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San Pedro rallies for gay man harassed by neighbors

“I hope they have a come to Jesus moment”

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Ryan Gierach (Screengrab from ABC7)

Ryan Gierach, the well-known and controversial former publisher of WeHo News, is also an out gay man who served in the United States Air Force from 1979 until he was discharged for being gay.

He’s used to dealing with discrimination and on many levels.

But, Gierach says, since moving to San Pedro two years ago his neighbors have repeatedly taunted him with anti-gay slurs and since April things have gotten worse.

After hanging a Rainbow flag the jeers escalated and became violent with some residents (his cross street neighbors) spitting on him and posting flyers that accused him of being ‘a child molesting sex offender’ and including his home address.

Gierach captured some taunting on video that went viral and the police were eventually called.

“It has left me with more bad days than not,” Gierach told KABC 7. “The hatred, the harassment; they had their children calling me ‘faggot’.”

His neighbors were even captured on video throwing garbage at him.

“All I wonder about is why they are harassing me,” Gierach says. “All I have ever asked them is ‘why teach your children hate?'”

Dozens of residents and city leaders gathered Saturday June 16 for a Rainbow flag raising ceremony as a show of support for Gierach.

LA City Councilman Joe Buscaino told KABC 7 that San Pedro is a diverse city. “Ignorance breeds intolerance,” he said.

“I hope they have a come to Jesus moment,” said Gierach.”Living in peace is what being a neighbor is all about.”

Yet Gierach reports the hatred has not stopped and that he is now being targeted with even more harassment online.

Police have opened an investigation and a spokesman for the Harbor Community Police Department, division of the LAPD, told the Los Angeles Blade they have interviewed the neighbors involved but no arrests have yet been made.

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Southern California

USC cancels valedictorian’s speech over antisemitism allegations

“I am shocked by this decision & profoundly disappointed that the university is succumbing to a campaign of hate meant to silence my voice”

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(Screenshot/YouTube KNBC 4)

LOS ANGELES – The University of Southern California (USC) has decided to cancel the commencement speech of Asna Tabassum, a pro-Palestinian undergraduate and this year’s valedictorian, citing safety concerns. This decision marks the first time in the university’s 141-year history that a valedictorian has been prohibited from speaking at the graduation ceremony.

Provost Andrew Guzman expressed that while disappointing, the decision was necessary to ensure the safety of the campus and its students, emphasizing that the university’s actions are aligned with legal obligations to maintain a secure educational environment. He also clarified that the decision does not infringe upon free speech rights, as there is no entitlement to speak at the event.

Tabassum, majoring in biomedical engineering with a minor in “resistance to genocide,” faced criticism for her online posts about the Middle East conflict. The controversy escalated when a pro-Israel group accused her of antisemitism less than a week ago.

In response to the cancellation, the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Los Angeles (CAIR-LA) has called for the decision to be reversed, allowing Tabassum to deliver her speech. Tabassum, through CAIR-LA, stated that she has been subjected to a campaign of racist hatred due to her stance on human rights.

In a statement released through the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Los Angeles (CAIR-LA), Tabassum conveyed her shock and profound disappointment at the university’s decision, stating it was a result of a “campaign of hate” aimed to silence her voice. “Anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian voices have subjected me to a campaign of racist hatred because of my uncompromising belief in human rights for all,” Tabassum said.

USC maintains that the decision was solely based on safety considerations and not on the content of Tabassum’s proposed speech or her political views. The university has consulted its public safety department and external safety experts, concluding that the potential risks necessitate the cancellation for this year’s commencement to focus on celebrating the graduates without disruptions.

Asna Tabassum (Photo Credit: Annenberg Media/USC)

Tabassum’s full statement:

“I am honored to have been selected as USC Class of 2024 Valedictorian. Although this should have been a time of celebration for my family, friends, professors, and classmates, anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian voices have subjected me to a campaign of racist hatred because of my uncompromising belief in human rights for all.

“This campaign to prevent me from addressing my peers at commencement has evidently accomplished its goal: today, USC administrators informed me that the university will no longer allow me to speak at commencement due to supposed security concerns. I am both shocked by this decision and profoundly disappointed that the University is succumbing to a campaign of hate meant to silence my voice. 

“I am not surprised by those who attempt to propagate hatred. I am surprised that my own university—my home for four years—has abandoned me,” Tabassum wrote.

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Research/Study

Right-wing pastor & podcast host:  LGBTQ movement equals Hitler

Podcast host and Ohio county commissioner nominee has pushed baseless conspiracy theories and compared the LGBTQ movement to Hitler

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Graphic by Molly Butler for Media Matters

By Payton Armstrong | WASHINGTON – Right-wing pastor and podcast host Drenda Keesee, who is running uncontested in November for a Knox County, Ohio, commissioner seat, has spread unhinged conspiracy theories about climate change, abortion, “satanic hordes” causing people to identify as LGBTQ, and global elites working to bring about a “New World Order.” 

