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California adds Oklahoma to travel ban over LGBT discrimination

State discrimination is anti-family, anti-child

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California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Assemblymember Evan Low, Rick Zbur, Executive Director, Equality California, and Cathy Sakimura, Deputy Director and Family Law Director, National Center for Lesbian Rights, June 1 San Francisco (Photo courtesy NCLR)

Red states like Oklahoma and Kansas might not care that California is calling them out for their explicit LGBT discrimination, but the state’s taxpayers do, Attorney General Xavier Becerra said at a news conference Friday.

As of June 22, state-funded and state-sponsored travel will be prohibit to Oklahoma in response to Gov. Mary Fallin signing a “religious freedom” law on May 11 allowing taxpayer-funded adoption agencies to deny child placement services to same-sex parents and to refuse to place LGBT foster children in homes based on religious or moral grounds related to sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.

Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer also signed an anti-LGBT bill the next day, on May 12, but that state is already on the California travel ban list. Kansas’ previous governor, Sam Brownback, had a long history of anti-LGBT attitudes and actions, including signing an anti-LGBT student bill  in 2016.

Oklahoma’s law, Senate Bill 1140, is scheduled to go into effect on November 1. At the news conference, Becerra said he wanted to give fair warning to Californians and others who might be planning conferences in Oklahoma with significant California participation.

“California law requires that my office identify and maintain a list of states which are off-limits for state-funded or state-sponsored travel,” Becerra said. “California will not use state resources to support states that pass discriminatory laws. The law enacted in Oklahoma allows discrimination against LGBTQ children and aspiring LGBTQ parents who must navigate the adoption process. California taxpayers are taking a stand against bigotry and in support of those who would be harmed by this prejudiced policy.”

Diversity and inclusiveness is also good for everyone, including the state’s business. “”It’s so important that we understand what it means to celebrate Pride month,” says Becerra, “having pride in being part of a forward leaning state that believes in diversity, in inclusion, in welcoming people. We are proud of that because it has made us a very successful place. You don’t become the fifth largest economy in the world unless you’re doing something right. So we take great pride in conveying to everyone in our state that we respect you, we welcome you and we wish you to thrive here in California. Not just here – but anywhere in America you go, that we’ve got your back. “

“AB 1887 was enacted to ensure our taxpayer dollars do not fund bigotry – no exceptions. California is a state of inclusion and has long stood up against discrimination in any form, within our borders and beyond,” said Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Silicon Valley), Chair of the California Legislative LGBT Caucus and author of the travel ban bill. “I stand with Attorney General Becerra as he holds our values high and ensures we do not put any state money behind other states’ discriminatory policies.”

“Every child deserves a loving, supportive family, and it’s neither pro-child, nor pro-family, for Oklahoma to deny them one,” said Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur, who choked up talking about his own three children and the harms done by such laws against children. “California taxpayers won’t subsidize Oklahoma’s — or any state’s — discriminatory policies, and we’re grateful to Attorney General Becerra for taking this decisive action today in support of equality for all.”

“We applaud the Attorney General for ensuring that California taxpayer dollars are used to support our state’s values of inclusion and equality,” said Cathy Sakimura, National Center for Lesbian Rights Family Law Director. “Oklahoma’s law allows adoption agencies to deny children safe and stable homes merely because their adoptive parents are LGBT, denying our families equal dignity and harming children.”

Becerra says his office has heard from companies and organizations in different states wanting to know if California would exempt them from the ban. While he may sympathize, “we don’t do that,” – grant individual exemptions. Low noted that it’s still a relatively new law so there is no real tracking of the consequences yet, though the reach is long from tourism companies to Fortune 500 companies are aware of California’s ban.

States Subject to AB 1887’s Travel Prohibition

The following states are currently subject to California’s ban on state-funded and state-sponsored travel:

Alabama
Kansas
Kentucky
Mississippi
North Carolina
South Dakota
Tennessee
Texas

And as of June 22—Oklahoma.

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Anti-LGBTQ School Board Members Recalled After Banning Pride Flags

Alameda County Parents Voted Out Ryan Jergensen and Linda Hurley in Recall Election

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SUNOL, Calif. — A parent-led movement succeeded in recalling two school board members who approved a policy to ban schools in this East Bay district from flying a Pride flag or any flag that was not a U.S. or California state flag, according to reports.

