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‘A great day for Alabama’

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

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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 The senator-elect was caught on camera telling a supporters the Trump administration was “wrong” to have rescinded Title IX guidance assuring transgender kids access to the school restrooms consistent with their gender identity.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.)

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Maine

High school students in Maine rescue Pride parade & festival

Maine’s motto is “Dirigo” Latin for “I Lead.” In keeping with that spirit a group of teens stepped up to make sure Pride happens this year

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Belfast Area High School/Facebook

BELFAST, Me. – Located at the mouth of the Passagassawakeag River estuary on Belfast Bay and Penobscot Bay, Belfast is a coastal city of 6,938 people and county seat for Waldo County, 51 miles Southwest of Bangor.

The city is known for being a significant tourist destination in the region over the years due to its antique buildings, historic districts, theater and arts, delicious food, and opportunities to get out into nature.

This year it will be a destination for LGBTQ+ Mainers to celebrate Pride- thanks to some dedicated high schoolers.

The state motto of Maine is “Dirigo” which is Latin for “I Direct” or “I Lead.”  In keeping with that spirit, The Bangor Daily News reported that when no adults would revive the community Pride parade in Belfast, a group of motivated Belfast Area High School students stepped up to make sure that the event — which has been on a pandemic hiatus — happens this year.

The city’s first-ever Pride parade and festival took place in 2016, and became an annual tradition. But no adult organizers had come forward this year to keep the tradition going, the paper reported.

Enter members of the Gender and Sexuality Alliance, which formed at Belfast Area High School eight years ago. According to the Daily News, Willa Bywater, 17-year-old president of the school’s GSA decided that keeping Pride alive, especially after the lock-downs and isolation of the coronavirus pandemic, was a critical need not just only for Belfast’s LGBTQ+ community but others as well.

Bywater and her fellow 20 club members secured a permit from the city of Belfast, found sponsors, raised money for banners, flags and other expenses and grappled with the procuring of liability insurance. Ultimately, the high school agreed to cover the event under the school’s policy, a move that surprised and pleased the teens, Annie Gray, the club’s co-advisor told the Daily News.

Bywater noted that it has been a lot of work to organize the parade — but it’s well worth it.

“I think that this is the Pride parade for Waldo County, and it feels really important,” she said. “After all these years of COVID, it’s important to remind ourselves that we’re all still here and still going.”

The students found support from local businesses the Daily News also reported.

Seth Thayer, a local businessman who was delighted that the high school students have taken the initiative to organize the event and that it will happen again this year. There’s something special about the way that rainbow flags fly from homes and businesses all over the city during Pride, he told the paper.

“The thing I love about Pride is that the whole town is involved,” he said. “It’s such an isolating feeling, to have to hide yourself. And just to see that visual support from people that you don’t know, just seeing the Pride flag, it’s a powerful thing. I’m excited that it’s going to happen.”

Thayer said he was glad to make a financial contribution to the students, who have been canvassing for donations.

“I’m really happy that the high schoolers took it over,” he said. “I think they’ll do a good job. Kids always bring a new energy to things.”

Those interested in participating in the Belfast Pride parade are asked to meet at Belfast Area High School at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, June 4, and the parade will begin at 11 a.m. The parade will end just before the Public Landing and Heritage Park.

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U.S. Military/Pentagon

U.S. Army considering letting LGBTQ+ troops transfer out of hostile states

This policy tweak to the existing Army regulations pertaining to compassionate reassignment would clarify the current standard rules

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Top Army G-1 officer & enlisted advisor speaking with Joint Base Lewis-McChord single and dual military parents (Photo Credit: U.S. Army)

ARLINGTON, Va. – A draft policy is circulating among top officials of the U.S. Army that would allow soldiers to be able to request a transfer if they feel state or local laws discriminate against them based on gender, sex, religion, race or pregnancy.

