The GOP’s sickening slide into servility
Whatever happened to embarrassment?
Have you ever witnessed something so mortifying that you wished you were invisible and could slink away unnoticed? I wonder if any Republicans had that impulse last week. Their president did not introduce incapacity for embarrassment into our politics, he just took it to another level.
The week was too much. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) threatened Michael Cohen before a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing. Sebastian Gorka compared Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) to Joseph Stalin. Diamond and Silk were treated as A-listers at CPAC.
At the heart of the chaos was Mr. Art of the Deal, hugging the flag and giving another unhinged pep rally speech after returning from his Hanoi summit, where his vanity and dictator envy left him empty-handed, though he fatuously absolved Kim Jong-un in the torture of Otto Warmbier.
At the hearing, Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) told Cohen, “You’re a pathological liar. You don’t know truth from falsehood.” Cohen rejoined, “Are you talking about me or the president?”
Not only did Gosar say, “Liar, liar, pants on fire,” the Republicans displayed the schoolyard taunt on a poster. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) had a live exhibit: Lynne Patton, a wedding planner Trump made an administrator at HUD. Meadows thought Patton’s blackness refuted Cohen’s charge that Trump (the birther, Central Park Five slanderer, and Nazi defender) is a racist.
Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) was having none of it. She said using a black woman as a prop is “racist in itself.” Meadows, who talked in 2012 of sending President Obama “back home to Kenya,” was near tears as he demanded Tlaib’s remarks be stricken. He cited nieces and nephews of color as proof he couldn’t be racist. Perhaps he forgot that our third president enslaved his own black children. Committee chair Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), whose indulgence of the Republicans may have been in the spirit of giving one’s opponent enough rope to hang himself, persuaded Tlaib to say she wasn’t calling Meadows a racist.
Thus, typically, it fell to people of color to soothe a colleague’s fragile whiteness. Author Robin DiAngelo writes, “White fragility is not weakness per se. In fact, it is a powerful means of white racial control and the protection of white advantage.” Only through a privileged lens can calling someone out on his racism be offensive while deleting black people from voting rolls is fine.
Falsely conflating white identity with national identity divides and diminishes us. You cannot see other people’s struggles if you insist on being the protagonist of every story. We are all in the American project together, and will rise or fall together. We need to take our blinders off.
The day after the hearing, an MSNBC reporter asked a white man in a pancake house, “Do you believe Michael Cohen or the president?” He answered, “I’m gonna have to put my faith in the president.” He followed that with “because,” but I missed the rest as I threw my shoe at the screen. Trump’s performance art distracts his fans from the con job he is pulling on them.
Former Maine Gov. Paul LePage says that without the Electoral College, white people will be forgotten. Seriously? Reality was in the loo when Trump told the CPAC crowd, “We believe in the American dream, not in the socialist nightmare.” If you’re a Trumpist, socialism is anything that helps brown people, while benefits you receive are considered an entitlement, even if they’re the same program.
If we let ourselves be cowed by Trump’s provocations, if we focus on what stirs the rabble instead of what serves the greater good, we will lose our country and squander centuries of struggle. We must believe enough in ourselves, our values, and our fellow citizens to seize the moment and not be diverted by a demagogue‘s crude cavortings.
Instead of fighting on Trump’s favored ground of fear and resentment, we should impart an honest vision—not just advancing policy goals, but recognizing our diverse human resources as an asset and not a threat, demanding the best in ourselves as in each other, and reclaiming our decency and honor.
That reclamation requires a historic Republican loss.
Copyright © 2019 by Richard J. Rosendall. All rights reserved.
Target & Bud Light show hypocrisy of “Corporate Pride”
Bud Light & Target came under far-right fire for including LGBTQ+ people in products & advertising. The speed at which they caved? Not good
By Erin Reed | WASHINGTON – Even before Pride season has begun, evidence of corporations succumbing to far-right, anti-LGBTQ+ led boycotts is emerging.
Bud Light, for instance, recently faced pressure after featuring transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney on its cans. The simple act incited a boycott campaign by anti-LGBTQ+ conservative activists, including Matt Walsh. In response, Bud Light placed the executives responsible for the campaign on leave.
Following this, Target faced a similar situation when it displayed its annual Pride merchandise. Calls for boycotts from the same far-right influencers ensued. Videos emerged of individuals trampling on Pride displays in stores and harassing staff members. Target’s reaction was to pull several Pride items and relegate Pride displays to less visible parts of its stores.
When these companies faced anti-LGBTQ+ hostility, they backed down with little resistance. This reveals the reason why transgender people have been wary about corporatization of Pride: if corporate advocacy consists merely of rainbows that disappear at the first gust of fascist wind, it amounts to net harm. That support was never truly there.