Notably, Keesee has claimed that solar farms are part of a plot to “create” food and energy shortages, said LGBTQ people “sentence themself to hell,” compared the LGBTQ movement to Adolf Hitler, and labeled the feminist movement an “occultic agenda” to “get women to fight to kill their children.” Keesee is also a proponent of the “Seven Mountain Mandate,” a theological approach that calls on Christians to impose fundamentalist values on all aspects of American life.

Keesee is running unopposed in November to be a Knox County commissioner after winning her primary on an anti-solar farm platform. Several local media reports have failed to document Keesee’s extreme rhetoric and views, including one from the local NPR affiliate covering her primary win. 

Below are several examples of Keesee spreading extreme conspiracy theories about LGBTQ people, a “New World Order,” climate change, and abortion.

Keesee has pushed bigotry and conspiracy theories about LGBTQ people, including that “satanic hordes” and “demonic spirits” cause people to be trans

  • Keesee claimed that “satanic hordes” and “demonic spirits” cause children to identify as trans and commit violence. Keesee warned that “children’s spirits” and souls are “at stake,” declaring that “demonic spirits are attacking them and satanic hordes are infiltrating them and even possessing their bodies, which is why we’re seeing more violence among youth, we’re seeing trans violence.” Keesee denied that people can be trans, saying that “you can change their hairstyle, you can do all kinds of surgeries on the outside, but it cannot change what God created a person.” [Drenda On Guard, 10/27/23]

From the October 27, 2023, edition of Drenda On Guard

  • Keesee suggested that LGBTQ people are following “Satan’s agenda” and will be in “eternal hell” and “the lake of fire” if they don’t “repent” before Jesus returns. In a Facebook livestream, Keesee called it “abominations” and “Satan’s plan” “when a man lies with a man” and when people “experiment with bodies and change them from what God designed them to create — be created male and female,” seemingly in reference to gay and transgender people. She emphasized that when they “reject God and receive Satan’s agenda … They actually sentence themself to hell.” [Facebook, 9/7/21]

From a September 7, 2021, Facebook Live video

  • Keesee called the LGBTQ movement “a cult” and gender-affirming care “hideous, occultic, satanic indoctrination.” During an episode of her podcast, Keesee recounted a story of a child questioning their sexual orientation and gender identity, claiming the child had been coached at school. Keesee claimed that one of the World Economic Forum’s “agendas” is to make children “question the most basic things of humanity,” including “whether they’re even male and female,” in order to “bring us into transhumanism.” [Drenda On Guard11/17/23]
  • Keesee compared the LGBTQ movement to Adolf Hitler and said the movement is trying to “turn” children “against God and parents.” Keesee claimed that the LGBTQ movement is pushing its agenda “into early ages because just like Hitler, they know if you’re gonna mold a child, you mold them at the youngest age you can.” Keesee added that “it makes [her] want to put on [her] boxing gloves” because children are being “bombarded constantly with messaging that makes them question whether they’re a male or female.” She claimed that schools pressure kids to identify as LGBTQ through “propaganda” that is “introduced in their classroom every day — the rainbow movement, teachers wearing, you know, rainbow, questioning their gender in everyday conversations in school.” [Drenda On Guard, 11/17/23]

From the November 17, 2023, edition of Drenda On Guard

  • Keesee claimed that Satan “is really the author” of LGBTQ inclusion and declared that support for LGBTQ people is a sign of “the last days.” Keesee lamented “this whole push of LGBTQ on our daughters and our sons,” and declared that it is “Satan who is really the author of this.” Keesee also said that she saw “a church with steps that were painted rainbow,” noting that, “Jesus said in the last days there would be great heresy, great apostasy … Satan is playing hard for the souls of men and women and especially children.” [Drenda On Guard12/15/23]

Keesee has promoted the “New World Order” conspiracy theory about a totalitarian world government, connecting it to LGBTQ inclusion and efforts to curb climate change

  • According to the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, “Proponents of the ‘New World Order’ conspiracy believe a cabal of powerful elite figures wielding great political and economic power is conspiring to implement a totalitarian one-world government.” Conspiracy theorists frequently attribute global events such as the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change to the “New World Order.” The conspiracy theory also often incorporates antisemitic narratives.
    • Keesee suggested that solar farms are part of a New World Order plot to “create” energy and food shortages. She claimed that solar farms “don’t produce crops” but “destroy the actual dirt and soil of the richest farmland in America,” declaring that “they do that because they’re trying to create a food shortage, so they can create an energy shortage.” Keesee assured her audience that “the globalists, in the end, will not get their way. A new world is coming, but it’s not going to be their great reset, their fourth industrial revolution, their New World Order. It’s going to be the king setting up his kingdom.” [Drenda On Guard, 3/29/24]

From the March 29, 2024, edition of Drenda On Guard

  • Keesee claimed that abortion, “LGBTQ agendas,” critical race theory, and “the climate emergency” are part of the plot to “bring us into the New World Order” and “destroy” America. In an episode titled “They Want To Enslave Humanity?!” Keesee said that through critical race theory, abortion, and “LGBTQ agendas,” global elites are trying to “destroy” the nation “like Hitler did with Germany.” She claimed that elites are attempting to “bring us into the New World Order” and that “it’s not a conspiracy theory.” Keesee also claimed that there’s an agenda “to make government God” and “remove parents,” to “weaponiz[e] the children then against our country.” [Drenda On Guard, 11/17/23]