The vote on July 2 came a year after Molleen Barnes, the superintendent and principal of Sunol Glen School, hoisted the Progress Pride flag on her campus, a little more than an hour’s drive southeast of San Francisco.

After that, two members of the Sunol Glen Unified School District — school board president Ryan Jergensen and Linda Hurley — subsequently approved the new, restricted flag policy, with a third member voting in opposition. Ted Romo accused his fellow officials of “censorship.” Romo is now the only one who kept his seat on the three-member school board.

A parent of children attending Sunol Glen, Matt Sylvester, launched the recall effort. On July 2, he and other residents voted to recall Jergensen by a vote of 254 to 218, a difference of fewer than 40 votes. For Hurley, the count was 249 to 223, leaving her just 26 votes shy of keeping her seat.

The results of the election must be certified by the Alameda County Board of Education, which will then appoint temporary replacements for the school board members until a new election can be held. That isn’t likely before November, according to reports.

Sylvester told the San Francisco Chronicle why he took action.

“They pulled a fast one on us with the flag ban resolution,” Sylvester said. “It was sneaky behavior, and then they pushed it through without listening to people. There’s been no compromise. This recall is about making a point that we will not stand for this.”

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Politics

Garcia and Log Cabin Republicans president react to new GOP party platform

RNC had not issued a new position manifesto since 2016

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Former President Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Committee at National Harbor, Md., on March 4, 2023. (Screen capture via Vimeo)

Following the issuance of the Republican Party’s first new policy platform since 2016, U.S. Rep. Robert Garcia (D-Calif.) and Charles Moran, president of the conservative LGBTQ group Log Cabin Republicans, shared their reactions this week with the Washington Blade.

Unlike previous iterations, including in 2016 and 2012, the 2024 version contains no mention of same-sex marriage and very little discussion about abortion, issues long championed by the religious right factions of the party.

Still, the document calls for banning transgender girls and women from competing in girls and women’s sports, as well as a proposal to cut federal funding for “any school pushing critical race theory, radical gender ideology, and other inappropriate racial, sexual, or political content on our children.”

“We will keep men out of women’s sports, ban taxpayer funding for sex change surgeries, and stop taxpayer-funded schools from promoting gender transition, reverse Biden’s radical rewrite of Title IX education regulations, and restore protections for women and girls,” the platform says.

“Republicans will ensure children are taught fundamentals like reading, history, science, and math, not leftwing propaganda,” according to the document. “We will defund schools that engage in inappropriate political indoctrination of our children using federal taxpayer dollars.”

Garcia, an openly gay vice chair of the Congressional Equality Caucus, told the Blade by phone on Tuesday that the language is of a piece of the party’s efforts across the board to restrict rights, freedoms, and protections from many of America’s most vulnerable.

“The platform is the platform,” he said. “It’s reactionary. It moves us backwards. It does not support diverse communities.”

What is more important, however, than “the Republican platform, Project 2025, all of these ideas and proposals,” Garcia said, is the question of “who’s going to implement these.”

“Look at what Donald Trump is actually saying,” Garcia said. “That should scare us. He’s saying he’s going to deport undocumented people across the country. He’s saying he’s going to empower fossil fuel and oil companies in public. He’s saying that he doesn’t support unions. He’s saying all of these horrible things. I think we should take him for his word.”

“We should already know that he’s going to do what he says. He’s saying he’s going to jail his political opponents,” the congressman added. “This is insane. So, I think that is much more instructive than any party platform or other conversation happening right now.”

Project 2025, the exhaustively detailed governing blueprint for a second Trump term that was published by the right-wing Heritage Foundation think tank, “is finally starting to get more attention,” Garcia said.

Unlike the party platform, the 900-page document reads like a wishlist for the most right-wing conservative Christian flanks of the GOP — with proposals to criminalize all pornography, for instance, and to revoke LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination protections for federal government employees.

“I wish that over the last two days we were talking about Project 2025,” said Garcia.

House Democrats, who had just returned from the July 4 break, had been inundated with questions about whether President Joe Biden should continue leading the party’s 2024 ticket after a shaky debate performance last month exacerbated concerns about his age.

“Moving forward,” he said, Project 2025 “needs to get more attention, and I’m hopeful that it will.”

