Following the death of former President George H.W. Bush at age 94, the nation remembers him for his civil tone in contrast to President Trump and for helping bring the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union to a peaceful conclusion — but his legacy on LGBT rights and failure to confront the raging HIV/AIDS epidemic at the time remain a stain on his overall record.
Gay former Rep. Barney Frank, whose 32-year tenure in Congress included the George H.W. Bush administration from 1989 to 1992, told the Washington Blade in an interview Saturday the late former president “was bad” on LGBT rights and “wouldn’t do anything” to advance them.
“I asked him, for example, to rescind the Eisenhower rule that said we couldn’t get security clearances,” Frank said. “He refused to do it. Bill Clinton did a few years later.”
Frank also said Bush refused to roll back military’s ban on gay service members, which was administrative and not statutory in the days before the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law of 1993.
“Bush was simply unsupportive on any issue,” Frank added.
Frank, however, qualified his remarks by saying Bush did a positive thing by appointing former U.S. Associate Justice David Souter to the U.S. Supreme Court.
But that appointment, Frank said, was undercut by Bush’s appointment of U.S. Associate Justice Clarence Thomas. Frank said Thomas — who dissented in every major gay rights decision, including the Obergefell decision in 2015 extending marriage equality nationwide — has been “totally negative.”
One exchange between a reporter and Bush in 1992, the final year of his administration, prominently exemplifies his anti-gay views. According to a clipping from the Los Angeles Times, a reporter from NBC News asked Bush how he would respond to a grandchild who came out as gay. Bush replied he’d “love that child,” he also denigrated being gay.
“I would put my arm around him and I would hope he wouldn’t go out and try to convince people that this was the normal lifestyle, that this was an appropriate lifestyle, that this was the way to be,” Bush reportedly said.
Bush reportedly added, “But I would say, ‘I hope you wouldn’t become an advocate for a lifestyle that in my view is not normal, and propose marriages, same-sex marriages as a normal way of life. I don’t favor that.”
Urvashi Vaid, who served as executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force at the time, said Monday the Bush administration “was not a friendly administration on LGBT issues.”
“I think our standards have really declined,” Vaid said. “Compared to the Trump administration it was better, compared to the Reagan administration, it was neutral, but President Bush continued many of the policies of the Reagan administration around LGBT people.”
Vaid added, “I think that that administration pandered to the right-wing in the Republican Party and did not stand up to it and allowed itself to do a lot of things. The president allowed himself to be led by people who were far-right zealots like Patrick Buchanan.”
In 1992, Buchanan delivered a fiery speech at the Republican National Convention calling for a culture war, mocking Democratic presidential candidate Bill Clinton for being called pro-gay by “a militant leader of the homosexual rights movement” and urging followers to stand with Bush on the “amoral idea that gay and lesbian couples should have the same standing in law as married men and women.”
That year was the first-time the National Log Cabin Republicans made an endorsement decision in the presidential race. The group declined to support Bush because he refused to condemn Buchanan’s anti-gay rhetoric at the GOP convention.
Despite Bush’s anti-gay views, at least two pro-gay laws were enacted during the Bush administration. Among them was the Hate Crimes Statistics Act, which required the U.S. Justice Department to collect data on bias-motivated crimes based on a victim’s race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or ethnicity.
The Hate Crimes Statistics Act was the first federal law to recognize and name gay, lesbian and bisexual people. Gay activists were invited to the White House during the signing ceremony on April 23, 1990.
During the event, Bush repudiated discrimination, praised civil rights leaders, including Martin Luther King, Jr., and enumerated the inclusion of sexual orientation in the law.
“Bigotry and hate regrettably still exist in this country, and hate breeds violence, threatening the security of our entire society,” Bush said. “We must rid our communities of the poison we call prejudice, bias and discrimination and that’s why I’m signing into law today the a measure to require the attorney general to collect as much information as we can on crimes motivated by religion, race, ethnicity or sexual orientation.”
The other pro-gay law was the Immigration Act of 1990, which included a repeal of the ban on “homosexuals or sex perverts,” or LGBT people, from entering the United States. That immigration exclusion was present in some capacity in immigration law since 1917, but was explicitly codified in 1952.
In 1990, Bush made an oblique reference to the removal of the LGBT travel ban in a signing statement for the overall bill.
“I am also pleased to note that this Act facilitates immigration not just in numerical terms, but also in terms of basic entry rights of those beyond our borders,” Bush said. “S. 358 revises the politically related ‘exclusion grounds’ for the first time since their enactment in 1952.”
Frank, however, said Bush deserves no credit for either the Hate Crimes Statistics Act or the repeal of LGBT ban in the Immigration Act of 1990.
The inclusion of the repeal language in the Immigration Act, Frank said, was part of a deal he made with former Sen. Alan Simpson, whom Frank called “one of the last pro-gay Republicans.”
“I was on the immigration subcommittee and I had enough support from other Democrats to say that if they did not agree to include the repeal of the anti-gay stuff, I could defeat the bill,” Frank said. “That deal was originally worked out in ’86. It took a couple years to get the bill through, so Bush did sign that bill, but he didn’t have much choice. Congress had agreed without him that that would happen.”
The Hate Crimes Statistics Act, Frank said, was “actually a compromise” because Democrats in Congress wanted a hate crimes law with teeth, but Bush would only agree to a measure that collected data.
“It didn’t have any teeth,” Frank said. “Frankly, at the time, it wasn’t a big deal, and it wasn’t.”
It wouldn’t be until the Obama administration in 2009 when a broader Matthew Shepard & James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act giving the attorney general authority to investigate and prosecute hate crimes became law.
