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What’s next after the Democratic House victory?

Bisexual Katie Hill wins over anti-LGBT Rep. Steve Knight

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Katie Hill (Photo courtesy Equality California)

LGBT ally Steve Schmidt, the former Republican strategist turned political pundit, repeatedly cautions that President Donald Trump, whom he calls the “greatest demagogue” in US history, is inciting a “cold civil war.”

“Trump has stoked a cold civil war in this country. His rallies brim with menace and he has labeled journalists as enemies of the people,” Schmidt tweeted after a lone-wolf mass mail-bomb assassination attempt against Trump’s Democratic hit list was uncovered. “That someone would seek to kill their political enemies is not aberrational but rather the inevitable consequence of Trumps [sic] incitement.”

That was when Republicans held the White House, the Senate, the House and the majority on the US Supreme Court and the administration had no qualms in publicly rolling back protections for LGBT people. In fact, after the New York Times announced that “Transgender Could be Defined Out of Existence Under Trump,” the LGBT community and many allies responded with outrage, becoming deeply invested in winning back the House of Representatives during the Nov. 6 midterm elections, while realizing that the Senate may stay in Republican hands.

Despite hard work and millions of dollars—the Human Rights Campaign alone invested $26 million in a massive grassroots campaign deploying 150 HRC staff to more than 70 congressional, targeted senate and key statewide races across 23 states—the dreamed- about massive big blue wave didn’t materialize and many of the progressive leaders that LGBT and ally supporters hoped would win big to stick it to Donald Trump either lost or were artificially deprived of winning.  

HRC President Chad Griffin with Harley Rouda volunteers (Photo courtesy HRC)

There were big wins, however—including out bisexual Katie Hill, 31, who won in California’s 25th District against longtime anti-LGBT Rep. Steve Knight in Northern Los Angeles County and part of Ventura. Hill was leading by roughly 5,500 votes, or 52.2 percent just past noon on Wednesday—and Knight decided to concede. “The voters have spoken and they want a new congressman — or a congresswoman, for this district,” Knight told KCBSTV. “We wish her the best.”

She’ll need it. At a Nov. 7 news conference in the East Room of the White House, Trump took a victory lap for personally having staved off the Democrat’s Big Blue Wave and weirdly praised House Leader Nancy Pelosi, who is expected to take back the gavel as House Speaker, promising to work with her on “a beautiful bipartisan-type situation.” He’s promised bipartisanship before—then bailed, most notably with California senior Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who was just handily re-elected, on the issue of gun violence.

But Trump also threw down the gauntlet, promising to assume a “Game of Thrones”-like “warlike posture” if the House dares investigate him or his administration.

“They can play that game, but we can play it better, because we have a thing called the United States Senate,” Trump said, referring to the Republican Senate which just gained two seats but is actually a separate branch of government run by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “I could see it being extremely good for me politically because I think I’m better at that game than they are, actually, but we’ll find out.”

For her part, Pelosi told Democrats at their victory party that the House would focus on “restoring the Constitution’s checks and balances to the Trump administration,” as opposed to immediately following up on LGBT fan favorite Rep. Maxine Water’s repeated calls for Trump’s impeachment.

Adam Schiff (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

LGBT ally Rep. Adam Schiff of Los Angeles, meanwhile, must most feel the burden of the sane free world on his shoulders as he considers assuming the chair of the House Intelligence Committee. He told his supporters at a Burbank restaurant on Election Night, that the era of one-party rule is over.  It’s a message he’s been pushing while campaigning for others.

“We’ve had a Congress completely unwilling to do its job, to be a co-equal branch of government, unwilling to push back against the basic indecency of this person in the Oval Office,” Schiff at a rally for Katie Hill, the Los Angeles Times reported. “And it is this combination of unethical president and a cowardly, rubber-stamp Congress that has our republic trembling, and why so much rides on our ability to flip the House.”

Now flipped, Schiff is expected to investigate Trump’s finances, Trump’s campaign and the administration’s possible links to Russia, intentionally ignored by his Republican counterpart, California Rep. Devin Nunes, who was also just re-elected after a briefly close race.

“As long as Donald Trump is the president, it will be a poisonous atmosphere because he’s all about division. Nonetheless, we need to do our best in Congress to get the people’s business done. We need to show that we are more than just being about being opposed to him. We are not going to abuse our power the way the Republicans did. We are going to be responsible and tenacious in pursuit of our policy,” Schiff said.

House Republicans have trouble brewing in-house, according to The Hill. With Speaker Paul Ryan retiring, the race is on to become the next leader of the House GOP. California Rep. Kevin McCarthy, often seen glued to Trump, has been widely expected to assume the mantle of House minority leader. But shortly after Democrats had re-taken control, far right conservative Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio announced that he intends to challenge McCarthy.

“In 2016, the American people elected Republicans to come here and change this town. I think the president is doing just that, but I don’t think they see the same intensity from folks in Congress, folks in the House of Representatives,” Jordan told Hill TV.  “Have we replaced ObamaCare yet? Have we secured the border yet? Have we reformed welfare yet? No.”

Jordan promised rigorous debate with the Democrats, as opposed to a possible bipartisanship approach Trump mentioned in his remarks. “Now that we’re in the minority, that’s about all what we can do is debate, but fight hard in the debate for the principles, for the things that we know the American people sent us here to do in 2016. Show them that we deserve to be back in power in 2020,” he said. 

One of those fights is expected to be with the Justice Department over special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into what US intelligence agencies have called interference by Russian operatives in the 2016 election. Trump calls the investigation a “witch hunt.” Jordan, co-founder of the proudly anti-LGBT disruptive conservative House Freedom Caucus, will no doubt engage his Freedom Caucus co-founder, Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina. Meadows has introduced articles of impeachment against Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who has been overseeing the Mueller probe since Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself. 

All of this came before Sessions resigned Wednesday—at Trump’s request. Trump has often slammed Sessions since the recusal, suggesting he would fire the Attorney General—the first member of Congress to endorse Trump—right after the midterms. Promise made, promise kept.

Schiff and the Democratic House leadership can now shift their thinking to the multitude of possible clashes that may come in the approaching lame duck session of Congress.

Another check on Trump’s power will surely come from the 113 newly elected women, including 28 first-time House members, many who ran inspired by the resistance movement such as Democratic activist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, 29, of New York, the youngest member of Congress, now Hill, 31, and Sharice Davids, a lesbian Kansas Democrat and member of the Ho-Chunk Nation..

Both the Human Rights Campaign and Equality California raised massive amounts of money and inspired and organized thousands of volunteers. They targeted California races to not only flip the House to Democrats but also ensure solid pro-equality victories up and down the ballot in California.

