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LA Pride oversells festival and is forced to turn hundreds away

Entrance was closed at 10PM, hours early

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LA Pride says “the festival reached capacity by early evening. Due to the higher than expected turn out, some people who purchased tickets for Saturday were not able to enter the festival grounds.” (Photo by CiCi Sutter)

“What were they expecting, Stonewall?” said Jerwyn Morton who flew in from New York City to attend LA Pride.  “I have never seen so many cops in my life wearing riot gear at a gay event.”

Around 10PM, after the Fire Marshall alerted officials that LA Pride’s festival was over capacity, the West Hollywood’s Sheriff’s department began asking people who were still standing in line, trying to get into the festival grounds to leave.  Many had just bought tickets.

More than 40,000 people made it in.

Organizers claim anyone who was turned away will be able to use their ticket at Sunday’s festivities or refer to lapride.org on Monday for refund information.

Whether there was a mechanism in place to prevent overselling of tickets was not clear.

There were reports of several people throwing rocks and cursing officers, but no reports of anyone being hurt. 200 people attempted to push their way back in while others were angrily demanding their money back.

The LA Pride Festival is a two-day event, prior to and after the Parade.

In the past several years, the event has faced an increasingly more complex geometry as the West Hollywood Park where it is held has been unavailable for the event.  At the same time, organizers have added more and more high-end music programming and stages while reducing more carnival like attractions and vendors.

“The Festival has become a full on Rave.  I went this evening because I wanted to simply stroll around the festival, but the line of early 20 something people was 20 people deep for several blocks, said Christopher Johnson, 44, of Long Beach.  “I’m glad it’s successful but I’m not welcome. There’s nothing there for me anymore and it makes me feel old.”

Lauren Drake, 22, of Santa Clarita was turned away. “I’m just going home. I had fun in line but the line was my Pride this year, I guess,” she said as her friend, 24 year old Michael Z, tugged her by the arm and said, “Girl, you ain’t goin’ home; we’re going dancin’!”

Santa Monica Boulevard was shut down entirely after the closure.

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National

Brian Cornell, CEO of Target slams threats over LGBTQ+ merch

In the internal memo, Cornell wrote he tried to balance between recognizing Pride Month and making changes aimed at prioritizing safety

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Brian Cornell, CEO of Target. (Screenshot/YouTube Stanford Graduate School of Business)

MINNEAPOLIS – In an internal memorandum to company employees this week,  Target Corporation Chief Executive Officer Brian Cornel described the experience of the retail giant’s staff as “gut-wrenching.”

Target has been under heavy criticism for its LGBTQ+ Pride Collection of merchandise that has been the center of physical assaults, attacks on displays, threats against employees and customers which has escalated to bomb threats in multiple states leading to criminal investigations by local and federal law enforcement.

“What you’ve seen in recent days went well beyond discomfort, and it has been gut-wrenching to see what you’ve confronted in our aisles,” Cornell told store employees in the memo, which was sent on Wednesday and first reported on by The Wall Street Journal. He also thanked service-center staffers for their “patience and professionalism through high volumes of angry, abusive and threatening calls.” 

In the internal memo sent out by email, Cornell wrote he tried to balance between recognizing Pride Month and making changes aimed at prioritizing safety.

Team –

I want to end the day where Briefly started: on a note of care. This has been a very hard day for Target, and it follows many difficult days of deliberation and decision-making.

To our team in Stores: thank you for steadfastly representing our values. No one is better at working through uncomfortable situations in service to an inclusive guest experience.

What you’ve seen in recent days went well beyond discomfort, and it has been gut-wrenching to see what you’ve confronted in our aisles.

To our team in the service centers, thank you for your patience and professionalism through high volumes of angry, abusive and threatening calls. I recognize how difficult and even frightening those interactions can be, and thank you for the composure with which you’ve fielded those comments.

To the teams who have been working so hard on our plans for Pride – and now are showing incredible agility as we adjust – thank you. Your efforts will ensure we can still show up and celebrate Pride in meaningful ways.

To the LGBTQIA+ community, one of the hardest parts in all of this was trying to contemplate how the adjustments we’re making to alleviate these threats to our team’s physical and psychological safety would impact you and your wellbeing and psychological safety. We stand with you now and will continue to do so – not just during Pride Month, but each and every day.

Those were the two guiding principles when it came time for us to act: do all we can to keep our team safe, and do all we can to honor our commitment and connection to the LGBTQIA+ community.

From a host of difficult alternatives, we have sincerely sought the best path forward, finding ways to recognize Pride Month, while making adjustments to prioritize safety. As always, we’re stronger together, and I want you to know that I’m committed to doing all I can, and all we can as a company, to support a culture across the country of care, empathy, equity and simple civility, in hopes that we’ll not have to face these kinds of agonizing decisions in the future.

Thank you for the care you’ve shown each other, our frontline teams and the LGBTQIA+ community.

BC

Outrage over Target’s decision to remove merchandise continues to build. Journalist and Los Angeles Blade columnist Erin Reed tweeted:

Alejandra Caraballo, a clinical instructor, Harvard Law Cyberlaw Clinic and LGBTQ+ activist tweeted:

Right-wing media outlets including Fox and Newsmax report that the outrage over the LGBTQ+ merchandise has resulted in calls for a boycott of the retail chain.

Related:

Some Target Stores Move Pride-Themed Items Due To Threats | The View:

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Texas

Texas AG impeached, suspended pending outcome of Senate trial

The House voted 121-23 to suspend Ken Paxton and refer him to the Senate for trial on charges of bribery, abuse of office and obstruction

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The Texas House voted to impeach state Attorney General Ken Paxton on Saturday. (Photo Credit: Bob Daemmrich for The Texas Tribune)

LA Blade Editor’s note: For the vast majority of the past ten years the Texas Attorney General has waged a relentless campaign to limit the rights and equality of LGBTQ+ Texans, especially transgender Texans. Today’s vote is significant in terms of the possibility that a Senate conviction would offer a potential respite from Paxton’s attacks on the LGBTQ+ community.

By  Zach Despart & James Barragan AUSTIN | In a history-making late-afternoon vote, a divided Texas House chose Saturday to impeach Attorney General Ken Paxton, temporarily removing him from office over allegations of misconduct that included bribery and abuse of office.

The vote to adopt the 20 articles of impeachment was 121-23.

Attention next shifts to the Texas Senate, which will conduct a trial with senators acting as jurors and designated House members presenting their case as impeachment managers.

Permanently removing Paxton from office and barring him from holding future elected office in Texas would require the support of two-thirds of senators.

The move to impeach came less than a week after the House General Investigating Committee revealed that it was investigating Paxton for what members described as a yearslong pattern of misconduct and questionable actions that include bribery, dereliction of duty and obstruction of justice. They presented the case against him Saturday, acknowledging the weight of their actions.

“Today is a very grim and difficult day for this House and for the state of Texas,” Rep. David Spiller, R-Jacksboro, a committee member, told House members.

“We have a duty and an obligation to protect the citizens of Texas from elected officials who abuse their office and their powers for personal gain,” Spiller said. “As a body, we should not be complicit in allowing that behavior.”