But Bush faced stronger criticism for continuing the inaction on HIV/AIDS as the epidemic raged during his administration. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, in 1989 the first year of the Bush administration, there were 21,628 AIDS-related deaths in the United States. That number rose to 24,524 in 1990, 28,569 in 1991 and 32,407 in 1992.
HIV/AIDS was the No. 1 issue facing the LGBT community at the time. The activist group ACT UP held die-ins to encourage the delivery of experimental drugs to people with HIV and held protests at the Food & Drug Administration, the White House and Bush’s summer home in Kennebunkport, Maine.
One protest in 1991 recorded and currently available on YouTube shows demonstrators holding signs reading, “It’s time for National Plan, George,” and chanting, “Health Care is a Right! We need more than Right to Life!”
Bush was publicly flustered by ACT UP and its tactics. In 1991, Bush called out the group by name in response to a reporter’s questions about its protests of the Catholic Church for opposing condom use. ACT UP’s efforts, Bush said, were “totally counterproductive” and an “excess of free speech,” according to the book “Moving Politics: Emotion and ACT UP’s Fight against AIDS.”
“To the degree that the AIDS question should be treated as a health question, they work even against that because of their outrageous actions,” Bush is quoted as saying. “And you’re talking to somebody who has his own meetings broken up by them — or had two or three of them in the last year. And I condemn the kinds of tactics that are offensive to mainstream Catholics, Protestants and Jews, anybody else. It’s an excess of free speech to use — to resort to some of the tactics these people use.”
In the aftermath of an ACT UP protest in Kennebunkport, Bush urged “behavioral change” to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
“Here’s a disease where you can control its spread by your own personal behavior,” Bush said. “You can’t do that in cancer.”
With regards to spending on HIV/AIDS, Bush dismissed the notion his administration wasn’t spending enough to fight the disease, asserting the U.S. government was “spending $4 billion a year on AIDS research.”
“When you consider that on a per capita basis or compare it to heart disease or cancer, it’s an awful lot,” Bush said. “It’s far more.”
According to the Los Angeles Times at the time, the amount spent on AIDS research then was actually quite smaller and less than $2 billion a year.
Despite anger over the government’s response to HIV/AIDS, in 1990 he was the first president to sign the Ryan White CARE Act, which has provided health coverage for low-income people with HIV/AIDS and reauthorized under George W. Bush and Barack Obama. The elder Bush also signed into law an Americans with Disabilities Act that barred discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS.
Vaid, who famously interrupted a speech Bush gave on HIV/AIDS, said those laws were directly the result of activism from groups like ACT UP and wouldn’t have been signed otherwise.
“He was not doing enough as a leader,” Vaid said. “I think that those pressures and protests led by ACT UP all over the country…that pressure is what pushed both members of Congress and the administration to do whatever it did. I can’t say that enough. I think there’s a sense that looking backwards that ‘well, you know, it would have happened, it just was a matter of time.’ It wouldn’t have happened. What we were up against were these really profound negative homophobic attitudes coupled with a right-wing that was…growing in power that these people had got elected through, pandering to that right-wing. And so, those forces were very much what we had to deal with, and that’s why got so little action for so long.”
Larry Kramer, a longtime activist against HIV/AIDS, was succinct in response to a Blade email inquiry on whether Bush deserves credit for signing the Ryan White Care Act into law.
“I will not give him credit for anything,” Kramer said. “He hated us.”
Bush’s legacy on LGBT rights and HIV/AIDS stands in contrast to that of his wife, former first lady Barbara Bush, who died earlier this year and was remembered for being a gay ally who fought to dispel AIDS stigma.
As the Washington Blade reported in 1990, Barbara Bush as first lady visited Grandma’s House, a D.C. home for children with AIDS. During the event, Barbara Bush held up an infant with AIDS and hugged a gay man with the disease, Lou Tesconi. Both the child and Tesconi would later succumb to AIDS.
In 1990, Barbara Bush wrote a letter responding to PFLAG co-founder Paulette Goodman, “We cannot tolerate discrimination against any individuals or groups in our country.” The letter is considered the first positive statement in history from the White House on gay people.
Bush’s anti-gay administration was a precursor to the anti-gay administration of his son, George W. Bush. In 2004, Bush made anti-gay positions a cornerstone of his re-election campaign, making a Federal Marriage Amendment that would have barred same-sex marriage nationwide a central plank. The measure came up in Congress in 2004 and 2006, but didn’t have enough support for ratification.
In the aftermath of his presidency, George H.W. Bush like many Americans signaled a change on LGBT rights and made headlines in 2013 when he participated in the Maine wedding of lesbian couple Bonnie Clement and Helen Thorgalsen, who were longtime friends of the Bush family, and served as witness for the ceremony.
Bush, who said during his 1988 campaign he “didn’t want same-sex marriage codified,” wrote later in a 2015 biography he still “believe[s] in traditional marriage,” but has “mellowed” on the issue.
“People should be able to do what they want to do, without discrimination,” Bush wrote. “People have a right to be happy. I guess you could say I have mellowed.”
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LGBTQ+ ally Tony Thurmond announces for his bid for governor
Prior to serving as California’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, Thurmond served in the State Assembly
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – California State Superintendent of Public Instruction and long-time LGBTQ+ community ally Tony Thurmond, announced Tuesday that he is running to be the next Governor of California.
He is running to replace incumbent Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom, who is term limited by state law to two four-year terms. Newsom assumed office on January 7, 2019 and his current term ends on January 4, 2027.
If elected, Thurmond would make history as California’s first Black Governor and the first Latino Governor since 1875.