Also speaking with the Blade on Tuesday was Moran, who had attended a Log Cabin Republicans fundraiser on Monday that former first lady Melania Trump hosted and netted $1.4 million. The event was the first to be held in the Trump Tower residence since her husband launched his 2024 campaign.

“Project 2025 is like a kid’s Christmas wish list — and it has just as much chance of coming to fruition as Santa Claus coming down that chimney,” he said. “It’s just not reality.”

By contrast, the platform has Trump written all over it, Moran said.

“Even though I was not on the platform committee, it was clear those in leadership understood that the process had been commandeered in the past by special interests and those trying to use intimidation and fear to bully their influence into the final document,” he said. “The RNC took steps to ensure a clean, orderly and accessible drafting process.”

As a result of influence peddling by special interest groups, “the platform continued to be an albatross around the necks of common-sense Republicans,” providing opportunities for Democrats to portray their political opponents as anti-gay, for example, since the document historically took a position against same-sex marriage.

“The 2016 platform was crafted under the influence of Ted Cruz’s delegates, veering it in a much more conservative direction on gay issues,” Moran said. “President Trump made it clear that he wasn’t aligned with the 2016 platform, and if the full RNC convention would have been held in 2020, it would have been changed then.”

Moran added that while “the platform process has historically been influenced by paid lobbyists representing special interests trying to game the system for their client’s pet projects and desires,” this year “presented President Trump with his first opportunity to genuinely make the GOP platform represent the modern Republican Party, and make it represent an inclusive, America-First context.”

Moran said the new platform is a reflection of the campaign’s strategy and approach to this election.

“I believe the president knew that the old platform made the GOP uncompetitive in major geographic and critical demographic areas,” he said. “The platform was definitely worth fighting over, because we know that the presidential nominee needs to get the party in the best position possible to appeal to the broadest number of people.”

“This is a platform that is inclusive of many communities, including LGBT Americans,” Moran said. “It promotes the sanctity of marriage, but doesn’t exclude our marriages. It supports IVF, which is the principle way same-sex couples build families.”

“This is a pro-family platform,” he added, “but it provides a place for our families too.”

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Politics

Republican National Convention expected to address LGBTQ issues

The Washington Blade will be reporting from Milwaukee next week

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Former President Donald Trump (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Washington Blade will be in Milwaukee next week covering the Republican National Convention, which is expected to include events and discussions concerning LGBTQ issues.

  • GRACE, the gender research advocacy council and education, will host a media availability at the RNC next week with Alaina Kupec, its founder and president, and Executive Director Jennifer Williams.

Williams is a Republican city councilmember representing Trenton, N.J., and the first transgender woman elected to a municipal office in the state. Kupec, who is also trans, is a Navy veteran who has served in executive level positions at biopharmaceutical companies.

GRACE was founded to “assist other groups in addressing misinformation about transgender people,” as Kupec told Bay Area Reporter. The organization has also focused on engaging conservatives and moderates, including through a series of ads spotlighting right-leaning, Christian fathers of trans children.

The organization notes that the 2024 Republican Party platform included “references to the transgender community.”

  • On July 15, the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing think tank, will host “Heritage Policy Fest: Fighting for America’s Future.”

The group’s Project 2025, a 900+ page governing agenda for a second Trump administration, would repeal LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination protections and direct the federal government to advance principles of Christian nationalism.

The Biden-Harris 2024 Campaign has sought to bring attention to Project 2025 and tie it to Trump’s candidacy, as the document contains extreme policy proscriptions including a proposal to criminalize all pornography.

  • The anti-LGBTQ group Moms for Liberty will host “Giving Americans a Voice Town Hall” on July 16.

The group, which is considered a far-right extremist organization by the Southern Poverty Law Center and has close ties to the Republican Party, has sought to ban books with LGBTQ characters or themes and its members have harassed and intimidated educators and school officials.

  • Log Cabin Republicans, the conservative LGBTQ group, will host a Big Tent Event on July 17.

Former first lady Melania Trump hosted a fundraiser for the organization on Monday at the Trumps’ penthouse in Trump Tower, raising $1.4 million according to the New York Post. The event was the 2024 campaign’s first that was held at the couple’s residence.

  • On July 18, the anti-LGBTQ Faith and Freedom Coalition will host a prayer breakfast.

