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:
And as of June 22—Oklahoma.
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Fourth GOP debate sees return of transphobia, anti-LGBTQ+ hate
“Transgenderism is a mental health disorder,” Vivek Ramaswamy said, before pledging support for bans on gender affirming care until age 21
TUSCALOOSA — The fourth debate of Republican presidential candidates on Wednesday night in Tuscaloosa, Ala., saw a return of transphobic and anti-LGBTQ messages, practically from the outset.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis used his introductory remarks to go after former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, who is also a former South Carolina governor, for saying during a recent interview with CBS Mornings that “the law should stay out of it” when it comes to the options available for minors experiencing gender dysphoria.
DeSantis said Haley “caves anytime the left comes after her, anytime the media comes after her,” noting that “I did a bill in Florida to stop the gender mutilation of minors.”
“It’s child abuse and it’s wrong,” he said. “She opposes that bill. She thinks it’s fine and the law shouldn’t get involved with it.” The governor added, “If you’re not willing to stand up for the kids; if you’re not willing to stand up and say that it is wrong to mutilate these kids, then you’re not going to fight for the people back home.”
Haley responded, “He continues to lie about my record. I actually said his ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill didn’t go far enough because it only talked about gender until the third grade. And I said it shouldn’t be done at all — that that’s for parents to talk about. It shouldn’t be talked about with schools.”
“You didn’t respond to the criticism,” DeSantis said. “It wasn’t about the Parental Rights in Education bill,” using the name of the actual law that is more frequently dubbed “Don’t Say Gay.”
“It was about prohibiting sex change operations on minors,” he said. “They do puberty blockers. These are irreversible.”
Gender affirming healthcare is supported by every mainstream scientific and medical society with relevant clinical expertise.
Later, moderator Megyn Kelly asked former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, “you do not favor a ban on trans medical treatments for minors saying it’s a parental rights issue … aren’t you way too out of step on this issue to be the Republican nominee?”
“As a father of four I believe there is no one who loves my children more than me,” he responded. “There’s no one who loves my children more than my wife. There’s no one who cares more about their success and healthy life than we do, not some government bureaucrat.”
Gender affirming care, Christie said, “is not something I favor. I think it’s a very, very dangerous thing to do. But that’s my opinion as a parent, Megyn, and I get to make the decisions about my children. Not anybody else.”
“Transgenderism is a mental health disorder,” entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy said, before pledging his support for bans on gender affirming care until the age of 21.
DeSantis and Haley then sparred over their positions on “bathroom bills” that prohibit transgender people from using facilities consistent with their gender identity.
Not in attendance for this or the previous three debates was former President Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican frontrunner, who is supported by 59.6 percent of likely GOP primary voters according to FiveThirtyEight polling averages as of Wednesday.
He is trailed by DeSantis, who is in a distant second place with 12.7 percent support. They each gained only about three percentage points in the polls since the first Republican primary debate was held on Aug. 24.
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers vetoes trans youth healthcare ban
Transgender youth will continue to have access to gender-affirming medical care, provided the veto survives an override early next year
By Phoebe Petrovic / Wisconsin Watch | MADISON, Wi. – Transgender youth will continue to have access to gender-affirming care in Wisconsin after Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, as promised, vetoed a Republican bill that would have banned medical transition for those under 18.
“This was obviously a bill that was begging for a veto … (and) messing with people’s lives,” he said at a closed ceremony on Wednesday morning, surrounded by 80 opponents of the bill including trans youth, health care providers and LGBTQ+ advocates — the “biggest veto” crowd he said he’d ever seen.
Afterward, Evers handed his veto pen to a young trans person with a hat crocheted in the blue, pink and white of the trans flag.
“This type of legislation, and the rhetoric beget by pursuing it, harms LGBTQ people and kids’ mental health, emboldens anti-LGBTQ hate and violence and threatens the safety and dignity of LGBTQ Wisconsinites,” read his veto message.
Evers joins five other governors in the nation who have rejected bills banning gender-affirming care for trans youth. Legislatures overrode those vetoes in all but one, Kansas. Wisconsin Republicans, just two Assembly members short of a supermajority, could override the veto later this session if even three Assembly Democrats are absent.
In an exclusive interview, Evers told Wisconsin Watch while he was confident the veto would survive, “we’re not gonna take anything for granted.” He said the bill shows the “real high” stakes of elections, made more so by gerrymandered political maps that have given Republicans an outsized advantage in the Legislature. The maps are being challenged before a newly liberal-controlled Wisconsin Supreme Court.
“At the end of the day we’ll be in a better position there,” Evers said. “In the meantime, we’ll keep fighting.”
Gender-affirming care is best-practice, doctor-prescribed treatment endorsed by every major medical association in the United States. Peer-reviewed research has shown that social transition and medical care, such as puberty blockers and hormones targeted by the bill, improve the lives of those with gender dysphoria.
About 0.5% of adults and 1.4% of youth ages 13 to 17 in the United States are transgender, according to The Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, a leading researcher for LGBTQ+ people.
In Wisconsin transgender care for children is prescribed with the involvement of medical professionals and parents. It does not involve the use of medication until puberty and does not involve surgery in most cases until adulthood.
Yet 22 states have outlawed medical or surgical transition care for transgender youth, with 19 states passing bills this year alone during a historic and unprecedented period of anti-transgender policymaking. Some take effect next year; others have been temporarily or permanently blocked by courts.