Paxton supporters criticized the impeachment proceedings as rushed, secretive and based on hearsay accounts of actions taken by Paxton, who was not given the opportunity to defend himself to the investigating committee.

“This process is indefensible,” said Rep. John Smithee, R-Amarillo, who complained that the vote was taking place on a holiday weekend before members had time to conduct a thorough review of the accusations. “It concerns me a lot because today it could be General Paxton, tomorrow it could be you and the next day it could be me.”

Saturday’s vote temporarily removes a controversial but influential Republican figure in Texas and nationally. He has led an office that initiated lawsuits that overturned or blocked major Biden and Obama administration policies, sought to reverse Trump’s electoral defeat in 2020, aggressively pursued voter fraud claims and targeted hospitals that provided gender care to minors.

The Legislature had impeached state officials just twice since 1876 — and never an attorney general — but the House committee members who proposed impeachment argued Saturday that Paxton’s misconduct in office was so egregious that it warranted his removal.

“This gentleman is no longer fit for service or for office,” said committee member Rep. Ann Johnson, D-Houston. “Either this is going to be the beginning of the end of his criminal reign, or God help us with the harms that will come to all Texans if he’s allowed to stay the top cop on the take, if millions of Texans can’t trust us to do the right thing, right here, right now.”

Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, a member of the investigative committee, used his presentation time to criticize Paxton for calling representatives as they worked on the House floor to “personally threaten them with political consequences in the next election” if they supported impeachment.

Speaking against impeachment, Rep. Tony Tinderholt, R-Arlington, called the process “wrong.”

“Don’t end our session this way. Don’t tarnish this institution,” Tinderholt said. “Don’t cheapen the act of impeachment. Don’t undermine the will of the voters. Don’t give Democrats another victory handed to them on a silver platter.”

The vote came as hardline conservatives supportive of Paxton’s aggressive strategy of suing the Biden administration were lining up in support of him. Former President Donald Trump — a close political ally to Paxton — blasted the impeachment proceedings as an attempt to unseat “the most hard working and effective” attorney general and thwart the “large number of American Patriots” who voted for Paxton.

Trump vowed to target any Republican who voted to impeach Paxton.

As lawmakers listened to the committee members make their case, Paxton took to social media to boost conservatives who had come to his defense, including Trump, U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Georgia, and conservative radio host Grant Stinchfield, who tweeted, “Kangaroo Court in Texas.”

About 90 minutes into the debate, the official Twitter account of the Texas attorney general’s office began tweeting at members of the committee to challenge some of the claims being made.

“Please tell the truth,” the agency’s account said.

Because Paxton was impeached while the Legislature was in session, the Texas Constitution requires the Senate to remain in Austin after the regular session ends Monday or set a trial date for the future, with no deadline for a trial spelled out in the law.

Impeachment represents the greatest political threat to date for Paxton, who has been reelected twice despite a 2015 indictment for felony securities fraud and an ongoing federal investigation into allegations of official misconduct that began in 2020.

The impeachment vote, on the third-to-last day of the regular legislative session, capped a tumultuous week at the Capitol. From Tuesday to Thursday:

  • Paxton abruptly accused House Speaker Dade Phelan of presiding over the chamber while drunk and demanded that he resign.
  • The House General Investigating Committee revealed it had been investigating Paxton in secret since March.
  • The committee heard a three-hour presentation from its investigators detailing allegations of corruption against the attorney general.
  • The committee’s three Republicans and two Democrats voted to forward 20 articles of impeachment to the full House.

Paxton, who was comfortably elected to a third term last year, made a rare appearance before assembled reporters Friday to criticize the process, saying he was not given a chance to present favorable evidence. He called impeachment an effort by Democrats and “liberal” Republicans to remove him from office, violating the will of voters and sidelining an effective warrior against Biden administration policies.

“The corrupt politicians in the Texas House are demonstrating that blind loyalty to Speaker Dade Phelan is more important than upholding their oath of office,” Paxton said. He added, “They are showcasing their absolute contempt for the electoral process.”

Many of the articles of impeachment focused on allegations that Paxton had repeatedly abused his powers of office to help a political donor and friend, Austin real estate developer Nate Paul.

In fall 2020, eight top deputies in the attorney general’s office approached federal and state investigators to report their concerns about Paxton’s relationship with Paul.

All eight quit or were fired in the following months, and most of the details of their allegations against Paxton were revealed in a lawsuit by four former executives who claim they were fired — in violation of the Texas Whistleblower Act — in retaliation for reporting Paxton to the authorities. Paxton’s bid to dismiss the lawsuit is awaiting action by the Dallas-based 5th Court of Appeals.

According to the lawsuit, the whistleblowers accused Paxton of engaging in a series of “intense and bizarre” actions to help Paul, including intervening in an open-records case to help Paul gain documents from federal and state investigations into the real estate investor’s businesses. They also accused Paxton of directing his agency to intervene in a lawsuit between Paul and a charity, pushing through a rushed legal opinion to help Paul avoid a pending foreclosure sale on properties and ignoring agency rules to hire an outside lawyer to pursue an investigation helpful to Paul’s businesses.

In return, the whistleblower lawsuit alleged, Paul paid for all or part of a major renovation of a home Paxton owns in Austin. Paul also helped Paxton keep an extramarital affair quiet by employing the woman Paxton had been seeing, the lawsuit said, adding that the attorney general may also have been motivated by a $25,000 contribution Paul made to Paxton’s campaign in 2018.

In their report to the House General Investigating Committee on Wednesday, the panel’s investigators concluded that Paxton may have committed numerous crimes and violated his oath of office.

Investigators said possible felonies included abuse of official capacity by, among other actions, diverting staff time to help Paul at a labor cost of at least $72,000; misuse of official information by possibly helping Paul gain access to investigative documents; and retaliation and official oppression by firing employees who complained of Paxton’s actions to the FBI.

The articles of impeachment accused Paxton of accepting bribes, disregarding his official duties and misapplying public resources to help Paul.

The articles also referred to felony charges of securities fraud, and one felony count of failing to register with state securities officials, that have been pending against Paxton since 2015, months after he took office as attorney general. The fraud charges stem from Paxton’s work in 2011 to solicit investors in Servergy Inc. without disclosing that the McKinney company was paying him for the work.

The impeachment articles also accused Paxton of obstruction of justice by acting to delay the criminal cases with legal challenges and because a Paxton donor pursued legal action that limited the pay to prosecutors in the case, causing further delays “to Paxton’s advantage.”

Taken in total, the accusations showed a pattern of dereliction of duty in violation of the Texas Constitution, Paxton’s oaths of office and state laws against public officials acting against the public’s interest, the impeachment resolution said.

“Paxton engaged in misconduct, private or public, of such character as to indicate his unfitness for office,” the articles said.

An attorney general had never before been impeached by the Legislature, an extraordinary step that lawmakers have reserved for public officials who faced serious allegations of misconduct. Only two Texas officials have been removed from office by Senate conviction, Gov. James Ferguson in 1917 and District Judge O.P. Carrillo in 1975.

If Paxton is to survive, he will need to secure the support of 11 senators. With the 12 Democratic senators likely to support his removal, votes for acquittal would need to come from the 19 Republican members.

None has publicly defended Paxton. In a television interview Thursday, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who presides over the Senate, said merely that he believed senators would be responsible jurors and “do their duty.”

