William Barr, President Trump’s pick to become the next attorney general, held his cards close to the vest on LGBT issues Tuesday during his confirmation hearing, but hinted upon confirmation he’d pursue the anti-LGBT policies of his predecessor Jeff Sessions.
The answers from Barr suggest he’d continue to uphold the Justice Department’s view that LGBT people aren’t protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights of 1964, which bars sex discrimination in the workforce. Additionally, Barr suggested he’d uphold religious freedom even at the expense of anti-LGBT discrimination.
In his opening statement before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Barr recognized the increasing number of hate crimes in the United States, including LGBT people, and pledged to address them under the Matthew Shepard & James Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009.
“We can only survive and thrive as a nation if we are mutually tolerant of each other’s differences, whether they be differences based on race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or political thinking,” Barr said. “And yet, we see some people violently attacking others simply because of their differences. We must have zero tolerance for such crimes, and I will make this a priority as attorney general if confirmed.”
But under questioning on LGBT issues from Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Barr indicated enforcement of the hate crimes law would likely be the extent of his pro-LGBT advocacy at the Justice Department.
Booker initiated the questioning on LGBT issues by referencing a 1995 article Barr wrote for a conservative Catholic publication that laments growing acceptance of the LGBT movement compared to religious communities.
Asserting the 1995 article demonstrated a view being LGBT was immoral, Booker asked Barr whether he still holds those views, Barr replied “no,” but disputed the article conveyed anti-LGBT views.
After Booker insisted he was quoting the actual language, Barr said he’d inform the committee about his views. Barr reflected on the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling for same-sex marriage.
“If I had been voting on it at the time — my view is that under the law, under the Constitution, as I originally conceived it before it was decided by the Supreme Court, marriage was to be regulated by the states, and if it was brought to me, I would have favored martial unions, single-sex,” Barr said.
When Booker interjected he was questioning Barr about his views in the 1995 article and whether the LGBT movement is immoral, Barr expressed a need for tolerance.
“In a pluralistic society like ours, there has be to a live-and-let-live attitude, and mutual tolerance, which has to be a two-way street,” Barr said. “My concern, and the rest of the article addresses this, is I am perfectly fine with the law as it is, for example, with gay marriage, perfectly fine, but I want accommodation for religion.”
When the New Jersey Democrat interjected LGBT youth are disproportionately bullied at schools, Barr interrupted to recognize anti-LGBT hate crimes. Booker acknowledged that before adding many LGBT youth report they are missing school because of fear of being bullied and are disproportionately homeless.
Booker asked Barr whether he thinks laws “designed to protect LGBT individuals from discrimination contribute to what you describe as a breakdown for traditional morality.”
Barr replied “no,” but added, “I also believe there has to be accommodation to religious communities.”
Booker acknowledged, “You and I believe in freedom of religion,” but shifted the focus to anti-gay workplace discrimination. Barr replied, “I think’s that wrong.”
When Booker asked whether that means the Justice Department should protect LGBT kids from harassment and hate crimes and pursue efforts to protect the civil rights of LGBT Americans, Barr replied. “I support that.”
Referencing his opening statement, Barr said, “As I said in the beginning, I’m very concerned about the increase in hate crimes.”
But when Booker asked Barr if he sees a role for the Justice Department in banning anti-LGBT discrimination, the nominee had a different take. Barr replied, “If Congress passes such a law.”
Barr then referenced the petitions currently before the U.S. Supreme Court seeking clarification on whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which bars discrimination on the basis of sex in the workplace, applies to cases of anti-LGBT discrimination.
“I think the litigation going on now on Title VII is what the the 1964 act actually contemplated, but personally, I think —,” Barr said.
Before Barr could finish and venture an opinion on Title VII, Booker interrupted and asked to verify whether lawmakers contemplated including LGBT people in Title VII. Barr rejected that idea, saying “no.”
“I think it was male-female that they were talking about when they said sex in the ’64 act,” Barr added.
Booker then interjected again by conflating anti-LGBT discrimination with sexual harassment: “So protecting someone’s basic rights to be free from discrimination because of sexual harassment is not something the Department of Justice should be protecting?”
Playing with one of the many U.S. Senate coasters before him on the witness stand, Barr insisted the onus is on Congress to make the law.
“I’m saying Congress passes the law, the Justice Department enforces the law,” Barr said. “I think the ’64 act on its face — and this is what is being litigated, what does it cover? I think for like three or four decades, the LGBT community has been trying to amend the law.”
Booker interrupted again before Barr could finish, saying the Obama administration’s Justice Department “was working to protect LGBT kids from discrimination.” (The Justice Department in the Obama years asserted anti-trans discrimination was illegal under Title VII, but took no position with respect to the law on anti-gay discrimination despite pleas from LGBT rights supporters.)
When Booker asked if Barr would pursue the Obama administration practices, Barr replied, “I don’t know what you’re referring to.”
“I’m against discrimination against anyone because of some status, their gender or their sexual orientation or whatever,” Barr continued.
Hirono picked up where Booker left off, asking Barr directly about the Justice Department’s friend-of-the-court brief before the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals arguing anti-gay discrimination isn’t covered under Title VII. As Hirono noted, both the Second Circuit and the Seventh Circuit have “rejected the department’s argument” about the law.
The Hawaii Democrat asked Barr if he’d appeal those decisions to the U.S. Supreme Court. In response, Barr seemingly referenced the petitions before justices, noting, “I think it is going up to the Supreme Court.”
When Hirono asked if DOJ will continue to argue Title VII doesn’t bar anti-gay discrimination, Barr initially declined to answer directly.
“It’s pending litigation and I haven’t gotten in to review the department’s litigation position, but the matter will be decided by the Supreme Court,” Barr said.
Hirono responded: “That sounds like a ‘yes’ to me. The department will continue to push the argument that has been rejected.”
At this point, Barr tipped his hand on his view Title VII doesn’t cover anti-gay discrimination.
“It’s not just the department’s argument,” Barr said. “It’s been sort of common understanding for almost 40 years.”