A coordinated conservative and Christian nationalist movement has fueled the deluge. Wisconsin’s ban, introduced by Rep. Scott Allen, R-Waukesha, mirrored model legislation from the right-wing Family Policy Alliance, which strives to conform all levels of government to a “biblical worldview.”
Wisconsin Watch documented the importance of gender-affirming care for transgender youth in October, finding bans loom large for trans youth and their families.
“Rarely an appointment goes by where a family doesn’t ask about this: ‘If we started this care, will we be able to continue it?’ ” a UW Health doctor previously told Wisconsin Watch. The doctor’s name is being withheld because a colleague suffered sustained harassment and death threats after publicly discussing gender-affirming care. “I have seen firsthand that it has really impacted mental health.”
Evers sided with doctors in his veto message.
“I object to restricting physicians from providing evidence-based and medically appropriate care to their patients, restricting parents from making decisions with physicians to ensure their kids receive the health care they need and preventing patients from receiving that basic, lifesaving care,” Evers said.
A shared disinformation playbook has eased the passage of these bans across the country. In Wisconsin misinformation swirled around the bill, from an hours-long public hearing to debate on the Assembly floor.
For now, transgender youth will be able to access the care they need at the state’s two clinics, where social support is provided in early childhood and puberty blockers and hormones may be prescribed in adolescence.
“Especially important to me personally,” Evers added, “I am vetoing this bill in its entirety because I object to the Legislature’s ongoing efforts to manufacture and perpetuate false, hateful and discriminatory anti-LGBTQ policies and rhetoric in our state.”
The nonprofit Wisconsin Watch (www.WisconsinWatch.org) collaborates with WPR, PBS Wisconsin, other news media and the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication. All works created, published, posted or disseminated by Wisconsin Watch do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of UW-Madison or any of its affiliates.
Phoebe Petrovic is an investigative reporter covering disinformation at Wisconsin Watch and a 2022-2023 Law & Justice Journalism Project fellow. As a Report for America corps member from 2019-2022, Petrovic reported, produced, and hosted “Open and Shut,” a podcast series co-published with Wisconsin Public Radio examining the power of prosecutors.
Petrovic previously worked at WPR as a Lee Ester News Fellow, “Reveal” from the Center for Investigative Reporting as an editorial intern and NPR’s “Here & Now” as a temporary producer. Her work has aired nationally on all of NPR’s flagship news magazines. She holds a bachelor’s degree in American Studies from Yale University.
The previous article was previously published by the Wisconsin Watch and is republished with permission.
Wisconsin Watch is a project of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism (WCIJ Inc.) — a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
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Incoming Penn. school board chair takes oath on banned books
Smith, an incumbent Democrat, who won re-election was sworn in as the new Central Bucks school board president after a vote by the board
BUCKS, Pa. – Newly appointed Central Bucks Board of School Directors, Karen Smith, was sworn into office Monday, however, unlike other her newly sworn fellow Board members who placed their hands on the more traditional Bible, Smith opted to use a stack of books on LGBTQ+ themes and race that had been banned by the previous board.
Smith, an incumbent Democrat, who won re-election on Nov. 7 was sworn in as the new Central Bucks school board president after a vote by the board. In her remarks she told the audience, “Thank you for your trust in me. I do not take this hand lightly. I feel it as a very heavy responsibility, and you have my word, I will do my best for everyone,” Smith said. “To my supporters, I am so very thankful. To those of you who have challenged me, I will do all I can to hear your voices and concerns.”
Fox News and conservatives including the former GOP-majority board members labeled one of the books Smith used to be sworn in to office as ‘sexually explicit.’ That book, “Flamer,” written by openly gay author Mike Curato, received a Lambda Literary Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature in 2021. Curato is a Filipino-American writer and illustrator of children’s books.
Fox characterized ‘Flamer’ as “It tells the story of a character who is bullied at a Boy Scouts summer camp for “acting in a manner considered stereotypical of gay men.” The graphic novel includes characters discussing pornography, erections, masturbation, penis size, and an illustration that depicts naked teenage boys.”
Journalist Chris Ullery reporting for the Bucks County Courier-Times newspaper noted: Smith, named president of the board, and the other Democrats on the board have long cried foul as the former GOP-majority forged ahead with controversial library policy that critics said was a defacto book ban.
According to the Courier-Times, the book on top of the stack Smith was sworn in on was “Night” by Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winning author Elie Wiesel, which was part of a February controversy over books.
The Philadelphia Inquirer, reported that a Central Bucks South High School librarian’s ninth grader sent him a quote from Wiesel’s 1986 Nobel Prize acceptance speech.
“I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented,” said Wiesel.
The librarian included the quote along with a copy of Night in a library display; however, this was shortly after the former school board passed a “neutrality” policy that barred classroom displays advocating politics or social policy unless related to a lesson.
School officials at the direction of the former GOP-majority Board ordered the librarian to remove the display, though that order was rescinded the next day and the posters allowed. The incident went viral on social media generating a flood of criticism for the district, which later apologized and said it regretted the decision to remove the posters.
That neutrality policy, Policy 321, was one of four policies placed on a freeze by Smith and her colleagues when they took office on Monday.