The organization, led by Ralph Reed, former executive director of the Christian Coalition, opposes same-sex marriage and “transgender ideology.”

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Caribbean

Black transgender woman from Chicago disappears in the Bahamas

Taylor Casey last seen on June 19 on Paradise Island

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Taylor Casey (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

A Black transgender woman from Chicago disappeared last month while attending a yoga retreat in the Bahamas.

flyer the Royal Bahamas Police Force has distributed says Taylor Casey, 42, was last seen on June 19 on Paradise Island, which is adjacent to Nassau, the country’s capital.

Casey’s family in a press release said employees at the Sivanandra Ashram Yoga Retreat she was attending reported her missing on June 20 “when she failed to attend that day’s classes.” 

Casey’s mother, Colette Seymore, traveled to Paradise Island after her daughter disappeared.

The press release, which advocates in Chicago released ahead of a press conference on Thursday, notes “a search of the area and conversations with the Bahamian authorities left Ms. Colette Seymore with more questions than answers.”

Thursday is Casey’s 42nd birthday.

Seymore is among those who spoke at Thursday’s press conference.

“My child has been missing for almost three weeks,” said Seymore in the press release. “My family, friends, and I are distraught! I am pleading with everyone to call your elected officials and demand the FBI lead this investigation and bring her home safe and sound.”

The Windy City Times described Casey as “a fixture of Chicago’s transgender community and a beloved youth advocate.” Casey has also practiced yoga for 15 years, and went to the retreat “as part of a long-term goal to deepen her yoga practice.”

“She was excited to be participating in the yoga teacher training program and looking forward to sharing her experience with others when she returned,” noted a second press advisory her family released this week.

The Nassau Guardian, a Bahamian newspaper, on June 27 reported authorities found Casey’s cell phone in the ocean, but her other belongings were still in her room at the retreat. 

A spokesperson for Taylor’s family told the Washington Blade they have reached out to the State Department and the U.S. Embassy in the Bahamas for assistance. Eyewitness News Bahamas, a Bahamian newscast, on June 28 reported the Federal Bureau of Investigation is working with Bahamian authorities to investigate Taylor’s disappearance.

The Bahamas Organization of LGBTI Affairs has also offered its support to Taylor’s family and assistance to authorities.

“There is still hope,” Alexus D’Marco, the group’s executive director, told Eyewitness News Bahamas. “They’re just looking for that piece of hope and to have some closure to finding their loved one.” 

D’Marco also called for Bahamian authorities to do more to investigate missing persons’ cases in the country.

“A human being is missing, and that is the whole thing about this,” she told Eyewitness News Bahamas. “Regardless of her gender identity, being identified as a trans person, she’s still a human being and she’s still a visitor to our shores.” 

Anyone with information about Casey’s disappearance can call the Royal Bahamas Police Force’s Criminal Investigation Department at (242) 502-9991, (242) 502-9975, or (202) 502-9976.

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Africa

Ugandan activists again ruling that upheld Anti-Homosexuality Act

Country’s Constitutional Court in April refused to ‘nullify’ law

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(Image by rarrarorro/Bigstock)

A group of LGBTQ activists in Uganda on Thursday once again appealed a ruling that upheld the country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act.

President Yoweri Museveni in May 2023 signed the law, which contains a death penalty provision for “aggravated homosexuality.”

The U.S. subsequently imposed visa restrictions on Ugandan officials and removed the country from a program that allows sub-Saharan African countries to trade duty-free with the U.S. The World Bank Group also announced the suspension of new loans to Uganda.

The Ugandan Constitutional Court on April 3 refused to “nullify the Anti-Homosexuality Act in its totality.” Sexual Minorities Uganda Executive Director Frank Mugisha and Jacqueline Kasha Nabagesara are among the activists who appealed the ruling to the country’s Court of Appeal on April 16.

A picture that Mugisha posted to his X account on Thursday notes he, along with Nabagesara, are two of the 22 activists who filed the latest appeal with the Supreme Court, which is the country’s highest court.

“Today, we have filed an appeal in the Supreme Court of Uganda to overturn the Constitutional Court decision that upheld the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Law,” said Mugisha.

