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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.

Congress

U.S. Senate vote sets up passage of same-sex marriage act

Coordinated campaign by anti-LGBTQ groups fails to weaken support among GOP Senators as the bill sees clear path to near-certain passage

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U.S. Capitol Building (Photo Credit: Rev. Brandan Robertson)

WASHINGTON – Passage of the Respect for Marriage Act became all but certain with the U.S. Senate’s procedural 61-35 vote on Monday night to forego additional debate in the chamber over the landmark legislation.

From here, the bill will return to the U.S. House of Representatives, which will consider — and is expected to approve — an amendment that was added by a bipartisan group of Senators led by Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.). Then, it will reach President Joe Biden’s desk.

The president has repeatedly urged lawmakers to pass the bill so he can sign it into law. His administration, along with Congressional Democratic leadership, has made the Respect for Marriage Act a top legislative priority in the weeks before the new Congress is seated in January.

Today’s move by the Senate came on the heels of a coordinated campaign by conservative and anti-LGBTQ advocacy groups that wield considerable influence on Capitol Hill and marshaled their efforts to peel off support from Republican senators in the days leading up to Monday’s vote.

Republican Sens. Todd Young (Ind.) and Cynthia Lummis (Wyo.), who were among the 12 Senate Republicans who supported advancing the legislation in a procedural vote taken before Thanksgiving, cast the final two votes on Monday allowing the measure to clear the 60-vote majority threshold to pass. Axios reports the two lawmakers faced particular pressure from conservative activists who sought to erode their support for the legislation.

The Respect for Marriage Act will repeal the Clinton-era Defense of Marriage Act, adding legal protections for same-sex couples, many of whom would otherwise face devastating consequences if the U.S. Supreme Court reverses or substantially weakens the constitutional right to marriage equality.

Notwithstanding criticism from some progressives who feel the bill is too conservative in scope, the Respect for Marriage Act — along with the bipartisan amendment that was introduced in the Senate to enshrine protections for religious liberty — is supported by major LGBTQ organizations including the Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD, Lambda Legal, the National Center for Transgender Equality, GLSEN and PFLAG National, among others.

The bill’s aim, narrowly tailored, was to gird against the possibility that the high court would revisit its precedential decisions in United States v. Windsor (2013) and Obergefell v. Hodges (2015).

Justice Clarence Thomas signaled his intention to do so with his concurring opinion earlier this year in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization — a case that revoked Americans’ constitutional right to abortion, overturning the Court’s historic rulings in Roe v. Wade (1973) and Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992).

Over the summer, the House passed the Respect for Marriage Act with an overwhelming majority, including votes from 47 Republican members. Dozens of religious denominations and groups that represent a broad spectrum of beliefs have endorsed the legislation, including the Mormon church, which took pains to reaffirm its position that same-sex relationships are sinful. Scholars representing a similarly diverse range of opinions on germane legal questions have also publicly backed the bill.

Still, the opposition remained steadfast.

“Religious Americans will be subject to potentially ruinous litigation, while the tax-exempt status of certain charitable organizations, educational institutions, and non-profits will be threatened,” said Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) in a statement opposing the legislation as written and proposing an additional amendment to the bill.

Organizations like the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, echoed Lee’s concerns about the Respect for Marriage Act vis-à-vis protections for religious liberty. Others, like the Liberty Counsel, designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-LGBTQ hate group, peddled outrageous arguments including the lie that the Respect for Marriage Act would normalize or facilitate child sexual exploitation and abuse.

Even in the aftermath of the deadly shooting on Nov. 19 at a Colorado Springs, Colo., LGBTQ nightclub, these attacks from conservative groups continued apace and even increased as the Senate’s vote on Monday drew nearer.

