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Nick Bowling pleads no contest to manslaughter in 2016 sober living death of Frank Rogers

Recovery community grapples with outcome

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Nick Bowling, aka Nick James.

Nicholas James Bowling, who had been facing murder charges in the slaying of Frank Rogers at an Echo Park sober living home on July 8, 2016, pleaded no contest Wednesday to a reduced charge of voluntary manslaughter, his attorney West Hollywood Mayor Pro Tem John Duran told the Los Angeles Blade in an email.

Bowling, aka Nick James, who was potentially facing a life term, will be “returned to the community in less than one year,” according to a Facebook entry Duran posted Wednesday in which Duran called the matter “a very difficult manslaughter case.”

James, 29, and Rogers, 48, both well-known members of the LA recovery community and, according to some, on-again, off-again boyfriends, became involved in what police at the time described as a “domestic dispute” at the facility where James was living. The dispute allegedly ended with James putting Rogers into a chokehold, resulting in Rogers’ death.

Rogers worked “in a sales capacity at a law firm” in LA, according to KTLA’s Dave Mecham.

James has struggled with substance abuse for years and had apparently been in and out of various rehab facilities and sober living homes around LA at the time of Rogers’s death.

Video still from ABC7 report of 2012 police car hijacking crash in which James lost both legs. (Courtesy ABC7)

James had also had several run-ins with the law before the Rogers incident. Most notably, in August 2012, James stole an LAPD police cruiser and crashed it into a Starbuck’s, an accident that cost James both his legs, according to the LA Times. Public records also show an arrest for suspicion of domestic violence in Feb. 2012 and a drug possession guilty plea that same year.

James was able to plead to a lesser charge “due to many diminishing circumstances,” Duran wrote in his Facebook post. James “received [a] low term of 3 years,” Duran told the Los Angeles Blade. “He has been in custody for almost 2 years already.”

Frank Rogers. (Photo Rogers’ Facebook)

Asked to describe the “diminishing circumstances,” Duran wrote: “There were issues around the deceased being the aggressor and Nick having to defend himself. Nick used a ‘sleeper’ chokehold to subdue his roommate. Unfortunately, it resulted in his tragic death.”

A source familiar with the case elaborated, saying that there was a video taken in the sober living home outdoor courtyard by a housemate, who later testified at James’ preliminary hearing. The video shows James, who wears two prosthetic legs, trying to escape after being attacked by Rogers, who pushed him down and reportedly called him a “fucking legless loser.”

Rogers’ death occurred later, inside the home, with only James and Rogers present. It was not videotaped. There was evidence of controlled substances in Rogers’ blood, but no evidence that James was under the influence, according to the Los Angeles Blade’s source.

Reaction to James’ plea deal has been varied. David Vandervelde, Executive Director at Awakening Recovery, described on its Facebook page as “A Non-Profit Structured Recovery Home in West LA,” was identified in Duran’s Facebook post as among those “who stayed close to Nick during this difficult period in his life.” Vandervelde, who told the Los Angeles Blade in a phone interview that he was friendly with Rogers but “much closer to Nick as a friend,” said he “had a lot of mixed feelings” but was “happy that the case is resolved.” He believes that “justice was served in the case” because “from what I’ve seen and what I’ve heard, [Rogers’] death was unintentional—even though I believe it was determined that Nick caused it or contributed to it. And so it never really seemed like a Murder-2 case to me. It seemed more like a manslaughter case if it was proved that he did contribute to it.”

The bottom line, Vandervelde said, is that “it’s a tragic situation” and that he feels “terribly for Nick’s family and for Frank’s family that this ended the way it did.”

Responses to Duran’s Facebook post ran the gamut. On one end of the spectrum were comments such as, “I couldn’t be happier for our boy Nick,” and “Best news of the day. Love Nick.” On the other side were such remarks as “the celebratory tone of some of these comments is extremely insensitive and disrespectful considering the fact that someone was killed,” and “I am glad he got legal representation, but from what I have read, he should spend a long time in prison. It is never OK to strangle anyone, sober or not.”

The common ground would seem to be that identified by Duran in his email: “Both Nick and the deceased Frank were well-liked in the gay recovery community. I think most people see it as a tragedy all the way around.”

At the time of this post, the Los Angeles Blade had not yet been able to interview a representative of the District Attorney’s office. An update will be posted as appropriate.

