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What’s next for LA Pride?

CSW’s new intergenerational leaders want to hear from you

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CSW Board President Estevan Montemayor with wedding cake on June 10. (Blade photo by Karen Ocamb)

The annual Los Angeles LGBT Pride celebration has threatened to go off the rails at several junctures during the past few years in a roller-coaster ride of internal conflict, public discord and political machinations. But Christopher Street West survived, enabling tens of thousands of people to come together for three days in June to proudly, authentically and safely celebrate LGBT uniqueness in the world. 

Perhaps one of CSW’s proudest moments came two years ago when organizers summoned the courage and determination to defiantly and joyously march anyway, despite the horrendous Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando the night before and knowing a man with a car full of guns had been arrested in Santa Monica on his way to West Hollywood for the parade just hours earlier.

The #ResistMarch last year was the colorful political LGBT reflection of the #WomensMarch. Organized by Brian Pendleton and friends when CSW seemed too crippled by ego to remember their larger responsibility, the march felt like a 21st century homage to Stonewall and Black Cat, only this time with Hollywood stars and some of America’s most powerful political allies marching, too.

What would CSW do for an encore?

Would they carry on behind closed doors, bound by curious Non-Disclosure Agreements to remain silent about internal operations? Or would they engage with the community as activist caretakers of both a legacy and a dream?

The 2018 LA Pride parade and festival will probably best be remembered for the surprise appearance by singer Christina Aguilera at a drag competition, the large transgender contingent leading off the parade before the Dykes on Bikes and the upset over the first-ever Saturday night festival ticket sellout.

CSW apologized for that surprise overcrowding and said it is issuing refunds by emailing [email protected].. The refund request will be processed by their ticket vendor, Seetickets.

“Historically, CSW has sold more tickets because what we have found is people will come to the festival for a few hours and they will leave. They don’t stay for the whole day,” new CSW Board President Estevan Montemayor told the Los Angeles Blade. “For the first time in CSW’s history, people got there right when the gates opened and they never left….I think that positivity and the thirst to be around like-minded people and to celebrate us, to be proud of us, was really necessary for a lot of people.”

But, he adds, “We need to do better and we are working already to ensure that next year none of this happens again. But I don’t want it to be missed that more people want to be at Pride and that’s a good thing.”

There were political notes, too, notably, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti and others encouraging prominent trans businesswoman and Grand Marshal Michaela Mendelsohn to cut a huge wedding cake with two grooms and two brides on top, a sugary middle finger to the recent Supreme Court decision favoring a Colorado baker who refused to bake a same-sex wedding cake.

The Gays Against Guns contingent signaled the significant shift in attitude towards the NRA after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida with signs like “NRA, Sashay Away.” And this year, longtime LGBT ally attorney Gloria Allred offered an amusing bit of ironic self-promotion for her Netflix documentary by having a bevy of look-a-likes (including many in drag) wearing all red outfits and carrying #MeToo signs.

Despite some missteps, there was a sense LA Pride was bouncing back under Montemayor’s smart and savvy new leadership. The 27-year old’s unanimous election by the CSW Board of Directors on May 10 followed their decision to hire Madonna Cacciatore as the organization’s first full-time executive director. She officially starts on July 1.

Montemayor, the Director of Communications and External Affairs for LA Councilmember David Ryu and a former West Hollywood public safety commissioner, told the LA Blade that he and Cacciatore will go on a “listening tour” to engage with the LGBT community on a grassroots level.

“There has been so much negativity lately in our world,” he said. “I think people are tired of fighting, people are tired of the constant negativity in the news cycle. I think people wanted to be uplifted and that’s what Christopher Street West was seeking to do—create those environments where everyone is welcomed and everyone is accepted….This year was back to the festive mood that I think a lot of people are accustomed to and were hungry for.”

Montemayor, who worked for the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER) in the federal fight to overturn Prop 8, noted the importance of kicking off the parade with the symbolic cake.

“CSW was birthed out of the commemoration of Stonewall,” he said. The “Pride parade is reflective of all of our community, all of our history, our future as well, all the young people that come. That’s an enormous task but it’s a task that we have to fulfill and it’s something that we’re excited about.”