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West Hollywood

West Hollywood in brief- City government in action this week

Celebrate 38 years of Cityhood on West Hollywood Day, Tuesday, November 29, 2022, West Hollywood Marks World AIDS Day on December 1

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Photo Credit: City of West Hollywood/Jon Viscott

City of West Hollywood Marks World AIDS Day on December 1

WEST HOLLYWOOD – Each year, the City of West Hollywood recognizes World AIDS Day. World AIDS Day originated at the 1988 United Nations World Summit of Ministers of Health on Programmes for AIDS Prevention and is held each year on December 1. Every year, United Nations agencies, governments, nonprofit organizations, community groups, and others across the globe join together to campaign around specific themes related to AIDS. World AIDS Day is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV/AIDS, to show support for people living with HIV, and to commemorate people who have passed away due to HIV/AIDS. The international theme of this year’s #WorldAIDSDay is “Equalize” and the slogan is a call to action for communities to address inequalities that perpetuate the HIV/AIDS pandemic.   

“The City’s annual recognition of World AIDS Day is an opportunity for us to remember loved ones lost over the last four decades to AIDS, as well as to support those living with HIV,” said City of West Hollywood Mayor Lauren Meister. “Too many souls have left us much too soon due to HIV and AIDS. The City will continue to support access to medical and emotional care, prevention, and treatment, and to provide resources and support for those in need as our scientific community continues to work toward the day we can all celebrate the end of suffering and loss caused by AIDS.”

 This year, the City of West Hollywood will recognize World AIDS Day with special events and programming, including:

 The Paul Andrew Starke Warrior Awards presentation, which will take place Thursday, December 1, 2022 at 6:30 p.m. at the West Hollywood Park Aquatics and Recreation Center in the San Vicente and La Cienega Conference Rooms, located at 8750 El Tovar Place, adjacent to West Hollywood Park. The event will feature an update on the City of West Hollywood’s HIV Zero Initiative from Aaron Celious, Ph.D. of the Maroon Society. The Warrior Awards are given to outstanding employees or volunteers of local agencies that offer HIV/AIDS and/or substance abuse prevention and care services. This year’s honorees are: 

  • Dr. Jesika Babajanian – Being Alive; 
  • Andres Diaz – AIDS Healthcare Foundation; 
  • Ruben Garcia – APLA Health; 
  • Gerardo Mendez – C.I.T.Y. x1 Youth Group; 
  • Francis Ocon – Men’s Health Foundation; 
  • Claudia Pacheco – Los Angeles LGBT Center; 
  • Robb Peters – The Tweakers Project; 
  • Sunnie Rose – The Life Group LA; 
  • John Walter – Friends Community Center; and 
  • Warren Wimmer – Alliance for Housing and Healing. 

The 24-hour electronic memorial to those lost to HIV, AIDSWatch, will be viewable on www.AIDSWatch.org beginning at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday, December 1, 2022. The AIDSWatch memorial will also be available for viewing from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the West Hollywood Library Community Meeting Room, located at 647 N. San Vicente Boulevard.

In addition to City of West Hollywood programming, the City has co-sponsored two World AIDS Day events. The Foundation for The AIDS Monument (FAM) and the Minority AIDS Project will be co-hosting FAM’s second annual STORIES Circle storytelling event LOVE, LIGHT & LEGACY, for World AIDS Day. The STORIES Circle event will take place from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the future site of STORIES: The AIDS Monument in West Hollywood Park, located at 647 N. San Vicente Boulevard, next to the West Hollywood Library. It is an opportunity for storytellers – survivors, activists, caregivers, community organizers, political leaders, and those who lost loved ones – to gather in circles and share their personal stories about HIV and AIDS.

The City of West Hollywood is also co-sponsoring amfAR’s screening of the film Yes I Am – The Ric Weiland Story at the Harmony Gold Theater, located at 7655 Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. The film tells the story of Ric Weiland, one of the original founders of Microsoft and a somewhat unknown queer philanthropist, who donated more than $200 million during his lifetime to many non-profit organizations and the LGBT community. Proceeds from the screening will be donated to amfAR in Ric Weiland’s name. amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, is dedicated to ending the global AIDS epidemic through innovative research. Tickets are available at https://ricweiland.betterworld.org/events/yes-i-am-ric-weiland-story-scree#tickets

The onset of the HIV/AIDS epidemic had a significant impact in West Hollywood. The disease’s elevated infection rate among gay men caused a devastatingly high number of deaths in the City. The City of West Hollywood was one of the first government entities to provide social services grants to local HIV/AIDS organizations. The City of West Hollywood sponsored one of the first AIDS awareness campaigns in the country in October 1985 and the City’s response to the AIDS crisis has been recognized as a model for other cities, nationally and globally.