A complicating factor is Sen. Angela Paxton, R-McKinney, Paxton’s wife. State law requires all senators to attend an impeachment trial, though whether she will recuse herself from voting is unclear.

Paxton’s political base lies in the far-right faction of the Republican Party, where he has positioned himself as a champion of conservative causes and a thorn in the side of Democratic President Joe Biden. Paxton has criticized his opponents as RINOs (Republicans in name only) who “want nothing more than to sabotage our legal challenges to Biden’s extremist agenda by taking me out.”

He also retained the backing of the state Republican Party, led by former state Rep. Matt Rinaldi, who frequently attacks Republicans he considers to be insufficiently conservative. On Friday, Rinadi said the impeachment was Phelan’s fault for allowing Democrats to have too much influence in the House.

“The impeachment proceedings against the Attorney General are but the latest front in the Texas House’s war against Republicans to stop the conservative direction of her state,” Rinaldi said in a statement.

Paxton also has maintained a close relationship with Trump and filed an unsuccessful U.S. Supreme Court challenge to the 2020 presidential election. Paxton also spoke at Trump’s rally on Jan. 6, 2021, shortly before the president’s supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol.

Related:

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Zach Despart’s staff photo

Zach Despart

[email protected]

@zachdespart

James Barragán’s staff photo

James Barragán

[email protected]

@James_Barragan

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The preceding article was previously published by The Texas Tribune and is republished by permission.

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The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues. 

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California

CHP implements statewide Maximum Enforcement Period

Beginning May 26, the CHP implemented a statewide Maximum Enforcement Period in anticipation of increased traffic for this holiday weekend

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CHP Patrol Unit near the Golden Gate Bridge. (Photo Credit: California Highway Patrol Media Affairs Office/Facebook) 

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Memorial Day weekend is quickly approaching, and many Californians are preparing to kick off the summer with a holiday gathering or road trip.

Forty-five people were killed in crashes in California during last year’s Memorial Day weekend, nearly a 30 percent increase from the same period in 2021.  The California Highway Patrol (CHP) has a plan to help people arrive to their destinations safely, while reducing the number of deadly crashes on the state’s roads.


Beginning at 6:01 p.m. on Friday, May 26, the CHP will implement a statewide Maximum Enforcement Period (MEP) in anticipation of the increased traffic that often accompanies a holiday weekend.  The MEP will continue through 11:59 p.m. on Monday, May 29. 

CHP is launched a Maximum Enforcement Period this Memorial Day weekend to ensure the safety of everyone on the roads. (Photo Credit: California Highway Patrol Media Affairs Office/Facebook) 

  
“The core mission of the CHP is to provide the highest level of Safety, Service, and Security to the communities we serve,” said CHP Commissioner Sean Duryee.  “This holiday, motorists can expect to see additional CHP officers patrolling California’s roadways.  All available uniformed members of this Department will be on patrol during this Memorial Day MEP.  Our primary focus will be to enhance public safety, deter unsafe driving behavior, and when necessary, take appropriate enforcement action.”  
In addition to assisting motorists and looking for traffic violations that often lead to serious injury or death, such as failure to wear a seat belt, speed, and distracted driving, CHP officers will be paying close attention to people who are suspected of driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs and/or alcohol. 

CHP officers made nearly 900 DUI arrests during the Memorial Day MEP in 2022. Keep yourself and others who are on the road safe by designating a sober driver or using a ride-share service. 

If you see or suspect an impaired driver, call 9-1-1 immediately.  Be prepared to provide the dispatcher a description of the vehicle, the license plate number, location, and direction of travel.  Your phone call may save someone’s life.

The CHP’s Memorial Day MEP coincides with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s ongoing Click It or Ticket campaign, which continues through June 4. Seat belts save lives. Take two seconds to secure your safety and buckle up. 

The mission of the CHP is to provide the highest level of Safety, Service, and Security.

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National

Target stores nationwide receive bomb threats over LGBTQ merch

A Target store in Layton, Utah was evacuated after police said they were informed of a bomb threat to multiple Utah locations

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Screenshot/YouTube 11 Alive Atlanta

SALT LAKE CITY – Police departments in Utah, Ohio, and Pennsylvania aided by assistance from agents from Federal Bureau of Investigation Field Offices in Ohio and Utah are investigating threats made by email to local media referencing the retail chain Target’s LGBTQ merchandise collections celebrating LGBTQ+ Pride Month.

KUTV CBS 2 Salt Lake City reported that Sgt. John Ottesen with Layton Utah Police said bomb threats were made to Target stores in Layton, Salt Lake, Taylorsville and Provo. Sgt. Ottesen confirmed that multiple law enforcement agencies commenced the investigation after the local new stations received the emailed threats.

A Target store in Layton, Utah was evacuated after police said they were informed of a bomb threat to multiple Utah locations.

The threats specifically mentioned Target’s Pride merchandise, were three sentences long, and came from a “bogus email address,” according to Ottesen.

WOIO Cleveland 19 News received a bomb threat Friday afternoon against four Target stores in Ohio and a store in Monaca, Pennsylvania purportedly from a person or persons angry over Target Corporation’s decision to remove some of the LGBTQ+ Merch after a series of threats and physical threats against its retail clerks and staff in several southern states earlier this week.

It was not immediately known if the threats were legitimate, though precautions were quickly taken to ensure staff and customer’s safety according to officials.

A Target spokesperson who spoke with multiple media outlets said: “The safety of our team members and guests is our top priority. Law enforcement investigated these claims and determined our stores are safe. Our stores are currently open and operating regular hours.”

Speaking for the Minneapolis-based retail giant two days ago, spokesperson Kayla Castaneda noted: “Since introducing this year’s collection, we’ve experienced threats impacting our team members’ sense of safety and wellbeing while at work. Given these volatile circumstances, we are making adjustments to our plans, including removing items that have been at the center of the most significant confrontational behavior.”

Castaneda also released a statement from the company:

“For more than a decade, Target has offered an assortment of products aimed at celebrating Pride Month. Since introducing this year’s collection, we’ve experienced threats impacting our team members’ sense of safety and well-being while at work. Given these volatile circumstances, we are making adjustments to our plans, including removing items that have been at the center of the most significant confrontational behavior. Our focus now is on moving forward with our continuing commitment to the LGBTQIA+ community and standing with them as we celebrate Pride Month and throughout the year.”

Removal of the merchandise from its online store in addition to the storefronts has prompted harsh criticism of the retailer. California Governor Gavin Newsom tweeted:

Numerous LGBTQ activists and groups have condemned Target for bowing to what is seen as political pressure by a minority of far right extremists:

“Extremist groups and individuals work to divide us and ultimately don’t just want rainbow products to disappear, they want us to disappear,” Kelley Robinson, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement. “For the past decade, the LGBTQ+ community has celebrated Pride with Target −it’s time that Target stands with us and doubles-down on their commitment to us.”

On Friday, Alejandra Caraballo, a clinical instructor, Harvard Law Cyberlaw Clinic and LGBTQ+ activist tweeted her disgust over the decision by Target to effectively abandon company support for the queer product lines and the creators.