The LGBT community has “won significant victories but there’s so much more to do. And CSW has had a role in that in the past and I think as a board and as a part of our mission statement, we want to continue to play an activist role moving forward,” he said. “We are a non-profit. That being said, we will continue to be activist and we will continue to create those opportunities….We believe that we should have our cake and our equal rights, too. We can have a good time, we can come together to celebrate but we also have to be clear about where we still need to go and that’s what CSW will continue to do.”

The next step is figuring out CSW’s vision. “We believe in Pride 365 days a year, not just one weekend in June. And what that means—we will continue to discuss that as a board. And we will also continue to discuss that with the community,” Montemayor said. “Madonna and I plan to go to various organizations, various community leaders—anyone who is willing to have a conversation with us—sit down with them and figure out what are the concerns that they have with Pride, with CSW, what can be improved, what do they love, and then how can we play a role together in partnership with others throughout the year.”

Additionally, CSW board meetings are open with a period for public comment. “Folks are welcome to come and if they’d like to speak and present something to the board, they can email me directly and it can be agendized,” he said.

Montemayor said board members still operate under non-disclosure agreements but CSW’s financial statements are on the website and available to the public.

“As Madonna and I begin to have conversations with the community—and we are calling this our listening tour because we really want to listen to the community—we are very open about other ways that we can best be transparent. And so if the community wants to offer additional ideas, we will be open to those and see if they’re feasible or not,” he said. “Then we can figure out how to best move forward.”

Montemayor got emotional talking about CSW co-founder Rev. Troy Perry, with whom he watched the parade. He recounted a long conversation before Pride weekend.

“I learned so much from him and I learned about his motivations and his desires, his hopes and his dreams for our community,”Montemayor said, adding that Perry reminded him of “the many people who have come before, all the members of our board who have fought for our right to celebrate and to be ourselves.”

Perry told him “the work [CSW does] is important—the visibility that we create for our community—because there are young people around the world that look to us and see that we are marching, that we’re in a parade, we’re in a festival, we’re waving our rainbow flags, being ourselves. The message that sends to those people is very powerful.”

CSW co-founder Rev. Troy Perry, his husband Phillip Ray DeBlieck with Estevan Montemayor and Madonna Cacciatore.

But what brought the LGBT community together 48 years ago to commemorate the Stonewall Riots does not motivate this generation. “For this generation, it’s different. It’s a different experience,” he said. “A lot of victories have been won but there are different challenges today than there were then. There’re a lot of questions about how people identify and we want to be a part of that education process.”

Montemayor thinks his strong partnership with Cacciatore can help create new ways to share. “It’s quite incredible that a young Latino gay man is serving as board president and a lesbian woman who has gone through several of the most important moments of our LGBT history is serving as our executive director,” Montemayor said. “I think together we will bridge the divide that has been created generationally. Our community is stronger together and that’s what’s most important.”

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NBC Universal cancels Golden Globe awards broadcast for 2022

NBC Universal announced the network would not broadcast the 2022 Golden Globes awards ceremony

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Screenshot NBC coverage of the Golden Globes from previous years on YouTube

BURBANK – In the wake of an in-depth investigation into the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), the organization responsible for the Golden Globes by the Los Angeles Times, which revealed a lack of racial diversity among its voting members and various other ethical concerns, NBC Universal announced Monday the network would not broadcast the 2022 Golden Globes ceremony.

This past February ahead of the HFPA’s 78th Annual Golden Globes ceremony, HFPA board chair Meher Tatna told Variety magazine that the organization that the organization of international journalists which covers the film, television, and entertainment industry has not had any Black members in at least 20 years.

Actor Sterling K. Brown,  a Golden Globe winner and two-time nominee, posted to Instagram; 

Criticism of the HFPA, which puts on the Globes and has been denounced for a lack of diversity and for ethical impropriates, reached such a pitch this week that actor and superstar celebrity Tom Cruise returned his three Globes to the press association’s headquarters, according to a person who was granted anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly about the decision, the Associated Press reported.