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West Hollywood

Stache closes after three years of serving WeHo

The popular bar and eatery will close its doors on July 13

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Patrons at Stache enjoying a screening of "Romeo + Juliet" on July 8, 2024, hours after owners announced the bar would be closing at the end of the week. (Social media photo)

The popular WeHo bar Stache will be closing its doors for good July 13, its owners announced via social media Monday afternoon.

“Thank you so much for all of your support since day one. Over the last three years, we’ve been a WeHo destination where everyone was welcomed and memories were made. We’ve truly cherished serving you, our community, and appreciate everyone who has been with us for this unforgettable ride,” the owners said in a post on Instagram.

“We have given Stache our best effort, however our operations no longer make sense.  It is with great sadness that we must announce that Stache’s last day of operations will be this coming Saturday, July 13th, 2024.”

“We are forever grateful to our amazing team for their dedication and hard work. We hope you’ll join us in supporting them and celebrating Stache’s last week – we’ll forever hold dear the community, friendships, and memories we’ve made.” 

Stache’s owners and PR team declined to comment further when contacted by the Los Angeles Blade. A search of Stache’s liquor license shows a clean record that would be good through July 2025.

Stache’s owners signed onto their lease in December 2019, taking over and merging the locations previously occupied by Café d’Étoile and Bumsan Organic Milk Bar. But the COVID pandemic that began three months later put all of their preparation for the bar on hold. It eventually opened in September 2021.

The restaurant originally served only vegan food, but quickly expanded its menu options.  

Over the past three years, Stache has evolved into a neighborhood hub that hosted events every night of the week, including classic gay movie screenings, a weekly drink and draw, drag shows, and dance parties. 

DJ Jon Klaft, a regular fixture at Stache since he played at its friends and family preview night back in September 2021, says the bar was an important part of the Weho scene.

“Stache has held a very special place in my heart since it opened,” Klaft says. “I’ll continue to DJ at the other bars in Weho, but really hope that whoever takes over the space keeps it a queer venue. I feel like we are losing too many spaces in the neighborhood. I’m so bummed to see stache go.”

Tributes to the bar poured in on social media.

“This wasn’t just a bar to me, this was the space within which I reclaimed a passion and a talent that I hadn’t accessed in over 20 years,” said James Farrell, an artist who was a regular attendee at Stache’s drink and draw events.

“Thank you @stacheweho for giving me my first weekly on the Boulevard! I’ll cherish the moments I had with you and the people I met in your loving walls forever!” wrote drag artist Xoana.

“Always a vibe. Always sexy. Always the most amazing staff!” wrote DJ Ivan Mariscal

Queer Here Cinema, a monthly networking and screening event for queer filmmakers, has had to cancel its July event, and announced on Instagram that it was looking for a new venue.

Several WeHo venues have changed hands recently, with Roosterfish announcing it would open in the former Pump location, the Abbey relaunching with a new owner, and Heart closing to reopen as Beaches Tropicana.

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Congress

Garcia discusses why he’s standing behind Biden

HRC: ‘We are proud to stand by our endorsement’ of the president

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U.S. Rep. Robert Garcia (D-Calif.) (YouTube/MSNBC screen capture)

After congressional Democrats emerged from closed-door meetings on Tuesday, House and Senate leaders reassured the media of their continued support for President Joe Biden in his bid for reelection.

As lawmakers returned from the July 4 break this week, a handful of Democrats publicly urged the president to step aside, following a debate performance last month that worsened concerns regarding the candidate’s age, signs of a potential decline in his mental acuity, and questions over his ability to bring the vigor necessary to lead the ticket.

However, speaking with the Washington Blade on Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Robert Garcia (D-Calif.) shared his thoughts on why “it is time to move forward” from Biden’s debate performance and “focus on attacking Donald Trump and the dangers that he poses.”

The congressman was clear that colleagues who have a different opinion should feel free to express their concerns — and, to that end, he said leadership has “been incredible in hearing members who have sought out input” from them.

“The president had a rough debate, and I think he recognizes that, and I think we all recognize that it was not a great moment,” he said. “I respect the people that have had those concerns and the conversation that’s happened since, so, I get that.”

“Personally, I’ve known from day one that Joe Biden is going to be our nominee,” Garcia said. “He reinforced that with everyone, and it is time to move forward. I’ve been behind the president and the vice president. I continue to be.”