Thurmond made the following announcement on X, formerly Twitter, Tuesday morning: “I didn’t come from money, power, or influence. I’m running for Governor to be a voice for those who need one — because California may be working for millionaires and billionaires but for the rest of California — we need real change.”
“California should be a place where everyone has a chance to succeed, no matter who you are or where you’re from, and together, we can make that a reality,” he said in his announcement video.
In addition to his commitment to improving opportunities for all Californians, stabilizing the housing market, and contributing to ending homelessness, Thurmond has shown his continued support for children in LGBTQ+ community.
With several school districts across California passing mandatory outing policies and rules targeting the safety of LGBTQ+ students, Thurmond told The Blade in an interview last week that he has and will continue to fight for the rights of LGBTQ+ children.
“My position on these actions is that they are misinformed and misguided. They are a blatant attack on LGBTQ+ kids. These are bigoted efforts to harm a group of students…This is purely a bigoted action by extremists, whose real effort is to bring harm upon LGBTQ plus students, and I will not stand for that,” he said.
Thurmond told the Blade about his involvement in creating policies that allowed for safe and gender-inclusive bathrooms in the Chino Hills school district. He also mentioned two bills that he supports:
SB 760, sponsored by Senator Josh Newman (D-Fullerton). The bill would require the all-gender restroom to meet certain requirements, including, among other things, that it has signage identifying the bathroom facility as being open to all genders and is unlocked, unobstructed, and easily accessible by any pupil.
The Superintendent also supported AB 1078, sponsored by Assemblymember Dr. Corey Jackson (D-Moreno Valley), which bans “book bans” in schools, prohibits censorship of instructional materials, and strengthens California law requiring schools to provide all students access to textbooks that teach about California’s diverse communities.
“From Temecula to Tallahassee, fringe ideologues across the country are attempting to whitewash history and ban books from schools. With this new law, we’re cementing California’s role as the true freedom state: a place where families — not political fanatics — have the freedom to decide what’s right for them,” Governor Gavin Newsom said as he signed the bill last Friday.
“We have an opportunity now to say that every person can be treated with love and respect and dignity, regardless of who they are and how they see themselves and who they love,” said Thurmond.
“Many times, young people are not in a space where they can talk about how they identify in terms of their gender identities. It is our responsibility to get them resources and to help them, not to attack them. I sponsored legislation to provide more resources and training, and teachings to be able to support students and our LGBTQ+ students. The data shows that when we do this work, we support our LGBTQ+ people, they do better at school. They have better self-esteem and better grades. They are less likely to feel suicidal.”
Thurmond has been elected statewide in the nation’s most populous state twice, in 2018 and most recently in 2022, when he earned 63.7% and 5,681,318 votes.
Prior to serving as California’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, Thurmond served in the State Assembly and before then on the Richmond City Council and the West Contra Costa School Board. Beyond his service in public office, Thurmond is a public school parent, a former social worker, and a public educator.
“I am grateful that my last 15 years of elective service have all centered around some form of education, formally or informally,” said Thurmond. “I do think education is a great equalizer. It has been for me. I want this to be available to all six million students who are interested to our school system in California.”
(Advert) Tony Thurmond for California Governor: It’s About People:
California bans book bans & textbook censorship in schools
California provides instruction & support to roughly 5.9 million students in more than 1,000 districts & over 10,000 schools
SACRAMENTO — Building on his Family Agenda to promote educational freedom and success, Governor Gavin Newsom today signed AB 1078 by Assemblymember Dr. Corey Jackson (D-Moreno Valley), which bans “book bans” in schools, prohibits censorship of instructional materials, and strengthens California law requiring schools to provide all students access to textbooks that teach about California’s diverse communities.
“From Temecula to Tallahassee, fringe ideologues across the country are attempting to whitewash history and ban books from schools. With this new law, we’re cementing California’s role as the true freedom state: a place where families — not political fanatics — have the freedom to decide what’s right for them,” the governor said as he signed the bill.
“When we restrict access to books in school that properly reflect our nation’s history and unique voices, we eliminate the mirror in which young people see themselves reflected, and we eradicate the window in which young people can comprehend the unique experiences of others,” said First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom. “In short, book bans harm all children and youth, diminishing communal empathy and serving to further engender intolerance and division across society. We Californians believe all children must have the freedom to learn about the world around them and this new law is a critical step in protecting this right.”
“It is the responsibility of every generation to continue the fight for civil and human rights against those who seek to take them away,” said Assemblymember Dr. Corey Jackson. “Today, California has met this historical imperative and we will be ready to meet the next one.”
California is banning book bans and textbook censorship in our schools.— Office of the Governor of California (@CAgovernor) September 26, 2023
In partnership with @AsmCoreyJackson and @TonyThurmond, we’re cementing CA's role as the true freedom state: a place where families—not political fanatics—have the freedom to decide what’s right. pic.twitter.com/0br2MQN2rm
“AB 1078 sends a strong signal to the people of California — but also to every American — that in the Golden State — we don’t ban books — we cherish them,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond. “This law will serve as a model for the nation that California recognizes and understands the moment we are in – and while some want to roll back the clock on progress, we are doubling down on forward motion. Rather than limiting access to education and flat out banning books like other states, we are embracing and expanding opportunities for knowledge and education, because that’s the California way.”
AB 1078 provides the Superintendent of Public Instruction the authority to buy textbooks for students in a school district, recoup costs, and assess a financial penalty if a school board willfully chooses to not provide sufficient standards-aligned instructional materials for students. The law also prohibits school boards from banning instructional materials or library books on the basis that they provide inclusive and diverse perspectives in compliance with state law.
