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Utah senator blocks lesbian EEOC appointment

In rare bipartisan move, Trump nominated LGBT rights attorney Chai Feldblum

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Chai Feldblum, gay news, Washington Blade

Lesbian attorney Chai Feldblum is facing lone opposition from Sen. Mike Lee in her bid for a third term on the EEOC. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) on Wednesday continued his one-man effort to block the nomination of lesbian attorney Chai Feldblum to a third term on the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

In a Dec. 19 Senate floor discussion on the Feldblum nomination, Lee invoked a longstanding Senate rule that gives a single senator the ability to indefinitely hold up and potentially kill a presidential nomination for a non-judicial appointment by declaring an objection to the nominee.

In keeping with another longstanding tradition of bipartisan cooperation in approving nominees to the five-member EEOC, President Donald Trump earlier this year agreed to a request by Senate Democrats that he nominate Feldblum for a third term on the EEOC. At the same time, Trump nominated two others to the EEOC at the request of Senate Republicans.

Trump was following a tradition carried out by nearly every U.S. president since the EEOC was created by Congress in 1965 to enforce the employment nondiscrimination provisions of the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964. Since that time three of the five commissioners have been selected for a four-year term by the party that holds the presidency while the other two have been selected by the minority party.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who has led efforts in support Feldblum’s nomination, pointed out in remarks on the Senate floor on Wednesday that the Senate has approved nearly all EEOC nominees by a unanimous consent. When she asked for unanimous consent for the confirmation of Feldblum along with GOP nominees Janel Dhillon and Daniel Gade, Lee objected.

Among other things, Lee accused Feldblum of being a strong and unreasonable opponent of “religious freedom” and claimed Feldblum has stated openly that in employment discrimination cases, an employer cannot cite religious beliefs as a legal ground for refusing to hire someone.

“Ms. Feldblum has written that she sees a conflict between religious belief and LGBT liberty as ‘a zero-sum game’ where ‘a gain for one side necessarily entails a corresponding loss for the other side,’” Lee quoted Feldblum as saying.

“These are not the words of an open-minded lawyer,” he continued. “These are the words of an activist intent on stamping out all opposition to her cause.”

Lee also said he opposes Feldblum’s nomination because of her longstanding and active role in pushing for legalizing same-sex marriage, something Lee said he strongly opposes because it’s at odds with his religious beliefs.

Murray disputed Lee’s interpretation of Feldblum’s statements pertaining to the issue of employment discrimination. She also pointed out that by blocking a resolution for the joint approval of Feldblum and the other two nominees, Lee’s action would result in the lack of a quorum on the EEOC because there would be just two of the five commissioners in office beginning on Jan. 1.

Such a development could prevent the EEOC from deciding on important employment discrimination and sexual harassment cases expected to be brought before the commission in 2019, Murray said.

“I come to the floor today to raise concerns about the unprecedented and partisan obstruction of a highly qualified nominee to a critical agency,” Murray said in her remarks on the Senate floor.

“In this country it is illegal to discriminate against someone in the workplace because of the traits that make them who they are – their race, religion, sex, disability, and more – and it is the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s responsibility to enforce those laws and give every person the opportunity to make a living for themselves without fear of discrimination or harassment,” Murray said.

She and others supporting Feldblum’s nomination have also noted that Feldblum played a key role in persuading the EEOC to interpret existing federal laws to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Lee has cited Feldblum’s actions along those lines as among the reasons why he’s opposing her nomination for a third term on the commission.

“Right now, a single Republican senator is threatening to derail the confirmation of Ms. Feldblum for another term on the EEOC,” Murray said. “Ms. Feldblum has served two terms on the EEOC, where she has earned the respect of her professional colleagues on both sides of the aisle,” Murray said. “She has strong support from Republicans and Democrats in the Senate, and she has been confirmed by this Senate twice.”

The New York-based national LGBT advocacy organization GLAAD is among the organizations and individuals supporting Feldblum that are calling on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to use his authority to release the Feldblum nomination from Lee’s hold and bring it to the Senate floor for a vote.