Asked by Hirono if discrimination is OK, Barr replied, “That’s not at all what I’m saying. I’m saying the question is the interpretation of the statute passed in 1964.”
“As I’ve already said, I personally, as a matter of my own personal feelings think there should be laws that prohibit discrimination against gay people,” Hirono said.
When Hirono asked Barr if he’d review the Justice Department’s position, Barr replied, “No. Because there’s a difference between law and policy.”
“I will enforce the laws as passed by Congress,” Barr said. “I’m not going to amend them. I’m not going to undercut them. I’m not going to try to work my way around them and evade them.
Hirono responded: “The DOJ doesn’t have to file an amicus brief either.”
The Hawaii Democrat wasn’t done on LGBT issues, asking Barr about an explosive report in the New York Times asserting the Department of Health & Human Services was preparing a rule to define transgender people out of existence under Title IX of the Education Amendment of 1972.
Asked by Hirono if he believes transgender people are protected from discrimination under Title IX, Barr dodged.
“I think that matter’s being litigated in the Supreme Court, too,” Barr said.
When Barr added he doesn’t know the Justice Department’s position on the issue, Hirono said she’d ask him to review the issue.
LGBT groups have raised concerns about Barr’s confirmation as attorney general, asserting he lacks a commitment to protecting civil rights. (One longtime gay friend of Barr’s, however, former Time Warner general counsel Paul Cappuccio, has defended the nominee, telling the Blade, “He’s not going to ever let people be discriminated against, OK?”)
Jon Davidson, chief counsel of Freedom for All Americans, said Barr’s testimony “did little to assuage those concerns” of LGBT rights groups.
“While he testified he is “fine” with “gay marriage,” his comments that there “has to be accommodation to religion” — something not required or even permitted for other people’s marriages — is very disturbing,” Davidson said.
Davidson also raised concerns about Barr’s response on whether Title VII should cover anti-gay discrimination.
“In addition, although he said he thinks firing someone based on their sexual orientation is ‘wrong,’ he refused to disagree with the anti-LGBTQ positions the Justice Department has been taking when it comes to Title VII and he erroneously asserted that Title VII should be limited to what Congress believed it was accomplishing in passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” Davidson said. “That position has already been rejected several times by the Supreme Court, which has said that what Congress had in mind at the time is not controlling.
Ultimately, Davidson had a dismal forecast for Barr’s stewardship of the Justice Department.
“It appears that he intends to carry forward the positions of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, which have consistently opposed equal rights for LGBTQ people,” Davidson said.
Sharon McGowan, chief strategy officer for Lambda Legal, also said Barr’s testimony didn’t allay her concerns.
“I think he said absolutely nothing to alleviate any of the concerns that we have based on his record, and if anything, his comments only demonstrate that he is exactly what his record suggests that he is, which is someone who will not be a champion for civil rights generally or LGBT equality specifically,” McGowan said.
Barr’s confirmation hearing took place as the Justice Department is defending President Trump’s transgender military ban in court and has called on the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene. Barr didn’t address the policy, nor did any member of the Senate Judiciary Committee inquire about Barr’s view on the issue.
ILGA-Europe: New program for racialized LGBTQ+ communities
The new initiative will be supporting up to 15 organizations’ work on socio-economic justice for racialized LGBTI communities
BRUSSELS, Belgium – ILGA-Europe announced a new two part 12-month program focused on the work being done by and for racialized LGBTQ+ communities across Europe this week.
According to the international LGBTQ+ advocacy non-profit, the new initiative will be supporting up to 15 organizations’ work on socio-economic justice for racialized LGBTQ+ communities through a combination of grants and other resources.
The program has two interconnected components:
- Financial support for the implementation of a project (up to 20.000 euro per project), AND
- Learning and networking that will bring grantees together (on-line) on a regular basis to exchange learning, share challenges and solutions, build solidarity and find points for collaboration and inspiration.
The aim of this program is to:
- Bring together a group of up to 15 European LGBTI organizations/groups across Europe that work on addressing the intersectional impact of socio-economic injustice, racialization, racism and supremacy and specific harms affecting the lives of racialized LGBTI communities across Europe.
- Support, strengthen and advance their work on socio-economic justice for racialized LGBTI communities through a combination of grants and regular peer-learning/networking meetings.
ILGA-Europe noted that currently, the LGBTI movement across Europe operates in an increasingly hostile environment that directly affects the lives of LGBTI communities and the work of activists.
This environment is marked by anti-rights opposition, anti-democratic developments, rising unemployment, economic crises, ongoing and brewing geo-political conflicts, deepening structural inequalities, fear-mongering, mounting transphobic, and sexist and racist rhetoric and violence.
In a statement, ILGA-Europe said:
“So many organizations and groups have been doing incredible work and contributing to change, while at the same time being historically excluded from funding. By supporting these groups, we also wish to recognise and acknowledge the specialized knowledge and skills involved in addressing intersectionality. This can mean anything from exposing structural oppressions that shape harm; building and sustaining the resilience of racialized communities; developing and applying anti-racist, feminist and alternative approaches; to working through – and in spite of – institutional violence and trauma.
This programme expresses our commitment to continue our engagement with socio-economic justice and to strengthen our work on anti-racism. We see a great value for the wider movement in making the work of the organizations supported, disseminated and visible. We see an opportunity to bring the learning from this programme to the wider movement, as we believe that solutions and approaches that include a few will pave the way and point to the solutions for many.”
Key information & details:
In selecting proposals, ILGA-Europe will prioritise projects that:
- Demonstrate clear understanding of how the intersection of LGBTI identities, socio-economic injustice and racialisation works in their local contexts
- Present a clear plan for how the envisaged change is going to come about in these contexts
- Seek to establish practices/tools/solutions that can live beyond the project’s lifetime
- Have the potential to enhance the movement’s thinking on anti-racism and working towards socio-economic justice in general and for socio-economic justice for racialised LGBTI communities in particular.