View the story as reported by ABC7 at the time of Rogers’ death:

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Los Angeles County

New on the LA County Channel

You can watch on Channel 92 or 94 on most cable systems, or anytime here. Catch up on LA County Close-Up here

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Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

New on the County Channel

The Veteran Peer Access Network (VPAN) is the first community-driven support network serving veterans and their families in the U.S. Led by veterans for veterans, VPAN connects L.A. County Departments, nonprofits, the V.A., and L.A. City Programs to help veterans navigate often complicated systems to connect to resources. VPAN prioritizes hiring veterans as “battle buddies” and systems navigators to connect assist their fellow veterans.

You can watch more stories like this on Channel 92 or 94 on most cable systems, or anytime here. Catch up on LA County Close-Up here.

In Case You Missed It

Arts Internship Program – Apply Today!

LA County Arts and Culture Internships - Positions now open!

Positions for the 2024 Arts Internship Program are now available! This program will provide 228 university and community college students with paid on-the-job experience in the arts at over 160 nonprofit organizations across the LA region. What’s more, all Arts Internship Program internships provide 400 hours of work experience at $17.28 an hour.

Positions will continue to be posted on a rolling basis through July 2024. Visit the LA County Arts & Culture website to learn more!

At Your Service

The Works App

From reporting potholes to finding critical services, it’s LA County at your fingertips.

The Works App empowers you to report:

  • Issues like potholes, graffiti, overgrown trees, and blocked storm drains
  • Property-related concerns and suspected violations
  • Illegal dumping activities affecting our streets and environment
  • Maintenance needs of trails and facilities in County parks

Keep up to date with the County’s latest news on upcoming events. Locate the nearest LA County offices, libraries, shuttle buses, and other services.

Download The Works for iPhone or Android today and transform how you connect with LA County!

Out and About

Celebrating Juneteenth

Join LA County in celebrating Juneteeth at Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell’s 4th Annual Juneteeth Celebration and Resource Fair on Friday, June 21, from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. This event features music, food trucks, live performances, access to County services, resources, fun activities, and more! All residents are welcome to attend this FREE event. We encourage you to register and forward this email to your friends and neighbors! Register here

To learn more about Juneteeth and find events and programming in your community, click here.

Photo Finish

Levitated Mass at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. (Photo: Los Angeles County)

Click here to access more photos of LA County in action.

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Georgia

A Georgia Pride Executive Director arrested on drug & gun charges

“We believe that all persons are innocent until proven guilty, including Mr. Hobbs. We offer our support to Mr. Hobbs’ family at this time”

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Photo Credit: Columbus, Georgia Police Department

COLUMBUS, Ga. – The Columbus Georgia Police Department announced on Wednesday that following a months-long investigation, the Columbus Police Department’s Special Operations Unit executed a search warrant at a residence in the 4200 block of 16th Avenue. Jeremy Hobbs, 49, was taken into custody without incident.

Hobbs, the Executive Director of the Debra Smith Wellness Center Inc., doing business as Colgay Pride, was charged with:

  • • Possession of Cocaine with Intent to Distribute
  • • Possession of Methamphetamine with Intent to Distribute
  • • Possession of VGCSA Schedule I Drug with Intent to Distribute
  • • Possession of Drug-Related Objects
  • • Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Crime

According to Columbus Police, during the search, officers found and seized the following items:

  • 5.4 grams of crack cocaine
  • • 20.7 grams of methamphetamine
  • • 23.8 grams of liquid GHB
  • • An INA .38 revolver

A statement released by Harry Underwood, Vice President of Communications, Colgay Pride and the board of the Debra Smith Wellness Center, Inc. in response to Hobbs’ arrest noted:

“The board of the Debra Smith Wellness Center, Inc., doing business as Colgay Pride, expresses our utmost concern and regret regarding the arrest and charges facing our Executive Director, Jeremy Hobbs. The charges which have been filed against him are serious. The board does not condone the alleged actions and we will cooperate with law enforcement in the coming investigations regarding our operations and finances.

We believe that all persons are innocent until proven guilty, including Mr. Hobbs. We offer our support to Mr. Hobbs’ family at this time.

Our organization will meet to discuss our next steps, including a transition in leadership and strategy in the interim period. Our events and operations are on hold until further notice. With humility, we ask for the understanding and solidarity of the local community in this period. We apologize to our allies, colleagues and partners for the distress caused by these developments.”

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Los Angeles County

Parks make life better month- Culver City’s movies in the park

California’s “Parks Make Life Better!” recognizes the importance of equitable access to parks, recreation, trails, open space, & facilities

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Los Angeles Blade graphic

CULVER CITY, Calif. – July is “Parks Make Life Better!” month and the Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department is celebrating with Movies in The Park every Saturday night, all month long! 