Donna Gephart’s “Lily and Dunkin,” a copy Smith borrowed from Holicong Middle School for Monday, follows the story of the friendship between two eighth graders, a transgender girl and a boy with bipolar disorder.
“Lily and Dunkin” was said to contain “strong sexual content” by Woke PA and some parents who complained to the district, a claim Smith told the Courier-Times gave her pause.
“I read all the way through the book and there’s nothing. There’s not even a kiss,” Smith said.
The only reason Smith could determine for the “sexual content” warning was the fact that one of its main characters was transgender she said to the paper.
“Just the existence of a transgender student in the book was enough for some folks who want to challenge it, and it’s a beautiful story,” Smith added.
Former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy calls it quits
Rep. Matt Gaetz who filed the motion to take the Speaker’s gavel from McCarthy, posted one word minutes after the news broke: “McLeavin'”
WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who was dethroned from the speakership by ultraconservative members of his party in October, announced in a Wall Street Journal op-ed Wednesday that he will resign from Congress at the end of this month.
The congressman pledged to “serve America in new ways,” writing “I will continue to recruit our country’s best and brightest to run for elected office,” adding, “The Republican Party is expanding every day, and I am committed to lending my experience to support the next generation of leaders.”
The move puts additional pressure on Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), who was elected following McCarthy’s ouster and who is now charged with leading a fractious GOP conference that was already operating with a razor-slim majority.
Now, House Republicans might have only three votes to spare before they must seek help from Democrats to pass measures.
Far-right U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a McCarthy ally who has repeatedly criticized her colleagues for toppling his speakership and, last week, for voting to expel disgraced former GOP congressman George Santos, posted about Wednesday’s news on X.
Well..— Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene🇺🇸 (@RepMTG) December 6, 2023
Now in 2024, we will have a 1 seat majority in the House of Representatives.
Congratulations Freedom Caucus for one and 105 Rep who expel our own for the other.
I can assure you Republican voters didn’t give us the majority to crash the ship.
Hopefully no one dies.
Meanwhile U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, the Republican firebrand congressman who filed the motion to take the Speaker’s gavel from McCarthy, posted one word minutes after the news broke: “McLeavin.'”
McCarthy has served in the House since 2007.
Behind the scenes: LGBTQ staff working on Biden’s re-election
“We who work in politics feel like this is a choice between, most likely, Donald Trump & President Biden and Vice President Harris”
(Editor’s note: This is the third in a three-part series profiling senior LGBTQ staff working on President Biden’s re-election campaign. Part one was published on Nov. 21 and part two was published on Nov. 29.)
WILMINGTON, Del. — Last month from campaign headquarters, the Washington Blade spoke with Sergio Gonzales, senior adviser to Vice President Kamala Harris and the Biden-Harris reelection campaign, along with senior campaign adviser Becca Siegel.
On the importance of LGBTQ representation in the presidential campaign, Gonzales said, “When it comes to policies that affect the lives of millions of people in our communities across the country, having people who have that experience and that background really does matter.”
Moving into next year, he said, the team is working “to ensure that we have people from across the spectrum of America who are able to both bring their own personal experiences and lives into these roles, but also bring a lot of relationships across the country and being able to engage with the community, talk to the community, persuade the community, turn out the community.”
Gonzales has worked for Harris since she was elected to represent California in the U.S. Senate, and he said her record supporting and defending the LGBTQ community throughout her career was one of the major factors leading to his decision to join the campaign.
“Especially when it comes to issues related to LGBTQ rights and freedoms, this is something [Harris] has such a long history on,” he said. “She has always — both in her office and externally — formed these strong relationships with people in the LGBTQ community and those relationships have always been very, I think, important in not only ensuring her office and the work that she has done reflects the various things that we as a community need, but also just in the way she supports people of color and LGBTQ folks who have worked for her.”
In an election where, as the vice president says, so much is at stake for our fundamental freedoms and rights,” Gonzales said, “that is especially true for LGBTQ Americans. If you look at the number of attacks by GOP leaders at the local, state, and federal level across the country, so much is on the line in this election.”
On the right, Gonzales said, “We have a lot of leaders and a party in this country who are doing their best to try to attack fundamental rights and freedoms of a lot of different folks, including people in the LGBTQ community — and, in some ways, who are trying to turn back the clock on a lot of the progress we’ve made.”
Voters are aware of the fact that, for instance, Republicans elected “a new Speaker of the House who has a very, very alarming and disturbing record of attacking people in our community, including trying to outlaw you know, being gay,” he said.
“Both as senior adviser and personally as a very openly and proud gay man,” Gonzales said, next year’s election “is one of the most important if not the most important election of our lifetime,” because “I see what sits on the other side; I see all of these different states who are trying to attack our rights, who are banning books, who are passing ‘Don’t Say Gay’ laws, who are attacking trans people and trying to undo gay marriage, who are — both through policy and through rhetoric — making the country more dangerous for people like me and our community.”
“I’m glad and proud to work for a principal and work for a campaign that is about continuing the progress and ensuring we don’t turn back the clock and we don’t go back on these things,” he said.
Gonzales noted the Biden-Harris administration’s appointment of record-breaking numbers of LGBTQ folks in senior positions in the White House and across the federal government, but stressed that the commitment to equality runs deeper.
