Connect with us

News

Gov-elect Gavin Newsom hires out Daniel Zingale for top administration spot

Published

on

California’s fortification against the Trump administration just got a little more gay. Gov-elect Gavin Newsomwhose first official digital campaign ad was about marriage equality just announced the hiring of longtime gay strategist Daniel Zingale as a Senior Adviser on Strategy and Communications. He is the third gay person Newsom’s hired out of six announced staffers so far. The other three hires are straight women. The new administration will be sworn into office on Jan. 7th, 2019.

“It’s time for California’s State Capitol to engage more of California’s diverse voices and talents, beginning with this transition,” Newsom said in a press release. “This isn’t going to be the usual top-down, closed-door, paint-by-numbers process.  Our state government impacts millions of California lives every day and we are committed to offering unique ways to enable more Californians to help shape the future.”

To facilitate that aspiration, Newsom launched an innovative new website called “All In California,” to engage Californians in the transition, “including: 1) ranking policy priorities, 2) recommending specific policy solutions, 3) signing up for regular updates from Governor-elect Newsom, 4) getting involved in community service efforts, and 5) applying for official jobs in the Newsom Administration,” per the press release.

Zingale’s hire is significant to the LGBT community for a number of reasons. He has institutional knowledge about the progress and obstacles the LGBT community has faced over a number of years. In the early 1990s, he was the public policy director for the Human Rights Campaign Fund under executive director Tim McFeeley, in 1994 organizing the first pledge presented to members of Congress that they would consider sexual orientation in hiring and firing and would not discriminate against lesbian and gay employees. While 225 members agreed to pledge, 210 of the 435 members declined. Such pressure resulted two years later in the US Senate passing an initial version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

That institutional knowledge extends to healthcare. In Oc. 1996, Zingale was named executive director of AIDS Action, and, as a board member of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, he brought an understanding of the need to address underserved communities. He subsequently came to California where he was the founding Director of the California Department of Managed Health Care and served as Cabinet Secretary for Democratic Gov. Gray Davis, at a time when lesbian Susan Kennedy served as Chief of Staff and longtime gay politico Eric Bauman was senior advisor.

Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger kept Kennedy on as Chief of Staff and Zingale became a Senior Adviser and Chief of Staff to journalist and California First Lady Maria Shriver. In 2009, Zingale joined The California Endowment, the state’s largest private health foundation, as Senior Vice President.

“Hiring Daniel Zingale is the smartest move Governor-elect Newsom could have made,” said Gov. Schwarzenegger in a statement to the transition team.

Bob Ross, current CEO of CA endowment said: “During his exceptional tenure with our foundation, Daniel helped us place the voices of grassroots, marginalized, and young community leaders at the center of our policy work. I am confident that he will help Governor Newsom ground his policy leadership in the wisdom of communities. An inspired choice by our Governor-elect.”

On Nov. 20, CalMatters posted a very open letter from Zinagle to Newsom with “some disruptive ideas for keeping the spirit of California up–ideas you may not hear from those around you responsible for putting out the day-to-day fires.” They include:

  • Induct Colin Kaepernick into the California Hall of Fame. His induction would provoke deeper thinking about patriotism.

  • Erect a Statue of Liberty West, one that welcomes immigrants from east and south.

  • As you’re filling vacancies at CalTrans, consider applicants who are trans, and for other top jobs too.

  • Finish the job of Obamacare by making Medi-Cal available to all eligible Californians, regardless of how Washington D.C. views their immigration status.

And, Zingale suggests humor:

  • Next Halloween, turn the Governor’s Mansion into a haunted house. Enlist those guys from Queer Eye to help….

  • Use line-item poop emojis, but sparingly to preserve the dignity of the office.

  • At your inaugural gala, dance a Greek syrto with your Lieutenant Governor, Eleni Kounalakis And dance with Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara too. Now that would embody California values.

The other gay folks already named to the administration are:

Nathan Click, now on the transition team, who helped the Los Angeles Blade secure the long interview with candidate Newsom. Click will be Chief Spokesperson and Director of Public Affairs. According to a press release: “Click has served as a top political and communications advisor to national and California political officeholders, campaigns and initiatives for more than a decade. Before joining Newsom’s campaign, Click served as Communications Director for the U.S. Sen. campaign of Kamala Harris, the office of U.S. Sen. Mazie K. Hirono and CARE CEO Michelle Nunn.  He also served in top communications roles for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, incoming U.S. Rep. Katie Porter, U.S. Sen. Doug Jones and former U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek.”

Ana Matosantos, a lesbian, who will be the Cabinet Secretary. Per the release: “She is a highly-respected finance and policy expert who served as Director of the California Department of Finance under two Governors, including Governor Jerry Brown – and was the youngest person and first Latina to ever serve in that role.  In 2016, she was appointed by President Obama to serve on the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Board.  She previously served as a deputy legislative secretary in the Governor’s Office and worked in the California Health and Human Services Agency and the California State Senate.”

Also noteworthy are Newsom’s other top appointees (from press releases):

“Ann O’Leary will be the incoming Chief of Staff.  She is a nationally-recognized policy expert, non-profit leader and attorney who served as a senior policy advisor in the Clinton Administration and to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 Presidential Campaign – and led the Clinton-Kaine Presidential Transition Project.  She also advised President Obama’s transition team on early childhood education and was the founding Executive Director of the Center on Health, Economic and Family Security at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law. Effective immediately, O’Leary will be helping to lead Newsom’s “All In California” gubernatorial transition.

