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UPDATE: Caesar Torres found dead

West Hollywood lowers the flag to half-staff in his honor

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Caeser Torres (Photo by Kevin Tran Nguyen)

Popular West Hollywood bar manager Caesar Torres has died suddenly, West Hollywood Mayor John Duran announced on his Facebook page Saturday afternoon.

The West Hollywood Sheriff’s Department reports that deputies were called to his apartment yesterday and found him dead but did not report further details.

“WEHOANS. I am very sad to announce the passing of Caesar Torres last night. A friend and companion to so many WEHOANS. Very upsetting and sad. Our hearts are broken. The community grieves,” Duran wrote.

By Sunday morning, recognizing the impact his death has had on local citizens, Duran ordered the Rainbow flags on Santa Monica Boulevard lowered to half-staff in his honor.

“WEHOANS: The Rainbow Flags in historic Boystown WEEP at half mast today. Because we lost Caesar Torres Friend to so many of us. The HERE Lounge. The Revolver. The nightlife in Weho. Companion. Laughter. Good times.

Don’t ever think that we are not all Interconnected in this time and space in West Hollywood. Some of us don’t have biological families. So we create family.

Caesar – you did that. And we are broken hearted at losing you and wondering why ?

RIP. We grieve for you deeply. We care for one another now. And the City weeps”

Torres’ own Facebook page has been filling up with messages.

Torres had a wide-range of friends from the bar scene to the recovery community, from politicos to community activists.

“Caesar was a very kind-hearted man who will be sorely missed. Sometimes behind the smile in the hurt of family rejection, loneliness, losing a job and trying to make the rent. RIP Ceasar,” AIDS Healthcare Foundation President Michael Weinstein told the Los Angeles Blade.

“I am always sad when a gay brother passes no matter under what situation it occurs. All I can hope for is that wherever he is now, is a happier place for him. So many of us leave so early,” West Hollywood Human Services Commissioner Jimmy Palmieri told the Los Angeles Blade.

Jose Daniel Bort, who worked with Caeser briefly while selling advertising says “he was the nicest human being in the whole wide world.”

John Carvalho, a friend, says “I am completely stunned to hear the news this morning of Caesar’s passing. He was a great collaborator in the entertainment business in West Hollywood. As many of you know some of my red carpet events, birthday celebrations, and film screenings were done at HERE Lounge and the Revolver Bar. This is shocking and I am truly saddened today. To be honest I am ‘beyond words.’ The community right now is dumbfounded by this terrible news. Caesar was loved by many and was a friend to all. He left us too soon.”

Torres’s Facebook page says he’s originally from Austin, Texas, he attended JF Kennedy High School in Granada Hills, studied at the School of Hard Knocks, University of Life, and lives in West Hollywood.

His last Facebook post was “#BringGayWeHoBackProject against a black backdrop. Eight hours earlier, he cryptically replaced a photo on his page with an emoji. To the casual eye, there appears to be no sign of anything untoward in his posts.

This is a developing story…..

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Political commentary & analysis

Anti-trans British pediatrician backpedals on her review on HRT

Dr. Cass’s latest statements are likely to cast more doubt on the study, which disregarded substantial evidence on trans care

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National Health Service Norfolk & Norwich University Hospital, a National Health Service hospital in England. (Photo Credit: Francis Tyers/NHS)

By Erin Reed | WASHINGTON – In the latest twist over the Cass Review, a controversial report released in England last week targeting transgender care, the review’s leader has seemingly walked back recommendations and findings that have already led to a crackdown on transgender care in the United Kingdom.

Dr. Hillary Cass, in an interview with LGBTQ+ organizations, reportedly stated that puberty blockers and hormone therapy should be made available at differing ages based on individual need, and that current policies in England often result in those medications being offered too late. This stands in stark contrast to the report itself, which presents much more restrictive findings and recommendations on trans youth care that have been used to ban treatments in the UK and cited by far-right organizations behind bans in the United States.

The Cass Review was commissioned and produced in England in the wake of political attacks on transgender people in the United Kingdom after clinic closures and skyrocketing wait times. The “independent” review was lead by Dr. Hillary Cass, who reportedly followed several anti-trans organizations on social media and who met with Governor DeSantis’ medical board and offered information in their efforts to ban care in Florida, leading to some to question that independence. Last week, the final review was published, leading to bans on puberty blockers in the country, citing the report as justification for doing so.

The report disregarded a substantial amount of evidence for transgender care as not “high quality” enough and then described the evidence surrounding transgender care as weak, despite other reviews, major medical organizations, and the largest psychological organization in the world finding the evidence compelling enough to support gender affirming care. This has led to a group of over 100 Irish academics decrying the review in a group letter. The report made a series of recommendations, such as Recommendation 8, which states that hormone therapy is available for 16-year-olds but should be administered with “extreme caution,” and encourages clinicians to delay the treatment until age 18 unless there are “clear rationales” for earlier intervention. It also called for significant restrictions on puberty blockers, limiting them to research studies only. These recommendations and Cass’s findings have been used to justify severe crackdowns on transgender care.