“This administration is an administration that has ensured that not only is there representation for the LGBTQ community, but also has actually driven multiple policy wins, both through the executive level and through Congress, that ensure and afford greater rights and freedoms for people in our community,” he said.
Helping voters see the contrast between this and what Republicans — like the party’s frontrunner, former President Donald Trump — would do if elected will be an important part of the campaign’s work moving into next year, Gonzales said. “As things become much more clear and what we are up against, and Donald Trump comes more into focus, I truly believe that we’re going to see a lot of different parts of the country start to engage in this election,” he said.
Voters will also remember “the specific things that [Trump] did in his last administration,” Gonzales said. “They tried to erase LGBTQ people from the census. They imposed a ban on transgender individuals in our military, which this administration undid. They undid protections for LGBTQ Americans, including transgender individuals, in the workplace, and more broadly,” so, “this is not just bluster.”
And the Biden-Harris administration “has so much to run on” with respect to LGBTQ matters, Gonzales said, “whether we’re talking about health care, whether we’re talking about the Respect for Marriage Act, whether we’re talking about, you know, some of the ways that we’ve addressed bullying in schools — these are very real policy wins for our community.”
Like Gonzales, Siegel has “worked on many presidential campaigns.”
“Your whole life is here when you’re working on a campaign,” she said. “This is your work, but also your social life and your friends,” so “if you are not bringing your whole self to this community, you’re not bringing it anywhere in your life.”
Our job is to persuade and engage with voters,” Siegel said, “and we have to have a campaign that reflects the voters we are trying to engage with.”
“Core to my approach to this work is respect and empathy for voters,” she said. “That’s what we should think about every day. I think we are much better prepared to do that when we have a staff that looks like those voters.”
Siegel added, “It’s not just so that you walk into the office and it looks like it is a diverse place to work. That’s important, too. But it’s actually about the work.”
With respect to her individual role within the campaign, she said, it comes down to “let’s take that strategy” of using data to find a pathway to victory “and then make sure we are executing a campaign that reflects it.” When it comes to “travel, comms, which radio stations we’re on, what our TV ads say, where we’re allocating our money, where we’re hiring staff — do those things align with the strategy to get us to 270 electoral votes?”
The importance of representation, LGBTQ and otherwise, may not seem self-evident in data-centric roles, but Siegel noted, for instance, the persistent challenge of combatting bias within datasets.
Like Gonzales, Siegel stressed the contrast between the Biden-Harris administration and campaign and those run by the Republican opposition. “LGBTQ rights feel more under attack now than they have in the past,” she said, “and so that rises to the top of concerns for voters — and our policy and position on this is really far away from the Republicans’.”
“That’s a clear contrast between us and the opposition,” she said, adding, “It’s at the top of people’s minds. It’s something they care about, and we have a pretty unimpeachable record on it compared to the opposition.”
It is not necessarily so simple, however.
“We who work in politics feel like, of course, this is a choice between, most likely, Donald Trump and President Biden and Vice President Harris,” Siegel said, “but voters, especially the voters who are most persuadable, don’t feel that way right now, necessarily.”
The choice voters will face will crystalize and the contrast between the campaigns will deepen moving into next year, she said.
On lots of LGBTQ issues, Americans are on our side. And when it becomes a choice between, ‘there’s this version of America and then there’s Trump’s version of America,’ — then, that is really clear,” Siegel said.
The campaign is working to reelect the president and vice president to represent the people, the voters, who “have day-to-day things that prevent them from, like, reading Politico,” she said. “They have kids, they have to pay their bills, they have to worry about all kinds of things.”
Siegel added, “I have a lot of faith in voters. They care about their families. They want a good life. They care about people who are different than them. I think most people care about other people.”
For those working on the campaign, she said, “it’s really on us” to make sure to “explain and show and demonstrate to them what you are getting from this administration, from these candidates.”
“We get to run on issues that help people and are popular,” Siegel said. “That’s a great place to start from.”
First nonbinary US state lawmaker participates in Gaza ceasefire hunger strike
Oklahoma state Rep. Mauree Turner is Muslim
WASHINGTON — The country’s first nonbinary state lawmaker last week participated in a hunger strike for a permanent ceasefire in the Gaza Strip that took place in front of the White House.
Oklahoma state Rep. Mauree Turner took part in the 5-day action alongside actress Cynthia Nixon, Virginia state Del. Sam Rasoul, Delaware state Rep. Madinah Wilson-Anton, New York State Assemblymember Zohran Mamdani, Michigan state Rep. Abraham Aiyash, former New York Congressional candidate Rana Abdelhamid, Muslim Girl.com Founder Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, Adalah Justice Project Director of Strategy and Communications Sumaya Awad and Linda Sarsour. The U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights, Jewish Voice for Peace, Democratic Socialists of America, IfNotNowMovement, Dream Defenders, the Institute for Middle East Understanding and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee are the organizations that either participated in the hunger strike or endorsed it.
“This is the place where you should be,” Turner told the Washington Blade on Nov. 30 while they were standing in front of the White House.
Turner is from Ardmore, Okla., and has been a member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives since 2021. They are the first Muslim person elected to the Oklahoma Legislature.
“Oklahoma is no stranger to genocide, displacement, uprooting communities — beautiful, vibrant, vulnerable communities — just because they could,” said Turner, referring to the treatment of Native Americans in what became Oklahoma during the 1800s and early 1900s. “Specifically as a Muslim and as an Oklahoman it is my duty to be here.”