Priscilla Cheng, who currently serves on the Transition of Governor-elect Newsom and was most recently Senior Political Advisor for the Newsom for Governor campaign, will serve as Director of External Affairs.

Cheng brings over a decade of experience in the organized labor movement, most recently as Chief of Staff for the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, the second largest central labor council in the nation.  She also served on the City of Los Angeles Workforce Investment Board and the Los Angeles Convention and Exhibition Center Authority.  The child of immigrants from Hong Kong, she was born and raised in Los Angeles and graduated with honors from University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

Maricela Rodríguez, currently a Director of Strategic Communications at The California Endowment and a former staffer in the Office of California First Lady Maria Shriver, will serve as Director of Civic Engagement and Strategic Partnerships.

Rodríguez has been the Director for the Endowment’s Healthy California program since 2011, leading all strategic communications for its nationally-celebrated Asegúrate and #Health4All campaigns.  Before that, she served as Director of Program Development and Policy Liaison to the Office of First Lady Maria Shriver, where she helped create WE Connect, a national anti-poverty effort.  She was also an Executive Fellow in the California Community College’s Chancellor’s Office.  The daughter of Mexican immigrants, she is from Woodlake, California.  Rodríguez graduated from University of California, Riverside in 2003 and received a Master of Public Administration from University of Southern California in 2009.”

Photo of Daniel Zingale and Maria Shriver by Karen Ocamb. 

Advertisement
FUND LGBTQ JOURNALISM
SIGN UP FOR E-BLAST

Politics

New Biden campaign hire: First LGBTQ national organizing director

Prior to her role with the DNC, Rustum was national relational organizing director for the Biden-Harris 2020 presidential campaign

Published

on

Photo of Roohi Rustum via LinkedIn

WILMINGTON, Del. — The Biden-Harris reelection campaign announced on Wednesday that Roohi Rustum has been tapped to serve as its national organizing director, becoming the first woman of color and the first LGBTQ person to serve in this role for a general election presidential campaign.

Rustum, who is Bangladeshi-American, was most recently the interim national organizing director for the Democratic National Committee, where she led early organizing efforts for the campaign in Arizona and Wisconsin and also directed “get out the vote” initiatives for key 2023 races like Kentucky’s gubernatorial and Virginia’s state legislative elections, which saw sweeping Democratic victories.

Prior to her role with the DNC, Rustum was national relational organizing director for the Biden-Harris 2020 presidential campaign, and she also worked on the organizing infrastructure for Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s 2020 presidential campaign.

“This campaign will prioritize face to face voter contact and run a strong, present, brick and mortar operation — while also employing the best lessons from 2020 and 2022 on effective campaigning in online spaces,” said Biden-Harris 2024 Battleground States Director Dan Kanninen. “I can’t think of anyone better to build a field army that can do both than Roohi.”

Along with Rustum’s new role, the campaign announced on Wednesday that Alana Mounce will serve as its political director, and Meredith Horton will be national director for voter protection and access.

“I’m thrilled to have these battle-tested operatives join our team. This is a team with unparalleled expertise, creativity, and grit that will be critical to winning this November,” Biden-Harris 2024 Campaign Manager Julie Chavez-Rodriguez said.

Continue Reading

National

APA passes policy supporting gender-affirming care

The American Psychological Association, representing 157,000 members, has issued a resolution calling for an end to trans care bans

Published

on

The American Psychological Association headquarters in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Harrison Keely)

By Erin Reed | WASHINGTON – On Wednesday, Feb. 28, the American Psychological Association announced in a historic policy resolution that it opposes gender-affirming care bans for transgender youth.

The association, the largest psychological organization in the world with 157,000 members, declared, “Government bans on gender-affirming care disregard the comprehensive body of psychological and medical research supporting the positive impact of gender-affirming treatments,” and resolves the organization’s support for the necessity of that care for transgender youth and adults. 

The policy, which passed 153-9, is the strongest yet from the organization in support of gender-affirming care and represents a major consensus among leading psychologists on the importance of gender-affirming care for youth and adults.

President Cynthia de las Fuentes, speaking of the new policy resolution, states, “It sends a clear message that state bans on gender-affirming care disregard the comprehensive body of medical and psychological research supporting the positive impact of such treatments in alleviating psychological distress and improving overall well-being for transgender, gender diverse and nonbinary individuals throughout their lives.”

The policy includes several findings and resolutions, such as:

  • Gender affirming medical care is medically necessary – “the APA underscores the necessity for access to comprehensive, gender-affirming healthcare for transgender, gender-diverse, and nonbinary children, adolescents, and adults”
  • The organization opposes bans on gender affirming care – “the APA opposes state bans on gender-affirming care, which are contrary to the principles of evidence-based healthcare, human rights, and social justice, and which should be reconsidered in favor of policies that prioritize the well-being and autonomy of transgender, gender-diverse, and nonbinary individuals”
  • Being trans is not “caused” by autism or post-traumatic stress – “legislative efforts to restrict access to care have involved the dissemination of misleading and unfounded narratives (e.g., mischaracterizing gender dysphoria as a manifestation of traumatic stress or neurodivergence, and equating affirming care for transgender, gender-diverse, and nonbinary youth with child abuse), creating a distorted perception of the psychological and medical support necessary for these youth and creating a hostile environment that adversely affects their mental health and wellbeing.”
  • False information on trans care needs to be combatted – “APA supports efforts to address and rectify the dissemination of false information to ensure the well-being and dignity of transgender, gender-diverse, and nonbinary individuals”
  • Discrimination, non-affirmation, and rejection risks suicide – “gender-based bias and mistreatment (e.g., discrimination, violence, non-affirmation, or rejection in response to gender diversity) pose significant harm, including risk of suicide, to the well-being of children, adolescents, adults, and families.”