Atlanta LGBTQI+ community reacts to Target pulling some Pride merchandise:

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Los Angeles County

Governor & First Partner visit VA campus, meet with Calif. veterans

Governor Gavin Newsom today also announced the appointment of Lindsey Sin as Secretary of the California Department of Veterans Affairs

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Governor Newsom and First Partner Siebel Newsom meet with veteran at West LA VA campus. (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor)

LOS ANGELES – Highlighting the state’s historic investments made in behavioral health and housing resources for veterans, Governor Gavin Newsom and First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom toured a new supportive housing site at the West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs campus and met with California veterans who are receiving services.

These services, such as housing, have led to unhoused California veterans experiencing behavioral health challenges successfully moving into stable, permanent housing with accessible and affordable services and care for them.

“Our veterans put their lives on the line to serve our country, now we need to serve them in return. Too many veterans can’t escape the battlefront, even here on the home front – and because of that, we have lost too many of these heroes to suicide, while many more struggle with other behavioral and physical health concerns,” said Governor Newsom. “California is building an accessible network of resources for veterans and their families, while we tackle the deadly stigma around mental health that isolates and endangers so many of our heroes. We are home to the nation’s largest population of veterans, who all deserve to be connected, respected, and protected.”

Governor Newsom meets with veterans. (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor)

“Veterans and their families make tremendous sacrifices, both physically and mentally in heroic service to our country,” said First Partner Siebel Newsom. “It is essential that we honor and support them by ensuring their needs, especially related to mental health, are met when they come home. As we remember and pay tribute to servicemembers we’ve lost, I’m proud that California has remained steadfast, through policies and investments, in our commitment to the veterans who call this state home.”

Governor Newsom meets with West LA VA leadership.
(Photo Credit: Office of the Governor)

“As Memorial Day approaches, we honor our fallen – those who gave their lives in service to our nation,” said Russell Atterberry, Undersecretary at the California Department of Veterans Affairs. “We also remember their sacrifices by caring for the veterans who are still with us. California is creating more housing for veterans and investing in behavioral health services to ensure the well-being of our veterans and their families.”

California is home to 1.6 million veterans, the most in the nation. Governor Newsom’s investments led to CalVet expanding programs focused on veterans, particularly comprehensive behavioral and mental health services like those offered at the West Los Angeles VA campus.

Key Behavioral Health Programs for California Veterans

  • California Veterans Health Initiative (CVHI): $50 million investment to coordinate state, local, and community resources to amplify education and outreach efforts, while working to increase capacity so we can serve all our veterans in need. 
  • Veterans Housing and Homelessness Prevention Program (VHHP): Projects are required to provide onsite supportive services which include intensive case management, mental and physical health care, benefits counseling and advocacy, education and employment services, life-skills training, and peer support – an additional investment of $100 million.
  • Veterans Support to Self-Reliance Pilot Program: $25 million to help California’s most vulnerable veterans with the opportunity to age in place, by establishing a baseline of service that will enable them in stable, independent housing.
  • Behavioral Health Services Program: $1.27 million in ongoing funding to assist County Veterans Service Offices (CVSOs) in enhancing and expanding mental health services through projects that collaborate with the existing community-based system of care.
  • California Transition Assistance Program (CALTAP): Provides in-person and virtual trainings to service members, veterans and their families throughout the state.
  • Behavioral Health at the Veterans Homes of California: The eight Veterans Homes of California have hired more clinical social workers, psychologists, and psychiatrists to ensure behavioral health staffing is commensurate with the needs of current and future residents.

Governor Gavin Newsom today also announced the appointment of Lindsey Sin as Secretary of the California Department of Veterans Affairs.

“Lindsey is the definition of a public servant – never losing sight of who she is serving, and tireless in pursuing her mission,” said Governor Newsom. “She has dedicated over two decades of her career to our country and this state as an officer in the US Navy and a leader for veterans. She has delivered unprecedented resources to the California veterans’ community, with a particular focus on equity and inclusion for the needs of our women veterans. Lindsey’s unwavering care and compassion will make her a trusted leader to serve as CalVet Secretary, representing the largest population of veterans in our country.”

Lindsey Sin, of Sacramento, has been appointed as the Secretary of the California Department of Veterans Affairs, where she has served in several roles since 2011, including Deputy Secretary of Communications and Deputy Secretary of Women Veterans Affairs.

She was a Veterans Benefits Advisor at California State University, Sacramento from 2010 to 2011. Sin was Lead Veterans Affairs Coordinator at American River College from 2008 to 2010.

She was served as a Cryptologic Technician Interpretive in the Arabic language at the rank of Petty Officer First Class with Naval Aviation Warfare and Naval Aircrew designations in the United States Navy from 1997 to 2005.

Sin earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in History from California State University, Sacramento, and a Master of Business Administration in Entrepreneurship from Drexel University.

This position requires Senate confirmation.

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Research/Study

The right’s crusade against corporate Pride Month campaigns

While acknowledging they “can’t boycott every woke company or even most of them,” right-wing figures created a playbook for future boycotts

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Graphic by Andrea Austria for Media Matters

 By Jack Winstanley & Charis Hoard WASHINGTON – As major consumer brands continue to partner with members of the LGBTQ+ community, release Pride Month products, and carry out Pride campaigns, right-wing figures are responding with an escalating anti-LGBTQ+ crusade that aims to make inclusive branding a “market death wish.”

Currently, right-wing figures are celebrating Target’s decision to remove some of its Pride Month merchandise after a month-long campaign saw anti-LGBTQ activists harass and threaten store employees, with some figures even endorsing violence and acts of vandalism against the retailer. On May 25, disgraced CPAC Chair Matt Schlapp sent a letter to Target’s CEO & Board of Directors calling for an end to their partnership with a designer of the Pride collection who Schlapp claims is a “self-declared ‘satanist’” and “openly flaunts his anti-Christian agenda.”

Calling for boycotts is not a new tactic for right-wing activists. Former President Donald Trump and his allies attempted to organize a boycott against Major League Baseball after the 2021 All-Star Game was removed from Atlanta in protest of the state’s restrictive voting laws. Right-wing figures also attempted to start a boycott of the country band The Dixie Chicks (now known as The Chicks) in 2003 over their public opposition to the Iraq War.The right-wing attacks against Bud Light for their collaboration with trans influencer Dylan Mulvaney has ignited current frenzies to boycott companies seeking to be more inclusive.

While acknowledging that they “can’t boycott every woke company or even most of them,” right-wing figures have created a playbook for future boycotts that aims to make Pride messaging “culturally toxic” and make all companies fearful of eliciting similar responses to inclusive campaigns. Some figures have been encouraging their followers to pick their targets, and have only been increasing calls for boycotts and violence as Pride Month approaches. Some have even attempted to cash-in on the outrage, peddling products mocking companies that have expressed their support for the LGBTQ+ community.

Below is a timeline of the right’s biggest pressure campaigns from the last year:

Key Events

State Farm (May 2022): In May 2022, a right-wing consumer advocacy group released emails showing State Farm’s participation with a non-profit organization that provides trans-inclusive books to schools in Florida. 