The hunger strike took place nearly two months after Hamas, which the U.S. has designated a terrorist organization, launched a surprise attack against communities in southern Israel from Gaza.
The Israeli government has said roughly 1,200 people have been killed, including at least 260 people who Hamas militants murdered at an all-night music festival in a kibbutz near the border between Israel and Gaza. The Israeli government also says more than 5,000 people have been injured in the country since the war began and Hamas militants kidnapped more than 200 others.
Yarden Roman-Gat, whose gay brother, Gili Roman, spoke with the Washington Blade on Oct. 30 in D.C., is one of the 105 people who Hamas released during a truce with Israel that began on Nov. 24 and ended on Dec. 1.
The Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry says more than 15,000 people have died in the enclave since the war began. Israel after Oct. 7 cut electricity and water to Gaza and stopped most food and fuel shipments.
“It’s absolutely wild to think about what is happening to the Palestinian people in Gaza and in the West Bank,” said Turner.
Turner noted the war began two days before Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
“By October the 10th, when the world was really seeing what was happening in Gaza,” they said. “So many people who had celebrated specifically Indigenous Peoples’ Day had also sided with the Israeli government over the indigenous people of the land.”
‘The death of civilians is absolutely horrible’
Turner in response to the Blade’s question about the Israelis who militants killed on Oct. 7 emphatically said “the death of civilians is absolutely horrible.” Turner added they “cannot stress enough that when we back people into a corner, we don’t know what will happen.”
“The truth of the matter is our governments, our governmental officials do not have to put people in a corner,” said Turner.
Turner was particularly critical of the Israeli government’s actions in Gaza after Oct. 7.
“I don’t think there’s any place where a government has the power to shut off right water, food, healthcare supplies, things like that,” they said. “It’s just in doing so against a population that has 2 million people … that’s not anyone looking for equitability or justice. That is genocide against its people.”
Turner noted Republican Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt continues to publicly support Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Turner told the Blade “when we oppress people over decades and decades … we cannot, we don’t get to cherry pick” or “we don’t get to tone police or however they are fighting back to be heard, to be, to live for vibrant lives.”
“We cannot tell oppressed people how to hurt out loud,” they said, specifically referring to Palestinian people. “We can create governments that care for people from a community standpoint who are thinking creatively about how we provide aid and support and we can ask our elected officials (members Congress, President Joe Biden, state and local officials) to teach truth. We can ask them to continuously make sure that we are providing the best care and understanding of the situations at hand. We can ask them to do a ceasefire to stop sending aid to the Israeli government and emboldening their military forces.”
Moms for Liberty distances itself from co-founder Bridget Ziegler
In its annual Year in Hate & Extremism report for 2022, the SPLC says Moms for Liberty advances an anti-student inclusion extremist agenda
ORLANDO, Fla. – As outrage continues to build over the sexual battery allegations of Florida GOP chairman Christian Ziegler, accused of raping a woman he had known for 20 years according to a law enforcement affidavit, calls for his resignation and that of his wife, Moms for Liberty co-founder Bridget Ziegler grows.
In a report by the Florida Center for Government Accountability journalist Bob Norman Tuesday, in an email sent to top Republican officials in Florida, embattled state GOP chairman Christian Ziegler characterizes himself as the victim of an ongoing rape investigation being conducted by the Sarasota Police Department.
The 40-year-old Ziegler calls it an “attack,” not on the victim in the case, but himself. He claims he’s being “targeted,” and notes that “anyone” can file a rape complaint. Ziegler promises to later reveal information about the “motive” and who was behind his ordeal.
“We have a country to save and I am not going to let false allegations of a crime put that mission on the bench as I wait for this process to wrap up,” wrote Ziegler. “Thank you to all who have reached out in support.”
Despite his denials and obfuscation of the report filed against him by Sarasota Police detectives, Ziegler refuses to step down which has Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis leading the chorus demanding Ziegler’s resignation.
“I said the other night when it came out, it’s, look, you’re innocent until proven guilty. There’s clearly things that are lodged against people that aren’t necessarily true. But I think when you have an investigation of crimes of this magnitude, I think that the mission has to come first,” the governor said Tuesday.
“It is not helpful to the mission to have this hanging over his head. I’ve said he should step aside. Paul Renner, the Speaker. Kathleen (Passidomo), Senate President. I think most people acknowledge that it’s just an untenable situation when you have things like that there,” he added.
“And so we’ll see what ends up happening. But I don’t know that you have any real standing with that hanging over you,” the governor acknowledged. DeSantis has been joined in his demands by Florida Republican U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, who told the Associated Press Ziegler should step down rather than be a distraction during an important election year.
Ziegler and his wife are also being called out for the hypocrisy of admitting a sexual relationship with another woman even though they very publicly oppose and campaign against LGBTQ+ rights.
Cameron Driggers, the Executive Director of the Gainesville, Florida-based Youth Action Fund alongside Jack Petocz, the non-profit’s Vice-Chair, in a joint statement to the Blade on Tuesday said:
“The revelations regarding the abusive behavior of Moms for Liberty Co-Founder Bridget Zieglar and her Husband, Christian Ziegler, Chair of the Florida GOP, comes as no surprise to the young people who have faced their reign of terror over the last few years.