This is all happening against the backdrop of a broader cultural climate marked by over 530 bills directed at the transgender community, withholding of medication for transgender youth and adults, bans on books featuring LGBTQ+ characters, cancellations of Pride parades, travel warnings discouraging LGBTQ+ individuals from entering certain states, and arrests of transgender individuals in restrooms.
The retreat of corporations from supporting the LGBTQ+ community, caving to anti-LGBTQ+ pressures, does more than fail to assist the community they professed to support when adversaries looked away. It actively damages the community by feeding a narrative that suggests LGBTQ+ individuals are not worth protecting.
Bud Light and Target came under far-right fire for including LGBTQ+ people in products and advertising. The speed at which they caved shows why LGBTQ+ people have warned about corporate pride.
The campaign against LGBTQ+ inclusion in stores is not grassroots, but rather a calculated move by the same far-right influencers responsible for the early anti-trans bills this year. Matt Walsh, who advised on and posted the very first anti-trans bill this year, delineated the strategy in April. His approach: “Pick a victim, gang up on it, and make an example of it. We can’t boycott every woke company or even most of them. But we can pick one, it hardly matters which, and target it with a ruthless boycott campaign. Claim one scalp then move onto the next.”
What followed was mass harassment and violent threats to LGBTQ+ advocates and store employees. Of Particular note is Ethan Schmidt, whose videos of walking through Target knocking down Pride signs began to reemerge. See this video from Ethan Schmidt tearing down pride signs in target, originally from 2022:
Ethan Schmidt has since promised to revive his actions, warning, “We’re gonna be exposing Target… We are going to be going on hunting expeditions soon. Hunting LGBTQ+ supporters across Arizona and Phoenix.” ‘
Numerous other videos have emerged. One person’s viral tiktok expressed anger over rainbow themed and tuck-friendly clothing while going through Target racks. OAN anchor Alison Steinberg expressed dismay at cards that include two moms and two dads. Matt Walsh called for people to “make pride toxic for brands. If they decide to shove this garbage in our face, they should know they’ll pay a price.”
Sure enough, Target acquiesced, announcing that it would be dropping some “controversial items” and moving displays to the back of some stores. Pictures emerged of empty Pride display racks shortly after:
The speed in which some companies are caving to anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment shows the danger in entrusting Pride events to the care of corporations, who have no meaningful skin in the game and who are willing to pull support at moment’s notice. Pride has its roots in a response to anti-LGBTQ+ oppression in 1969, particularly the raid on the Stonewall Inn.
Interestingly, both then and now, anti-drag laws proliferate and LGBTQ+ people find themselves targeted by the state and by bigotry on the streets. The first Pride was a riot, and its early celebrations were not about touting corporate advocacy or organizational support for queer people, but rather about fostering our own communities and networks to ensure that overt oppression would never prevail.
By shifting from the original spirit of Pride to Bud Light-sponsored block parties and parades filled with corporate floats where we are merely spectators rather than active participants, we risk losing sight of the essence and purpose of Pride – to forge strong bonds in the face of oppressive forces.
Target is removing LGBTQ Pride products because of terrorist behavior like this.— Senator Scott Wiener (@Scott_Wiener) May 24, 2023
Yes, this is absolutely terrorism & Target should be ashamed for caving in. Just like Anheuser Busch caved in.
And people wonder why there’s so much fear in our community. pic.twitter.com/0kMab9s44k
Moving forward, we need a new vision of Pride that is more in line with the reason Pride was first conceived. This vision of Pride should not be dependent on corporate sponsorships, but rather, should uplift the community and support the creation of social networks. Local organizations should be centered rather than multinational corporations.
This vision of pride is one where we collectively march together in solidarity and celebration and express to the world that our joy will not be eradicated. I envision a pride where local businesses are supported, where drag thrives, where our block parties truly support the locals who call those blocks home.
We must make it unequivocally clear to corporations that raising rainbow flags, only to retreat when confronted by oppressive forces, contradicts the essence of Pride. Symbols demand action to substantiate them.
Corporations wishing to demonstrate support for their LGBTQ+ employees should implement comprehensive paid family leave, include full coverage for trans-specific medical care in their insurance policies, and cease all donations to politicians endorsing anti-trans stances.
Should a company truly aim to support its LGBTQ+ employees, it must stand with queer and trans people, even in the face of harassment and abuse by right-wing aggressors. Instead of hastily retreating in the face of even a fraction of the hatred endured daily by the LGBTQ+ community from these same individuals, these corporations need to show resilient support.