See recommendation 8 here:

Recommendation 8, Cass Review.

Now, in an interview first reported on twitter by TransSafetyNow, Dr. Hillary Cass appears to substantially walk back much of her review, interpretations of that review, and even attempts to brush off her meetings with political appointees in the DeSantis administration who met with her to obtain information they would later attempt to use to ban trans care there. In the interview with UK-based LGBTQ+ organization The Kite Trust, Dr. Hillary Cass is asked if she believes it is OK to prescribe puberty blockers. Her answer is significantly out of alignment with her report:

In the data the Cass Review examined, the most common age that trans young people were being initially prescribed puberty suppressing hormones was 15. Dr. Cass’s view is that this is too late to have the intended benefits of suppressing the effects of puberty and was caused by the previous NHS policy of requiring a trans young person to be on puberty suppressing hormones for a year before accessing gender affirming hormones. The Cass Review Report recommends that a different approach is needed, with puberty suppressing hormones and gender affirming hormones being available to young people at different ages and developmental stages alongside a wider range of gender affirming healthcare based on individual need.

Her answer aligns more closely with the current provision of transgender care in many countries, where individual needs and circumstances are prioritized for each patient. However, this is not the tone of the report, which has been used to advocate for significant restrictions and even outright bans. In the United States, the report has been cited by the Heritage Foundation (retweeted) and the Alliance Defending Freedom, organizations that have been actively involved in bans on trans care. In the United Kingdom, the report has even prompted an inquest into adult trans care, raising concerns about its potential impact on this care as well.

Some have accused her answers in the interview as being an attempt to deflect criticism. This is particularly evident in her response regarding a meeting with Dr. Patrick Hunter, a Catholic Medical Association doctor who was tapped by Governor Ron DeSantis in the United States to ban transgender care. Following the publication of the Florida reviews and standards of care, which bears a resemblance to the Cass Review, lawsuits revealed that the review was deceitfully conducted. Evidence, including a PowerPoint document, showed that the decision to ban trans care had been made before the review had even begun. Documents produced by the lawsuit also revealed that Dr. Cass had taken a meeting and exchanged emails with the Florida team.

Dr. Cass, in the latest interview, denies any wrongdoing, stating:

Patrick Hunter approached the Cass Review stating he was a paediatrician who had worked in this area. The Cass Review team were not aware of his wider connections and political affiliations at this time and so he met the criteria for clinicians who were offered an initial meeting. This initial contact was the same as any paediatrician who approached the study. The Cass Review team declined any further contact with Patrick Hunter after this meeting. Patrick Hunter and his political connections has had no influence on the content of the Cass Review Report.

Related

However, in a new email made exclusively available to “Erin In The Morning,” Dr. Cass’s denial of impropriety does not appear to tell the whole story. Although she claims that she was not aware of his political affiliations, we learn that the meeting was actually set up by Dr. Riittakerttu Kaltiala, a member of the Cass Advisory Board (declared in her conflicts of interest) whom Dr. Patrick Hunter says has worked with him many times in the past. In this email, we also learn that Dr. Cass followed up with information she wanted to share with the board.

Image
Email from Dr. Patrick Hunter about meeting with Dr. Cass.

Furthermore, Dr. Cass’s claim that this was the only meeting between members of the Cass Review team and medical board members appointed by Governor DeSantis to ban care is contradicted by a court deposition citing “regular meetings” with Dr. Kaltiala, the member of the Cass Review Advisory Board who arranged the meeting between Dr. Cass and Dr. Hunter.

https://glad-org-wpom.nyc3.cdn.digitaloceanspaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/doe-v-ladapo-plaintiffs-trial-brief.pdf?cshp_omh_redirect_404=1 deposition document discussing Hunter's communications with Dr. Ritta Kaltiala and Michael Biggs and SEGM.
Deposition of Dr. Roman in Florida Case

The interview is likely to further embroil the Cass Review in scandal both in the United Kingdom and internationally. It seems to represent a significant attempt to deflect criticism from the report by softening some of its conclusions. Moreover, the defensive tone of the report regarding those who influenced its production and meetings with politically charged appointees, who themselves have faced scrutiny over unethical and deceitful practices in reports on transgender healthcare, is bound to raise eyebrows.

However, it remains to be seen whether politicians in England or in red states in the United States, who are aggressively seeking any pretext to restrict care, will pause their efforts even with Dr. Cass tempering the implications of her report.