Bring your blankets, picnic baskets, and lawn chairs to see:

Gates will open at 7 PM and movies will begin at dusk. Admission is free. 

The California “Parks Make Life Better!” campaign recognizes the importance of equitable access to parks, recreation, trails, open space, and facilities for the positive development of all. Culver City PRCS invites you and your family to celebrate with us. 

PARKS MAKE LIFE BETTER MONTH

MOVIE SCREENINGS

WHEN

Saturday July 6, 13, 20, and 27

7 PM gates open, movie starts at dusk

WHERE

  • Veterans Memorial Park on 7/6
  • Syd Kronenthal Park on 7/13
  • Fox Hills Park on 7/20
  • Culver West Alexander Park on 7/27
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Los Angeles County

LA Metro: More frequent and reliable bus service

Bus ridership in the San Fernando Valley is growing faster than in any other Metro bus service area & improvements reflect ridership growth

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Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles/Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro)

LOS ANGELES – Effective Sunday, June 23, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) announced that the agency will offer more frequent and reliable bus service and an improved travel experience on multiple routes based on direct feedback from customers and bus operators, and review of ridership and travel time data. 

Bus service improvements will update travel times so riders will wait less at stops. Added trips at peak travel times will provide extra capacity to move additional riders more efficiently during busy travel periods and some lines will be extended so riders can more easily reach major destinations. Several bus lines will operate more frequently on weekdays as outlined in the NextGen Bus Plan.

Metro is also improving peak hour frequencies weekdays on two San Fernando Valley bus lines as part of the North San Fernando Valley Corridor Transit Improvements project.

Route changes by region are as follows:

San Fernando Valley

Bus ridership in the San Fernando Valley is growing faster than in any other Metro bus service area. Metro is adding capacity on many lines to accommodate this growth in ridership.

As a first step in implementing the Measure M funded North San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor Improvements Project, Line 152 on Roscoe Boulevard and Line 166 on Nordhoff Street will begin operating service every 10 minutes during the busiest weekday peak periods both eastbound and westbound. On Line 152, 10-minute service will operate eastbound in the 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. hours and westbound during the 3:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. hours in the evening. Line 166 will operate 10-minute service westbound in the 6:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. hours and eastbound in the 4:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. hours. Each will add new weekday trips to the schedule. Seven new trips on Line 152 and eight on Line 166.

Line 158 will add 25 extra trips between the Southern terminal at Moorpark/Van Nuys and Van Nuys/Woodman to increase weekday frequency from 60 minutes to 30 minutes on the segment of Line 158 along Woodman Avenue.

Line 165 on Vanowen Street will add two additional eastbound trips during the 3:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. hours of weekday evening peak.

Line 169 on Saticoy Street will add one additional weekday trip during the 6:00 a.m. hour westbound and an additional eastbound trip during the 4:00 p.m. hour between Hollywood Burbank Airport and West Hills Medical Center for service every 30 minutes.

San Gabriel Valley

Line 76 routing will be modified to achieve faster access to and from Downtown LA and provide new direct connectivity via Alameda Street to the Little Tokyo/Arts District Station (A & E Lines). Line 76 will have new stops along Alameda Street for Union Station and will discontinue stops at Vignes Street at Cesar Chavez behind Union Station. Riders from Union Station will now board the bus on the Alameda Street side of the station.

Line 267 will be extended from Pasadena to Altadena, replacing Line 686 on Colorado Boulevard and Allen Avenue. Operating hours will be extended by an extra hour until 9 p.m. for Line 267 to maintain the same hours of service that Line 686 offers. Frequency will increase for the former Line 686 segment between Pasadena and Altadena on weekdays to every 30 minutes from every 60 minutes. Weekend service will remain at every 60 minutes.

Line 268 will improve bus service to the City of Sierra Madre in response to resident requests, by extending the route to Sierra Madre Boulevard via Baldwin Avenue, Sierra Madre Boulevard, and Sierra Madre Villa Avenue instead of Foothill Boulevard to and from Sierra Madre Villa Station. Metro Micro rideshare service will continue to be available in Sierra Madre. A second route change for Line 268 will improve access to the El Monte Metrolink Station with buses rerouted via Tyler Avenue, Valley Boulevard, and Santa Anita Avenue.

Gateway Cities

Line 265 on Paramount Boulevard will increase service from 60 minutes to 40-45 minutes on weekdays. Service will remain at 60 minutes on the weekends.

South Bay

Line 108 in the City of Commerce on Eastern Avenue will move its terminus location slightly north to Harbor Street due to Eastern Avenue being restored to two traffic lanes in each direction, preventing buses from safely parking at the existing terminus.

