies during his tenure in Congress.

After he started his run for the U.S. Senate, a tape emerged from 2005 in which Moore said same-sex relationships, which were illegal in many states just two years earlier before the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Lawrence v. Texas, should be criminalized.

On the day of the election, CNN reporter Jake Tapper questioned Moore spokesperson Ted Crockett if the candidate still believes homosexuality should be illegal. His response: “Probably.”

Asked what the punishment should be, Crockett replied, “It’s just a sin, OK? That’s what it is.” Pressed further, Crockett said, “It’s what my Bible tells me. Both the Old Testament and the New Testament.” (Although the Old Testament calls when a “man lies with a male as with a woman” an “abomination,” the admonitions in the New Testament on homosexuality are sometimes seen instead as prohibitions on male prostitutes and pederasty.)
“That’s what this is about,” Crockett added. “You people want to take the whole two or three thousand years of our history, and ya’ll just want to throw it out the window as if you’re just going to make your own rules, your own man-made rules, and do whatever you want in sin. And that’s part of the problem we’ve got in Washington, D.C., today.”

Lane Galbraith, a transgender activist in Mobile, Ala., said the election results were a step forward for his state.

“Alabamians can hold their heads high,” Galbraith said. “We overcame white supremacy, bigotry, ignorance and religious oppression.”

The most prominent part of Moore’s anti-LGBT record was his opposition to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling for same-sex marriage. Moore called the decision “an immoral, unconstitutional and tyrannical opinion” and instructed Alabama state judges to ignore federal rulings in favor of marriage equality.

Last year, Moore issued a directive saying despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision for same-sex marriage, probate judges should still deny marriage licenses to gay couples because the Alabama Supreme Court never withheld its 2015 ruling upholding the state law against gay nuptials.

For encouraging state officials to defy federal courts, the Alabama judicial court suspended Moore for the remainder of his term from the Alabama Supreme Court, determining Moore “failed to uphold the integrity and independence of the judiciary.” (It wasn’t the first time Moore was suspended from the bench. It happened in 2003 when he refused to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments from the Alabama Judicial Building.)

Advertisement
FUND LGBTQ JOURNALISM
SIGN UP FOR E-BLAST

Ohio

Trans student bathroom ban bill passes Ohio House Committee

HB 183 would require Ohio K-12 schools & colleges mandate students only use bathroom or locker room that matches their sex assigned at birth

Published

on

Gender-neutral bathroom at Grant High School, Portland Oregon. (Screenshot/YouTube KGW NBC News Portland, Oregon)

By Megan Henty | COLUMBUS, Ohio – A bill that would ban transgender students from using the bathroom and locker room that matches up with their gender identity passed out of the Ohio House Higher Education Committee Wednesday by a 10-5 party line vote.

State Reps. Beth Lear, R-Galena, and Adam Bird, R-New Richmond, introduced House Bill 183 which would require Ohio K-12 schools and colleges to mandate that students could only use the bathroom or locker room that matches their sex assigned at birth. It would also prohibit schools from allowing students to share overnight accommodations with the opposite sex.

HB 183 now awaits further consideration in the House, which is next scheduled to be in session April 24. 

Parents, grandparents, and school superintendents asked Bird for this bill, he said. 

The American Medical Association officially opposes policies preventing transgender individuals from accessing basic human services and public facilities consistent with gender identity.

HB 183 would not prohibit a school from having single-occupancy facilities and it would not apply to someone helping a person with a disability or a child younger than 10 years old being assisted by a parent, guardian, or family member.

State Rep. Gayle Manning, R- North Ridgeville, thought about bringing an amendment to the committee that would have carved colleges and universities out of the bill, but she decided against it. 

“I’m hopeful we will continue to have these discussions on the removal of higher ed,” she said. “The reason being, we’re talking about adults. Universities are similar to a city with the number of students that they have. Frivolous lawsuits that will increase the cost of tuition eventually and the cost of our families.” 

Manning voted in favor of the bill even though she hopes lawmakers can continue conversations to “find a better solution.”

Bird opposes taking the higher education component out of the bill. 

“The reason I oppose that is because we have college credit plus in Ohio,” he said. “We seventh graders going to college, kids in high school going to colleges and in that college environment, we got to make sure they are protected.”

State Rep. Joe Miller, D-Amherst, vocalized his disdain for the bill before the committee voted. 

“Here we are again … taking away school districts and colleges’ ability and their leadership to make decisions that are best for providing safe, equitable access for all Ohio students,” Miller said. “I hope that this doesn’t see the floor and doesn’t see the governor’s desk.”

More than 100 people submitted opponent testimony on HB 183 and more than 30 people submitted proponent testimony. 