- Respond to the framework, aim, objectives, and areas of work of this call
- Are implemented by LGBTI-run organisations and initiative groups in Europe that have history and practice of working with and for racialised LGBTI communities
Deadline & Timeline:
- Proposals should be submitted using the attached application form and budget template. The last day to submit your application (deadline) is 2 April 2023, Sunday, 23:59 CEST.
- We will review applications, decide on projects to be supported and inform all applicants about the results of the review via the e-mail address provided in the application by 5 May 2023.
- Contracts will be signed with organisations in May 2023. Successful applicants should be available to respond to requests during that period. The project must start on 1 June 2023.
- To submit an application or if you have any questions in the preparation of your project proposal, please contact: [email protected]
If you have any questions in the preparation of your project proposal please submit them via e-mail to [email protected]
We will answer all of your questions via e-mail and then publish answers on a dedicated ilga-europe.org website page on 27 February and on 23 March, in order to share the information among all applicants.
Activists around the world welcome Pope Francis’ decriminalization comments
Church teaching about homosexuality remains unchanged
CURITIBA, Brazil — Activists around the world say Pope Francis’ comments against criminalization laws are a milestone for the global LGBTQ+ and intersex rights movement.
Toni Reis, president of Aliança Nacional LGBTI+, a Brazilian LGBTQ+ and intersex advocacy group, told the Washington Blade that Francis’ comments are “a message that needs to be assimilated by at least 70 countries that still criminalize homosexuality in some way, including 11 countries in which the death penalty can be applied.”
Reis and his husband, David Harrad, in 2017 baptized their three adopted children at a Catholic cathedral in Curitiba, a city in southern Brazil. Reis later received a letter on official Vatican letterhead that said Francis “wishes you happiness, invoking for your family the abudance of divine graces in order to live steadfastly and faithfully as good children of God and of the church.”
“We are unable to find in the recorded words of Jesus Christ, on whom the Christian faith is founded, any reference to homosexuality as a sin,” Reis told the Blade. “There is no longer room for deliberately decontextualized interpretations of the Old Testament and the books of certain Apostles in this sense.”
Francis during an exclusive interview with the Associated Press on Jan. 24 described criminalization laws as “unjust” and said “being homosexual is not a crime.”
The pontiff acknowledged some Catholic bishops support criminalization laws and other statutes that discriminate against LGBTQ+ and intersex people. Francis told the Associated Press that cultural backgrounds contribute to these attitudes, and added “bishops in particular need to undergo a process of change to recognize the dignity of everyone.”
Chantale Wong, the U.S. director of the Asian Development Bank who was born in Shanghai, is the first openly lesbian American ambassador.
Wong’s aunt and uncle enrolled her in a Catholic bording school in Macau, which at the time was a Portuguese colony, after she fled China with her grandmother in 1960. Wong was baptized and given the name Chantale after St. Jane Frances de Chantale.
She later attended an all-girls Catholic high school in Guam.
“He is definitely my pope,” tweeted Wong on Jan. 25.
— Ambassador Chantale Wong (@chantalew) January 25, 2023
Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, who is openly gay, in a tweet thanked Francis “for your strong and clear words against the criminalization of LGBTIQ+ persons in the world.” Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the independent U.N. expert on LGBTQ+ and intersex issues who traveled to Cambodia last month, echoed Bettel.
“Criminalization based on sexual orientation is contrary to international human rights law,” tweeted Madrigal-Borloz on Jan. 25. “I welcome this recognition by (the pope.)”
— IE SOGI, Victor Madrigal-Borloz (@victor_madrigal) January 25, 2023
Homosexuality is the ‘real sin’
The Vatican’s tone towards LGBTQ+ and intersex issues has softened since Francis assumed the papacy in 2013.
Francis — who vehemently opposed a marriage equality bill in his native Argentina before then-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner signed it into law in 2010 — a decade later publicly backed civil unions for same-sex couples.
The pontiff in 2013 said gay men and lesbians should not be marginalized.
Francis in 2016 later said the Roman Catholic Church should “ask forgiveness” from gay people over the way it has treated them. The pontiff in 2017 compared politicians who use hate speech against LGBTQ and intersex people and other minority groups to Adolf Hitler.
The Vatican in 2020 gave money to a group of Transgender sex workers in Italy who were struggling to survive during the coronavirus pandemic. Francis in 2021 named Juan Carlos Cruz, a gay Chilean man who is a survivor of clergy sex abuse, to a commission that advises him on protecting children from pedophile priests.
Francis last year during several of his weekly papal audiences met with trans people who were living at a Rome church.
Church teachings on homosexuality and gender identity remain unchanged despite these overtures.
Francis during the Associated Press interview referred to LGBTQ+ and intersex issues within the context of “sin.” The pontiff later sought to clarify the comment.
“When I said it is a sin, I was simply referring to Catholic moral teaching, which says that every sexual act outside of marriage is a sin,” wrote Francis in a handwritten letter he sent to the Rev. James Martin, editor of Outreach, a website for LGBTQ+ and intersex Catholics, on Jan. 27.
Pedro Julio Serrano, founder of Puerto Rico Para Todes, a Puerto Rican LGBTQ+ and intersex rights group, during an interview with the Blade acknowledged Francis “is giving a message that criminalization of the LGBTQ+ community must be fought.” Serrano added, however, the pontiff’s comments do not change church teachings.
“There is no change in dogma, there is no change in doctrine and nothing has changed in the catechism of the Catholic Church. Everything remains the same,” Serrano told the Blade. “As long as all that remains the same, there is no change.”
Serrano further stressed Francis’ categorization of homosexuality as a “sin” is paradoxical.
“Homophobia: That is the real sin,” said Serrano.
Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, a Ugandan LGBTQ+ and intersex rights group, on Tuesday noted to the Blade that he is Catholic.
Uganda is among the dozens of countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized.
Mugisha said Sexual Minorities Uganda welcomes Francis’ statement, which he made ahead of his trip to Congo and South Sudan. (Consensual same-sex sexual activity is legal in Congo, while South Sudan continues to criminalize it.)