Westside/Central LA

Line 81 will relocate the northbound terminal at Eagle Rock Plaza from eastbound on Colorado Boulevard at Eagle Dale Avenue to westbound Colorado Boulevard at Eagle Dale Avenue to accommodate the Line 217 extension to Eagle Rock Plaza at the Colorado and Eagle Dale Terminal. This change will require that two stops relocate near Eagle Rock Plaza. Line 81 will also see two southbound trips added to the afternoon peak schedule weekdays in the 3:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. hours to accommodate increasing ridership.

Line 217 will extend from Vermont/Hollywood to Eagle Rock via Glendale to allow easier access for riders between Mid-City, Hollywood and Glendale. Lines 180 and 217 will each be scheduled to operate every 12 minutes daytime on weekdays and every 15 minutes daytime on weekends with coordinated schedules to maximize frequency on duplicated segments.

At Westwood, Metro Line 20, 602, and 720 buses will no longer be able to travel through the federal GSA building parking lot between Veteran Avenue and Sepulveda Boulevard. As a result, Line 602 will move from the existing terminus on Veteran Avenue to a new terminus location at Kinross Avenue west of Gayley Avenue and will discontinue use of the stop at Wilshire Boulevard and Veteran Avenue. Eastbound Line 20 and 720 buses starting trips from Veteran Avenue will instead travel via Veteran Avenue, Santa Monica Boulevard and Sepulveda Boulevard to reach Wilshire Boulevard.  

Metro will also adjust service levels slightly on many bus lines to better match ridership   levels and to accommodate the above improvements. This includes some changes to the first and last trips on some lines. Also, 49 weekday, 42 Saturday, and 41 Sunday bus lines will have revised schedules to improve their reliability. A complete list of the changes and links to new schedules can be found at metro.net/mybus.

Stay informed by following Metro on The Source and El Pasajero at metro.netfacebook.com/losangelesmetrotwitter.com/metrolosangeles,  twitter.com/metroLAalerts and instagram.com/metrolosangeles.

Bus & Rail Transit information
323.GO.METRO (323.466.3876)
6:30am – 7pm (Monday – Friday)
8:00am – 4:30pm (Saturday/Sunday)

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U.S. Federal Courts

Supreme Court rules to preserve access to abortion medication

The suit, Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. FDA, was originally filed in the U.S. District Court for the North District of Texas

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The abortifacent drug mifepristone is marketed under the brand name Mifeprex (Photo courtesy of Danco Laboratories)

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Thursday in a much-anticipated decision against efforts by conservative doctors and medical groups challenging access to mifepristone, one of two pharmaceuticals used in medication abortions. As a result of the high court’s decision, access to the drug won’t change.

Associate Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, writing for the court, reversed a lower court decision that would have made it more difficult to obtain the drug, which is used in about two-thirds of U.S. abortions. The ruling however was narrow in scope as it only addressed what is known as legal standing in a case.

SCOTUSblog senior court reporter Amy Howe noted that Kavanaugh acknowledged what he characterized as the challengers’ “sincere legal, moral, ideological, and policy objections” to elective abortion “by others” and to FDA’s 2016 and 2021 changes to the conditions on the use of the drug.

But the challengers had not shown that they would be harmed by the FDA’s mifepristone policies, he explained, and under the Constitution, merely objecting to abortion and the FDA’s policies are not enough to bring a case in federal court. The proper place to voice those objections, he suggested, is in the political or regulatory arena.

“Under Article III of the Constitution, a plaintiff’s desire to make a drug less available for others does not establish standing to sue,” Kavanaugh wrote.

“We are pleased with the Supreme Court’s decision in this incredibly important case. By rejecting the Fifth Circuit’s radical, unprecedented and unsupportable interpretation of who has standing to sue, the justices reaffirmed longstanding basic principles of administrative law,” said Abigail Long, a spokesperson for Danco. “The decision also safeguards access to a drug that has decades of safe and effective use.”

The White House released a statement from President Joe Biden on Supreme Court Decision on FDA v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine:

“Today’s decision does not change the fact that the fight for reproductive freedom continues. It does not change the fact that the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade two years ago, and women lost a fundamental freedom. It does not change the fact that the right for a woman to get the treatment she needs is imperiled if not impossible in many states.
 
It does mean that mifepristone, or medication abortion, remains available and approved. Women can continue to access this medication – approved by the FDA as safe and effective more than 20 years ago. 
 