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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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Montana

ACLU sues Montana over gender markers on driver’s licenses

The Montana Department of Justice quietly adopted a new policy for changing gender markers on Montana driver’s licenses

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Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen being interviewed by local media. (Photo Credit: Montana Department of Justice)


By Nicole Girten | HELENA, Mont. – The Montana Department of Justice quietly adopted a new policy for changing gender markers on Montana driver’s licenses that would require transgender Montanans to provide an amended birth certificate, as opposed to only requiring a note from a doctor.

That’s according to a class action lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Montana on Thursday, which is asking the court to declare the new Motor Vehicle Division policy unconstitutional. The lawsuit targets a rule enacted by the state’s health department in 2022 which plaintiffs claim bans transgender applicants from changing the sex marker on their birth certificate.

This lawsuit follows other legal challenges in recent years involving legislation and rules regarding changing gender markers on birth certificates in the Treasure State. A law passed during the 2021 legislature restricting changes to birth certificates was found unconstitutional and there are two other ongoing lawsuits surrounding a 2023 law defining sex as binary in statute.

Defendants listed in the lawsuit include Attorney General Austin Knudsen, the Montana DOJ, Gov. Greg Gianforte, the Department of Public Health and Human Services and DPHHS Director Charlie Brereton.

A spokesperson for Gov. Gianforte said Thursday the governor “stands by the bill he signed in 2023 that brings the long-recognized, commonsense, immutable biologically-based definition of sex — male and female — into our state laws.”

“It is no surprise the ACLU would wade into Montana to challenge commonsense, immutable biological facts to advance its far left agenda,” the spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

A DPHHS spokesperson said the department does not generally comment on on-going litigation and a spokesperson for the DOJ did not respond to emailed questions in time for publication.

Plaintiffs include a former Montana resident and transgender woman, Jessica Kalarchik, who is looking to change the gender marker on her birth certificate, and Jane Doe, a transgender woman looking to change the gender marker on both her birth certificate and her driver’s license.

Plaintiffs claim the 2022 rule, the 2023 law and the new DMV protocol go against protections in Montana’s constitution.

Plaintiff Doe avoids using public restrooms and changing rooms for fear of mistreatment or violence. She’s already faced mistreatment from people in her life after coming out, according to the lawsuit.

Doe worries about showing her identification documents with her gender assigned at birth to someone who may react negatively.

“Ms. Doe is typically perceived as female, so anytime she is forced to present an identity document that incorrectly identifies her as male, she is forced to ‘out’ herself as transgender,” the lawsuit read. “As Ms. Doe’s appearance has shifted, her driver’s license no longer matches her appearance, and she has experienced increasing issues with this disparity.”

Kalarchik, 49, is a transgender woman and veteran who was born in Butte and currently lives in Anchorage, Alaska, with her wife, Renee. She’s looking to have the gender marker amended on her birth certificate for similar fears of retaliation as Doe. The lawsuit said she has previously experienced incidents of harassment and discrimination in both her personal and professional life.

Kalarchik started hormone therapy in 2022 and has legally changed her name and sex marker on both her Alaska driver’s license and her Social Security card.

The lawsuit said the 2022 rule and Senate Bill 458, which defines sex as binary and passed in 2023, prevent Kalarchik from changing the gender marker on her birth certificate.

DPHHS announced in February the department was reinstating the 2022 rule, which only allows changes to birth certificates in the event the gender marker was listed incorrectly as a result of a data entry error and does not authorize changes “based on gender transition, gender identity, or change of gender.”

“The effect of the 2022 Rule is to categorically ban transgender applicants from obtaining birth-certificate amendments to reflect the sex they know themselves to be,” the lawsuit said.

The rule was first enacted as the state was in ongoing litigation surrounding a similar law passed in 2021, Senate Bill 280, which restricted transgender Montanans’ ability to amend the gender markers on their birth certificates.

The court temporarily blocked SB 280 in 2022, and the state needed to re-institute the previous process for changing birth certificates as litigation continued – which only required an applicant to submit a supporting affidavit. But the state did not, and instead passed the 2022 rule. The court found the state in contempt for going against the preliminary injunction and also found SB 280 to be unconstitutional.

In February, DPHHS said the 2022 rule aligns with SB 458, the sex definition bill sponsored by Sen. Carl Glimm, R-Kila, who also sponsored SB 280. There are two open lawsuits against SB 458. Brereton said in the February announcement DPHHS “must follow the law, and our agency will consequently process requests to amend sex markers on birth certificates under our 2022 final rule.”

Plaintiffs are claiming the 2022 Rule, the new MVD policy, and SB 458 (within the context of amending birth certificates and driver’s licenses) are not constitutional. The lawsuit argues the policies violate protections in the Montana constitution for privacy, equal protection under the law, and against compelled speech.

The lawsuit says the policies are inherently discriminatory and require compelled speech in that in order to comply, transgender people have to “misidentify themselves by a sex designation that does not accurately state their sex.”

