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Military Special: LGBT patriotism from gay ban to trans ban

Commemorating the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

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Gay vet in the 1993 March on Washington military contingent. (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Dec. 22 marks the 8th anniversary of President Barack Obama signing the repeal of the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Pursue” law banning lesbians and gay men from serving openly in the US Armed Forces. Normally, 8th anniversaries are not particularly noteworthy. But normality died during the 2016 presidential campaign and now, with Donald Trump and Mike Pence appearing so eager to erase LGBT progress, it is imperative to recall from whence the LGBT community came and the obstacles overcome.

On Dec. 14, Solicitor General Noel Francisco filed three separate briefs urgently asking the Supreme Court to ignore the nationwide injunction imposed by three lower courts in the ongoing legal battles over the Twitter-announced transgender military ban. He wants the Court to allow enforcement of the ban during the appeals process. Fortified with banal superiority, Francisco said the injunction caused “direct, irreparable injury to the interests of the government and the public” and complained that open trans service “threatens to undermine, disrupt unit cohesion and impose an unreasonable burden on the military that is not conducive to military effectiveness and lethality.”

The rhetoric is familiar, used in numerous lawsuits since the original ban against homosexuals was imposed in 1953 and after President Bill Clinton reneged on lifting the ban in 1993 and agreed to the horrific DADT “compromise.” Some courts upheld the ban and DADT, others ruled for the individual, ordering reinstatement. 

But it was the 2004 lawsuit filed by the Log Cabin Republicans (LCR) that sent the Defense Department and the Pentagon into a tizzy in 2010. By then, the DoD had discharged more than 14,000 servicemembers, including a slew of Arabic-speaking translators despite America’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Straight LCR attorney Dan Woods, an unsung hero, was David to the DOJ’s Goliath at trial in the Riverside, California District Court. Discharged translator Alex Nicholson, then-executive director of Servicemembers United, was a plaintiff, buttressed by witnesses including scholars Aaron Belkin, director of the research-based Palm Center, and Nathaniel Frank, author of Unfriendly Fire: How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America; discharged servicemembers: former petty officer 3rd class Joseph Christopher Rocha, former Air Force officer Mike Almy, and former Air Force Staff Sergeant Anthony Loverde.

Woods also had President Obama’s opinion that DADT “weakens our national security” and eloquent support for a congressional repeal from Joint Chief of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen. “We have in place a policy that forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens,” Mullen said before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Feb. 2, 2010. “For me, personally, it comes down to integrity: Theirs as an individual, ours as an institution.”

Assistant U.S. attorney Paul Freeborne presented no witnesses, questioned LCR’s standing to bring the case, treated Judge Virginia A. Phillips rudely, and argued that DADT was constitutional because it was passed by Congress, with Republican Sen. John McCain’s firm support. “In my view, and I know that a lot of people don’t agree with that, the policy has been working and I think it’s been working well,” he said in that Feb. 2 Armed Services Committee hearing.

The LCR lawsuit proceeded virtually unnoticed—until Sept. 9, 2010 when Judge Phillips ruled that DADT violated the First and Fourth Amendments of the Constitution. She found the “sweeping reach” of DADT restrictions is “far broader than is reasonably necessary to protect the substantial government interest at stake.” Additionally, DADT violates LGBT personnel’s right of association and due process.

“As an American, a veteran and an Army reserve officer, I am proud the court ruled that the arcane ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ statute violates the Constitution,” LCR Executive Director R. Clarke Cooper told the Los Angles Times. “Today, the ruling is not just a win for Log Cabin Republican service members, but all American service members.”

A month later, on Oct. 12, 2010, Phillips issued a permanent worldwide injunction ordering the military to immediately “suspend and discontinue any investigation, or discharge, separation, or other proceeding, that may have been commenced” under DADT. “The order,” Woods said, “reaffirms the constitutional rights of gays and lesbians in the military who are fighting and dying for our country.”

Chaos ensued. The Pentagon said it would abide by the ruling but the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) cautioned personnel not to come out as they had in 1993 believing Clinton would lift the ban. The DOJ appealed the ruling to the Ninth Circuit and asked Phillips for an emergency stay until the appeal was adjudicated. Phillips said no. DOJ asked the Ninth Circuit for a stay, which it got. LCR appealed to the Supreme Court to vacate the stay. But on Nov. 12, Justice Kennedy said no—without explanation—and DADT was back on.

The chaos of the briefly lifted DADT so shook the military, they started advocating for a controlled repeal. McCain continued to stubbornly block passage but Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Patrick Murphy, with Sen. Joe Lieberman pushing Republican Sen. Susan Collins, brilliantly maneuvered the bill through the lame duck Congress and got the DADT repeal to Obama. Before his death, McCain came out supporting openly gay DOD civilian professional Eric Fanning as Sec. of the Army and opposing Trump’s trans ban.