But let’s be clear: attacks on medication abortion are part of Republican elected officials’ extreme and dangerous agenda to ban abortion nationwide. Since the overturning of Roe v. Wade, Republican elected officials have imposed extreme abortion bans in 21 states, some of which include zero exceptions for rape or incest. Women are being turned away from emergency rooms, or forced to go to court to plead for care that their doctor recommended or to travel hundreds of miles for care. Doctors and nurses are being threatened with jail time, including life in prison, for providing the health care they have been trained to provide. And contraception and IVF are under attack.
 
The stakes could not be higher for women across America. Vice President Harris and I stand with the vast majority of Americans who support a woman’s right to make deeply personal health care decisions. We will continue to fight to ensure that women in every state get the health care they need and we will continue to call on Congress to restore the protections of Roe v. Wade in federal law — that is our commitment.”

U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk in Amarillo, Texas, in a ruling a year ago, waved aside decades of scientific approval, ruled that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration improperly approved mifepristone more than 20 years ago in 2000.

Kacsmaryk, appointed to the federal bench by former President Donald Trump, in his 67 page opinion wrote that the FDA’s two-decade-old approval violated a federal rule that allows for accelerated approval for certain drugs and, along with subsequent actions by the agency, was unlawful.

The suit, Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. FDA, was originally filed in the U.S. District Court for the North District of Texas in mid-November by Alliance Defending Freedom, an anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQ+ legal organization.

Applauding Kacsmaryk’s ruling, Erik Baptist, speaking for the Alliance Defending Freedom said in a statement: “By illegally approving dangerous chemical abortion drugs, the FDA put women and girls in harm’s way, and it’s high time the agency is held accountable for its reckless actions.”

Erin Hawley, a senior attorney for the conservative group Alliance Defending Freedom who argued the case at the Supreme Court, said the opinion was “disappointing,” but told reporters in a press gaggle after the ruling that the explicit mention of conscience protections was a victory.

“The Supreme Court was crystal clear that pro life doctors do have federal conscience protections, even in emergency situations,” Hawley said. “So that’s a huge win for the pro-life cause. The Supreme Court clearly said that our doctors are entitled to those federal conscious protections that are based on their religious beliefs.”

Related

The case now returns to the lower courts, and the dispute over access to the drug likely is not over. 

SCOTUSblog also reported that Nancy Northrup, the president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, praised the decision but conceded that the dispute could continue even after Thursday’s ruling. She, too, noted that the three states “could still attempt to keep the case going, including taking it back up to the Supreme Court,” and she warned that access to mifepristone “is still at risk nationwide.”

The Hill notes that for instance, the same district court in Texas that originally ruled against the FDA said a group of three red states—Missouri, Idaho and Kansas— can intervene in the lawsuit.

“I would expect the litigation to continue with those states raising different standing arguments than made by our doctors,” ADF’s Hawley told reporters.

Equality California, the nation’s largest statewide LGBTQ+ civil rights organization, emailed the Blade the following statement from Executive Director Tony Hoang in response to a unanimous ruling by the United States Supreme Court:

“We appreciate today’s unanimous decision to uphold access to the abortion drug mifepristone, authored by a conservative Justice. This ruling reinforces the critical importance of maintaining accessible reproductive healthcare and highlights the necessity of safeguarding these rights from baseless legal attacks.

However, it is imperative to recognize that the Court should never have accepted this case. The so-called Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine lacked the standing to initiate this challenge. Moreover, federal conscience exemptions already exist for healthcare providers who object to offering abortion-related care. 

Medication abortions involving mifepristone constitute the majority of abortions in America, including those sought by LGBTQ+ people. Our community understands the necessity of bodily autonomy and the right to make decisions regarding our own medical care, including reproductive care. Patients deserve access to the medications they need, and providers should be able to deliver that care without unwarranted interference from extremist courts or politicians.   

Attacks on abortion do not end with this decision; millions of people nationwide are still unable to get abortion care and abortion opponents remain focused on their end goal of a nationwide abortion ban. 

Equality California will continue to work with our legislative partners in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., as well as organizational allies, like Planned Parenthood, to help protect and expand access to abortion and reproductive healthcare.”

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U.S. Federal Courts

ACLU of Indiana sues City of Loogootee for blocking Pride

The First Amendment lawsuit calls for the court to enjoin Loogootee’s Special Events Ordinance and allowing plaintiffs to hold PrideFest 2024

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Photo Credit: Loogootee Pride 2024

EVANSVILLE, Ind. — The ACLU of Indiana filed suit in U.S. District Court on Thursday against the City of Loogootee, a community of about 2,600 in the southwestern part of the state, on behalf of the sponsors of PrideFest 2024.

