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Equality California’s Rick Zbur honored as an environmentalist



Many in the LGBT community may be unaware that Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur has another not-so-secret passion: he’s a longtime environmentalist. In fact, he is the immediate past board chair for the California League of Conservation Voters, which is honoring him on Thursday, Nov. 29, along with Black Women for Wellness and civil rights icon Dolores Huerta, co-Founder of the United Farm Workers and Equality California board member.

The LGBT community first recognized Zbur’s commitment to both LGBT equality and the environment when he ran for Congress in 1996 in the 38th Congressional District. At the time, the young attorney, a graduate of both Yale and Harvard, was a senior partner at Latham & Watkins specializing in the environment, land and resources out of the firm’s Los Angeles office. Though he won the Democratic Party Primary, Zbur narrowly lost in the general election, with a ruckus raised over his campaign when the Human Rights Campaign endorsed the moderate Republican incumbent until essentially being forced by the local SoCal LGBT community to duel-endorse.

“My commitment to environmental protection is very personal,” Zbur tells the Los Angeles Blade. “I grew up in a Latino farm community in New Mexico’s Rio Grande valley, the area where my mom Erlinda Chavez and her family have lived for generations. The community obtained their drinking water from unregulated shallow groundwater wells that had been polluted from leaking underground storage tanks and agricultural chemicals. As I was growing up, I saw my grandfather, cousins, aunts and uncles become ill from cancer and kidney disease, which I believe was due to the water they drank all their lives.

“For me, environmental protection is about protecting people and the health of our communities,” he continues. “As a parent, I also worry about the world that we will leave our kids if we do not take seriously and address the threat of climate change.  Our failure to act on climate will mean that the world we leave them, our way of life and the opportunities they have will be very different from today.”

Zbur believes the LGBT movement and the environmental movement have similar and overlapping goals.

“At their core, both movements share the goal of improving the heath and well-being of people,” he says. “The LGBTQ community experiences huge disparities in health and well-being compared to the general public. Because of historical and systemic discrimination, LGBTQ people—especially LGBTQ immigrants and people of color—are more likely to be living in poverty, and therefore more likely to be living in lower income communities near pollution sources. As a result, LGBTQ people are more likely to experience exposure to pollution that negatively impacts their health.”

The environmental justice movement, meanwhile, has long fought to protect the health of lower-income communities that are often used as dumping grounds for industrial facilities and other pollution sources—and “has been ringing the alarm bells about the very real threat of climate change for decades,” Zbur says.

Though California’s horrendous wildfires and the increasingly severe tropical storms and hurricanes “should be a call to action,” Zbur says, “the Republican Party has been captured by Big Oil, Big Coal and climate deniers, who ignore the clear consensus of climate scientists who agree that we must act urgently to move to a clean energy economy and reduce carbon emissions to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.”

As someone involved in politics on a daily basis, Zbur notes that climate change should not be a partisan issue. “But let me be clear: President Trump’s Administration—which recently withdrew from the Paris Climate Accords—and Republican leaders in Congress are the primary obstacles to tackling the urgent threats of climate change. Failure to do so quickly will mean that our kids will face challenges to our way of life that we can’t even imagine,” Zbur says. “Gov. Brown and Gov.-elect Newsom understand the urgency of this problem and will continue to ensure that California leads on climate. But the climate emergency we are facing requires federal action, and that requires that we replace the current occupant in the White House and the climate change deniers who control the Senate.”

Zbur notes the intersectionality of Equality California and the California League of Conservation Voters.

“I am very honored to receive CLCV’s environmental leadership award,” Zbur says. “By working to elect environmental champions to office and advance legislation to combat climate change and keep our air, land and water clean, CLCV plays the same role for the environment as Equality California plays for California’s LGBTQ community. They are a crucial partner in our work to create a world that is healthy, just and fully equal for all LGBTQ people.”

For more information on CLCV’s Changemakers Celebration on Thursday, Nov. 29 at the Culver Hotel in Culver City, go to the California League of Conservation Voters website.

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Vermont GOP Governor signs law banning ‘gay panic defense’

With the Governor’s signature Vermont becomes the 14th state to enact a similar ban.



Vermont State House (Capitol) (Photo Credit: State of Vermont)

MONTPELIER, VT. – Vermont Republican Governor Phil Scott signed legislation Wednesday that bans use of the ‘gay panic defense” by criminal defendants.

H.128, prevents a defendant at trial or sentencing from justifying violent actions by citing a victim’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. 

With the Governor’s signature, Vermont becomes the 14th state to enact a similar ban. (See Table from Wikipedia)

The LGBTQ+ “panic” defense strategy is a legal strategy that asks a jury to find that a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity/expression is to blame for a defendant’s violent reaction, including murder.

It is not a free-standing defense to criminal liability, but rather a legal tactic used to bolster other defenses. When a perpetrator uses an LGBTQ+ “panic” defense, they are claiming that a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity not only explains—but excuses—a loss of self-control and the subsequent assault. By fully or partially acquitting the perpetrators of crimes against LGBTQ+ victims, this defense implies that LGBTQ+ lives are worth less than others.