This special issue is just a glimpse of the long battle for LGBT full patriotic equality—from gay World War II vets enjoying the freedom of authenticity during the 1993 March on Washington to trans plaintiffs riding in LA’s 2017 CSW Pride Parade. 

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NBC Universal cancels Golden Globe awards broadcast for 2022

NBC Universal announced the network would not broadcast the 2022 Golden Globes awards ceremony

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Screenshot NBC coverage of the Golden Globes from previous years on YouTube

BURBANK – In the wake of an in-depth investigation into the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), the organization responsible for the Golden Globes by the Los Angeles Times, which revealed a lack of racial diversity among its voting members and various other ethical concerns, NBC Universal announced Monday the network would not broadcast the 2022 Golden Globes ceremony.

This past February ahead of the HFPA’s 78th Annual Golden Globes ceremony, HFPA board chair Meher Tatna told Variety magazine that the organization that the organization of international journalists which covers the film, television, and entertainment industry has not had any Black members in at least 20 years.

Actor Sterling K. Brown,  a Golden Globe winner and two-time nominee, posted to Instagram; 

Criticism of the HFPA, which puts on the Globes and has been denounced for a lack of diversity and for ethical impropriates, reached such a pitch this week that actor and superstar celebrity Tom Cruise returned his three Globes to the press association’s headquarters, according to a person who was granted anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly about the decision, the Associated Press reported.

“We continue to believe that the HFPA is committed to meaningful reform. However, change of this magnitude takes time and work, and we feel strongly that the HFPA needs time to do it right,” a spokesperson for NBC said in a statement.

“As such, NBC will not air the 2022 Golden Globes,” the spokesperson added. “Assuming the organization executes on its plan, we are hopeful we will be in a position to air the show in January 2023.”

NBC’s decision comes as Vogue reported that the backlash to the HFPA came swiftly and decisively. Some of Hollywood’s biggest studios, including Netflix, Amazon, and WarnerMedia, announced they were severing ties with the organization until efforts were made to increase diversity and stamp out corruption, while a group of more than 100 of the industry’s biggest PR firms released a statement in March in which they pledged to boycott the ceremony for the foreseeable future. 

The HFPA did not immediately respond to inquiries by media outlets requesting comment about NBC’s decision.

In February, the organization said it was “fully committed to ensuring our membership is reflective of the communities around the world who love film, TV, and the artists inspiring and educating them.”

“We understand that we need to bring in Black members as well as members from other underrepresented backgrounds, and we will immediately work to implement an action plan to achieve these goals as soon as possible,” it said.

HFPA also announced a full timetable through this summer for implementing promised reform initiatives in response to NBC’s decision.

“Regardless of the next air date of the Golden Globes, implementing transformational changes as quickly — and as thoughtfully — as possible remains the top priority,” the HFPA board said in a statement. “We invite our partners in the industry to the table to work with us on the systemic reform that is long overdue, both in our organization as well as within the industry at large.”

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Coronavirus

LA County expected to hit herd immunity by mid summer

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Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles County could reach COVID-19 herd immunity among adults and the older teenagers by mid- to late July, public health officials announced Monday. Over the weekend LA Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that appointments are no longer needed for Angelenos to get COVID-19 vaccinations at any site run by the city.

Garcetti’s move is intended to give people who don’t have the time or technological resources to navigate online booking platforms a chance to get the shot.

The percentage of the population the County needs to vaccinate to achieve community immunity is unknown, however Public Health officials estimate it’s probably around 80%. Currently, 400,000 shots each week are getting into the arms of L.A. County residents, and there are over 2 million more first doses to go before 80% of all L.A. County residents 16 and older have received at least one shot.

At this rate, Public Health expects the County will reach this level of community immunity in mid- to late July and that assumes the County continues to at least have 400,000 people vaccinated each week. That would include both first doses that people need as well as their second doses.

This news came as Los Angeles Unified School District officials announced that attendance numbers at all grade levels in the District have been considerably lower than expected as extensive safety measures have failed to lure back the vast majority of families in the final weeks of school.

Only 7% of high school students, about 30% of elementary school children and 12% of middle school students have returned to campuses.

As of May 7, more than 8,492,810 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered to people across Los Angeles County. Of these, 5,146,142 were first doses and 3,346,668 were second doses.

On Monday the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) expanded the emergency use authorization for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for adolescents 12 to 15 years of age. The Pfizer vaccine is already authorized for people 16 years old and older.

Pfizer’s testing in adolescents “met our rigorous standards,” FDA vaccine chief Dr. Peter Marks said. “Having a vaccine authorized for a younger population is a critical step in continuing to lessen the immense public health burden caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

In a statement released Monday by the White House, President Joe Biden the FDA’s decision marked another important step in the nation’s march back to regular life.

“The light at the end of the tunnel is growing, and today it got a little brighter,” Biden said.

