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Trump admin seeks immediate OK from Supreme Court to ban trans service members

Filings call trans-inclusive policy ‘contrary to the nation’s interests’

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Kirby v. North Carolina State University, Supreme Court, gay news, Washington Blade

The Justice Department is seeking an OK from the Supreme Court to immediately enact the transgender military ban. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

With court injunctions in place barring President Trump’s transgender military ban from going into effect, the Trump administration on Thursday submitted requests to the U.S. Supreme Court calling for a stay allowing the anti-trans policy to take effect immediately.

The filings — which call transgender military service “contrary to the nation’s interests” — were made in three separate cases against the ban. In each of those cases, trial courts have already issued preliminary injunctions enjoining Trump’s policy from going into effect. Two appellate courts have upheld those injunctions upon review, although those orders are now under reconsideration in the aftermath of Defense Secretary James Mattis’ report affirming the ban.

U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco filed the stay requests before the Supreme Court on the heels of submitting petitions for certiorari calling on justices to take up review of the cases before the appellate courts have rendered their decision on reconsideration of the orders. It would be an unusual move for the Supreme Court to issue a writ of certiorari, or agree to take up a case, at this stage in the litigation.

Each of the filings in all three cases are virtually identical and make the case the Supreme Court should lift the injunctions in the cases and allow the ban to go into effect “as an alternative to certiorari before judgment.”

“Should the court deny certiorari before judgment…a decision by the court this term would no longer be possible,” one petition says. “Even if the government were immediately to seek certiorari from an adverse decision of the court of appeals, this court would not be able to review that decision until next term. Absent a stay, the nationwide injunction would thus remain in place for at least another year and likely well into 2020 — a period too long for the military to be forced to maintain a policy that it has determined, in its professional judgment, to be contrary to the nation’s interests.”

Alternatively, the filings request a reduction in scope of the nationwide injunctions against the ban merely to the transgender plaintiffs represented in the lawsuits. That would allow the Defense Department, as noted by one filing to “implement the Mattis policy in part while litigation proceeds through 2019 and into 2020.”

The filings also express “great reluctance” over having to seek an emergency stay to lift nationwide injunctions against the trans ban, saying those orders with nationwide scope are becoming increasingly common within the judiciary.

“Unfortunately this case is part of a growing trend in which federal district courts, at the behest of particular plaintiffs, have issued nationwide injunctions, typically on a preliminary basis, against major policy initiatives,” one filing says. “Such injunctions previously were rare, but in recent years they have become routine.”

It should be noted the Trump administration has taken advantage of nationwide injunctions in favor of anti-LGBT policy. The administration dropped an appeal of an order against the implementation of Obama-era guidance requiring schools to allow kids to use the restroom consistent with their gender identity and declined to appeal another order assuring non-discrimination for transgender people in health care, including transition-related care such as gender reassignment surgery. Both those orders were issued by U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor in Texas.

The filings for two of the cases were submitted to U.S. Associate Justice Elena Kagan, who’s responsible for stay requests in the Ninth Circuit. The other was submitted to U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts, who’s responsible for stay requests in the D.C. Circuit. Elena and Roberts could decide on the stay requests assigned to them themselves, or refer the matter to the entire court, where a majority vote of at least five justices would be needed to grant a stay.

Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said the Trump administration filings are “appalling and legally baseless,” pointing to a previous decision from the Justice Department not to seek stays from the Supreme Court on court orders against Trump’s military ban.

“The government does not even attempt to explain why it has failed to seek a stay in the past or why there is any genuine urgency in doing so now,” Minter said. “By the military’s own account, there have been no problems with transgender service members and they have produced zero evidence of any problems. Their desire to implement Trump’s ban is based on pure bias.”

Minter added the stay requests are “an insult to the thousands of dedicated transgender people who are currently serving and willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for their country if called on to do so.”

“Basing military policy on animus toward a particular group of people sets a terrible precedent that undermines the integrity of military decision making,” Minter said. “There is no legal basis for a stay, and we are hopeful this belated and unsupported motion will be speedily denied.”

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U.S. Federal Courts

SCOTUS weighs ban on Affirmative Action, advocates sound alarm

As the Supreme Court weighs a ban on Affirmative Action, advocates say such a ruling would negatively harm campus diversity

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LGBTQ+ students from the University of California at SF Pride 2022 (UC Berkeley photo by Brittany Hosea-Small)

By Peter White | SAN FRANCISCO – The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on two cases this month that could prohibit consideration of race in college admissions, undoing a 45-year history of Affirmative Action dating back to 1978.

Last October, conservative activist Edward Blum, president of Students for Fair Admissions, filed a lawsuit against Harvard claiming it discriminated against Asian-American applicants. Lower courts found no evidence of that claim, and no students testified against the current race-based policies at Harvard or in a separate suit involving the University of North Carolina.

Still, given the Supreme Court’s conservative majority, many expect an end to the policy, which supporters say has helped boost enrollment in colleges and universities for historically underrepresented groups.