Erin Reed is a transgender woman (she/her pronouns) and researcher who tracks anti-LGBTQ+ legislation around the world and helps people become better advocates for their queer family, friends, colleagues, and community. Reed also is a social media consultant and public speaker.
Follow her on Twitter (Link)
Website here: https://www.erininthemorning.com/
The preceding article was first published at Erin In The Morning and is republished with permission.
The long exhale to recognizing same-sex unions in Namibia
May 16 ruling a landmark moment for LGBTIQ+ rights
The Supreme Court of Namibia on May 16, 2023, issued a judgment recognizing same-sex unions of two non-nationals after they were denied immigration status by the Namibian government.
The story of Daniel Digashu, a South African national, and his family challenging the decision of the Namibian government denying him immigration status based on his same-sex marriage to his Namibian husband is just one of the many ways African governments continue to oppress and erase queer existence.
In 2015, Digashu married his partner Johann Potgieter in South Africa, where same-sex unions have been legal since Nov. 14, 2016; this, however, is not the case in Namibia. In 2017, after he and his family relocated to Namibia, Digashu applied for a work permit but got rejected by the Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration based on his same-sex relationship status. The social inequality many LGBTIQ+ people face daily, and the lack of recognition and protection of LGBTIQ+ rights make them more vulnerable to stigma, discrimination and exclusion. Denying LGBTIQ+ people the right and the opportunity to marriage and family life has significant implications on their mental, emotional and overall well-being.
Heterosexual marriage is widely and legally recognized in Namibia and is often seen as the fundamental foundational family institution in society, including the church. The mainstream practice of marriage is deeply rooted in traditional, cultural and religious beliefs and practices. Marriage is not only a union between individuals but also a union between families and even different communities.
The denial to recognize Digashu and Potgieter’s marriage had deprived them of a chance and a right to have a family, a community and a sense of belonging in society. The couple has been in and out of court since 2017, when they approached the High Court after several unsuccessful engagements with the ministry.
On March 20, 2021, the High Court heard the case and dismissed the matter on Jan. 20, 2022, citing that they cannot legally overrule a previous judgement by the Supreme Court, which found that same-sex relationships are not recognized under the Immigration Control Act of Namibia.
Constitutional violation of human rights
The refusal of the recognition of same-sex unions is an infringement on several fundamental human rights recognized and protected under regional and international human rights instruments — including the Constitution of Namibia. Denying the recognition and protection of LGBTIQ+ marriage and family violates their rights to dignity, liberty, privacy and protection under the law. Such human rights violation is also discriminatory and violates the constitutional right to non-discrimination, equality before the law and freedom of expression based on one’s sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. Recognizing same-sex marriage ensures that LGBTIQ+ people have the same legal protections and rights.
If it pleases the court
In its 2022 judgment, the High Court of Namibia 2022 made favorable pronouncements noting the need to recognize same-sex relationships and that LGBTIQ+ people must be protected from discrimination. The court stated that: “Homosexual relationships are, without doubt, globally recognized, and increasingly more countries have changed their laws to recognize one’s right not to be discriminated against based on one’s sexual orientation. It is time to recognize that homosexuality is part and parcel of the fabric of our society and that persons — human beings — in homosexual relationships are worthy of being afforded the same rights as other citizens.”
Both the High Court and the Supreme Court pronounced that the values, freedoms and democracy that Namibia was founded on have no place for discrimination and the violation of human rights. Everyone, including LGBTQI+ people, has the right to dignity, equality and protection under the law. This call for recognition by the courts is a significant victory for Namibia’s LGBTIQ+ community and advocacy.
The Supreme Court went on to say that the “court has made it clear that this recognition of the equal worth of all human beings is at the very root of the Constitution and that this is ‘further echoed and implemented in various articles of Chapter 3, and others of the Constitution.’ The value attached to dignity is at the very heart of our constitutional framework and fundamental to it as a value of central significance. Although it is entrenched as a self-standing right in Art 8, it relates to the protection of other rights and in particular, the right to equality.”
Colonial remnants and state-sponsored LGBTIQ+-phobia
To understand the continuous exclusion of LGBTIQ+ groups in progressive civic developments, it is essential to understand the impact and role that colonial laws have played in shaping the perception, attitudes and legal status of LGBTIQ+ people in society.
Colonial laws were discriminatory and repressive, resulting in the “othering” and, ultimately, the existence of vulnerable and marginalized groups. These laws were based on conservative religious and cultural values prevalent in Europe at the time and criminalized groups based on their gender, race, ethnicity and even sexual orientation and gender identity. Such laws continue to be in practice worldwide, including in Africa.
