In the world of a 24-hour news cycle vying for attention over tragedy, mass shootings, or midterm politics, the quiet human moments often get lost. Such was the case when Dr. Ruth Gates, a brilliant marine scientist at the University of Hawai’i and coral reefs advocate, passed away from brain cancer in Hawai’i on Oct. 25 at age 56. Her wife Robin Burton-Gates was at her side.
Dr. Gates was renowned for her brilliance as a marine scientist and her charm and infectious bright personality. “Laughing even underwater; that’s Ruth,” Tracy Ainsworth, a close friend and coral scientist from James Cook University, told the Atlantic Magazine’s Ed Yong. “She was so thrilled by the reef that she couldn’t contain her joy.”
Gates died five months after being diagnosed. “We constantly laughed, even through her treatments,” her wife recalled.
A University of Hawai’i spokesperson told the Los Angles Blade that Gates’ passion for sharing new scientific discoveries and coral reef conservation came through in her many public speaking events, in the Emmy award-winning film “Chasing Coral” that featured her research, and in communicating the urgency of climate change impacts on marine ecosystems.
“I have heard from hundreds of people, scientists and non-scientists who have expressed their admiration and appreciation for all that Ruth meant to them and to the world,” Michael Bruno, UH Mānoa vice chancellor for research, told the Los Angeles Blade. “Ruth’s vision and passion will be missed by all of us who were fortunate to have worked with her. Most of all, I will miss her generous spirit. Ruth was always generous with her time and her knowledge, and we were all made better as a result.”
Gates’ wife and colleagues emphasized that set-backs were barely a deterrence to the scientist, starting with her decision to be a marine biologist in elementary school after watching Jacques Cousteau documentaries.
“She was told she wasn’t smart enough, and that she should go into athletics instead,” Burton-Gates told The Atlantic. She did both.
Gates was the director of the Hawai’i Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB), a marine biology laboratory located on the state-owned Coconut Island in Kāne’ohe Bay—and she founded a karate school, the Coconut Island Dojo. A third-degree black belt, she would do knuckle and fingertip push-ups to the sound of breaking waves. And “when she hit the practice bag, it sounded like a gun going off,” Burton-Gates told The Atlantic.
Born in England, she did her graduate studies and work in Jamaica in 1985, which coincided with the marine biologist community’s discovery of the rapid death and bleaching of the coral reefs in the Caribbean.
“Gates showed that these bleaching events were more common in warmer waters—a crucial connection that decades of later work would confirm. It was a terribly important discovery,” said Peter Edmunds from California State University, Northridge, a coral scientist and close Gates friend of 34 years.
After receiving her PhD in Marine Sciences & Biology in 1990, Gates joined the faculty and research staff at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Thirteen years later, in 2003, she joined the University of Hawaii and started her own lab. It was there that her most significant discoveries in coral preservation and species regenerative efforts were made.
“Ruth was not only a shining star in coral research, but an indomitable spirit in every aspect of life,” Gates’ friend Judy Lemus, HIMB interim director, told the Los Angeles Blade. “Her enthusiasm was contagious, and she absolutely loved what she did. Her loss will be felt deeply within our own community and throughout the broader research community.”
“Gates was a tireless innovator and advocate for coral reef conservation. Coral reefs around the world have experienced massive die off as a result of warming ocean temperatures, increasing acidity, pollution runoff from land and other threats. The focus of her most recent research efforts was creating ‘super corals,’ coral species occurring naturally in the ocean that could be trained to become more resilient to these harsh conditions,” University of Hawai’i’s Marcie Grabowski, an Outreach Specialist for UH School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology told the Los Angeles Blade in an email.
Gates had her detractors but would also admit errors.
“She was always a disruptor,” Oregon State University researcher and friend Virginia Weis told The Atlantic. She suspects that Gates faced backlash because she was a female scientist who didn’t conform to traditional views of femininity. “The Aloha shirt-wearing guys were threatened by her and it didn’t faze her. She wasn’t quiet or silent.”
“Gates was like a living embodiment of the worlds she studied—a reef in human form,” The Atlantic’s Yong wrote. “Reefs enrich the oceans by creating spaces in which thousands of diverse species can thrive. Gates nurtured a vast community of researchers by opening doors for them, and supporting their lives.”
“Ruth was the first person I had a candid conversation with about what it meant to be a woman in science,” said Beth Lenz, who was one of her students.
“She helped me grow into my scientific identity wholly,” trans student Shayle Matsuda, added, “and pushed me to be my authentic self unapologetically.”
Patrons of Gay bar in New York City robbed of thousands
NYPD investigators believe the criminals used facial recognition to access the victims’ phones and funds once they were incapacitated
NEW YORK – The New York City Police Department, (NYPD) confirmed that a series of robberies committed at The Eagle NYC, a Chelsea gay leather bar last Fall, had the three victims losing thousands of dollars after the criminals used facial recognition to access the victims’ phones.
