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Delta passenger claims pilot messaged him on Grindr mid-flight

The plane was ‘30,000 feet in the air’ at the time

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Delta, gay news, Washington Blade

(Photo public domain)

A Delta passenger alleges that his pilot messaged him on Grindr while the plane was mid-air.

JP Thorn, 27, told the New York Post that he took a 90-minute Delta flight from Saint Paul, Minnesota, to Chicago in August. After landing, he saw that he had received a Grindr message.

“I see you’re on my flight. Enjoy the ride to Chicago,” the message read.

“I messaged him back and he told me that he was one of the pilots. My reaction was I knew I needed to get off this plane as fast as I can,” Thorn told the New York Post. “I’ve had some weird experiences with proximity stuff on Grindr.”

Thorn says the message was sent 30 minutes before the plane landed when the pilot was operating the plane.

While waiting for his connecting flight, Thorn says he continued to message the pilot who he says is “a nice guy” and that he “totally would have met him for coffee.”

Thorn posted the Grindr message on Twitter which received thousands of shares and likes.

“I got a lot of people saying I should’ve met up with pilots because they make a lot of money,” Thorn says.

Thorn told the New York Post he hasn’t spoken to the pilot since.

Despite the incident, Thorn says he would continue to fly Delta.

“It’s the only airline I tend to use. I don’t think they get into too much controversy,” Thorn says.

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Federal Government

Guatemalan LGBTQ+ activist granted asylum in US

Estuardo Cifuentes fled country in 2019

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Estuardo Cifuentes outside a port of entry in Brownsville, Texas, on March 3, 2021, shortly after he entered the U.S. (Photo courtesy of Estuardo Cifuentes)

WASHINGTON — The U.S. has granted asylum to a Guatemalan LGBTQ+ activist who fled his country in 2019.

Estuardo Cifuentes and his partner ran a digital marketing and advertising business in Guatemala City. 

He previously told the Washington Blade that gang members extorted from them. Cifuentes said they closed their business after they attacked them.

Cifuentes told the Blade that Guatemalan police officers attacked him in front of their home when he tried to kiss his partner. Cifuentes said the officers tried to kidnap him and one of them shot at him. He told the Blade that authorities placed him under surveillance after the incident and private cars drove past his home.

Cifuentes arrived in Matamoros, a Mexican border city that is across the Rio Grande from Brownsville, Texas, in June 2019. He asked for asylum in the U.S. based on the persecution he suffered in Guatemala because of his sexual orientation.

The Trump administration forced Cifuentes to pursue his asylum case from Mexico under its Migrant Protection Protocols program that became known as the “remain in Mexico” policy.

Cifuentes while in Matamoros ran Rainbow Bridge Asylum Seekers, a program for LGBTQ+ asylum seekers and migrants that the Resource Center Matamoros, a group that provides assistance to asylum seekers and migrants in the Mexican border city, helped create.

The Biden-Harris administration in January 2021 suspended enrollment in MPP. Cifuentes entered the U.S. on March 3, 2021.

“We are profoundly relieved and grateful that my husband and I have been officially recognized as asylees in the United States,” Cifuentes told the Blade on Monday in an email. “This result marks the end of a long and painful fight against the persecution that we faced in Guatemala because of our sexual orientation.”

Vice President Kamala Harris is among those who have said discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation are among the root causes of migration from Guatemala and other countries in Central America.

Cifuentes is now the client services manager for Lawyers for Good Government’s Project Corazón, a campaign that works “hard to reunite and defend the rights of families impacted by inhumane immigration policies.” He told the Blade he will continue to help LGBTQ+ asylum seekers and migrants.

“In this new chapter of our lives, we pledge to work hard to support others in similar situations and to contribute to the broader fight for the rights and acceptance of the LGBTQ+ migrant community,” said Cifuentes. “We are hopeful that our story will serve as a call to action to confront and end persecution based on gender identity and sexual orientation.”

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Ohio

Ohio court temporarily blocks gender-affirming care ban

“Today’s ruling is a victory for transgender Ohioans & their families. The ban is an openly discriminatory breach of rights of trans youth”

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The Franklin County Court of Common Pleas in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo Credit: Franklin County Court of Common Pleas)

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Today, the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas issued a temporary restraining order to prevent the ban on gender-affirming care for transgender youth from taking immediate effect.

new lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Ohio alleges that the ban on gender-affirming care, passed into law earlier this year, violates multiple provisions of the Ohio state Constitution.

This action comes in the wake of a decision by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, under which Ohio falls, that dismissed federal constitutional concerns regarding bans on gender-affirming care for transgender youth. This latest legal challenge, however, focuses on the Ohio state Constitution and is filed in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas.

According to the recently released filing, attorneys argue that a state constitutional amendmentpassed by Republicans in 2011 to prevent the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), may, in fact, make the ban on gender-affirming care for transgender youth unconstitutional.

In 2011, Republicans in Ohio voiced concerns that the Affordable Care Act would limit healthcare choices. Misinformation about “death panels” became widespread nationally. At the same time, there was controversy over whether individuals could retain their doctors under the new federal healthcare program. In reaction, Ohio Republicans and the local Tea Party, a then-active anti-Obamacare movement within the Republican Party, advocated for a constitutional amendment to prohibit penalties related to the purchase of healthcare or health insurance. The amendment was approved by popular vote and took effect shortly thereafter.

The amendment reads as follows:

(B) No federal, state, or local law or rule shall prohibit the purchase or sale of health care or health insurance.