“Progressives, patriots, and free thinkers of all colors and creeds and sexual orientations need to unite in the struggle to preserve the core American principles of inclusivity and multicultural democracy,” said civil rights lawyer Lisa Holder, president of the Equal Justice Society (EJS) in Oakland, California.

Holder spoke with reporters last week during a news briefing organized by Ethnic Media Services. She noted Affirmative Action is the best way to undo the historical legacy of inequality and discrimination in higher education, adding that California schools would become more segregated without it.

“We’re looking at apartheid schools where children of color are not getting access to opportunity. That is un-American,” she said. Holder noted the consensus among social scientists that diverse educational environments are 35% more productive than those that are more homogeneous.

Students who testified before the high court in both the Harvard case as well as a separate case involving the University of North Carolina – also filed by Blum’s group – stressed the advantages of being part of a more diverse student body.

Lisa Holder, President of Equal Justice Society (EJS), says that her law students were much more engaged when they were in a diverse classroom setting, while her homogenous classroom didn’t provide the enriching experience of multiple perspectives.

Echoes of Roe v. Wade

In its 1978 Regents of University of California v. Bakke decision, the Supreme Court ruled that schools’ use of Affirmative Action policies to enhance student diversity is constitutional.

Tomas Saenz, president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) and former member of the Los Angeles County Board of Education – where he served for two decades – worries this current court is poised to overturn that longstanding precedent.

“We don’t know when it will come down,” Saenz said. But given the court’s stated views on race-conscious Affirmative Action policies, he expects the justices will overturn it just as they did with the Dobbs ruling last year overturning Roe v. Wade.

“I consider that to be the likely outcome,” he said, noting the Supreme Court revisited the issue of race conscious Affirmative Action in higher education on three separate occasions. Each time the court majority reasserted that the Bakke precedent continued to be the law.

“So, overturning that precedent would be extraordinary and on a par with the Dobbs decision of last year,” Saenz said.

He also predicted that opponents of Affirmative Action would seek to expand the court’s rationale. “This case will have nothing whatsoever to say about Affirmative Action in employment or contracting. And anyone who asserts otherwise, is misleading you,” Saenz said.

“You will hear folks from the right assert that somehow this Supreme Court decision also means that ethnic studies, even critical race theory, must be eliminated from schools.”  On the contrary, Saenz says the decision will say nothing about curriculum.

Thomas A. Saenz, President and General Counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) says that a ban on Affirmative Action could bring with it misconceptions and over-interpretations about what a ban may include.

Impacts on campus diversity

\John C. Yang, president and CEO of Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC) reiterated that lower courts found no evidence of discrimination against Asian-Americans in Harvard’s admissions process, which is the basis of the lawsuit.

“An admissions process considering race… remains necessary to ensure that equally qualified students from communities of color have the same access as privileged white students,” Yang said.

He noted 28% of the incoming Harvard class are Asian-Americans and their numbers have quadrupled since 1978 when the Bakke decision was issued.

“Any suggestion that somehow Asian-Americans are being discriminated against is just belied by these simple facts,” Yang continued. If Affirmative Action is overturned, he anticipated campus diversity at Harvard would decrease from 14% to 6% for Blacks and from 14% to 9% for Latinos.

“At the end of the day, we have to recognize that we are not in a race-blind society. Our lived experiences should not be up for debate,” Yang said.

John C. Yang, President and Executive Director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAAJ), discusses the impact race has on identity and how it relates to the college admissions process.

What about legacy admissions?

Michele Siqueiros has been supporting greater college access for students of color since 2004, and says it hasn’t been that long since women, Black, Latino, Indigenous and Asian-American students were even permitted to attend universities.

“Affirmative Action alone was never intended to be the panacea,” said Siqueiros, president of The Campaign for College Opportunity, a California-based non-profit.

“We must do everything in our power to provide all students an equal opportunity to pursue a college education,” she stressed, adding that with the anticipated SCOTUS ruling more will need to be done to ensure universities do not discriminate against students of color.

Siqueiros also pointed out that conservative opponents of Affirmative Action have nothing to say about legacy admissions – which can account for a quarter or more of all admissions at Ivy League schools like Harvard – or about recruiters exclusively visiting rich, wealthy, and predominantly white high schools.

“There are a lot of practices in higher education that should be challenged and removed,” said Siqueiros. “It’s really unfortunate that Affirmative Action is the one that’s being attacked today.”

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The preceding article was published as part of an ongoing partnership between Ethnic Media Services and the Los Angeles Blade. For additional information or to learn more about Ethnic Media Services click on the link embedded in the logo above.

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U.S. Federal Courts

Federal Judge rules Tennessee drag ban is unconstitutional

Parker’s ruling comes after a two-day trial. A Memphis based LGBTQ theatre company, Friends of George’s, had sued the state of Tennessee

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U. S. District Court Judge Thomas L. Parker, United States District Courthouse Memphis, TN (Los Angeles Blade photo montage)

MEMPHIS – U. S. District Court Judge Thomas L. Parker of the U. S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee declared Tennessee’s anti-drag Adult Entertainment Act to be unconstitutional.

Parker’s ruling comes after a two-day trial last month. A Shelby County-Memphis based LGBTQ theatre company, Friends of George’s, had sued the state of Tennessee, claiming the law unconstitutional under the First Amendment.