“Being Catholic, I know the Catholic Church will respect the pope’s views and I hope the church in Africa starts working with us towards discrimination of homosexuality,” Mugisha told the Blade.
ILGA World Co-Secretaries General Luz Elena Aranda and Tuisina Ymania Brown in response to Francis’ comments said “such a simple statement has now the potential to initiate a much-needed change and will provide relief to millions of persons in our communities across the world.” ILGA World Executive Director Julia Ehrt, like Serrano, said Vatican doctrine towards LGBTQ and intersex people needs to change if the pontiff’s position against criminalization laws will have any meaningful impact.
“We urge the Holy See to turn these words into concrete action,” said Ehrt. “The Catholic Church and its institutions can and should play an active role in supporting decriminalization efforts across the world and within the United Nations and multilateral fora, where demands to scrap these profoundly wrong laws have long been reiterated.”
Outright International, a New York-based global LGBTQ+ and intersex rights group, in its response to Francis’ comments also noted church teachings.
“We welcome Pope Francis’ message of inclusion and acceptance,” said Outright International in a statement to the Blade. “Discrimination, persecution and marginalization are common experiences for LGBTIQ individuals and communities around the world. In some countries, many are subjected to conversion practices and its lifelong physical and emotional damages, which are often performed and sanctioned in the name of church teachings.”
“Religious leaders have a storied history of perpetuating misconceptions about same-sex relations, promoting them as threats to society. As such, LGBTIQ people are subject to violent attacks, harassment and social stigmatization. The church’s actions have also influenced efforts to oppose the advancement of human rights for LGBTIQ people,” added Outright International. “Our hope is that the pope’s statement will foster respect, dignity and conversations that will lead to change in attitudes and lasting legal protections in this arduous journey for full equality.”
FBI probes Santos GoFundMe scheme & separate SEC complaint
Republican Rep. George Santos faces yet another law enforcement probe, this time over allegations he ran a GoFundMe scam in 2016
WASHINGTON – Republican Rep. George Santos (N.Y.) faces yet another law enforcement probe, this time over allegations that the congressman ran a GoFundMe scam in 2016 by crowdsourcing for a U.S. Navy Veteran and his cancer-stricken service dog before absconding with the money.
POLITICO reported on Wednesday that the veteran, Richard Osthoff, furbished text messages to FBI agents who were working on behalf of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, which is reportedly conducting a parallel investigation into Santos’s campaign finances.
The news comes a day after Santos resigned from his two committee assignments following a meeting with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Monday.
Meanwhile, Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.) announced on Twitter Wednesday that he filed a complaint against Santos with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) “for violating federal securities law.”
Torres wrote that his GOP colleague “illegally operated as a broker without a license, raising funds from unsuspecting investors for Harbor City Capitol, a 17 million dollar Ponzi Scheme.”
NEW: I just asked the SEC to investigate George Santos for violating federal securities law.— Ritchie Torres (@RitchieTorres) February 1, 2023
Mr. Santos illegally operated as a broker without a license, raising funds from unsuspecting investors for Harbor City Capitol, a 17 million dollar Ponzi Scheme. pic.twitter.com/2z4YpqhOvm
Last month, Torres and fellow New York Democratic Rep. Dan Goldman filed a U.S. Federal Elections Commission (FEC) complaint against Santos over his alleged violations of campaign finance laws. And over the weekend, the U.S. Department of Justice reportedly asked the FEC to yield to federal prosecutors – likely a sign that the campaign finance issues are the subject of a criminal probe.
Santos reportedly faces investigations by the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office and the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James. He has been embroiled in controversy since his arrival to Washington following revelations that nearly every part of his biography and identity were complete fabrications.
Governor Newsom announces new gun safety legislation
In 2021, Calif. was ranked as the #1 state for gun safety by the Giffords Law Center, seeing a 37% lower gun death rate than national average
SACRAMENTO – In the wake of multiple mass shootings that took the lives of 19 Californians in just 72 hours last week, Governor Gavin Newsom, Attorney General Rob Bonta, and Senator Anthony Portantino (D-Burbank) announced new gun safety legislation to modernize and strengthen California’s public carry laws.
“Only in America do we see the kind of carnage and chaos of gun violence that destroys our communities and our sense of safety and belonging,” said Newsom. “America is number 1 in gun ownership and we far surpass every developed nation on Earth in gun deaths – it’s not complicated. In California, we’ve passed common sense gun safety laws and they work: we have a 37% lower gun death rate than the national average. We’re doubling down on gun safety and strengthening our public carry law to protect it from radical Republican attacks.”
According to the Center for American Progress, efforts to weaken concealed carry laws across the country have increased violent crimes – with studies showing gun homicides increased by 22% in states that passed permitless carry laws and violent crimes with a firearm went up 29%.
Newsom signed a package of gun safety laws last year, making it easier for Californians to sue manufacturers of illegal assault weapons and those spreading them, allowing lawsuits against irresponsible gun industry members, strengthening prohibitions on ghost guns, as well as restricting marketing to minors.
“The mass shooting incidents we have seen over recent weeks bring to light the need for stronger protections for our communities. The fact is, individuals who are not law-abiding, responsible citizens simply shouldn’t possess firearms — and they especially shouldn’t be allowed to carry a concealed weapon in public. When a gun is placed in the wrong hands, it is deadly,” said California Attorney General Rob Bonta. “The Second Amendment is not a regulatory straightjacket — we must protect our communities. The time for thoughts and prayers has long passed, we need brave and immediate action by our leaders – here in California and beyond. We owe our community stronger protections. I urge our state leaders to quickly adopt SB 2. We can’t afford to wait even one minute more.”
Last June, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a New York law, aspects of which mirrored California’s public carry laws, and the legislation announced today – Senate Bill 2 by Senator Portantino – would make fixes necessary to update the standards and processes for obtaining a public carry permit in California.