CNN’s exit polling had LGBT voters at 6 percent of the turnout and voting 82 percent for Democrats / 17 percent for Republicans. Re turnout: with 113 million voters overall, that’s roughly 6.8 million LGBT voters that turned out nationally. Since mail ballots are still being counted, it looks like LGBT voter turnout was at or above the turnout recorded in 2016 exits (7 million). While exit polling can be fickle, it’s impressive that LGBTQ turnout in the midterms matched a presidential cycle,” Olivia Alair Dalton, HRC’s Sr. Vice President of Communications & Marketing, told the Los Angeles Blade.   

We do not yet know the percentage of turnout from the LGBT community in California or Los Angeles. However, gauging by the levels of enthusiasm in each of the campaigns, social media and just walking down the street in West Hollywood, the engagement was very high. Not enough, however, to pass AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s Prop 10, which would have returned rent control regulation to municipalities instead of developers and landlords.

What will happen now, after the perceived losses in such key progressive races such as Beto O’Rourke in Texas to Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, and Andrew Gillum and Stacy Abrams running to be the first African American governors of Florida and Georgia, respectively? It is unclear if those races will be subject to recount or will face a legal challenge because of voting irregularities—but the immediate reaction has been one of deep disappointment in the progressive community, even with the historic “rainbow wave” and election of so many women.

“While the outcome of yesterday’s midterm elections did not result in securing a safer and more just future for all, it did go a long way toward that goal,” said National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) Executive Director Kate Kendell in a statement. “More young people and women showed up to vote and more women and LGBTQ candidates won. We may yet save our nation and repair a U.S. Constitution in tatters. 

“At NCLR we will do our part, fighting in court and engaging these elected officials to demand that our community, especially the most vulnerable, are free to live their lives fully, safely and with full dignity,” she concluded.

In statewide elections, the view was a bit more optimistic. Longtime LGBT ally Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, best known for helping start the nationwide opposition to then-President George W. Bush’s push for a federal constitutional amendment to ban same sex marriage, handily won his race to replace longtime ally Gov. Jerry Brown as California’s next governor. Equality California-endorsed candidate Eleni Kounalakis won a spirited race to become the next lieutenant governor.

Less clear, is whether openly gay California Sen. Ricardo Lara won his race against Republican-turned-independent Steve Poizner for Insurance Commissioner. Poizner was a high hope for Republicans who don’t much like Trump but like old fashion Republican policies, which Poizner espoused through coded campaign commercials. Lara seemed to rely less on earned media than on other means to reach voters, especially reaching out to the under-media-served Latino community.

While Poizner used to be Insurance Commissioner, he has not be visible for years. Lara, in the meantime, has not only been visible as a State Senator, but has taken on issues such as protecting undocumented immigrants, including LGBT people seeking asylum, and opposing efforts to bring back so-called “conversion therapy. Lara told the Los Angeles Blade that he would, in fact, look at such efforts as “consumer fraud” under his jurisdiction, if elected Insurance Commissioner. If his election is certified, Lara will make history as California’s first openly LGBT statewide official. As of Wednesday morning, he was leading by more than 105,000 votes.

“With millions of ballots left to be counted across the state, it is already clear that Californians sent a clear message to Washington, rejecting the politics of fear and division, and electing leaders who will work to unite us and fight for full equality,” Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur said. “The LGBTQ community has much to celebrate this 9Wednesday/Nov. 70) morning — with openly LGBTQ and pro-equality candidates making history across the country last night, a new pro-equality majority in the U.S. House of Representatives and a historic number of women elected to the House, too. We congratulate and look forward to working with Governor-elect Gavin Newsom, Lieutenant Governor-elect Eleni Kounalakis and pro-equality leaders in the Legislature and new Congress to continue making progress toward a world that is healthy, just and fully equal for all LGBTQ people.”

Equality California, the nation’s largest statewide LGBTQ civil rights organization, took these midterms seriously, campaigning as if this was a presidential election. The organization ran a $650,000 voter engagement and get-out-the vote program that included a direct mail campaign reaching approximately 740,000 voters — including targeted mail supporting Lara and Assemblymember Tony Thurmond’s campaign for Superintendent of Public Instruction. He appears to be losing to an even better-funded campaign by charter schools enthusiast, Marshall Tucker.

Equality California also vigorously supported  eight pro-equality candidates for the California Legislature and pushed out robo-calls to approximately 520,000 voters supporting Lara, nine pro-equality Congressional candidates, 14 pro-equality state legislative candidates and 12 openly LGBT local candidates.

Right now, HRC and Equality California-supported candidates Harley Rouda (CA-48) and Mike Levin (CA-49) lead their anti-LGBT opponents by slim margins, with the races still too close to call. The other pro-equality Congressional candidates the LGBT worked hard to elect—Josh Harder (CA-10), Gil Cisneros (CA-39) and Katie Porter (CA-45)—are currently trailing their anti-LGBT opponents but the numbers can easily change as the thousands of vote-by-mail and provisional ballots are counted in each race in the next week or two.

Equality California says that they partnered with NextGen America and the California Labor Federation to target the Hill, Cisneros, Porter and Rouda campaigns in what have been considered new swing districts. They knocked on 7,200 doors and contacted more than 123,000 voters through live phone calls and peer-to-peer text messaging, EQCA says in a press release.

“Other priority races for Equality California included the contest to become California’s next Superintendent of Public Instruction and the effort to reelect Legislative LGBT Caucus Member Assemblymember Sabrina Cervantes,” EQCA says. “Equality California-endorsed candidate Assemblymember Tony Thurmond currently trails Marshall Tuck by a slim margin in the Superintendent’s race, while Cervantes leads her challenger Bill Essayli by three votes. Equality California also strongly supported openly LGBTQ legislative candidates Joy Silver (SD-28), Jovanka Beckles (AD-15) and Sunday Gover (AD-77), who ran strong races and are currently trailing their opponents in races too close to call.”

One heart-breaking loss is that of Ammar Campa-Najjar to indicted Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter Jr. in Orange County’s 50th District. While the race seemed like a long shot from the beginning, there were moments when he broke through and actually ran neck-and-neck, ahead or within the margin of error. History may look back and question whether Trump’s angry, fearful and inaccurate closing argument at campaign rallies about the supposed caravan of diseased and crime-filled immigrants (mostly women and children) who want to “invade” the southern border might have had an impact, as well as Hunter’s disgusting racist and unethical campaign ads implying Campa-Najjar, a devout Christian, was a foreign terrorist. As of Nov. 7, Hunter has 54.33 percent of the vote to Campa-Najjar’s 45.67 percent.   

“The days of attacking LGBTQ people for political gain are over, and the American people will not stand for lawmakers who try to drum up votes by trafficking in hate,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “Thanks to millions of Americans who stood up and fought back, we have succeeded in restoring a sane, pro-equality majority to the House and placing a check on this administration’s hateful agenda.”