(C) No federal, state, or local law or rule shall impose a penalty or fine for the sale or purchase of health care or health insurance.

Now, in the latest lawsuit filed by the ACLU, attorneys argue that the new gender affirming care ban for transgender youth set to go into effect on April 24th violates these constitutional protections in the state. In the lawsuit, attorneys argue that “gender-affirming care, including the prescription of puberty-delaying medication and/or hormone therapy to minor patients where appropriate in the judgment of a physician, is ‘health care’ within the meaning of Article I, Section 21.” They argue that the law imposes penalties and prohibits the purchase of health care, rendering it unconstitutional.

The plaintiffs, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Ohio, and the global law firm Goodwin Procter, successfully argued that the plaintiffs are likely to win their claim that House Bill 68 violates the Ohio Constitution because it covers more than one single subject.

The Court enjoined the Health Care Ban as well as a ban on transgender girls participating on girls or women’s sports teams that was also contained within House Bill 68.

In a statement the ACLU said that the group will continue the litigation to ultimately obtain a permanent injunction on behalf of  Ohio families whose children are at risk of losing critical life-saving medical care.

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The temporary restraining order is in effect for 14 days or until the hearing of plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction, whichever is sooner. HB 68 was originally set to take effect on April 24.

“We are thrilled and relieved that Ohio’s ban on gender-affirming health care has been halted and that transgender youth can continue, for the near term at least,  to access medically necessary healthcare,” Freda Levenson, Legal Director for the ACLU of Ohio, said. “Our legal battle will continue until, we hope, this cruel restriction is permanently blocked. Ohio families have a constitutional right to make personal healthcare decisions without government intrusion.”

Harper Seldin, an ACLU Staff Attorney noted:

“Today’s ruling is a victory for transgender Ohioans and their families. Ohio’s ban is an openly discriminatory breach of the rights of transgender youth and their parents alike and presents a real danger to the same young people it claims to protect. We are committed to opposing this law until it is permanently overturned, making Ohio a safer place to raise every family.”

Allison DeLaurentis and Miranda Hooker, Complex Litigation & Dispute Resolution Partners, for the law firm of Goodwin Procter said:

“Today’s ruling not only upholds the rights of transgender individuals but also champions the principle that healthcare should be accessible, and above all, inclusive.”

Additional reporting by Erin Reed

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Kansas

Kansas Governor lets web porn bill become law without signature

Critics warn it could censor works of art, classic books and LGBTQ content, as well as provide sensitive ID info to unregulated 3rd parties

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Gov. Laura Kelly decided to allow a bill regulating access by Kansas minors to pornographic websites to become law without her signature, but vetoed bills that could undermine crafting of state rules and regulations, interfere with municipal government decisions and improperly deregulate the business of temporary hair removal. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

By Tim Carpenter | TOPEKA, Kan. — Gov. Laura Kelly chose not to veto a bill Friday that earned bipartisan support among House and Senate members eager to require commercial websites to deploy age-verification software to limit online access by Kansas minors to nudity or sexually exciting images and text.

Kelly, a Democratic governor working with a Legislature brandishing Republican supermajorities, said she would allow Senate Bill 394 to become law without her signature despite reservations the restrictions could trample constitutional rights and inspire legal challenges.

The bill was approved unanimously in the Senate and on a 92-31 vote by the House. That left little doubt the Senate could muster 27 votes and the House could bring together 84 votes to beat a veto.

“While well-meaning in its efforts to protect children from content the Legislature considers ‘harmful to minors,’ this bill is vague in its application and may end up infringing on constitutional rights, which is an issue being litigated in other jurisdictions over similar bills,” Kelly said.

Under the bill, parents or guardians of anyone under 18 gaining access to online pornography could file a lawsuit and seek damages of $50,000 or more against companies that didn’t successfully screen minors from material depicting or describing nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement or sadomasochistic abuse in a manner offensive to community standards. The mandate would apply to websites if at least one-fourth of viewed pages in any month contained material offensive to minors.

Identical versions of the bill were introduced by Salina Sen. J.R. Claeys and Wichita Rep. Patrick Penn, both Republicans, to require identity verification technology to deflect youthful consumers who might be drawn to raunchy online content posted anywhere in the world. The attorney general would be responsible for investigating reports of noncompliance. He could seek penalties of $500 to $10,000 for each underage visit to an off-limits site.

“Defending the integrity of the family is a core value of the Catholic church,” said Chuck Weber, executive director of the Kansas Catholic Conference and a proponent of the bill. “SB 394 is very good legislation that will help prevent the pornography industry from capturing and addicting our youth to destructive behavior.”

More red tape

On Friday, the Kansas governor vetoed a bill that would require the state budget director to determine the cost of complying with all rules and regulations drafted by state agencies. It would grant the gubernatorially appointed budget director authority to reject rules and regulations.

Kelly said the bill was objectionable because it “would insert bureaucratic red tape intended to legislatively interfere with the timely implementation of necessary and important rules and regulations. Many of these regulations are for the protection and safety of Kansans.”

The vote in the Senate was 27-13. It cleared the House 81-39.

The measure was championed by lawmakers keen to rein in state regulations or rules considered burdensome or that added to the cost of doing business in Kansas. It would target any rule or regulation if implementation or compliance costs incurred by a business over a five-year period topped $1 million. That benchmark could be exceeded if the Legislature ratified the proposed state rule or regulation.

“This veto can be easily explained by a difference in philosophies,” said House Speaker Dan Hawkins, R-Wichita. “The governor and her party believe that more government control is the answer to our problems. House Republicans believe there should be checks placed on the administrative state and that’s why we’ll be working to override her veto and rein in the power grab by unelected bureaucrats.”