While other states ban books, California is making tens of billions of dollars in strategic investments to improve education outcomes and literacy. California outperformed most states — including Florida and Texas — in mitigating learning loss during the pandemic, and through historic levels of school funding, the state is building a cohesive structure of support for educators and students that reflects a focus on equity, inclusion, and academic success.
As part of the Governor’s Family Agenda, California is ensuring parents and caregivers have the opportunity to actively participate in their children’s education. Parents in California have a seat at the decision-making table for key budget, programmatic, and curricular decisions, including the creation of Local Control and Accountability Plans. In the past two years, in partnership with the Legislature, Governor Newsom has required schools to make it easier for working parents to participate in school decisions, invested $4.1 billion to convert one in four schools into community schools with deeper parent engagement, and invested another $100 million in the Community Engagement Initiative for more proactive collaboration with parents.
California provides instruction and support services to roughly 5.9 million students in grades transitional kindergarten through twelve in more than 1,000 districts and over 10,000 schools throughout the state. Education funding in the state is at a record high, totaling $129.2 billion in the 2023-24 budget.
HRC ad slams ‘extremist’ GOP’s looming government shutdown
The GOP conference’s most conservative members obstructed votes & have led an open rebellion against House Speaker Kevin McCarthy
WASHINGTON – The Human Rights Campaign launched an ad campaign on Monday slamming House Republicans for advancing anti-LGBTQ and other “out of touch demands” rather than working to clear must-pass spending bills before the month’s end to avoid a government shutdown.
In the weeks since Congress returned from the summer recess, opportunities to forestall this outcome narrowed with each passing day as small groups of the GOP conference’s most conservative members obstructed votes, led an open rebellion against House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), and added anti-LGBTQ and other far-right amendments to all 12 appropriations bills, effectively dooming the prospects of their passage by the Senate.
HRC’s announcement of plans to run the six-figure blitz “across major national outlets, cable networks and digital streaming services” included a 30-second ad titled “Grind to a Halt,” which accuses House Republicans of “trying to limit the health care you and your family can access, ban books and flags, and block enforcement of civil rights laws.”
In a statement, HRC President Kelley Robinson said the conservative lawmakers had “hijacked the appropriations process to attack LGBTQ+ communities rather than doing their jobs,” noting that a shutdown would “interrupt critical government services, hurt working families and endanger our national security.”
Books banned in public schools spike upwards 33% in last year
PEN America recorded 1,406 book ban cases in Florida, followed by 625 in Texas, 333 in Missouri, 281 in Utah, & 186 book bans in Penn.
NEW YORK — The number of public school book bans across the country increased by 33 percent in the 2022-23 school year compared to the 2021-22 school year, according to a new PEN America report.
“Banned in the USA: The Mounting Pressure to Censor” highlights the disproportionate number of bans occurring in Florida — where over 40 percent of all book bans took place in the 2022-23 school year — and shows how state legislation and coordinated pressure campaigns from local groups and individuals have driven mass restrictions on access to literature.
Since PEN America started tracking public school book bans in July 2021, the organization has recorded nearly 6,000 instances of banned books. This includes 3,362 book bans affecting 1,557 unique titles during the 2022-23 school year, impacting the work of 1,480 authors, illustrators, and translators.
There are multiple drivers of these trends. Over the past school year, vaguely-worded state legislation and local and national advocacy groups have converged, pressuring districts to remove more books from student access. Fear of penalties, legal liabilities, and criminal punishments are escalating book bans to new heights.
“The toll of the book banning movement is getting worse. More kids are losing access to books, more libraries are taking authors off the shelves, and opponents of free expression are pushing harder than ever to exert their power over students as a whole,” said Suzanne Nossel, Chief Executive Officer of PEN America. “Those who are bent on the suppression of stories and ideas are turning our schools into battlegrounds, compounding post-pandemic learning loss, driving teachers out of the classroom and denying the joy of reading to our kids. By depriving a rising generation of the freedom to read, these bans are eating away at the foundations of our democracy.”
This year Florida surpassed Texas as having the most books pulled from shelves. Laws and tactics that emerged in the Sunshine State are also being replicated elsewhere. The language of the so-called ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law that originated in Florida has been mimicked in Iowa, where vagueness and lack of state guidance similarly led school districts to ban books. Book Looks, a website created by a Moms for Liberty member from Florida to encourage book censorship, has been used widely to ban books, from Pennsylvania to Virginia.
The range of efforts to restrict teaching or intimidate educators also continues to expand. The escalation of book bans — combined with the proliferation of legislative efforts to restrict teaching about topics like race, gender, American history, and LGBTQ+ identities, as well as the rise in ‘educational intimidation’ mandates that require intrusive monitoring of teachers and librarians — pose a grave threat to the freedom to read and learn in schools across the country.
PEN America argues these efforts are part of an ongoing nationwide “Ed Scare” — a campaign to foment anxiety and anger with the ultimate goal of suppressing free expression in public education.
Other major findings include:
- PEN America recorded 1,406 book ban cases in Florida, followed by 625 bans in Texas, 333 bans in Missouri, 281 bans in Utah, and 186 book bans in Pennsylvania. These cases are instances where books were banned from classrooms or libraries, or both, or were banned pending investigation, as per PEN America’s definitions.
- Over 75 percent of the books banned are young adult books, middle grade books, chapter books, or picture books — in other words, books specifically written and selected for younger audiences.
- Of the 3,362 books banned this year, 1,263 were banned from classrooms and school libraries, compared to only 333 books in this category last year. This represents an increase of nearly 400 percent compared to last school year.