The City of West Hollywood actively participates in the development of programs that can bring awareness about the HIV/AIDS epidemic and services to people living with HIV/AIDS. In January 2015, the City announced its vision to become an ‘HIV Zero’ city. The City is currently implementing its HIV Zero Strategic Initiative.

For more information, please contact the City of West Hollywood’s Social Services Division, at [email protected] or at (323) 848-6510.

For people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, please call TTY (323) 848-6496.

City Celebrates the Holidays with 32nd Annual Toy and Food Drive

The City of West Hollywood and the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station are partnering to help give back to those in need this holiday season. The 32nd Annual West Hollywood Toy and Food Drive will be accepting monetary donations until Friday, December 16, 2022 with the goal of providing as many families as possible with toys and holiday gift cards. Donations may be made online at www.weho.org/holidaydrive. New users must create an account and click on the Donations tab to contribute; existing users may simply login to start the donation process.

“Our generous West Hollywood community has helped provide nearly 10,000 local families who would have gone without with a holiday meal and toys over the last three decades,” said City of West Hollywood Mayor Lauren Meister. “I send a huge thank you to the amazing people of the City of West Hollywood for helping to brighten the holidays for families in need through your contributions. I wish you all a happy and safe holiday season.” 

The cost to help one family is $95; up to 10 families can be helped with $950. New unwrapped toys are also needed and gift cards to retailers such as Pavilions, Ralphs, Trader Joe’s, or Target will help families through the holiday season. Toy collection bins are now available at West Hollywood City Hall, located at 8300 Santa Monica Boulevard, and at the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station, located at 780 N. San Vicente Boulevard. The following hotels will also have collection bins: Andaz West Hollywood, Chamberlain West Hollywood, Chateau Marmont, Hotel 850 SVB, Le Parc at Melrose, The London West Hollywood, Montrose at Beverly Hills, Ramada Plaza West Hollywood, and Hotel Ziggy. There will also be a collection bin at the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce.

For more information, please contact City of West Hollywood  Recreation Leaders Cecilia Arvizu at [email protected] or (323) 848-6324 or Natalie Mignon at [email protected] or (323) 848-6321.

For people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, please call TTY (323) 848-6496.

Celebrate ‘West Hollywood Day’ with a Community Meet & Greet and State of the Community Mixer

The City of West Hollywood invites the community to celebrate 38 years of Cityhood on West Hollywood Day, Tuesday, November 29, 2022, at two events highlighting West Hollywood’s community spirit and civic pride.

West Hollywood Day will kick off bright-and-early with a community meet and greet from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. at the West Hollywood City Hall Community Plaza, located 8300 Santa Monica Boulevard. Members of the West Hollywood City Council along with City staff will gather in the plaza, which is located between the automated parking garage and the City Hall entrance on N. Sweetzer Avenue, to connect with community members over coffee and snacks. RSVP is not required; community members are encouraged to drop in.

In the evening, the City of West Hollywood will host its annual State of the Community event with a reception and mixer from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the City’s West Hollywood Park Aquatic and Recreation Center, located at 8750 El Tovar Place (next to West Hollywood Library). Join the City’s executive management team, staff, and officials to celebrate Cityhood and engage in a conversation about new initiatives, upcoming workplans, and major projects in West Hollywood. The festive event will include light appetizers, beverages, live entertainment, and a formal program. RSVPs are required at: Celebrate-WeHo.eventbrite.com. 

Nearly forty years ago, West Hollywood’s Cityhood was proposed by an unlikely coalition of LGBTQ activists, seniors, and renters — these groups came together to form a City like no other with progressive policies and strong tenants’ rights protections. Through tireless determination, the City of West Hollywood was officially incorporated as an independent municipality on November 29, 1984. Previously, West Hollywood had been an unincorporated area of Los Angeles County.

The City of West Hollywood continually sets new standards for other municipalities, not only as a leader in many critical social movements — including: HIV and AIDS advocacy; affordable and inclusionary housing; LGBTQ rights, civil rights, and human rights; women’s rights; protection of our environment; and animal rights — but also in: fiscal responsibility; city planning; infrastructure; social services programs; wellness and recreation programs; senior services and aging-in-place programs; public and community arts; and community engagement.