NBC News Out correspondent Matt Lavietes reported the three men, who were in their late 30s and 40s, visited The Eagle NYC, on separate nights in October and November and were each robbed of $1,000 to $5,000, according to the NYPD’s deputy commissioner of public information.
No arrests have been made and the investigation is ongoing, authorities said.
Capt. Robert Gault of the city’s 10th Precinct, who spoke about the incidents at a police community council meeting last week, told NBC News that NYPD investigators believe the criminals used facial recognition to access the victims’ phones and funds once they were incapacitated.
“What we think is happening with this scheme is they’re being lured away from the club, maybe to say, ‘Hey, you wanna come with me? I got some good drugs,’ or something like that,’” Gault said. “And then, once they get into a car to do whatever it is that they’re going to do, at some point or another, they don’t know what happened when they wake up.”
Criminals use facial recognition to rob patrons at NYC gay bar:
WeHo hosts public hearing on PrEP & PEP February 23 at City Hall
Access to PrEP & PEP & adherence to recommended treatment are just 2 necessary steps in the efforts to reducing community transmission of HIV
WEST HOLLYWOOD – The City of West Hollywood will host a public hearing to gather input from community members about whether individuals at high risk for HIV transmission are able to effectively access medications approved as part of FDA-approved protocols for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis(PrEP) and Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP).
City staff and officials have become aware from anecdotal information in the community that there may be barriers to easily accessing PrEP and PEP at pharmacies in Los Angeles County and other regions of the state.
While statewide legislation, SB 159, authorizes pharmacists to furnish PrEP and PEP without a physician prescription and prohibits insurance companies from requiring prior authorizations to obtain PrEP coverage, there is concern that national pharmacy chains and local pharmacies may not be participating in ways the legislation intended.
City outreach to local pharmacists indicates that many local pharmacists have not taken the California State Board of Pharmacy (CSBP) training to dispense PrEP and PEP, and may not have been aware of the training at all.
The City’s aim in hosting a public hearing is to gather input from impacted residents and community stakeholders; findings will then be relayed to legislators and other key decision makers.
The public hearing is open to the public and will take place on Thursday, February 23, 2023 at 6:30 p.m. at the West Hollywood City Council Chambers/Public Meeting Room, located at 625 N. San Vicente Boulevard. Limited validated parking will be available in the adjacent West Hollywood Park five-Story structure.
Community members may view the public hearing live on WeHoTV on Spectrum Channel 10 within West Hollywood; by clicking on the ‘Watch Live’ link on the City’s WeHoTV website page www.weho.org/wehotv; or through City’s WeHo YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/wehotv.
It will also be live-streamed on streaming services such as AndroidTV, AppleTV, FireTV, and Roku. Digital streaming platform viewers can find programming by searching for “WeHoTV.”
Individuals who would like to provide comments but are unable to attend the hearing, or who would prefer to share their experience directly, can send their comments by email to Hernán Molina, the City of West Hollywood’s Governmental Affairs Liaison, at [email protected].
In January 2019, Senator Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco introduced SB 159 HIV: preexposure and postexposure prophylaxis. The bill, which was signed by Governor Newsom into law on October 7, 2019, seeks to make PrEP and PEP more readily available to HIV negative individuals who are at high risk of HIV infection. SB 159 does so, among other things, by:
- Authorizing a pharmacist to furnish PrEP and PEP in specified amounts and requires a pharmacist to furnish those drugs if certain conditions are met, including that the pharmacist determines the patient meets the clinical criteria for PrEP and PEP consistent with federal guidelines; and
- Requiring a pharmacist, before furnishing PrEP and PEP, to complete a training program approved by the California State Board of Pharmacy.
Having easy access to PrEP and PEP and proper adherence to the recommended treatment are just two necessary steps in the efforts to reducing community transmission of HIV. PrEP is a key prevention strategy for ending the HIV epidemic in the U.S.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports fewer than 25% of the approximately 1-million Americans who could benefit from PrEP are using this preventative medication. One of the goals of the federal Ending the HIV Epidemic in the U.S. (EHE) initiative is to have 50% of people who could benefit from PrEP using it by 2025.
The HIV/AIDS epidemic has had a significant impact on the City of West Hollywood. The disease’s elevated infection rate among gay men caused a devastatingly high number of deaths in the City in the era following the City’s founding in 1984.
The City of West Hollywood was one of the first government entities to provide social services grants to local AIDS and HIV organizations. The City sponsored one of the first AIDS awareness campaigns in the country in October 1985 and the City’s response to the AIDS crisis has been recognized as a model for other cities, nationally and globally.
In 2015, the City of West Hollywood City Council adopted the HIV Zero Strategic Plan. The City Council directed staff to work with social service providers, community clinics, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, and other governmental agencies to develop a strategic plan aimed at reducing the rates of transmission and slowing disease progression.