- Nearly half of all book bans (48 percent) during the 2022-23 school year deal with violence or physical abuse, including books that include sexual assault; 30 percent include characters of color and themes of race and racism; 30 percent represent LGBTQ+ identities; and six percent include a transgender character.
- In the 153 school districts across the country that banned a book during the 2022-23 school year, 124(81 percent) have a chapter or local affiliate nearby of one or more of the three most prominent national groups pushing for book bans — Moms for Liberty, Citizens Defending Freedom, and Parents’ Rights in Education. These districts are where 87percent (2,912) of book bans have occurred.
According to Kasey Meehan, PEN America’s Freedom to Read program director and lead author of the report, “Hyperbolic and misleading rhetoric continues to ignite fear over the types of books in schools. And yet, 75 percent of all banned books are specifically written and selected for young audiences. Florida isn’t an anomaly – it’s providing a playbook for other states to follow suit. Students have been using their voices for months in resisting coordinated efforts to suppress teaching and learning about certain stories, identities, and histories; it’s time we follow their lead.”
One positive trend highlighted in the report is the continued growth in student pushback against book bans across the country. Youth resistance to book bans in numerous school districts has included protests, speaking out at school board meetings, and the establishment of national organizations dedicated to defending access to literature in schools.
This report expands on PEN America’s work documenting the spread of educational censorship in America’s schools, showing the rapid evolution and intensification of book-banning across the country since the April 2023 Banned in the USA report, which documented 1,477 instances of book bans in the first half of the 2022-23 school year.
Author John Green, whose book, Looking for Alaska, was the third most banned in U.S. schools according to the report, said “While I’m encouraged by PEN America’s work to protect free expression and intellectual freedom, it’s disappointing to see such a steep rise in the banning and restriction of books. We should trust our teachers and librarians to do their jobs. If you have a worldview that can be undone by a book, I would submit that the problem is not with the book.”
PEN America defines a school book ban as any action taken against a book based on its content and as a result of parent or community challenges, administrative decisions, or in response to direct or threatened action by lawmakers or other governmental officials, that leads to a previously accessible book being either completely removed from availability to students, or where access to a book is restricted or diminished.
The preceding article was provided to the Los Angeles Blade by PEN America.
PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. Learn more at pen.org.
Join PEN America in defending the freedom to read by taking action to #FreeTheBooks and making your voice heard.
Newsom signs LGBTQ+ protections but vetoes trans youth bill
“These measures will help protect vulnerable youth, promote acceptance, & create more supportive environments in our schools and communities”
SACRAMENTO – California Governor Gavin Newsom signed several pieces of legislation on Saturday extending protection to the Golden State’s LGBTQ+ community with the exception of a bill he vetoed Friday that would have required courts to consider whether a parent affirms their child’s gender identity when making custody and visitation decisions.
“California is proud to have some of the most robust laws in the nation when it comes to protecting and supporting our LGBTQ+ community, and we’re committed to the ongoing work to create safer, more inclusive spaces for all Californians,” said Governor Newsom. “These measures will help protect vulnerable youth, promote acceptance, and create more supportive environments in our schools and communities. I thank Senator Eggman and the LGBTQ Caucus for their dedicated leadership and partnership in advancing our state’s values of equality, freedom and acceptance.”
Among the nine bills signed into law were:
AB 5- The Safe and Supportive Schools Act, sponsored by Assemblymember Rick Chavez Zbur (D-Los Angeles). This bill sets implementation timelines for required LGBTQ+ cultural competency training by public school teachers and staff.
AB 223- Change of gender and sex identifier, sponsored by Assemblymember Christopher Ward (D-San Diego).
Existing law authorizes a person to file a petition with the superior court seeking a judgment recognizing their change of gender to female, male, or nonbinary, including a person who is under 18 years of age. Existing law authorizes a person to file a single petition to simultaneously change the petitioner’s name and recognize the change to the petitioner’s gender and sex identifier, as specified.
This bill would require any petition for a change of gender and sex identifier or a petition for change of gender, sex identifier, and name filed by a person under 18 years of age, and any papers associated with the proceeding, to be kept confidential by the court. The bill would require the court to limit access to these records to specified individuals, including, among others, the minor, the minor’s parents, and their attorneys.
AB 760– Public postsecondary education: affirmed name and gender identification, sponsored by Assemblymember Lori Wilson (D-Fairfield).
Commencing with the 2023–24 graduating class, existing law prohibits an institution from requiring a graduating student to provide legal documentation sufficient to demonstrate a legal name or gender change in order to have the student’s chosen name listed on the student’s diploma.
This bill, commencing with the 2023–24 graduating class, instead would prohibit an institution from requiring a graduating student to provide legal documentation sufficient to demonstrate a legal name or gender change in order to have the student’s chosen name be the sole name listed on the student’s diploma. The bill would authorize an institution to use a student’s gender or legal name as indicated in a government-issued identification document only if it is necessary to meet a legally mandated obligation, but would otherwise require the institution to identify the student in accordance with the student’s gender identity and affirmed name, as provided. To the extent that this requirement would impose a new duty on community colleges, the bill would impose a state-mandated local program.
AB 783– Business licenses: single-user restrooms, sponsored by Assemblymember Philip Ting (D-San Francisco). Requires cities, counties, and cities and counties to notify applicants for a business license or permit in writing of the requirement that single-user toilet facilities must be identified as all-gender toilet facilities.
AB 994– Law enforcement: social media, sponsored by Assemblymember Corey Jackson (D-Moreno Valley). With respect to an individual who has been arrested for any crime, this bill would require a police department or sheriff’s office, upon posting a booking photo on social media, to use the name and pronouns given by the individual arrested. The bill would authorize a police department or sheriff’s office to use other legal names or known aliases of an individual in limited specified circumstances.