For more information, please contact Paolo Kespradit, City of West Hollywood Management Analyst, at (323) 848-6556 or at [email protected]

For people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, please call TTY (323) 848-6496.

Initial Neighborhood Conversations to Discuss  Laurel House and Park Artist Residency Program

The City of West Hollywood invites community members to attend initial Neighborhood Conversations about an Artist Residency Program at Laurel House and Park.

On Friday, December 2, 2022 from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the Plummer Park Community Center located at 7377 Santa Monica Boulevard, a consultant team will lead a robust discussion about the site, the creative community in West Hollywood, and how an Artist Residency Program might contribute to the community.

On Saturday, December 3, 2022 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Laurel House and Park located at 1343 N. Laurel Avenue, the community is invited to drop-in to share thoughts with the consultant team and City staff.

The Neighborhood Conversations will be led by consultant team Kimberli Meyer and Sara Daleiden. Meyer and Daleiden will guide the development of the Artist Residency Program for Laurel House and Park. Meyer is an independent cultural producer, curator, writer, and designer working across the fields of art and architecture. She served as the Director the MAK Center for Art and Architecture at the Schindler House, located at 835 N. Kings Road, from 2002 through 2016. Daleiden is a consultant who specializes in facilitating civic engagement using arts and cultural exchange strategies. She encourages local cultures to value neighborhoods, public space, civic art, and business development, as well as artist residencies, creative placemaking and media culture-making. 

The City-owned real property at 1343 N. Laurel Avenue known as Laurel House and Park consists of a 30,000-square-foot lot, a 7,177-square-foot former single-family dwelling, and an unattached accessory structure that is approximately 2,379 square feet and consists of a chauffer’s cottage and garages. The original portions of the structures were built in 1917. The conversion of the original single-family residence into four apartment units and the southerly four-car garage addition were completed in 1941. The property was designated as a Local Cultural Resource by the City of West Hollywood in 1994. 

In 2010, the West Hollywood City Council directed staff to develop a plan to open the grounds at 1343 N. Laurel Avenue as open space on a temporary/interim basis for public use. From 2013-2014, the City conducted an extensive community visioning process for the Laurel property. The community expressed support for several potential uses during the visioning process and prioritized several factors, including:

  • Access to more community gathering spaces.
  • Activation as an Arts and Cultural Center.
  • Maintenance and/or enhancements of the property’s use for peacefulness and beauty.
  • Preservation of the house and gardens, but activation through new features and programming.
  • Continued use for dog walking.

In 2018, the West Hollywood City Council received a report forwarded by the Arts and Cultural Affairs Commission focusing on Artist-in-Residence programs, including consideration of the use of 1343 N. Laurel Avenue as a potential Artist-in-Residence site. This recommendation was forwarded to the Council Subcommittee for further review and consideration. In October 2022, in a feasibility study update, the City Council confirmed that the site should be used for arts and culture programs and it directed staff to issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a qualified architectural design firm to continue the programming and design process.

For additional information, please contact Rebecca Ehemann, City of West Hollywood Arts Manager, at (323) 848-6846 or at [email protected].

For people who are Deaf or hard of hearing please call TTY (323) 848-6496.

Human Rights Speakers Series Presents a Q&A and Discussion, Roots of Peace, in Partnership with Roots/Shorashim/Judur

The City of West Hollywood’s Human Rights Speakers Series, in conjunction with Roots/Shorashim/Judur, will host a free discussion featuring special guest speakers Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger and Noor Awad.

The Roots of Peace event will take place on Wednesday, December 7, 2022 at 6 p.m. at the City of West Hollywood’s Council Chambers/Public Meeting Room, located at 625 N. San Vicente Boulevard, next to the West Hollywood Library. The program will include a Q&A period with the attendees. The event is free, but seating is limited. RSVP is requested at bit.ly/HRSSDec2022. Validation for the adjacent five-story parking structure will be available at the event (parking is limited to availability).

Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger is an Orthodox rabbi and teacher who has been profoundly transformed by his encounters with Palestinians and the Palestinian people beginning in late 2013. In early 2014, Rabbi Hanan helped found Roots/Judur/Shorashim together with other Israelis and Palestinians. Noor Awad met Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger in 2016 and joined Roots/Shorashim/Judur. He currently organizes joint Palestinian-Israeli activities and speaks to visiting groups about his personal experiences living through the conflict as a Palestinian who has seen much tragedy, and in such conditions is motivated to work toward a political solution.

Roots/Shorashim/Judur is a Palestinian-Israeli Initiative for understanding, non-violence, and transformation. Roots/Shorashim/Judur has created and operates the only joint Israeli-Palestinian community center in the entire West Bank/Judea & Samaria. This center hosts social, religious, and educational activities for Palestinians and Israelis to come together to build trust and find mutual understanding. Based on mutual recognition of each People’s national identity and connection to the Land, Roots/Shorashim/Judur is challenging the assumptions their communities hold about each other, building trust and creating a new discourse around the conflict in their respective societies.

The City of West Hollywood’s Human Rights Speakers Series brings together diverse communities to learn about and discuss global, national, and local human rights issues in a supportive environment. The series reflects the City’s commitment to human rights and core value of Respect and Support for People.
For additional information about the Human Rights Speakers Series, please visit www.weho.org/hrss.

For more information, please contact Andi Lovano, the City of West Hollywood’s Community & Legislative Affairs Division Manager, at (323) 848-6333 or at [email protected].

For people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, please call TTY (323) 848-6496.

City of West Hollywood Announces Launch of a New and Easy-to-Remember Toll-Free Phone Number for Block by Block Security Ambassadors Program: (833) WEHO-BBB  (833-934-6222)

The City of West Hollywood announces the launch of a new and easy-to-remember toll-free phone number for its Block by Block Security Ambassadors Program: (833) WEHO-BBB or (833) 934-6222.

The hotline manages incoming calls 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week. While the phone number is voice-only at launch, a text function will be implemented in the future and will be announced.

The hotline is part of the expansion of the City’s Block by Block Security Ambassadors program, which has a direct positive impact on safety and neighborhood livability. 

In recent weeks, the City implemented four Block by Block kiosk locations throughout West Hollywood, which are staffed by Security Ambassadors. The Block by Block program has added personnel, as well; there are now approximately 85 Security Ambassadors in the City of West Hollywood. The addition of the new toll-free hotline will assist community members and visitors alike with a convenient way to get support regarding non-emergency and non-violent safety concerns by providing a direct point of contact to Security Ambassadors. 

The City’s Block by Block Security Ambassadors program is focused on safety, but also offers hospitality with an accessible presence where people shop, socialize, and enjoy recreation. Security Ambassadors at kiosks assist community members and visitors and, in emergencies, work in partnership with law enforcement personnel from the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station.

Security Ambassadors work regularly to:

  • Maintain uniformed foot and bicycle patrols throughout all City neighborhoods, including a new program expansion into residential neighborhoods;
  • Provide in-person responses 24/7 to non-emergency and non-violent calls for service; support is available by phone at (833) WEHO-BBB or (833) 934-6222. For community members who prefer to communicate by text, a text-or-voice option is provided at (323) 821-8604;
  • Conduct safety escorts for residents, businesses, and visitors; and
  • Offer helpful guidance to community members and visitors about City information, directions, parking, and more.

About | Block by Block Security Ambassador Program – The City of West Hollywood partners with Block by Block on its Security Ambassadors program, which has a direct positive impact on safety and neighborhood livability. First established as a City program in 2013, West Hollywood Block by Block Security Ambassadors provide a highly visible uniformed presence at the street level and leverage the effectiveness of local law enforcement by working in collaboration with personnel from the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station.

In addition to supplemental safety services, Block by Block Security Ambassadors get to know West Hollywood’s neighborhoods and assist in providing an extra level of hospitality to businesses, residents, and visitors and help to address and respond to quality-of-life concerns in the community.

Security Ambassadors receive trainings on topics such as active shooters, cultural diversity and sensitivity, administration of Narcan to treat narcotic overdose, mental health first aid, sexual harassment, emergency/disaster preparedness, and more. For additional information, please visit www.weho.org/bbb

About | Sheriff’s, Fire, Code, and Emergencies – The City of West Hollywood contracts with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for law enforcement and the Los Angeles County Fire Department for fire protection. The City’s Neighborhood & Business Safety Division oversees code enforcement.