In April Judge Parker ordered a temporary injunction halting the just enacted Tennessee law that criminalizes some drag performances, hours before it was set to take effect Saturday, April 1. In his 15 page ruling ordering the temporary injunction Parker wrote:

“If Tennessee wishes to exercise its police power in restricting speech it considers obscene, it must do so within the constraints and framework of the United States Constitution. […] The Court finds that, as it stands, the record here suggests that when the legislature passed this Statute, it missed the mark.”

Attorneys for the theatre company had argued that drag performances were an artform and protected speech under the first amendment.

In his 70 page ruling Friday, June 2, 2023, Parker wrote:

After considering the briefs and evidence presented at trial, the Court finds that—despite
Tennessee’s compelling interest in protecting the psychological and physical wellbeing of
children—the Adult Entertainment Act (“AEA”) is an UNCONSTITUTIONAL restriction on
the freedom of speech
.”

The Court concludes that the AEA is both unconstitutionally vague and substantially
overbroad. The AEA’s “harmful to minors” standard applies to minors of all ages, so it fails to
provide fair notice of what is prohibited, and it encourages discriminatory enforcement. The
AEA is substantially overbroad because it applies to public property or “anywhere” a minor
could be present
.”

Read the entire ruling:

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Texas

Texas Governor Abbott signs bill banning trans youth healthcare

Texas joins over a dozen other states restricting transgender minors from accessing puberty blockers and hormone therapies

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Landon Richie, a 21-year-old political science major at university & a leading trans activist protesting at the Texas Capitol Building last month. (Photo Credit: Landon Richie)

By Alex Nguyen & William Melhado | AUSTIN – Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law Friday a bill that bars transgender kids from getting puberty blockers and hormone therapies, though the new law could face legal challenges before it takes effect on Sept. 1.

Senate Bill 14’s passage brings to the finish line a legislative priority for the Republican Party of Texas, which opposes any efforts to validate transgender identities. Trans kids, their parents and LGBTQ advocacy groups fiercely oppose the law, and some have vowed to stop it from going into effect.

Texas — home to one of the largest trans communities in the U.S. — is now one of over a dozen states that restrict transition-related care for trans minors.

“Cruelty has always been the point,” said Emmett Schelling, executive director of the Transgender Education Network of Texas. “It’s not shocking that this governor would sign SB14 right at the beginning of Pride [Month]; however this will not stop trans people from continuing to exist with authenticity — as we always have.”

Authored by New Braunfels Republican state Sen. Donna Campbell, the law bars trans kids from getting puberty blockers and hormone therapies, treatments many medical groups support. Children already receiving these treatments will have to be “weaned off” in a “medically appropriate” manner. The law also bans transition-related surgeries for kids, though those are rarely performed on minors.

Those who support the law claim that health care providers have capitalized on a “social contagion” to misguide parents and push life-altering treatments on kids who may later regret their decisions. SB 14’s supporters have also disputed the science and research behind transition-related care.

But trans kids, their parents and major medical groups say these medical treatments are important to protecting the mental health of an already vulnerable population, which faces a higher risk of depression and suicide than their cisgender peers. At the same time, doctors say cutting off these treatments — gradually or abruptly — could bring both physical discomfort and psychological distress to trans youth, some of whom have called it forced detransitioning.

In response, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Texas, Lambda Legal and the Transgender Law Center pledged on May 18 to fight SB 14 in court. They have yet to file a lawsuit.

“Transgender people have always been here and will always be here,” Ash Hall, policy and advocacy strategist at the ACLU of Texas, said Friday. “Our trans youth deserve a world where they can shine alongside their peers, and we will keep advocating for that world in and out of the courts.”

This legal threat is not new; some of these groups have sued several other states over their restrictions. Earlier this year, the Department of Justice also joined the legal fight against Tennessee’s ban.

While the lawsuits are tailored to each state, Sasha Buchert, a senior attorney at Lambda Legal and the director of its Non-Binary and Transgender Rights Project, told the Texas Tribune last month that a major common challenge to the laws hinges on the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause and the argument that these laws are stopping trans kids from accessing the same medical treatments that are still available to their cisgender peers.

Buchert added that the lawsuits’ immediate goal is generally to get a preliminary injunction to stop these laws from taking effect, a tactic that has seen some success.

“It’s one thing to see some of the things that state legislators do, but it’s a completely different thing when you’re under the white-hot spotlight of judicial scrutiny,” she said.

And prior to SB 14, the ACLU and Lambda Legal successfully sued Texas last year to halt state-ordered child abuse investigations of parents who provide their trans kids with access to transition-related care. Impeached attorney general Ken Paxton later appealed the decision in March, but the 3rd Court of Appeals has yet to issue a ruling on it.

“It’s a privilege to be able to fight,” Buchert said about the ongoing court challenges that Lambda Legal is involved in.