“We do love and care about all kids,” Bird said when asked about all the backlash the bill has received. “Me and my Republican colleagues have heard from constituents all across the state. They may not have been loud. They may not have been vocal. They may not have come with a sign to the Statehouse, but we are here representing the vast majority of Ohioans who want protections.” 

Trans advocates speak out against HB 183

Transgender advocates hosted a press conference following the House Higher Education Committee to voice their opposition to HB 183. Trans Ohio Board Member Carson Hartlage said HB 183 is harmful to all students, including cisgender students.

“Most trans non binary and gender non conforming students only begin using restrooms that align with their gender identities after they’ve experienced some form of trauma when using a restroom that aligns with their sex assigned at birth,” Hartlage said.

Thirty percent of LGBTQ+ students said they were prevented from using the bathroom that aligned with their gender, and 26% were stopped from using the locker room that aligned with their gender, according to Ohio’s 2021 state snapshot by GLSEN, which examines the school experiences of LGBTQ middle and high school students.

When looking specifically at transgender and nonbinary students, 42% were prevented from using the bathroom that aligned with their gender and 36% couldn’t use the locker room that aligned with their gender, according to the Ohio GLSEN report. 

Ohio’s first openly transgender public official and member of the Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools’ Board of Education Dion Manley shared his concerns. 

“As a trans man is I’ve been going into men’s restrooms for 25 years without incident,” Manley said. “I go visit the schools on a regular basis. So these legislators want me to go into a girls restroom in the elementary school, middle school, and high school.”

Mallory Golski, civic engagement and advocacy manager at Kaleidoscope Youth Center, said how Ohio was recently at the center of history in a positive way with Monday’s eclipse.

“We’re here reflecting on how we’re at the epicenter of another piece of history,” she said. “And unfortunately, we’re at the wrong place at the wrong time. Unlike the fleeting blackout of the total solar eclipse, the history I’m talking about here today at the statehouse leaves transgender youth in the dark.”

Jeanne Ogden’s daughter would be directly impacted by this bill. Her daughter’s college classroom building does not have single-use restrooms in the building, forcing her daughter to go across the street to use the restroom. 

“These kids getting bullied and yes, their mental health is suffering,” said Ogden, the executive director of Trans Allies of Ohio. “Trans people are tired. Parents are exhausted.”

******************************************************************************************

Megan Henry is a reporter for the Ohio Capital Journal and has spent the past five years reporting in Ohio on various topics including education, healthcare, business and crime. She previously worked at The Columbus Dispatch, part of the USA Today Network.

******************************************************************************************

The preceding article was previously published by the Ohio Capitol Journal and is republished with permission.

The Ohio Capital Journal is an independent, nonprofit news organization dedicated to connecting Ohioans to their state government and its impact on their lives. The Capital Journal combines Ohio state government coverage with incisive investigative journalism, reporting on the consequences of policy, political insight and principled commentary.

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

Continue Reading

National

Day of [no] silence, a call to speak out against anti-LGBTQ+ hate

GLSEN reframes its Day of Silence to confront the alarming rise in anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment, the message is clear: the time for action is now

Published

on

GLSEN/Los Angeles Blade graphic

NEW YORK – In a move to counteract the surge in anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, GLSEN, a leading national organization advocating for safe and inclusive schools for LGBTQ+ youth, has announced a significant shift in its annual Day of Silence event. 

Traditionally observed as a silent protest against LGBTQ+ discrimination and bullying, this year’s event will transform into the Day of (No) Silence, calling on advocates, students, educators, and allies to actively speak out against the wave of exclusionary policies sweeping across the nation.

Scheduled for April 12, 2024, the Day of (No) Silence emerges in response to over 470 anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced in state legislatures throughout the United States. The event’s reimagining encourages participants to leverage their voices, platforms, and votes to demand legislative support and protection for the LGBTQ+ community, especially trans and non-binary individuals.

“Education is the cornerstone of our democracy, yet it’s under attack by those with the  loudest voices pushing hateful agendas, using trans and queer students as pawns,” said GLSEN Executive Director, Melanie Willingham-Jaggers. “From bathroom bans to book bans, the attacks on our education system are relentless and widespread. It’s on us, as adults, to rise up for every child’s right to a safe and inclusive education. That’s why this year, we refuse to remain silent. We’re rising together, using our collective voices to fight back against these injustices. While some students are silenced by censorship laws or unsafe school environments, if you can, I urge you to join us. Speak up, vote, use your platform, and support GLSEN programs. Together, let’s build a future where every student can thrive.” 

The organization has laid out a comprehensive action plan for participants to follow on April 12th, ranging from using social media platforms to share student stories and resources, participating in the National School Climate Survey, to educators creating an inclusive classroom environment through GLSEN’s Rainbow Library.