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Los Angeles County

LA County Pride lifeguard tower at Will Rogers beach vandalized

The tower had homophobic, racist and antisemitic slurs and symbols spray painted on it and its windows were broken out

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Los Angeles County LGBTQ+ Pride lifeguard tower at Will Rogers State Beach vandalized. (Screenshot/YouTube Fox 11 LA)

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles County lifeguard tower at Will Rogers State Beach was vandalized Monday evening or early Tuesday morning with homophobic, racist and antisemitic slurs and symbols were spray painted on it and the windows were broken out.

“Hate has no place in Los Angeles County. We will not back down from celebrating and protecting our LGBTQ+, Jewish, and Black communities – among our many diverse communities – across Los Angeles County. This act of hatred reminds us why our continued commitment to solidarity is necessary,”  L.A. County Supervisor Lindsey Horvath said in a statement to the Blade. “We are working with our County departmental partners to repaint Lifeguard Tower 18 at the historic and beloved Ginger Rogers Beach.”

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Rhode Island

Survey ranks Rhode Island first in nation on LGBTQ+ safety

This year a number of state lawmakers and officials could be spotted marching in the parade on Saturday, June 15

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Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos, festively attired in a rainbow jacket, marches in the Rhode Island Pride Illuminated Night Parade on Dorrance Street Saturday, June 15, 2024. (Christopher Shea/Rhode Island Current)

By Alexander Castro & Christopher Shea | PROVIDENCE, R.I. – In Rhode Island, the pinnacle of LGBTQ+ Pride Month is one colorful Saturday halfway through June, when RI PrideFest and its accompanying parade fill downtown Providence from daylight until dark.

This year a number of state lawmakers and officials could be spotted marching in the parade on Saturday, June 15. The show of support from LGBTQ+ lawmakers and allies came after a productive season at the State House for legislation meant to improve both directly and indirectly the lives of queer Rhode Islanders. 

Among the bills passed by both House and Senate by end of session last week included a health care provider shield law, expanded coverage for PrEP drugs and legislation to make name changes easier in probate court. 

Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee smiles as he marches in the Rhode Island Pride Illuminated Night Parade on Dorrance Street Saturday, June 15, 2024.
(Christopher Shea/Rhode Island Current)
A spectator waves a pride flag in front of the Reserve banquet hall on Dorrance Street in Providence. (Christopher Shea/Rhode Island Current)
Providence Mayor Brett Smiley is shown on Dorrance Street after handing out pride flags during the Rhode Island Pride Illuminated Night Parade on Saturday, June 15, 2024. (Christopher Shea/Rhode Island Current)
Sen. Tiara Mack, a Providence Democrat, in pink, marches in the Rhode Island Pride Illuminated Night Parade on Dorrance Street Saturday, June 15, 2024.
(Christopher Shea/Rhode Island Current)
Left to right, Sen. Victoia Gu, a Westerly Democrat, the back of U.S. Rep. Seth Magaziner, and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse march in the Rhode Island Pride Illuminated Night Parade on Dorrance Street Saturday, June 15, 2024.
(Christopher Shea/Rhode Island Current)
Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha marches in the Rhode Island Pride Illuminated Night Parade on Dorrance Street Saturday, June 15, 2024.
(Christopher Shea/Rhode Island Current)

Last Wednesday, June 12, Gov. Dan McKee also retweeted some positive news: Rhode Island scored first place in a national ranking of safe places for LGBTQ+ people. 

This is the third year the report cards have been released by SafeHome.org, a website that analyzes security and safety trends nationwide. State laws protecting LGBTQ+ rights are used to calculate the composite scores, which also factored in hate crime data for the first time this year.

SafeHome.org cited Rhode Island’s existing LGBTQ+ legislation, including the strength of its anti-bullying laws, lack of discrimination toward LGBTQ+ foster parents, state Medicaid inclusion of transgender people, and required hate crime reporting from law enforcement agencies. Hate crime rates in the state are low, and Rhode Island is one of only six states where every law enforcement agency needs to report hate crimes, according to SafeHome.org. 

Massachusetts — which often outpaces or matches its neighbors in quality-of-life rankings — was the lowest-ranking New England state in the SafeHome.org survey, coming in at 28th place.

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Alexander Castro

Alexander Castro covers education and health for Rhode Island Current. He has worked extensively in the visual arts as a critic, curator and adjunct professor.

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Christopher Shea

Christopher Shea covers politics, the criminal justice system and transportation for the Rhode Island Current.

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The preceding article was previously published by the Rhode Island Current and is republished with permission.

The Rhode Island Current is an independent, nonprofit news outlet focused on state government and the impact of public policy decisions in the Ocean State. Readers can expect relentless reporting with the context needed to understand key issues affecting the lives of Rhode Islanders.

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

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U.S. Federal Courts

Attorneys in Alabama trans medical case turn over document

A U.S. District Judge ordered the lawyers to turn over the Q&A document, which was used to prepare for questions from a three-judge panel

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A sign outside the Frank M. Johnson Jr. Federal Building and United States Courthouse in Montgomery, Alabama seen on January 24, 2023. (Brian Lyman/Alabama Reflector)

By Jemma Stephenson | MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Attorneys in an ongoing lawsuit against the state over Alabama’s gender affirming care for minors ban turned over a document Tuesday to a federal judge in an investigation of allegations of judge shopping. 

U.S. District Court Judge Liles C. Burke ordered the lawyers to turn over the Q&A document, which the attorneys said was used to prepare the lawyers for questions from a three-judge panel investigating allegations that the attorneys manipulated the random assignment of cases to seek a judge favorable to their case.

The attorneys have lodged objections to the production of the document, arguing that it is covered by attorney-client privilege. Burke wants the document for an in camera review. 

“Respondents submit the Q&A Document to confirm that their attorney-client privileged communications with their counsel were proper, to resolve this collateral issue as promptly as possible, and to dispense with the reputationally harmful allegations that they sought legal advice in furtherance of a crime or fraud,” the attorneys for the respondents wrote.

The plaintiffs sued Alabama in 2022 over a law making it a felony to prescribe hormones and puberty blockers in gender-affirming care. Burke, who heard the case, initially ruled for the plaintiffs and blocked the state law. But a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit overturned his ruling last year. The plaintiffs are seeking a full review of the decision by the circuit.

Multiple challenges to the law were filed after Gov. Kay Ivey signed the bill into law in 2022. After multiple transfers of the cases, the attorneys withdrew the case and later refiled it. Burke said the moves gave the appearance of judge shopping, which the investigative panel said had occurred in a report in October.

In a separate Tuesday filing, the attorneys also objected to Burke’s order to turn over the document, objecting to the judge’s portraying of the panel’s findings.