Los Angeles Blade Editor’s Note:

In a late Friday evening phone call, Landon Richie, with the Transgender Education Network of Texas, told the Blade:

“Today Governor Abbott signed cruelty into law. Legislation that purports to “protect youth” while stripping them of the life-saving, life-giving care that they receive will cost lives, and that’s not an exaggeration. Trans kids deserve not only to exist, but to thrive as their authentic selves in every facet of their lives, and we will never stop fighting to to actualize a world where that is undisputed. Despite efforts by our state, trans people will always exist in Texas, as we always have, and we will continue to exist brilliantly and boldly, and with endless care for one another.”

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The preceding article was previously published by The Texas Tribune and is republished by permission.

The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues. 

Disclosure: The ACLU of Texas has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

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Quality journalism doesn’t come free

Perhaps it goes without saying — but producing quality journalism isn’t cheap. At a time when newsroom resources and revenue across the country are declining, The Texas Tribune remains committed to sustaining our mission: creating a more engaged and informed Texas with every story we cover, every event we convene and every newsletter we send. As a nonprofit newsroom, we rely on members to help keep our stories free and our events open to the public. Do you value our journalism? Show us with your support.

Donation Link Here

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Florida

Gay Days 2023 will go on despite DeSantis & anti-LGBTQ+ animus

“We continue to be that blue speck in a sea of red, but ultimately laws are laws, and that is the interesting situation we are in”

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Attendees at the Walt Disney World GAY DAYS in June of 2017 (Photo courtesy of GayDays®/Facebook)

ORLANDO – Equality Florida has issued a travel advisory to LGBTQ+ people that traveling to the state isn’t safe given the plethora of anti-LGBTQ+ laws. On May 23, 2023, the Human Rights Campaign joined with Equality Florida urging LGBTQ+ people to avoid travel to Florida.

Citing six anti-LGBTQ bills passed and signed by Governor DeSantis, the two groups noted that while not a blanket recommendation against travel nor a call for boycott, the travel advisory outlines the devastating impacts of laws that are hostile to the LGBTQ community.

As Pride month gets underway Thursday, an annual event that is celebrating its 32nd anniversary this year and draws tens of thousands of LGBTQ+ people to Walt Disney World and the Disney resort areas near Orlando, is slated to commence over the next four day period.

Wearing red shirts to identify themselves, participants in the unofficial Disney Gay Days celebration gather for parties, meet-ups, and enjoying a Disney holiday. In an interview with the Associated Press, Joseph Clark, CEO of Gay Days Inc., said that he is hoping that this year can see upwards of 150,000 LGBTQ+ people descending on Central Florida to mark the start of Pride season.

(Photo courtesy of GayDays®)

In addition to Disney, the LGBTQ+ folks will also be visiting the neighboring amusement parks of Universal Studios and SeaWorld.

Pride celebrations this year in Florida have taken on a different tone, St. Cloud organizers of the ‘PRIDE in St. Cloud’ scheduled for June 10 cancelled the event joining a growing list of Pride events being cancelled as a “climate of fear” has overtaken the state in the wake of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ extreme new anti-LGBTQ+ laws.

The Pride Alliance of the Treasure Coast notified the greater Treasure Coast community that the Pride parade was cancelled and that Pridefest will only be accessible to residents 21-years-old or older.

The Wilton Manors City Commission as well as the city’s mayor voted to amending the permit for Stonewall Pride Inc. to force compliance of a new state law that expands the definition of “live adult entertainment” to include drag entertainment.

Brandon Wolf, the Press Secretary for the largest state-wide LGBTQ+ equality and human rights advocacy group Equality Florida, in a text with the Blade noted: “These are the intended chilling effects of DeSantis’ slate of hate legislation. Just as the Don’t Say LGBTQ law didn’t direct school districts to rip down rainbow stickers, this bill does not ban drag or pride. But it uses vague language and threats to induce self-censorship.”

GayDays® Ticket & Merchandise Center, Doubletree by Hilton Orlando at SeaWorld
(Photo courtesy of GayDays®)

“We continue to be that blue speck in a sea of red, but ultimately laws are laws, and that is the interesting situation we are in,” Joseph Clark, the CEO of Gay Days, told Deadline, adding that many folks have reached out to ask whether it’s safe to visit Florida.

In a Facebook post earlier this week, GayDays® announce the cancellation and “reimagining” of Taste of GayDays® as “due to challenges caused by the current political climate in Florida which recently caused concerns for a large group of our restaurant partners.”

“UPDATE: We’re deeply sorry to announce the cancellation and “reimagining” of Taste of GayDays® due to challenges caused by the current political climate in Florida which recently caused concerns for a large group of our restaurant partners. Because of these circumstances, and though we adamantly tried to recruit additional vendors, it became clear that we would be unable to provide the exceptional experience that our guests have come to expect at the Taste of GayDays® Event.

But FEAR NOT! We’ve planned something special for you all. Join us for the FREE GayDays Orlando 2023 “Taste of GayDays® Entertainment Preview Show” at 6pm on Thursday, June 1! This new event aims to give a preview of several other special events during GayDays® Orlando including performances by some of our Miss GayDays® Pageant competitors, introductions and meet & greets with Mr. GayDays® Leather Competitors and more. Please know – we are committed to delivering extraordinary experiences at GayDays® Orlando.