The City’s HIV Zero Initiative embraces a vision to “Get to Zero” on many fronts: Zero new infections. Zero progression of HIV to AIDS. Zero discrimination. Zero stigma. The City currently contracts with APLA Health, Healthcare in Action, the Los Angeles LGBT Center, Men’s Health Foundation, and Planned Parenthood to provide biomedical interventions, such as PrEP and PEP to community members at risk of acquiring HIV.
For more information, please contact Hernán Molina, the City of West Hollywood’s Governmental Affairs Liaison, at (323) 848-6364 or at [email protected].
For people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, please call TTY (323) 848-6496.
Japanese Prime Minister sacks aide over anti-LGBTQ remarks
An openly gay member of the House of Councilors, Taiga Ishikawa, said the situation was “beyond one’s patience”
TOKYO – Masayoshi Arai, who until Saturday served as executive secretary to Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, was fired after he made anti-LGBTQ comments to reporters late Friday afternoon local time.
Arai told reporters in a gaggle at the prime minister’s office he would “not want to live next door” to an LGBTQ couple and that he does “not even want to look at them.”
He also said during an off-the-record conversation with reporters that if same-sex marriage is introduced in Japan, it would “change the way society is” and “quite a few people would abandon this country.”
At a press conference Saturday, a clearly agitated Kishida told reporters Arai’s remarks were “completely inconsistent with the policy of the Cabinet,” the prime minister adding, “We have been respecting diversity and realizing an inclusive society.”
Kishida acknowledged that he had fired Arai upon learning of the comments, calling them calling the remarks “inexcusable.”
“It’s an outrageous remark, even off the record. It would be a big problem if all the secretaries of the prime minister’s official residence had such a sense of human rights. “We respect human rights and values, but if same-sex marriage is recognized, some people will abandon the country.” Do you understand the meaning of respect? It deserves immediate dismissal.”
An openly gay member of the House of Councilors, Taiga Ishikawa, said the situation was “beyond one’s patience” on Twitter and noted that Arai had also said that all of Kishida’s executive secretaries are against same-sex marriage.
The lawmaker, also a member of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, called for the entire team of secretaries to be dismissed and said he would pursue the matter in Parliament.
Japanese media outlet Kyodo News reported that Japan has not legally recognized same-sex marriage as many members of the conservative Liberal Democratic Party, led by Kishida, have opposed the concept, emphasizing the country’s traditional values such as the role of women in giving birth and raising children.
The 150-day ordinary Diet session began on Jan. 23. The latest gaffes about LGBTQ people will likely prompt left-leaning opposition bloc lawmakers to grill Kishida over his views on family affairs in Japan, political experts said.
Late last year, LGBTQ issues in Japan drew fresh attention as LDP lawmaker Mio Sugita, the then parliamentary vice minister for internal affairs and communications, was pressured to retract past remarks against sexual minority couples.
DeSantis targets Orlando non-profit over holiday drag show
ORLANDO – Florida’s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis escalated his war on the state’s LGBTQ+ community ordering a state agency to launch a complaint against a Orlando non-profit over a drag holiday event it hosted in which children under age 18 were allowed to attend.
The state’s Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco under the Department of Business and Professional Regulation filed the complaint on Friday against the Orlando Philharmonic Plaza Foundation alleging the foundation violated Florida law in allowing for a person to “commit lewd or lascivious exhibition” in the presence of an individual who is less than 16 years old.
“A Drag Queen Christmas” was hosted by the foundation on Dec. 28 and during the performance sold alcoholic drinks at its Plaza Live venue. In the complaint, the agency states that the foundation used “Christmas-themed promotional materials” that did not give advance notice of the “sexually explicit nature” of the show’s contents.
The complaint also states that the division sent the foundation a letter ahead of the show saying “sexually explicit drag show performances constitute public nuisances, lewd activity, and disorderly conduct when minors are in attendance” and the foundation’s license could be subject to penalties if it did not ensure minors could not attend the event.
In its capacity as a regulator of alcohol, the division attempting to revoke the foundation’s liquor license for six alleged counts of violating Florida statutes.
When asked about the move by the DeSantis administration targeting the non-profit, Bryan D. Griffin, the spokesman for DeSantis said “Governor DeSantis stands to protect the innocence of children, and the governor always follows through when he says he will do something.”
Orlando Weekly writer Matthew Moyer noted that The Plaza Live — besides serving as the performing home base of the Orlando Philharmonic — hosts a robust slate of touring bands, comedians, YouTubers and, yes, drag performers.
State Rep. Anna Eskamani released a statement to Orlando Weekly late Friday afternoon, condemning the state’s actions in no uncertain terms. “Governor Ron DeSantis’ culture wars are destroying people’s jobs and livelihoods. The very notion of shutting down a small business over a drag show is insane and extreme,” said Eskamani. “In the United States we do not allow the government to determine what we can read, see or hear or who we can gather with. Targeting drag performances limits everyone’s freedom of speech and is all a part of the Governor’s sick anti-LGBTQ+ agenda.”