“Even if the one or two narrow  examples cited by the panel were really ‘inconsistencies and apparent misrepresentations’  (they are not), they do not  support  or  justify this Court’s  all-encompassing claim that the Panel ‘unanimously discredited’ the Walker Respondents’ testimony or otherwise ‘reject[ed] their testimony as unworthy of belief,’” they wrote.

The attorneys also pushed back against a Burke claim that an attorney had committed perjury before the panel. In an October report from the panel the judges wrote that one attorney had “deliberately misled” the panel about a phone call to a judge’s chamber, which Burke connected to perjury.

“There is no basis to conclude that no reasonable person could believe in good faith that he potentially perjured himself,” Burke wrote. “Likewise, there is no basis to conclude that an in camera review of the Q&A document would surely fail to turn up evidence that he intentionally lied to the court.”

 The attorneys wrote that the claim of “perjury” is not supported by facts and referenced an earlier order. They also wrote that the panel did not wholly discredit their testimony and wrote that claims of a lack of candor were limited to one footnote.

“To be clear, however, Walker counsel’s candor on the whole is concerning,” the panel wrote in a footnote.

They wrote that claims of a prima-facie case only exists because of the panel’s findings, which had due-process violations. They wrote that some were denied a right to counsel and others were excluded from proceedings.

“Respondents continue to steadfastly maintain that they testified truthfully and honestly before the Panel and in subsequent submissions to this Court. There  is  no  basis  for  this  Court  to  assert  that  the  Panel  disbelieved  or  discredited Respondents’ testimony or otherwise engaged in any purported fraud on the Court,” they wrote.

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Jemma Stephenson

Jemma Stephenson covers education as a reporter for the Alabama Reflector. She previously worked at the Montgomery Advertiser and graduated from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

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The preceding article was previously published by the Alabama Reflector and is republished with permission.

The Alabama Reflector is an independent, nonprofit news outlet dedicated to covering state government and politics in the state of Alabama. Through daily coverage and investigative journalism, The Reflector covers decision makers in Montgomery; the issues affecting Alabamians, and potential ways to move our state forward.

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

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Research/Study

LGBTQ people in LA County struggle with cost of living & safety

Approximately 665,000 LGBTQ adults live in Los Angeles County, according to new research from the Williams Institute

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Photo courtesy of the California Department of Aging/California government

LOS ANGELES – Approximately 665,000 LGBTQ adults live in Los Angeles County, according to new research from the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law that looks at the lived experiences and needs of LGBTQ people.

The majority (82%) believe that LA County is a good place for LGBTQ people to live and that elected officials are responsive to their needs. However, affording to live in LA County is their most common worry.

Over one-third (35%) of LGBTQ Angelenos live below 200% of the federal poverty level (FPL), including almost half (47%) of transgender and nonbinary people, and they experience high rates of food insecurity and housing instability.

Nearly one in three (32%) LGBTQ households in Los Angeles County and more than one in five (23%) non-LGBTQ households experienced food insecurity in the prior year. In addition, more than 60% of LGBTQ people live in households that are cost-burdened by housing expenses, spending 30% or more of their household income on housing. A quarter (26%) of LGBTQ people live in households where over 50% of the household’s monthly income is spent on rent or mortgage payments.

“LA County represents a promise of equality and freedom to LGBTQ people who live here and throughout the country,” said lead author Brad Sears, the Founding Executive Director at the Williams Institute. “But that promise is being undermined by the County’s rapidly escalating cost of living.”

This report used representative data collected from 1,006 LGBTQ adults in Los Angeles County who completed the 2023 Los Angeles County Health Survey (LACHS) conducted by the Los Angeles County Public Health Department. The data also included responses from 504 LGBTQ individuals who participated in the Lived Experiences in Los Angeles County (LELAC) Survey, a LACHS call-back survey developed by the Williams Institute.

More than half (51%) of LGBTQ adults said they have been verbally harassed, with 39% experiencing this in the past five years. As a result, one in five LGBTQ people have avoided public places such as businesses, parks, and public transportation in the last year. About 40% of LGBTQ people do not believe that law enforcement agencies in Los Angeles County treat LGBTQ people fairly.

companion study published today surveyed 322 trans and nonbinary individuals in Los Angeles County. Results showed that the cost of living in LA County was the most significant concern for trans and nonbinary respondents, with 59% indicating that it is a serious problem. More than one-quarter (28%) of the participants were unemployed, compared to 5% of LA County overall.

The survey also revealed significant disparities in health and health care access, especially for trans and nonbinary adults who were women or transfeminine, immigrants, and those living at or near the FPL.

“Understanding the life experiences of trans and nonbinary people is important so that we can begin to improve the quality of our lives in LA County,” said study co-author Bamby Salcedo, President and CEO of the TransLatin@ Coalition. “Trans and nonbinary people are best suited to envision ways to support and uplift the community, along with trans-led organizations that have already been doing this work. LA County must commit to greater support of the organizations serving our community.”

Survey respondents were twice as likely as the general population of LA County to report having fair or poor health (27%), being uninsured (14%), and going without health care (46%).

“Despite a supportive policy environment in Los Angeles County, experiences of stigma and discrimination still exist and can hinder access to necessary resources for trans and nonbinary residents,” said lead author Jody Herman, Senior Scholar of Public Policy at the Williams Institute. “It is crucial for local officials and service providers to enact policies, provide education and training, and establish accountability to ensure respectful and positive interaction with the trans and nonbinary community.”

third report focuses on LGBTQ people’s assessment of LA County programs and services and recommendations for local elected officials.

“These findings from the Williams Institute provide invaluable data that will guide our Board, County departments, and the inaugural LGBTQ+ Commission in shaping policies and programs to truly deliver for our diverse LGBTQ+ communities,” said LA County Board Chair Lindsey P. Horvath, who initiated the motion to present the findings to the Board. 

“It’s especially critical that we support our trans, gender-nonconforming, and nonbinary communities, ensuring they feel safe and supported, and that they are able to afford to live in Los Angeles County. These insights will guide our essential and transformative work.”

“Many LGBTQ people provided recommendations for elected officials to improve quality of life in Los Angeles County,” said principal investigator Kerith J. Conron, Research Director at the Williams Institute. “LGBTQ people are asking for visible allyship, increased representation of LGBTQ individuals in elected positions and civil service, and housing and financial support.”

“These recent findings serve as a sobering reminder of the persistent barriers faced by the LGBT community in Los Angeles County,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, PhD, MPH, MEd, Director of Public Health. “These reports underscore the profound impact of the disparities on the health and wellbeing of a community that include our family members, colleagues, and friends. It is imperative that we not only acknowledge these inequities but actively engage in eliminating them. Through collaborative efforts with community leaders, policymakers, and the public, Public Health is committed to upholding principles of justice and equity by ensuring that every member of our community has the resources they need to thrive.”