This bill would also require that a police department or sheriff’s office remove any booking photo shared on social media after 14 days unless specified circumstances exist. Because the bill would impose higher duties on local law enforcement, it would impose a state-mandated local program.
SB 372 – Department of Consumer Affairs: licensee and registrant records: name and gender changes, sponsored by Senator Caroline Menjivar (D-San Fernando Valley/Burbank). The bill would prohibit a board from publishing information relating to the licensee’s or registrant’s former name or gender online. Instead, the bill would require the board to post an online statement directing the public to contact the board for more information. For specified licensees or registrants, the board would be prohibited from posting enforcement records online, but would be required to direct post an online statement stating that the individual was previously subject to an enforcement action and directing the public to contact the board, as prescribed. The bill would provide that all records related to a request to update an individual’s license or registration under these provisions are confidential and not subject to public inspection or disclosure.
SB 407 – Foster care: resource families, sponsored by Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco). Existing law generally provides for the placement of foster youth in various placement settings. Existing law provides for the implementation of the resource family approval process and defines a resource family as an individual or family who has successfully met both the home environment assessment standards and permanency assessment criteria, as specified, necessary for providing care for a child placed by a public or private child placement agency by court order, or voluntarily placed by a parent or legal guardian. Under existing law, the resource family permanency standards include a family evaluation, including, but not limited to, interviews of an applicant, as specified, and a risk assessment.
This bill would require a resource family to demonstrate the capacity an ability and willingness to meet the needs of a child, regardless of the child’s sexual orientation or orientation, gender identity, or gender expression, as specified.
SB 760 – School facilities: all-gender restrooms, sponsored by Senator Josh Newman (D-Fullerton). The bill would require the all-gender restroom to meet certain requirements, including, among other things, that it has signage identifying the bathroom facility as being open to all genders and is unlocked, unobstructed, and easily accessible by any pupil.
SB 857 – Advisory task force: LGBTQ+ pupil needs, sponsored by Senator John Laird (D-Santa Cruz). This bill will establish an advisory task force to identify LGBTQ+ pupil needs statewide and assist in implementing supportive initiatives.
We are thrilled that 6 of our priority bills and 2 of our endorsed bills were signed into law today! These bills protect and uplift LGBTQ+ foster youth and students in schools, as well as respect individuals’ names.— California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus (@calgbt) September 24, 2023
We are hopeful our remaining 4 bills will be signed too! pic.twitter.com/Ch6VdQmTAo
“This year the LGBTQ Caucus took up the important work of protecting our communities in the face of vile anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric, discriminatory laws across the country, and hatred. I appreciate the Governor’s partnership in signing some of our priority and endorsed legislation today, and hope we can continue to educate about the harm LGBTQ+ people will continue to face if we fail to act,” said Senator Susan Talamantes Eggman, Chair of the California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus.
“While states across the nation are passing legislation that puts LGBTQ+ people and especially youth at risk, California is sending a clear message today — hate-filled attacks will not be tolerated and we will continue protecting and ensuring the safety of all members of the LGBTQ+ community,” said Equality California Executive Director Tony Hoang. “We are thankful to our legislative partners for championing these important bills and to Governor Newsom for continuing to be such a strong ally in improving and protecting the wellbeing of the LGBTQ+ community as we face growing attacks from far-right extremists.”
On Friday, Newsom vetoed AB 957 would have updated California law to clarify that, for the purposes of child custody and visitation decisions, a parent’s affirmation of a child’s gender identity or gender expression is an essential factor that must be considered in determining the best interest of the child by a judge.
That legislation had been sponsored by Assemblymember Lori Wilson, a Democrat who introduced the bill and has an adult son who came out as transgender when he was a teenager, criticized the governor’s decision.
“I’ve been disheartened over the last few years as I watched the rising hate and heard the vitriol toward the trans community. My intent with this bill was to give them a voice, particularly in the family court system where a non-affirming parent could have a detrimental impact on the mental health and well-being of a child,” Wilson said in a statement.
My Statement on Governor Newsom's Veto of AB 957 pic.twitter.com/bK1JhrW27z— Assemblywoman Lori D. Wilson (@AsmLoriDWilson) September 23, 2023
“We are disappointed and disheartened by Governor Newsom’s decision to veto AB 957, which would have helped to ensure that the unique needs of transgender and gender non-conforming youth are explicitly considered in child custody and visitation decisions,” said Equality California Executive Director Tony Hoang.
“At a time where LGBTQ+ youth, specifically trans youth are facing higher rates of depression and suicide, reassurance and protection from our state is in dire need. Anti-LGBTQ+ extremists targeted this modest and straightforward legislation as part of their coordinated attacks on trans youth in California, and the failure to enact this bill bolsters their dangerous efforts. We are grateful to Assemblymember Lori Wilson for her unwavering commitment to the needs of transgender and gender non-conforming young people. Despite this setback, we will continue working with the Legislature and Governor Newsom to to protect the rights and dignity of the most vulnerable members of the LGBTQ+ community.”
In his veto message, the governor explained:
“I appreciate the passion and values that led the author to introduce this bill. I share a deep commitment to advancing the rights of transgender Californians, an effort that has guided my decisions through many decades in public office.
That said, I urge caution when the Executive and Legislative branches of state government attempt to dictate – in prescriptive terms that single out one characteristic – legal standards for the Judicial branch to apply. Other-minded elected officials, in California and other states, could very well use this strategy to diminish the civil rights of vulnerable communities.”