This is about dehumanizing LGBTQ people and targeting them for retribution by the state by portraying LGBTQ people as abberant and deviant. It's absolutely disgusting and should not be tolerated.— Alejandra Caraballo (@Esqueer_) February 3, 2023
DeSantis previously filed a complaint against a popular restaurant and pub in the Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood in July, alleging that it violated a public decency law in allowing children to attend a drag show.
The R house, is a unique casual fine dining establishment and lounge with an integrated gallery right in the heart of the vibrant Miami-Wynwood arts district named for Rocco Carulli, the executive chef as well as creator of the restaurant. The R House identifies itself on its Facebook page as “the proud home of South Florida’s most popular weekend drag brunches! Make some time to check us out and experience R House.”
The complaint was filed by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation on asking that the R House restaurant is a declared a public nuisance and has its liquor license revoked.
According to the South Florida Sun Sentinel, the complaint was issued after a video of a recent performance at the bar’s drag brunch went viral. A topless drag queen wearing lingerie stuffed with money can be seen in the video attempting to dance with a young girl, who the DPBR estimates is “between three and five years old.” Twitter account “Libs of Tik Tok” originally found the footage on Tik Tok, posted by a user who wrote, “Children belong at drag shows!!!! Children deserve to see fun & expression & freedom.”
The department cited multiple incidents of inappropriate drag performances with kids in the audience, including one in which a child “between the ages of ten and twelve” was “seen recoiling and turning away in her seat as a Brunch performer climbed on the back of the child’s bench, squatted, and gyrated a couple of feet above the child’s head.”
WeHo to consider making restaurant OutZones permanent
The Chamber of Commerce says businesses expressed concern over the limited applicability of using on-street parking spaces for outdoor dining
By Paulo Murillo | WEST HOLLYWOOD – The West Hollywood City Council will discuss and debate the process, guidelines, and policies regarding making the restaurant OutZones permanent in the city.
Its Agenda Item 5.A. will be under review and is slated to be taken up at the regular city council meeting scheduled for Monday, February 6, starting at 6pm.
City Staff is recommending the City Council adopt an ordinance amending Chapter 11.28 regarding outdoor dining in the public right of way, authorizing the Director of Finance & Technology Services to allocate $25,000 from unallocated reserves in General Fund for the development of the Outdoor Dining Eligibility and Site Design Guide and related costs.
City Staff will provide any feedback, if necessary, on the proposed updates, including the eligibility criteria and design standard.
According to the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, City Commissions, Boards, and Staff met with the Chamber numerous times and then attended a number of the chamber’s standing meetings with business leaders. Overall, there was support for developing new standards to convert the temporary OUTZones into permanent outdoor dining.
An email from the The Chamber states that businesses expressed concern over the limited applicability of using on-street parking spaces for outdoor dining. As outlined in the report, the use of on-street parking for outdoor dining would only apply to businesses fronting a narrow sidewalk condition.
There were also concerns around the inability for a business with a limited frontage to expand dining areas in front of neighboring businesses. Because this item is addressing outdoor dining on the public-right-of-way and not outdoor dining on private property, the current proposal does not allow the business to establish separate arrangements with neighboring businesses for use of their adjacent public right-of-way.
“We are grateful to the Staff and Council for moving this issue forward, allowing us to keep this critical element for our restaurants and bars to continue to recover and help us to thrive,” reads a statement by WeHo Chamber CEO Genevieve Morrill.
In July 2020, the City began its Temporary Outdoor Expansion Permit (TOEP) program by offering streamlined approval for businesses to use sidewalks, on-street parking spaces, and private parking lots as areas to expand operations.
In August 25, 2020, the city had a soft opening for the first phase of the new OUT Zones program.
On August 31, 2020, the installation of protective k-rail barriers were completed in time for National Eat Outside Day, which is a day when people are encouraged to enjoy a meal, picnic, or snack in the outdoors.
Community members and business owners are encouraged to make comments, express concerns, and provide suggestions.
Editor’s Note: To participate by public comment via phone:
1. You are strongly encouraged to e-mail the City Clerk at [email protected] no later than 2:00 p.m. on the City Council meeting day, to be added to the Zoom Public Speaker List for the meeting. Please include your name, the phone number from which you will be calling, and which item you would like to speak on.
2. Dial-in 10 minutes prior to the start of the meeting (the meeting begins at 6:00 p.m.)
• Dial-in #: 669-900-6833
• Meeting I.D.: 847 9061 1250, then the pound # key
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.
The preceding article was previously published by WeHo Times and is republished with permission.