The filing said the “essential danger” of these policies are they “require transgender Montanans to carry identity documents that are contrary to the sex they know themselves to be” and therefore increase risk of potential discrimination or violence.

Plaintiffs are asking to establish a class that would include all transgender people born in Montana who currently or in the future wish to change the gender marker on their birth certificate or driver’s license.

Postscript

After publication, the Montana Department of Justice reached out to the Daily Montanan to say the Motor Vehicle Division’s policy to change a sex marker has not changed.

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Nicole Girten

Nicole Girten is a reporter for the Daily Montanan. She previously worked at the Great Falls Tribune as a government watchdog reporter. She holds a degree from Florida State University and a Master of Science from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

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The preceding piece was previously published by the Daily Montanan and is republished with permission.

The Daily Montanan is a nonprofit, nonpartisan source for trusted news, commentary and insight into statewide policy and politics beneath the Big Sky.

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

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Southern California

Equality California decries recall of elected Calexico trans official

During her tenure, Mayor Ureña championed numerous initiatives aimed at improving local infrastructure and public services

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Mayor Raúl Ureña (Screenshot/YouTube Calexico City Council session)

CALEXICO, Calif. – Equality California, the nation’s largest statewide LGBTQ+ civil rights organization, has publicly denounced the recent recall of Calexico Councilmember and former Mayor Raúl Ureña, the first out transgender mayor in the city’s history.

The organization’s response underscores significant concern over what it views as a politically motivated attack leveraging anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments.

Tony Hoang, Executive Director of Equality California, expressed profound disappointment over the outcome of the recall effort, criticizing the focus of the recall on Ureña’s transgender identity rather than his accomplishments in office.

“We are deeply disappointed that a group of far-right extremists succeeded in recalling Calexico’s first out transgender Mayor Raúl Ureña, who has a proven track record of delivering for the people of Calexico,” Hoang said.

“This recall campaign was spearheaded by a group of disgruntled former politicians and littered with misinformation and transphobic rhetoric, focusing on Ureña’s identity and not the successful tangible results she has generated for her city. This was a calculated, anti-LGBTQ+ attack against Ureña that has sadly resulted in her recall and will no doubt lead to backsliding for a community already at a crossroads. 

We were proud to support Mayor Ureña throughout this ordeal, and will continue to speak out against any and all anti-LGBTQ+ attacks.”

During her tenure, Ureña championed numerous initiatives aimed at improving local infrastructure and public services while fostering a community environment that valued diversity and inclusion.

The recall campaign, however, argued that new leadership was necessary to fulfill unmet promises such as reducing water costs, revitalizing public spaces, and addressing homelessness and housing shortages.

Ureña posted a Facebook video addressing the recall along with the following caption: 

“The recall made a lot of promises. The clock of new administration begins. From now on my decisions will not affect the municipality.

My message to the youth: DON’T QUIT!

My message to the recall: Keep your promises between now and November. We want a standing Calexico:

  • All the poles fixed
  • All parks to perfection
  • Streets and new benches
  • Let the cost of water go down
  • Downtown Clean
  • Zero Homeless
  • More Housing
  • Police and Fire Department complete
  • City Wide Transport
  • More recreation for the seniors.
  • Line to Mexicali and traffic solved

I wish them luck for the good of Calexico.”

Related

Following the recall’s success, statements from the new administration promised to focus on various infrastructure projects, enhancements to public safety, and improved social services for seniors, pledging to transform campaign promises into tangible outcomes.

The decision to recall Ureña has polarized Calexico, with many residents and advocates worried about the potential regression in civil rights gains. Equality California has pledged ongoing support for Ureña and reaffirmed its commitment to fighting anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination.

For further details on Equality California’s initiatives and stance on this matter, please visit eqca.org.

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Riverside County

Murrieta Valley School Board votes to defy state over trans policy

The policy includes requests by students to use a name that “differs from their legal name or pronouns that don’t align with their birth sex”

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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 on Thursday voted 3-2 to defy the California Department of Education’s written order and keep its anti-trans parent-notification policy.

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.”

The Board essentially countermanded Superintendent Dr. Ward Andrus’ order to his staff reversing the policy after the April 10 DOE order was received. In an emailed notice sent out last Friday to parents, faculty, and staff members, school district administrators stated that the policy was reversed.

The policy, which was originally proposed by school board President Paul Diffley and trustee Nick Pardue and passed states:

[…] any member of a school’s staff “shall notify the  parent(s)/guardian(s), in writing, within three days from the date any District employee, administrator, or certificated staff, becomes aware that a student is: a. Requesting to be identified or treated, as a gender (as defined in Education Code Section 210.7) other than the student’s biological sex or gender listed on the student’s birth certificate or any other official records.”

The policy includes requests by students to use a name that “differs from their legal name (other than a commonly recognized diminutive of the child’s legal name) or to use pronouns that do not align with the student’s biological sex or gender listed on the student’s birth certificate or other official records.”