In an interview with The Blade,  GLSEN’s Director of Communications Madison Hamilton, expounded on the shift to Day of (No) Silence. “It is imperative, with the over 480 hateful anti LGBT+ bills that have been presented this year alone that we make this shift,” Hamilton said. “We have heard from students and educators in our network, telling us that they want to take action and speak out. The silent protest is just not working anymore.”

Hamilton also addressed the broader impacts of discrimination, highlighted by the tragic murder of 16-year-old nonbinary Oklahoma resident, Nex Benedict, a vivid reminder of the deadly consequences of anti-LGBTQ+ hate. GLSEN’s statement underscores the urgent need for accountability and a collective fight against extremism targeting queer and trans youth within the educational system.

“At GLESN we believe education is the cornerstone of our democracy. All this hate rhetoric leads to hate crimes. Nex was in that bathroom because politicians in Oklahoma required them to be in that bathroom,” Hamilton told The Blade, emphasizing that holding adults accountable for their hateful rhetoric against the community is imperative to creating a more inclusive society in schools and beyond. 

GLSEN offers resources for educators, including an action guide for creating supportive environments for LGBTQ+ students, and calls on allies to engage in various forms of advocacy, such as hosting events, volunteering, and fundraising, to support the cause.

As GLSEN reframes its Day of Silence to confront the alarming rise in anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment, the message is clear: the time for action is now. By raising our voices, we can push back against discrimination, celebrate diversity, and pave the way for a future where all students can thrive, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

GLSEN is the nation’s leading organization dedicated to creating safe and inclusive K-12 schools for LGBTQ+ students. Founded over 34 years ago, it works tirelessly to combat harassment and discrimination through education, policy advocacy, and community building.
For more information on how to participate in the Day of (No) Silence and support LGBTQ+ youth, visit www.glsen.org.

Continue Reading

Louisiana

Severe weather doesn’t stop GOP anti-LGBTQ+ bills in Louisiana

As severe weather shut down nearly every government entity- a legislative committee met & quietly advanced anti-LGBTQ+ legislation

Published

on

As severe weather shut down nearly every government entity in Louisiana Wednesday, a legislative committee met and quietly advanced two pieces of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. (Allison Allsop/Louisiana Illuminator)

By Piper Hutchinson | BATON ROUGUE, La. – As severe weather shut down nearly every government entity in Louisiana Wednesday, a legislative committee met and quietly advanced two pieces of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. 

The Louisiana House Committee on Education advanced House Bill 121 by Rep. Raymond Crews, R-Bossier City, which prohibits the use of transgender and nonbinary youth’s chosen names and pronouns in public K-12 schools without parental permission, along a party line 9-3 vote. 

House Bill 122 by Rep. Dodie Horton, R-Haugton, which limits discussion of gender and sexuality in public K-12 schools, also advanced on a 9-3 vote, with Rep. Barbara Freiberg, R-Baton Rouge, joining Democrats in opposing the bill.   

The Legislature approved both bills last year. Then-Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, vetoed them, and Republicans were unable to overturn his action. A representative for Gov. Jeff Landry, a Republican, filed a card in support of both Crews’ and Horton’s bills. 

Committee hearings on the same bills in previous years stretched on for hours with extensive public testimony, primarily from LGBTQ+ youth, but Wednesday’s hearing moved at an unusually fast clip, with many advocates stuck at home. 

The committee was scheduled to meet at noon, an hour before a tornado watch expired for Baton Rouge. Tornadoes had touched down in Slidell and Lake Charles in the morning, and flooding and storm debris blocked roads across the state. 

Just four people testified against the bills Wednesday. By comparison, more than 40 people testified against the same bills in 2023, and over 300 more filed cards in opposition but did not speak. 

The Louisiana Senate decided late Tuesday afternoon to cancel its committee meetings the next day to avoid the hazardous weather. Senators aren’t scheduled to return to the Capitol until Monday.

The House of Representatives canceled all but two of its six scheduled committee meetings, In addition to Education, the House and Governmental Affairs Committee also met at noon to discuss several election-related bills  

Advocates with Forum For Equality, an LGBTQ+ rights organization, called on House Speaker Phillip DeVillier, R-Eunice, to cancel the two committee hearings.

Crews’ bill would require teachers and other school personnel to use a student’s given name and pronouns that align with their birth sex unless a student has permission from their parents to use their chosen name. 

Teachers would be allowed to disregard a parent’s choice to respect their transgender or nonbinary child’s preferred name and pronouns if they have religious opposition to doing so. 

Freiberg noted this double standard during the hearing, pointing out the bill was touted as a parental rights bill but allowed a parent’s choice to be invalidated. 