The violently anti-trans social media outlet Libs of TikTok amplified the campaign against State Farm, and the conservative outlet The Washington Examiner accused State Farm of “encouraging its agents in Florida to donate books promoting transgenderism to 5-year-olds.”Following the backlash, a spokesperson from State Farm confirmed to the Washington Post that the company had ended its partnership and would explore new ways to pursue diversity and inclusion.

M&M’s (2022 – January 2023): In early 2023, M&M came under fire from right-wing media for making changes to their “spokescandies” with the intent to make the mascots more inclusive.

Former Fox host Tucker Carlson took to his show to criticize the changes made to the mascots, and other Fox hosts followed suit, calling the changes made “virtue signaling gone wrong.” Carlson famously had an on-air meltdown over the changes to the mascots, slamming them for being “less sexy,” and America First Policy Institute ambassador Nick Adams berated the changes as a “nuclear strike in the war on men.”

In late January 2023, M&M announced that their mascots will be taking an “indefinite pause” and replaced by actor Maya Rudolph. The “indefinite pause” ended in February 2023, when the mascots were brought back after Rudolph’s appearance in M&M’s Super Bowl ad. 

LEGO (February – April 2023): The LEGO Group announced that it would create minifigures representing people with disabilities, different skin tones, and other diverse characteristics, including pivoting some existing product lines to feature characters with LGBTQ identities and mental health conditions.

Fox News and other right-wing outlets quickly criticized the toymaker for “going woke.” In April, a TikTok showing a man harassing a Lego Store employee for wearing a Pride flag pin went viral, with right-wing social media users sharing it widely.

Hershey’s (March 2023 – ongoing): To celebrate International Women’s Day in Canada, Hershey’s released an ad campaign including a trans woman. Right-wing social media users called for a boycott of Hershey, claiming that the company is “erasing women.” 

In response, Daily Wire co-founder Jeremy Boreing launched his own chocolate company featuring branding that mocked Hershey’s attempts to incorporate pronouns into its packaging. Boreing’s chocolate brand was criticized for its ineffective packaging and inflated pricing.

Bud Light (April 2023 – ongoing): Transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney shared a sponsored post with Bud Light, resulting in an intense boycott campaign against Bud Light and other Anheuser-Busch products.

Some right-wing figures, including singer Kid Rock, posted videos of themselves destroying cans of Bud Light in protest. Right-wing media fixated on the outrage, with figures using the ad campaign as an excuse to launch bigoted attacks against Mulvaney and Bud Light for partnering with her.

Some even took the chance to peddle their own products as alternatives to Bud Light. Anheuser-Busch responded to the backlash by claiming that the company “never intended to be part of a discussion that divides people,” and dismissing two high-level marketing directors.

Nike (April 2023 – ongoing): Mulvaney also unveiled a partnership with Nike, with Mulvaney posting a video on Instagram advertising the brand’s leggings and sports bras. Right-wing commentators and social media figures, including former Olympic athletes Sharron Davies and Caitlyn Jenner, condemned the partnership. Soon after, a “burn bra challenge” started on TikTok in protest. 

Nike responded to the hate directed at Mulvaney through an Instagram comment, which read in part: “Be kind. Be inclusive. Encourage each other.”

Jack Daniel’s (April 2023 – ongoing): In early April, right-wing social media users dug up two-year-old Pride Month advertisements for Jack Daniel’s whiskey that featured contestants from RuPaul’s Drag Race, claiming that the distiller had “gone woke.”

Soon after, a video went viral of a man setting alite hundreds of dollars worth of Jack Daniel’s whiskey and merchandise in a belated protest of the 2021 ad campaign. A spokesperson stated to PinkNews that “Jack Daniel’s is made with everyone in mind, including the LGBTQ+ community.”

Sports Illustrated (May 2023 – ongoing): Sports Illustrated unveiled that transgender singer Kim Petras would be on one of the four covers of this year’s Swimsuit Edition, sparking backlash from right-wing commentators.

Right-wing backlash divulged into transphobic attacks, even going so far as to say that Petras, who received permission for gender confirmation surgery at age 16, is aiding in the promotion of “the trans agenda” and “the idea that, yes, children can consent to being permanently mutilated and, yes, sterilized.”

Los Angeles Dodgers (May 2023 – ongoing): The Los Angeles Dodgers announced that the team would be removing the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence after the club received backlash from right-wing figures for including the group in its annual Pride Night celebration.

The Sisters have been active in raising money for HIV/AIDS awareness and treatment in Southern California since the 1970s and have made religious-themed drag outfits a hallmark of their charity organization.

Right-wing figures had labeled the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence a “hate group” over their use of Christian imagery and criticized the Dodgers for inviting them, claiming the Pride Night event was hostile to Christians.

Later, the Dodgers rescinded their previous statement and reinvited the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence to the Pride Night celebration. Right-wing responses to the Sisters’ reinstatement have been rife with calls to violence; BlazeTV host Steve Deace called for a “fatwa” against the team “that would draw blood,” and Infowars host Owen Shroyer encouraged his audience to join “conservatives” at Pride Night, sardonically questioning, “I wonder how that’s going to go.”

Adidas (May 2023 – ongoing): Sportswear brand Adidas released its Pride Month campaign featuring a male-presenting model wearing the brand’s “Pride Swimsuit,” and immediately faced transphobic attacks from right-wing media.

The backlash from conservative figures included insulting the model for having a noticeable genital bulge and claiming that the campaign “erases women” by not labeling the campaign as unisex.

Target (May 2023 – ongoing): As Target’s annual Pride Month merchandise line gradually hit stores in the first half of May, right-wing social media users began posting calls for boycotts over the product line.

Prominent right-wing commentators attacked the retailer, claiming that anyone shopping at Target was a pervert, endorsing vandalism against Pride displays, or stating that Target was “perverting our children and grooming them.” Target announced that it would remove part of its Pride collection from stores following harassment and threats against employees and instances of vandalism against in-store pride displays.

Walmart (May 2023 – ongoing): Walmart is reportedly being targeted by a number of right-wing social media users over its Pride collection after their apparent success against Target.

The North Face (May 2023 – ongoing): In May 2023, The North Face announced its second Summer of Pride campaign coinciding with the release of its Pride collection, with advertisements featuring drag queen Pattie Gonia. In response, right-wing media began their typical attacks, saying that The North Face had the goal of “making fun of women” by featuring a drag queen in its campaign, and claiming that the company has “gone trans.”

From the March 25, 2023, edition of The Daily Wire’s The Micheal Knowles Show:

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The preceding article was previously published by Media Matters For America and is republished with permission.

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News Analysis

Bombshell report led to GOP Senator rejecting youth trans ban

A Republican Senator voted against a gender affirming care ban in Louisiana. He did so because a report showed the care is safe & effective

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Sen. Fred Mills became a target of conservatives within his own party after he bucked his party to kill a proposed ban on gender affirming healthcare for minors (Sarah Gamard/LSU Manship School News Service)

By Erin Reed | WASHINGTON – The trend of banning gender-affirming care for transgender youth was gaining momentum in conservative-leaning states, leading many to fear that the entirety of the Southeastern United States would follow suit.

However, on Wednesday, Louisiana bucked this trend. Louisiana became the only state in the Southeast and one of only four states with Republican trifectas or legislative supermajorities to defeat such a ban in its legislature.