Iowa Governor notes ‘parental rights’ at anti-LGBTQ+ town hall
Reynolds and Republican lawmakers pledged to pass legislation this session banning LGBTQ materials in schools
By Robin Opsahl | DES MOINES – Gov. Kim Reynolds and Republican legislators speaking at a “parental rights” event Thursday pledged to pass legislation this session banning LGBTQ materials in schools and policies allowing students to socially transition without their parents’ consent.
“School choice” supporters gathered at Franklin Junior High School in Des Moines Thursday evening for the town hall event, hosted by the conservative nonprofit Moms for Liberty. Reynolds cheered the passage of her private school scholarship plan in the first weeks of the 2023 session, and promised they were not done with education legislation.
“The last few years have provided so many reasons to be in this fight in the arena for kids,” Reynolds said. “And maybe for you it was how they were kept out of school wearing masks for no good reason. Maybe it was demonizing our country. Or an obsession with race in the classroom … I guess my message to you is, stay involved because parents and freedom still matter in Iowa.”
Protesters tried to shout over Reynolds’ speech, with one demonstrator holding up a transgender flag. Others in the room cheered and shouted “USA” as police officers removed protesters from the room.
Supporters celebrated approval of the Educational Savings Account (ESA) program, which gives students an account of $7,598 each year to use for private school tuition and associated costs. The national co-founder of Moms for Liberty, Tina Descovich, said she was excited to hear about Iowa successfully passing ESAs, but said that’s just “one small little portion of issues that are facing public education.”
For years, she said, politicians were not paying much attention to education. But in Iowa and other states across the country, Descovich said parents are putting the issue “front and center” in their state’s policy agendas, and lawmakers in states like Iowa are listening to their requests to let families decide the best educational path for their children.
“I think I think parents want that now, you know, everything in society is more custom made, and so education should be a little bit more accessible and custom made,” Descovich said.
Seven Republican legislators answered questions from attendees about Iowa’s education system. Many questions were focused on class material and discussion around gender identity. Reynolds and parents brought up Linn-Mar Community School District as an example of what’s wrong with modern schools.
The school district has a “gender support policy,” which allows a student to meet with the school to discuss socially transitioning by using a different name, pronouns and facilities corresponding with their gender identity. The district allows children to choose who is involved in those meetings with the school, and lets the child decide whether to involve their parent or guardian.
Lawmaker calls gender-affirming policies a ‘slippery slope’
Rep. Jeff Shipley, R-Fairfield, said school board members claimed the school could not reverse this policy because it would violate state and federal civil rights protections given based on gender identity.
House lawmakers approved legislation Tuesday banning school districts from letting a student use a different name or pronouns than what they were given at birth without written parental consent. House File 190 was also introduced Thursday to remove gender identity as a protected category from the state’s civil rights act.
“Mental illness should not be accommodated as a civil right,” Shipley said Thursday.
When a teacher asked the legislators at the forum about studies that showed the use of a transgender child’s preferred name and pronouns lowers suicide rates, Shipley said there were conflicting reports how to help transgender children with mental health problems. But he said policies like Linn-Mar Community School District’s are a “slippery slope.”
Using a child’s preferred name and pronouns without their parents’ knowledge could lead to them undergoing hormone replacement therapy or having gender-affirming surgeries without their parents consent, he said. How to best support transgender people is a conversation the Legislature will be discussing a lot going forward he said.
“I know other states have done things to prohibit these therapies,” he said, referencing conversation therapy. “So I think this is a conversation we’re going to have to have as a state to really decide what is the best standards of practice of therapy, what do kids need to alleviate the dysphoria and form actual identities that can be healthy and happy for the rest of their lives.”
Lawmakers address concerns about lack of choice access for special-needs students
Multiple parents also brought up concerns about how the ESA program will impact their special needs children. Legislators said they hoped to see expanded private school options for children with special needs, and were in discussions about potential future legislation to encourage more private institutions to special education students and offer more specialized educational programs.
Rep. Steven Holt, R-Denison, said he believes some private schools have not accepted special-education students because they didn’t have the resources. “And this bill was going to give them a lot more resources,” he said. “And so I’m hopeful that that alone is going to allow them to take a lot more special needs children.”
The conservative legislators assured the crowd that they would continue to provide parents more options for their children’s schooling going forward. Rep. Eddie Andrews, R-Johnston, said Iowa’s decision to desegregate schools 86 years before the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on Brown v. Board of Education shows the state has always been committed to school choice.
“And that is all we are asking, and yes, demanding, that we have the ability to educate our children in the best way at the best school that is appropriate for my child’s success. To prepare my boy, my girl, your child, for success,” Andrews said. “And that’s all school choice.”
Moms For Liberty: Giving Parents A Voice Town Hall – IOWA
Robin Opsahl is an Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter covering the state Legislature and politics. Robin has experience covering government, elections and more at media organizations including Roll Call, the Sacramento Bee and the Wausau Daily Herald, in addition to working on multimedia projects, newsletters and visualizations.