From the November 17, 2023, edition of Drenda On Guard

  • Keesee said that the “climate agenda,” support for trans children, and porn addiction are part of an effort to “destroy the Republic of the United States of America in order to bring us into their New World Order, their great reset.” Keesee decried the affirmation of trans children, saying, “Transgendering, transitioning, gender-affirming, whatever — they keep changing the names and make it sound more and more beautiful and wonderful and affirming in love. It’s not love. It’s lust.” She claimed that “the climate agenda,” “the crisis of pornography,” and “transgendering” are “tied to how they bring about the New World Order” to “bring down free nations, and get them to give up their freedom, and their freedom over their children.” [Drenda On Guard, 10/27/23]

From the November 17, 2023, edition of Drenda On Guard

  • Keesee said that the “climate agenda,” support for trans children, and porn addiction are part of an effort to “destroy the Republic of the United States of America in order to bring us into their New World Order, their great reset.” Keesee decried the affirmation of trans children, saying, “Transgendering, transitioning, gender-affirming, whatever — they keep changing the names and make it sound more and more beautiful and wonderful and affirming in love. It’s not love. It’s lust.” She claimed that “the climate agenda,” “the crisis of pornography,” and “transgendering” are “tied to how they bring about the New World Order” to “bring down free nations, and get them to give up their freedom, and their freedom over their children.” [Drenda On Guard, 10/27/23]

Keesee is a proponent of the Christian nationalist “Seven Mountain Mandate”

  • The “Seven Mountain Mandate” is a “quasi-biblical blueprint for theocracy” that asserts that Christians must impose fundamentalist values on American society by conquering the “seven mountains” of cultural influence in U.S. life: government, education, media, religion, family, business, and entertainment. Several Republican public officials have come under scrutiny for their connections to the Seven Mountain Mandate, including House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) and Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Tom Parker.
    • Keesee has made the Seven Mountain Mandate central to her commentary in right-wing media. Right Wing Watch reported that “Keesee’s main focus” is on “promoting Seven Mountains Dominionism,” and highlighted various instances in which Keesee has pushed the Seven Mountain Mandate. In a recent appearance on the Christian nationalist program FlashPoint, for example, Keesee claimed that the “hand of God” was responsible for her victory because Christians must take “our place in the [seven] mountains of influence and leadership” in order to save America. [Right Wing Watch, 3/26/24]
    • Keesee is the author of Fight Like Heaven!, which lays out the Seven Mountain Mandate and “shows you precisely how to fight like heaven, kick hell out, and take back these mountains for the Kingdom of God!,” per the book’s description on Amazon. The Amazon description notes that the book “identifies the Seven Mountains of Influence that the Antichrist spirit has invaded.” [Amazon, accessed 4/5/24]
    • Keesee has also repeatedly promoted the Seven Mountain Mandate on social media and encouraged followers to “take the mountains to influence others for Christ.” For example, last summer, Keesee wrote: “We have a choice: give control to God or the adversary. The seven mountains—government, economy, health, education, media, and family—can be influenced by either force. Let’s unite as a church, conquer each mountain with grace, and reclaim them for God’s Kingdom!” [Twitter/X, 6/26/226/13/23]

Keesee said the feminist movement is a “demonic, occultic agenda” to “get women to fight to kill their children”

  • Keesee said that feminism “shakes its fist in the face of God” and suggested women should come “under the covering of men.” Keesee said that feminism makes women selfish and invoked Satan, saying, “It is a selfishness that says, just like Satan said in Isaiah 9 … ‘I’ll make my throne above God’s throne,’ and it is us enthroning ourselves.” Keesee also expressed agreement with her guest that feminism is a “perversion of God’s word,” and went on to complain that “women don’t know how to be a woman of God that comes under the covering of men.” [Drenda On Guard5/12/23]
  • Keesee called the feminist movement and abortion a “hideous, demonic, occultic agenda” to “get women to fight to kill their children.” Keesee called feminism “demonic to the core” and asserted that “Satan wants to divide the male, the female, emasculate the men, remove them as the protector — the defender, the strong voice, to protect their kids — and get women to want to attack their own God-given right to bear children.” [Drenda On Guard, 11/17/23]

From the November 17, 2023, edition of Drenda On Guard

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

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Political commentary & analysis

The impact of the Supreme Court’s Idaho ruling on trans people

The ruling is complicated & will have an immediate impact for trans youth in Idaho and could have national repercussions

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U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington D.C. (Photo Credit: Architect of the U.S. Capitol)

By Erin Reed | WASHINGTON – On Monday, news broke that the Supreme Court of the United States will allow Idaho to enforce its ban on gender-affirming care for transgender youth, a felony ban that makes trans care punishable by up to 10 years in prison for doctors who provide it to those under 18. 