Senate Bill 2 strengthens California’s restrictions regarding public carry laws by:
- Enhancing the existing licensing system – ensuring those permitted to carry firearms in public are responsible and law-abiding individuals;
- Protecting children – setting a minimum age requirement of 21 years of age to obtain a CCW license;
- Advancing stronger training requirements – ensuring proper handling, loading, unloading, and storage of firearms; and
- Identifying certain sensitive public places – establishing safe community places where people should expect freedom from gun violence.
“In the wake of the recent tragedies in Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay and the continued threat of mass shootings, it’s critical that California leads on the issue of gun safety and reform. I am proud to be working with Governor Newsom, Attorney General Bonta and activists on SB 2 to strengthen our existing public carry laws and ensure every Californian is safe from gun violence. We must be diligent in addressing the gun violence epidemic in our country and public carry laws are a key component of this,” said Senator Anthony Portantino.
California launched an 18-month campaign to promote gun violence restraining orders – “red flag laws” – that allow law enforcement, family, coworkers or friends to petition a court to temporarily remove weapons from people deemed dangerous to themselves or others. A study from the Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California, Davis found that California’s red flag law was used to stop 58 threatened mass shootings since 2016.
California’s gun safety laws work. In 2021, California was ranked as the #1 state for gun safety by the 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, with 8.5 gun deaths per 100,000 people – compared to 13.7 deaths per 100,000 nationally, 28.6 in Mississippi, 20.7 in Oklahoma, and 14.2 in Texas.
Moms Demand Action Founder Shannon Watts noted: “The Supreme Court’s reckless Bruen decision opened up the floodgates for more guns in more places — but with this bill California once again renewed its commitment to being a national leader in the fight against gun violence. While the gun industry celebrated the ruling that put their profits over our safety, our grassroots army is proud to stand with our Gun Sense Champions in California to pass this critical bill and make our communities safer.”
“Following the Supreme Court’s egregious decision in the Bruen case, it is vital that the Golden State takes meaningful action to protect all Californians from the threat of gun violence. SB2 would do just this by updating and improving the state’s already strong concealed carry license system, and ensure that loaded and concealed weapons are not allowed in certain sensitive places. With SB2, leaders in California are continuing their leadership in prioritizing the public health and safety of all its citizens,” said Brady Campaign President Kris Brown, adding “Brady applauds Senator Portantino for introducing this important bill, and thanks Governor Newsom and Attorney General Bonta for their continued leadership on this issue, and urges the California legislature to pass it without delay.”
Giffords State Policy Director Ari Freilich stated: “In the face of tragedy, California’s leaders act. They’ve led the nation on gun safety reform and made California a much safer state than most. But today, grieving communities know all too well how much more work there is to do. California achieved an all-time record low gun fatality rate in 2019. But like the rest of the country, we have faced record spikes in gun sales and violence since the start of the pandemic and a flood of new weapons in public spaces as a result of the US Supreme Court’s dangerous Second Amendment ruling last year. Passing SB (2) will strengthen communities’ ability to respond to these threats by requiring stronger vetting and safety training to carry weapons in public and by designating vital community spaces like parks and playgrounds as off-limits to weapons throughout the state. We thank leaders like Governor Newsom, Attorney General Bonta, and Senator Portantino for their work and commitment to make all Californians safer and freer from violence.”
Trump to weaponize Feds against trans Americans if reelected
He detailed these plans in a video shared on the platform Rumble, which is popular among conservative and far-right users
PALM BEACH – Former president Donald Trump promised to weaponize the might of the federal government against transgender Americans if voters send him back to the White House next year.
He detailed these plans in a video shared on the platform Rumble, which is popular among conservative and far-right users.
Some would restore policies enacted during his administration by executive orders that were overturned by President Joe Biden, while other proposals were more extreme or would face an unclear path to implementation because they would require acts of Congress.
Trump began by inveighing against guideline-directed medical care for the treatment of gender dysphoria in minors – practices that are approved by every major mainstream American and international scientific and medical institution with relevant clinical expertise.
“I will sign a new executive order instructing every federal agency to cease all programs that promote the concept of sex and gender transition at any age,” Trump said, promising also to urge Congress to ban certain procedures for minors nationwide.
“I will declare that any hospital or healthcare provider that participates in the chemical or physical mutilation of minor youth will no longer meet federal health and safety standards for Medicaid and Medicare and will be terminated from the program immediately,” the former president said, referring again to healthcare interventions whose safety and efficacy has been demonstrated in hundreds of peer reviewed studies in scientific and medical journals.
Trump also said he would create a private right of action allowing for lawsuits against doctors and healthcare providers for administering or facilitating access to treatments for transgender and gender non-conforming youth.
Democrats should be studying Nicola Sturgeon and the forceful response she’s given to the UK’s efforts to hold back trans rights. Dismissing this fight as a distraction will only get you so far–take it head on, put your values up front, and don’t hesitate. https://t.co/ZC9W2uKgIT— Gillian Branstetter (@GBBranstetter) February 1, 2023
“The Department of Justice will investigate big pharma and the big hospital networks to determine whether they have deliberately covered up horrific long term side effects of sex transitions in order to get rich at the expense of vulnerable patients,” Trump said.
The former president then looked beyond healthcare, promising to erase transgender people from schools and refuse to recognize them by the U.S. government.
“My Department of Education will inform states and school districts that if any teacher or school official suggests to a child that they could be trapped in the wrong body, they will be faced with severe consequences including potential civil rights violations for sex discrimination and the elimination of federal funding,” Trump said.
As part of credentialing for America’s teachers, messages promoting “the nuclear family” and child-rearing by “mothers and fathers” would be required, Trump said, adding that he would ask Congress to “pass a bill establishing that the only genders recognized by the United States government are male and female and they are assigned at birth.”
“The bill will also make clear,” Trump said, “that Title IX prohibits men from participating in women’s sports and we will protect the rights of parents from being forced to allow their minor child to assume a gender which is new and an identity without the parents’ consent.”
Trump concluded his message with the false assertion that gender dysphoria “was never heard of in all of human history” until “the radical left invented it just a few years ago.”