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Politics

Trump announces Day 1 funding ban for trans supportive schools

Trump turned his aim towards trans people near the end of a rally in Racine, Wisconsin, which was mostly focused on immigration and crime

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Donald Trump campaign rally in Racine, Wisconsin. (Screenshot/YouTube)

By Erin Reed | RACINE, Wis. – On Wednesday, former Republican President Donald Trump turned his aim towards transgender people near the end of a speech in Racine, Wisconsin, which was mostly focused on immigration and crime.

In the speech, he announced that his administration would shut down federal funding for schools that support transgender people, describing these schools as “pushing transgender insanity,” on day one. He also announced his intent to target transgender people in sports. These statements suggest that the candidate may increasingly prioritize targeting transgender people as a key election issue should he win.

Though the first hour of the speech went by without a mention of LGBTQ+ people, Trump turned his attention towards schools abruptly after speaking about crime, where he announced his day one priorities:

“We’re going to be proud of our Capital, we’re going to take care of our Capital. On day one, I will sign a new executive order to cut Federal funding of any school pushing critical race theory, transgender insanity, and other inappropriate racial, sexual, or political content onto the lives of our children, and I will not give one penny to any school that has a vaccine mandate or a mask.”

He then turned towards the topic of transgender athletes, claiming that a cisgender woman was injured by a volleyball hit by a transgender woman, which he claimed “came out at her at a speed that which she’s never seen before.” He also took aim at transgender swimmers and weightlifters.

This is not the first time that Donald Trump has spoken about transgender issues. Recently, his campaign slammed President Biden’s proclamation of Transgender Day of Visibility as “blasphemous” for falling on the same day as Easter. Notably, Trans Day of Visibility has been on March 31st for several years, whereas Easter is a moving holiday. Shortly after, he endorsed Pastor Mark Burns in South Carolina, who has called for executions over transgender people.

Recently, in a rally in Michigan, he stated that his day-one priorities included reversing Title IX protections for trans youth. Likewise, last year he released a video stating he intends to target programs promoting gender-affirming care “at any age” and to treat gender-affirming care as child abuse.

Wisconsin has seen an extreme number of anti-transgender and anti-LGBTQ+ bills: over 17 bills were proposed in 2024 targeting transgender people. Though many of these bills passed due to Republican legislative majorities, which are forecast to lessen after redistricting this year, all bills were stopped by Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers, who promised to veto bills targeting transgender people in the state:

“I’ll keep my promise to veto any bill making Wisconsin less safe, less inclusive, and less welcoming for LGBTQ people and kids — including this one,” Evers said. “And I’ll be damn proud to do it.”

If Trump is making a play for a political win using transgender issues as a major campaign issue, he may face difficulties. In the 2022 gubernatorial election, Republicans spent money on ads warning voters in Wisconsin of “transgender kindergarteners” and campaigned heavily on the issue.

Evers won his election and thanked voters in his victory speech for standing up for transgender kids. Similarly, millions were spent on ads against Judge Janet Protasiewicz for the Wisconsin Supreme Court over transgender youth. These ads also failed, with the judge outperforming expected results and winning her election.

Nevertheless, the Trump campaign is doubling down on this issue, mirroring the approach of many far-right Republicans in other states. His emphasis on transgender policies in a swing state is a strategic move worth monitoring to see if it solidifies as a cornerstone of his election platform.

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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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Research/Study

New Polling: 65% of Black Americans support Black LGBTQ rights

73% of Gen Z respondents (between the ages of 12 and 27) “agree that the Black community should do more to support Black LGBTQ+ people”

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Photo courtesy of the National Black Justice Coalition.

WASHINGTON – The National Black Justice Coalition, a D.C.-based LGBTQ advocacy organization, announced on June 19 that it commissioned what it believes to be a first-of-its-kind national survey of Black people in the United States in which 65 percent said they consider themselves “supporters of Black LGBTQ+ people and rights,” with 57 percent of the supporters saying they were “churchgoers.”

In a press release describing the findings of the survey, NBJC said it commissioned the research firm HIT Strategies to conduct the survey with support from five other national LGBTQ organizations – the Human Rights Campaign, the National LGBTQ Task Force, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Family Equality, and GLSEN.

“One of the first surveys of its kind, explicitly sampling Black people (1,300 participants) on Black LGBTQ+ people and issues – including an oversampling of Black LGBTQ+ participants to provide a more representative view of this subgroup – it investigates the sentiments, stories, perceptions, and priorities around Black values and progressive policies, to better understand how they impact Black views on Black LGBTQ+ people,” the press release says.

It says the survey found, among other things, that 73 percent of Gen Z respondents, who in 2024 are between the ages of 12 and 27, “agree that the Black community should do more to support Black LGBTQ+ people.”

According to the press release, it also found that 40 percent of Black people in the survey reported having a family member who identifies as LGBTQ+ and 80 percent reported having “some proximity to gay, lesbian, bisexual, or queer people, but only 42 percent have some proximity to transgender or gender-expansive people.”

The survey includes these additional findings:

• 86% of Black people nationally report having a feeling of shared fate and connectivity with other Black people in the U.S., but this view doesn’t fully extend to the Black LGBTQ+ community. Around half — 51% — of Black people surveyed feel a shared fate with Black LGBTQ+ people.

• 34% reported the belief that Black LGBTQ+ people “lead with their sexual orientation or gender identity.” Those participants were “significantly less likely to support the Black LGBTQ+ community and most likely to report not feeling a shared fate with Black LGBTQ+ people.”

• 92% of Black people in the survey reported “concern about youth suicide after being shown statistics about the heightened rate among Black LGBTQ+ youth.” Those expressing this concern included 83% of self-reported opponents of LGBTQ+ rights.

• “Black people’s support for LGBTQ+ rights can be sorted into three major groups: 29% Active Accomplices, 25% Passive Allies (high potential to be moved), 35% Opponents. Among Opponents, ‘competing priorities’ and ‘religious beliefs’ are the two most significant barriers to supporting Black LGBTQ+ people and issues.”

• 10% of the survey participants identified as LGBTQ. Among those who identified as LGBTQ, 38% identified as bisexual, 33% identified as lesbian or gay, 28% identified as non-binary or gender non-conforming, and 6% identified as transgender.

• Also, among those who identified as LGBTQ, 89% think the Black community should do more to support Black LGBTQ+ people, 69% think Black LGBTQ+ people have fewer rights and freedoms than other Black people, 35% think non-Black LGBTQ+ people have fewer rights and freedom than other Black people, 54% “feel their vote has a lot of power,” 51% live in urban areas, and 75% rarely or never attend church.

Additional information about the survey from NBJC can be accessed here.