Randy Stookey, a lobbyist representing the Kansas Grain and Feed Association, said regulatory compliance with state rules and regulations often came at a high cost.

“This economic impact is something that must be considered carefully,” he said. “Modeled after recent legislation in other states, the bill would enhance the review of required state agency analysis of the implementation and compliance costs of proposed regulations on the regulated community.”

Regulating bags, hair

The Legislature approved a bill advocated by business lobbying interests to prohibit cities and county governments from regulating containers used to distribute goods. The bill would forbid government intrusion into design of bags, cups, packages, containers, bottles, devices — even straws — preferred by a retailer.

House Bill 2446 would allow containers made of paper, plastic, cardboard, cloth, aluminum, glass or recycled materials. In other words, the prohibition against Lawrence businesses using single-use thin plastic bags — common in grocery stores or for carry-out food — would be nullified.

Kelly vetoed the bill because she considered it an overreach by the Legislature into decisions of officials elected to serve in municipal government.

“I believe in local control and that local officials should be held accountable by their constituents, stakeholders and businesses,” Kelly said. “This bill lacks sufficient protection to ensure local units of government are able to play a meaningful role in decision making on issues impacting their communities.”

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Meanwhile, Kelly vetoed Senate Bill 434 that would deregulate the practice of hair removal known as “sugaring.” She expressed concern withdrawing the state from oversight of temporary hair removal by application of sugar, lemon and water, or its equivalent, could be harmful to minors.

“I have serious concerns that deregulating sugaring … could lead to safety and sanitation problems,” Kelly said. “We have a responsibility to protect Kansans, and this deregulation would threaten the health and safety of Kansans, particularly our children.”

She said it was proper to keep regulation of the industry within purview of the Kansas Board of Cosmetology. She said practitioners should be held to health and safety standards of cosmetologists, which would include criminal background checks, training and state licensing.

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Tim Carpenter

Tim Carpenter has reported on Kansas for 35 years. He covered the Capitol for 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal and previously worked for the Lawrence Journal-World and United Press International.

The preceding story was previously published by the Kansas Reflector and is republished with permission.

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The Kansas Reflector is a nonprofit news operation providing in-depth reporting, diverse opinions and daily coverage of state government and politics. This public service is free to readers and other news outlets. We are part of States Newsroom: the nation’s largest state-focused nonprofit news organization, with reporting from every capital.

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U.S. Federal Courts

Appeals court strikes down West Virginia trans athlete ban

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The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday blocked West Virginia’s ban on transgender athletes, finding the law violates transgender students’ rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the constitution. The ban was challenged by Becky Pepper-Jackson (pictured) a 13-year-old transgender student athlete from West Virginia. (Billy Wolfe/ACLU photo)

By Lori Kersey | RICHMOND, Va. – The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has struck down West Virginia’s ban on transgender athletes, finding the law violates transgender students’ rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the constitution and Title IX, a federal civil rights law prohibiting discrimination based on sex in education programs.

The case, B.P.J. vs. the West Virginia Board of Education, was filed in May 2021 on behalf of Becky Pepper-Jackson, a 13-year-old transgender middle school student and track athlete who would be barred from participating if the ban is upheld. Pepper-Jackson is represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia and Lambda Legal.

In April 2021, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice signed into law a bill prohibiting transgender women and girls in the state from participating in sports that align with their gender identity. The U.S. Court of Appeals in February 2023 blocked the state from removing Pepper-Jackson from her school’s track and field team as legal advocates appealed a lower court’s ruling upholding the ban. 

In Tuesday’s ruling, Judge Toby Heytens wrote that offering Pepper-Jackson the “choice” between not participating in sports and participating only on boys teams is not a real choice.

“The defendants cannot expect that B.P.J. will countermand her social transition, her medical treatment, and all the work she has done with her schools, teachers, and coaches for nearly half her life by introducing herself to teammates, coaches, and even opponents as a boy,” the judge wrote. 

“By participating on boys teams, B.P.J. would be sharing the field with boys who are larger, stronger, and faster than her because of the elevated levels of circulating testosterone she lacks,” he wrote. “The Act thus exposes B.P.J. to the very harms Title IX is meant to prevent by effectively ‘exclud[ing]’ her from ‘participation in’ all non-coed sports entirely.”

In a statement Tuesday, Joshua Block, senior staff attorney for the ACLU’s LGBTQ & HIV Project, called the court’s ruling “a tremendous victory for our client, transgender West Virginians, and the freedom of all youth to play as who they are.”

“It also continues a string of federal courts ruling against bans on the participation of transgender athletes and in favor of their equal participation as the gender they know themselves to be,” Block wrote. “This case is fundamentally about the equality of transgender youth in our schools and our communities and we’re thankful the Fourth Circuit agreed.” 

“We hope today’s ruling sends a message of hope to the trans youth of West Virginia,” Aubrey Sparks, legal director of the ACLU of West Virginia, said in the statement. “And a message of warning to politicians who continue to dehumanize this vulnerable population.”

West Virginia is one of 21 states that have banned transgender student-athletes over the last three years, according to the ACLU. 

In a statement Tuesday, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey vowed to defend the ban and said he is “deeply disappointed” in the decision. 

“The Save Women’s Sports Act is ‘constitutionally permissible’ and the law complies with Title IX,” Morrisey said. “I will keep fighting to safeguard Title IX. We must keep working to protect women’s sports so that women’s safety is secured and girls have a truly fair playing field. We know the law is correct and will use every available tool to defend it.”