The ruling was not based on the merits of gender-affirming care or its constitutionality; rather, it addressed broad injunctions and a lower court’s ability to block a law fully at the earliest stages — a pet issue for some conservative justices who chose to take decisive action when transgender lives were at stake.

The immediate impact of the ruling is clear: transgender individuals will be barred from obtaining gender-affirming care in Idaho, except for only two plaintiffs, despite no rationale for how a ban is supposed to work for everyone but those two plaintiffs when doctors are broadly barred from providing care. In other states where anti-trans laws are being litigated, the impacts are more nebulous, and the ruling could impact many other issues as well.

The case in question stems from a challenge to Idaho’s felony ban on gender-affirming care. In December 2023, a federal judge ruled that the ban was likely unconstitutional, ruling in favor of two transgender minor plaintiffs using pseudonyms.

The judge stated that the right to obtain medically necessary care for your children is “deeply rooted in this nation’s history and traditions,” using the logic from the anti-abortion Dobbs decision against transgender care bans as an apparent preemptive strike at such language being utilized to justify bans on trans care should the case ever reach the Supreme Court.

The judge then issued a broad preliminary injunction that prevented the state from enforcing the law on anyone while the court process played out.

It was the breadth of the injunction that came under dispute in the Supreme Court, not issues directly related to the constitutionality of transgender care. Attorneys for the state of Idaho argued that the injunction was too broad and that the state should be allowed to enforce the law on everyone except for the plaintiffs.

This would force anyone seeking care to seek individual exceptions and rulings from federal courts, an expensive endeavor. On the other hand, attorneys for the plaintiffs pointed out that the broad injunction was necessary: the plaintiffs were using pseudonyms to preserve their anonymity.

Without a broad preliminary injunction, doctors would be unlikely to continue offering care, thus making it impossible for the plaintiffs to access that care even with a ruling in their favor, and in doing so, they would have to forfeit their anonymity.

The majority of the court sided with reversing the injunction and allowing the law to go into effect for everyone but the plaintiffs, with a plurality signing onto Justice Gorsuch’s opinion stating that the ability of judges to issue broad preliminary injunctions should be muted.

They had little to say about the constitutionality of the law itself, except for Justices Kavanaugh and Barrett, who wrote in their separate concurrence that they believe the state may a likelihood of success on the merits [Update: Law Dork’s Chris Geidner states that the “merits” here, as Kavanaugh described it in his opinion, are about the scope of the injunction, and so it may not necessarily signal Kavanaugh and Barrett’s votes on the challenges to the gender-affirming care bans].

Instead, the real impact of this case will likely be on justices issuing broad preliminary injunctions to block statewide laws in the early stages of a constitutional challenge; it should not immediately impact any anti-trans laws being decided on the merits.

Of course, this provides little consolation to transgender young people in Idaho, who will have to go without access to their medication in the state even though two courts have ruled that the law blocking them is likely unconstitutional. It also raises questions about other broad preliminary injunctions nationwide on transgender topics: we likely cannot expect each student to take their school to federal court every time they want to challenge an individual bathroom ban in their local high school, for instance.

These questions have a significant impact on transgender individuals but will not only affect transgender people. They will arise anytime a state passes a law that is broadly enjoined at the preliminary stage by lower courts. This issue has surfaced in many other cases, from ghost guns to the mifepristone case, where sometimes broad preliminary injunctions are viewed favorably by the same justices who just ruled negatively on them for transgender individuals.

The impact of the ruling will likely be initially muted for transgender people nationwide. While it will have a significant impact in Idaho, there are no cases currently pending on transgender healthcare where a broad federal preliminary injunction is in place, other than in Idaho.

The case in Arkansas, for instance, has moved well beyond the preliminary injunction stage and has been ruled unconstitutional on the merits. However, numerous other cases are still being litigated, and states are enjoined on a wide range of topics, many of which have been broadly enjoined while awaiting a final constitutional ruling on the law. It remains to be seen if any of these broad injunctions are similarly challenged.

It is also important to note that this will not impact any rulings made under state-level litigation. For instance, in Montana, a ban on gender-affirming care is enjoined from enforcement using the state constitution’s right to seek “safety, health, and happiness in all lawful ways,” as well as an explicit right to privacy.

Meanwhile, in Ohio, a state challenge is currently underway using a provision in the state constitution that bars the state from issuing penalties for obtaining or providing healthcare. These state challenges will be insulated from anything that happens at the Supreme Court level.

Still, the ruling will mean further hardship for transgender youth in Idaho, and could signal that the Supreme Court is willing to take drastic action when it comes to transgender healthcare, even if that action is not directly related to the merits of the healthcare bans themselves. The Supreme Court could address the issue on the merits at any time, and it seems increasingly likely that it will in the near future.

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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.

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

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U.S. Federal Courts

Appeals court strikes down West Virginia trans athlete ban

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The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday blocked West Virginia’s ban on transgender athletes, finding the law violates transgender students’ rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the constitution. The ban was challenged by Becky Pepper-Jackson (pictured) a 13-year-old transgender student athlete from West Virginia. (Billy Wolfe/ACLU photo)

By Lori Kersey | RICHMOND, Va. – The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has struck down West Virginia’s ban on transgender athletes, finding the law violates transgender students’ rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the constitution and Title IX, a federal civil rights law prohibiting discrimination based on sex in education programs.