McBride earns major labor support from flight attendants union
By Joel Lev-Tov | WILMINGTON, Del. – Delaware U.S. House Democratic candidate Sarah McBride has earned the support of the Association of Flight Attendants, the nation’s most prominent flight attendant union.
It’s the second big labor endorsement for McBride after the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 27’s endorsement. The Association of Flight Attendants praised her for spearheading efforts to bring paid family and medical leave to Delaware, which will take effect in 2026.
“Sarah’s record in the Delaware Senate shows that she understands how to work collaboratively, build power and make big things happen,” the union’s President Sara Nelson wrote in a press release shared exclusively with the Blade. “That’s the kind of leader we need in Congress, and we’re proud to endorse her candidacy.”
McBride also announced her support for creating a list of abusive passengers and banning them from flying. Each airline has a list of passengers banned from flying, but airlines don’t share the lists with each other, though Delta Air Lines has asked them, because of “legal and operational challenges,” as a representative for the airline industry trade group Airlines of America told a House committee in September 2021.
“Right now, someone can be violent towards a flight attendant or another passenger and walk directly off of that flight and onto one with a different airline to endanger more people,” an Association of Flight Attendants spokesperson wrote in a statement.
The Protection from Abusive Passengers Act would put the Transportation Security Administration in charge of building the database of passengers fined or convicted of abuse and has bipartisan support but has sat idly in committee since March. It failed to pass last year, and civil rights groups including the American Civil Liberties Union have charged that the list would disproportionately target people of color and strip and a better step to reducing hostility would be making flights more comfortable. Reports of defiant and unruly passengers have more than doubled between 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic, and 2022.
“I thank the Association of Flight Attendants for endorsing our campaign,” McBride wrote in the press release. “It’s important that we recognize and celebrate the symbiotic relationship between strong, unionized workforces and the continued growth of employers here in our state.”
The union representing 50,000 flight attendants across 19 airlines is putting pressure on airlines to grant union demands in contract negotiations. At American Airlines, unionized flight attendants voted to authorize a strike – putting pressure on the airline to accede to its demands. Flight attendants at Alaska Airlines say they are ready to strike but have not voted to authorize one yet. United Airlines flight attendants picketed at 19 airports around the country in August, ratcheting up the pressure.
The union’s endorsement adds to a growing list of McBride endorsements, including 21 Delaware legislators, the United Food and Commercial Workers, the Human Rights Campaign, EMILY’s List, and Delaware Stonewall PAC. McBride, who would be the first openly transgender politician in Congress, has powerful connections in Washington – including with the White House – and is favored to win Delaware’s lone House seat.
A poll commissioned by the Human Rights Campaign shows her leading the pack of three candidates vying for the seat – 44% of “likely Democratic voters” told pollster company Change Research, which works with liberal organizations. The poll of 531 likely Delaware Democratic primary voters, though, was conducted only online – meaning those with less familiarity or access to the internet may not have been counted – and Change Research’s methodology for screening likely voters is unclear. The company also did not provide a breakdown of respondents by age, gender, and race, but says it uses an algorithm to make the results representative.
Association of Flight Attendants’ president Nelson said McBride’s time in Delaware’s State Senate shows her prowess in building power and working collaboratively.
“That’s the kind of leader we need in Congress, and we’re proud to endorse her candidacy,” she wrote.
Joel Lev-Tov is a student journalist and photographer in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area majoring in journalism and minoring in Jewish Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park.
They were a journalism Fellow at the Washington Blade this past summer & have skills in both photography & A/V systems.
Rep. Jennifer Wexton, ardent LGBTQ ally, will not seek re-election
In fact, on the day she took office, the congresswoman became only the second member to fly a transgender Pride flag outside her office
LEESBURG, Va. – U.S. Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.) announced on Monday she will not seek reelection after receiving a diagnosis of progressive supranuclear palsy, a neurological disorder that the congresswoman described in a statement as “Parkinson’s on steroids.”
“I’m heartbroken to have to give up something I have loved after so many years of serving my community,” she said. “But taking into consideration the prognosis for my health over the coming years, I have made the decision not to seek reelection once my term is complete and instead spend my valued time with Andrew, our boys, and my friends and loved ones.”
A member of the Congressional Equality Caucus and co-chair of its Transgender Equality Task Force, Wexton has been a staunch ally of the LGBTQ community since her first election to Congress in 2018 and during previous five-year tenure in the Virginia State Senate.
“On my lowest days, she’s quite literally been a shoulder to cry on, and on my best days, she was the second person I told about my engagement last year,” Virginia Del. Danica Roem (D-13) told the Washington Blade on Monday.
The congresswoman is “a role model, mentor and genuine public servant whose friendship and advocacy means the world to me,” said Roem, who is the first openly trans representative to serve in any state legislature and will be the first in Virginia’s State Senate if she is elected to the newly drawn 30th district seat next year.
“I spent so many years closeted in part because of the fear and loathing perpetuated by elected officials toward LGBTQ people in Northern Virginia broadly and greater Prince William [County] specifically that made for a hostile, unwelcoming environment,” she said.
“To go from that to having such outspoken, fearless representation from my member of Congress in Rep. Jennifer Wexton hasn’t so much been a breath of fresh air as much as a completely new biosphere,” Roem said.
She added, “I’m so grateful to her for everything she’s done and the example of inclusivity she’s set for her constituents.”
Roem pointed the Blade to an article in the Washington Post entitled, “How Jennifer Wexton became the ‘patron saint of the transgender community,’” which details the ways in which LGBTQ rights “with an emphasis on the transgender community” had become Wexton’s “signature issue” just “six months into her first term.”
In fact, on the day she took office, the congresswoman became only the second member to fly a transgender Pride flag outside her office.