“Commissioner Feldblum has served the EEOC with integrity and is experienced and highly qualified for the job,” said GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis. “With many Americans seeking justice and surviving discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace, it’s imperative that the country’s top political reporters cover this alarming problem,” said Ellis, who was referring to GLAAD’s concern that mainstream media outlets have not reported the holdup of Feldblum’s nomination.

“One anti-LGBTQ activist should not silence many people seeking justice under the law,” Ellis said.

Also expressing support for Feldblum’s nomination this week was Jerri Ann Henry, who earlier this month assumed the role of executive director of the national LGBT group Log Cabin Republicans.

“Log Cabin Republicans is disheartened to hear that Republican Senator Mike Lee is delaying the bipartisan confirmation of Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) nominee Chai Feldblum over her support for same-sex marriage,” Henry said in a statement.

“Marriage equality is the law of the land, and a right supported by the vast majority of Americans,” Henry said. “Members of the EEOC have an obligation to uphold established law to ensure no American faces wrongful workplace discrimination for their gender, race, religion, or the gender of their spouse,” she said. “In this regard, Ms. Feldblum has carried out her role with distinction,” added Henry.

“If Sen. Lee wants to better represent Republicans on this issue, he should do so by supporting marriage, not by playing politics over settled law,” she said.

When asked by the Blade at the U.S. Capitol on Thursday for further comment on his opposition to the Feldblum nomination, Lee declined to comment and referred the Blade to his remarks on the Senate floor on Wednesday.

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National

Writer’s Guild of America & studios have reached a tentative deal

“We are, as of today, suspending WGA picketing. Instead, if you are able, we encourage you to join the SAG-AFTRA picket lines this week”

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WGA/Los Angeles Blade graphic

HOLLYWOOD – The end may be in sight for the strike by The Writers Guild of America that has lasted more than 140 days and put thousands of people out of work. On Sunday, the WGA Negotiating Committee said that the union and the major Hollywood studios have reached a tentative deal for a new contract, although the deal must still be ratified by the union’s 11,500 members.

In a statement released by the WGA Sunday evening the WGA Negotiating Committee leadership wrote:

“We have reached a tentative agreement on a new 2023 MBA, which is to say an agreement in principle on all deal points, subject to drafting final contract language. 

What we have won in this contract—most particularly, everything we have gained since May 2nd—is due to the willingness of this membership to exercise its power, to demonstrate its solidarity, to walk side-by-side, to endure the pain and uncertainty of the past 146 days. It is the leverage generated by your strike, in concert with the extraordinary support of our union siblings, that finally brought the companies back to the table to make a deal. […]

What remains now is for our staff to make sure everything we have agreed to is codified in final contract language. And though we are eager to share the details of what has been achieved with you, we cannot do that until the last “i” is dotted. To do so would complicate our ability to finish the job. So, as you have been patient with us before, we ask you to be patient again—one last time. 

Once the Memorandum of Agreement with the AMPTP is complete, the Negotiating Committee will vote on whether to recommend the agreement and send it on to the WGAW Board and WGAE Council for approval. The Board and Council will then vote on whether to authorize a contract ratification vote by the membership. 

If that authorization is approved, the Board and Council would also vote on whether to lift the restraining order and end the strike at a certain date and time (to be determined) pending ratification. This would allow writers to return to work during the ratification vote, but would not affect the membership’s right to make a final determination on contract approval. 

Immediately after those leadership votes, which are tentatively scheduled for Tuesday if the language is settled, we will provide a comprehensive summary of the deal points and the Memorandum of Agreement. We will also convene meetings where members will have the opportunity to learn more about and assess the deal before voting on ratification. 

To be clear, no one is to return to work until specifically authorized to by the Guild. We are still on strike until then. But we are, as of today, suspending WGA picketing. Instead, if you are able, we encourage you to join the SAG-AFTRA picket lines this week.”