The fanatically anti-queer culture war raging in Florida is in large part thanks to the Zieglers, who have put young LGBTQ+ Floridians within the crosshairs of bigotry and targeted legislation. At the same time, they were engaging in a non-traditional lifestyle of their own. The shameful hypocrisy of the Zieglers knows no bounds.
If they possess even one ounce of decency, Christian and Bridget Zielger should resign from their positions of power immediately.”
Petocz and Driggers organized a statewide walk-out in protest of Florida’s infamous Parental Rights in Education bill colloquially known as the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law signed by DeSantis in March of 2022 and also led a successful effort to oust a far-right incumbent school board member in deep red Flagler County where they were attending secondary school.
Beyond the efforts of activists like Driggers and Petocz, other LGBTQ+ advocates are also calling out the Zielgers who have long backed the Florida governor’s efforts.
In May of this year, Melanie Willingham-Jaggers, the executive director of GLSEN, which advocates for LGBTQ students, said in a statement that DeSantis “is trying to turn back the clock on progress and erase LGBTQ+ people from existence.”
“He’s using vulnerable communities as political pawns in an attempt to gain power and further his own career,” Willingham-Jaggers said. “We know that inclusive curriculum and LGBTQ+ representation benefits all students, and every single major medical association in the U.S. supports gender-affirming care for youth. As Floridians continue to face attacks on their education, health care and bodily autonomy, we’re calling on legislators, advocates and allies to rise up with us and support LGBTQ+ youth.”
Moms for Liberty as a group has factored into these attacks on the LGBTQ+ community and LGBTQ+ youth in general both in Florida and across the United States, leading the civil rights watchdog group, the Southern Poverty Law Center, to label the so-called “parental rights” group extremist.
In its annual Year in Hate & Extremism report for 2022, the SPLC says that Moms for Liberty advances an anti-student inclusion extremist agenda.
Bridget Ziegler is a sitting member of the Sarasota School Board and has been unabashed in her anti-LGBTQ+ agenda calling for removal of LGBTQ+ books from the libraries in the system and curtailing affirmation of the system’s LGBTQ+ minority student population.
The efforts by Ziegler and Moms For Liberty has had a chilling effect says Lance Preston, the Executive Director and founding CEO of Indianapolis, Indiana-based Rainbow Youth Project (RYP). The RYP offers no cost access to meaningful mental health and suicide prevention counseling, as well as reduced or no cost non-surgical healthcare assistance to trans and queer youth.
According to Preston, “Moms for Liberty claims to promote “traditional family values” and fights against what they label as “indoctrination.” Unfortunately, their actions have had severe consequences for countless young individuals struggling with their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Rainbow Youth Project has recorded over 23,000 crisis calls and live chats since April 2022, with approximately 4,361 of the callers specifically mentioning Moms for Liberty activities in their schools and communities as at least a major reason for their depression, isolation, anxiety, self-harming behaviors, and even suicidal ideation, Preston noted.
“The hypocrisy would be laughable if it weren’t so dangerous. For instance, they profess to stand for “liberty” while attacking school children for sending the organization colorful cards begging the group to stop bullying LGBTQ+ kids. The group immediately condemned those youth, calling their cards “hate mail,” and sought to deny those kids their liberties under the First Amendment,” Preston said.
“Every LGBTQ+ youth deserves love, acceptance, and support during their difficult journey. It is heartbreaking to witness the harm caused by Moms for Liberty, who spread misinformation and stigma, perpetuating intolerance and prejudice. We will continue to call upon communities to stand against discrimination and work alongside us to create a world where LGBTQ+ youths can thrive, free from the fear of rejection or harm caused by anti-LGBTQ+ groups like Moms for Liberty,” Preston told the Blade.
“These allegations are incredibly serious and deserve a full investigation. Whether through elected office, GOP party leadership, or Moms For Liberty, the Zieglers have spent years telling people how to live and who to be. They’ve been the tip of the spear for right wing extremism in a state being hijacked by the anti-LGBTQ+ agenda. Their desperation for power and complete disregard for people has been and will continue to be a stain on Florida’s history,” Brandon J. Wolf, National Press Secretary & Senior Director, Political Comms, for the Human Right Campaign said in an emailed statement to the Blade.
The Zieglers, amid accusations that Christian raped their sexual partner, are being abandoned because their right wing pals fear that people might figure out the truth: their “movement” is built on hypocrisy, lies, and inflicting harm on others to amass power, wealth, and fame. https://t.co/BDzQRdwxBi— Brandon Wolf (@bjoewolf) December 6, 2023
In addition to the political leadership calls for Ziegler’s stepping down, his wife now faces similar calls in Sarasota. According to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Sarasota County School Board member Tom Edwards called for his colleague Bridget Ziegler to resign from the board amid accusations that her husband sexually assaulted a woman who had been part of a three-way relationship with him and Bridget.
Edwards told the newspaper that last year’s School Board chairwoman has become too much of a distraction for the district.
“She is nothing but a distraction from before and only getting worse, and it will never go away as long as she sits there,” he said. “As a School Board member, my focus is on our students, their academic achievement and educational outcomes. It is not on the Zieglers’ escapades.”