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Lori Kersey

Lori Kersey is a reporter with a decade of experience reporting in West Virginia. She covers state government for West Virginia Watch.

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The preceding article was previously published by the West Virginia Watch and is republished with permission.

Nonprofit, nonpartisan, independent journalism not hidden behind a paywall. Mountaineers are always free, and so is West Virginia Watch.

West Virginia Watch is part of States Newsroom, the nation’s largest state-focused nonprofit news organization.

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U.S. Federal Courts

U.S. Supreme Court allows Idaho to enforce gender care ban

SCOTUS sides with state to allow enforcement of gender-affirming care ban for youth. Poe v. Labrador lawsuit remains ongoing.

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File photo, U.S. Supreme Court (Michael Key/Washington Blade)

By Mia Maldonado | WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court has allowed Idaho to enforce House Bill 71, a law banning Idaho youth from receiving gender-affirming care medications and surgeries.

In an opinion issued Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court granted the state of Idaho’s request to stay the preliminary injunction, which blocked the law from taking effect. This means the preliminary injunction now only applies to the plaintiffs involved in Poe v. Labrador — a lawsuit brought on by the families of two transgender teens in Idaho who seek gender-affirming care. 

Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision enforces the gender-affirming care ban for all other transgender youth in Idaho as the lawsuit remains ongoing in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Idaho Attorney General Raúl Labrador
 In this file photo, Idaho Attorney General Raúl Labrador gives a speech at the Idaho GOP election night watch party at the Grove Hotel in Boise, Idaho, on Nov. 8, 2022. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Idaho, both of whom represent the plaintiffs, said in a press release Monday that the ruling “does not touch upon the constitutionality” of House Bill 71. The groups called Monday’s ruling an “awful result” for transgender Idaho youth and their families.

“Today’s ruling allows the state to shut down the care that thousands of families rely on while sowing further confusion and disruption,” the organizations said in the press release. “Nonetheless, today’s result only leaves us all the more determined to defeat this law in the courts entirely, making Idaho a safer state to raise every family.”

Idaho Attorney General Raúl Labrador in a press release said the state has a duty to protect and support all children, and that he is proud of the state’s legal stance. 

“Those suffering from gender dysphoria deserve love, support and medical care rooted in biological reality,” Labrador said. “Denying the basic truth that boys and girls are biologically different hurts our kids. No one has the right to harm children, and I’m grateful that we, as the state, have the power — and duty — to protect them.”

Recap of Idaho’s House Bill 71, and what led to SCOTUS opinion

Monday’s Supreme Court decision traces back to when House Bill 71 was signed into law in April 2023.

The law makes it a felony punishable for up to 10 years for doctors to provide surgeries, puberty-blockers and hormones to transgender people under the age of 18. However, gender-affirming surgeries are not and were not performed among Idaho adults or youth before the bill was signed into law, the Idaho Capital Sun previously reported

One month after it was signed into law, the families of two transgender teens sued the state in a lawsuit alleging the bill violates the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection under the law.

In late December, just days before the law was set to take effect in the New Year, District of Idaho Judge B. Lynn Winmill blocked the law from taking effect under a preliminary injunction. In his decision, he said he found the families likely to succeed in their challenge.

The state of Idaho responded by appealing the district court’s preliminary injunction decision to the Ninth Circuit, to which the Ninth Circuit denied. The state of Idaho argued the court should at least enforce the ban for everyone except for the plaintiffs. 

After the Ninth Circuit’s denial, the Idaho Attorney General’s Office in February sent an emergency motion to the U.S. Supreme Court, the Idaho Press reported. Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision agrees with the state’s request to enforce its ban on transgender health care for minors, except for the two plaintiffs.

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Mia Maldonado

Mia Maldonado joined the Idaho Capital Sun after working as a breaking news reporter at the Idaho Statesman covering stories related to crime, education, growth and politics. She previously interned at the Idaho Capital Sun through the Voces Internship of Idaho, an equity-driven program for young Latinos to work in Idaho news. Born and raised in Coeur d’Alene, Mia moved to the Treasure Valley for college where she graduated from the College of Idaho with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and international political economy.

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The preceding piece was previously published by the Idaho Capital Sun and is republished with permission.

The Idaho Capital Sun is the Gem State’s newest nonprofit news organization delivering accountability journalism on state politics, health care, tax policy, the environment and more.

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

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Oklahoma

HRC paid ad highlights Owasso LGBTQ students like Nex Benedict

Marley H. describes her experience that included bullying, harassment, anti-gay slurs–and teachers, administrators who refused to step in

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Marley H. describes an Owasso High School experience that included bullying, harassment, anti-gay slurs–and teachers and administrators who refused to step in. (Screenshot/YouTube HRC)

OWASSO, Okla. – Marley H., an Owasso High School grad and Oklahoman speaks to the culture of harassment and bullying she witnessed firsthand during her time in the Owasso school district, how it impacted her and her fellow students, and what she sees as the way forward for the district and state.

In this new video, which HRC will be promoting with a paid investment on social platforms, Marley speaks from her heart about what she and her fellow students experienced at Owasso High School, including bullying, the use of anti-LGBTQ+ slurs, harassment, and – worse still – teachers and administrators who refused to step in and disrupt this cycle of hate.

“It hurts to know that not only do your teachers personally not support you, if a student bullies you or harasses you or calls you names, they aren’t going to do anything about it,” said Marley H., who graduated from Owasso High School in 2022. “It promotes a culture where you feel like you shouldn’t report issues.”