Journalist Steve Beynon writing for Military.com reported last week the guidance, which would update a vague service policy to add specific language on discrimination, is far from final and would need approval from Army Secretary Christine Wormuth. But if enacted, it could be one of the most progressive policies for the Army amid a growing wave of local anti-LGBTQ+ and restrictive contraception laws in conservative-leaning states, where the Army has a majority of its bases and major commands.

“Some states are becoming untenable to live in; there’s a rise in hate crimes and rise in LGBT discrimination,” Lindsay Church, executive director of Minority Veterans of America, an advocacy group, told Military.com. “In order to serve this country, people need to be able to do their job and know their families are safe. All of these states get billions for bases but barely tolerate a lot of the service members.”

This policy tweak to the existing Army regulations pertaining to compassionate reassignment would clarify the current standard rules, which are oft times fairly vague.

A source in the Army told Beynon the new guidance has not yet been fully worked out through the policy planning process or briefed to senior leaders including the Army Secretary or the Office of the Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.

“The Army does not comment on leaked, draft documents,” Angel Tomko, a service spokesperson, told Military.com in an emailed statement. “AR 600-100 and 600-200 establish the criteria for which soldiers may request for a compassionate reassignment. The chain of command is responsible for ensuring Soldiers and Families’ needs are supported and maintain a high quality of life.”

A base member wears rainbow socks during Pride Month Five Kilometer Pride Run at Joint Base Andrews, Md., June 28, 2017.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Valentina Lopez)

The Crystal City Virginia based RAND Corporation had published a study on Sexual Orientation, Transgender Identity, and Health Among U.S. Active-Duty Service Members in 2015 that listed approximate numbers of LGBTQ+ troops are 6% gay or bisexual and 1% is transgender or nonbinary.

A senior analyst for RAND told the Blade on background those numbers are likely much lower than in actuality as 2015 was less than 4 years after the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell’ and prior to the Trump enacted Trans service ban in 2017 which was then repealed by the Biden Administration which has had a chilling effect on open service. Another factor is that the current 18-24 year old troops colloquially referred to as ‘Gen Z’ are much more inclined to embrace an LGBTQ+ identity and that would cause the numbers to be higher than reported.

Also factored in is uncertainty in the tweaking of policy in light of the recent leak of the draft U.S. Supreme Court decision that would effectively repeal Roe v Wade.

According to Military.com it’s unclear whether the Army’s inclusion of pregnancy on the list would protect reproductive care for soldiers if Roe v. Wade is overturned. That language could be intended to protect pregnant service members or their families from employment or other discrimination, but could also be a means for some to argue for transfers based on broader reproductive rights.

One advocacy group pointed out that the current wave of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation will negatively impact the moral of service members:

“What we’re seeing across the board is a small group of elected officials who are trying to politicize and weaponize LGBTQ identities in despicable ways. They’re not only doing that to our youth, but the collateral damage is hurting our service members,” Jacob Thomas, communications director for Common Defense, a progressive advocacy organization, told Military.com. “[Troops] can’t be forced to live in places where they aren’t seen as fully human.”

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Oklahoma

Oklahoma Senate passes anti-Trans bathroom bill sends it to Governor

The law stipulates that all students must use bathrooms and locker rooms that match the sex listed on their birth certificates

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Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt (Screenshot/YouTube)

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Republican-majority state Senate passed SB 615 in a 38-7 vote, a measure that will bar transgender students in pre-K through 12th grade at public and public charter schools in the state from using bathrooms consistent with their gender identity.

The bill now heads to Republican Governor Kevin Stitt and will be effective upon his signature into law.

The law stipulates that all students must use bathrooms and locker rooms that match the sex listed on their birth certificates. Transgender students who decline to use the restroom required under the measure would have to use “a single-occupancy restroom or changing room” provided by the school.

At the end of April Stitt signed that explicitly prohibits the use of nonbinary gender markers on state birth certificates and in March he signed into law Senate Bill 2, a bill which would restrict transgender girls from playing on school sports teams that match their gender identity. 

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