Previously, the organization has released several policies supporting the rights of transgender individuals, such as a policy against conversion therapy and a policy opposing discriminatory laws and practices.

However, this policy goes much further than any of those, directly supporting gender-affirming care as medically necessary and opposing misinformation that emerges in legislative hearings targeting care.

Although virtually all major medical organizations in the United States have issued policies affirming the importance of care for transgender individuals, few rebut anti-trans talking points as comprehensively as this recent policy.

The policy emerges amid an international debate on gender-affirming care and seems to directly counter many claims made in hearings targeting such care. For instance, Representative Gary Click in Ohio attributed the increase in transgender individuals coming out in recent years to autism, using those claims to justify passing a ban on care.

Pamela Paul, in her recent New York Times piece criticizing trans care, similarly suggested that neurodivergence and obsessive-compulsive disorder could cause gender dysphoria. The APA policy directly refutes such notions by a significant margin.

The resolution also directly counters the claim that there is no scientific consensus on gender-affirming care. Conversion therapy organizations such as the Gender Exploratory Therapy Association, now renamed Therapy First after its previous name became associated with conversion therapy, have asserted that “there is no genuine medical consensus” on transgender care. Groups opposed to transgender rights, like the Society for Evidence-Based Gender Medicine, which has strong connections to SPLC-designated hate groups and pseudoscience networks, have argued that there is a “lack of clinical consensus” on the appropriateness of gender-affirming care.

However, the resolution’s passage by an overwhelmingly large margin suggests otherwise. The council of representatives, an elected body of leaders representing the consensus of the association’s 157,000 members, can be seen as accurately reflecting the views of psychologists from the world’s largest psychological organization.

Though the policy document may not convince Republican officials to back off on targeting trans care, it will be important in court fights moving forward. Findings of fact from places where gender affirming care bans have been overturned often point to the professional consensus on the importance of care.

Similarly, the document will be an important rebuttal to increasing misinformation around transgender care. Other professional organizations are similarly in the process of releasing updated policies themselves which will bear watching in the coming days.

***************************************************************************

Erin Reed is a transgender woman and researcher who tracks anti-LGBTQ+ legislation around the world and helps people become better advocates for their queer family, friends, colleagues, and community. Reed also is a social media consultant and public speaker.

The preceding post was previously published at Erin in the Morning and is republished with permission.

Continue Reading

Los Angeles County

New on the LA County Channel

You can watch on Channel 92 or 94 on most cable systems, or anytime here. Catch up on LA County Close-Up here

Published

on

Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

New on the County Channel

The Los Angeles County Registrar/Recorder-County Clerk is prepared for Tuesday’s presidential primary election with a brand-new facility to process ballots.

You can watch more stories like this on Channel 92 or 94 on most cable systems, or anytime here. Catch up on LA County Close-Up here.

In Case You Missed It

Early Voting Now Open!

119 Vote Centers are now open for you to vote early ahead of the March 5, 2024 Presidential Primary Election. Vote Centers will be open daily from 10 AM to 7 PM to vote in person.

A full list and map of Vote Center locations is available online at LOCATOR.LAVOTE.GOV.
Voters can visit any location to vote or drop off their ballot.

First-time voters who missed the registration deadline can visit any Vote Center, complete a Conditional Voter Registration, and cast a ballot in this election. Voters can also update their registration information, including their party affiliation, to receive their preferred party’s ballot or request a crossover ballot.

The ballot in this election is extensive and includes contests and candidates from the neighborhood and local levels through state offices, measures, and federal representatives. Voters are encouraged to review their ballot carefully and vote early.

Learn more at plan.lavote.gov.

At Your Service

Free Tax Prep LA

Tax season is here! Start preparing to file your taxes with the help of Free Tax Prep LA. The program aims to educate and provide money-saving tax services, supported by various organizations including the Community Investment for Families Department – City of Los Angeles, Consumer & Business Affairs – Los Angeles County, Koreatown Youth and Community Center, and United Way of Greater Los Angeles. Eligible participants can access cashback tax credits and stimulus payments, potentially totaling up to $10,000, including Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, CalEITC, and federal stimulus payments.

Visit Free Tax Prep LA for more information.

Out and About

Find Arts and Culture Near You!

As the creative capital of the world, Los Angeles County is home to amazing art and cultural treasures! To help LA County community members get involved in local arts and culture experiences, the LA County Department of Arts and Culture created the Arts and Culture Near You Map. In it, you’ll find amazing arts and culture spots all over the County to explore, and you can also add your own favorites—a theater, museum, dance studio, music venue, or an organization where you engage in the arts.

Photo Finish

Photo: Los Angeles County / Mayra Beltran Vasquez

LA County Library’s Laptop & Hotspot Loan program.


Click here to access more photos of LA County in action.