The video’s release comes as the LGBTQ+ community marks two months since the death of Nex Benedict, a 16 year old Owasso student who died after being assaulted in their school bathroom and bullied and harassed for over a year.

In March, HRC launched “Walters Watch,” part of a high-impact accountability campaign to hold Ryan Walters, Oklahoma’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, accountable for his extremist rhetoric and mis-management of Oklahoma schools, contributing to the culture of bullying and harassment.

The HRC notes that “whether he is appointing far-right figures like “LibsOfTikTok” creator Chaya Raichik to state boards or demonizing teachers’ unions, Walters seems dead-set on using his role as Superintendent as a political stepping-stone rather than taking seriously his responsibility to Oklahoma students.”

Last month, the U.S. Department of Education informed HRC president Kelley Robinson that the department will open an investigation in response to HRC’s letter regarding Owasso Public Schools and its failure to respond appropriately to sex-based harassment that may have contributed to the tragic death of Nex Benedict.

This investigation was triggered by a formal complaint made by Robinson, who wrote to U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and asked his department to use the enforcement mechanisms at its disposal to prevent similar tragedies from taking place in the future and to help hold accountable those responsible for Nex’s tragic death.

“We’ve heard many students at Owasso and elsewhere in Oklahoma speak truth to power and stand up against the culture of bullying and harassment fostered by people like Ryan Walters,” said Kelley Robinson, president of the Human Rights Campaign. “Marley’s story breaks our hearts as much as it angers us. There is a way forward, however. Each time someone speaks out about what they have seen, experienced, or heard, the truth becomes harder and harder to deny. The first step on the journey to healing is for Ryan Walters to go.”

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The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) people. HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ+ people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.

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U.S. Federal Courts

Federal appeals court hears oral arguments in SAFE Act appeal

As of last November, similar laws had been enacted in 22 states, and legal challenges have been mounted in several of them

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The Thomas F. Eagleton U.S. Courthouse in St. Louis. (Rebecca Rivas/Missouri Independent).

By Debra Chandler Landis | SAINT LOUIS, Mo. – Federal appeals court judges here on Thursday heard legal counsel for the national ACLU and the U.S. Department of Justice argue that transgender minors have a constitutional right to gender-affirming care, while Arkansas’ deputy solicitor general said a state law prohibiting such care was in the best interest of youth and not discriminatory.

At issue is the 2021 Save Adolescents from Experimentation (SAFE) Act, which bans physicians from providing gender transition treatments like hormones, puberty blockers and sex reassignment surgeries to individuals under age 18.

Four Arkansas families and two physicians, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, challenged the SAFE Act in federal court, where U.S. District Judge James Moody struck down the law in June 2023, saying, among other things, that the SAFE Act discriminated against transgender people and violated the U.S. Constitution’s First and Fourteenth Amendments. 

Arkansas Deputy Solicitor General Dylan Jacobs
 Arkansas Deputy Solicitor General Dylan Jacobs (second from left) and Senior Assistant Attorney General Amanda Land (third from left) leave the federal courthouse in Little Rock after the conclusion of the trial over Arkansas’ ban on gender-affirming care for minors in December. (John Sykes/Arkansas Advocate)

Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin appealed that decision in July 2023 to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The state has argued there is no scientific evidence that children benefit from gender-affirming care and that the consequences can be harmful and often permanent for them.

Asked by the appeals judges whether the state law would ban health care providers from prescribing testosterone for conditions other than gender-affirming care treatment, Dylan Jacobs, Arkansas deputy solicitor general, said, “The statute does not prohibit that. The legislature wasn’t saying it has problems with testosterone.”

Regarding the district court’s ruling to strike down the ban on transgender care in Arkansas, Jacobs said “there are certainly risks, including sterilization” in the treatment, and noted it was not up to the district court to impose its own policy judgments.

ACLU attorney Chase Strangio, deputy director for the organization’s LGBTQ & HIV Project, told the appeals court Thursday they should uphold Moody’s ruling, noting, in part, that the state law undermines constitutional guarantees of equal protection and “supplants the judgment of parents and their abilities to determine medical care.”

Griffin has said his office “is fighting to protect our state’s children from dangerous medical experimentation. Moody, in his 80-page ruling striking the Arkansas law, affirmed the testimony of medical experts who said in their testimony for the plaintiffs that gender-affirming care is safe for minors. 

The State of Arkansas, Moody wrote, “failed to prove that its interests in the safety of Arkansas adolescents from gender transitioning procedures or the medical community’s ethical decline are compelling, genuine, or even rational.”

In 2021, a letter from the American Medical Association to the National Governors Association referenced the Arkansas SAFE Act and said, in part: “Arkansas recently enacted SAFE Act and similar bills pending in several other states would insert the government into clinical decision-making and force physicians to disregard clinical guidelines.” 

Gender-affirming care for minors, the AMA said, “must be sensitive to the child’s clinical situation, nurture the child’s short and long-term development, and balance the need to preserve the child’s opportunity to make important life choices autonomously in the future.”

The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals did not indicate when it might rule on the Arkansas law.

As of last November, similar laws had been enacted in 22 states, and legal challenges have been mounted in several of them. The U.S. Supreme Court has not yet taken up any of those cases.

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Debra Chandler Landis is a freelance journalist and retired University of Illinois Springfield college media adviser. She currently lives in St. Louis.

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The preceding article was previously published by The Arkansas Advocate and is republished with permission.