This defeat provides transgender individuals, particularly those in neighboring states where such care is banned, with a vital source for their medical needs. Coupled with court blocks on similar bans in other Southeastern states, those who must cross state lines for their care likely feel a sense of relief. Without a doubt, transgender individuals in Louisiana are among those breathing easier.

House Bill 648, which had already passed the Louisiana House of Representatives with a 71-27 vote, faced strong opposition during the committee hearing. Aware that it could be their last opportunity to quash the bill, family members and allies delivered impassioned testimonies.

Louisiana Trans Advocates played a crucial role in these efforts, holding private meetings with Senators to provide education on the treatment in question. The deciding moment arrived when Republican Senator Fred Mills broke ranks and voted against the bill. His unexpected decision prevented the bill from reaching the Senate floor for a full vote, surprising advocates across the nation and effectively halting the bill’s progression.

When asked why he voted against the bill, he cited a Louisiana Department of Health report commissioned in 2022 and released earlier this year that returned strong findings in support of gender affirming care.

“My decision was really, really based on the numbers. All the testimony I heard by the proponents that children are getting mutilated, I didn’t see it in the statistics,” Mills said in an interview.

The findings of the Louisiana Department of Health when looking at their medicaid data and summarizing research were extensive. Importantly, they found that zero surgeries were ever done on minors in the state, puberty blockers were exceedingly rare, regret rates were extremely low, and trans youth had positive mental health outcomes. They also compared consent to transgender care to many other forms of care where medical consent on the behalf of youth is allowed. See the relevant findings:

Relevant summary of findings for Louisiana Medicaid Report for transgender people.

Interestingly, the report provides a sharp contrast to a widely reported study commissioned by the State of Florida later shown to be based on unethical omissions and intentional misrepresentations of data. The Florida report claims that gender-affirming care is harmful and experimental, directly contradicting the stance of all major U.S. medical organizations. This controversial report was overseen by physicians chosen from the American College of Pediatricians, a conservative group known for endorsing conversion therapy. The group’s name, intentionally similar to the larger professional society, the American Academy of Pediatrics, was designed to mislead lawmakers.

Recent court findings reveal that the Florida report’s authors manipulated research findings to support a gender-affirming care ban in the state. Despite receiving considerable media attention, and even a citation in The BMJ, this report has come under scrutiny for the apparent manipulation of data. Conversely, the Louisiana report, which did not distort data, stayed under the radar until yesterday’s vote.

Following the vote, Louisiana is set to become a crucial and unlikely refuge for transgender youth seeking care. Given the ban on gender-affirming care for transgender youth in many of its neighboring states, individuals often must cross state lines for treatment. Had Louisiana enacted such a ban, its transgender youth would have faced some of the longest travel distances in the country to access care, with many needing to embark on drives exceeding 10 hours to reach the nearest legal clinic.

The response to the vote from the far right was predictable, with Matt Walsh stating that this would be “one of the biggest mistakes of his career” and with Greg Price, a leader of the State Freedom Caucus Network, asking his followers to bombard Mills with phone calls:

Matt Walsh and Greg Price tweets against Senator Mills

When asked about his vote, Senator Mills simply stated, “They don’t live in District 22. They don’t have a 337 area code. I didn’t run for office to serve those people.”

Moving forward, Republicans are making attempts to revise the bill, although there are indications that Governor John Bel Edwards would likely veto the measure. If the bill remains defeated, Louisiana will likely see desperate families looking to its borders with hope. At minimum, the trans youth residents in Louisiana have more time to obtain their care and can rest a little easier tonight.

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

Follow her on Twitter (Link)

Website here: https://www.erininthemorning.com/

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

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Missouri

St. Louis mayor signs executive order seeking to shield trans youth 

“All of our children in St. Louis deserve to know that there are still elected leaders out here fighting for them”

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St Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones (Screenshot/YouTube KMOV CBS 4)

By Annelise Hanshaw | SAINT LOUIS – St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones on Thursday signed an executive order seeking to insulate transgender Missourians from bills passed by the state legislature restricting access to certain medical procedures for minors and limiting participation in school sports.

“The responsibility now falls to local governments to take tangible steps to respond to this state intrusion into private family medical decisions and minors’ bodily privacy,” she wrote in a letter to the city’s legislative delegation earlier in the day notifying them of her planned order.

Missouri lawmakers passed bills earlier this month banning minors from beginning gender-affirming hormones or puberty blockers for four years, starting in August, and restricting transgender athletes to competing on teams as their birth sex. Both bills await action by Gov. Mike Parson, who has indicated he intends to sign them into law. 

Jones’ order calls the bills “an abhorrent intrusion into personal freedom and liberty.”

She wrote that her executive order was crafted after “conversation and consultation with members of the LGBTQ+ community and our city departments” and expressed concern for families moving out of state because of state legislation.

The order calls for the city Department of Health to inform residents, including minors, about gender-affirming care. Jones plans for an annual “summit of health care providers and other individuals” to discuss the best practices for transgender health care.

The order would direct city agencies to inform residents, including minors, about gender-affirming care and allow athletes in city-funded recreation programs to compete according to their gender identity

It also allows transgender athletes in city-funded recreation programs to compete according to their gender identity, for she states that these programs must not require the disclosure of gender or one’s gender-affirming hormone treatment. The Missouri State High School Activities Association policy currently allows transgender athletes to compete according to their gender identity only if they have been taking cross-sex hormones.

City recreation centers would also have at least one all-gender restroom under her order, and staff would receive training on “affirming best practices.”

Buildings housing city administration are ordered to also have at least one all-gender restroom, and the city departments are directed to administer their services in a gender-affirming manner.

Jones prioritizes economic development in the order, stating future projects must support gender inclusivity.

She requests that the St. Louis Development Corp. advise how to incentivize inclusive business practices.

“All of our children in St. Louis deserve to know that there are still elected leaders out here fighting for them,” Susan Halla, president of transgender advocacy group TransParent, said in a news release. “I am grateful to Mayor Jones for instituting these important changes in the face of recent attacks on trans youth from the Missouri legislature. For our trans youth, please know that you are seen and you are loved for who you are.”

Earlier this month, the Kansas City Council resolved that the city would be a “safe haven” for gender-affirming care. The resolution directs city staff, including law enforcement, from penalizing those seeking gender-affirming care or providing it.

Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey called the city council’s actions “unprecedented and radical” in a letter to the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners. In it, he urged the board to make sure police enforce the new law when it goes into effect. 

The bill does not have criminal penalties for those who seek care, so it is outside the police’s enforcement, Kansas City Police Chief Stacey Graves said in a statement to the Kansas City Star.

Rep. Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis, told The Independent he was proud to be a St. Louis resident after the mayor signed her order.

“Government should be supporting folks’ access to quality medical care, not interfering with our private medical decisions,” he said. “Our leaders should be fighting for all kids to be included in activities like sports and have an opportunity to succeed — not bullying kids who are too often already bullied and left out.”

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Annelise Hanshaw

Annelise Hanshaw writes about education — a beat she has covered on both the West and East Coast while working for daily newspapers in Santa Barbara, California, and Greenwich, Connecticut. A born-and-raised Missourian, she is proud to be back in her home state.