After initially approving a permit for PrideFest 2024 to take place on September 7, the Loogootee City Council has since passed two new ordinances changing the application process for using city property, rescinded its prior approval of PrideFest 2024, and failed to vote on the new application the sponsors properly submitted in February 2024.

The first Loogootee Pride Festival was successfully held in June 2023 at the Public Square, in the center of town. where numerous community events have been held over the years. About 200 people attended the 2023 festival, and organizers had no reason to suspect that the town’s leadership would not approve a permit for a festival in 2024.

Since submitting a new application for PrideFest 2024 in February, the organizers of PrideFest, Patoka Valley AIDS Community Action Group, have attended each subsequent Loogootee City Council meeting.

The PrideFest application has been on the Council’s meeting agenda but Council members never discussed or voted on it. On June 10th, the Council passed the most recently revised ordinance setting up numerous roadblocks to PrideFest.

Another event, Summer Fest, is scheduled to be held in the Public Square next week, apparently without the organizers of that event even applying for a permit.

The First Amendment lawsuit filed today calls for the court to enjoin Loogootee’s Special Events Ordinance and allowing plaintiffs to hold PrideFest 2024 at the Public Square on September 7, 2024.
 
ACLU of Indiana’s Legal Director Ken Falk said:
 
“The City of Loogootee’s revocation of its November 2023 permission to hold PrideFest 2024 and its actions since that time violate the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. The latest city special events ordinance is unconstitutional in many ways. It, and the actions of the City Council, clearly indicate that Councilmembers are trying to deny our plaintiffs the ability to hold their event because they disagree with a celebration of the LGBTQ community..

The complaint can be found here.

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Delaware

Sarah McBride poised to become first trans member of Congress

McBride currently holds a seat in the First State Senate District of Delaware and has used that momentum to mobilize her supporters

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Del. State Senator Sarah McBride (D-1st District) (Washington Blade file photo by Daniel Truitt)

By Joe Reberkenny | WILMINGTON, Del. – Delaware State Sen. Sarah McBride has become the Democratic frontrunner for Congress after her primary opponent dropped out of the race. This sets up McBride to possibly become the first transgender member of Congress if elected in November. 

Eugene Young announced on Wednesday he suspended his campaign for Delaware’s At-Large congressional district, leaving McBride as the only Democratic candidate running for the seat. Young’s announcement leaves Republican challenger Donyale Hall as McBride’s only obstacle to the House of Representatives.

As the new Democratic frontrunner, McBride is slated to win the strongly Democratic state’s sole House seat, which is currently held by Democrat Lisa Blunt Rochester. Blunt Rochester is leaving the House to run for Thomas Carper’s seat in the Senate who will be retiring at the end of the year. 

According to McBride’s campaign, she has raised more than $2 million and does not appear to be slowing down. Not only could McBride become the historic first trans member of Congress, but her campaign has raised record-breaking amounts — more than any candidate for an open congressional seat in state history.

McBride currently holds a seat in the First State Senate District of Delaware and has used that momentum to mobilize her supporters.

LPAC, an organization that works to get LGBTQ+ women and nonbinary candidates elected to public office, has endorsed McBride’s run for Congress as well as her past campaigns. LPAC’s Executive Director Janelle Perez released a statement regarding McBride’s path to the House.

“LPAC is thrilled that Sarah McBride has cleared the Democratic field and is on a clear path to making history in November as the first out trans person ever elected to the U.S. Congress,” Perez wrote in her statement. “This did not happen by accident: Sarah has actively cleared the field by building an undeniably formidable campaign, connecting deeply with voters and out-raising every candidate in the field by a longshot.”

Other candidates have until July 8 to enter the race, although that is unlikely given McBride’s fundraising advantage and growing momentum. 

“It is no surprise to me that Sarah has reached this point — she is a compassionate leader who truly cares for her community and has a tangible impact on everyone around her,” Perez added. “This is a groundbreaking moment for LGBTQ+ representation in our country and I know that Sarah McBride will make an incredible member of Congress.”

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

Joseph Reberkenny, is a recent graduate of American University and the Blade Foundation’s seventh recipient of the Elkins fellowship. Reberkenny will cover Delaware politics for the Washington Blade in this summer, 2024.