Edwards added that the Zieglers, both Christian and Bridget, “cannot any longer be near children or public policy” because of their advocacy against critical race theory and the discussion of LGBTQ+ topics in schools, which he said has caused damage to students’ mental health.
Edwards, the only openly gay member of the board, had been attacked publicly by a woman at a board meeting who referred to him as a ‘groomer,’ a homophobic and offensive slur during a public comments section of a board meeting. Bridget Ziegler, then Chair, refused to eject or silence the woman saying only that personal attacks in public comment happen to elected officials on all sides and that stopping the speaker would have only escalated tensions.
In an emailed statement received Tuesday morning by the Blade and other media outlets, current executives of Moms For Liberty and co-founders Tina Descovich and Tiffany Justice said:
“We have been truly shaken to read of the serious, criminal allegations against Christian Ziegler. We believe any allegation of sexual assault should be taken seriously and fully investigated.
“Bridget Ziegler resigned from her role as co-founder with Moms for Liberty within a month of our launch in January of 2021, nearly three years ago. She has remained an avid warrior for parental rights across the country.
“To our opponents who have spewed hateful vitriol over the last several days: We reject your attacks. We will continue to empower ALL parents to build relationships that ensure the survival of our nation and a thriving education system. We are laser-focused on fundamental parental rights, and that mission is and always will be bigger than any one person.”
The fallout from the scandal over the Ziegler’s hypocrisy and allegations of rape and misconduct have also affected Moms for Liberty chapters in other states. According to Moms for Liberty the group has 300 plus chapters in 47 states.
The News-Item newspaper in Shamokin, Pennsylvania, reported that The Northumberland County chapter of Moms for Liberty is on pause as it breaks from the national organization, according to its chapter chair Clarissa Paige.
Paige said she formed the Northumberland County Chapter of Moms for Liberty in April 2022 out of concern for a lack of accountability and representation in county schools.
She said, “We hit significant milestones by ensuring school board members were accountable and supporting the elections of responsible community leaders.”
Paige, who has three children attending Warrior Run schools, has been outspoken against the curriculum she alleges to contain aspects of social-emotional learning or critical race theory, and threatened legal action against the school for reenacting a mask mandate.
Paige refuted claims by the Southern Poverty Law Center that Moms for Liberty spreads hateful imagery and rhetoric against the LGBTQ community.
Paige is seeking nonprofit status for Northumberland County Academic Alliance, which she told The News-Item will continue to focus on parental rights in schools.
“The journey has always been the strength of our local community and we found all the support we need among us,” Paige said Monday. “We are going to continue to champion parental rights with dignity and integrity.”
Bridget Ziegler, and her husband Christian did not respond to requests for comment by the Blade Tuesday.
Monica Montgomery Steppe sworn in as new San Diego supervisor
Supervisor Steppe will represent the Fourth Supervisorial District for the remainder of the current term ending in January 2027
SAN DIEGO – A new member of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors was sworn in Tuesday at the County Administration Center.
Supervisor Monica Montgomery Steppe will represent the Fourth Supervisorial District for the remainder of the current term ending in January 2027.
Supervisor Steppe was sworn in by her father-in-law Cecil Steppe and joined by her husband Steve while reciting her oath. She becomes the county’s first Black woman supervisor.
“We know that today marks a momentous occasion in our county’s history, filled with promise, filled with hope and filled with progress,” Supervisor Steppe said. “As I stand before you, deeply humbled and immensely grateful, l am acutely aware of the weight of responsibility and the honor to be chosen by the people as the first Black woman to serve on the San Diego County Board of Supervisors in the history of this county. I am truly honored.”
District 4 voters selected Steppe to fill the vacant board seat during the Nov. 7 special election. She previously served as a council member for the City of San Diego.
“This moment also belongs to every person who dared to dream, who fought against adversity and believed in the possibility of a more inclusive and equitable future for our community,” She said. “I stand on the shoulders of countless individuals who paved the way, breaking barriers and clearing the path for diversity, representation and for change.
Steppe, whose new supervisorial district includes the LGBTQ+ neighborhood of Hillcrest, was endorsed in the special election race by Out California State Senate President Toni Atkins and openly gay Assemblymember Chris Ward who represents the 78th Assembly District which includes the cities of Coronado, Del Mar, Imperial Beach, San Diego and El Cajon.
Steppe was born and raised in San Diego and spent most of her life in District Four. She served on the San Diego City Council, representing over 160,000 San Diegans and was chair of the Budget & Government Efficiency Committee– overseeing the process for the City’s $5.2 billion dollar budget. She’s also on the San Diego City-County Reinvestment Task Force, the board of MTS, the San Diego Workforce Partnership, and the San Diego Housing Authority.
An attorney by trade, Steppe has a deep connection with the San Diego community. She began her education at Pacific View Leadership Elementary. After completing her undergraduate degree at Spelman College, she returned to San Diego to earn her Juris Doctor from California Western School of Law.
Before entering elected office, she dedicated her life to public service law. She fought for families to stay in their homes during the foreclosure crisis in the Great Recession, worked at the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties as a Criminal Justice Advocate, and served as a Senior Policy Advisor at the City of San Diego with specific focus in the policy areas of criminal justice reform and public safety, neighborhood revitalization, workforce development, small business development, equal opportunity contracting, and youth services.