For additional information, please visit www.weho.org/publicsafety. For anyone with public safety concerns, please reach out to the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station 24/7 at (310) 855-8850. In an emergency, always call 911. For concerns about the safety and well-being of community members experiencing homelessness, please call the City’s Homeless Concern Line at (323) 848-6590.

For more information, please contact City of West Hollywood Director of Community Safety Danny Rivas at (323) 848-6424 or [email protected].

For people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, please call TTY (323) 848-6496.

For up-to-date information about City of West Hollywood news and events, follow @wehocity on social media, sign-up for news updates at www.weho.org/email, and visit the City’s calendar of meetings and events at www.weho.org/calendar.

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U.S. State Department

Negotiations to release Griner stalled for now diplomat says

“We have made a serious proposal to free American prisoners. We did not see a serious response from the Russian side to our proposal”

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Elizabeth Rood, the U.S. chargée d’affaires in Moscow (Photo Credit: Embassy of the United States, Russia)

MOSCOW – In remarks published Monday, Elizabeth Rood, the U.S. chargée d’affaires in Moscow, told Russia’s state-owned RIA news agency that talks to free jailed Americans Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan were continuing through the “designated channel.”

During the long ranging interview covering a variety of subjects, Rood was asked if she intended to visit the imprisoned WNBA star who is serving time in a Mordovian prison.

“Of course, we are going to do this as soon as the Russian authorities give us permission to visit Brittney Griner in the new colony where she was recently transferred,” the American diplomat responded and in answer to a follow-up question regarding Griner’s status Rood answered; “As far as we understood from talking to her, she is healthy and doing as well as can be expected in her difficult circumstances.”

RIA then focused on the negotiations asking for some of the details including the possibility of convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout being included in the “exchange list” in the potential prisoner swap deal between the Russian and American authorities.

“I can say that the United States continues to discuss with the Russian authorities through special channels the issue of the release of Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan.  As we have already said, the United States has submitted a serious proposal for consideration. We finalized this proposal and offered alternatives. Unfortunately, the Russian Federation has so far received no serious response to these proposals, ” the U.S. chargée d’affaires answered.

“However, I would like to emphasize that the main concern and the first priority of the US Embassy is to ensure the well-being of the American citizens who are here. And the situation is not limited to the names of those who are mentioned in the media headlines – a number of American citizens are kept in Russian prisons. We are extremely concerned about the condition of each of them, and we continue to follow their affairs very closely and support them in every possible way,” she added.

RIA then asked: “What did you mean by “serious response” from Russia? Moscow has repeatedly stressed that the negotiations are being conducted through professional channels… What does the American side mean by “serious response”?

Rood answered telling RIA; “I mean, we have made a serious proposal that reflects our intention to take action to free American prisoners. We did not see a serious response from the Russian side to our proposal.

By “serious answer” do you mean consent? RIA asked in a follow-up question.

“I mean an answer that would help us come to an agreement,” she answered.

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Africa

Kenyan LGBTQ+ rights groups honor Transgender refugees, asylum seekers

Event coincided with the Transgender Day of Remembrance

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The Refugee Trans Initiative and Entrepreneur Empowerment and Advocacy Health used the Transgender Day of Remembrance to honor Transgender refugees and asylum seekers in Kenya. (Photo courtesy of Entrepreneur Empowerment and Advocacy Health)

NAIROBI, Kenya — Two LGBTQ+ rights groups in Kenya this month used the Transgender Awareness Week and the Transgender Day of Remembrance to honor transgender refugees and asylum seekers in the country. 

The Refugee Trans Initiative and Entrepreneur Empowerment and Advocacy Health on Nov. 20 hosted an event in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital. It did not take place in the Kakuma refugee camp; but former residents who now live in Nairobi, Kisumu and Mombasa attended. 