Every day the Democratic Party continues having these conversations internally, “we’re not out there defeating Donald Trump,” the congressman added. “I think for some folks it’s going to take some time for them to feel comfortable, and that’s OK [but] I’m ready to go. I’m fired up and ready to go.”

Garcia, who’s gay, serves as a vice-chair of the Congressional Equality Caucus, alongside some LGBTQ Democratic members who agree with his position, like Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.), and others who do not, like Mark Takano (D-Calif.) and Angie Craig (D-Minn.), who have called for Biden to step aside.

When it comes to LGBTQ voters, “from our perspective, I think we’ve just got to understand that we have the most pro-LGBTQ+ administration in the history of politics in front of us, and we have Donald Trump on the other side,” Garcia said. “Those are our choices.”

“You don’t have to love every choice you make, but we have to understand the stakes, and we have to understand that there is a binary choice,” he said. “Every person that’s not voting, or not voting for Joe Biden, is certainly empowering Donald Trump. That’s the reality of the moment we’re in.”

Asked how the Biden-Harris campaign can outrun the speculation about the president’s age and the calls from some Democrats for him to step aside, Garcia said “the president has to continue what he’s been doing for the last couple of days. And I think what you’ve seen in the last few days is a fighting Joe Biden.”

“Joe Biden is proving that if he’s going to get punched in the nose, he’s going to punch back twice as hard,” the congressman said. “And I think that is where the campaign is headed, and what needs to continue to happen.”

Weathering the moment in which “the president did have this really bad debate night,” Garcia said, has “also invigorated the campaign and him” with Biden and his team realizing “this is serious, we have a real challenge, here. And let’s get this done.”

Kelley Robinson, president of the Human Rights Campaign, America’s largest LGBTQ rights organization and a group that has made major investments in Biden’s reelection effort, also reaffirmed her support for the president in a statement to the Blade on Tuesday.

“Donald Trump and his Project 2025 agenda pose an existential threat to our rights, freedom, and democracy itself,” she said. “Our job remains the same: defeat him. Biden-Harris is the ticket to do it and we are proud to stand by our endorsement.”

Asked for comment, a GLAAD spokesperson said “as a [501]C3 nonprofit org, we focus on voter and reporter info and resources, to inform about elevate facts on the candidates’ records and statements about LGBTQ people.”

The spokesperson referred the Blade to a statement by the group’s president, Sarah Kate Ellis, which was issued shortly after Biden’s televised debate against Trump.

“Media must do their job to ask questions of candidates about their records and plans for and against LGBTQ people. Our community is enduring an onslaught of attacks on our lives and fundamental freedoms. Everything from our marriages to our ability to have children to keeping schools safe for LGBTQ youth is on the ballot.

“The candidates’ records are very clear, and voters need to be informed about this history to make the best decisions. Reporters and moderators must challenge candidate rhetoric for facts about abortion, immigration, inflation, and the security of each person’s vote.

“CNN failed to find time in 90 minutes to ask about Project 2025, the fascist fever dream that is laying a path for anti-LGBTQ zealots to weaponize the government to fully eliminate abortion access and LGBTQ people from equal access in American life.

“Accurate information is essential for voters to choose a leader who values the truth, decency, and who will work to ensure freedom and equality for all Americans.”

The GLAAD accountability project includes detailed entries for Trump and Biden, detailing the candidates’ records on and rhetoric concerning LGBTQ matters.

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Africa

LGBTQ Kenyans join protests against controversial tax bill

More than 40 people killed after protesters stormed parliament on June 25

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There were clashes between police and protesters in Nairobi, Kenya, on June 2, 2024. (Screen capture via AP YouTube)

Queer Kenyans have braved the risks of homophobic attacks and joined young people in the nationwide protests against the government’s proposed tax hikes on bread and other essentials.

The protests, which started mid-last month before the National Assembly on June 25 passed the country’s controversial Finance Bill 2024, have been led by the country’s Gen Z and millennial populations.

The nationwide protests, which culminated with angry mobs storming parliament when the bill passed, have also drawn LGBTQ Kenyans who have marched with Pride flags alongside other protesters with the national flag. The queer protesters, however, stopped carrying the rainbow flags out of fear of anti-LGBTQ attacks after other protesters warned the presence of the Pride flag threatened to spur a serious backlash from parents, clerics, and government loyalists who oppose the championing of homosexuality, which Kenyan laws criminalize.