Equality Virginia, the state’s largest LGBTQ advocacy group, also noted Wexton’s advocacy for the community in a post Monday on X: “Thank you @RepWexton for being a tireless advocate for LGBTQ+ people in the General Assembly and in Congress.”
“You’ve made our commonwealth a better place,” the group wrote, adding, “we’re sending our love and strength to you, your family and your entire team.”
“In 2018, this state senator I called my legislative role model and looked up to so much as a first-year delegate, came over for dinner crepes to share her wisdom, humor and guidance,” Roem said on X. “Five years later, Rep. @JenniferWexton is still a mentor, friend and champion for NOVA.”
The Washington Post reported Wexton’s planned departure means her seat representing Virginia’s 10th Congressional District could be vulnerable in next year’s elections, as it was held by Republicans for 40 years prior to the congresswoman’s defeat of GOP incumbent Barbara Comstock in 2018.
DeSantis pushing House Republicans toward shutdown
The governor and candidate for the Republican nomination for president was a founding member of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus
WASHINGTON – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is pushing House Republicans to not back down in negotiations with Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) over spending bills they have held up by demanding spending cuts and advancing far-right amendments, including riders attacking the LGBTQ community.
Should the Republican conference fail to reach an agreement before the end of September, or unless McCarthy brokers a deal with his Democratic colleagues that would likely lead his GOP colleagues to file a motion to vacate the chair, a government shutdown will be triggered.
News of DeSantis’ involvement was first reported by Politico. The governor and candidate for the Republican nomination for president was a founding member of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus when he served in the chamber.
All 12 of the appropriations bills under consideration in the House contain anti-LGBTQ amendments, most targeting the transgender community. They would almost certainly not pass through the U.S. Senate or earn President Joe Biden’s signature.
“Ron DeSantis knows that both parties — including the current and previous administration — are to blame for Washington’s reckless spending spree,” DeSantis campaign spokesperson Andrew Romeo told Politico.
“He is urging congressional Republicans to hold the line in this current spending standoff and end days of rubber stamping multi-trillion dollar spending bills that harm the American people,” Romeo said.
Sarah McBride polls far ahead in primary race for House seat
McBride, who is America’s first openly transgender state senator and the country’s highest ranking trans elected official
WILMINGTON, Del. – A new poll of likely Democratic voters shows Delaware State Sen. Sarah McBride (D) has earned nearly double the support of runner-up Eugene Young, with 44 percent support compared to his 23 percent.
Conducted from September 7 to 12, the poll was commissioned by the Human Rights Campaign Equality Votes PAC.
“As this new poll reveals, Delaware voters overwhelmingly back Sarah McBride in her historic bid for Congress,” said Geoff Wetrosky, Vice President of National Campaigns at the Human Rights Campaign.
“Her depth of understanding on the issues that matter most to the people of Delaware is built on a lifetime advocating for her neighbors and making real change,” he said.
McBride, who is America’s first openly transgender state senator and the country’s highest ranking trans elected official, would become the first trans member of the U.S. Congress if elected.
Last month, during an interview with the Washington Blade, she said, “Of course there’s going to be discussion about the potential of this campaign to break this barrier and to increase diversity in Congress and to ensure that a voice that has been totally absent from the halls of Congress is finally there in an elected capacity.”
At the same time, she said, her campaign is not focused on the potential for her to make history with this election. Nor, she said, are voters.
The poll underscores this point, finding that “health care and gun violence prevention rank as the top two policy priorities, with 42% and 40% of voters, respectively.”
In the Delaware State Senate, McBride has “worked to pass vital policies for her constituents, like paid medical and family leave, as well as laws making Delawareans safer by restricting the availability of assault weapons and high capacity magazines,” HRC wrote in a press release announcing findings from its poll.
DeSantis blames media for backlash against anti-LGBTQ+ policies
Asked whether everyone would feel welcome in America if he is elected president, DeSantis responded “100 percent
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – During an interview Wednesday with CBS News’ Norah O’Donnell, Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is running for president, doubled down on his anti-LGBTQ policies by attributing backlash to controversy ginned up by the media.
The governor’s comments began with O’Donnell’s question about the travel advisory issued in May by the NAACP over legislation the group characterized as “openly hostile for African Americans, people of color, and LGBTQ individuals.”
“They obviously have (a) very left wing agenda,” DeSantis said.
When she countered that some minorities including LGBTQ people feel unsafe visiting the state, particularly after laws targeting them were passed in recent months, DeSantis said, “part of the reason they think that is ’cause of narratives that are put out by media.”
He said the press was responsible for dubbing last year’s Parental Rights in Education Act the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, adding that the law does not include the word “gay.”
Regardless, as the Human Rights Campaign pointed out when the law was expanded to cover public schools from pre-K through 8th grade, it “silences educators by prohibiting any instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity.”
The group, America’s largest LGBTQ advocacy organization, also highlighted other anti-LGBTQ legislation that was signed concurrently by the governor in May: “an extreme gender affirming care ban” and “an anti-trans bathroom bill.”
While he declined to say whether he would support a U.S. Supreme Court justice who sought to overturn the 2015 marriage equality precedent, DeSantis said such an outcome would be unlikely in consideration of the ruling’s “significant reliance interest.”
Asked whether everyone would feel welcome in America if he is elected president, DeSantis responded “100 percent.”
Even some of his fellow Republicans, however, spoke up to denounce a homophobic ad run by DeSantis’s campaign this summer that targeted former President and current GOP frontrunner Donald Trump — who, according to FiveThirtyEight’s polling average, is ahead of the governor by more than 40 points.
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