In an interview after the hearing, Crews said that while his bill supports parental rights, parents should not be able to eclipse somebody else’s religious rights. 

His bill does not have an exception for those who have a religious opposition to deadnaming or misgendering students. 

Deadnaming is when someone uses a transgender or nonbinary individual’s birth name, or “dead name,” against their wishes. Misgendering occurs when someone refers to an individual as a gender that they do not identify. 

At the core of Crews’ proposal is his belief that parents have the right to know whether their children are transgender. Advocates for the LGBTQ+ community say the bill would force transgender youth to out themselves to their parents or else be deadnamed and misgendered at school. They have raised concerns about what happens when parents find out — and don’t approve.

A survey from the Trevor Project found 38% of transgender women, 39% of transgender men and 35% of nonbinary youth have experienced homelessness as a result of parental rejection. 

Horton’s bill is similar to a Florida law referred to by critics as a “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Her proposal is much broader and would apply to K-12 grades, whereas Florida’s law applies only to early grade students. 

Florida recently settled a lawsuit over the law filed by civil rights activists. As part of the agreement, students and teachers are permitted to discuss gender and sexuality as long as  it is not part of classroom instruction. 

Horton’s bill would not just apply to classroom instruction. It also prohibits “covering the topics of sexual orientation or gender identity” during any extracurricular and athletics events, meaning it could potentially hinder student chapters of the Gay-Straight Alliance and other LGBTQ+ student organizations. 

Horton said she didn’t believe teachers should discuss their “lifestyle choices” with students and made reference to a Caddo Parish teacher who she said bragged about confusing children with their sexual orientation. 

As written, the bill would also prevent discussion of heterosexuality and the cisgender identity. 

The bills will next be discussed by the full House of Representatives. 

******************************************************************************************

Piper Hutchinson is a reporter for the Louisiana Illuminator. She has covered the Legislature and state government extensively for the LSU Manship News Service and The Reveille, where she was named editor in chief for summer 2022.

*****************************************************************************

The preceding piece was previously published by the Louisiana Illuminator and is republished by permission.

Louisiana Illuminator is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Louisiana Illuminator maintains editorial independence.

Follow Louisiana Illuminator on Facebook and Twitter.

Continue Reading

U.S. Federal Courts

Federal judge tosses suit against Calif. trans sanctuary state law

The law provides legal protections for families who come to Calif. to obtain gender-affirming care that is inaccessible where they live

Published

on

Robert T. Matsui U.S. Courthouse and Federal Building, Sacramento, Calif. (Photo Credit: U.S. Courts/GSA)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California dismissed a second amended complaint challenging the constitutionality of Senate Bill 107 (SB 107), also referred to as California’s Transgender Sanctuary State Law.

In the dismissal without leave to amend, the court dismissed the lawsuit on Article III standing grounds, finding that the plaintiff failed to allege that SB 107 injured them in any way, and failed to allege any facts showing that SB 107 forced the plaintiff to divert staff time and resources.

SB 107 protects children and families seeking gender affirming care, as well as their health care providers, from bigoted anti-trans laws in other states that criminalize medically necessary health care that is legal in California. 

The Transgender Sanctuary State Law provides legal protections for families who come to California to obtain gender-affirming care that is inaccessible where they live, as well as doctors and staff providing such care in California. It implements various safeguards against the enforcement of other states’ laws that would penalize people for obtaining medically necessary care that is legal in California.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta issued a statement following the U.S. District Court’s order granting the California Department of Justice’s motion to dismiss the second amended complaint challenging the constitutionality of Senate Bill 107 (SB 107).

“No one should ever be marginalized for seeking the care they need,” said Bonta. “The court’s decision is a major win for transgender children and their families in California and across the U.S. amidst a growing assault on LGBTQ+ rights nationwide. My office stands ready to defend SB 107 to ensure transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals obtain the care that empowers them to lead healthier, happier lives.”

“Transgender people just want to live their lives authentically and in peace, and California is defending their right to do so,” said the law’s author, state Senator Scott Wiener. “This ruling shows once again that trans people are living authentically in California without any of the negative impacts on those around them of which right-wing zealots accuse them. California’s leadership is united in defending transgender people, and LGBTQ people generally, from the vicious attacks they face in other states. I thank Attorney General Bonta and his team for their incredible work securing this major civil rights victory.”

Continue Reading

U.S. Federal Courts

Federal judge rules Florida trans teacher can use ‘Ms.’ in classroom

“Once again, the State of Florida has a First Amendment problem. It has occurred so frequently of late, you can set your clock by it”

Published

on

U.S. District Court building In Tallahassee, Florida. (Screenshot/YouTube)

By Erin Reed | TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – In Florida, a federal judge ruled that a transgender woman teacher no longer has to be referred to as “Mr.” or “teacher” in the classroom, citing first amendment protections.

