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Masen Davis explains Freedom For All Americans

Davis in Los Angeles Thursday night

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Masen Davis, center. (Photo courtesy FFAA)

Exactly one year ago, on Oct. 25, 2017, Freedom for All Americans hired longtime LGBT advocate Masen Davis as the new CEO. Masen proved his mettle as a national leader as Executive Director of the Transgender Law Center, as Co-Director of Global Action for Trans* Equality as a strategic team player in the Los Angeles-based Transgender Working Group that devised a plan and recommendations for the LA Police Department’s treatment on trans individuals—including inmates—that was signed in April 2012 by LAPD Chief Charlie Beck. He was also instrumental in helping pass AB 1266, California’s School Success and Opportunity Act authored by out Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, that prohibits schools from discriminating against transgender students and denying them access to facilities and activities that match their gender identity.

Founded in 2015, Freedom for All Americans is a bipartisan campaign “to secure full nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people nationwide. Our work brings together Republicans and Democrats, businesses large and small, people of faith, and allies from all walks of life to make the case for comprehensive non-discrimination protections that ensure everyone is treated fairly and equally.”
FFAA’s “ultimate goal” is “securing federal statutory protections for LGBTQ Americans, Freedom for All Americans works at the federal, state, and local level to advance measures and laws protecting from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression – without allowing overly broad and harmful religious exemptions that will encourage employers, business owners or others to choose to disregard those protections,” according to their website.

But what does that mean, really, and how will they get there? Masen and many of the FFAA crew are in Los Angeles tonight to explain what the organization is doing and how it’s working with others to achieve equality. Check for more information.

The Los Angeles Blade reached out to Davis to get a greater awareness of what FFAA is doing. Here’s that exchange.

LAB: Much has changed since you were named CEO of FAA last October. What have been your priorities and what have you done to achieve them?

DAVIS: I joined FFAA last year to win strong, comprehensive protections for the most vulnerable members of our LGBTQ community, and to ensure FFAA has the strategy, staff and resources we need to be a clutch player in the movement for nationwide nondiscrimination protections.

There’s no doubt that our work has grown more challenging over the last year – but we’ve also learned some really important lessons about how we can win. Freedom for All Americans is focused on making the case for comprehensive nondiscrimination protections that ensure everyone is treated fairly and equally no matter which state they call home. We bring together people from across the political spectrum, businesses large and small, people of faith, and allies from all walks of life to demonstrate that equality is not a partisan issue and that fairness is something all Americans can support.

Bringing people together across the aisle isn’t easy in this particular moment – but it feels more important than ever.

We have been actively working in states across the country to pass comprehensive nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people in states like New Hampshire and Florida, and to defend our victories at the ballot in Anchorage and Massachusetts. We’re committed to campaign strategies that center transgender people and the voices of those that will be most impacted by these laws; amplify the support of women’s groups, conservatives, and businesses; and tackle our opponents messaging head-on. All of these tactics have added up to our recent victories in Anchorage and New Hampshire, and illustrate a path forward for how we win even in challenging times.

Of course, we’re facing incredible challenges at the federal level, where the Trump administration has steadily undermined equality for LGBTQ folks – particularly transgender people. This is deeply disturbing, and it’s a personal fight for many of us. But again, we know from the work we’ve done at the state level that what this administration is proposing isn’t reflective of mainstream American values.

Most Americans, including many Republicans, support nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people. In fact, we’ve seen an increase in bipartisan support for LGBTQ issues in response to some of Trump’s anti-LGBTQ announcements and actions; for example, his tweet about transgender military service resulted in unprecedented demonstrations of support from unexpected Republican leaders like Orrin Hatch. It’s becoming increasingly clear that Congress must take urgent action to pass legislation that ensures all LGBTQ people are treated fairly and equally under our laws.

None of us are naive about the challenges still facing our movement. But because of these recent victories, we have something now that we didn’t several years ago: a clearer playbook for success that not only creates concrete changes but also changes the climate for the long term. As we head into a 2019 legislative session likely to be defined by divisive midterm elections, this playbook can help steer us toward building stronger partnerships, strengthening communities, and grounding our work with the power of our stories.