The Arkansas Advocate is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization dedicated to tough, fair daily reporting and investigative journalism that holds public officials accountable and focuses on the relationship between the lives of Arkansans and public policy. 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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New Hampshire

New Hampshire Senate tables anti-trans bill

“We hope that they will uphold the same rights when they vote on HB 396, a bill that would also allow discrimination”

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The State House, located in Concord houses the General Court, Governor, Senate, & House. (Photo Credit: State of New Hampshire)

CONCORD, NH – The New Hampshire State Senate last week unanimously voted to table a bill that would have rolled back some of the nondiscrimination protections that outlaw discrimination against transgender people in public spaces. This effectively stops the bill from moving forward. 

The bill, SB 562, would have rolled back key provisions of the 2018 law against discrimination that was updated to include transgender people and promoting the exclusion of transgender people from sports including recreational leagues, as well as restrooms. SB 562 would also subject transgender people to carceral settings where they would be more likely to face violence on the basis of their gender identity. 

“In 2018, I was proud to have managed the campaign that made New Hampshire the first-ever state to pass nondiscrimination protections for transgender people in public spaces,” said Linds Jakows, founder of 603 Equality. “Today, the NH State Senate rightly took a stand against discrimination in voting down SB 562. But it’s not over yet – they must again say no to discrimination when HB 396, which is nearly identical to SB 562, comes to the State Senate floor for a vote.” 

“In 2019 Governor Sununu signed a law that extended New Hampshire’s transgender-inclusive nondiscrimination protections to public schools, bolstering the rights that all public school students have to equal educational opportunities,” said Sarah Robinson, Education Justice Campaign Director with Granite State Progress. “All students, including those who are transgender, must be treated with dignity and respect as they are in order to have a safe learning environment. We thank the NH State Senate for standing up for that right today, and expect them to do the same when they vote on HB 396.”

“NH has a long and proud tradition of creating communities where every child can thrive,” said Heidi Carrington Heath, Executive Director of Seacoast Outright. “LGBTQ+ youth deserve safe schools, healthy communities, and opportunities for joy and participation just like their peers. We are thankful that today the NH State Senate stood up for their right to live free, and be fully who they are at home, at school, and every space in between. That is what it means to build a brighter future where everyone is understood, valued, and protected.”

“In 2018, a strong bipartisan majority passed a law signed by Governor Sununu to protect transgender Granite Staters from discrimination. Today, the Senate rejected a cruel bill that would have written discrimination into the law,” said Chris Erchull, Attorney at GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders. “This vote affirms the New Hampshire value that everyone deserves the same opportunity to live their lives on fair terms, free from discrimination. I hope the Senate will take the same stand when they vote on a nearly identical bill, HB 396.”

“NH has protected the rights of all of its residents in the past and despite multiple threats to those rights this legislative session, we are grateful to see the NH State Senate uphold those rights by voting against SB 562,” said Grace Murray, Political Director of NH Youth Movement. “We hope that they will take the same stance and uphold the same rights when they vote on HB 396, a bill that would also allow discrimination against trans people. No person should be discriminated against based on who they are.”

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North Carolina

“Rainbow Story Time” gets bomb threat, closes Durham N.C. library

Durham police said the bomb threat remains under investigation and no further information will be released at this time

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The Durham County Main Library, 300 N. Roxboro St. Durham, N.C. (Photo Credit: Durham County Main Library/Facebook)

DURHAM, N.C. – An bomb threat caused evacuation and closure of the Durham County main library just before 10:35 a.m. on Saturday morning. A spokesperson for the Durham Police Department said in a press release: “An anonymous caller informed the library of the threat. The building has been evacuated as a precaution, and access is limited.”

Durham Police units and the Durham County Sheriff’s Office’s bomb dog searched “the entire building,” according to the news release. The facility was closed for the rest of the day.

At approximately the same time an emailed bomb threat was sent to the CBS TV affiliate WBTV News 3 in Charlotte, located 145 miles southwest of Durham. WBTV reported that the threat mentioned an author, Maya Christina Gonzalez, whose book was scheduled for a “Rainbow Story Time” reading at the Durham County library at noon.

Gonzalez is a 60-year-old queer Chicana artist, illustrator, educator and publisher. She lives and works in San Francisco. The event was sponsored by Rainbow Collective for Change, a non-profit that’s mission is connecting LGBTQ+ families with young children in the Triangle area of North Carolina through events like the library reading program.

Rainbow Collective for Change made a statement in response to the incident. On Facebook, the organization said: “We were not notified by the police or the library that the bomb threat was made explicitly due to our Rainbow Story Time. We learned this through a news article and have since confirmed that a bomb threat was made towards our Rainbow Story Time at the library.”

The group in its statement also noted:

“RCC has been hosting monthly Rainbow Story Times and other events for 2 years now and this is our first experience with a serious threat…We will continue to advocate for LGBTQIA+ and gender-affirming schools and build community spaces where our children can be who they are and celebrate that love makes a family. We – together with RCC families and partner organizations — will not let hate win and will continue advocating for a safe and affirming community that all our children deserve.”

Durham police said the bomb threat remains under investigation and no further information will be released at this time.

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Idaho

Idaho ends legislative session, anti-LGBTQ+ bills sent to governor

Legislators missed their self-appointed adjournment deadline twice due to in-fighting and behind-the-scenes debates

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The Idaho House of Representatives in session at the State Capitol building in Boise on Jan. 23, 2024. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

By Clark Corbin | BOISE, Idaho – Idaho’s sometimes brutal and bruising 2024 legislative session came to a quiet end at the Idaho State Capitol in Boise on Wednesday, as without overriding any vetoes or introducing any new major bills.