“The event was to celebrate Trans Awareness Week for Trans refugees and asylum seekers and we invited other individuals who are part of the 2SLGBTQIA+ refugee community,” Entrepreneur Empowerment and Advocacy Health Director Vanilla Hussein. “We had time to reflect on the memory of our friends we have lost and most recently Francis, who was murdered in Uganda.”

Hussein said the conditions in Kakuma made it unsafe for the group to hold an event in the refugee camp.

Two gay men in March 2021 suffered second-degree burns during an attack on Block 13 in Kakuma, which the U.N. Refugee Agency created specifically for LGBTQ+ and intersex refugees. One of them died a few weeks later at a Nairobi hospital. 

A report the Organization for Refuge, Asylum and Migration and Rainbow Railroad released in May 2021 indicates nearly all of the LGBTQ+ and intersex people who live in Kakuma have experienced discrimination and violence because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. UNHCR in a statement after the March 15, 2021, attack noted Kenya “remains the only country in the region to provide asylum to those fleeing persecution based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression,” even though consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized.

“Trans refugees continue to live in appalling conditions due to poor welfare, lack of access to jobs, affordable healthcare and opportunities in Kenya,” said Hussein. “Currently, some trans refugees and gender non-conforming refugees lack proper documentation.”

Hussein further noted NGOs “are not funded by the donors adequately because of bureaucratic hurdles and requirements to access funding such as bank statements, which have made it hard to get access to funds that can provide food, shelter, and relief emergency assistance.”

“To sum up, Kenya remains a threat to the 2SLGBTQIA+ community due to transphobia and homophobia,” said Hussein.

Alvin Mwangi, a reproductive rights activist, stressed Trans people simply want basic human rights.

“Basic human rights are not special rights, the right to get and keep a job based on merit is not a special right, the right to be served food in a restaurant is not a special right, the right to have a roof over one’s head is not a special right, the right to walk down a street and not be attacked because of who you are and whom you love is not a special right,” said Mwangi. 

“The government of Kenya should ensure its laws and systems protect Transgender persons just like any other citizen of Kenya against all forms of violence and discrimination,” added Mwangi. “The government of Kenya should commit to end all forms of violence and discrimination against Transgender persons, by publicly condemning any major instances of homophobic and transphobic violence that occur in the counties and in the country in general.”

Mwangi also stressed Trans people are “beautiful” and “deserve love.”

“We all have the right to live with dignity and respect,” said Mwangi. “As we just marked and celebrated the Transgender Day of Remembrance, which memorializes victims of transphobic violence, and as we continue to celebrate Transgender Awareness month until the end of November, we remember those in the Transgender community who have lost their lives due to violence brought by hate and ignorance and we honor, celebrate and advocate for the respect of the rights of Transgender and gender diverse communities.”

“All Transgender persons have a right to equality and freedom from discrimination of all forms. All Transgender persons require equal protection against any form of violence,” added Mwangi. “The right to equality includes the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

Daniel Itai is the Washington Blade’s Africa Correspondent.

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Colorado

USN’s Club Q hero who helped tackle gunman issues statement

“I simply wanted to save the family I found- If I had my way, I would shield everyone I could from the nonsensical acts of hate in the world”

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U.S. Navy Information Systems Technician Petty Officer Second Class Thomas James (Photo Credit: U.S. Navy Public Affairs)

COLORADO SPRINGS – One of the three persons who charged and then disarmed the suspect in the LGBTQ+ nightclub shooting in Colorado Springs last weekend issued a statement Sunday.

“I simply wanted to save the family I found,” James said. “If I had my way, I would shield everyone I could from the nonsensical acts of hate in the world, but I am only one person.”

“To the youth, I say be brave. Your family is out there. You are loved and valued. So when you come out of the closet, come out swinging,” U.S. Navy Information Systems Technician Petty Officer Second Class Thomas James said through a Centura Penrose Hospital spokesman Sunday.

This the first public comments by James since he, U.S. Army veteran, Major Richard Fierro, and another Club Q patron, a trans woman, all joined in the courageous takedown, disarming the 22-year-old suspect and holding him until the arrival by responding Colorado Springs police.

James is recovering from unspecified injuries at Centura Penrose, where a number of the Club Q shooting victims were sent. The hospital spokesman releasing the statement added that James is now in stable condition.