LAB: FAA has some extraordinary folks on board, including “our own” LA-based Jon Davidson. But how are we supposed to SEE what you DO if you primarily provide background support and education to existing organizations and campaigns? As you may know, one of the complaints about GLAAD is that we can’t SEE the behind-the-scenes work they do so how can they be applauded or held accountable?

DAVIS: We certainly strive to amplify the good work of our state and national partners, and do what we can to make the work of all movement organizations as efficient and effective as possible. But during my tenure at Freedom for All, we have already seen an intentional increase in visibility of our work as an organization to ensure that LGBTQ people know who we are and what we do on their behalf. A top priority of mine has been to build the national narrative of growing support for nondiscrimination by amplifying our community’s diverse coalition of allies.

We regularly share the stories of unexpected allies, such as conservatives, people of faith, safety advocates, small business owners, and others who support nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people, to help us demonstrate the real and urgent need for comprehensive federal law. In addition to background support, we are also becoming a more visible partner to state-level work. We were a prominent partner to the Freedom New Hampshire campaign over the last two years and galvanized the national movement to push New Hampshire’s nondiscrimination bill over the finish line.

Our President of Strategy, Kasey Suffredini, serves as campaign co-chair for the Yes on 3 campaign (formerly Freedom Massachusetts) and regularly provides media commentary and campaign strategy support, and participates in public debates on behalf of the campaign.

The team at Freedom for All Americans has developed some of the most cutting-edge tools in our movement, like our litigation tracker, legislative tracker, and a brand new storytelling hub called Faces of Freedom that houses the movement’s top spokespeople. We also bring together top businesses through America Competes, providing the connective tissue between Fortune 500 companies who want to engage in LGBTQ advocacy and the state business coalitions on the front lines. We believe there is an important balance to strike.

Supporting and amplifying the work of our partners will strengthen the entire LGBTQ movement, setting us up for success at the state and federal level. And, occupying the important lane of bipartisanship that allows folks from all walks of life to find their place in our movement as we work together towards protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination.

LAB: I think everyone understands the importance of bipartisanship in getting anything done – especially advancing non-discriminations laws. But Trump has turned the Republican Party into a white national cult and therefore anyone who identifies as “right of center” Republican is “suspect” in today’s environment. How do you work with the Republicans on your team/board to advance LGBT equality?

DAVIS: There are so many polarizing debates in our nation today and certainly LGBTQ issues often fall along party lines. But LGBTQ equality is not a red or blue issue; it is a human issue. Working in a truly bipartisan manner isn’t easy or popular, but I think it’s incredibly important right now. Twenty-seven of the states without explicit LGBTQ protections are controlled by Republicans, and we can’t give up on those states. Gay elders, trans youth, and everyone in between need and deserve protections in their home states, and I don’t want to leave those in red or purple states behind.

Thankfully, what we see time and again is that as people are given the opportunity to get to know LGBTQ people and our families, they come to understand that we all want the same thing – to be able to go about our daily lives without the fear of discrimination or violence.

This shared understanding through human connection is true of people from all across the political spectrum, and we believe everyone deserves the opportunity to get to know us and hear our stories. That’s where most of our work with Republicans begins – by sharing our stories and extending an opportunity for shared understanding.

I’d also make the distinction that we don’t work with either political party writ large – we work with individuals and institutions who support common-sense, fair-minded, and comprehensive nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people, and there are many many folks who fit that description who occupy space on both sides of the aisle and in between.

LAB: Honestly, you seem to be taking over for the anemic NGLTF (Task Force) – with your state and local training and LGBT Academy (re Creating Change), etc. Are you just a more savvy, more geographically spread out, more digitally-focused Task Force?

DAVIS: I have tremendous respect for the work of our national partners and have been honored by the welcome I have received in this new role. We certainly work with state partners and state-based campaigns from coast to coast and provide an extensive amount of in-kind communications and digital support. FFAA has learned we can be most effective by listening to the expertise of local leaders, sharing best practices we’ve learned across many campaigns, and supporting them with the resources needed to succeed, including financial investments to support critical but often under-resourced areas of work like field organizing, messaging research, and compelling digital programs.

We want to do what we can to strengthen the LGBTQ movement and set the stage for federal nondiscrimination protections by investing resources in existing work and bringing together the broad, persuasive movement of allies we’ll need to win.
To donate, go freedomforallamericans.org/LosAngeles.