 

Governor Gavin Newsom issued the following statement in response to the tentative agreement reached by the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers:

“California’s entertainment industry would not be what it is today without our world class writers. For over 100 days, 11,000 writers went on strike over existential threats to their careers and livelihoods — expressing real concerns over the stress and anxiety workers are feeling. I am grateful that the two sides have come together to reach an agreement that benefits all parties involved, and can put a major piece of California’s economy back to work.”

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Connecticut

Connecticut police investigate bomb threat to Pride Center

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Gay Pride Center on Orange Street in New Haven, Connecticut. (Screenshot/YouTube Fox 61.com)

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — New Haven Police in this coastal city on Long Island Sound, home to the Ivy League Yale University, are investigating a bomb threat made to the New Haven Pride Center.

According to local Fox affiliate Fox61/WTIC-TV, the bomb threat came via email and threatened that an explosive device would be activated at 1:00 pm at the Center located in the downtown area in the hundredth block of Orange Street.

As a precaution multiple downtown streets were closed and patients from the DaVita Dialysis Center located on the floor above the LGBTQ Center were evacuated via ambulances that had responded.

Police, after determining there was not an explosive device by NHPD Hazardous Device Team deemed the building safe as of 1:45 p.m., but are continuing their investigation into the incident.

In a phone call with Fox 61, Juancarlos Soto, the LGBTQ+ Center’s executive director said:

“I mean, we’re we’re a little shaky. I think regardless of whenever you get something like this, it shakes you a little bit and reminds you that that, you know, LGBTQ people are under attack across our entire country. There’s a race and LGBTQ rhetoric and rhetoric and violence against LGBTQ people. You know, I think it also reminds us of the importance of safe spaces, you know, and how even in 2023, we have so much to fight still for our community and make sure that we are safe.”

“I think it has the opposite effect of what this person intended, right. Because it bolsters your your your strength to continue to fight for a community. And it it puts us on the path to to to just keep going, Soto added. 

West Hartford Pride released a statement afterwards in solitary with the New Haven center:

“West Hartford Pride stands strongly with our friends at the New Haven Pride Center, its staff, and the New Haven Community. At West Hartford Pride, our motto is STAND AGAINST HATE. When one of us is attacked, we are all attacked.

This despicable act is one of hate and cowardice. We applaud the New Haven Pride Center for their quick actions to keep everyone safe, and their commitment to continuing to serve their community. We look forward to standing with the New Haven Pride Center at a rescheduled Pride Celebration. When we stand together in defiance of hatred and bigotry, we are stronger.”

New Haven police investigate bomb threat made to Gay Pride Center:

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New York

NYPD: Brooklyn library’s Drag Story Hour moved after bomb threat

“These are children, and children just want to hear stories … It’s a shame how somebody just ruined it and threatened violence”

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The Cortelyou branch of Brooklyn Public Library at 1305 Cortelyou Road, Brooklyn, New York. (Photo Credit: Brooklyn Public Library)

BROOKLYN – The New York Police Department confirmed that a bomb threat was emailed to the Cortelyou branch of Brooklyn Public Library forcing the staff and patrons to relocate the scheduled Drag Queen Story Hour just prior to the event Saturday morning.

The NYPD confirmed Saturday afternoon that an email addressed to a library staff person sourced to an unknown person with a Buffalo, New York origin threatened that a bomb would detonate at 11:30 a.m., and according to a NYPD spokesperson a male caller also phoned 911 about the threat.

The NYPD’s canine and emergency services units briefly evacuated the branch and did a search but did not locate a device or anything suspicious. “Officers responded to a bomb threat. There were no devices located,” said the spokesperson.

The New York Post reported the drag queens moved their event to a Connecticut Muffin coffee shop a block away after convincing staffers there to help. About seven children and parents attended.

“It’s a shame, and it’s something that’s extremely dangerous,” fumed a parent of a 2-year-old girl who sat in on the reading.

“These are children, and children just want to hear stories … It’s a shame how somebody just ruined it and threatened violence.”