Continue Reading

Ohio

Ohio State University student charged in anti-LGBTQ+ crime

City prosecutors file multiple charges against an individual who vandalized a pride flag & directed homophobic remarks toward residents

Published

on

Screenshot/YouTube WBNS 10TV Columbus

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein announced that city prosecutors have filed multiple misdemeanor criminal charges against an Ohio State University student who was caught on camera urinating on a pride flag and directing homophobic remarks toward residents at a home in Columbus’s Weinland Park neighborhood in February.

Prosecutors filed four misdemeanor charges against 20-year-old Trey Samuel Fetzer in Franklin County Municipal Court Tuesday, including ethnic intimidation, criminal mischief, criminal trespass and disorderly conduct.

“Vandalizing property and making homophobic remarks in an attempt to intimidate members of the LGBTQ+ community will not be tolerated in our city,” said Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein. “Columbus is diverse and tolerant, and we celebrate our LGBTQ+ community. Hate has no home here, and as long as I’m City Attorney, we will continue to aggressively prosecute hate and bias crimes.”

Related

According to court documents and released home surveillance video, on Feb. 8, the defendant walked up to the front porch of a home in the Weinland Park neighborhood near Ohio
State’s campus and urinated on a pride flag while another man recorded the incident on a cell
phone. The defendant then proceeded to make homophobic remarks and banged on the door of the house before fleeing on foot.

Penalties for the misdemeanor charges filed Tuesday could include hundreds of dollars in fines, possible jail time or probation, among other penalties.

Continue Reading

Politics

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says he’s stepping down

Aides said that McConnell’s decision was unrelated to concerns about his health, which followed two instances last year in which he froze

Published

on

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) (Photo Credit: Office of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell)

WASHINGTON – Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the longest serving Senate leader in history, announced on Wednesday that he will step down from his position in November but will continue serving the remainder of his term, which ends in January 2027.

Aides said that McConnell’s decision was unrelated to concerns about his health, which followed two instances last year in which he froze when delivering public remarks after suffering a concussion from a fall.

The Senate leader is facing pressure to endorse former President Donald Trump’s run for a second term in the White House, which a GOP colleague told the Guardian is likely to come despite the rift between the men that deepened in 2020 when McConnell refused to co-sign the lie that President Joe Biden’s election was illegitimate.

“I am unconflicted about the good within our country and the irreplaceable role we play as the leader of the free world,” McConnell said in his announcement from the Senate floor, in what appeared to be an acknowledgment of his ideological differences with Republicans who support Trump’s brand of isolationist foreign policy.

Serving in the Senate since 1985, McConnell was first elected as the Republican leader in 2006 and has since won each of the consecutive nine elections, most recently staving off a challenge from U.S. Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) last November.

McConnell opposed LGBTQ rights throughout his career

Since the mid-2000s, McConnell has leveraged his power in the Senate to fight against marriage equality, as documented by the GLAAD Accountability Project. He also opposed the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which established same-sex marriage as a constitutional right.

McConnell opposed the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and more recently blocked a vote on an amendment that would have stopped Trump’s ban on military service by transgender service members.

Also during Trump’s presidency, McConnell appointed anti-LGBTQ activist Tony Perkins to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

He voted against employment protections for LGBTQ+ federal workers and LGBTQ+ inclusive policies on hate crimes and, in the 1990s, joined the late U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms’s (R-N.C.) efforts to protect U.S. Department of Agriculture employees who were critical of the agency’s pro-LGBTQ policies and to prohibit the use of federal funds by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for collecting information about teenage sexual behavior.

Continue Reading

European Union

Czech lower house rejects equal marriage bill

Lawmakers agree to “compromise” bill expands same-sex couples’ rights, allows stepchild adoption but senators have vowed to continue fighting

Published

on

A session of the Chamber of Deputies, Parliament of the Czech Republic. (Photo Credit: Parliament of the Czech Republic)

By Rob Salerno | PRAGUE, Czech Republic – The lower house of the Czech parliament rejected a bid to allow same-sex marriage in the Central European country Wednesday afternoon, instead passing a compromise bill that expand the rights of same-sex couples in registered partnerships and allow them to adopt each other’s biological stepchildren.

The bill heads to the senate, where some senators have vowed to continue fighting for full equality.

Czechia has allowed same-sex couples to form registered partnerships since 2006, but these accorded limited rights compared to marriage. Notably, same-sex couples were barred from adoption, and were not allowed a widow’s pension or joint property rights.

Lawmakers were debating a bill that would have legalized same-sex marriage, as well as a set of proposed amendments that would have instead expanded the rights of couples in registered partnerships. While a parliamentary committee had recommended that lawmakers vote on the proposals from the most expansive to the least expansive, parliament instead reversed that order. In the event, the proposal for full equal marriage didn’t even come for a vote as the compromise amendment was passed first. 

Under the compromise bill passed Wednesday, registered partnerships will be renamed “partnerships,” and same-sex couples will have all the same rights as married couples except with regard to adoption. Joint adoption will not be allowed, and partners will only be allowed to adopt each other’s biological children.

The compromise bill passed with 118 votes in favor, 33 against, and 23 abstentions. A proposal that would have allowed full joint adoption rights received 66 votes in favor to 54 against with 64 abstentions, but failed because it required a majority of lawmakers present, or 93 votes, to pass.  

Czech marriage equality advocacy group Jsme Fér says the result was disappointing.

“It is a sad day for thousands of families with children who have two moms or two dads and hundreds of thousands of LGBT people. It is a sad day for justice and equality in our country,” the group posted on X following the vote.