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Los Angeles County

LAUSD board votes to ban student cellphone use during school day

Mobile phone apps are often cited as the leading cause among adolescents to suffer from episodes of mental health crisis or being bullied

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LAUSD board votes to ban student cellphone use during school day. (Screenshot/YouTube KABC 7 Eyewitness News)

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) voted Tuesday to ban mobile phone use during the school day starting in January of 2025. The ban is a complete prohibition against access and use of mobile phones by students on all LAUSD school campuses, including break periods.

“No matter what we bring to the board in the next four months, it will come with an awareness campaign for all stakeholders including students, but advances also the critical element of pursuing litigation against social media giants for their careless, irresponsible and immoral actions that have put kids across the country in the position they’re in today,” said LAUSD Superintendent Alberto Carvalho.

There was dissension as two school board members opposed the ban citing how difficult it would be for employees of the second largest school district in the country to enforce the ban and stay on top of it, KABC 7 reported.

Nick Melvoin, the LAUSD school board member for District 4, who spearheaded the ban, spoke with KABC 7:

“When I talk to teachers and students and parents… I also hear the same, which is that more and more time is being spent on policing student phone use. There’s not a coherent enforcement and they’re looking for some support from the board and from the district,” Melvoin said Tuesday. “The schools that have gone farther and that have already implemented a phone-free school day report incredible results. Kids are happier, they’re talking to one another, their academics are up.”

Some parents and others are opposed to the ban telling KABC that they wanted to be able to communicate with their children. Others however see the ban as a means to improve learning and lead to less bullying.

On Monday, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy wrote an op-ed calling for warning labels for younger users on social media platforms.

With mobile phone apps most often cited as the leading cause among adolescents to suffer from episodes of mental health crisis or being bullied as is a majority of cases for LGBTQ+ youth, especially trans and gender non-conforming youth, limiting school day usage could mitigate a portion of those instances a San Fernando Valley youth mental health crisis counselor, who asked to remain unidentified, told the Blade Tuesday afternoon.

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Missouri

Planned Parenthood will fight Missouri AG on trans youth records

Lawyers representing Planned Parenthood and the Missouri AG argued Monday over HIPPA protections during a St. Louis Circuit Court hearing

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Advocates with PROMO and Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri rally outside of the St. Louis Civil Courts building Monday afternoon (Annelise Hanshaw/Missouri Independent).

By Annelise Hanshaw | ST. LOUIS, Mo. – A circuit court judge heard arguments Monday over whether the Missouri attorney general’s efforts to access medical records of transgender youth violate privacy protections.

Monday’s hearing was convened at the request of Bailey in the hopes that the court would amend a previous order that requires patients to waive HIPAA rights before their medical records could be shared. If they don’t waive HIPAA, their documents would be exempt from the attorney general’s request for medical records.

HIPAA, which stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, protects patients from their providers disclosing their personally identifiable health information.

St. Louis Circuit Court Judge Joseph Whyte did not immediately rule following the hearing. Richard Muniz, interim president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, said if the decision is unfavorable, his organization will appeal.

“Our commitment to our patients is that we will fight this as long as we need to,” Muniz told The Independent. “Today, we’ve already signaled that we are going to appeal because we think that we shouldn’t have to turn over documents, especially patient records, but we shouldn’t have to partake in this investigation at all.”

Bailey launched his investigation in March 2023 looking into gender-affirming care of minors after the affidavit of Jamie Reed, who worked at Washington University’s adolescent Transgender Center. In April, another circuit court judge ruled that Bailey may continue his investigation — adding that patients must waive HIPAA rights before their private health information could be shared.

Children’s Mercy in Kansas City, Washington University and Planned Parenthood Great Plains are also arguing against the attorney general’s civil investigative demands.

The April decision, beyond giving patients the ability to protect their medical records, granted Bailey power to investigate Planned Parenthood under the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act, a state law that allows the attorney general’s office to investigate deceptive marketing practices.

Matthew Eddy, an attorney representing Planned Parenthood said during his arguments Monday that the attorney general’s authority under the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act has yet to be fully litigated.

Health care providers are fearful of what the attorney general might do with more information. Prior reporting by The Independent revealed Bailey’s use of the Division of Professional Registration, which is investigating therapists as a result of a complaint from his office.

After the attorney general’s office received a list of minor patients that received care at the Washington University Transgender Center and other documents, therapists and social workers that had written letters of support for patients to go to the Transgender Center had their licenses at risk. As of early May, 16 of 57 cases were still open.

Hearing

Deputy Solicitor General Sam Freeland, representing the attorney general, argued Monday that a federal regulation allows medical records to be released when ordered by the court. He told the judge this exception was “not discussed by the plaintiff.”

“HIPAA has not barred the disclosure of the documents in question,” Freeland argued.

He said Planned Parenthood had the burden of proof to show that HIPAA covers the documents.

Eddy this was “simply not correct.”

“Planned Parenthood has proven the general rule that HIPAA protects disclosure,” he said. “The burden is on the respondent to show that the exception applies.”

Eddy further attacked the premise of Bailey’s investigation, which Freeland argued was not on the table Monday.

He said the attorney general’s civil investigative demands, which Eddy said were titled as an investigation into the Washington University Transgender Center, “had no allegations as to Planned Parenthood’s conduct.”

“He can’t point to a single complaint from a patient, a patient’s parent,” Eddy said.

Eddy said the attorney general “had 54 incredibly broad requests for information.”

“Included in the requests are information that would be deeply sensitive to transgender minors,” he told the judge.

Muniz told reporters one of the requests was for “any document that mentions TikTok,” calling the investigation a “sprawling phishing expedition.”

In press releases, Bailey has expressed a belief that all gender-affirming medical providers are connected.

“I launched this investigation to obtain the truth about how this clandestine network of clinics subjected children to puberty blockers and irreversible surgery, often without parental consent,” he said in a statement following the hearing Monday. “We are moving forward undeterred with our investigation into Planned Parenthood. I will not stop until all bad actors are held accountable.”

Muniz said Planned Parenthood does not have a formal relationship with Washington University, which was the focus of Reed’s affidavit and the beginning of Bailey’s investigation.

Supporters of Planned Parenthood rallied before the hearing, calling the investigation a political attack.

“(Bailey) only wants (the records) so he can politicize gender affirming care and to put a target on transgender and gender-non-conforming patients,” Margot Riphagen, Planned Parenthood St. Louis’s vice president of external affairs, said during the rally.

Katy Erker-Lynch, executive director of LGBTQ advocacy organization PROMO, called the attorney general’s actions “scary.”

“He has pushed credentialing committees of social workers, professional counselors and family and marital therapists to investigate every single provider on the eastern side of the state that has offered a letter of support for a trans or gender expansive kid to receive care,” she said, referencing a Division of Professional Registration investigation that stemmed from the AG’s complaint.

Around 40 people attended the rally, filling the courtroom until a small group were standing in the back. Most wore t-shirts with phrases like “protect trans kids” or “I fight with Planned Parenthood” and filed into the seats behind Planned Parenthood’s lawyers before sitting on the opposing side.