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.”

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.

Reacting to the board vote, Tony Hoang, the Executive Director of Equality California told the Blade:

“Yet again, the extremist majority on the Murietta Valley School Board put politics over the safety and well-being of students. These politicians ignored the experts at the California Department of Education and their district staff and doubled down on a policy that is unnecessary, cruel, and opens students up to harm and discrimination.

The school board’s own student member Isabella Dadalt said it best – “if you’re a parent, and you feel threatened by the fact that your student is going to a teacher instead of you, I think you need to rethink your parenting.”

The members of the Murrietta Valley School Board should take note of what happened last month when extremist school board members in Orange Unified and Woodland Unified were successfully recalled after they attacked LGBTQ+ students.

Equality California will continue to for the rights of all students to have safe and supportive learning environments in Murietta Valley, and across the state.”

The Blade has reached out to the California Department of Education and the Murrieta Valley Unified School District Board for comment.

 

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West Hollywood

Bouncer at Heart WeHo arrested in brutal beating of gay stylist

Anyone with questions or information about this incident is encouraged to contact the LA County Sheriff’s Department’s West Hollywood Station

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Captain William (Bill) Moulder, commander of the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station speaks with KTLA about the beating of 54-year-old Albert Jimenez last month outside of Heart WeHo nightclub. (Screenshot/YouTube KTLA 5)

By Paulo Murillo | WEST HOLLYWOOD – An arrest has been made in the brutal beating of gay hair stylist Albert Vasquez, 54. According to a statement by the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, a security guard at Heart WeHo was identified, arrested, and charged with battery causing great bodily harm.

The statement by LASD reads as follows:

On Friday, April 05, 2024, at approximately 10:40PM, the victim attempted to enter a nightclub in West Hollywood. The suspect, who was working as a security guard, did not allow the victim entry due to the victim not having proper identification. Both the suspect and the victim engaged in a verbal and physical altercation, in which the suspect punched the victim once in the face. The victim fell to the ground and was transported to a nearby hospital.

The suspect was identified and arrested for battery causing great bodily injury.

Vasquez’s sister, Gloria Jimenez, tells WEHO TIMES that a detective at the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station reached out to the family earlier today, and she can confirm that the beating happened in front of Heart WeHo. She also said one of their bouncers was arrested.

The family will be allowed to view the surveillance footage to see exactly what happened on Friday night, April 5, 2024, when Vasquez was found in a pool of his blood with two head fractures, bruises to his lungs, a black eye, and scrapes and bruising to his arms and legs.

“They reached out to me and said an arrest has been made,” said Jimenez. “We kept saying it was Heart WeHo and it happened at Heart WeHo and it was one of their bouncers. We want to see the footage, and we’ll be able to see it because we are family, so we can determine exactly where to go from there. We’re glad an arrest was made, and we’re going to take the next step necessary. We don’t know what that step is. He’s still recovering. We don’t know how long his recovery will take. We don’t know.”

Family, friends, and supporters of Albert Vasquez were relentless in getting the story out to the media, and they pressured the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station to step up the investigation. They also demanded that Heart WeHo release video footage from that night.

Heart WeHo complied and released the following statement:

“Heart WeHo remains deeply committed to the safety and well-being of our community. We are aware of the incident that occurred on April 5th and have been actively collaborating with the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Department to assist in their investigation since the beginning. We have provided the authorities with unrestricted access to our security footage,” reads the statement by Heart WeHo. “We urge anyone with additional information pertaining to this incident to come forward and assist the West Hollywood Department in their efforts to ensure the safety and security of our neighborhood.”

According to authorities, Heart WeHo was asked not to release the footage to family until authorities were able to investigate the footage first.

Jimenez’s sister points out that Heart WeHo turned over surveillance footage to the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station on Monday, ten days after the incident occurred.

Doctors discovered a second skull fracture on the other side of Vasquez’s head ten days after he landed in the hospital, according to his family. They also discovered that his lungs had bruising after the fact, which went unnoticed throughout his stay at the hospital.

Related

However, despite his newly discovered injuries, Albert seems to be on the mend. He was in a coma for one day when he was brought to the hospital but is currently awake and seems to be aware of his surroundings. He starts therapy this week and is expected to be in the hospital for another week and a half. He has not spoken about what happened to him that Friday night, mainly because he’s heavily medicated, and nurses feel it’s too soon to pressure him to relive the trauma.

Jimenez thanks the community for their support and for being relentless in holding investigators accountable and demanding they get answers. She’s also grateful for the public’s generosity to help cover medical expenses.

Anyone with questions or information about this incident is encouraged to contact the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s West Hollywood Station Detective Lombera at (310).
358-4028.