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West Hollywood

WeHo is working to shut down scam pop-up COVID testing sites

Free walk-up COVID-19 PCR and rapid testing is available at the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station front parking lot

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Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

WEST HOLLYWOOD – Demand for COVID-19 testing in Los Angeles County has skyrocketed during the past several weeks. Sharply rising COVID-19 case counts and positivity rates coupled with the aftermath of holiday gatherings and travel has led to an unprecedented demand for testing.

Unfortunately, this demand has led to scammers distributing and setting-up fraudulent COVID-19 testing sites, some of which are requiring those seeking tests to pay a fee and/or provide a social security number.

As a reminder, community members should not have any out-of-pocket costs for a COVID-19 test or be providing their social security number. Free testing options are available, and public and private medical insurance companies are required to cover the cost of COVID-19 testing and treatment without charging any co-pays.

The City’s Code Compliance Division is working in coordination with the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station to shut down scam pop-up testing sites. Community members who are concerned about illegitimate testing sites may reach out to the City by calling the Code Enforcement Hotline at (323) 848-6516.

The City of West Hollywood is getting the word out that COVID-19 testing is available for free to anyone in LA County, regardless of health insurance or immigration status.

If you are experiencing symptoms or if you may have been exposed to COVID-19, visit www.covid19.lacounty.gov/testing.

Learn more about COVID-19 tests at www.ph.lacounty.gov/covidtests.

West Hollywood community members should first call a healthcare provider for a COVID-19 test. For people who cannot get a test through a healthcare provider, free testing options include:

  • COVID-19 Testing at Plummer Park – Los Angeles County coordinates a testing site at Plummer Park, located at 7377 Santa Monica Boulevard. The testing site is open each week from Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. adjacent to the West Hollywood Community Center at Plummer Park in the South Parking Lot. Tests are administered by Fulgent Genetics. Appointments are required. People interested in getting a test should pre-register for an appointment at la.fulgentgenetics.com. People getting tests should bring ID and confirmation number to the appointment.
  • Pick-Up COVID-19 Testing Kit Program – Los Angeles County Health Services has launched a program to increase and facilitate access to COVID-19 tests. The program allows residents to pick up a PCR test kit and return it at designated locations, which includes the COVID-19 West Hollywood testing site at Plummer Park. Results will be available within 24-48 hours. For details, visit: https://covid19.lacounty.gov/la-county-pick-up-testing-kit-program.
  • COVID-19 Testing at the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station Front Parking Lot – Free walk-up COVID-19 PCR and rapid testing is available at the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station front parking lot, located at 780 N. San Vicente Boulevard, on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Please note, this location is closed on holidays.) The lot has limited parking capacity; metered street parking is available nearby. No appointment is necessary. Testing is available at no cost to anyone four-years-old or older and is available regardless of insurance or citizenship status. Testing is sponsored by The Testing Co. and is hosted by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Community Advisory Council.
  • Los Angeles County Testing Sites Across the Region – If you are unable to secure an appointment right away and need a test quickly, there are many testing sites regionally. Visit: https://covid19.lacounty.gov/testing.
  • Free Shipped At-Home Tests – As part of a new federal program, every home in the nation is eligible to order four free at-⁠home COVID-⁠19 tests. The tests are free and orders will usually ship in 7 to 12 days. Visit www.covidtests.gov for details and to order tests.
  • At-Home Tests for Purchase at Stores, Pharmacies, and Websites – Before buying a test kit online, check the website that is selling it and find out if the test is authorized on the FDA EUA test webpage. Learn about at-home COVID-19 testing by visit the CDC self-testing webpage or the FDA’s At-Home Tests webpage area.

Additional information, such as links to West Hollywood-area drug store chains offering vaccinations, is available on the City of West Hollywood’s website at www.weho.org/coronavirus in the Vaccines and Testing Information section.

Officials from the LA County Department of Public Health continue to remind community members about the importance of getting vaccinated, getting boosted, getting tested, and masking-up; these remain critical to stop the spread. For details, visit www.VaccinateLACounty.com.