Same-sex marriage has been a live political issue in Czechia for the past several years. Polls have consistently shown wide support for same-sex marriage in the country, but support among lawmakers has long lagged public opinion.

Civil society had also mobilized to support same-sex marriage, with groups representing university students, artists, business groups, and large corporations joining campaigns urging legislators to support equal marriage. 

Ahead of the vote Wednesday, President Petr Pavel, who campaigned last year on a promise to support same-sex marriage, urged lawmakers to support equality.

“I recognize the principle of freedom and equality of every person from the point of view of law and see no reason to limit rights based on sexual orientation. I believe we are a tolerant society and we will rectify these rights as soon as possible. There is no change in this position of mine,” Pavel wrote in a post on X.

The compromise bill now heads to the senate, which will need to pass it before it can become law. At least one senator has said he will urge his colleagues to insist on full marriage equality.

“A watered-down version of same-sex marriage is heading to the Senate. I am sorry that the majority of MPs were against equal marriage for all. In the Senate, we still have a chance to fix it, I am ready to file a PN. I don’t want to continue the regime of two categories of people,” senator Lukáš Wagenknecht of the Pirate Party wrote on X.

But the bill may face an uphill battle in the Senate, which is slightly more conservative than the lower house. Last month, the senate rejected ratifying the Istanbul Convention on Domestic Violence, a European treaty meant to protect women, over concerns that the convention would expand LGBT rights. In fact, the treaty does not mention LGBT people, but anti-LGBT forces have been mobilizing against it in Eastern Europe. 

As in many countries in Eastern Europe, support for same-sex marriage has become a proxy for support of Western or pro-European Union values. Of the 27 EU countries, 16 allow same-sex marriage, the most recent being Greece and Estonia. A further 5 recognize some form of civil union, while a civil union bill has been proposed by Poland’s new government and another civil union bill is before the Lithuanian parliament.  

The next Czech parliamentary election is not expected until October 2025.

******************************************************************************************

Rob Salerno is a writer and journalist based in Los Angeles, California, and Toronto, Canada.

Continue Reading

Africa

Ghanaian MPs approve anti-LGBTQ+ bill

Measure would criminalize advocacy, allyship

Published

on

Ghanaian flag (Public domain photo by Jorono from Pixabay)

ACCRA, Ghana — Ghanaian lawmakers on Wednesday approved a bill that would further criminalize LGBTQ+ people and make advocacy on their behalf illegal.

Advocacy groups and their supporters had urged MPs to oppose the Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill that would, among other things, criminalize allyship.

Consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized in Ghana. Discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity is also commonplace in the country as the Washington Blade has previously reported.

“The Human Sexual rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill, a private member’s bill passed by parliament, has not yet become a law in Ghana,” said UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima in a press release. “If the bill does become a law, it will affect everyone.” 

Human Rights Campaign Vice President of Government Affairs David Stacy also criticized the bill’s passage.

“We are outraged to hear about the Ghanaian Parliament’s passage of the so-called ‘Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Act’ — a cruel bill that violates the fundamental rights of LGBTQI+ people and allies throughout Ghana,” he said. “Every single lawmaker who voted to pass this bill is wrongly using their power to strip away the basic humanity of the people they are supposed to represent.” 

Outright International Senior Director of Law, Policy and Research Neela Ghoshal said the bill “tramples human rights, undermines family values of acceptance and unity, and risks derailing economic development and eroding democratic gains.” 

“Banning the very existence of queer people and their allies is unprecedented,” she said. “The hostility this bill displays toward LGBTQ Ghanaians will put lives and livelihoods at risk.”

The bill now goes to President Nana Akufo-Addo for his signature.

Continue Reading

Congress

Partisan fights imperil efforts to undo harm of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

The Pentagon has endeavored to address the problem, but advocates say the agency has been too slow to act to address the issue

Published

on

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and U.S. Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer (R-Ore.) (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON — Despite bipartisan agreement over the need to bring justice to U.S. service members who were harmed by discriminatory military policies like “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” competing legislative efforts have divided members of Congress and sparked accusations that both Democrats and Republicans are “playing politics” with the issue.

Following the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2011, thousands of veterans who were discharged other than honorably over their sexual orientation continue to face barriers finding housing and employment, with many unable to access federal benefits that otherwise would be available to them.

The Pentagon has endeavored to address the problem, but advocates say the agency has been too slow to act while service members, rather than the Department, bear the considerable burden of requesting reviews of their papers – a process so complicated that many have had to seek legal counsel for help navigating the bureaucratic red tape.

Gay U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), who chairs the Congressional Equality Caucus, has long worked to address the challenges faced by veterans who are in this position with his Restore Honor to Service Members Act, which he first introduced in 2013 and re-introduced several times over the years, most recently in 2023.

Among the subsequent iterations were the bicameral version introduced in 2019 by Pocan and U.S. Rep. Katie Hill (D-Calif.) along with U.S. Sens. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and another that was introduced in the Senate last year by Schatz, which was backed by Republican U.S. Sens. Todd Young (Ind.) and Susan Collins (Maine).

The National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2024 was passed in the Senate with provisions taken from the Restore Honor to Service Members Act, including directions for the Pentagon to establish a “Tiger Team” to “build awareness among veterans of the process established [by the NDAA in FY 2020] for the review of discharge characterizations by appropriate discharge boards.”