Instead, she can use “Ms.” and female pronouns. This decision follows the passage of HB1069 in Florida, which mandated that teachers could not use pronouns that “do not correspond to his or her sex.”

U.S. District Court Judge Mark Walker enjoined the state from enforcing the law against her, stating, “The State of Florida has not justified this grave restraint, and so the United States Constitution does not tolerate it. Ours is a Union of individuals, celebrating ourselves and singing ourselves and being ourselves without apology.”

The plaintiff, Ms. Wood, a teacher at a Florida high school, has been known as “Ms. Wood” for four years. She regularly would write her name, title, and pronouns on the whiteboard and used these pronouns with students, faculty, and staff, as well as in her personal life. In evaluating Ms. Wood’s usage of her name, title, and pronouns, the judge determined that “The freedom to use the title ‘Ms.’ and to share her preferred pronouns at school is essential to her basic humanity.”

Ms. Wood’s ability to use her preferred title and pronouns was threatened following the passage of House Bill 1069. Enacted into law in 2023, House Bill 1069 prohibits all employees and contractors of public K-12 educational institutions from using their preferred personal titles or pronouns if those “do not correspond to their sex.”

After the law’s enactment, administrators informed Ms. Wood that she had to remove her pronouns and title from display and could not correct students who referred to her as “Mr.” or “him.”

The judge commenced his ruling with a scathing critique of the state, writing, “Once again, the State of Florida has a First Amendment problem. It has occurred so frequently of late, some might say you can set your clock by it… The question before this Court is whether the First Amendment allows the State to dictate, without limitation, how public-school teachers refer to themselves when communicating with students. The answer is a thunderous ‘no.’”

The judge ultimately determined that prohibiting Ms. Wood from using her pronouns or title constituted an unconstitutional violation of her freedom of speech, deeming it a form of viewpoint discrimination.

In his decision, he refuted several arguments presented by the state, including the claim that Ms. Wood using “Ms.” could “impede her job duties.” He found this assertion to be unfounded, noting instead that as a teacher, Ms. Wood’s students achieved test scores higher than the district average.

Additionally, the state argued that Ms. Wood’s identity itself was at odds with the state’s teachings on gender and sexuality, and thus she could be barred. This argument, based on a novel legal theory, was found by the judge to be entirely unsupported by court precedent.

This case is not the only recent legal action addressing this topic. Two weeks prior, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that repeated and intentional misgendering could constitute a hostile work environment. Similarly, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals determined that teachers do not have the religious right to misgender transgender students. While the Florida case did not grant Ms. Wood an injunction on the basis of a hostile work environment, it does not preclude the possibility that it might recognize she experienced such an environment in addition to the First Amendment violation identified by the judge when the case is fully heard.

It is important to note that although defendants are barred from enforcing the law against Ms. Wood, the injunction is currently limited only to the teacher. However, should other teachers be threatened with retaliation under similar circumstances, it is likely they would also prevail. Similarly, this case will likely be cited in other attempts to bar transgender students and teachers from using their pronouns in school settings nationwide.

****************************************************************************

Erin Reed is a transgender woman (she/her pronouns) and researcher who tracks anti-LGBTQ+ legislation around the world and helps people become better advocates for their queer family, friends, colleagues, and community. Reed also is a social media consultant and public speaker.

******************************************************************************************

The preceding article was first published at Erin In The Morning and is republished with permission.

Continue Reading

The White House

New Director of White House Office of National AIDS Policy named

Ruiz, a distinguished figure in public health assumes the role as the first-ever Latino to serve as ONAP’s director

Published

on

Francisco Ruiz, incoming Director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP). (Photo Credit: Official White House photo)

By Amber Laenen | WASHINGTON – Francisco Ruiz’s appointment as the director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy has elicited widespread acknowledgment across various sectors.

Ruiz, a distinguished figure in public health with a history of collaboration and strategic partnerships, assumes the role as the first-ever Latino to serve as ONAP’s director, underscoring a commitment to diversity and inclusivity in addressing public health challenges.

In response to his appointment, Domestic Policy Advisor Neera Tanden underscored the Biden-Harris administration’s steadfast commitment to ending the HIV epidemic and enhancing the quality of life for people living with HIV. Ruiz himself acknowledged this sentiment, emphasizing that accelerating efforts to combat the HIV epidemic and improve the well-being of those affected remain a paramount public health priority for the White House.

Previously serving at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Ruiz played a pivotal role in advancing national HIV prevention campaigns, particularly contributing to the goals of the Ending the HIV Epidemic in the U.S. Initiative. His experience in fostering strategic partnerships and ensuring sensitive prevention messaging has been noted as instrumental in reaching diverse communities across the country and in U.S. territories.