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U.S. Federal Courts

Federal judge overturns Calif. high capacity magazines ban again

There are over 110 gun deaths daily & nearly 41,000 per year in the U.S. Guns are the leading cause of death of children & adolescents

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Gun ammunition magazines with capacity of holding more than 10 rounds. (Screenshot/YouTube)

SAN DIEGO, Calif. – California Governor Gavin Newsom and Attorney General Rob Bonta reacted sharply to a ruling Friday by a federal judge blocking California’s ban on gun ammunition magazines with capacity of holding more than 10 rounds.

U.S. District Court Judge Roger Benitez, a President George W. Bush appointee on the bench of the Southern District of California wrote: “This case is about a California state law that makes it a crime to keep and bear common firearm magazines typically possessed for lawful purposes. Based on the text, history, and tradition of the Second Amendment, this law is clearly unconstitutional.”

This is not the only time Benitez has ruled against the ban by the state on high capacity magazines. The Sacramento Bee noted that Benitez struck down California’s large-capacity ammunition ban originally in 2019 — when the case was still called Duncan v. Becerra, for then-Attorney General Xavier Becerra — only for the case to make it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which kicked it back down for further proceedings.

In his opinion today Benitez wrote, “The fact that there are so many different numerical limits demonstrates the arbitrary nature of magazine capacity limits,” referring to similar bans in other states but with differing numbers of rounds limited.

He also noted several cases where he said ammunition capacity “was a matter of life and death for lawful gun owners.”

“There have been, and there will be, times where many more than 10 rounds are needed to stop attackers. […] Woe to the victim who runs out of ammunition before armed attackers do. The police will mark the ground with chalk, count the number of shell casings, and file the report.”

In a statement released by his office, Newsom took aim at the ruling:

“Unsurprisingly, Judge Benitez chose to issue this radical decision on the same day President Biden announced his new Office of Gun Violence Prevention. As a reminder, this is the same judge who used Gun Violence Awareness Day to strike down California’s assault weapons ban — comparing the AR-15 to a Swiss Army knife. 

“Judge Benitez is not even pretending anymore. This is politics, pure and simple.  

“It’s time to wake up. Unless we enshrine a Right to Safety in the Constitution, we are at the mercy of ideologues like Judge Benitez. All of our gun safety laws that are proven to save lives are at risk. It doesn’t matter what laws we pass. It doesn’t matter what the voters decide. Concealed carry. Banning weapons of war. Reasonable waiting periods. Background checks. The idealogues are coming for all of them. 

“This is exactly why I’ve called for a Constitutional amendment, and this is why I’ll keep fighting to defend our right to protect ourselves from gun violence.”

California Attorney General Rob Bonta immediately filed a notice of appeal to overturn the decision. The notice of appeal, filed just hours after Benitez issued his decision and temporary stay, is the first step toward seeking a further stay of the decision by the Ninth Circuit pending appeal. 

“In the past half-century, large-capacity magazines have been used in about three-quarters of gun massacres with 10 or more deaths and in 100 percent of gun massacres with 20 or more deaths,” said Attorney General Bonta. “We will continue to fight for our authority to keep Californians safe from weapon enhancements designed to cause mass casualties. The Supreme Court was clear that Bruen did not create a regulatory straitjacket for states — and we believe that the district court got this wrong. We will move quickly to correct this incredibly dangerous mistake. We will not stop in our efforts to protect the safety of communities and Californians’ rights to go about their business without fear of becoming victims of gun violence, while at the same time respecting the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding gun owners.”

Gun violence remains a growing threat to public safety throughout the nation. Mass shootings are on the rise throughout the country and frequently feature large-capacity magazines, causing more deaths and injuries.

On average, there are over 110 gun deaths each day and nearly 41,000 each year in the U.S. Guns are the leading cause of death among children and adolescents, with U.S. children being more likely to die from gun violence than in any other comparable country. 

In 2021, California was ranked as the #1 state for gun safety by Giffords Law Center, and the state saw a 37% lower gun death rate than the national average. According to the CDC, California’s gun death rate was the 44th lowest in the nation and the gun death rate for children is 58% lower than the national average.