Transcript of Trump’s remarks:
The left wing’s gender insanity being pushed on our children is an act of child abuse. Very simple. Here’s my plan to stop the chemical, physical and emotional mutilation of our youth.
On day one, I will revoke Joe Biden’s cruel policies on so-called gender affirming care. Ridiculous. A preposterous test that includes giving kids puberty blockers, mutating their physical appearance, and ultimately performing surgery on minor children.
Can you believe this? I will sign a new executive order instructing every federal agency to cease all programs that promote the concept of sex and gender transition at any age. I will then ask Congress to permanently stop federal taxpayer dollars from being used to promote or pay for these procedures and pass a law prohibiting child sexual mutilation in all 50 states.
It will go very quickly. I will declare that any hospital or healthcare provider that participates in the chemical or physical mutilation of minor youth will no longer meet federal health and safety standards for Medicaid and Medicare and will be terminated from the program immediately.
Furthermore, I will support the creation of a private right of action for victims to sue doctors who have unforgivably performed these procedures on minor children. The Department of Justice will investigate Big Pharma and the big hospital network to determine whether they have deliberately covered up horrific long term side effects of sex transitions in order to get rich at the expense of vulnerable patients. In this case, very vulnerable.
We will also investigate whether Big Pharma or others have illegally marketed hormones and puberty blockers which are in no way licensed or approved for this use.
My Department of Education will inform states and school districts that if any teacher or school official suggests to a child that they could be trapped in the wrong body, they will be faced with severe consequences, including potential civil rights violations for sex discrimination and the elimination of federal funding. As part of our new credentialing body for teachers, we will promote positive education about the nuclear family, the roles of mothers and fathers, and celebrating rather than erasing the things that make men and women different and unique.
I will ask Congress to pass a bill establishing the only genders recognized by the United States government are male and female, and they are assigned at birth.
The bill will also make clear that Title IX prohibits men from participating in women’s sports. And we will protect the rights of parents from being forced to allow their minor child to assume a gender which is new and an identity without the parent’s consent.
The identity will not be new, and it will not be without parental consent. No serious country should be telling its children that they were born with the wrong gender, a concept that was never heard of in all of human history. Nobody’s ever heard of this. What’s happening today? It was all when the radical left invented it just a few years ago.
Under my leadership this madness will end. Thank you very much.
Doug Emhoff visits memorial to gay victims of the Nazis in Berlin
Second gentleman marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day at Auschwitz
BERLIN — Second gentleman Doug Emhoff on Tuesday visited a monument to gay victims of the Nazis in Berlin.
A readout from Emhoff’s office notes he visited the Memorial to the Persecuted Homosexuals under National Socialism with Philipp Braun of the Lesbian and Gay Federation of Germany, a German LGBTQ+ and intersex rights group. Christopher Schreiber and Alexander Scheld of the Berlin-Brandenburg Lesbian and Gay Federation were also with Emhoff.
“The Memorial to the Persecuted Homosexuals under Nazi Socialism is intended to honor the homosexual victims of National Socialism and at the same time ‘set a constant sign against intolerance, hostility and exclusion towards gays and lesbians,'” notes the readout.
Emhoff on Tuesday visited other memorials that honor the Sinti and Roma and people with disabilities who the Nazis killed. The second gentleman also visited Berlin’s Holocaust memorial before he met with five people who survived it.
The second gentleman earlier in the day participated in a roundtable with Jewish, Muslim and Christian leaders and met with Ukrainian refugees at Berlin’s New Synagogue. Emhoff on Monday participated in a meeting at the city’s Topography of Terror Museum that focused on antisemitism.
In Berlin, I met with experts from around Europe to hear about what our allies and friends are doing to combat antisemitism. We can build coalitions, learn from each other, and trade best practices. It’s going to take a global effort to tackle this epidemic of hate. pic.twitter.com/BeA1tP4aMy
— Douglas Emhoff (@SecondGentleman) January 31, 2023
International Holocaust Memorial Day, which commemorates the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Poland in 1945, took place on Jan. 27.
Emhoff traveled to the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Memorial and Museum and participated in ceremonies that commemorated the camp’s liberation. He later attended a Shabbat dinner with members of the Jewish community in Krakow, visited Oscar Schindler’s factory and met with Ukrainian refugees at a U.N. Refugee Agency community center before he traveled to Germany.
I’m still processing what I saw today at Auschwitz. It was emotional. Displays of children’s shoes. Piles of women’s hair.
We must educate the next generation on the horrors of the Holocaust and call out those who deny it. pic.twitter.com/a6NjlTvYqd
— Douglas Emhoff (@SecondGentleman) January 27, 2023
Suspect in 29 year old murder of Trans woman arrested
“Forensic evidence” was found at the scene of the crime that eventually led to the arrest of James William Grimsley
CONCORD, Calif. – The suspect in the murder of Terrie Ladwig, a 28-year-old trans woman beaten and strangled in her Concord apartment on Dec. 2, 1994, has been arrested in Utah by a Salt Lake City Police and United States Marshals Service Fugitive Task Force a spokesperson for the Concord Police Department announced Monday.
Lieutenant Sean Donnelly told reporters that “forensic evidence” was found at the scene of the crime that eventually led to the arrest of James William Grimsley, 55. “I can tell you it was a violent scene, looked like there was a violent struggle between Terrie and the suspect,” said Donnelly.
Asked if police were classifying the case as a hate crime, Donnelly responded: “You know we’re not certain of the motive but that is certainly a possibility.”
In an article published by the Contra Costa Times on December 2, 2004, a decade after the murder, the Times reported:
“Concord police Detective Mike Warnock said he thinks the Ladwig case is solvable. The department has pulled it out of the cold case file within the past year. “Individuals who were originally interviewed are being reinterviewed,” Warnock said.
Ladwig’s husband, Steven Ladwig, was quickly cleared as a suspect in 1994. He had been on a submarine at sea and then at his Navy base in Bangor, Wash., when his wife was killed.
The Ladwigs were married in July 1994, Steven Ladwig told the Times after the killing. He considered his wife, who was born Larry Earl Thompson Jr., female. She was preparing to have gender-reassignment surgery, he said.