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Political commentary & analysis

Project 2025: Far right’s laundry list also targets LGBTQ+ rights

Project 2025  extends to altering the post-WWII international order, challenging established human rights declarations

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Former President Trump speaks at Heritage Foundation event in 2018. (Screenshot/YouTube PBS NewsHour)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – A dystopian Handmaid’s Tale style future may soon be underway in the US, should former President Donald Trump and the Republicans seize the upcoming election. Backed by billions of dollars in funding, and over 100 organizations, many of which are tied to hate groups and white nationalists, the far right’s laundry list of goals includes removing all women’s reproductive rights, and firing all LGBTQ+ employees.

This plan is called Project 2025, and it is terrifying for the minority groups it calls out. 

In a recent Zoom discussion attended by the Blade, Wendy Via and Heidi Beirich, co-founders of the advocacy The Global Project Against Hate and Extremism (GPAHE), shed light on the disturbing realities of  the far-right’s manifesto that has gained surprisingly little media coverage thus far. 

Wendy Via President & Co-Founder and Heidi Beirich, PhD Chief Strategy Officer & Co-Founder (Photo Credit: GPAHE)

Project 2025, led by the far-right Heritage Foundation and supported by over 100 organizations, is a 920-page plan aimed at reshaping America into a more authoritarian and Christian Nationalist state.

The plan threatens to roll back constitutional rights for women, LGBTQ+ people, immigrants, and people of color, and proposes centralizing power in the executive branch. Project 2025 aims to radically reshape the U.S. government, systematically dismantling protections for LGBTQ+ individuals, women, people of color, immigrants, and disabled individuals.

One excerpt from Project 2025 reads: “The next conservative President must make the institutions of American civil society hard targets for woke culture warriors. This starts with deleting the terms sexual orientation and gender identity (“SOGI”), diversity, equity, and inclusion, gender, gender equality, gender equity, gender awareness, gender-sensitive, abortion, reproductive health, reproductive rights, and any other term used to deprive Americans of their First Amendment rights out of every federal rule, agency regulation, contract, grant, regulation, and piece of legislation that exists.”

Project 2025 entails a coordinated attack on people of color and immigrants, proposing measures such as militarizing the border and executing mass deportations. Further proposals include re-assigning control of the FBI to the president, giving the ruler of the free world the power to turn the FBI on anyone not following through on the rules outlines by Project 2025. 

Trump’s plan to increase law enforcement and military presence, coupled with the potential use of the DOJ and FBI to target marginalized groups, raises alarms about civil rights protections.

The militarization of law enforcement under Project 2025 threatens the safety and freedoms of vulnerable populations, and all those who do not fall under the category of cisgender heterosexual, white, Christians.

Authors of Project 2025 seek to erase terms like “gender identity” and “diversity” from government language, further marginalizing LGBTQ+ individuals. The plan also includes proposals to demonize the LGBTQ+ community, painting them as societal threats through various government agencies.

Charlie Kirk, founder of Turning Point USA (TPUSA) and a Project 2025 advisor, continues to promote controversial Christian Nationalist views. At a Phoenix rally, he compared the fight against “wokeness” to World War II battles against totalitarianism. TPUSA, with significant financial backing, actively promotes conservative values and opposes LGBTQ+ rights.

The project calls for the removal of LGBTQ+ protections in employment, education, and adoption, and aims to criminalize gender-affirming care. LGBTQ+ individuals face the threat of job termination and increased legal persecution under this plan.

Under these rules, anyone who can be proven or, perhaps, even suspected of being hired under Diversity and Inclusion initiatives, will be fired.

Christian nationalism is a keystone in shaping Project 2025, which includes efforts to restrict reproductive rights in addition to LGBTQ+ issues. The plan’s advocates seek to make the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) federal law, promoting Christian traditional family values at the expense of individual freedoms.

This includes allowing orphanages to turn away potential adopters who adhere to any faith other than Christianity. Further, Project 2025 threatens to eradicate adoptions as a whole, as the manifesto calls for a child’s “right” to be raised by their mother and father, regardless of the economic and/or mental states of said parents. The act would also limit or eliminate the right to practice one’s religion of choice, thereby annihilating the separation of church and state. 

Project 2025  extends to altering the post-WWII international order, challenging established human rights declarations. Plans to fire civil servants and replace them with political appointees were also discussed, raising concerns about the impartiality and stability of federal agencies. 

One zoom attendee  voiced concerns about the defunding of LGBTQ+ nonprofits and the potential for increased investigations and demonization of organizations working with immigrants. The implementation of Project 2025 through executive orders by a conservative president poses a substantial risk to this concern.

Emphasizing the critical need to act now, speakers highlighted the growth of a far-right international network since Trump’s presidency, which could lead to the criminalization of LGBTQ+ individuals. The overturning of landmark cases like Lawrence v. Texas could pave the way for further legal persecution.