They were a political reporter for the Des Moines Register covering the Iowa caucuses leading up to the 2020 presidential election, assisting with the Register’s Iowa Poll, and reporting on Iowa’s 4th District elections.
The preceding article was previously published by the Iowa Capital Dispatch and is republished with permission.
Newsom honors CHP officers w/Medal of Valor, names CHP head
Governor Newsom recognized CHP officers Ryan Ayers & Kenneth Weckman for their bravery & names Sean Duryee to head the agency
SACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom recognized California Highway Patrol officers Ryan Ayers and Kenneth Weckman for their actions that went above and beyond the call of duty by awarding them with the Governor’s Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor – the highest state award for valor presented to a public safety officer.
“The heroes we are honoring today are men who showed extraordinary compassion, bravery, and sacrifice,” said Newsom. “Officers Ayers and Weckam are examples of the California spirit, our dedication to each other, and to doing the right thing. I am proud to recognize their heroic efforts and work.”
On August 6, 2021, Officer Ryan Ayers was off duty driving on US 101 in San Luis Obispo, California, when he observed a crash involving a semi-truck which ran off the road. Ayers climbed down the hillside to access the cab of the truck and found the driver unconscious. As the vehicle began to fill with smoke, without regard for his own safety, he cleared debris to access the driver. He was able to safely remove the driver seconds prior to the vehicle becoming fully engulfed in flames.
On December 6, 2021, Officer Kenneth Weckman was dispatched to a vehicle blocking the roadway in Marysville, California. As Weckman investigated the abandoned vehicle, he found a woman in crisis in a canal, attempting to smother a small child in the dirt and water. Weckman immediately attempted to rescue the child from the woman, as she violently resisted. After a struggle, He was able to save the child from the muddy waters. With the assistance of other officers who arrived on scene, the woman was safely taken into custody.
“Officer Ayers’ and Officer Weckman’s heroic actions undoubtedly saved the lives of these individuals” said CHP Commissioner Sean Duryee. “Their bravery, character, professionalism, and willingness to serve with such extraordinary valor exemplify their commitment to the communities they serve.”
On Friday Newsom announced his appointment of Sean Duryee as Commissioner of the California Highway Patrol, where he has been serving as Acting Commissioner and has held several roles since 1998.
“A veteran of the CHP, Commissioner Duryee has dedicated his career to serving the people of California, starting as a Cadet decades ago,” said Newsom. “His leadership, extensive experience and dedication will continue to serve California well and I thank him for taking on this new role.”
Duryee, 48, of Galt, has served as Acting Commissioner of the California Highway Patrol since January 2023. He served in several positions at CHP from 1998 to 2022, including Deputy Commissioner, Executive Assistant to the Commissioner, Special Representative to the Legislature, Commander of the Department’s Commercial Vehicle Section, Academy Instructor and Cadet.
He is a coach for the Liberty Ranch High School Girls Varsity Basketball Team. This position requires Senate confirmation and the compensation is $315,348. Duryee is registered without party preference.
FBI joins investigation of threats against LGBTQ+ bars in St. Louis
Since September of 2022 the FBI has been on heightened alert over violence against LGBTQ+ facilities, groups and events
ST. LOUIS – The FBI has joined the investigation into violent threats of bombs and shootings against three LGBTQ+ bars in the Grove neighborhood of St. Louis this past weekend. A fourth threat against a children’s playground and adult café that was scheduled to hold a drag queen story hour is also being looked into by the FBI.
The three establishments, PRISM STL, Just John, and Rehab, are all located on Manchester Avenue in the city’s trendy Grove neighborhood and entertainment district. According to St. Louis’ alternative weekly press outlet The Riverfront Times, late Saturday afternoon, the bars received calls from an individual threatening violence.
Around 4 p.m. at Prism, bartender Jordan Cox answered the phone. “The caller off the bat started talking about how they were the Joker, and they were going to blow up the bar, send bombs and shoot up everybody,” Cox said, adding that it sounded like at least two people were on the other line.
Just John bar owner John Arnold said he received a voicemail around the same time.
“They said they were going to come in at 3 a.m. and burn the place down,” Arnold says. “And that they were fed up with us ‘fags’.” The same voicemail named a Just John employee whom the caller liked. “They told us to make sure he wasn’t there,” Arnold added.
St. Louis NBC affiliate KSDK NBC 5 reported that a bartender at Michael Klataske and Sean Abernathy’s bar PRISM actually spoke to the suspect.
In the incident regarding the fourth location, CBS affiliate KMOV 4 reported that the FBI is also investigating threats against a children’s playground and adult café called Urban Fort in South City. The owner said they received violent threats and were forced to tighten security and change the date, time and location of a scheduled story time lesson featuring a drag performer.