The case, B.P.J. vs. the West Virginia Board of Education, was filed in May 2021 on behalf of Becky Pepper-Jackson, a 13-year-old transgender middle school student and track athlete who would be barred from participating if the ban is upheld. Pepper-Jackson is represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia and Lambda Legal.

In April 2021, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice signed into law a bill prohibiting transgender women and girls in the state from participating in sports that align with their gender identity. The U.S. Court of Appeals in February 2023 blocked the state from removing Pepper-Jackson from her school’s track and field team as legal advocates appealed a lower court’s ruling upholding the ban. 

In Tuesday’s ruling, Judge Toby Heytens wrote that offering Pepper-Jackson the “choice” between not participating in sports and participating only on boys teams is not a real choice.

“The defendants cannot expect that B.P.J. will countermand her social transition, her medical treatment, and all the work she has done with her schools, teachers, and coaches for nearly half her life by introducing herself to teammates, coaches, and even opponents as a boy,” the judge wrote. 

“By participating on boys teams, B.P.J. would be sharing the field with boys who are larger, stronger, and faster than her because of the elevated levels of circulating testosterone she lacks,” he wrote. “The Act thus exposes B.P.J. to the very harms Title IX is meant to prevent by effectively ‘exclud[ing]’ her from ‘participation in’ all non-coed sports entirely.”

In a statement Tuesday, Joshua Block, senior staff attorney for the ACLU’s LGBTQ & HIV Project, called the court’s ruling “a tremendous victory for our client, transgender West Virginians, and the freedom of all youth to play as who they are.”

“It also continues a string of federal courts ruling against bans on the participation of transgender athletes and in favor of their equal participation as the gender they know themselves to be,” Block wrote. “This case is fundamentally about the equality of transgender youth in our schools and our communities and we’re thankful the Fourth Circuit agreed.” 

“We hope today’s ruling sends a message of hope to the trans youth of West Virginia,” Aubrey Sparks, legal director of the ACLU of West Virginia, said in the statement. “And a message of warning to politicians who continue to dehumanize this vulnerable population.”

West Virginia is one of 21 states that have banned transgender student-athletes over the last three years, according to the ACLU. 

In a statement Tuesday, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey vowed to defend the ban and said he is “deeply disappointed” in the decision. 

“The Save Women’s Sports Act is ‘constitutionally permissible’ and the law complies with Title IX,” Morrisey said. “I will keep fighting to safeguard Title IX. We must keep working to protect women’s sports so that women’s safety is secured and girls have a truly fair playing field. We know the law is correct and will use every available tool to defend it.”

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Lori Kersey

Lori Kersey is a reporter with a decade of experience reporting in West Virginia. She covers state government for West Virginia Watch.

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The preceding article was previously published by the West Virginia Watch and is republished with permission.

Nonprofit, nonpartisan, independent journalism not hidden behind a paywall. Mountaineers are always free, and so is West Virginia Watch.

West Virginia Watch is part of States Newsroom, the nation’s largest state-focused nonprofit news organization.

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India

Indian political parties for the first time include LGBTQ rights 

The world’s largest democratic exercise will begin in India on April 19 as citizens begin to cast their votes in the country’s election

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Candidates from the Indian National Congress campaigning in Mumbai. The Indian National Congress is the world's largest democratic political organization. (Photo Credit: The Indian National Congress/Facebook)

NEW DELHI, India – The world’s largest democratic exercise will begin in India on April 19 as citizens begin to cast their votes in the country’s election.

This year’s election is different because national level political parties for the first time are promising to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples as part of their election platforms. 

The Indian National Congress, one of India’s oldest political parties, promised after wide consultation that it would introduce a bill that would recognize civil unions between couples who are part of the LGBTQ community. The party, which has governed India for the majority of the period since independence from the U.K. in 1947, has refrained from taking a stance on laws that include Section 377, which criminalized consensual same-sex sexual relations.

Then-Health Minister Gulam Nabi Azad in 2011 when the INC was in power said homosexuality is a disease. He made the controversial comment while speaking at an HIV/AIDS conference in New Delhi, the Indian capital.

“Unfortunately, this disease has come to our country too,” said Azad. “Where a man has sex with another man, which is completely unnatural and should not happen but does.”

When the Delhi High Court was hearing the Naz Foundation case, the Home Affairs Ministry opposed the striking down of Section 377 based on its belief that homosexuality cannot be morally condoned. The INC never struck down Section 377, which criminalized homosexuality, in parliament.

A 5-judge panel on the Supreme Court on Sept. 6, 2018, decriminalized consensual same-sex sexual relations.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) on April 4 unveiled its platform with a range of socialist commitments, including support for LGBTQ rights. Among these pledges is to amend the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act 2019 to address community concerns and ensure legal recognition and protection for same-sex couples akin to marriage. 