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The preceding article was previously published by The Missouri Independent and is republished with permission.

The Missouri Independent is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization dedicated to relentless investigative journalism and daily reporting that sheds light on state government and its impact on the lives of Missourians. This service is free to readers and other news outlets.

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California Politics

Queer, Armenian, global health leader; now political candidate

“I have seen the power of how an issue can advance when an LGBTQ+ person is in the room. That is what we need. That is how we make change”

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Jirair Ratevosian participates in an annual AIDS Lifecycle event. (Photo credit: Jirair Ratevosian)

BURBANK, Calif. – Dr. Jirair Ratevosian, announced Thursday that he has entered the race to replace Rep. Adam Schiff as a member of the U.S. House representing California’s 30th Congressional District. 

Ratevosian, 42, was born in Hollywood, CA, to a Lebanese mother and an Armenian father. He grew up in Sun Valley. Awarded a Johns Hopkins University post-graduate doctoral degree with concentration in public health policy, the Democratic candidate has devoted his life to his two passions: politics and physical science. 

In 2018, Ratevosian was selected as a “40 under 40 Health Leader” for his achievements in tackling health disparities in the United States and was one of 50 LGBTQIA+ experts in U.S. national security and foreign policy recognized by “Out in National Security” in 2021. 

During the 2020 presidential election he served as a national security advisor on COVID-19 and other health security matters to the Biden-Harris campaign and then after the election worked on the Biden Administration transition team. 

When asked by the Blade to list some of his proudest achievements he highlighted the following:

  • Led coalition to repeal the US HIV immigration ban policy in 2008
  • Worked with Congressional staff to reauthorize PEPFAR in 2013
  • Worked to expand focus and funding for PEPFAR’s work targeting men who have sex with men
  • He penned an op-ed with Ambassador Dr. John N. Nkengasong, who leads, manages, and oversees the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) for the U.S. Department, about the ways anti-LGBTQ laws impact HIV: Legal and Policy Barriers for an Effective HIV/AIDS Response – The Lancet 
  • Worked on legislation to decriminalize HIV transmission for Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA.)  
  • Fought against the anti-homosexuality law in Uganda (2009 and 2023)
  • Worked as the first U.S. State Dept. Health Equity Policy Advisor
Dr. Jirair Ratevosian, Senior Advisor for the Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator and Health Diplomacy at the U.S. Department of State, Harry S Truman building, Washington D.C.
(Photo credit: Jirair Ratevosian)

Until recently, Ratevosian served as a Senior Advisor for Health Equity Policy at the U.S. Department of State and worked for the Office of U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator and Health Diplomacy.

Ratevosian is proud of his heritage, attributing a part of his success to his early education through the Armenian school system in Los Angeles. If elected to Congress, he tells the Blade that he will continue to be an advocate for and amplifier of Armenian voices. 

“I stand here to tell you that I am running for Congress because I am a product of what I have learned thanks to the success of that education system and the family support around me. I have a strong desire to make an impact on the Armenian community. We are facing a war. We are facing all the same challenges as other communities here in the district are as well, he said.

“I know that nobody pushes more for Armenian issues than Armenian people. We have relied on the generosity of Adam Schiff and others who have carried Armenian issues, but it is time for an Armenian voice to lead on Armenian issues. I am excited about the opportunity to be the person that our community needs to be able to take those issues to Congress on day one and focus on them. I would love to be able to start an Armenian congressional caucus and to inspire more meeting Americas to run for public office,” he continued.

Ratevosian told the Blade that he is also motivated by the ideal “American dream” that his grandfather had when he immigrated here to start a new life for himself and his family, free from Soviet rule.

“I’m running because my grandfather’s American dream is far from reach for many people,” Ratevosian told The Blade.  

“Like many immigrant families, mine came to America for a second chance. My mom’s side was from Lebanon. My dad’s side was from Armenia. I was the first to be born here. My parents took whatever jobs they could to provide for us and put us through school. As soon as I was legally able to work, I did at the age of 15 as an ice cream scooper at Baskin and Robbins. Now my parents have watched their kid going from an ice cream scooper to the U.S. State Department as a senior political appointee.”

But, he explained, the streets he grew up on “are not the same streets anymore.” With housing prices and inflation surging, many in the county find it harder and harder to make ends meet. 

“That shot my grandparents had is no longer available to a lot of people,” he lamented.

“I am in this race because there is so much work to be done to ensure that everybody has a fair shot to choose their own dreams. My grandfather was a shoe cobbler. They were able to afford healthcare. My parents were able to put us through school. They lived a happy and normal life. I think if my grandfather were alive now, he would be disappointed in the way healthcare costs are going up, and the way we treat our planet, the way we treat people experiencing homelessness, the way housing costs have gone up. I don’t even know if they could afford that same Kingsley Street apartment that they had in Hollywood for 25 years before they passed away. These are the things that I think are making families struggle. 

“Of course, child care and student loans are also out of control. I still have $20,000 worth of student loans from my master’s degree 15 years ago. Even though I had a job in corporate America and was making good money and paying off my loans, I still have $20,000 in student debt. If we don’t fight to reverse and address these issues straight on, we won’t be able to bring that dream back to people.

I am also really looking forward to bringing the support that businesses need to get back on their feet post Covid and really flourish again. I want to work to be able to revitalize our city.”

Openly gay candidate

Ratevosian is making it a point to run as an openly LGBTQ+ candidate – a choice that some of his advisors have cautioned against, fearing that the Armenian community might not accept his sexual orientation.

He has decided to forgo this advice, choosing instead to put his faith in the acceptance of the Armenian people. 

“I am confident people will see me for the work that I have done and the values that I have had. They will see me for the focus areas of my entire life, the focus on the most vulnerable and disenfranchised people all around the world in all corners of Africa and Asia. They will see me for my decency, for the way I treat people with honor and respect. I know the Armenian people will embrace me and that we can change hearts and minds along the way.” 

Ratevosian is additionally confident that he can change hearts and minds thanks to his own coming out journey, wherein his mother had tremendous trouble accepting him, at first. 

“It was one of those radio silent moments when you can hear your own heart beating,” Ratevosian said, recalling the moment he told his parents he was gay. 

After coming out, his mother would not speak to him for the longest period of time since he was born. 

“Before that, if I didn’t speak to my mother every day, she was worried the worst had happened to me. Then, not speaking to her for a few weeks felt like years.” 

Finally, his mother did find it in her heart to accept her son, and Ratevosian was proud to report that she stood hand in hand with his fiancé at Ratevosian’s graduate school commencement ceremonies. 

“I teared up,” said Ratevosian, recalling the moment that signified so much change in his mother and also the change he hopes to impart to others who might be like-minded in the district.

“I think together we can advance our culture’s beliefs. If people like me don’t come out, then how are we ever going to make change? 

“I want to fight for these issues that are very much still alive in Southern California and across the United States. There are a record number of Anti-LGBTQ bills passed by Republicans across the country. I don’t know why but for some reason, republicans are more concerned with banning drag shows that fighting climate change or reducing poverty. But even in our district, we know hate and anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment are still alive and well. This is why I am fighting, and this is why representation matters.”