“We continue to believe that the HFPA is committed to meaningful reform. However, change of this magnitude takes time and work, and we feel strongly that the HFPA needs time to do it right,” a spokesperson for NBC said in a statement.

“As such, NBC will not air the 2022 Golden Globes,” the spokesperson added. “Assuming the organization executes on its plan, we are hopeful we will be in a position to air the show in January 2023.”

NBC’s decision comes as Vogue reported that the backlash to the HFPA came swiftly and decisively. Some of Hollywood’s biggest studios, including Netflix, Amazon, and WarnerMedia, announced they were severing ties with the organization until efforts were made to increase diversity and stamp out corruption, while a group of more than 100 of the industry’s biggest PR firms released a statement in March in which they pledged to boycott the ceremony for the foreseeable future. 

The HFPA did not immediately respond to inquiries by media outlets requesting comment about NBC’s decision.

In February, the organization said it was “fully committed to ensuring our membership is reflective of the communities around the world who love film, TV, and the artists inspiring and educating them.”

“We understand that we need to bring in Black members as well as members from other underrepresented backgrounds, and we will immediately work to implement an action plan to achieve these goals as soon as possible,” it said.

HFPA also announced a full timetable through this summer for implementing promised reform initiatives in response to NBC’s decision.

“Regardless of the next air date of the Golden Globes, implementing transformational changes as quickly — and as thoughtfully — as possible remains the top priority,” the HFPA board said in a statement. “We invite our partners in the industry to the table to work with us on the systemic reform that is long overdue, both in our organization as well as within the industry at large.”

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Coronavirus

LA County expected to hit herd immunity by mid summer

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Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles County could reach COVID-19 herd immunity among adults and the older teenagers by mid- to late July, public health officials announced Monday. Over the weekend LA Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that appointments are no longer needed for Angelenos to get COVID-19 vaccinations at any site run by the city.

Garcetti’s move is intended to give people who don’t have the time or technological resources to navigate online booking platforms a chance to get the shot.

The percentage of the population the County needs to vaccinate to achieve community immunity is unknown, however Public Health officials estimate it’s probably around 80%. Currently, 400,000 shots each week are getting into the arms of L.A. County residents, and there are over 2 million more first doses to go before 80% of all L.A. County residents 16 and older have received at least one shot.

At this rate, Public Health expects the County will reach this level of community immunity in mid- to late July and that assumes the County continues to at least have 400,000 people vaccinated each week. That would include both first doses that people need as well as their second doses.

This news came as Los Angeles Unified School District officials announced that attendance numbers at all grade levels in the District have been considerably lower than expected as extensive safety measures have failed to lure back the vast majority of families in the final weeks of school.

Only 7% of high school students, about 30% of elementary school children and 12% of middle school students have returned to campuses.

As of May 7, more than 8,492,810 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered to people across Los Angeles County. Of these, 5,146,142 were first doses and 3,346,668 were second doses.

On Monday the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) expanded the emergency use authorization for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for adolescents 12 to 15 years of age. The Pfizer vaccine is already authorized for people 16 years old and older.

Pfizer’s testing in adolescents “met our rigorous standards,” FDA vaccine chief Dr. Peter Marks said. “Having a vaccine authorized for a younger population is a critical step in continuing to lessen the immense public health burden caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

In a statement released Monday by the White House, President Joe Biden the FDA’s decision marked another important step in the nation’s march back to regular life.

“The light at the end of the tunnel is growing, and today it got a little brighter,” Biden said.

Los Angeles County will offer the Pfizer vaccine for 12 to 15-year-olds once the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) affirms the FDA recommendation, which can happen as early as Wednesday. All adolescents 12-17 will need to be accompanied by a parent or guardian to get vaccinated.

To find a vaccination site near you, to make an appointment at vaccination sites, and much more, visit: www.VaccinateLACounty.com (English) and www.VacunateLosAngeles.com (Spanish). If you don’t have internet access, can’t use a computer, or you’re over 65, you can call 1-833-540-0473 for help finding an appointment or scheduling a home-visit if you are homebound. Vaccinations are always free and open to eligible residents and workers regardless of immigration status.

In the meantime, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that unvaccinated people — including children — should continue taking precautions such as wearing masks indoors and keeping their distance from other unvaccinated people outside of their households.