Since September, the FBI has been on heightened alert over violence against LGBTQ+ facilities, groups and events. A threat assessment distributed by the Department of Homeland Security after November Club Q mass-shooting in Colorado Springs warned that hate criminals and violent domestic extremists could increase threats to the LGBTQ+ community “due to their responses to legislative or societal changes in the United States.” related to LGBTQ+ issues, and conspiracy theories involving the LGBTQ+ community.”
In the bulletin issued by DHS, the HSI agency noted: “Some domestic violent extremists who have conducted attacks have cited previous attacks and attackers as inspiration. Following the late November shooting at an LGBTQI+ bar in Colorado Springs, Colorado—which remains under investigation—we have observed actors on forums known to post racially or ethnically motivated violent extremist content praising the alleged attacker.
Similarly, some domestic violent extremists in the United States praised an October 2022 shooting at a LGBTQI+ bar in Slovakia and encouraged additional violence. The attacker in Slovakia posted a manifesto online espousing white supremacist beliefs and his admiration for prior attackers, including some within the United States.”
The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department said in a statement, “The investigation is ongoing.”
Rabbi & 11-year-old son testify against anti-trans legislation
Daniel Bogard and his family are part of an interfaith movement led by Missouri clergy aimed at stopping bills targeting the LGBTQ community
ST. LOUIS, MO. — Rabbi Daniel Bogard should be spending this Shabbat preparing for tonight’s service at the synagogue he leads in St. Louis, Central Reform Congregation. Instead, he’s defending his family from death threats and planning his next trip to the state capitol, two hours away in Jefferson City, where Republicans hold a super majority in the state legislature and the governorship.
That’s also where the state GOP is pushing forward six bills: Three that would ban gender-affirming healthcare for transgender children and three more that would prohibit them from competing in school sports according to their authentic gender identity. Every year for the past few years, Bogard said he has testified against bills like these.
“Every year, again and again and again,” he said. “And it’s dehumanizing and degrading and genuinely traumatic.”
In fact, Missouri lawmakers have filed the most anti-LGBTQ+ bills of any state, according to a database from the American Civil Liberties Union that tracks anti-LGBTQ+ legislation nationwide. The ACLU called this the “most dangerous” session of the Missouri Legislature for the LGBTQ+ community it’s seen in years.
“The Republicans said that targeting trans kids is the single most important agenda on their list, especially targeting trans because it is their top priority this session. And I think, ‘What the fuck?’” said the rabbi. “We had, I don’t know, 50, 60 Jews who showed up in the state capitol with 25 hours’ notice to protest these bills last Tuesday.”
That day, Bogard was one of a half dozen fellow Jewish as well as Christian clergy who spoke out against the legislation, many of them testifying at a marathon, nine-hour hearing focused on student-athletes.
Bogard’s 11-year-old eldest son testified, and boy’s grandmother was there in support. The young man told lawmakers he was there to represent his nine-year-old brother and a friend, who are both transgender.
“I have to be here because you, the Missouri government, keeps trying to take away what they have a passion for. Why do you keep trying to take things from these kids? Kids just want to have fun, playing sports, not being stressed having to come here to tell you to let them play,” he said. “This has affected my brother, because now he is scared he will not get to do what he loves.”
The Blade agreed to not disclose either boy’s name or their faces for their protection. “I’ve had a half dozen death threats in the last year,” Bogard said. “It’s taken a huge toll. It colors everything about how I see the world at this point. I find hope really hard, which is tough as a rabbi.”
And this week wasn’t the first time the rabbi’s oldest son testified, he said. But he draws the line at putting his youngest child in the hot seat.
“My 11-year old, he’s been testifying for years now,” Bogard told the Blade. “We don’t allow our child who’s trans to testify because, first of all, he’s only nine. But they are so cruel in that testimony room. They’re cruel, and they say awful things. I mean, they call you groomers in the testimony room. They tell you you’re mutilating your child. They ask children if they’d like to be taken away from their parents, and why their parents are forcing them to believe these things. They ask children what their genitals look like.”
“So, we don’t, we don’t let our nine-year old go there,” he said, noting his child does have plenty of support, and not just from him and his wife, Rabbi Karen Bogard and their oldest son.
“My kid lives the life that every trans kid deserves. He is embraced and supported by every single one of his relatives, our friends, and the school and his teacher. They threw him a party on the one-year anniversary of his transition. The rabbi made him a kippah in the colors of the trans flag,” the pink, white and blue banner which was designed by Navy veteran and trans activist Monica Helms.
Bogard’s nine-year-old attends a school which is greatly supportive of the effort to win hearts and minds at the capitol. “The school sends a senior level person to testify against every single one of these bills,” he said. “That’s the world my kid lives in.”
To give other children like his a chance to live in a better world, even briefly, Bogard teamed-up with PROMO senior director of public policy and advocacy Shira Berkowitz last year, to start Camp Indigo Point, a summer camp for trans youth, at a secret location in Missouri.