HIV Work

From 2011-2014, Jirair served as Legislative Director in the House of Representatives, overseeing budget, appropriations, foreign policy, and health portfolios for U.S. Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA). 

As co-chair and co-founder of the bipartisan and bicameral Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus, Rep. Lee leads the effort to advance legislation that addresses the HIV/AIDS pandemic while educating Members of Congress about the virus, its impact, and affected populations.

“I have always had an interest in HIV in all my jobs,” Ratevosian told the Blade. “When I came to Washington, I wanted to get more involved in HIV policy. She (Lee) was the champion for HIV policy. 

“I watched her in action. She was the best teacher anyone could have in terms of fighting for progressive values in fighting for healthcare and fighting poverty.” 

Jirair’s extensive work in HIV legislation took a personal turn when he met the love of his life and now fiancé, Michael Lghodaro, who is a person living with HIV. 

Jirair Ratevosian with his fiancé Michael Lghodaro (Photo credit: Jirair Ratevosian)

“HIV work is who I am,” Ratevosian told The Blade, “literally because of the work it has done to shape the way I live my life and the way I love the people I love.”

“The reason why I am healthy, and I am staying HIV negative, and we have a wonderful relationship is because he is able to access his HIV medication.”

This personal association with the disease fueled Ratevosian to fight in favor of the Repeal HIV Discrimination Act bill with Lee.

“The bill provided federal incentives for states to repeal their archaic laws that criminalize HIV transmission,” said Ratevosian.

Ratevosian responds to a question posed at the annual meeting of the Association of Schools & Programs of Public Health (ASPPH) in 2018, held in Arlington, Virginia.
(Photo Credit: Boston University/ASPPH)

He is also a backer of the U=U campaign, an informational campaign about how effective HIV medications are in preventing sexual transmission of HIV.

U=U he explained means “Undetectable = Untransmittable,” indicating that if a person with HIV is on HIV meds (antiretroviral therapy, or ART) with a consistently undetectable HIV viral load, the virus cannot be transmitted to a sex partner.

His contributions to the Biden-Harris administration led to the reauthorization of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the signing of landmark foreign aid legislation to support Haiti, and the establishment of the bipartisan Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus. 

“The job to fight HIV is far from over,” said Ratevosian. “I will be fighting to get more Ryan White money for our cities. We have amazing new technologies for HIV prevention that I want all communities to benefit from, including minority communities.” 

Editor’s Note:  The Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, administered by the U.S. Health Resources & Services Administration, provides grants to cities, states, counties, and community-based groups. The grants help provide care, medication, and essential support services to people with HIV, HIV-related health outcomes, and reduce HIV transmission.

He also regularly rides in the AIDS/LIFECYCLE ride, a 7 day, 545-mile bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles, co-produced by and benefiting the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Los Angeles LGBT Center. 

Reflections

Ratevosian shared an important message of positivity to fellow ethnic LGBTQ+ aspiring leaders: 

“Your time is now. I am inspired that there are a record number of LGBTQ+ leaders in office, but those numbers are far from the true representation of diversity in our community and the diversity of our country. If anyone is reading this story and is inspired, then they should do the same. Pursue a place in office, whether it is federally or locally, or somewhere in between. I have seen the power of how an issue can advance when an LGBTQ+ person is in the room. That is what we need. That is how we make change.”   

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Africa

Intersex Kenyans see significant gains under landmark law

MPs approved statute last year

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Kenya flag (Photo by rarrarorro/Bigstock)

NAIROBI, Kenya — The push for intersex people to enjoy equal rights as Kenya’s third sex has recorded significant gains since a landmark law took effect last July.

Intersex people arrested for breaking the law can now be presented in court as intersex, since prosecutors have adopted the special ‘I’ sex marker for the group in charging documents.

This addresses the problem of authorities identifying intersex people for trial that became public in 2006 when police officers could not tell the sex of a detainee they perceived as a man who had been accused of a violent robbery. They had strip-searched him. 

The gains noted in the latest report by the country’s Intersex Persons Implementation Coordination Committee also note the inclusion of intersex concepts in Kenya’s new education curriculum for awareness. 

The IPICC falls under the purview of Kenya’s National Commission on Human Rights

Intersex awareness in schools for recognition and capacity building in the future targets adolescents at the junior secondary level where they are educated on the reproductive system. 

Veronica Mwangi, the IPICC’s head of secretariat who spoke to Washington Blade, commended the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions for introducing the ‘I’ sex marker for intersex people in charging documents. 

“We have made gains in the criminal justice but we should not go back to the tendencies where intersex persons only require a lot of attention when it comes to crime. It is a misconception that misses the map,” she said. 

Citing a proposed Intersex Persons Bill 2023 currently undergoing public comment before being presented for debate in Parliament, Mwangi believes it envisages more benefits to intersex people.

For instance, the bill proposes access to more comprehensive medical attention for intersex people during surgeries and expensive medical examinations like Karyotype, a DNA and hormonal composition test that costs between $900-$1,000. 

The bill would also require medical insurance providers to come up with an affordable, unique package that addresses the needs of intersex people by taking into account the reality of their lived experiences.

“The reality of the matter is you may give birth to an intersex child as a girl but later it turns out to be a boy. Hence the medical package that was given to the girl may not apply to the boy,” Mwangi said. 

She added the medical insurance policy should be capable of responding to such changes, since intersex people will always have medical needs that keep shifting. 

The bill would also allow intersex people to change their sex marker at any time to reflect their new status after undergoing a comprehensive medical examination and a medical certificate to prove it. The measure would also demand the government to recognize intersex people as a vulnerable group, such as those living with disabilities, women, young people and orphans, in order to more easily access social protection programs.

It would further require employers to consider intersex people for employment and the Kenya Examination Council to support the registration of intersex people’s’ academic documents that indicate their name has changed because of a legal sex change.

The Civil Registration Services, a government agency that documenting all births and deaths,  has already been working closely with IPICC to change names on the birth certificates of intersex people to reflect their correct sex for easier access to public services.  

Kenya became the first African country to grant equal rights and recognition to intersex people in 2022. It is also the first nation on the continent and the second in the world after Australia to count intersex people in a Census in 2019. 

The survey showed 1,524 Kenyans were intersex. 

After many years of marginalization and discrimination, the IPICC progress report states that several intersex people for the first time were involved in monitoring Kenya’s August 2022 general election as observers. Other intersex people subjected themselves to the electoral process to be nominated or elected as county assembly representatives, the lowest electoral position, including one in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi. 

“This was a bold move and a big achievement because, for the first time in Kenya, intersex persons came out and tested the waters in politics,” Mwangi said.

She cited stigma and fear among intersex people in presenting conflicting documents about their sex to the electoral commission for clearance as the cause of staying away from politics before the enactment of the law that recognizes them. Mwangi urged intersex people to come out and take advance of available opportunities and assistance, since most of them don’t and it becomes hard to reach them.

Since the landmark law came into force in July last year; several psychosocial support groups for intersex persons, their parents and caregivers have been established in the country to offer any necessary assistance that includes counselling. The IPICC has also created a database of intersex people, a text message service and a toll-free number to report cases of discrimination and to advocate on their behalf.

Oct. 26, 2022, also marked the first official event that commemorated Intersex Awareness Day in Kenya.

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