Pocan, along with caucus co-chairs U.S. Reps. Robert Garcia (D-Calif.) and Chris Pappas (D-N.H.), wrote to U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin last month to request information to facilitate implementation of the department’s decision to (1) review records for service members who were discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” (2) forward cases to their respective secretaries to consider correction through the service boards, and (3) reach out to veterans to make sure they are kept up to speed throughout the process.

Last week, however, another bill targeting the same issue, the Recover Pride in Service Act, was announced by Republican U.S. Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer (Ore.) in conjunction with Log Cabin Republicans, the conservative LGBT group.

A spokesperson for the congresswoman told the Washington Blade in a statement, “There’s a significant difference between the two bills. The Recover Pride in Service Act requires the Department of Defense to automatically upgrade all discharges that were solely based on sexual orientation within five years.”

The spokesperson continued, “This key provision would ensure veterans adversely impacted by Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell won’t have to endure an arduous and costly application process and can get their status updated without having to lift a finger. I would also note that just 10 percent of LGBTQ+ veterans have had their discharges upgraded, and that’s because of the application process. Only requiring an outreach group isn’t enough.”

The Recover Pride in Service Act would also, per the press release announcement, establish an “Outreach Unit” to contact service members who were discharged for their sexual orientation along with other reasons specified in their papers. The bill promises to simplify administrative requirements and includes a provision stipulating that “a lack of documentation cannot be used as a basis for denying a review, and the responsibility of finding and producing relevant documentation lies with the DOD, not the service member.”

“If Republicans truly cared about helping veterans discharged under ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ they would have signed on to the Restore Honor to Service Members Act, which has been around for a decade and has support among the broader LGBTQI+ community,” Pocan told the Blade in a statement.

“Instead, they introduced a bill that plays partisan politics with the issue rather than advance it,” he said. “If we really want to do something to help veterans, there is a decade-long effort to get that done. Posing for pictures with a duplicative effort doesn’t get us closer to the goal.”

Log Cabin Republicans Senior Advisor Alex Walton told the Blade by phone last week that “discussions about the Restore Honor to Service Members Act all happened close to eight to nine months ago before we kind of shifted focus when we realized that they weren’t going to cooperate and work with us.”

Walton said that while there was significant interest in joining Pocan’s bill among House Republicans, “they were only going to do it assuming that Democrats were going to match the number of Republicans that co-sponsored the legislation, so you didn’t have 150 Democrats and, you know, 12 Republicans.” A source familiar with the discussions said Pocan was never asked to limit the number of Democratic cosponsors.

Additionally, Walton said, the House Republicans “also wanted a Republican lead,” but Pocan “was unwilling to let that happen.”

Months later, Walton said Pocan and House Democrats remained uncooperative in discussions over the Recover Pride in Service Act, the bill that was ultimately introduced by Chavez-DeRemer.

Meanwhile, he said, “We spoke to over 90 Republican offices, both in the House and the Senate, and we had a lot of conversations about this issue in general. And one of the things that we kept hearing from Republican offices is if a piece of legislation like this is going to pass, you’re gonna have to cut bureaucratic extras that are included in the Pocan version of the bill, and you’re just gonna have to get directly to the problem. And that’s what the legislation does by requiring the DOD to proactively upgrade these discharges.”

With Republicans holding the majority in the House, Walton said, Log Cabin and Republican members wanted a Republican lead sponsor on the bill in the lower chamber, while discussions were held with Senate Democrats with the expectation that a Democrat would be lead sponsor of the Senate version of the Recover Pride in Service Act.

Walton added that Pocan was offered the opportunity to be the lead Democratic member in the House — a claim that is disputed by the source familiar with the talks, who said the Wisconsin congressman was not consulted as the Recover Pride in Service Act was being drafted.

Pocan told the Blade, in a separate statement, that “I’ve had the Restore Honor to Service Members Act available for co-sponsorship for 12 years. Unfortunately, only a few Republicans have been interested in signing on. I welcome additional support. The best way to help our wrongly discharged veterans is to work in a bipartisan fashion with the members who’ve been working on this for a decade.”

He added, “I’ve been focused on getting justice for veterans discharged under ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ for years, which is why part of the Restore Honor to Service Members Act became law several years ago” with the NDAA. “Losing the majority doesn’t mean I should surrender the rest of my bill —that’s not how Congress works. But I do welcome any support from Republicans who haven’t drunk the anti-equality Kool-Aid.”

Walton said that by refusing to work with Republicans in good faith, “Pocan put himself over all of these veterans,” adding, “I’m not disregarding everything Pocan has done for gays and lesbians in Congress. But the reality is that he put himself and his own pride in this legislation over actually getting stuff done.”

Walton stressed the broad ideological base of support for Chavez-DeRemer’s bill among House Republicans, 13 of whom have signed on as co-sponsors. Along with more moderate members, “we have extremely conservative Republicans on this legislation,” he said.

Those co-sponsoring members are GOP Reps. Kat Cammack (Fla.), Andrew Garbarino (N.Y.), Anthony D’Esposito (N.Y.) Nicole Malliotakis (N.Y.), Nancy Mace (S.C.), Derrick Van Orden (Wis.), Juan Ciscomani (Ariz.), Ken Calvert (Calif.), John Duarte (Calif.), Mark Amodei (Nev.), Mike Turner (Ohio), Max Miller (Ohio), and Mike Carey (Ohio).