The platform also outlined plans to introduce a bill similar to the Special Marriage Act of 1954, which allows partners to be listed as dependents and facilitating like inheritance, alimony in the event of divorce and other issues. The party further pledged to enact a comprehensive anti-discriminatory bill that would include LGBTQ people, ensure quotas in educational institutions and implement horizontal reservations in employment. 

Addressing the issue of crimes against LGBTQ people, the platform promised to treat such offenses on par with crimes against heterosexuals. The platform also calls for tackling bullying, violence and harassment of gender non-conforming and LGBTQ people in educational settings, enforcing anti-hazing policies and combating hazing based on sexual orientation and gender identity. 

The platform further touched issues related to transition and informed consent.

The Special Marriage Act of 1954 is a law that provides for civil unions among Indians and Indian nationals who live abroad, regardless of the religion or faith followed by either party. This law enables people from two different religious backgrounds to enter into marriage. Parliament in 2019 passed the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act that extended rights to trans people.

Brinda Karat, a former member of the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Indian Parliament, and leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), spoke with the Washington Blade and said the current government has homophobic ideas that are not acceptable to the party.

The ruling government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi is striving to secure more than 400 parliament seats in the upcoming election, aiming for a substantial majority. 

Various polls conducted by Indian news organizations indicate a probable victory for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. In response to the BJP’s dominance, Congress and several national and regional parties have joined forces as the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance. 

This alliance comprises 26 opposition political parties. Despite its formation, however, there is no clear coalition strategy in place and only two parties have included LGBTQ-specific policies in their election platforms. 

The Blade reached out to Congress’ spokesperson for comment, but has not received a response. The BJP also did not respond to a request for comment.

The party has yet to release its election platform. 

Ankush Kumar is a reporter who has covered many stories for Washington and Los Angeles Blades from Iran, India and Singapore. He recently reported for the Daily Beast. He can be reached at [email protected]. He is on Twitter at @mohitkopinion. 

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Africa

Ruling that upheld Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act appealed

Country’s Constitutional Court refused to ‘nullify’ law

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Uganda’s Constitutional Court (Photo Credit: Amnesty International)

KAMPALA, Uganda — 22 LGBTQ+ activists in Uganda have appealed this month’s ruling that upheld the country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act.

The Constitutional Court on April 3 refused to “nullify the Anti-Homosexuality Act in its totality.”

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

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

Media reports indicate Sexual Minorities Uganda Executive Director Frank Mugisha and Jacqueline Kasha Nabagesara are among the activists who filed the appeal.

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Los Angeles

LA leaders call for unity & protection for trans community

LAPD has noted a 13 percent increase in overall hate crimes, with LGBTQ+ specific hate crimes up by 33 percent

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LAPD Deputy Chief Ruby Flores speaks to reporters during a April 15, 2024 press conference. (Photo by Simha Haddad)

LOS ANGELES – Addressing a concerning escalation of threats against LGBTQ+ organizations throughout the country, leaders from TransLatin@ Coalition, the Los Angeles Police Department, and other officials gathered in a press conference to denounce acts of intimidation and to call for unity and protective measures for the trans and queer community.

A bomb threat called in to the LAPD on March 28, aimed at the TransLatin@ Coalition specifying today April 15 as the target date, has prompted an immediate and ongoing response from local authorities to ensure the safety of those at the coalition’s facilities and others. The LAPD has since been closely monitoring the site. 

The suspect, identified as Henry Nolkemper, a white 61 year old male, was arrested by LAPD shortly afterward after being observed entering his residence on West 53rd Street. The police then searched his residence. Despite the absence of explosives, he was booked under serious charges including criminal threats with a hate crime enhancement.

Nolkemper, known to have a history of mental health issues, was on parole for previous threats to the community. His parole has since been revoked and he is currently held on a one million dollar bail.

The press conference today began with remarks from Robin Toma, Executive Director of LA vs Hate, who highlighted the organization’s role as the third largest source of hate crime reporting in Los Angeles, trailing only police sources.

He also stated that LA vs Hate has reported a troubling increase in trans-specific crimes, noting that such incidents are grossly underreported, a sentiment echoed by surveys within the trans community.

Robin Toma, Executive Director of LA vs Hate, Bamby Salcedo at the podium speaking, LAPD Assistant Chief Blake Chow, & Capri Maddox, Executive Director, City of LA Civil + Human Rights & Equity Dept. (Photo by Simha Haddad)

Bamby Salcedo, President and CEO of TLC, expressed her gratitude for the continued support from various partners and emphasized the daily challenges faced by transgender individuals. “Every day a trans woman steps out of her home, it is a revolutionary act. We are people who walk with targets on our backs,” Salcedo declared, setting a tone of resilience and defiance against the threats.

Special thanks were given to Supervisor Hilda Solis and Jury Candelario, a partner from APAIT and a Filipino immigrant, who marked 35 years in America by calling the trans-related stress “chronic” in his long tenure as a social worker. Esther Lim, representing Supervisor Solis, condemned the bomb threat as an act of “cowardice” and highlighted Solis’ support through a previous $55,000 contribution to TLC and a new motion to establish LA’s first LGBTQ+ commission.