One of the most recognized cases that employed the LGBTQ+ “panic” defense was that of Matthew Shepard. In 1998, Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old college student, was beaten to death by two men. The men attempted to use the LGBTQ+ “panic” defense to excuse their actions. Despite widespread public protest, the defense is still being used today.

At the Federal level, Senate Bill 1137, a bill to amend title 18, United States Code, to prohibit gay and trans panic defenses has been introduced in Congress on Apr 15, 2021. This bill is in the first stage of the legislative process. It will typically be considered by in this case the Senate Judiciary Committee next before it is possibly sent on to the House or Senate as a whole. The legislation is sponsored by Senator Edward “Ed” Markey, (D- MA).

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South Carolina’s capital city considers ban on conversion therapy

Conversion therapy has been banned in 20 states and more than 70 municipalities across the United States.



The First Lady of the United States, Dr. Jill Biden and Columbia City Councilmember Tameika Isaac Devine (Photo from the Facebook Page of Councilmember Devine)

COLUMBIA, SC. – The city council in a unanimous vote Tuesday granted initial approval to a new ordinance that bans the practise of conversion therapy — sometimes referred to as reparative therapy or ex-gay therapy.

The ordinance, put forward by City Councilmember Tameika Isaac Devine, defines conversion therapy as “treatment that seeks to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity, including efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same gender.”

The ordinance however does leave stipulations that allow “counseling that provides support and assistance to a person undergoing gender transition.”

According to The State, the ordinance would make it unlawful “for any provider to provide conversion therapy or reparative therapy to a minor within city limits if the provider receives compensation for such services.” The penalty would be civil, not criminal, and would carry a $500 fine.

Devine told The State’s journalist Chris Trainor that a prohibition on conversion therapy for minors is recommended by the national Human Rights Commission and leading LGBTQ organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD, and PFLAG.

“We felt like this was very important as we talk about equality within the city,” Devine told The State. “It’s not just racial equality, it cuts across all lines. We wanted to move forward with this.”

The City’s Council passed the ordinance on its first reading on the item on Tuesday, with final approval likely to be considered later this month.

The Williams Institute estimates that 698,000 LGBT adults in the U.S. have received “conversion therapy,” 350,000 of whom suffered the experience as adolescents. Most medical and psychological professional associations strongly oppose “conversion therapy” as illegitimate. 

The American Psychological Association has opposed the practice since 1998, arguing that there is “no credible evidence” such procedures proffered by adherents of the so-called therapy could change sexual orientation.

Conversion therapy has been banned in 20 states and more than 70 municipalities across the United States. California was first to do so in 2012.

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Born This Way Foundation and Harris Poll find youth of color receiving less kindness

According to the survey’s research results, there is an undeniable link to how kindness contributes to many aspects of mental wellness



BOSTON, MA. – The Born This Way Foundation announced Monday the results of a survey of over 2,000 young people ages 13 to 24 in the United States, exploring how young people define kindness and the impact on their mental wellness.

The survey, which ran from January 29, 2021 to February 12, 2021, had results showed that nonwhite and LGBTQ+ youths are less likely to hear kind words and thoughts or actions than their cisgender white peers — even from themselves.

According to the survey’s research results, there is an undeniable link to how kindness contributes to many aspects of mental wellness, from helping young people feel safe, confident, and less alone to changing the trajectory of their day and even their desire to stay alive.

They also reveal that based on one’s race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and financial security, young people experience and witness kindness in varying frequencies, which could have further implications on their respective mental wellness.

Key findings of the survey include:

  • Most young people say experiencing more kindness would improve their mental wellness—be it from others (73%), themselves (74%), or observed in the world around them (71%).

  • The acts of kindness young people most commonly say would have the biggest impact on their mental wellness are having someone who: listens when they have a problem (85% say it would have a big/moderate impact), believes in them and encourages them to do their best (83%), and checks in on them or asks if they’re doing OK (80%).

  • White youth are more likely than Black, Indigenous, and youth of color to say they experience certain acts of kindness. White youth are far more likely to have someone who believes in them and encourages them to do their best, goes out of their way to show they care, or listens when they have a problem.

  • Transgender and non-binary youth* say that the act of introducing yourself using pronouns is among the top acts that would have a big improvement on mental wellness. (*Note: Small sample size [n=45]. Results should be interpreted as qualitative in nature.)

  • Three quarters of young people are coping very (19%) or somewhat well (56%), and those who are, are much more likely than those who are not to say they regularly experience and witness acts of kindness, have people in their life who care about them, understand them, or that they can talk to if they have problems, say they have a place they can go (in real life or online) where they feel like they belong, and have found ways to thrive in the past year, ultimately giving insight into the keys to coping with crisis.

The Born This Way Foundation is a non-profit organization founded in 2012 by American musical singer-songwriter artist and LGBTQ/Human Rights activist Lady Gaga and her mother, Cynthia Germanotta.

The full report is available below:

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