After passing a controversial transportation budget on April 3, Idaho legislators recessed until Wednesday to give themselves an opportunity to try to overcome any late-session vetoes issued by Gov. Brad Little. The Idaho Senate adjourned for the year shortly before 2:45 p.m. Wednesday, and the Idaho House of Representatives adjourned a few minutes later, at 2:49 p.m.

Little did issue two vetoes on bills this week during the legislative recess – one relating to the jurisdiction of the Idaho Public Utilities Commission, another relating to a bill that would have granted the state treasurer the authority to keep a portion of state funds in physical gold and silver. The Idaho Senate attempted to override Little’s veto of Senate Bill 1323, the public utilities commission bill, but fell short of the necessary 23 vetoes. That means Little’s veto stands. 

On the other hand, Little allowed two of the most controversial late-session bills to become law. Little signed House Bill 710, which would require library’s to move so-called harmful materials upon a written request or face a lawsuit. Little also allowed House Bill 770, the transportation services budget that revokes the state’s authority to carry out the $51 million sale of the Idaho Transportation Department’s flooded former Boise headquarters on State Street, to become law without his signature. Little also allowed House Bill 726, a related budget bill for the Department of Administration, to become law without his signature.

Little addressed revoking the sale in a transmittal letter that was sent to House Speaker Mike Moyle, R-Star, on Wednesday. 

“However, I did not sign these bills because the intent language unwinds statutory policy language about how the state handles surplus properties and it increases overhead for office space needs around the state,” Little wrote. “In addition it unfairly cancels an agreed upon sales process, causing future reputational risk for the State of Idaho.”

Idaho legislators missed adjournment targets partially because of GOP infighting

Wednesday was the 94th day of the session, which gaveled in back on Jan. 8. 

Legislators missed their self-appointed adjournment deadline twice due to in-fighting and behind-the-scenes debates. Legislative leaders originally hoped to wrap up the session on March 22. But the Idaho House got bogged down in a leadership struggle and contentious budget debate that set legislators back at least a week. On Feb. 8, House Republicans took what is widely viewed as the unprecedented step of removing a major member of leadership, former House Majority Leader Megan Blanksma, R-Hammett, from her leadership post during an ongoing session. Leadership elections traditionally take place in December of even numbered years following a general election. The vote or action to remove Blanksma appeared to happen behind closed doors. There was no announcement on the floor Feb. 8, and Blanksma quietly walked off the floor that day and was eventually replaced by new House Majority Leader Jason Monks, R-Meridian.

Several legislators on Wednesday agreed that it was time to wrap up the session for the year.

“It’s a privilege to be able to do this, but it’s time to be done,” Rep. Jack Nelsen, R-Jerome, told the Sun just before the Idaho House was called to order at noon Wednesday. 

What passed during Idaho’s 2024 legislative session?

  • House Bill 722: The fiscal year 2025 budget for the Workforce Development Council provides $71 million to implement grants for the Idaho Launch program that Gov. Brad Little champions. The Idaho Launch program provides Idaho high school and home school graduates with $8,000 grants to prepare for an in-demand career. Little said the program will help train the next generation of Idahoans for a trade, allow them to remain home in Idaho and support businesses. But some prominent Republicans in the Idaho Legislature, including House Speaker Mike Moyle, R-Star, targeted Launch as a “handout.” 
  • House Bill 521: According to Idaho Education News, House Bill 521 creates ways for the state to spend an estimated $2 billion on school facilities over the next 10 years. Little made school facilities a prominent feature in his Jan. 8 State of the State address, highlighting a school that has sewage leaking under its cafeteria and telling the Idaho Legislature to stop kicking the can down the road on addressing the state’s deteriorating school buildings. “The can we are kicking is getting heavier, and we are running out of road,” Little warned in his State of the State address. 
  • House Bill 399: After Idaho became the only state not to review maternal death data, this bill authorizes the Idaho Board of Medicine to collect and review that data. Before the Idaho Legislature allowed the state’s Maternal Mortality Review Committee to expire last summer, data between 2018 and 2021 had shown a steady increase in deaths among pregnant women and new mothers, the Sun previously reported.   
  • Senate Bill 1234: This bipartisan bill co-sponsored by Sen. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, and Rep. Jack Nelsen, R-Jerome, allows insurance enrollees to receive up to a six-month supply of contraceptives. Currently, many insurance plans only reimburse for a one-month to three-month supply, according to the bill’s statement of purpose. 
  • House Bill 770: The fiscal year 2025 enhanced transportation services budget revokes the state’s authority to carry out the $51 million sale of the Idaho Transportation Department’s flooded former Boise headquarters on State Street and provides the third successive $200 million installment to repair and replace aging and poorly rated local bridges across Idaho. The debate over whether to block the sale of the State Street headquarters at least partially led to delaying the end of the 2024 legislative session and caused the would-be buyers from Hawkins Companies, the Pacific Companies and FJ Management to weigh their legal options after they said they thought they had struck a deal with the state. “We’re obviously extremely disappointed in the passage of this legislation,” said Brian Huffaker, CEO of Hawkins Companies, in a statement on behalf of Hawkins, The Pacific Companies and FJ Management. “This governmental overreach is a massive waste of taxpayer dollars, and we’re confident the courts will agree this kind of legislative interference in the free market violates the state constitution. We will be exploring legal action.”
  • House Bill 421: The bill states the Idaho Legislature only recognizes two sexes in human beings; male and female. The bill also states the word “gender” shall be a synonym for the word “sex” and shall not be considered a synonym for gender identity. Both the Idaho House and Idaho Senate passed the bill, and Little signed it into law Tuesday.  
  • House Bill 710: This year’s version of “the library materials bill” would require libraries to move materials deemed harmful to minors upon written notification from a parent, legal guardian or child, or be faced with a lawsuit for $250 dollars in statutory damages, plus uncapped actual damages and any other relief available by law. The Idaho House passed the harmful materials bill March 13, and it was one of the final bills of the year passed by the Idaho Senate on April 3. Little signed it Wednesday.
  • House Bill 538: This bill enacts protections for public employees and teachers who are unwilling to use a person’s preferred pronouns. Idaho Education News reported that under the bill teacher’s will not be able to refer to a student by a name or pronoun that does not align with their birth sex without parental permission. Little signed the bill into law Monday. 
  • Senate Bill 1377: This bill requires people who are paid to gather signatures for a ballot initiative or a referendum to disclose that they are being paid. Little signed it into law on April 4, and it is scheduled to take effect on July 1.  
  • House Bill 599: Republican House Speaker Mike Moyle, R-Star and Rep. Brandon Mitchell, R-Moscow, co-sponsored the bill as a way to combat what supporters  described as “ballot harvesting.” Under the bill, it is illegal for someone to collect and turn in another person’s absentee ballot or unvoted ballot. If someone collects 10 or more ballots during any election a violation of the bill would become a felony. The bill includes exceptions for caregivers of voters, relatives of voters and a person who is a member of the voter’s household. However, opponents including the voting advocacy group Babe Vote, described the bill as a voter suppression law that criminalizes Idahoans for helping their neighbors turn in their absentee ballots. Little signed the bill into law Tuesday.