After their marriage, Ladwig went back to sea. He had returned to base when, on Nov. 28, Terrie Ladwig called to say someone was trying to break down the apartment door.
No one called police, Warnock said, but Steven Ladwig rushed home. According to a coroner’s report, he found his wife beaten and strangled on their bed. There was no sign of forced entry and she had a small amount of alcohol and methamphetamine in her blood. Neither Steven Ladwig nor his wife’s family could be located for this story. Warnock said police have not heard from them for years.
Warnock said one theory is that someone reacted violently after finding out that Terrie Ladwig was a biological man.“
ABC7 Bay area reported that police say the suspect in Ladwig’s murder, Grimsley, is a truck driver. They won’t say how they linked him to the killing but do say, “There is forensic evidence in the case.” They had been working closely with the FBI and Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office over the last six to eight months to make the arrest.
Grimsley is being held in the Salt Lake County Jail on $1 million bail pending an extradition hearing to return him to California. Grimley’s first court appearance in Salt Lake City was scheduled for Wednesday.
Salt Lake City NBC affiliate KSL TV 5 reported it was not immediately known how long Grimsley, who would have been 25 at the time of the killing, has been living in Utah. Court records show Grimsley as having a West Valley City address in 2018, and he may have been living in Kearns in 2008. His criminal history in Utah includes one minor traffic violation.
Gay man’s murder in Argentina underscores growing hate crimes concerns
Alejo Portillo stabbed 42 times last month in Misiones province
COLONIA AZARA, Argentina — Authorities in Argentina’s Misiones province on Dec. 30 found a 20-year-old gay man dead with 42 stab wounds to his body.
Alejo Portillo was found in the town of Colonia Azara. His murder underscores an increase in hate crimes in Argentina over the last year, even though queer people have more rights than almost any other country in Latin America.
Data from the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans Federation of Argentina indicates hate crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity increased in Argentina in 2022. The group recorded 129 deaths last year, compared to 120 the previous year.
Portillo’s mother, Alejandra Benítez, found his body after she tirelessly searched for him when the Argentine police refused to help her. She said she sensed that something “horrible had happened to him” from the moment her son disappeared.
The main suspect is a 20-year-old man with whom Portillo was in love and with whom he had a hidden relationship. Argentine media reports indicate Portillo’s body was found naked and showed signs that he had been raped.
Benítez spoke with Misiones Cuatro TV, a local television station.
She said she saw her son for the last time on Dec. 28 when she said goodbye to him after he borrowed his sister’s bicycle.
“He was invited by someone he knew to the place where my son went,” said Benítez. “He wasn’t going to go to that place for nothing. He knew who he was going to meet.”
She said on Dec. 29 she was already worried because her son did not return to the house where he lived, and he was not answering her WhatsApp messages. Benítez began to search for him herself, even though she did not have access to a vehicle.
“I don’t know what happened, I can’t understand,” Benítez told Misiones Cuatro TV. “My son was not hurting anyone.”
A march took place in Colonia Azara a few weeks ago. Participants demanded justice for Portillo’s death and urged authorities to classify it as a hate crime.
Trans Travestis No Binarie Maricas Gay y Lesbianas de Oberá Misiones, a local queer rights group known by the acronym TTNBMGLOM, condemned Portillo’s murder and pointed out “we want to publicly pronounce our voices and feelings in relation to the murder of Ema Portillo (self-perceived as Alejo,) that occurred in the town of Azara-Misiones.”
“In view of the facts, we believe it is important to highlight and underline that the homicide of Alejo Portillo is a case of hate crime,” said TTNBMGLOM on Instagram. “Alejo was stabbed because he was homosexual, because of his orientation and gender identity. For being a person of non-heterosexual identity.”
“Alejo Portillo’s hate crime is clearly a symptom of the reality that LGTB existences and identities live in the province of Misiones, especially removed from the large urban epicenters,” María Alejandro, a nonbinary activist from Misiones, told the Washington Blade, referring to Buenos Aires, the country’s capital.
María Alejandro added “(people with) LGBT identities live in a situation of extreme discrimination, marginalization and violence. And this was what was happening to Alejo in his community. He was one of the few people who publicly expressed his identity and sexual orientation, therefore, he was clearly pushed towards exclusion and discrimination.”
María Alejandro said “the particularity of the crime, the excessive and symbolic violence that provokes Alejo’s death and the deep context of discrimination, stigmatization and marginalization that he lived in his community allow us to sustain that it is a hate crime. Alejo’s body shows clear signs of an act committed with a high degree of violence. There are 42 stab wounds.”
María Alejandro mentioned to Blade that they demand an investigation similar to the case of Evelyn Rojas, a Transgender woman who was murdered by her partner in Misiones.
Authorities determined Rojas’ murder was a hate crime, and her partner last year received a life sentence.
Costa Mesa police arrest suspect in Latina mural vandalism
The mural is well known in the community and spans over 70 feet of a block wall and honors immigrant Latina women
COSTA MESA, Calif. – On Oct. 31, 2022 Costa Mesa Police Department (CMPD) officers were dispatched to the 3000 block of Killybrooke and upon arrival officers found that the Poderosas mural, a local landmark that commemorates Latina heritage, was vandalized with white supremacy language.
The mural is well known in the community and spans over 70 feet of a block wall and honors immigrant Latina women. The mural was created in October 2020 by an all women crew and was led by artist Alicia Rojas.
Individuals in the area observed the suspect vandalizing the mural by spray painting a hate crime message on it. Witnesses reported the crime and also provided video of the incident to CMPD investgators.
During the investigation, Daniel Alec Hotte, 27, of Dana Point was identified as the vandalism suspect. Shortly thereafter, CMPD Gang Investigators checked numerous locations in Orange County and Riverside County but Hotte could not be located. Investigators then learned Hotte had a pending court date on Monday, Jan. 30, 2023.