“We thought we were going to get 20 kids from this area,” Bogard said. “And we ended up filling every one of the 97 bunks that we had for kids at the facility we had rented out, and had 60 kids on the waitlist. Those kids come from 27 states. It was the most magical thing, the best thing I’ve ever been a part of.”
Bogard said the entire staff at the camp, except for him, is trans and nonbinary. It’s efforts like this and the work he and other cisgender parents do at the capitol that has won him admiration and allies, including one woman who describes herself as an Orthodox feminist.
“The efforts to take away trans rights in Missouri — and attack and erase all LGBTQ+ people in our state — have felt like repeated gut punches as we see more and more bills proposed and work to build up the energy to travel to the capitol week after week to testify. It often feels like more than enough to break a person,” Rori Picker Neiss, Maharat and executive director of the JCRC in St. Louis, told the Blade. “And yet what continues to inspire me each day are these brave kids and their resilience, the parents who fight for them to the ends of the earth, and the faith leaders who refuse to allow religious language to be coopted for harm.”
Bogard and others making this effort do more than testify, they lobby the lawmakers. “Many of these Republicans will tell you in private how much they don’t like these bills and don’t want to be a part of them, but they feel like they have to.”
And what about those who are pushing the bills forward, such as Senate President Pro Tem Caleb Rowden? Bogard calls them “disgusting” and “enablers of fascism.”
“They are the people who are torturing my family, because it’s good politics for them,” he said. “I think it’s fascism that’s rising here. I think that’s what this is and that’s what we’re facing. It’s white Christian nationalism, certainly, and it’s taking over red states.”
As the Blade has reported, families from Texas, Florida and other states of hate are fleeing to sanctuary states like California, Connecticut and Massachusetts because of the kinds of bills being considered in Missouri. Even though Bogard has deep roots in St. Louis, he confessed moving away is something his family may have to consider.
“I don’t know a loving parent of a trans kid in a red state who isn’t up at night, terrified that they’re going to need to flee,” he said. “I live in the house that my grandpa built, that my dad grew up in, that I grew up in, that my kids are growing up in. My folks are here at home, very close to us and who love their grandkids. My mom came down to testify with us. My brother’s here, his family, my niece.
“I’m terrified we’re going to need to flee the state, because if they give me the choice between doing what is right for my child, and staying, that’s not a choice. The great fear is, government goons showing up at your door to take your child away.”
Trans Gen Z er dies after wait on UK Healthcare system
LGBTQ+ people already face disproportionately worse healthcare outcomes in the UK – and that’s without an NHS in crisis
BRIGHTON, UK – Alice Litman was a year 11 student when she told her family she wanted to live as a woman. Barely 4 years later at age 20 she took her own life. According to her parents Peter and Caroline Litman, she died partly because of the inaccessibility of gender-affirming healthcare in the UK.
The BBC reported that an inquest is to be held into the death of Litman who took her own life while on an NHS waiting list for almost three years for gender-affirming healthcare. She had been referred to the NHS Gender Identity Development Service in August 2019, but was still waiting for an initial assessment when she took her own life at the age of 20.
BBC News reported that the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, where the gender-identity clinic is based, as saying it was “deeply saddened” by Litman’s death but it was “not appropriate to comment while the inquest is ongoing”.
The clinic’s website, which currently only shows data from the same month that Litman died, reveals the waiting list to be 11,407-people long.
Assistant coroner Sarah Clarke will examine issues relating to her death in the Coroner’s Inquest due to take place this upcoming September.
Peter and Caroline Litman hope lessons will be learned from their daughter’s death the couple told the BBC. They said in a statement: “We believe that Alice died partly because of the inaccessibility of gender-affirming healthcare in the UK.
“We want the inquest to examine this to ensure we can get justice for Alice, and change for all the trans people who are facing the same issues.”
“It’s not just Alice. It’s too late for her. There are lots of other young transgender people out there and they need our help.”
The crisis is a dangerous threat to everybody who relies on free healthcare reports PinkNewsUK.
For LGBTQ+ people specifically, it’s compounded by existing barriers – the NHS has acknowledged that outcomes are disproportionately poor for the queer community.
In the government’s 2017 National LGBT Survey, 16 per cent of LGBTQ+ people said they had a negative experience when accessing public health services because of their sexual orientation, while 38 per cent had a bad experience on the basis of their gender identity. More than half (51 per cent) faced waits for mental health care, while years-long waiting lists for gender-affirming care are well-documented.
Cleo Madeleine, communications officer for trans charity Gendered Intelligence, told PinkNewsUK:
“LGBT+ people already have worse access to healthcare than the general population, with both physical and mental health outcomes falling across the board. Some of this stems from a lack of education on LGBT+ people or an excess of stigma around specific needs like sexual health and gender identity services.
“Elsewhere we find that LGBT+ people – as many as 25 per cent – avoid seeking necessary care because they fear reprisal, or because they have been denied healthcare because of their identity before.”
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