“Thank you,” a few people told Eddy as they walked out of the St. Louis courtroom.

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Annelise Hanshaw

Annelise Hanshaw writes about education — a beat she has covered on both the West and East Coast while working for daily newspapers in Santa Barbara, California, and Greenwich, Connecticut. A born-and-raised Missourian, she is proud to be back in her home state.

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The preceding article was previously published by The Missouri Independent and is republished with permission.

The Missouri Independent is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization dedicated to relentless investigative journalism and daily reporting that sheds light on state government and its impact on the lives of Missourians. This service is free to readers and other news outlets.

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

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Montana

Montana court hears arguments defining sex as ‘male’ or ‘female’

The bill drew national attention from critics, who said it left no place for those who don’t fit a biologically narrow definition

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Thane Johnson, representing the state of Montana, gestures in Missoula County District Court during arguments over a bill that defines sex as “male” and “female.” (Keila Szpaller/The Daily Montanan)

By Keila Szpaller | MISSOULA, Mont. – Defining “sex” makes some people think back on the President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky scandal — so said lawyer Kyle Gray on Tuesday in Missoula County District Court.

In that case, the president swore he didn’t have “sexual relations” with a White House intern, but questions swirled around what exactly had been happening in the Oval Office when it came to sex.

 Lawyer Kyle Gray, left, with Holland & Hart, argues on behalf of plaintiffs who allege Senate bill 458 is unconstitutional. Lawyer Alex Rate, right, with the ACLU of Montana, also represents plaintiffs.
(Keila Szpaller/The Daily Montanan)

Gray, representing plaintiffs in a lawsuit over a 2023 bill that defines “sex,” said the word can mean sexual intercourse as much as it can refer to “male” and “female.”

Senate Bill 458, the subject of litigation, aims to define sex as “male” or “female.”

The Montana Constitution, however, says the public needs to have a clear idea of the topic of a bill, and that a bill must have “only one purpose.” As such, Gray argued SB 458 missed the mark.

The bill’s title is “an act generally revising the laws to provide a common definition for the word sex when referring to a human.” It lists 41 sections of law to be revised.

“It’s the poster boy for violating the single-subject clearly expressed in the title of the bill,” said Gray, of Holland & Hart.

On behalf of the State of Montana, however, attorney Thane Johnson told Judge Shane Vannatta the point of the “single subject” rule is to prevent fraud and deception. It ensures a bill isn’t hiding things or keeping information under wraps, he said, and SB 458 spells out its plan for updates.

SB 458 defines sex as male or female, and Johnson said the title “puts the world on notice” of its intent for numerous updates. Additionally, he said, a title can’t rule out all other interpretations without going on at length.

“Plaintiffs’ argument would lead to absurd results because our title would just … fill up pages,” Johnson said.

In 2023, the Montana Legislature adopted the controversial bill that defined sex based on people’s reproductive organs and the cells they produce at the time of birth.

In response, the American Civil Liberties Union of Montana sued the state of Montana on behalf of Shawn Reagor, Dandilion Cloverdale, Jamie Doe, Linda Troyer and Jane Doe, alleging the law “is hopelessly confusing, overbroad, and … invades the province of the courts.”

The bill drew national attention from critics, who said it left no place for people who don’t fit the biologically narrow and unscientific definition. The Human Rights Campaign referred to it as the “LGBTQ+ Erasure Act.”

Tuesday, however, the parties argued only about whether the bill’s title got crosswise with the Montana Constitution’s requirement that a bill generally address only one topic, and that its title clearly expresses it.

In the argument for the state, Johnson said the title did refer to a common definition of sex, and he pointed to Webster’s Dictionary as one piece of evidence. He also explained the rationale behind the bill as addressing an idea that’s emerged in the last 10 years or so.

“The legislature just felt the need to define that term more clearly under the concept of modern times, and I don’t think there’s any question that this is the state of affairs that we are in,” Johnson said.

Although Johnson said the bill meets the single subject requirement, he said he believes it fits better as one of the exceptions to the rule. To that end, he peeled apart the requirement in Article 5 Section 11 subsection 3 of the state constitution:

“Each bill, except general appropriation bills and bills for the codification and general revision of the laws, shall contain only one subject, clearly expressed in its title. If any subject is embraced in any act and is not expressed in the title, only so much of the act not so expressed is void.”

Johnson argued the constitution allows for three exceptions — appropriation bills, codification bills, and general revision bills — and said SB 458 fit the exception given it was “generally revising” the law.

But he said the bill is constitutional either way, whether it’s an exception to the rule, as he believes, or it’s not.

Vannatta asked Johnson about “male” and “female” not being in the title, and Johnson pointed out the title refers to “humans.” Vannatta also wanted to know how the state responded to sex referring also to intercourse, but Johnson said the court is “obligated to liberally construe the definition.”

Vannatta had asked the plaintiffs whether the concepts of “male” and “female” don’t naturally flow from the term “sex,” as the defendants allege. Gray countered that defining sex led her to think of the political scandal with Clinton.

Gray also said the language about bill titles had never been interpreted the way the state was interpreting it. She said the point is to ensure the public knows what is taking place, and a reference to “generally revising” in the title doesn’t cut it.

“A bill generally revising laws about dogs wouldn’t tell you that the legislature has decided to outlaw rabies,” Gray said as an example.

In this case, Gray said the title appears to be “very deceptive,” although she said it’s possible no one thought about other definitions.

Regardless, she said, the title of the bill doesn’t give the public an idea of the way the law would change things in practice.

For example, she said, with its definition of sex as “male” or “female,” is Montana saying a hospital can discriminate against admitting a person who is transgender or intersex?

“Well, if they’re saying that, certainly the public wants to know,” Gray said.

Also, what do sex and gender have to do with interstate signage or building codes? Gray said some issues relate to gender, but some “make no sense at all,” and the public would need to dig into the subject matter to find out.

 Reagor, lead plaintiff, left, speaks with observer Keppen, right, after the hearing.
(Keila Szpaller/The Daily Montanan)

After the hearing, Vannatta said he would take the request for summary judgment under advisement and rule when possible.

If the judge finds in favor of the plaintiffs, the law will be off the books, said Alex Rate, lawyer for the ACLU of Montana.

However, if the judge finds in favor of the state, the court will consider the second claim from plaintiffs, he said; they also argue it is up to the courts, not the legislature, to determine the definition of sex because it’s part of the Equal Protection clause of the constitution.

That issue wasn’t the subject of Tuesday’s hearing.

Reagor, one of the plaintiffs, said the courtroom heard just one of the arguments the bill was unconstitutional, but it’s not the only one: “I think it’s really disappointing that so many taxpayer dollars are being wasted on defending bills that are malicious and that legislators knew were unconstitutional when they passed them.”