District 4 includes the following areas: Alta Vista, Azalea Park, Balboa Park, Bankers Hill, Bay Park, Bay Terraces, Birdland, Broadway Heights, Casa de Oro – Mount Helix, Chollas Creek, Chollas View, City Heights, City of La Mesa, City of Lemon Grove, Civita, Clairemont Mesa, College Area, El Cerrito, Emerald Hills, Encanto, Hillcrest, Kensington-Talmadge, Lincoln Park, Linda Vista, Lomita Village, Mid-City, Middletown, Mission Hills, Mission Valley, Montezuma Mesa-SDSU, Morena, Normal Heights, North Bay Terraces, North Clairemont, North Park, Oak Park, Old Town, Paradise Hills, Portions of Grantville, Portions of Kearny Mesa, Portions of Spring Valley, Rancho San Diego, Rolando, Serra Mesa, Skyline, University Heights, Valencia Park, and Webster.
Johnson to headline gala whose leader defended Josh Duggar
The gala is hosted by the National Association of Christian Lawmakers, a group led by former Arkansas state Sen. Jason Rapert
WASHINGTON – House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) will deliver the keynote address Tuesday night for a gala hosted by the National Association of Christian Lawmakers, a group led by former Arkansas state Sen. Jason Rapert, a vocal defender of convicted sex offender Josh Duggar.
Johnson is slated to speak at 9 p.m. at the Museum of the Bible in D.C. His office did not immediately return a request seeking comment on his relationship with Rapert, who, like many far-right figures in the speaker’s orbit, proudly calls himself a Christian nationalist and has expressed extreme views, such as by comparing LGBTQ advocates to Nazis.
The National Association of Christian Lawmakers is funded by right-wing groups including the Alliance Defending Freedom, where Johnson worked as an attorney before running for public office. The Southern Poverty Law Center calls the organization an anti-LGBTQ hate group.
Duggar, who starred with his family on the TLC reality show “19 Kids and Counting,” worked for another far-right, anti-LGBTQ outfit with close ties to Johnson, the Family Research Council, until 2015 when a Freedom of Information Act request revealed that Duggar, while a teenager, had molested his younger sisters.
Along with Republican former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Rapert, who had featured Duggar at campaign events and was photographed at the family’s home, was one of the first who “rushed to defend” him.
Duggar is now serving a prison sentence following a child pornography conviction in 2021.
Following his election as speaker in October, Johnson’s extreme anti-LGBTQ record drew renewed interest. Among other revelations were arguments he made in an op-ed that, “If we change marriage for the homosexual activists, we will have to do it for every deviant group. Polygamists, polyamorists, pedophiles and others will be next in line to claim equal protection.”
Iowa’s Supreme Court upholds anti-LGBTQ hate crime conviction
Robert Clark Geddes, 27, of Boone, Iowa, was arrested after leaving handwritten notes reading, “Burn that gay flag”
DES MOINES, Iowa – The Iowa State Supreme Court on December 1, upheld the conviction of a man who left threatening notes on the homes of people displaying LGBTQ Pride flags during the June 2021 Pride month.
Robert Clark Geddes, 27, of 1814 Eighth Street in Boone, Iowa, was arrested after leaving handwritten notes reading, “Burn that gay flag,” at four different houses in this small hamlet of 12,000 located 49 miles northwest of Iowa’s capital city.
According to a local media outlet, the Perry News in its June 23, 2021 reporting, Boone City Council member Elijah Stines was one of the victims of the hate crimes.
“Let me be very clear,” Stines said on Facebook. “I will never back down from standing up for the lives of my LGBTQ friends, family, constituents and all members of our community. My house was one of five locations in my ward alone that I know of that received a similar cowardly note this weekend. To everyone in the Boone LGBTQ community: There are so many more people here who will stand with you and ensure your safety than would threaten it. Call on us any time!”
Investigators determined that the four notes were “linked together by consistent handwriting, matching paper tear marks and marker bleed through on each page,” according to court records.
The victims were “annoyed and alarmed” by the notes, and Geddes “had no legitimate purpose to be on the property other than commit a public offense,” according to court records.
Associate Judge Stephan A. Owen, for the Iowa District Court for Boone County, found Geddes guilty and sentenced him to up to two years of probation.
On September 14, 2023, he appealed his convictions for trespass as a hate crime, arguing that the evidence of guilt was insufficient and that the convictions violated his constitutional rights of free speech and due process.
In its Friday ruling the high court disagreed noting: “The individuals’ display of the LGBTQ+ flag or flag decal on their own properties was an exercise of First Amendment rights; the defendant’s surreptitious entry onto those properties to post his harassing notes was not.”
The Associated Press reported that as the court noted, the rainbow flag has come to symbolize support for LGBTQ+ rights. The majority said the state statute in question does not criminalize speech, but rather conduct with a specific intent — trespassing because the property owners or residents had associated themselves with a protected class.
The AP also reported that in his dissent, Justice Matthew McDermott said there was no evidence in the record that the recipients of Geddes’ notes were members of the LGBTQ+ community or whether he believed they were, nor whether any of the residents had an “association with” an actual person in those protected classes. He noted that the Legislature chose the words “association with” rather than “solidarity with” when it wrote the hate crime law.
“As a symbol, a flag doesn’t independently create or express actual association with particular persons,” McDermott wrote, adding that, “Not everyone who displays a pirate flag is associated with actual pirates.”
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