Ruiz in his new role will be tasked with accelerating efforts to end the HIV epidemic and improve the quality of life for people living with HIV. 

Guillermo Chacón, president of the Latino Commission on AIDS and founder of the Hispanic Health Network, expressed confidence in Ruiz’s ability to advance the national strategy to end the HIV epidemic.

“Mr. Ruiz is a respected public health leader and a fitting choice to ensure that the Biden-Harris administration meets the goal of ending the HIV epidemic in the United States and U.S. Territories,” said Chacón.

“Francisco Ruiz’s appointment signifies a renewed focus on addressing health disparities and promoting health equity, particularly for historically marginalized and underserved communities,” he added. “As a person living with HIV and the son of Mexican immigrants, Ruiz brings personal insight and professional expertise to his new role, ensuring that strategies to combat HIV/AIDS are scientifically grounded and connected with the experiences of those most affected.”

**************************************************************************************

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.

Continue Reading

Federal Government

FDA planning to lift ban on gay & bi sperm donors

When the FDA releases its draft policy around sperm donation, there will be a public comment period before the regulation is made final

Published

on

Los Angeles Blade graphic

By Rob Salerno | WASHINGTON – The Food and Drug Administration is planning to lift its ban on sperm donations from men who have sex with men, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. The report also says the FDA would simultaneously lift the ban on donations of other tissues and organs from gay and bi men.

The Journal report suggests that the FDA could put out a draft of the new policy for public comment by the summer, with a final rule in place by the end of 2024 or early 2025.

Reached for comment, a spokesperson for the FDA would not confirm the Wall Street Journal story, but acknowledged that, “the FDA routinely reviews approaches regarding donor screening and testing for donors of human cells, tissues, and cellular and tissue-based products (HCT/Ps) to determine what changes, if any, are appropriate based on technological and evolving scientific knowledge.” 

Men who have sex with men have been barred from donating sperm since 2005

The FDA imposed the sperm donation ban on men who have sex with men in 2005, as part of an expansion on existing prohibitions on blood donations from gay and bisexual men which were meant to mitigate the risk that HIV could be spread through donations.

The policies stemmed from an erroneous belief that gay men were more likely to carry HIV, regardless of their individual behaviors and risk factors.

Last year, the FDA finally ended the ban on blood donations from men who have sex with men, which had been in place since the early days of the AIDS crisis. The FDA now requires that blood donors are screened based on individual behaviors in a gender-neutral manner, in addition to the donations themselves being tested for HIV and other blood-borne illnesses.

Alice Ruby, executive director of the Sperm Bank of California in Berkeley, says the lifting of the blood ban should provide a template for ending the sperm ban.

“I’m hoping it’s similar to the blood donation screening, where it’s based on behaviour, rather than being part of a population,” she says. “We test donors repeatedly for HIV as required by the FDA.”

The Sperm Bank of California has served many lesbian, bi, and trans people, and Ruby says that she’s often told her clients would like a queer donor, to ensure that the biological father won’t be someone who disapproves of queer families. The ban removes that choice from would-be mothers.

The Sperm Bank of California has been opposed to the gay sperm donation ban since the policy was first proposed twenty years ago and has advocated in tandem with the National Center for Lesbian Rights for the policy to be scrapped.

“People are pretty unaware that the ban exists. I think there’s a lot of gay men who would be happy to contribute in this way, especially since a large number of people using sperm donation are LGBT couples and single people,” Ruby says.

Sperm banks across the country have been experiencing shortages of donor sperm, especially from donors of color. Opening the donor pool to gay and bi men could help ease the shortage. Ruby has told the Blade that the Sperm Bank of California has had to turn away gay and bi donors every week, up to 400 men in a single year.

When the FDA releases its draft policy around sperm donation, there will be a public comment period before the regulation is made final. Ruby says anyone interested opening up sperm donation to gay and bisexual men should submit a comment to support the change.

******************************************************************************************

Rob Salerno is a writer and journalist based in Los Angeles, California, and Toronto, Canada.

Continue Reading

National

Unprecedented spike to ban library books, 65% increase in 2023

Efforts to ban or challenge library books across the nation has had a sharp focus on titles addressing LGBTQ+ themes

Published

on

Stacks of books being banned or challenged in schools & libraries in South Carolina. (Screenshot/YouTube CBS News 60 Minutes)

CHICAGO, Ill. – The American Library Association (ALA) has reported an unprecedented spike in efforts to ban or challenge library books across the nation, with a sharp focus on titles addressing LGBTQ+ themes.

According to the ALA’s State of America’s Libraries Report for 2024, there was a 65% increase in censorship actions in 2023, with over 4,240 unique titles coming under scrutiny.