The link to GoFundMe campaign is here: (Link)

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Paulo Murillo is Editor in Chief and Publisher of WEHO TIMES. He brings over 20 years of experience as a columnist, reporter, and photo journalist. Murillo began his professional writing career as the author of “Love Ya, Mean It,” an irreverent and sometimes controversial West Hollywood lifestyle column for FAB! newspaper. His work has appeared in numerous print and online publications, which include the “Hot Topic” column in Frontiers magazine, where he covered breaking news and local events in West Hollywood. He can be reached at [email protected]

The preceding article was previously published at WeHo Times and is republished with permission.

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Federal Government

Lambda Legal praises Biden admin’s finalized Title IX regulations

The new policy also reverses some Trump-era Title IX rules governing how schools must respond to sexual harassment & sexual assault

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U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona (Photo Credit: Office of the U.S. Secretary of Education)

WASHINGTON – The Biden-Harris administration’s revised Title IX policy “protects LGBTQ+ students from discrimination and other abuse,” Lambda Legal said in a statement praising the U.S. Department of Education’s issuance of the final rule on Friday.

Slated to take effect on Aug. 1, the new regulations constitute an expansion of the 1972 Title IX civil rights law, which prohibits sex-based discrimination in education programs that receive federal funding.

Pursuant to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the landmark 2020 Bostock v. Clayton County case, the department’s revised policy clarifies that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity constitutes sex-based discrimination as defined under the law.

“These regulations make it crystal clear that everyone can access schools that are safe, welcoming and that respect their rights,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said during a call with reporters on Thursday.

While the new rule does not provide guidance on whether schools must allow transgender students to play on sports teams corresponding with their gender identity to comply with Title IX, the question is addressed in a separate rule proposed by the agency in April.

The administration’s new policy also reverses some Trump-era Title IX rules governing how schools must respond to reports of sexual harassment and sexual assault, which were widely seen as imbalanced in favor of the accused.

Jennifer Klein, the director of the White House Gender Policy Council, said during Thursday’s call that the department sought to strike a balance with respect to these issues, “reaffirming our longstanding commitment to fundamental fairness.”

“We applaud the Biden administration’s action to rescind the legally unsound, cruel, and dangerous sexual harassment and assault rule of the previous administration,” Lambda Legal Nonbinary and Transgender Rights Project Director Sasha Buchert said in the group’s statement on Friday.

“Today’s rule instead appropriately underscores that Title IX’s civil rights protections clearly cover LGBTQ+ students, as well as survivors and pregnant and parenting students across race and gender identity,” she said. “Schools must be places where students can learn and thrive free of harassment, discrimination, and other abuse.”

Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.), a Congressional leader on LGBTQ and education issues, also hailed the finalized rule on Title IX from the Biden Administration:  

The Education Department and Biden Administration showed real courage today, delivering on a long-held promise to ensure that the federal government does more to protect all Americans—especially LGBTQ Americans—from discrimination.  

This groundbreaking rule is a major victory, but we still have much to do. We need to enshrine and expand its protections by passing the Equality Act because for too many Americans, their rights and protections depend on the zip code they live in.   

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Arkansas

Another wound that will never heal; another tragic teen’s death

“Let Ethan’s legacy serve as a beacon of hope and a call to action for a more inclusive and accepting future”

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Ethan (Family photo)

LOS ANGELES, Calif. – The pain was palpable as it radiated from the grief stricken single mother who lost her only child- her beloved son, to suicide this past Sunday as she spoke in the phone call Thursday evening with the Blade.

Ethan was only 15 in fact he had just celebrated his birthday this past month.

Ethan was a bright and compassionate teenager, quick to help his elderly neighbors with lawncare, carrying in the groceries, or just sitting out on their porches listening to them tell stories or chat. “He was such a good boy, so loving, so caring,” his mother said.

Growing up in a small rural community in Arkansas, Ethan loved to hunt, fish, and spend time with Dad and he was a dutiful son to his mother, but that all changed a year ago when Ethan told his parents his truth- he was gay.

His mother was good with it she says, “His Dad left us, just walked away from him. No contact, silence.” His father’s rejection and abandonment left Ethan feeling guilt and despair, struggling to cope with the fallout of his father’s departure and the financial burdens placed on his now single mother.

She explained: “He began to withdraw and late at night he started to hurt himself even to the point to go to the E.R.” Adding to Ethan’s stress “the local farm boys would say hateful things, they’d call him faggot, they’d stay away telling him he was gonna give them AIDS or die from it.,” she said. The rejection and bullying got so bad at the school that staff stepped in and put an end to it. “The school was so supportive, they even gave in-school suspensions, but then those boys, others, went on line and it got worse,” she told the Blade.

Like most teens Ethan kept much of his pain to himself as his despair over loss of the relationship with his father, worry over his single Mom and money as she works in food service and money is scare became too much. “He was fine on Saturday- I mean it was a good day I didn’t see any problems,” she related to the Blade. On Sunday, he was gone- forever.