President William Ruto, who defiantly pushed for the enactment of the bill to raise more revenues to implement projects, bowed to pressure from the protesters and the international community and declined to assent to the proposed law. This decision followed the ugly scenes on June 25 after riot police responded to the peaceful protesters with force that left more than 40 people dead and more than 300 others injured from live bullets, massive looting, and destruction of property.

GALCK, which is a coalition of 16 LGBTQ rights groups, while supporting the anti-tax protests and the participation of their members stated that the Finance Bill “disproportionately burdens Kenyans and threatens our most vulnerable communities including the LGBTQ+ individuals.”

“For LGBTQ+ Kenyans who often face additional healthcare challenges, these taxes pose a significant barrier,” GALCK said in a statement.

The group reiterated that introducing taxes on digital content creation on which the majority of Kenya’s unemployed youths rely as a source of income would have also severely impacted the LGBTQ organizations and activists who depend on online platforms for advocacy and awareness campaigns.

“This stifles crucial efforts to address systemic inequalities faced by the LGBTQ+ community,” GALCK noted.

GALCK also stated the government’s proposed tax hikes on transaction costs for bank and mobile money transfers through the Finance Bill would have impacted LGBTQ people in need of emergency support and smooth flow of funds within the queer community.

Regarding the government’s proposal that would have allowed the country’s tax collector, the Kenya Revenue Authority, to freely access crucial information from people regardless of the existing data protection laws, GALCK noted the move would have amounted to a serious privacy violation to the LGBTQ organizations, activists, and donors.

“This bill is not just about the proposed tax hikes, it is about basic rights and the future of Kenya,” GALCK affirmed. “As GALCK, we will continue protesting and raising awareness until our voices are heard. Together, we can build a safe and sustainable country for all of us.”

Although GALCK has expressed its condolences to the families of protesters killed during the nationwide protests, it has thus far not reported any queer person killed or injured, even as a memorial concert in honor of the more than 40 victims was held last Sunday at Uhuru Park in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital.

The Initiative for Equality and Non-Discrimination (INEND), an LGBTQ+ rights group, has also been instrumental in ensuring both the queer and non-LGBTQ protesters stay safe and healthy during and after protests by sharing informative tips.

INEND, for instance, informed the protesters on the need to bathe to get rid of teargas and other chemical compounds that riot police threw at them, residual dust, and sweat for healthy skin. The group also advised protesters to drink a lot of water to (re)hydrate their bodies, get enough rest after the protest, seek immediate medical care when injured, and receive psychological support.

“Once rested, movements (protesters) should regroup in a day or two to discuss follow-up steps for arrested members, successes or setbacks of the protest, opportunities created for movement-building and the next strategies involving media appearances, following up with institutions, social media campaigns, another protest, and suchlike activities,” INEND stated.

The nationwide protest movement, which is organic, has mostly been mobilized by social media influencers and human rights activists but with no de facto leaders. It is, therefore, difficult for authorities to deal with it and they have resorted to arbitrary arrests and abductions.

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Politics

EXCLUSIVE: Will Rollins raises $2.2+ million in Q2

Gay Democrat seeks to unseat anti-LGBTQ GOP opponent

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Will Rollins and his partner, Paolo, at the 2022 Palm Springs Pride Parade. (Photo courtesy of Will Rollins for Congress)

Will Rollins, the gay Democrat vying for anti-LGBTQ U.S. Rep. Ken Calvert’s (R-Calif.) seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, raised more than $2.2 million in the second quarter, the Washington Blade has learned.

Fundraising totals covering the period from April 1 to June 30 must be reported to the U.S. Federal Election Commission by or before July 15.

With this latest haul, the Rollins campaign’s cash on hand will exceed $4.7 million and the total raised for the 2024 cycle, $7 million.

If Rollins out-raises Calvert, it would be the fourth consecutive quarter. In the first quarter of 2024, Rollins brought in more than $950,000 more than his opponent, boasting $3,162,026.27 in cash on hand to Calvert’s 2,639,376.83.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee believes California’s 41st Congressional District is likely to flip from red to blue, and therefore has made additional investments in Rollins’s campaign as he seeks to unseat a GOP member who has served since 1993.