As we are days away from the start of GayDays Orlando 2023 this was not an announcement we had expected to have to make. We will not let this deter us! We are determined to work towards changing the mindset of people and ensure that future events uphold the high standards that are synonymous with GayDays®. It is because of you, that together, we’ll make a difference,” the group wrote.

GayDays® at Area Theme Parks | #RedShirtDays schedule linked here: (Link)

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U.S. Federal Courts

ACLU sues to block Idaho’s ban on health care for trans youth

“This law is a dangerous intrusion upon the rights of Idaho families. Our state should be a safe place to raise every child, including trans”

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James A. McClure Federal Building and United States Court House, Boise, ID (Photo Credit: GSA/U.S. Courts)

BOISE — An Idaho law criminalizing gender-affirming health care for transgender youth is being challenged by families in federal court.

In a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of IdahoWrest CollectivePaul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, and Groombridge, Wu, Baughman & Stone LLP, two Idaho families assert that HB 71, signed into law by Governor Brad Little earlier this year, violates the rights of transgender youth and their parents under the U.S. Constitution.

“Being able to live my life as my true self has been a long journey and my medical care has been an important part of that journey. My family, my doctors, and I have worked together to make decisions about my medical care, and it’s shocking to have politicians take those decisions away from us,” said Plaintiff Jane Doe, a 16-year-old transgender girl. “Trans people like myself deserve the same chance at safety and liberty as everyone else, but this law specifically targets us and our health care for no good reason. I’m 16–I should be hanging out with my friends and planning my future instead of fighting my State for the health care I need.”

“This law is a dangerous intrusion upon the rights and lives of Idaho families. Our state should be a safe place to raise every child, including transgender youth, and HB 71 threatens to deny them the safety and dignity they deserve,” said Amy Dundon, Legislative Strategist with the ACLU of Idaho. “We welcome this opportunity to defend the transgender youth of Idaho and their families from this discriminatory political attack and we won’t stop defending them until each one has all the care and support they need to thrive.”

“We are determined to protect the transgender youth of Idaho, their families, and their medical providers from this unjust and dangerous attack on their rights and lives,” said Li Nowlin-Sohl, Senior Staff Attorney at the ACLU’s LGBTQ & HIV Project. “This health care is supported by every major medical organization in the U.S. and is critical for the futures of transgender youth across the state. We will not rest until this unconstitutional law is struck down.”

The challenge filed today is the eighth legal challenge by the ACLU and its nationwide affiliate network so far against a wave of bans targeting health care for transgender youth. The ACLU and the ACLU of Arkansas filed the first such challenge against the first such law in the country in 2021 and similar challenges have been filed in Indiana, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Montana, Kentucky, and Nebraska. 

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The White House

Pride Month proclamation: ‘Our nation faces another inflection point’

The statement reaffirms the Bide-Harris administration’s commitment to standing “proudly with the LGBTQI+ community

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The South Portico is illuminated in Pride colors in honor of the signing of the Respect for Marriage Act Tuesday, December 13, 2022, on the South Lawn of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Cameron Smith)

WASHINGTON – Just as the 1969 Stonewall Riots marked a transformational time for LGBTQ civil rights in America, the country now faces another critical inflection point, President Joe Biden said in the White House’s proclamation Wednesday honoring Pride Month.

This moment is precipitated by the wave of hateful anti-LGBTQ legislation moving through state and local legislatures across the country and amid the escalating violence and threats of violence against the community, the statement notes:

“In 2023 alone, State and local legislatures have already introduced over 600 hateful laws targeting the LGBTQI+ community. Books about LGBTQI+ people are being banned from libraries. Transgender youth in over a dozen States have had their medically necessary health care banned. Homophobic and transphobic vitriol spewed online has spilled over into real life, as armed hate groups intimidate people at Pride marches and drag performances, and threaten doctors’ offices and children’s hospitals that offer care to the LGBTQI+ community. Our hearts are heavy with grief for the loved ones we have lost to anti-LGBTQI+ violence.”

Biden drew parallels between the “LGBTQI+ protestors” who “bravely stood their ground” against the law enforcement dispatched to arrest them more than 50 years ago and the youth organizers leading walkouts in response to discriminatory education laws, along with the “young people and their parents [who] are demonstrating unimaginable courage by testifying in State capitols in defense of their basic rights.”

The statement reaffirms the Bide-Harris administration’s commitment to standing “proudly with the LGBTQI+ community in the enduring struggle for freedom, justice, and equality,” chronicling some of the major steps the administration has taken on this front.

Biden highlighted his issuance, on his first day in office, of an Executive Order prohibiting anti-LGBTQ discrimination, along with his signage last year of the Respect for Marriage Act, which codified protects for the rights of same-sex couples that might otherwise be jeopardized by the U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative supermajority.

The statement then noted the administration’s moves to protect LGBTQ youth by ordering federal agencies to: combat conversion therapy, “end the crisis of homelessness among LGBTQI+ youth and adults,” and address anti-LGBTQ discrimination in foster care.