Leading the charge against these books for the third year in a row is “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe, facing 106 challenges for its depiction of LGBTQ+ life and alleged explicit content. Other prominently challenged books include “All Boys Aren’t Blue” by George M. Johnson, “This Book Is Gay” by Juno Dawson, and “Flamer” by Mike Curato, all critiqued for similar reasons.

This wave of censorship is not confined to any single area but is a national phenomenon, with public libraries reporting a 92% uptick in censorship attempts. The ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) compiles data on these challenges to inform the public about censorship’s reach and impact on libraries and schools. However, it emphasizes that the reported figures likely underrepresent the true scale of the issue.

Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, highlighted the broader societal implications of these censorship efforts. She pointed out that books addressing gender and sexual identity become battlegrounds over library content, with advocacy groups and political figures often at odds over access to these materials.

The ALA notes that the pushback against LGBTQ+-themed books is part of a wider trend of censorship, including objections to racial themes, sex education, and other content labeled as explicit. The organization defines a challenge as a formal request to remove library materials for reasons of content or appropriateness, acknowledging that many such disputes either go unreported or lead to preemptive removal by libraries in anticipation of controversy.

As the ALA gears up for another year of advocacy, it calls on supporters to contribute to its efforts to combat censorship and uphold the right to read. With the announcement of “Freed Between the Lines” as the theme for Banned Books Week 2024, the ALA aims to draw attention to and challenge the ongoing efforts restricting access to a diverse range of literary works.

These books, identified by the American Library Association as the most challenged due to their LGBTQ+ content among other reasons, reflect ongoing debates over censorship and access to diverse narratives in libraries and schools across the United States:

“Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe

Reasons for challenges: LGBTQIA+ content, claimed to be sexually explicit.

“All Boys Aren’t Blue” by George M. Johnson

Reasons for challenges: LGBTQIA+ content, claimed to be sexually explicit.

“This Book Is Gay” by Juno Dawson

Reasons for challenges: LGBTQIA+ content, sex education, claimed to be sexually explicit.

“Flamer” by Mike Curato

Reasons for challenges: LGBTQIA+ content, claimed to be sexually explicit.

“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky

Reasons for challenges: Claimed to be sexually explicit, LGBTQIA+ content, rape, drugs, profanity. Although not exclusively an LGBTQIA+ book, it includes significant themes relevant to queer experiences.

“Tricks” by Ellen Hopkins

Reasons for challenges: Claimed to be sexually explicit, drugs, rape, LGBTQIA+ content.

“Let’s Talk About It: The Teen’s Guide to Sex, Relationships, and Being a Human” by Erika Moen and Matthew Nolan

Reasons for challenges: Claimed to be sexually explicit, sex education, LGBTQIA+ content.

Continue Reading

Virginia

Bomb threat interrupts Drag Story Hour at Virginia gay bar

“We had a lot of neighborhood families with kids, babies & one grandmother in there, It was a great turnout, and we had to push them all out”

Published

on

From left, Tara Hoot and Freddie Lutz at Freddie's Beach Bar in Arlington, Va. (Photo courtesy of Freddie Lutz)

ARLINGTON, Va. – A Drag Story Hour event hosted by the Arlington, Va. gay bar and restaurant Freddie’s Beach Bar was interrupted by a bomb threat sent by email on Saturday, April 6, requiring parents and their children attending the event to exit the bar into its rear outdoor seating area and parking lot until police and a bomb sniffing dog searched the premises and found no trace of a bomb.

Freddie Lutz, owner of Freddie’s Beach Bar, located in the Crystal City section of South Arlington, said the threatening email from an unidentified sender came during the first time he has hosted a Drag Story Hour event, which includes a drag performer reading children’s stories to children accompanied by their parents.

“We had a lot of neighborhood families with kids and babies and one grandmother in there,” Lutz told the Washington Blade. “It was a great turnout, and we had to push them all out to the back parking lot,” he said. “And they waited, which I thanked them for, until the coast was clear. And then they came back in.”

Lutz said that two protesters opposed to the drag event showed up outside Freddie’s on Saturday, at the time of the Drag Story Hour event. He said drag performer Tara Hoot, who conducted the Drag Story Hour at Freddie’s, told him before the event started that some of her previous Drag Story Hour events have been targeted with bomb threats and protesters.

“So, we were kind of prepared or I guess you could say psychologically prepared for it,” Lutz said. “And sure enough, we got an email threatening the bar and also me personally at my residence, which was a little unsettling,” he said, adding that nothing was found at his nearby South Arlington house.

In response to an inquiry from  the Blade, Arlington police released a brief statement about the incident.