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Southern California

Triple A: SoCal gas prices continue dropping quickly

The average price for self-serve regular gasoline in California is $4.87, which is 11 cents lower than a week ago

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Triple A Auto Club/Los Angeles Blade

LOS ANGELES – Gas prices in Southern California have dropped by more than 50 cents a gallon in most areas after two straight months of price declines, according to the Auto Club’s Weekend Gas Watch. The average price for self-serve regular gasoline in California is $4.87, which is 11 cents lower than a week ago. The average national price is $3.46, which is two cents lower than a week ago.

The average price of self-serve regular gasoline in the Los Angeles-Long Beach area is $4.83 per gallon, which is 10 cents less than last week and 13 cents less than last year. In San Diego, the average price is $4.85, which is 10 cents lower than last week and eight cents lower than this time last year.

On the Central Coast, the average price is $4.97, which is five cents lower than last week and two cents higher than last year. In Riverside, the average per-gallon price is $4.75, which is 10 cents lower than last week and 10 cents lower than a year ago. In Bakersfield, the $4.96 average price is eight cents less than last week and nine cents higher than a year ago today.

“Oil Price Information Service reports the latest Energy Information Administration data shows that West Coast refinery utilization rates reached their highest production levels of 2024 at the beginning of this month,” said Auto Club Spokesperson Doug Shupe. “California continues to have the highest gas prices in the U.S., but this week for the first time since March, gas prices in most local areas are lower than at this time a year ago.”

The Weekend Gas Watch monitors the average price of gasoline. As of 9 a.m. on June 13, averages are:

061324

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Africa

Protesters vandalize Zimbabwean LGBTQ+ rights group’s offices

GALZ has reported the incident to the police

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Protesters vandalized GALZ's offices in Harare, Zimbabwe, with homophobic graffiti. (Photos courtesy of GALZ)

HARARE, Zimbabwe — A handful of protesters over this past weekend vandalized the offices of Zimbabwe’s largest LGBTQ+ rights organization.

Although they did not enter GALZ (an Association of LGBTI People in Zimbabwe)’s building in Harare, the country’s capital, they did gather at the gate and sang homophobic songs. The protesters also left anti-gay graffiti on the gate and walls.

Several people after the incident started to question the authenticity of the protesters, arguing GALZ itself organized the protest in order to get funding. They said some of the protesters “looked gay” and even argued the organization had yet to approach the police.

GALZ has sought to discredit some of the reports, while calling the protest disrespectful and uncalled for.

“We categorically condemn the acts of vandalism and intimidation that occurred on Sunday afternoon,” said GALZ in a statement. “A group of individuals claiming to represent various Christian churches descended at our offices. They proceeded to vandalize the property, painting hateful graffiti on the walls. While we respect differences in values, it is utterly unacceptable to deploy acts of vandalism and intimidation against communities who hold different values.”

GALZ said it has filed an official police report, and is “cooperating fully with the ongoing investigations.” 

“We call on the authorities to hold the perpetrators accountable for these criminal actions,” said the organization. 

GALZ also said it remains steadfast in its commitment to LGBTQ+ rights, and urged religious and political leaders to be at the forefront of fostering unity in Zimbabwe.

“This act of violence has not been committed in isolation, it is a stark reminder of the ongoing discrimination and hostility that our community faces,” said GALZ.

“We urge religious and political leaders to condemn such acts of hate and to uphold the  constitutional rights and freedoms for all citizens to be protected by law regardless of their diverse backgrounds including sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. We encourage Zimbabweans to resort to open and respectful dialogue to address indifferences,” added the organization.

Several United Methodist Church parishioners last month held a protest in Harare during which they protested the church’s recent decision to allow LGBTQ+ clergy and same-sex marriages. James Kawadza, one of the protest organizers, said it was un-African to engage in same-sex relations.

“Homosexuality is unlawful in Zimbabwe and marriage is between a man and a woman,” he said. “The church has aligned with the rainbow movement, and this is also a threat to our African traditions and human existence at large. Homosexuality is not contextual, it is an abomination where Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by fire.”

Section 73 of Zimbabwe’s Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act on sexual crimes and crimes against morality says any “male person who, with the consent of another male person, knowingly performs with that other person anal sexual intercourse, or any act involving physical contact other than anal sexual intercourse that would be regarded by a reasonable person to be an indecent act, shall be guilty of sodomy and liable to” a fine, up to a year in prison or both.

Cases of people being arrested under this provision are rare.

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