Meanwhile, Biden said, the U.S. Department of Justice is fighting against discriminatory laws targeting trans youth, while the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services have drafted rules that would better protect anti-LGBTQ discrimination “in healthcare, at school, and in sports” and the White House is developing ways to combat online harassment and abuse that “disproportionately target LGBTQ people.”

Finally, the White House noted: its rollout last year of the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline for LGBTQ youth, who can now reach specially trained counselors by dialing 988 and then 3; the administration’s appointment of historic numbers of LGBTQ appointees at all levels of the federal government; and its repeal of bans preventing trans people from serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.

From passing federal nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ Americans via the Equality Act to addressing “the crisis of violence against transgender women and girls of color,” Biden acknowledged the work that lies ahead.

“This month and every month,” his proclamation concludes, “let us celebrate the pride that powers the movement for LGBTQI+ rights and commit to doing our part to help realize the promise of America, for all Americans.”

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U.S. Military/Pentagon

Defense Secretary orders drag show at USAF base cancelled

A Pentagon official said that Chairman of the Joint Chiefs was visibly angry about the decision to host the event on base

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Main Gate, Nellis AFB, Nevada (Photo Credit: United States Air Force Public Affairs)

NELLIS AFB, NV – A previously scheduled drag show to kick off Pride Month on this sprawling base, an advanced combat aviation training facility for the U.S. Air Force northeast of Las Vegas, was cancelled Wednesday according to a Pentagon official, after U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley stepped in.

A Pentagon source familiar with the matter told the Blade that Chairman of the Joint Chiefs informed the Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. that it is not Pentagon policy to fund drag shows on bases and the show needed to be canceled or moved off base. 

The issue over drag performances was a focus at a House Armed Services Committee hearing earlier this year on March 29, when anti-LGBTQ+ Florida Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz demanded in an angry tone that the Defense Secretary and the JCS Chairman explain why drag queen story hours were being hosted on U.S. military installations. The Florida Republican mentioned bases in  Montana, Nevada, Virginia and Germany.

In a highly publicized incident in May 2022, Stars and Stripes reported that the Commanding General of the 86th Airlift Wing at Ramstein AFB in Germany had a Drag Queen Storytime, that was to be held in honor of Pride Month cancelled.

According to Stars & Stripes, the 86th Air Wing’s public affairs sent a statement to a radical-right anti-LGBTQ+ news outlet in Canada, The Post Millennial, which had requested comment to its article about the event and also accused the Air Force of pushing a more “woke” agenda among servicemen. 

In a press release, Florida Republican U.S. Senator Marco Rubio took partial credit for the cancellation.

Rubio sent a letter to U.S. Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall regarding the Air Force Library at Ramstein Air Force Base, Germany hosting a “Drag Queen Story Time” event for young children of servicemembers.

Rubio urged him to cancel the event, discipline the staff involved in planning and hosting the event, and respond to questions on whether other installations both at home and around the world have done similar events. Following receipt of Rubio’s letter, the Air Force canceled the event. 

“The last thing parents serving their nation overseas should be worried about, particularly in a theater with heightened geopolitical tensions, is whether their children are being exposed to sexually charged content simply because they visited their local library,” Rubio wrote.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and General Mark Milley meet with U.S. Army Gen. Scott Miller at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland on July 14, 2021.
(Photo by Carlos M. Vazquez, DOD)

A Pentagon official referring to the drag show at Nellis said that Chairman of the Joint Chiefs was visibly angry about the decision to host the event on base after being informed about it earlier this week.

The drag show was scheduled for Thursday June 1, but Maj. Gen. Case A. Cunningham, the Commander of the U.S. Air Force Warfare Center, Nellis was informed in the past few days that it must either be canceled or moved off base. 

On May 23, Congressman Gaetz sent a letter to Secretary Austin and Chairman Milley, alleging that the “pervasive and persistent use of taxpayer dollars for drag events,” had a June 1, 2023 Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada event scheduled.

Gaetz went on to write that “Nellis Air Force Base has announced a so-called “family-friendly” drag organized by the Nellis LGBTQ+ Pride Council for June 1, 2023. In this latest outright attack on children, this event is being advertised as having no minimum age requirement.” 

In his letter Gaetz also demanded to know:

  • Does the DoD feel it’s appropriate for children to attend a sexualized drag performance?
  • Why are base commanders defying your intent and direction by facilitating drag events?
  • If this event goes forward, whether on June 1st or a later scheduled date, please provide an explanation regarding your justification for why you allowed the event to take place.

According to a spokesperson for the U.S. Air Force Warfare Center, Nellis, in June 2021 the base had hosted a Pride Month drag show titled “Drag-u-Nellis.” The spokesperson noted the 2021 show was intended to promote inclusivity and diversity. 

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Alabama

Alabama extends ban on trans female athletes to universities

“Look, if you are a biological male, you are not going to be competing in women’s and girls’ sports in Alabama”

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Alabama Republican Governor Kay Ivey, (Left) with Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis. (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor/Facebook)

MONTGOMERY – Governor Kay Ivey on Tuesday signed House Bill 261 which limits transgender students to playing sports in public colleges and universities only with “their biological sex assigned at birth.”