Assistant Chief Blake Chow and Deputy Chief Ruby Flores of the LAPD provided updates on the legal actions following the threat. They noted a 13 percent increase in overall hate crimes, with LGBTQ+ specific hate crimes up by 33 percent. “Behind each hate crime, there is a victim, there are families,” Flores said, urging the community to report incidents and support anti-hate education initiatives.  “These crimes affect people in ways statistics can’t reflect.” 

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The press conference also featured voices from the community like Mariana Marroquin, Associate Director of Trans Wellness, who spoke passionately about the ingrained nature of hate experienced by trans individuals from a young age, and Cari Maddox, who emphatically stated, “Hate has no home in Los Angeles.”

Mark Bayard, representing Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon, affirmed the DA’s commitment to fighting hate crimes vigorously, especially in light of the upcoming election season, which often sees a spike in such incidents.

As the community grapples with this latest threat, the message from today’s conference was clear: solidarity, education, and legal protection are key to combating hate and fostering a society where transgender people can integrate fully and safely.

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U.S. Federal Courts

U.S. Supreme Court allows Idaho to enforce gender care ban

SCOTUS sides with state to allow enforcement of gender-affirming care ban for youth. Poe v. Labrador lawsuit remains ongoing.

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File photo, U.S. Supreme Court (Michael Key/Washington Blade)

By Mia Maldonado | WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court has allowed Idaho to enforce House Bill 71, a law banning Idaho youth from receiving gender-affirming care medications and surgeries.

In an opinion issued Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court granted the state of Idaho’s request to stay the preliminary injunction, which blocked the law from taking effect. This means the preliminary injunction now only applies to the plaintiffs involved in Poe v. Labrador — a lawsuit brought on by the families of two transgender teens in Idaho who seek gender-affirming care. 

Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision enforces the gender-affirming care ban for all other transgender youth in Idaho as the lawsuit remains ongoing in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Idaho Attorney General Raúl Labrador
 In this file photo, Idaho Attorney General Raúl Labrador gives a speech at the Idaho GOP election night watch party at the Grove Hotel in Boise, Idaho, on Nov. 8, 2022. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Idaho, both of whom represent the plaintiffs, said in a press release Monday that the ruling “does not touch upon the constitutionality” of House Bill 71. The groups called Monday’s ruling an “awful result” for transgender Idaho youth and their families.

“Today’s ruling allows the state to shut down the care that thousands of families rely on while sowing further confusion and disruption,” the organizations said in the press release. “Nonetheless, today’s result only leaves us all the more determined to defeat this law in the courts entirely, making Idaho a safer state to raise every family.”

Idaho Attorney General Raúl Labrador in a press release said the state has a duty to protect and support all children, and that he is proud of the state’s legal stance. 

“Those suffering from gender dysphoria deserve love, support and medical care rooted in biological reality,” Labrador said. “Denying the basic truth that boys and girls are biologically different hurts our kids. No one has the right to harm children, and I’m grateful that we, as the state, have the power — and duty — to protect them.”

Recap of Idaho’s House Bill 71, and what led to SCOTUS opinion

Monday’s Supreme Court decision traces back to when House Bill 71 was signed into law in April 2023.

The law makes it a felony punishable for up to 10 years for doctors to provide surgeries, puberty-blockers and hormones to transgender people under the age of 18. However, gender-affirming surgeries are not and were not performed among Idaho adults or youth before the bill was signed into law, the Idaho Capital Sun previously reported

One month after it was signed into law, the families of two transgender teens sued the state in a lawsuit alleging the bill violates the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection under the law.

In late December, just days before the law was set to take effect in the New Year, District of Idaho Judge B. Lynn Winmill blocked the law from taking effect under a preliminary injunction. In his decision, he said he found the families likely to succeed in their challenge.

The state of Idaho responded by appealing the district court’s preliminary injunction decision to the Ninth Circuit, to which the Ninth Circuit denied. The state of Idaho argued the court should at least enforce the ban for everyone except for the plaintiffs. 

After the Ninth Circuit’s denial, the Idaho Attorney General’s Office in February sent an emergency motion to the U.S. Supreme Court, the Idaho Press reported. Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision agrees with the state’s request to enforce its ban on transgender health care for minors, except for the two plaintiffs.

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Mia Maldonado

Mia Maldonado joined the Idaho Capital Sun after working as a breaking news reporter at the Idaho Statesman covering stories related to crime, education, growth and politics. She previously interned at the Idaho Capital Sun through the Voces Internship of Idaho, an equity-driven program for young Latinos to work in Idaho news. Born and raised in Coeur d’Alene, Mia moved to the Treasure Valley for college where she graduated from the College of Idaho with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and international political economy.

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The preceding piece was previously published by the Idaho Capital Sun and is republished with permission.

The Idaho Capital Sun is the Gem State’s newest nonprofit news organization delivering accountability journalism on state politics, health care, tax policy, the environment and more.

We’re part of States Newsroom, the nation’s largest state-focused nonprofit news organization.