On Monday morning, Hotte was located at the Harbor Justice Center and arrested. Hotte was then booked at CMPD Jail on an outstanding warrant, vandalism, and hate crime. CMPD will file the case with the Orange County District Attorney’s Office for charges.
“Costa Mesa is a great city known for its inclusivity. We celebrate our diversity and are proud of our various backgrounds,” said Mayor John Stephens. “This type of crime flies in the face of what we have achieved as a multi-cultural community. I’m grateful for the witnesses who came forward to help identify him and thankful the police stayed on the case and captured the suspect.”
“I represent a community rich in culture,” said Councilmember Loren Gameros. “This suspect came from another city into Costa Mesa to commit this crime and hurt the identity of some of our neighbors. That is unacceptable and now he will have to face justice.”
“Vandalism crimes like this can often go unsolved,” said Police Chief Ron Lawrence. “I commend the quick action of the witnesses to capture evidence of the incident and the great police work of the Costa Mesa Police Department that solved this case.”
Anyone who may have been a witness in this incident and has not spoken to CMPD is asked to contact Investigator Eric Molina at 714-754-5694, or Sergeant Matt Selinske at 714-754-5093.
LGBTQ+, intersex activists in India prepare for marriage equality ruling
Country’s Supreme Court has agreed to hear multiple cases
NEW DELHI — The world’s largest democracy is preparing to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples through the Indian Supreme Court.
The highest court of the land on Jan. 6 transferred to itself all marriage equality petitions that had been pending before other courts.
Two same-sex couples on Nov. 14, 2022, filed a petition before the Supreme Court seeking legal recognition of same-sex marriages. The first petitioners are Supriyo Chakraborty and Abhay Dang, while the second couple is Parth Phiroze Merhotra and Uday Raj Anand.
The petitioners argued before the Supreme Court that marriage only between “male” and “female” discriminates against same-sex couples by denying them adoption, employment, retirement and other benefits. The petitioners have requested the law be declared unconstitutional.
Justices D. Y. Chandrachud and Hima Kohli after they heard the petitioners ordered the federal government to respond to their petition. Lawyers on Jan. 3 asked the Supreme Court to transfer two similar cases from the Delhi and Kerala High Courts. The Supreme Court agreed to the request and transferred nine marriage equality cases to its jurisdiction.
The Supreme Court in 2018 struck down the colonial-era law that criminalized homosexuality.
While delivering the judgment in 2018, Chandrachud said that the case is much more than decriminalizing a provision.
“It is about an aspiration to realize constitutional rights and equal existence of LGBT community as other citizens,” he said.
Activists and the LGBTQ+ and intersex community are expecting the Supreme Court to issue a favorable ruling.
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), one of the world’s largest voluntary organizations and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party’s parent organization, has come out in support of the LGBTQ+ and intersex community, even though the organization is considered conservative, RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat in an interview with “Organizer and Panchjanya,” the organization’s magazine, said that the LGBTQ+ community too should have the right to privacy, and the organization will have to promote this view.
“People with such proclivities have always been there; for as long as humans have existed,” said Bhagwat. “This is biological, a mode of life. We want them to have their own private space and to feel that they, too, are a part of the society. This is such a simple issue. We will have to promote this view because all other ways of resolving it will be futile.”
RSS is an organization that supports Indian culture and values.
It runs 20,000 schools in the country and promotes free education for poor neighborhoods. RSS volunteers carried out relief efforts during last year’s flood in Assam state, and ran a rescue operation in Modi’s home state of Gujarat when an earthquake killed more than 20,000 people.
Tinesh Chopade, associate director of advocacy for the Humsafar Trust, told the Washington Blade he is positive and hopeful of the upcoming ruling
“Justice Chandrachud is very positive towards protecting the rights of the LGBTQ community,” said Chopade. “It’s just we should be mindful of the technicality of the judgement as the court has asked government response of the case.”
Chopade also talked about Bhagwat’s statement.
Chopade said it is a good sign because RSS was against homosexuality when the Supreme Court decriminalized it. Chopade added he strongly believes Sangh’s statement could have a positive impact on Indian society.
“RSS has a large following in society, so definitely the chief’s statement would help change the attitude of the individuals towards the community,” Chopade told the Blade. “If we have a conversation as a community with them (RSS), then we will be more than happy to engage, not only with the chief (justice) but also with other workers to see how we can work together. We definitely see that as positive towards the influencing the larger society.”
Chopade further highlighted how the LGBTQ+ and intersex community is preparing for the Supreme Court’s expected ruling. He said that even though it has little control over the decision, the community is hopeful.
“As a community-based organization, our job is to prepare the community on the ground for such legal proceedings. We have so many beautifully written judgments in past by the Supreme Court of India, but when it comes to implementation, that’s the challenge,” said Chopade. “We can prepare the community for the responses or implementation. For example, if tomorrow we have marriage equality, then as an LGBTQ organization, our job is to disperse the judgment.”
A spokesperson of the Sappho for Equality, an LGBTQ+ and intersex organization based in the Indian state of West Bengal, told the Blade that equality must extend to all the spheres of life, including the home, workplace, and public spaces for the LGBTQ+ and intersex community.
Decriminalizing homosexuality, according to Sappho for Equality, is not enough.
“We deserve all the rights and privileges that people who are at the center of society receive through legal recognition of their interpersonal relationships such as marriage,” said the Sappho for Equality spokesperson. “With the help of various queer-trans* activists and leaders, we are trying to bring to the surface the lived realities of many queer-trans* couples from across the country who’ve had to fight with their (birth) families as well as the legal institutions at the cost of their mental, physical, social health and wellbeing. Marriage equality is an absolute necessity of the hour as it lies in the fact that many queer-trans individuals who come from multifarious intersectional backgrounds will at least be able to tell their (birth) families about the legal recognition of their relationships which ensures security.”
Ankush Kumar is a freelance reporter who has covered many stories for Washington and Los Angeles Blades from Iran, India and Singapore. He recently reported for the Daily Beast. He can be reached at [email protected]. He is on Twitter at @mohitkopinion.
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