“Look, if you are a biological male, you are not going to be competing in women’s and girls’ sports in Alabama. It’s about fairness, plain and simple,”  said Governor Ivey in a statement released by her office.

House Bill 261 was approved 26-4 in the Alabama Senate and 83-5 in the House of Representatives. In the vote in the Alabama House over a dozen lawmakers abstained from the vote.

Ivey had previously signed legislation in 2021 banning trans female athletes from competing in K-12 girls sports. At the time she signed that bill the governor had noted that “Alabama remains committed to protecting female athletes at all levels and upholding the integrity of athletics.”

Carmarion D. Anderson-Harvey, Alabama state director of the Human Rights Campaign said the legislation is part of a “systematic attack against LGBTQ+ people” in Alabama and elsewhere.

“In just two years, [Ivey] and extremist lawmakers in Alabama have passed four anti-LGBTQ+ bills. From dictating what bathrooms we can use to blatantly ignoring the actual problems in women’s sports, these politicians are making Alabama an increasingly hostile place for transgender people and the LGBTQ+ community as a whole,” Anderson-Harvey said.

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South Dakota

South Dakota Governor asks colleges to ban drag shows

Noem targeted college student life, including removing references to and enforcement of preferred pronouns, prohibiting drag shows on campus

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South Dakota Republican Governor Kristi Noem being interviewed last July by members of the press. (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor/Facebook)

PIERRE, S.D. – Republican Governor Kristi Noem sent a letter last week to the South Dakota Board of Regents, which is the governing board that controls six public universities in the state, telling the Board that in her opinion higher education for Dakotans was in crisis.

Echoing the political philosophy of her fellow Republican governor, Florida’s Ron DeSantis, Noem criticized instructional methods in universities saying that professors were focusing on “feelings rather than facts.”

The governor also took aim at diversity programs saying that students were being taught equity and “safe spaces” rather than “learning to tolerate the disagreement, discomfort, and dissent they will experience in the real world.”

Noem also targeted college student life, including removing references to and enforcement of preferred pronouns, prohibiting drag shows on campus, and removing policies that prohibit students from exercising their right to free speech, the latter regarding use of what has been defined hate speech against the LGBTQ+ community based on religious freedoms and expressions.

KSFY-TV reported that Board of Regents issued a statement this past Friday that it is still reviewing the contents. Adding that it was eager to have “a willing partner in higher education.”

The letter contained several goals that the Board of Regents has worked on for many years. This letter, along with our internal Strategic Plan and Senate Bill 55 Legislative Taskforce, presents solutions to support the growth of South Dakota’s workforce through our public universities.

According to KSFY-TV  the Board stated that its main goal is readying the next generation of leaders with skills to grow the state’s economy. “We are fully committed to this mission.”

In addition to the letter the governor in a press release announced that she also launched a whistleblower hotline calling for South Dakota to be “an example to the nation of what quality higher education should look like.”

CBS News affiliate KELO’s Capitol Bureau reporter Bob Mercer noted that Noem said the “whistleblower hotline” is for students, parents, taxpayers and faculty to call and voice concerns. The number is (605) 773-5916. 

KELO also reported the hotline audio said:

“This hotline was created for students and faculty to keep our universities accountable to South Dakota values,” the recording says. “And be an example to the nation of what good higher education looks like.” 

In a statement to KELO, Shuree Mortenson, a spokeswoman for the Board of Regents, said the hotline is being managed by the governor’s office and the BOR is still reviewing the contents of the letter. 

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Florida

Trans teen no longer feels welcome in Florida- So she left

“It was just terror in my heart, like you could just feel that cold burst in my chest just going all throughout my body”

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Efforts by state officials to restrict the rights of transgender Floridians have led Josie, a high school sophomore, to move to Rhode Island without her parents, Sarah (left) and Eric. (Photo Credit: STEPHANIE COLOMBINI / WUSF)

By Stephanie Colombini, WUSF | SAINT AUGUSTINE, Fla. – Josie had put off packing long enough. The high school sophomore in St. Augustine, Florida, sat on her bed while her mom, Sarah, pulled clothes from her closet.

It held a trove of good memories — like the red dress Josie wore to the winter homecoming dance and a pink cover-up she sported at a friend’s pool party. Good times like these have felt scarce lately. Josie, who’s transgender, no longer feels welcome in Florida.

Her family requested they be identified by their first names only, fearing retaliation in a state where Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and other officials have proposed, politicized, and passed policies in health care and education that limit identity expression, access to certain school activities, and accommodations for trans people.

The ACLU is tracking bills it calls an “attack on LGBTQ rights, especially transgender youth.” State legislation has forced some residents like Josie to rethink where they want to call home.

Josie moved more than a thousand miles from St. Augustine — and her parents — to start a new life in Rhode Island and stay with her aunt and uncle, who live outside Providence.

Preparing her for the move, Josie’s mom held up outfits and asked, “Staying or going?”

The formal dress could stay behind. Cardigans and overalls went in the suitcase. At one point, the family dog, Reesie, crawled past the luggage to snuggle up to Josie.