Several of these House Republicans have voted for anti-LGBTQ military policies, such as prohibitions on Pride month celebrations at U.S. military bases and provisions allowing employees at the Defense Department and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to discriminate against LGBTQ service members if they oppose, for instance, same-sex marriage on religious grounds.

House must pass spending bills by Friday


Meanwhile, House Republicans have held up passage of critical spending bills by insisting on conservative policy mandates that stand no chance of passing in the Senate with Democrats in the majority, nor of being signed into law by President Joe Biden.

If they are not able to reach an agreement by Friday, funding will lapse for military construction, agriculture, transportation, and housing programs. A full government shutdown would be triggered if spending packages are not passed by March 8.

The Equality Caucus, in a post on X Monday, said, “Just a reminder as we barrel towards a gov’t shutdown this week: House Republicans’ partisan funding bills include more than 45 provisions attacking the LGBTQI+ community.”

They added, “The House GOP needs to stop playing games with queer people’s rights & agree to bipartisan funding bills.”

Historically, appropriations packages have been cleared by both chambers with wide bipartisan margins.

During a conference call on Friday, Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson (La.) told GOP members they were unlikely to see many of their policy priorities included in the spending bills. He met with Biden at the White House on Tuesday, alongside other congressional leaders including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), to continue negotiations ahead of Friday’s deadline.

Continue Reading

India

New Delhi high school students champion LGBTQ+ rights

Tagore International School’s Breaking Barriers program making a difference

Published

on

Tagore International School in New Delhi (Washington Blade photo by Ankush Kumar)

NEW DELHI — New Delhi woke up to a frosty morning on Feb. 3. The air was crisp and biting, as a thick blanket of fog enveloped the surroundings in a ghostly haze. Amid this wintry scene, Tagore International School – Vasant Vihar bustled with life, its buildings standing strong against the chilly breeze while teachers hurried for an outdoor tour on the weekend. 

In India traditions and customs sparkle like jewels in every corner. In the vast land, where old beliefs often hold strong, Tagore International School in South Delhi is a special place where something magical is happening. The school is becoming the beacon of inclusivity. 

The Washington Blade visited the school and talked to the students, board members and its project coordinator. 

While talking to the Blade, Vaanya Kalra, a 12th grade student at the school, said her parents are understanding and supportive. Vaanya, with a smile on her face, said she had free access to the internet when she was younger. It was during this time that she discovered a campaign called Breaking Barriers at her school that aims to support and raise awareness about LGBTQ+ rights.

“Breaking Barriers has existed for the past 10 years at my school, and I kind of always wanted to join it,” said Vaanya. “I did when I had the opportunity to join it.”

Vaanya, with a mixed feeling of sadness and anger in her eyes, opened up about her journey and said people were reacting differently to people who were different. Vaanya, who has always been an empathetic person, saw unnecessary hatred around gender and sexuality over the internet, and it became difficult for her to ignore it. She excitedly said she had time, energy and empathy and decided to join Breaking Barriers at her school.

Vaanya told the Blade she had the conversation with her friends and family before she joined the campaign. Her family was accepting of everything. She confidently shared that she enjoyed her journey in Breaking Barriers while supporting the LGBTQ+ community in her school and campaigning for it in other schools. Vaanya said she is considering higher studies in international relations.

While talking to the Blade, Vaanya expressed her extreme displeasure with an Indian news outlet for accusing Breaking Barriers members of ‘brainwashing children.’ She said that when she went online for a meeting on Breaking Barriers activities, random people took over the platform to dictate how wrong this campaign was.

“It was a very difficult journey,” said Vaanya.

Tagore International School Student Development Advisor Shivanee Sen joined the interview virtually from New York and discussed the campaign’s background. 

She said Safina Ameen and Sohini Chakrabarti were student leaders and participated in the South Asia competition for an expansive school-wide social background and Shivanee chose to join the group. Sohini, Safina and Shivanee, at their young age, sat together and decided to work in gender space. While the discussion was going on, Shivanee suggested working in the field of gender and sexuality, and the other two happily agreed to work.

Shivanee said the initial group discussion was about working on women’s rights issue, but her idea was to work on other populations who suffer discrimination in India. Shivanee’s idea led the group of three young women to work on LGBTQ+ rights in India. Shivanee sent Sohini and Safina home for their parents’ consent and they luckily gave it. The group then started to work on LGBTQ+ rights at the school level.

From left: Sohini Chakrabarti and Shivanee Sen at a UNESCO conference.(Photo courtesy of Priyanka Randhawa/Breaking Barriers)

Sohini, one Breaking Barriers’s founders, said that there was an institutional void around this thematic area across schools in India.

“These things are not being discussed in schools. I was also 13 years old when we began. So as a young kid who was trained by professionals from NGOs, and because we were on the field working on gender rights at the same time, I was talking to students older than I was, and teachers about sexuality which was quite strange and jarring to some people to have like a school-wide campaign on this thematic, because of its central kind of overarching challenge,” said Siddhi Pal, one of Breaking Barriers’ original members. “It was really hard for us to take the campaign to different schools as our work was labeled as criminal, illegal and brainwashing. Those kind of things were a huge barrier, but apart from that we were so onboard. We pushed through it and made it work. But 10 years ago subject mattered the most as we were all kids.”

While answering what kind of resistance the campaign faced from the parents, Shivanee said not much because all members joined in with pre-parental consent. Shivanee further said that in the past 10 years, her Breaking Barriers campaign that supports the LGBTQ+ community at schools rarely faced parental resistance.