For people without access to a computer or the Internet, or people with disabilities, an LA County call center is open daily from 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. to help schedule appointments at (833) 540-0473.

The City of West Hollywood remains in a declared local emergency in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. West Hollywood City Hall is open for in-person transactions by appointment.

Visitors to City Hall and City facilities are required to adhere to vaccine verification requirements. Click here for details.

To make an appointment, visit www.weho.org/appointments.

City Hall services remain accessible by phone at (323) 848-6400 and via the City’s website at www.weho.org. City of West Hollywood coronavirus information is available at www.weho.org/coronavirus.

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Los Angeles

[email protected] Coalition receives bomb threat, LAPD investigating

Officers, specialists and detectives from the Rampart Division of the Los Angeles Police Department responded and swept the building

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Los Angeles Blade graphic/photo

LOS ANGELES – A bomb threat was phoned in Wednesday afternoon to the Wilshire Blvd. Koreatown offices of the [email protected] Coalition, Bamby Salcedo, the president and CEO of the non-profit organization told the Blade.

According to Salcedo, an unidentified male caller told the staff person who answered at approximately 3 pm, while delivering the threat said; “you’re all going to die.” The staff immediately evacuated everyone from their offices and then contacted the LAPD for assistance.

Officers, specialists and detectives from the Rampart Division of the Los Angeles Police Department responded and swept the building. A spokesperson for the LAPD confirmed that the incident is under active investigation but would make no further comment.

On a Facebook post immediately after the incident the non-profit wrote; “To ensure the safety of our clients and staff members, we ask that you please NOT come to our office.”

In a follow-up post, Salcedo notified the organization and its clientele that the LAPD had given the all-clear and that their offices would resume normal operations Thursday at 9:00 AM. “Thank you for your messages and concern for our staff and community,” Salcedo said.

“No amount of threats can stop us from our commitment to the TGI community,” she added.

The [email protected] Coalition (TLC) was founded in 2009 by a group of Transgender and Gender nonconforming and Intersex (TGI) immigrant women in Los Angeles, California, as a grassroots response to address the specific needs of TGI [email protected] immigrants who live in the United States.

Since then, the agency has become a nationally recognized organization with representation in 10 different states across the U.S. and provides direct services to TGI individuals in Los Angeles.

In 2015, The [email protected] Coalition identified the urgent need to provide direct services to empower TGI people in response to structural, institutional, and interpersonal violence, and the Center for Violence Prevention and Transgender Wellness was born.

Since then, the organization has secured funding from the state and local government sources as well as several private foundations and organizations to provide direct services to all TGI individuals in Los Angeles County (LAC).

TLC’s primary focus is to change the landscape of access to services for TGI people and provide access to comprehensive resource and services that will improve the quality of life of TGI people.

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Los Angeles

Mayor Garcetti selects Kristin Crowley to become city’s next fire chief

Kristin Crowley already made history within the LAFD when she became the city’s first female fire marshal in 2016

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LAFD Deputy Chief Kristin Crowley (Screenshot via KTLA)

LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti nominated Deputy Chief Kristin Crowley to be the first woman to lead the Los Angeles Fire Department Tuesday. She would replace Chief Ralph Terrazas, who retires in March.

“I am honored and humbled by the opportunity to be the next fire chief of the Los Angeles City Fire Department and to lead the department into the future,” Crowley said during the press conference event. “We will focus our efforts on increasing our operational effectiveness, enhancing firefighter safety and well-being, and fully commit to fostering a diverse, equitable, and inclusive culture within the LAFD.”

The Los Angeles City Council will be required next in the process to confirm the appointment.

“Throughout her distinguished career, Kristin Crowley has proven her brilliance, determination and bravery on the job again and again,” the mayor said. “There is no one better equipped to lead the LAFD at this moment than Kristin.”

City News Service reported that Crowley took the firefighters’ exam in 1998 and placed among the top 50 scores out of 16,000 applicants, according to the department. During her 22 years at the department, she rose through the ranks as firefighter, firefighter paramedic, engineer, fire inspector, captain I, captain II, battalion chief, assistant chief, fire marshal and deputy chief.

Crowley already made history within the LAFD when she became the city’s first female fire marshal in 2016.

Mayor Garcetti names 1st female LAFD fire chief:

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