“She has a sense when I’m sad, and just comes running in,” said Josie, 16.

Moving to Rhode Island had been Plan B for some time, but Josie said she never thought it would happen. Much has changed in the past year.

Florida is one of more than a dozen states that have passed bans on gender-affirming medical treatments for minors, such as puberty blockers, hormone therapy, and certain surgeries.

Florida’s medical boards began debating those bans last summer. For months, Josie was terrified she would lose access to hormones she takes to help her body align with her identity.

Board members argued gender-affirming treatments were “experimental” and, in March, barred doctors from prescribing them to minors. They allowed children who had already started care to continue. But Josie didn’t trust that her access would last.

This spring, the legislature considered forcing all trans youth to stop treatment by Dec. 31, part of a bill to bolster restrictions on transgender care.

“I thought that they would realize what they’ve done wrong and repeal some things,” Josie said. “But they just kept going. It just became, like, too real, too fast.”

Lawmakers ended up stripping that provision just before the session ended this month, allowing young people like Josie to stay in treatment.

But she had already made her decision to move out of state. School has been challenging at times since Josie came out as trans in eighth grade. Some childhood friends rejected her.

Josie wanted to play on the girls tennis team, but Florida law bans trans girls and women from competing on school teams meant for athletes assigned female at birth.

She said living in Florida was also especially painful after the state passed the Parental Rights in Education law, which “prohibits classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in certain grade levels.” Critics call it the “Don’t Say Gay” law and said it has had a chilling effect on some teachers. Josie noticed stickers signifying that areas were “safe spaces” for LGBTQ+ people had been taken down at school.

“Which is just ridiculous, like you want your students to be comfortable and safe,” she said.

The new laws and anti-trans rhetoric are hurting kids across Florida, said Jennifer Evans, a clinical psychologist at the University of Florida’s Youth Gender Program in Gainesville.

“I’m seeing more anxiety, more depression,” Evans said. “Things I hear patients say are, ‘The government doesn’t want me to exist.’ They don’t feel safe.”

States are pushing measures on all sorts of gender-related issues — not just health care, but what schools can teach or which bathrooms people can use.

Bills don’t have to pass to cause harm, said Evans, who is queer.

“It’s a lot to feel like enough people in this country don’t agree with your existence — which actually isn’t affecting them — that people want to shut down other people’s access to living complete and affirmed lives,” she said. “It’s painful to see that.”

Four families who sought care at Evans’ clinic have already left Florida, she said, while another 10 plan to move this year. Some older teens she treats also want to get out when they turn 18.

But moving isn’t easy for many families.

“Just financially, it’s difficult to uproot what we’ve set up,” Josie’s dad, Eric, said.

They’ve owned their home in St. Augustine for a long time. Eric recently started a new job. Josie’s mom, Sarah, works at a private college that offers a benefit that allows Josie and her older sister to get reduced tuition at some colleges around the country.

So her parents decided that, at least for now, Josie would go live with her aunt and uncle and they would stay behind.

The choice was devastating.

“It was just terror in my heart, like you could just feel that cold burst in my chest just going all throughout my body,” said Sarah. “Josie is part of everything I do.”

A photo of Josie with her parents outside.
Josie (center) moved to Rhode Island to flee policies in Florida that target transgender people. Her parents, Sarah and Eric, can’t go with her yet.
(STEPHANIE COLOMBINI / WUSF)

Josie will finish her sophomore year in Rhode Island before returning to St. Augustine for summer break. Her family sees it as a trial run for what could be years of separation.

One night before Josie left, she invited friends over for a going-away party. The teens played a dance video game, laughing as they performed a hip-hop routine.

Sarah brought out a Black Forest cake. “We love you Josie” was piped in frosting along the platter, framed by two hearts.

It was a simple but powerful send-off from the support system Josie has relied on in Florida. A few days later, she and her mom flew north to get Josie settled. Leaving her daughter in Rhode Island was “agony,” Sarah said.

“I was a mess,” she said. “I cried the whole way to the airport. I just felt I was going the wrong way.”

Sarah is still adjusting to life without Josie at home, but they talk every day. And Josie is getting used to her new environment. Her aunt and uncle have been great, she said, and she’s making friends at school.

Her new school is a little smaller than her old one and in a community that feels more liberal-minded, the family said. Josie said she loves seeing pride flags in the halls and plans to join the Gender and Sexuality Alliance Club. It all feels like a “bombardment of support.”

“It was just, like, such a shock to me — like, not a bad shock, but, like, just shocked that this is how schools can be,” Josie said. “It’s just that Florida’s choosing not to be like that.”

DeSantis’ office did not respond to several requests for comment to address concerns of families like Josie’s.

Since Josie moved to Rhode Island in April, DeSantis has signed four bills that would curb health care and gender expression of trans people.

Josie’s parents said they’ll keep their pride flag waving in the front yard and advocate for equality while she’s away.

Josie said she thinks about the trans kids who can’t leave and urged them not to give up hope. But right now, she needs to move on.

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This article is from a partnership that includes WUSFNPR, and KFF Health News. It can be republished for free.

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