In a statement released this past Tuesday, the U.S. Navy confirmed that James was in hospital but added that “is currently in stable condition and we remain hopeful he will make a full recovery.”

CBS Colorado reported Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers had called out and identified James as one of the heroes whom had charged and helped subdue the shooter. Details as to each person’s role in subduing the shooter are still under investigation.

Colorado Springs Police Chief Adrian Vasquez said that James was one of two people who helped to stop the suspected shooter who walked into Club Q late on Nov. 19 with multiple firearms and is accused of killing five people. At least 17 others were injured.

James reportedly pushed a rifle out of the suspect’s reach while Fierro repeatedly struck the shooter with a handgun they brought into the bar, officials have said.

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New York

New bills to prevent hate crimes in New York signed by Gov. Hochul

“New York belongs to the good, not those with hate in their hearts – we’re taking bold action to reclaim our city and state from the haters”

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New York Governor Kathy Hochul (D) (Screenshot/YouTube)

NEW YORK – On the same day that a 34-year-old man was arrested for allegedly throwing bricks at the window of a gay nightclub in Hell’s Kitchen, New York Governor Kathy Hochul (D) announced new measures to stop hate crimes in the Empire State.

Speaking to reporters last Tuesday at an emotional press conference, the governor called on New Yorkers to reclaim the state from “bigots who have butchered communities’ sense of security.”

“New York belongs to the good, not those with hate in their hearts – we’re taking bold action to reclaim our city and state from the haters, bigots and white supremacists,” Hochul said.

The governor’s actions comes after comes after the NYPD arrested two men for allegedly plotting to shoot synagogues and wreak havoc on the Jewish community, targeted attacks on the Asian community, and the recent mass-shooting at an LGBTQ nite club in Colorado Springs.

NYPD detectives arrested Sean Kuilan Tuesday afternoon and charged him with criminal possession of a weapon, criminal mischief and reckless endangerment for allegedly throwing bricks and a rock at the window of a gay nightclub in Hell’s Kitchen three times last week in what a NYPD spokesperson characterized as a potential hate crime.

Hochul, who led the state through the racist Buffalo massacre last spring, said that a horrifying mass shooting at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado and a sinister anti-Semitic plot foiled in New York over the weekend offered “painful reminders that there is a rising tide of hate in our country,” the New York Daily News reported.

“This is our defining moment, New Yorkers,” the governor declared.

“Every one of us has a role to play,” Hochul said. “From this day forward, ask yourself: Did I do something to help spread the love that should be part of who we are as New Yorkers?”

After delivering her remarks, Hochul then signed two bills, Senate/Assembly Bill (S.6570/A.1202) to “Require individuals convicted of hate crimes to undergo mandatory training in hate crime prevention and education.”

Legislation (S.6570/A.1202) amends the penal law to establish that in addition to other penalties, individuals convicted of hate crimes shall undergo mandatory training in hate crime prevention and education as part of their sentence. The programs, training sessions, or counseling sessions must be authorized by the court or local agencies in cooperation with organizations serving the affected community.

The second measure, (S.123A/A.5913A) establishes a statewide campaign, developed and run by the New York State Division of Human Rights to promote the acceptance, inclusion, tolerance, and understanding of the diversity of the people of New York.

Legislation (S.123A/A.5913A) amends the executive law to establish and implement a statewide campaign for the acceptance, inclusion, tolerance, and understanding of diversity. The campaign, which will be developed and implemented by the Division of Human Rights, will coordinate and cooperate with public and private organizations, including, but not limited to, local governments, community groups, school districts, places of worship, charitable organizations, and foundations and will develop educational materials to be published on the internet, social media, and other platforms to reach the public.

“Our hearts are broken after a weekend during which LGBTQ Americans were massacred and Jewish New Yorkers were targeted in horrific acts of hateful violence,” Hochul said. “New York belongs to the good, not those with hate in their hearts – we’re taking bold action to reclaim our city and state from the haters, bigots and white supremacists. Domestic-based violent extremism is the greatest threat to our homeland security, and that is why we continue to remain laser-focused on combatting hate and keeping New Yorkers safe.”

Governor Hochul Announces Actions to Prevent Hate Crimes and Protect New Yorkers:

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