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The White House

White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention launched

The administration said its aim is to implement and expand the provisions of last year’s Bipartisan Safer Communities Act

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President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris listen as Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-FL10) addresses an audience in the Rose Garden including federal, state and local officials, survivors and family members, and gun violence prevention advocates. (Photo Credit: Brandon Wolf)

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and U.S. Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-Fla.) addressed an audience from the Rose Garden of the White House on Friday to honor the establishment of a first-ever White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention.

In a press release Thursday announcing the move, the administration said its aim is to implement and expand the provisions of last year’s Bipartisan Safer Communities Act along with those contained in the president’s executive orders targeting issues of gun violence.

Additionally, Biden explained in his remarks, the office will coordinate more support for survivors, families and communities, including mental health services and financial aid; identify new avenues for executive action; and “expand our coalition of partners in states and cities across America” given the need for legislative solutions on the local and state level.

Harris, who will oversee the office, pledged to “use the full power of the federal government to strengthen the coalition of survivors and advocates and students and teachers and elected leaders to save lives and fight for the right of all people to be safe from fear and to be able to live a life where they understand that they are supported in that desire and that right.”

The vice president noted her close experiences with the devastating consequences of gun violence in her work as a federal prosecutor, San Francisco district attorney, California attorney general and in her current role.

Biden’s comments also included highlights of his administration’s accomplishments combatting gun violence and a call to action for Congress to do more. “It’s time again to ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines,” he told lawmakers.

The president also credited the the work of advocates including those who were gathered at the White House on Friday: “all of you here today, all across the country, survivors, families, advocates — especially young people who demand our nation do better to protect all; who protested, organized, voted, and ran for office, and, yes, marched for their lives.”

Taking the stage before introducing Biden, Frost noted that “Right before I was elected to Congress, I served as the national organizing director for March for Our Lives, a movement that inspired young people across the nation to demand safe communities.”

“The president understands that this issue especially for young people, especially for marginalized communities, is a matter of survival,” the congressman said. And the formation of this office, “comes from Pulse to Parkland,” he said, adding, “we fight because we love.”

Human Rights Campaign National Press Secretary Brandon Wolf, a survivor of the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting, which was America’s second deadliest mass shooting and the deadliest against the LGBTQ community, shared a comment with the Washington Blade after Friday’s ceremony:

“Seven years ago, when my best friends and 47 others were murdered at our safe place — Pulse Nightclub — we promised to honor them with action. This is what that looks like. This deep investment in the fight to end gun violence matters, and I cannot wait to see Vice President Harris lead these efforts. We can blaze the path toward a future free of gun violence. And today marked an important step in that direction.”

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Virginia

Parents sue Virginia Beach school board over trans policy

Two parents are seeking to force schools to adopt Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s new policies for treatment of trans students

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Virginia Beach City Public Schools EV school bus fleet. (Photo Credit: Virginia Beach City Public Schools)

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – Two parents in Virginia Beach have filed a lawsuit that seeks to force the city’s school district to implement the state’s new guidelines for transgender and nonbinary students.

NBC Washington on Friday reported the conservative-leaning Cooper and Kirk, a D.C.-based law firm, filed the lawsuit in Virginia Beach Circuit Court.

The Virginia Department of Education in July announced the new guidelines for which Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin asked. Arlington County Public Schools, Fairfax County Public Schools and Prince William County Schools are among the school districts that have refused to implement them. 

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U.S. Federal Courts

Federal Judge says drag is ‘vulgar & lewd’ ‘sexualized conduct’

Anti-LGBTQ activists perpetuate lies that LGBTQ community targets children for sexual abuse by bringing them to drag performances

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Marvin Jones Federal Building & U.S. Courthouse, Amarillo, Texas (Photo Credit: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division)

AMARILLO, Texas — Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas issued a ruling Thursday denying relief to a group of university students who sought to host a drag show over the objections of their school’s president.