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Keila Szpaller

Keila Szpaller is deputy editor of the Daily Montanan and covers education. Before joining States Newsroom Montana, she served as city editor of the Missoulian, the largest news outlet in western Montana.

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The preceding article 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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U.S. Federal Courts

Federal judge wants Q&A doc from lawyers in trans medical case

The report concluded lawyers had engaged in judge-shopping, adding sometimes lawyers consider potential judges in determining where to file

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The Frank M. Johnson Jr. Federal Building and United States Courthouse in Montgomery, Alabama, seen on January 24, 2023. (Brian Lyman/Alabama Reflector)

By Jemma Stephenson | MONTGOMERY, Ala. – A federal judge in Montgomery Friday ordered attorneys representing transgender families to turn over a document used to prep lawyers ahead of a hearing over alleged judge shopping. 

In the 51-page filing, U.S. District Judge Liles C. Burke told the lawyers to provide the information, known as a Q&A document, to the judge for an in-camera review, to decide whether or not the document is covered by attorney-client privilege.

Burke, appointed by former President Donald Trump, has accused the attorneys for the families of trying to a get a judge that would be favorable to their case.

“This is not an ordinary civil case in which a court simply disbelieved testimony about an important fact: here, a three-judge panel was investigating whether lawyers intentionally attempted to subvert the administration of justice by judge-shopping, unanimously found that they did, unanimously disbelieved their explanations that they did not, unanimously expressed concern about their candor, and unanimously found that one lawyer lied outright,” he wrote. “If this is not enough to open the door for an in camera review of the Q&A document, it is difficult to imagine what would suffice.”

According to the Legal Information Institute, “in camera” reviews “are held in private before a judge where the press and the public are not allowed to take part.”

In May, a filing from the attorneys said that the document was an appropriate preparation for questions from a panel investigating the allegations and not under a continuing order from the panel or generated to further crime or fraud. They wrote that it should not trigger the crime-fraud exception and that if an in-camera review must take place, it should be done by a special master.

A message was left with attorney Barry Ragsdale, who according to Burke created the document and represents some of the accused attorneys. A message was also left with the attorney for Kathleen Hartnett, who according to Burke’s filing has her own attorney. The whole Walker team was formerly represented by Ragsdale, according to Burke’s filing.

The plaintiffs sued Alabama in 2022 over a law making it a felony to prescribe hormones and puberty blockers in gender-affirming care. Burke, who heard the case, initially ruled for the plaintiffs and blocked the state law. But a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit overturned his ruling last year. The plaintiffs are seeking a full review of the decision by the circuit.

In 2022, shortly after Gov. Kay Ivey signed the restrictions on gender-affirming medical care, multiple lawsuits were filed against the law. According to an October report from a panel that investigated the charges of judge shopping, the first lawsuit in the U.S. Northern District of Alabama was originally assigned to U.S. District Judge Anna Manasco, who recused herself. The case was reassigned to Magistrate Judge Staci G. Cornelius. There was not unanimous consent for “dispositive jurisdiction” by a magistrate judge, so the court was reassigned to Judge Annemarie Carnie Axon.

The second lawsuit was filed in the U.S. Middle District of Alabama, and the attorneys marked the case as related to Corbitt v. Taylor, a 2018 case. The case was assigned to Chief Judge Emily C. Marks. The attorneys filed a motion that the case be reassigned to Judge Myron H. Thompson, who presided over Corbitt. Thompson has historically ruled for abortion and civil rights cases. They also called Thompson’s chambers.

In the report, the panel accused an attorney of having “deliberately misled” the panel about the call to Thompson’s office. In the Friday filing, Burke wrote that this “provides a stand-alone evidentiary basis for a prima facie showing of fraud on the court.”

“Put differently, the Panel’s finding (and independently, the transcripts they rely on) support a prima facie case of perjury as a ‘crime,’ but they also suffice to show a prima facie case of fraud on the court under the separate heading of ‘fraud,’” he wrote.

According to the October filing, Marks entered an order to show why the case should not be transferred to the Northern District. Lawyers from the two cases had a conference call, and the parties consented to a transfer. Then the attorneys responded to the order and withdrew their motion. Marks transferred the case and it was randomly assigned to Burke, who set a hearing date. The attorneys in the cases were going to consolidate their cases.

Axon was presiding over a criminal trial, so the first case was transferred to Burke. The state attorneys then indicated that they would not file a motion to consolidate.

Within minutes of each other, both of the lawsuits were dismissed by the attorneys. Attorneys told reporters that they were planning to refile.

Burke filed an order that included that the lawyers were giving an appearance of judge shopping. At his direction, the clerk forwarded that order to the chief judge of each district in Alabama.

A new case was filed in the U.S. Middle District and was assigned to Burke by designation.

The panelists’ October report concluded that the lawyers engaged in judge-shopping.

“The Panel is not naïve,” the panel wrote in their October report. “Lawyers sometimes consider potential judicial assignments in determining where to file a case, and there may be reasons why in certain cases some judges may be considered more favorable draws than others. So the panel does not condemn the lawyers for fretting about their chances of success before a particular judge. Of course, the irony here is that counsel ultimately succeeded before Judge Burke. But in this case, counsel did more than fret. They made plans and took steps in an attempt to manipulate the assignment of these cases.”

related

Since then, Burke has requested that the document be overturned and met with the accused attorneys after a recent court hearing. The panelists had asked the attorneys if they had been coached on what to say in the proceedings, and most of the lawyers said no. One lawyer, Milo Inglehart, said he had been provided the Q&A document the night before that included talking points in response to some potential questions.

The panel asked for the document to be turned over. The attorney did not do so, allegedly at the direction of Ragsdale.

“Mr. Ragsdale unilaterally decided that Mr. Inglehart could avoid producing the Q&A Document anyway—even though the Panel had just rejected counsel’s arguments that the attorney-client privilege or the work-product doctrine shielded it from disclosure—because the July 25 order exempted ‘privileged communications’ from disclosure in the respondents’ declarations,” wrote Burke in a footnote. “Even though the panel denied the request for a protective order, Mr. Inglehart nonetheless withheld the Q&A document as privileged at his counsel’s advice.”

The judge wrote that the document must be provided by 5 p.m. on Tuesday.

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Jemma Stephenson

Jemma Stephenson covers education as a reporter for the Alabama Reflector. She previously worked at the Montgomery Advertiser and graduated from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

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The preceding article was previously published by the Alabama Reflector and is republished with permission.

The Alabama Reflector is an independent, nonprofit news outlet dedicated to covering state government and politics in the state of Alabama. Through daily coverage and investigative journalism, The Reflector covers decision makers in Montgomery; the issues affecting Alabamians, and potential ways to move our state forward.

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

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