“I am quite surprised that in past 10 years we haven’t really had parental pushback,” she said. “They might not be okay with their kids joining the campaign, but no parent has taken it upon themselves to try and stop the workshops happening at school.”

Expressing concern about how an Indian news outlet published a homophobic article about Breaking Barriers and Tagore International School, Vaanya said with extreme confidence that when negative news about the campaign and the members, especially in a newspaper, comes out that means the campaign is making a change.

Siddhi joined the interview from London and said the biggest source of support is when new students enroll each year. That’s when they see what their peers are doing and that helped further inspire the campaign.

“What I have heard from others over the years, people actually aspire to join the campaign as they get into more leadership position,” said Sohini. “It’s interesting to see as it was hard to start it off, and there were lots of challenges in the beginning, not to say there are not now, but to keep it going has been easier because every year more students come in, there is more and more information about the campaign. So, to keep it going has been really amazing.”

Tagore International School students (Photo courtesy of Priyanka Randhawa/Breaking Barriers)

Tagore International School Project Coordinator Priyanka Randhawa told the Blade the campaign selects the office holders from ninth, 10th, 11th and 12th grades — its president or vice president typically comes from the older classes, while any interested students can join it. The Breaking Barriers team at the school is turning the campaign into a movement and taking sessions in other schools as well.

“We go to other schools and take up sensitive issues with them,” said Randhawa. “At the workshop, we show a presentation in other schools, and explain terminology related to Breaking Barriers, we share the stories of transgenders and we try to touch on emotional aspects also.” 

“These workshops are meant for high school students only. We also do workshops for educators for sensitization,” added Randhawa. “We have also collaborated with NGOs like Naz Foundation, they train our students and sensitize on LGBTQ community.”

Priyanka said the campaign encourages other schools to start their own Breaking Barriers groups.

Jiya Chawla, a student at the Tagore International School and member of Breaking Barriers, told the Blade in New Delhi that she, along with Vaanya, joined the campaign four years ago.

“We have been to multiple schools. At least 20 schools offline and online we have been to more than 40 schools,” said Jiya. “We faced questions that were a homophobic point of view or a transphobic point of view. But we never said no you are wrong. We always take our time and try to understand where they are coming from. We try to break that stigma. We know that one session is not enough to break down generational prejudices, so we do face a lot of backlash sometimes, but social media has really come to our aid now. Because everybody is already aware of what this community is all about. So now, we don’t have to explain what the community is, but why equality is important.”

On the question of changing behavior outside the Breaking Barriers, Sohini told the Blade she expected the backlash and when she was going around campaigning for the LGBTQ+ community at Tagore International School in New Delhi. Her parents curiously asked her to do a presentation for them.

“It is a taboo topic, people don’t want to engage with you. But I was personally surprised by how curious people around me were,” said Siddhi with a big smile on her face. “My parents, once were like oh you are going around, doing this presentation, so why don’t you do it for us? I think that was one of the toughest initial presentations for me because you sit down with your parents and you go through talking about sex and sexuality.” 

“It was really surprising in the beginning, even when we started doing presentations for teachers, I think teachers had a lot more questions than students in the beginning,” she added. “My friends were more willing to engage and then family, of course there are people who do not want to engage at all as well.”

A 15-year-old student at Delhi Public School in 2022 died by suicide after being bullied for his sexuality at school. The administration did not take any action, even though his mother filed a complaint. 

Vaanya said it is important to create a safe space for students at school in order to adequately respond to these concerns. She said administrators and teachers were very supportive.

“Ensuring kids that it’s okay to feel different, it’s okay for you to have a different sexuality or act differently is very important. We have created a safe space, people understand that you do not have to bully others for it and they do not have to hate others for it,” said Vaanya. “Nobody is hating someone for this or actively bullying someone for this. We have a very strict anti-bullying policy as well, so we have managed to create a safe space for everybody.”

Ankush Kumar is a reporter who has covered many stories for Washington and Los Angeles Blades from Iran, India and Singapore. He recently reported for the Daily Beast. He can be reached at [email protected]. He is on Twitter at @mohitkopinion. 

Continue Reading

U.S. Federal Courts

Appeals court allows Indiana’s ban on gender care for Trans youth

“This ruling is beyond disappointing and a heartbreaking development for thousands of transgender youth, their doctors, & their families”

Published

on

Main courtroom, for the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, Indianapolis, Ind. (Photo Credit: U.S. Courts/GSA)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals today issued a stay that will lift a lower court’s injunction blocking Indiana’s gender-affirming care ban. The law, originally set to take effect on July 1, 2023, will now take effect immediately.

In June 2023, Judge Patrick Hanlon, a Trump-appointed federal judge, issued a temporary restraining order halting Indiana’s ban on gender-affirming care for transgender youth. The request for a preliminary injunction against SB 480 came in a lawsuit brought by four transgender youth and their families, as well as a doctor and health care clinic,

The law prohibits medical providers from providing gender-affirming health care to transgender youth, effective immediately.

“This ruling is beyond disappointing and a heartbreaking development for thousands of transgender youth, their doctors, and their families. As we and our clients consider our next steps, we want all the transgender youth of Indiana to know this fight is far from over and we will continue to challenge this law until it is permanently defeated and Indiana is made a safer place to raise every family,” said Ariella Sult, a spokesperson for the ACLU of Indiana in a joint statement issued with the American Civil Liberties Union on Tuesday.

related

Continue Reading

Popular