Los Angeles County will offer the Pfizer vaccine for 12 to 15-year-olds once the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) affirms the FDA recommendation, which can happen as early as Wednesday. All adolescents 12-17 will need to be accompanied by a parent or guardian to get vaccinated.

To find a vaccination site near you, to make an appointment at vaccination sites, and much more, visit: www.VaccinateLACounty.com (English) and www.VacunateLosAngeles.com (Spanish). If you don’t have internet access, can’t use a computer, or you’re over 65, you can call 1-833-540-0473 for help finding an appointment or scheduling a home-visit if you are homebound. Vaccinations are always free and open to eligible residents and workers regardless of immigration status.

In the meantime, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that unvaccinated people — including children — should continue taking precautions such as wearing masks indoors and keeping their distance from other unvaccinated people outside of their households.

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Health

HHS takes steps to reverse Anti-LGBTQ+ healthcare policy

The announcement came minutes before a scheduled hearing before the U.S. District Court for Equality California’s lawsuit challenging the Trump-Pence Administration’s “Rollback Rule”

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HHS the Hubert H. Humphrey Building (Photo: GSA)

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Monday morning that the Biden-Harris Administration will interpret and enforce Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Title IX’s prohibitions on discrimination based on sex to include discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The announcement came minutes before a scheduled hearing before the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts in BAGLY v. HHS, Equality California’s lawsuit challenging the Trump-Pence Administration’s “Rollback Rule.”

The Trump-era policy undermines the ACA’s nondiscrimination protections on the basis of sex — including pregnancy, gender identity and sex stereotyping — as well as protections for patients with limited-English proficiency and those living with chronic illnesses, including HIV. Because the issues in BAGLY v. HHS are broader than what the Administration announced today, the Court scheduled a hearing on the government’s motion to dismiss for June 3rd at 2:30 PM EST.

In reaction to the HHS announcement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a statement Monday:

“Today, the Biden Administration has taken essential and potentially life-saving action to affirm that all people in America have the right to quality, affordable health care – no matter who they are or whom they love.  During this time of pandemic and always, it is vital that the most vulnerable have access to care, including LGBTQ Americans, who have long suffered injustice and discrimination that has left them dangerously exposed to health risks.
 
“The Trump Administration’s decision to greenlight anti-LGBTQ discrimination in health care in the middle of a pandemic was an act of senseless and staggering cruelty, made in blatant defiance of our values and a Supreme Court ruling made just a month prior.  
 
“Congressional Democrats together with the Biden Administration are proud to uphold the equal right of every American to access the care that they need to pursue a life of dignity and health.  We must now build on this progress and enact the House-passed Equality Act to fully ban anti-LGBTQ discrimination in our nation.”

In addition to Equality California, co-plaintiffs in BAGLY v. HHS include Darren Lazor, The Boston Alliance of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Youth (BAGLY), Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, Campaign for Southern Equality, Equality California, Fenway Health, and Transgender Emergency Fund.

Lazor is a transgender man near Cleveland, Ohio, who experienced numerous counts of discrimination from healthcare providers on the basis of his gender identity from 2012 to 2017. He is a member of Equality California. Plaintiffs are represented by National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), the Transgender Law Center (TLC), the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF), the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation (CHLPI) of Harvard Law School and law firm Hogan Lovells.

The lawsuit asserts that the new rule violates the Administrative Procedures Act by being contrary to law, arbitrary and capricious and a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. Notably, it was published on June 19,  just days after the June 15, 2020 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County, which found that it is unlawful sex discrimination to fire employees based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The lawsuit also asserts that the new rule will embolden discrimination and harm LGBTQ+ patients and people seeking reproductive health care, further stigmatize abortion and other pregnancy-related care, harm patients with limited-English proficiency, especially immigrants, and harm people with chronic illnesses, including those living with HIV. The rule will also create confusion about the scope of protections against discrimination under federal law. 

Trans people, like plaintiff Darren Lazor, already face disproportionate discrimination in health care settings, including mistreatment by insurers and humiliation and harassment by doctors – problems that are exacerbated for trans people of color and trans people living in rural regions and the U.S. South. In seeking to deny trans people access to the healthcare they need, the Trump Administration had placed trans people, and especially Black trans women, in danger through deliberately harmful governmental action.

“We are thrilled by the news that the Biden-Harris Administration will take initial steps to reverse President Trump’s dangerous, discriminatory Rollback Rule, which undermined healthcare nondiscrimination protections critical to the LGBTQ+ community, and trans people in particular,” said Equality California Executive Director Rick Chavez Zbur.

“As the world recovers from a global pandemic, it’s more important than ever that every American have access to quality, affordable healthcare without fear of harassment and discrimination. We remain hopeful that under Secretary Becerra and Assistant Secretary Levine’s leadership, HHS will continue to take further steps to rescind the Trump-era regulation and address the harms that it has caused,” he added.

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