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Health

HHS takes steps to reverse Anti-LGBTQ+ healthcare policy

The announcement came minutes before a scheduled hearing before the U.S. District Court for Equality California’s lawsuit challenging the Trump-Pence Administration’s “Rollback Rule”

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HHS the Hubert H. Humphrey Building (Photo: GSA)

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Monday morning that the Biden-Harris Administration will interpret and enforce Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Title IX’s prohibitions on discrimination based on sex to include discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The announcement came minutes before a scheduled hearing before the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts in BAGLY v. HHS, Equality California’s lawsuit challenging the Trump-Pence Administration’s “Rollback Rule.”

The Trump-era policy undermines the ACA’s nondiscrimination protections on the basis of sex — including pregnancy, gender identity and sex stereotyping — as well as protections for patients with limited-English proficiency and those living with chronic illnesses, including HIV. Because the issues in BAGLY v. HHS are broader than what the Administration announced today, the Court scheduled a hearing on the government’s motion to dismiss for June 3rd at 2:30 PM EST.

In reaction to the HHS announcement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a statement Monday:

“Today, the Biden Administration has taken essential and potentially life-saving action to affirm that all people in America have the right to quality, affordable health care – no matter who they are or whom they love.  During this time of pandemic and always, it is vital that the most vulnerable have access to care, including LGBTQ Americans, who have long suffered injustice and discrimination that has left them dangerously exposed to health risks.
 
“The Trump Administration’s decision to greenlight anti-LGBTQ discrimination in health care in the middle of a pandemic was an act of senseless and staggering cruelty, made in blatant defiance of our values and a Supreme Court ruling made just a month prior.  
 
“Congressional Democrats together with the Biden Administration are proud to uphold the equal right of every American to access the care that they need to pursue a life of dignity and health.  We must now build on this progress and enact the House-passed Equality Act to fully ban anti-LGBTQ discrimination in our nation.”

In addition to Equality California, co-plaintiffs in BAGLY v. HHS include Darren Lazor, The Boston Alliance of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Youth (BAGLY), Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, Campaign for Southern Equality, Equality California, Fenway Health, and Transgender Emergency Fund.

Lazor is a transgender man near Cleveland, Ohio, who experienced numerous counts of discrimination from healthcare providers on the basis of his gender identity from 2012 to 2017. He is a member of Equality California. Plaintiffs are represented by National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), the Transgender Law Center (TLC), the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF), the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation (CHLPI) of Harvard Law School and law firm Hogan Lovells.

The lawsuit asserts that the new rule violates the Administrative Procedures Act by being contrary to law, arbitrary and capricious and a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. Notably, it was published on June 19,  just days after the June 15, 2020 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County, which found that it is unlawful sex discrimination to fire employees based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The lawsuit also asserts that the new rule will embolden discrimination and harm LGBTQ+ patients and people seeking reproductive health care, further stigmatize abortion and other pregnancy-related care, harm patients with limited-English proficiency, especially immigrants, and harm people with chronic illnesses, including those living with HIV. The rule will also create confusion about the scope of protections against discrimination under federal law. 

Trans people, like plaintiff Darren Lazor, already face disproportionate discrimination in health care settings, including mistreatment by insurers and humiliation and harassment by doctors – problems that are exacerbated for trans people of color and trans people living in rural regions and the U.S. South. In seeking to deny trans people access to the healthcare they need, the Trump Administration had placed trans people, and especially Black trans women, in danger through deliberately harmful governmental action.

“We are thrilled by the news that the Biden-Harris Administration will take initial steps to reverse President Trump’s dangerous, discriminatory Rollback Rule, which undermined healthcare nondiscrimination protections critical to the LGBTQ+ community, and trans people in particular,” said Equality California Executive Director Rick Chavez Zbur.

“As the world recovers from a global pandemic, it’s more important than ever that every American have access to quality, affordable healthcare without fear of harassment and discrimination. We remain hopeful that under Secretary Becerra and Assistant Secretary Levine’s leadership, HHS will continue to take further steps to rescind the Trump-era regulation and address the harms that it has caused,” he added.

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