A Trump appointed jurist with deep ties to anti-LGBTQ and anti-abortion conservative legal activists, Kacsmaryk argued that drag performances probably do not constitute speech protected by the First Amendment.

As Slate Senior Writer Mark Joseph Stern wrote on X, this conclusion “conflicts with decisions from Texas, Florida, Tennessee, and Montana which held that drag is constitutionally protected expression.”

“It also bristles with undisguised hostility toward LGBTQ people,” he added.

Kacsmaryk’s 26-page decision describes drag performances as lewd and licentious, obscene and sexually prurient, despite arguments the plaintiffs had presented about the social, political, and artistic merit of this art form.

As the Human Rights Campaign recently wrote, “drag artists and the spaces that host their performances have long served as a communal environment for queer expression.”

The group added, “It is a form of art and entertainment, but, historically, the performances haven’t only served to entertain, but also to truly advance the empowerment and visibility of LGBTQ+ people.”

Nevertheless, anti-LGBTQ conservative activists and organizations have perpetuated conspiracy theories about members of the community targeting children for sexual abuse including by bringing them to drag performances.

Among these is a group with ties to the Proud Boys that was cited by Kacsmaryk in his ruling: Gays Against Groomers, an anti-LGBTQ and anti-transgender extremist group, according to the Anti-Defamation League and Southern Poverty Law Center.

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Ohio

Ohio school superintendent orders LGBTQ+ mural painted over

Debate over discussions about race, inclusion, & LGBTQ+ issues in Forest Hills Schools was reignited by the decision to paint over the mural

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The student created LGBTQ+ affirming mural inside Nagel Middle School before it was painted over. ( Photo Credit: Forest Hills Schools board member Leslie Rasmussen)

Cincinnati, Ohio – The Forest Hills Schools Board of Education meeting erupted in controversy Wednesday night as parents and community members reacted to the decision to paint over a student-created LGBTQ+ affirming mural at the start of the school year.

Superintendent Larry Hook, who was targeted by audience members during the public comments session, remained silent and did not respond to the criticism directly.

Cincinnati Public Radio station WVXU 91.7 FM reported that debate over discussions about race, inclusion, and LGBTQ+ issues in Forest Hills Schools was reignited by Hook’s decision to paint over the student-created mural, which depicted the hands of people of different races signaling love and solidarity surrounded by symbols of equality and acceptance of various sexual orientations.

According to WVXU 91.7 FM, dozens showed up to Wednesday’s meeting holding signs of the mural. Forest Hills parent Jeff Nye addressed Hook directly, calling his response to the initial backlash childish.

“A 7th or 8th grade kid — 12- or 13-years-old — damaged that banner and that’s unacceptable and should be punished,” Nye said. “But before that happened, you had an opportunity to reflect and take action, value the feedback you received, to lead by example, to lead with humility, and say ‘I made a mistake, I shouldn’t have put it there,’ but you didn’t. You doubled down. You didn’t act like leader. You acted like a kid. You took your ball and you went home and I’m incredibly disappointed.”

High school student Norah Zellen also had strong words for Hook, saying that permanently covering the mural will have a more negative impact on students than district leaders thought.

“The mural exhibited a safe and inclusive learning environment, yet it was painted over. This action shows thoughtlessness, a lack of authenticity, and calls into question if the school board and superintendent want some students erased,” Zellen told Hook.

The Superintendent defended his decision remarking:

“I’ve talked to a lot of people who were very upset that it was there,” he said. “So, it’s kind of created this battle that shouldn’t even be in schools. We need to focus on our education. We need to focus on what’s important. That doesn’t mean we marginalize anybody.”

WVXU 91.7 FM also reported that a small number of adults spoke out during public comment defending Hook’s decision. One attendee, who took offense to parents and students supporting the mural, was removed by law enforcement after getting into a physical interaction with another audience member.