The Democratic challenger’s campaign says this quarter saw more than 29,000 total contributions, 95 percent of which were $100 or less, for a total this cycle of more than 44,000 unique donors.

“Flipping the 41st District is critical for a host of reasons: Installing new leadership that prioritizes working families over special interests, defending and restoring into law a woman’s fundamental right to choose, protecting our fragile democracy, mitigating the effects of climate change and creating local green energy jobs that will protect our planet, and so much more,” Rollins told the Blade in an emailed statement.

“But, it’s also a history-making opportunity for the LGBTQ+ community,” he said. “If elected, I’d have the honor of being the first openly LBGTQ+ member of Congress to represent Palm Springs and the first openly LGBTQ+ member of Congress from a law enforcement background.”

Rollins continued, “I think that this representation and visibility resonates with a lot of grassroots supporters who see our current congressman for who he is: A staunch opponent of our community. Calvert’s record speaks for itself, including voting against the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Bill and just last year voting to strip funding for basic services for LGBTQ+ community centers, including meals for seniors. It’s abhorrent.”

“As a result, we’ve been fortunate to have an outpouring of support from the LGBTQ+ community, particularly those locally in Riverside County,” Rollins said. “And it’s just one of a host of reasons why our campaign’s fundraising has been so strong — I’m very thankful for the support and look forward to finishing the job this November.”

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Africa

Transgender woman kidnapped, sexually assaulted in Zimbabwe

Sunflower Sibanda released on July 3, found refuge at LGBTQ group’s offices

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Sunflower Sibanda (Photo courtesy of Sibanda's Facebook page)

A transgender woman in Zimbabwe who was kidnapped late last month has been found alive.

Chayelle Cathro, a missing persons investigator, said Sunflower Sibanda was last seen at the Eclipse nightclub in Harare, the country’s capital, with an unknown assailant on June 28.

Sibanda, who lives in Bulawayo, the country’s second largest city that is roughly 288 miles from Harare, reserved an Airbnb in the capital’s Avonlea neighborhood before she went to the club.

“Sunflower was last spotted at Eclipse club in the inner city by multiple confirmed sources,” said Cathro. “She left the club with an unidentified man who was allegedly taking her to her reserved Airbnb in Avonlea. However, the Airbnb hosts confirmed that she never checked in.”

Cathro said two of Sibanda’s friends began to search for her on June 29 “when she did not make an appearance at an event she was meant to attend.” They looked for her at the Airbnb and then went to the police station and the nightclub “where guards confirmed that there was no unusual activity the previous night.”

They ended their search at Parirenyatwa Hospital, “where they checked the emergency room, resuscitation, and specialist services.” 

Sibanda on July 3 was dumped in a remote area along Bulawayo Road in the Harare suburb of Norton. She then walked 29 miles to GALZ (an Association of LGBTI People in Zimbabwe)’s offices where her family in a press release said she spent the night.

“She never checked in as she was abducted, taken advantage of, and left in a remote area after a night out with friends,” said her family. “She was abducted by someone claiming he would take her to the Airbnb when she was inebriated. He did not take her home but instead robbed and sexually assaulted her.”

“Sunflower is currently receiving support and assistance during this difficult time from loved ones, and has already received medical support,” added her family. “We shall respect her privacy and journey towards healing at the same time while wishing her the best moving forward. It has been a very difficult time for everyone but we are all relieved to have her back home.” 

Samuel Matsikure, a Zimbabwean human rights activist, said it was a huge relief that Sibanda had been found.

“As a citizen and someone I have learned to love I am humbled by the response from the country and worldwide,” said Matsikure

Sibanda’s friend, who asked to remain anonymous, echoed Matsikure.

“I am incredibly relieved and grateful to share that Sunflower has been found and is safe. I know many of you have questions about how, where, and with whom she was found, and I understand the concern and curiosity,” said the friend. “However, what’s most important right now is that she is in safe hands.” 

“I invite everyone to continue holding space for her as she recovers,” they added. “Rest assured, any necessary information will be shared in due time.”

Section 73 of Zimbabwe’s Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act on sexual crimes and crimes against morality states “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.”

Discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity remains commonplace in Zimbabwe.

A handful of people last month stormed GALZ’s offices and spray painted homophobic graffiti on the walls. The assailants also made anti-gay slurs.

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