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Riverside County

Riverside County school district kills trans outing policy

MVUSD’s forced outing policy is identical to the Chino Unified School District policy which a judge described as “discriminatory on its face”

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Murrieta Valley Unified School District support services & administration building. (Photo Credit: Murrieta Valley Unified School District)

MURRIETA, Calif. – The Murrieta Valley Unified School District Board (MVUSD), abandoned its controversial policy that would have forced school faculty and staff to “out” trans and non-binary students to parents.

In an emailed sent out Friday to parents, faculty, and staff members, school district administrators noted that the policy was reversed.

The California Department of Education found that it violated the state’s education codes and warned MVUSD that the policy “provided no educational or administrative purpose that could justify the discrimination of LGBT+ students.” The Department of Education stated the policy “singles out and is directed exclusively toward one group of students based on that group’s legally protected characteristics of identifying with or expressing a gender other than that identified at birth.”

In its email, MVUSD noted that the policy “is inconsistent with Education Code Section 220 and for this reason the mandatory notification requirements set forth in BP 5020.1 will not be implemented.”

Last month the MVUSD school board voted 3-2 to keep the forced outing policy on the books even though, according to a Press-Enterprise report, MVUSD Board President Paul Diffley was warned by the district’s law firm, Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo (AALRR), that “‘going ahead (with the policy) in such an environment’ could cost the district $500,000 in legal expenses.”

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After the board vote, two district educators, Jamie Goebel and Karen Poznanski, filed a complaint with the California Department of Education about the policy due to its “discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression.”

“This policy not only violated the privacy and dignity of our students but also perpetuated harm and discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals and their families,” Poznanski told the Press Enterprise once the California Department of Education sided with the teachers last week.

MVUSD’s forced outing policy is identical to the policy passed by Chino Unified School District (CVUSD) that California Superior Court Judge Michael Sachs described as “discriminatory on its face” and placed under a preliminary injunction in October 2023. 

The lawsuit, The People of the State of California, Ex Rel. et al -v- Chino Valley Unified School District (San Bernardino County Superior Court Case No. CIVSB2317301), was introduced by California Attorney General Rob Bonta on August 28, 2023, and was placed under a temporary restraining order on September 6, 2023 prior to the October ruling.

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Oklahoma

HRC paid ad highlights Owasso LGBTQ students like Nex Benedict

Marley H. describes her experience that included bullying, harassment, anti-gay slurs–and teachers, administrators who refused to step in

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Marley H. describes an Owasso High School experience that included bullying, harassment, anti-gay slurs–and teachers and administrators who refused to step in. (Screenshot/YouTube HRC)

OWASSO, Okla. – Marley H., an Owasso High School grad and Oklahoman speaks to the culture of harassment and bullying she witnessed firsthand during her time in the Owasso school district, how it impacted her and her fellow students, and what she sees as the way forward for the district and state.

In this new video, which HRC will be promoting with a paid investment on social platforms, Marley speaks from her heart about what she and her fellow students experienced at Owasso High School, including bullying, the use of anti-LGBTQ+ slurs, harassment, and – worse still – teachers and administrators who refused to step in and disrupt this cycle of hate.

“It hurts to know that not only do your teachers personally not support you, if a student bullies you or harasses you or calls you names, they aren’t going to do anything about it,” said Marley H., who graduated from Owasso High School in 2022. “It promotes a culture where you feel like you shouldn’t report issues.”

The video’s release comes as the LGBTQ+ community marks two months since the death of Nex Benedict, a 16 year old Owasso student who died after being assaulted in their school bathroom and bullied and harassed for over a year.

In March, HRC launched “Walters Watch,” part of a high-impact accountability campaign to hold Ryan Walters, Oklahoma’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, accountable for his extremist rhetoric and mis-management of Oklahoma schools, contributing to the culture of bullying and harassment.

The HRC notes that “whether he is appointing far-right figures like “LibsOfTikTok” creator Chaya Raichik to state boards or demonizing teachers’ unions, Walters seems dead-set on using his role as Superintendent as a political stepping-stone rather than taking seriously his responsibility to Oklahoma students.”

Last month, the U.S. Department of Education informed HRC president Kelley Robinson that the department will open an investigation in response to HRC’s letter regarding Owasso Public Schools and its failure to respond appropriately to sex-based harassment that may have contributed to the tragic death of Nex Benedict.

This investigation was triggered by a formal complaint made by Robinson, who wrote to U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and asked his department to use the enforcement mechanisms at its disposal to prevent similar tragedies from taking place in the future and to help hold accountable those responsible for Nex’s tragic death.

“We’ve heard many students at Owasso and elsewhere in Oklahoma speak truth to power and stand up against the culture of bullying and harassment fostered by people like Ryan Walters,” said Kelley Robinson, president of the Human Rights Campaign. “Marley’s story breaks our hearts as much as it angers us. There is a way forward, however. Each time someone speaks out about what they have seen, experienced, or heard, the truth becomes harder and harder to deny. The first step on the journey to healing is for Ryan Walters to go.”

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The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) people. HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ+ people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.

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