‘At approximately 11:15 a.m. on April 6, police were dispatched to the report of a bomb threat emailed to a business,” the statement says. “Responding officers made contact with the occupants, conducted a sweep of the business and found no evidence of criminal activity located at the restaurant during the sweep,” it says. “The investigation into the threat is ongoing.”

Hoot, who has been conducting Drag Story Hour events in the D.C. area for more than a year, said as many as eight of her past events have been targeted by hostile protesters or bomb threats, although no bombs have ever been found at the locations where the events have taken place.  

Hoot said like protesters targeting her previous events, the two protesters at the Freddie’s event, a man and a woman, cited their religious believes as their reason for opposing the Drag Story Hour event.

“They were spewing religious hate,” Hoot told the Blade. “They were trying to shame parents for bringing their kids.”

Hoot said she includes in the performances songs of interest to children and reads from children’s books such as the Very Hungry Caterpillar, a book that talks about bravery and other positive themes. “And then I give them bubbles and rainbow ribbons and we all color together,” she said. “It’s just fun and love and joy.”

Started in San Francisco in 2015 by an organization called Drag Story Hour, the story hour events have taken place across the country in libraires, bookstores, and venues such as restaurants and bars.

“In spaces like this, kids are able to see people who defy rigid gender restrictions and imagine a world where everyone can be their authentic selves,” the organization says on its website. 

Continue Reading

Hawai'i

Hawai’i could amend constitution to include same-sex marriage

HD 1 was approved in the state House & approved at committee stage in the Senate. It needs 2/3 of Senators to be placed on the November ballot

Published

on

Rainbow over Central Honolulu on Oahu Hawai'i. (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor of Hawai‘i/Facebook)

UPDATED Thursday April 11, 2024: The state Senate easily approved House Bill 2802, which will ask voters in November to rescind a provision in the Hawai’i Constitution that gives the Legislature the authority to limit marriage to opposite-sex couples.

By Rob Salerno | HONOLULU, Hawai’i – Hawaiian voters are likely to be asked to amend the state constitution in November to protect same-sex marriage, if a resolution before the state legislature is approved on a final vote in the Senate.

The proposed amendment, HD 1, would remove article 1 section 23, which gives the legislature the power to restrict marriage to heterosexual couples. That power has been void since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage is protected by the U.S. Constitution in the 2015 Obergefell decision.

Section 23 was added to the Hawai’i constitution in 1998, after the state Supreme Court ruled that the bar on same-sex marriage violated the state constitution’s bar on sex discrimination in 1993 and ordered a lower court to reexamine the issue. The state legislature quickly used the power granted to it by the section to ban same-sex marriage before the state Supreme Court issued its final ruling on the marriage question in 1999, making it moot.

It wasn’t until 2013 that the state legislature reversed itself and legalized same-sex marriage. But because section 23 is still in the state constitution, a future legislature could theoretically reverse the legalization if the U.S. Supreme Court ever reverses the Obergefell decision.

Some observers have been nervous that the U.S. Supreme Court is aiming to do exactly that, ever since the 2022 Dobbs decision on abortion included musings from Justice Clarence Thomas that the court should revisit Obergefell in light of Dobbs’ new limitations on due process protections. Other justices did not concur in Thomas’ reasoning, although Justice Alito has said that Obergefell should be revisited. 

“Many people are surprised to discover the poisonous language of Section 23 remains in our constitution, suppressed by statute and a 5-4 Supreme Court decision,” Jeffrey Hong, Chair of the Change 23 Coalition wrote in testimony to the senate ways and means committee in support of the repeal. “Unfortunately, these people were horrified to discover a Supreme Court decision like Dobbs could change 50 years of bodily autonomy rights overnight. Suppressed poisonous language can be resurrected. We must learn from this recent lesson of the past,”

HD 1 has already been approved in the state house of representatives and has been approved at committee stage in the state senate. It needs to be approved by two-thirds of senators to be placed on the November ballot. Democrats hold 23 of the 25 seats in the Hawai’i senate.

If the question is put on the November ballot, it would have to be approved by a majority of voters to pass.

Hawai’i won’t be the only state with a same-sex marriage question on the ballot this November. Californians will vote on whether to repeal Prop 8, the 2008 same-sex marriage ban. Voters will also be considering equal rights amendments that would indirectly protect same-sex marriage in New York, and the Connecticut and Minnesota state legislatures are considering posing similar questions to voters. 

Efforts to put same-sex marriage questions on the ballot failed in Oregon and Virginia.  

Nevada was the first state to enshrine same-sex marriage rights in the state constitution in 2020.

******************************************************************************************

Rob Salerno is a writer and journalist based in Los Angeles, California, and Toronto, Canada.

Continue Reading

Popular