Forest Hills School District Board of Education Meeting 9-20-23:

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The White House

White House announces Office of Gun Violence Prevention

The first-ever White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention, to be overseen by Vice President Kamala Harris

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The first-ever White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention is to be overseen by Vice President Kamala Harris shown here in September 2023. (Official White House photograph by Lawrence Jackson)

WASHINGTON – The White House announced Thursday evening that President Joe Biden on Friday will establish the first-ever White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention, to be overseen by Vice President Kamala Harris.

The office will focus on implementing and expanding upon executive and legislative actions, including the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, “to reduce gun violence, which has ravaged communities across the country.”

Serving under Harris will be Stefanie Feldman, “a longtime policy advisor to President Biden on gun violence prevention,” and “leading gun violence prevention advocates Greg Jackson and Rob Wilcox.”

“Every time I’ve met with families impacted by gun violence as they mourn their loved ones, and I’ve met with so many throughout the country, they all have the same message for their elected officials: ‘do something,'” Biden said in a statement.

Then Vice President Biden hugs Brandon J. Wolf as he talks with family members of the victims and survivors in the June 12th mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida, June 16, 2016.
Wolf, a Pulse survivor, was recently appointed National Press Secretary of the Human Rights Campaign.
(Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

The president noted his signing of last year’s bipartisan gun violence prevention law, a flagship legislative accomplishment for the administration, along with his issuance of more executive actions than any president in history to address this problem.

Calling these “just the first steps,” Biden said the establishment of the White House Office on Gun Violence Prevention will “build upon these measures and keep Americans safe.”

He also urged Congress to do more by passing legislation requiring universal background checks, and baning assault weapons and high capacity magazines.

In a statement, Harris said, “This epidemic of gun violence requires urgent leadership to end the fear and trauma that Americans experience every day.”

“The new Office of Gun Violence Prevention will play a critical role in implementing President Biden’s and my efforts to reduce violence to the fullest extent under the law,” she said, “while also engaging and encouraging Congressional leaders, state and local leaders, and advocates to come together to build upon the meaningful progress that we have made to save lives.”

“Our promise to the American people is this: we will not stop working to end the epidemic of gun violence in every community, because we do not have a moment, nor a life to spare,” the vice president said.

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Congress

House GOP sinks spending bill, Dems object to anti-LGBTQ riders

Speaker McCarthy: “Frustrating in the sense that I don’t understand why anybody votes against bringing the idea and having the debate”

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House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) in a speaking engagement. (Photo Credit: Office of Speaker Kevin McCarthy)

WASHINGTON – A group of four hardline House Republicans on Thursday joined Democratic colleagues to sink their own spending bill, a $886 billion military appropriations package full of riders from GOP members that include anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ provisions.

The 216-212 vote raised the likelihood of a government shutdown if lawmakers are unable to forge a path forward before the end of September.

“Instead of decreasing the chance of a shutdown, Speaker McCarthy is actually increasing it by wasting time on extremist proposals that cannot become law in the Senate,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said.

His counterpart in the House, Republican Speaker Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) expressed frustration with his own caucus, characterizing the impasse he has reached with colleagues as “frustrating in the sense that I don’t understand why anybody votes against bringing the idea and having the debate.”

“And then you got all the amendments if you don’t like the bill,” he continued. “This is a whole new concept of individuals that just want to burn the whole place down — it doesn’t work.”

A group of 155 House Democrats on Thursday issued a letter objecting to anti-LGBTQ provisions in the bill, the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act, addressing the message to U.S. Sens. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), chair and ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and U.S. Reps. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) and Adam Smith (D-Wash.), chair and ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee.

The effort was led by Congressional Equality Caucus Chair U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and the co-chairs of the Caucus’s Transgender Equality Task Force, U.S. Reps. Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.) and Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.).

Specifically, the letter argues several anti-equality amendments would “actively target LGBTQ+ service members and LGBTQ+ dependents and threaten the recruitment, retention, and readiness of our Armed Forces.”

Among these are riders prohibiting coverage of gender affirming healthcare interventions for service members and their dependents; banning LGBTQ Pride flags, drag shows and other events; and restricting funding for certain books in schools operated by the Department of Defense Education Activity.

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