Now his mother is left with memories and questions that will never be answered. For now, his mother, Connie, asks for privacy during this difficult time as she grapples with the devastating loss of her only child.

After being contacted, Indianapolis-based Rainbow Youth Project USA has stepped in to support Ethan’s grieving mother, providing grief counseling services and assisting with final arrangements.

“In the face of adversity, it is crucial for communities to come together to support LGBTQ+ individuals and their families. Hate and intolerance have no place in a society that values love and acceptance for all. By honoring Ethan’s memory and advocating for inclusivity, we must strive to create a world where every individual is celebrated for who they are,” said Lance Preston CEO and Founder of Rainbow Youth to the Blade.

“As Connie navigates this overwhelming grief and loss, let us stand united in compassion and solidarity, offering our support and understanding. Let Ethan’s legacy serve as a beacon of hope and a call to action for a more inclusive and accepting future,” Preston added.

Editor’s Note: In consideration of preserving her privacy the Blade has not published Connie’s surname nor her residence’s location in Arkansas.

If you are in a life-threatening situation, please dial 911.

If you are in crisis, please dial 988 or contact Rainbow Youth Project directly at +1 (317) 643-4888

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Pennsylvania

Moms for Liberty member, others block Maulik Pancholy’s speech

“It clearly sends a message to our staff, our students, and our residents that identify as LGBTQ+ that they’re not welcome”

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Maulik Pancholy (Screenshot/YouTube MSNBC)

CUMBERLAND COUNTY, Penn. — On Monday the Cumberland Valley District school board, a large, rural and suburban public school district located in Central Pennsylvania, voted to cancel an appearance and event on anti-bullying by openly gay actor and author Maulik Pancholy.

Pancholy, best known for his work on NBC Television’s 30 Rock and who authored “The Best at It,” a semi-autobiographical debut novel that explores the queer main character’s journey to self-acceptance and self-love in the 7th grade in a small Indiana town, was set to attend an anti-bullying school assembly scheduled for May 22 at Mountain View Middle School in Mechanicsburg, Pa.

Anti-LGBTQ+ activists including newly elected board member Kelly Potteiger, who is a member of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s listed extremist group Moms for Liberty along with board member Bud Shaffner and board chair Greg Rausch in an off agenda discussion brought up the event and strongly objected to Pancholy’s presence.

WPMT Fox 43 reported that Rausch asked Shaffner: “My only question is, do we even have any idea what he’s going to be talking about? I know he’s a homosexual activist and what have you and has written books and things like that but do we even know what he’s going to be talking about?”

Potteiger weighed in: “It’s not discriminating against his lifestyle, that’s his choice, but it’s him speaking about it and it did say that’s not the topic, but that’s what his books are about and he will probably talk about his pathway because he talks about anti-bullying and empathy and inclusion so part of that is his journey as an individual,” said Potteiger. “And as a self-proclaimed activist, that’s where it gets concerning I think.”

“If you research this individual, he labels himself as an activist, he is proud of his lifestyle and I don’t think that should be imposed upon our students at any age,” added Shaffner.

The board ended up in a unanimous 8-0 vote to rescind permission for Pancholy to visit the school.

The result of the vote led one former student, Tony Conte, to publish an open letter to Shaffner on Facebook, recalling his experience as a closeted gay teen and his struggles with suicidal ideation because of it, Entertainment Weekly reported.

On Thursday, Pancholy released a public statement on his Instagram regarding the controversial vote.

“On Monday evening, I learned via social media that the school board of the Cumberland Valley School District in Pennsylvania voted 8-0 to cancel my scheduled author visit with the students of Mountain View Middle School due to concerns about my ‘activism’ and what they called my ‘lifestyle.’ My heart goes out to the entire Mountain View Middle School community, and particularly to the students.” 

His statement continues, addressing his books and growing up without a representation of South Asian-American or LGBTQ+ characters in media. 

“When I visit schools, my ‘activism’ is to let all young people know that they’re seen. To let them know that they matter. When I talk about the characters in my books feeling ‘different,’ I’m always surprised by how many young people raise their hands- regardless of their identities and backgrounds- wanting to share about the ways in which they, to, feel different,” Pancholy continued. 

In a phone interview with Entertainment Weekly, Shaffner denied the claim that Pancholy’s sexual orientation was the reason for the vote.“That’s absolutely unfounded,” he said. “That wasn’t even part of the discussion. We simply voted to uphold the [school] policy of no political speeches, no political activism.”

He added, “We just cannot allow political speeches within our school. And he identified himself as a political activist.”

“I thought it was outrageous and very concerning,” Trisha Comstock, a parent who is behind a petition now circulating online, asking the board to reverse its decision told Fox 43. “It clearly sends a message to our staff, our students, and our residents that identify as LGBTQ+, that part of the community, that they’re not welcome, they’re not seen, they’re not respected.”