What didn’t pass or didn’t get done in Idaho this legislative session?

  • Health of the mother legislation: Under Idaho’s strict felony abortion ban, the law does not allow for a doctor to terminate a pregnancy to protect the health of the mother – only to save the mother’s life. Most Americans support an exception to abortion bans that allows for the medical professional to protect the health or save the life of the pregnant patient, the Sun and States Newsroom previously reported. Last year, Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa, worked on an unsuccessful bill that would have added an exception “to treat a physical condition of the woman that if left untreated would be life-threatening.” Crane pulled the bill back last year, the Sun previously reported, but vowed to continue working on a compromise on the issue, telling States Newsroom, “It has to be dealt with.” Legislators did not pass a bill this year that created a new exception to protect the health of the pregnant patient.  
  • House Bill 753: This bill was a Texas-style immigration bill sponsored by Rep. Jaron Crane, R-Nampa, which would have created a new state crime of illegal entry into the state, allowed local law enforcement officials to check a person’s immigration status and allow a magistrate judge to order someone who violates the bill to return to their country of origin. The Idaho House voted 53-15 to pass the bill on March 29, but the Idaho Senate never took up the bill. 
  • Senate Concurrent Resolution 135: This was an anti-racism and anti-hate speech resolution condemning the racist harassment allegedly directed at University of Utah women’s basketball team while visiting Coeur d’Alene Resort last month. The Senate voted 33-1 to adopt the resolution March 28, but the Idaho House never took up the resolution, and it died when the legislative session adjourned for the year. 
  • Senate Bill 1273: This bill would have required the Idaho secretary of state to mail a new informational voter guide to every household in the state 30 days before an election. The Idaho Senate voted 22-13 to pass the bill on Feb. 26, but the House State Affairs committee never took up the bill after it was referred to the committee in late February. 
  • Senate Bill 1445: This additional budget for the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare would have provided $545,300 in state funding to provide summer lunches for low income children, Idaho Education News reported. The federal government would have covered half of the administrative costs for the program and 100% of the lunch money, Idaho EdNews reported. But the Idaho Senate rejected the budget on a 10-25 vote March 28 after Sen. Cindy Carlson, R-Riggins, and others said the state would be sending the wrong message by providing something free without requiring something in return. The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee rewrote the budget without funding for the summer lunch program, killing the program in Idaho.  
  • House Joint Resolution 4: This proposed amendment to the Idaho Constitution was promoted as a way to block ranked choice voting, which is a component of the open primary ballot initiative. The proposed amendment sought to limit elections to one round of voting, with the person with the highest number of votes being elected. But some legislators worried passing the bill would create unintended consequences for nonpartisan judicial primary elections. Amending the Idaho Constitution requires a two-thirds majority vote of both the Idaho House and Idaho Senate. But the proposed amendment died in the Idaho House on March 11 on a 42-27 vote after falling short of the necessary 47 votes. The proposed amendment is now dead for the year.

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Clark Corbin

Idaho Capital Sun senior reporter Clark Corbin has more than a decade of experience covering Idaho government and politics. He has covered every Idaho legislative session since 2011 gavel-to-gavel.

Prior to joining the Idaho Capital Sun he reported for the Idaho Falls Post Register and Idaho Education News. His reporting in Idaho has helped uncover a multimillion-dollar investment scam and exposed inaccurate data that school districts submitted to the state.

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The preceding article was previously published by the Idaho Capital Sun and is republished with permission.

The Idaho Capital Sun is the Gem State’s newest nonprofit news organization delivering accountability journalism on state politics, health care, tax policy, the environment and more. We’re part of States Newsroom, the nation’s largest state-focused nonprofit news organization.

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