The full April 15 school board meeting can be watched here.

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Politics

Support for Biden among LGBTQ adults persists despite misgivings

70% of all LGBTQ respondents and 81% of those who identify as trans said the Democratic Party should be doing more for queer and trans folks

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Former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

SAN FRANCISCO — A new survey by Data for Progress found LGBTQ adults overwhelmingly favor President Joe Biden and Democrats over his 2024 rival former President Donald Trump and Republicans, but responses to other questions may signal potential headwinds for Biden’s reelection campaign.

The organization shared the findings of its poll, which included 873 respondents from across the country including an oversample of transgender adults, exclusively with the Washington Blade on Thursday.

Despite the clear margin of support for the president, with only 22 percent of respondents reporting that they have a very favorable or somewhat favorable opinion of Trump, answers were more mixed when it came to assessments of Biden’s performance over the past four years and his party’s record of protecting queer and trans Americans.

Forty-five percent of respondents said the Biden-Harris administration has performed better than they expected, while 47 percent said the administration’s record has been worse than they anticipated. A greater margin of trans adults in the survey — 52 vs. 37 percent — said their expectations were not met.

Seventy precent of all LGBTQ respondents and 81 percent of those who identify as trans said the Democratic Party should be doing more for queer and trans folks, while just 24 percent of all survey participants and 17 percent of trans participants agreed the party is already doing enough.

With respect to the issues respondents care about the most when deciding between the candidates on their ballots, LGBTQ issues were second only to the economy, eclipsing other considerations like abortion and threats to democracy.

These answers may reflect heightened fear and anxiety among LGBTQ adults as a consequence of the dramatic uptick over the past few years in rhetorical, legislative, and violent bias-motivated attacks against the community, especially targeting queer and trans folks.

The survey found that while LGBTQ adults are highly motivated to vote in November, there are signs of ennui. For example, enthusiasm was substantially lower among those aged 18 to 24 and 25 to 39 compared with adults 40 and older. And a plurality of younger LGBTQ respondents said they believe that neither of the country’s two major political parties care about them.

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European Union

LGBTQ+ activists demand EU sanction Uganda over Anti-Homosexuality Act

Yoweri Museveni signed law on May 29, 2023

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Hillary Innocent Taylor Seguya, an LGBTQ+ rights activist, speaks at a protest in front of the European Union Delegation to the United States’s offices in D.C. on April 18, 2024. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

WASHINGTON — More than a dozen activists who protested in front of the European Union Delegation to the United States in D.C. on Thursday demanded the EU to sanction Uganda over the country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act.

Hillary Innocent Taylor Seguya, a Ugandan LGBTQ+ activist, and Global Black Gay Men Connect Executive Director Micheal Ighodaro are among those who spoke at the protest. Health GAP Executive Director Asia Russell also participated in the event that her organization organized along with GBGMC and Convening for Equality Uganda, a Ugandan LGBTQ+ rights group.

(Washington blade video by michael k. lavers)

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni last May signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act that, among other things, contains a death penalty provision for “aggravated homosexuality.”

The country’s Constitutional Court on April 3 refused to “nullify the Anti-Homosexuality Act in its totality.” A group of Ugandan LGBTQ+ activists have appealed the ruling.

A press release that Health GAP issued ahead of Thursday’s protest notes EU Commissioner for International Partnerships Jutta Urpilainen on March 6 announced more than €200 million ($212.87 million) for Uganda in support of “small business owners, young female entrepreneurs, agribusinesses as well as vital digital infrastructure projects in full Team Europe format with the European Investment Bank (EIB) and several member states.”

“These concrete initiatives will make a difference to aspiring entrepreneurs, Ugandan businesses and create jobs in multiple sectors,” said Urpilainen in a press release that announced the funds. “This is a perfect example of how Global Gateway can make a tangible difference for citizens and businesses and unlock the full potential of a partner country by working together.”

Convening for Equality Uganda on Tuesday in a letter they sent to Urpilainen asked the EU to review all funding to Uganda and “pause or reprogram any funds that go via government entities.” The protesters on Thursday also demanded European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen “to hold Ugandan President Museveni’s government accountable for this attack on human rights.”

Josep Borrell, the EU’s top diplomat, in a statement he released after Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act said the law “is contrary to international human rights law and to Uganda’s obligations under the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, including commitments on dignity and nondiscrimination, and the prohibition of cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.”

“The Ugandan government has an obligation to protect all of its citizens and uphold their basic rights,” said Borrell. “Failure to do so will undermine relationships with international partners.”

“The European Union will continue to engage with the Ugandan authorities and civil society to ensure that all individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity, are treated equally, with dignity and respect,” he added.

Urpilainen last September in a letter to the European Parliament said the EU would not suspend aid to Uganda over the law.

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