Like many other African nations, Namibia has an unfavorable history regarding recognizing and protecting LGBTIQ+ people. Identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender is not illegal in Namibia. However, the country does criminalize consensual same sex-sexual activities between people of the same gender in terms of its Roman-Dutch common law.
These provisions are part of what was inherited from colonial laws during colonization and into the new constitution. Such laws continue to sideline LGBTIQ+ people, as they face daily stigma, discrimination and violence, including inaccessibility to healthcare, education, employment, and housing.
In December 2020, the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights found that vagrancy laws or bylaws in nearly every country in Africa discriminate against marginalized and vulnerable populations, including women, children, people with disabilities, LGBTIQ+ people and others. Namibia is no exception in adopting such laws as the Roman-Dutch common laws criminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations. This imprint on the State still upholding oppressive colonial laws regarding LGBTIQ+ rights is part of why LGBTIQ+ people and families face daily exclusion. Consensual same-sex relations are still criminalized in Namibia. The repressive and colonial legislation still engraved in Namibia’s laws provides many challenges for same-sex couples and LGBTIQ+ families, like Digashu and Potgieter, and many other same-sex couples seeking legal recognition status in Namibia.
Regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, everyone should have social, economic and legal stability and equal opportunities. Still, discrimination against LGBTIQ+ people is a significant barrier to full social and legislative inclusion.
Same-sex relationships are currently criminalized in 32 African countries, with the death penalty in three African states if convicted and found guilty.
Namibia, formerly known as South West Africa, was a former colony of Germany and later came under the authority of South Africa. Namibia gained independence on March 21, 1990 and celebrated its 33rd independence anniversary on March 21 this year. The constitution of Namibia came into being when the country gained independence. Namibia’s Vision 2030 concerns itself with the population concerning their social, economic and overall well-being and that all people enjoy high standards of living, good quality of life and economic and overall well-being and that all people enjoy high standards of living, good quality of life, and have access to quality social services. All of these aspirations translate into equity, equality and respect for human rights for all people, regardless of one’s social standing. By 2030, Namibia aspires to be a just, moral, tolerant and safe nation with legislative, economic and social structures in place to eliminate marginalization and ensure peace and equity between of all people of different ages, interests and abilities.
The evolution of society
Society is evolving and becoming increasingly aware of its rights and existence. In advocating and asserting their rights, communities realize that such common laws are outdated and contribute to the discrimination faced by vulnerable groups. Colonization fostered environments in which such rules were applied in policy and practice to deter, conceal and repress freedoms of expression, identity and association of groups that did not fit the colonial setting. Such groups were made to feel inferior and less valuable to society, leading to segregation practices such as apartheid, tribalism, classism and discrimination and exclusion of sexual and gender minorities.
In a modern-day democratic, independent state like Namibia, colonial remnants are still widely evident in specific laws and policies, so people like Daniel and Johan, and others, must seek justice from the courts to validate their relationship and belonging. There needs to be a correlation between the legislation and the vision that the country is working towards.
The Bill of Rights is in place to protect and promote the fundamental human rights of Namibians and promote equality before the law and the need for fair, just and speedy court processes. The constitution promotes the rights to liberty, respect for human dignity, equality and freedom from discrimination regardless of a person’s sex, race, or social or economic status association, and even the right to marriage and having a family between same-sex spouses. The blatant denial of the recognition of same-sex marriages by the State violates the right to dignity. It amounts to multiple layers of discrimination by the State, which contrasts with the constitution of Namibia.
Despite these challenges, there have been continuous efforts by LGBTIQ+ advocates and allies to push for greater recognition and acceptance of LGBTIQ+ individuals in Namibia. These efforts include taking an intersectional advocacy approach that is results-based. There is still a long way to go to achieve full equality and protection for LGBTIQ+ individuals in Namibia. In the long exhale process, Digashu has found public support and joined LGBTIQ+ human rights defenders to continue raising awareness and educating the public on human rights and the challenges faced by LGBTIQ+ people. The Digashu matter highlights the need for LGBTIQ+ inclusion and acknowledgement. In its judgment, the Supreme Court noted the need for social and legislative inclusion of LGBTIQ+ persons in Namibia.
Bradley Fortuin is the LGBTIQ+ Program Officer at the Southern Africa Litigation Center and is social justice activist with over 10 years of experience in program design and strategic management, focusing on developing, implementing and strengthening LGBTIQ+-led movements.
Letters to the Editor
LGBTQ+ teachers should be celebrated, not demonized
Teachers who identify as LGBTQ+ should be celebrated, but they are instead being demonized in this polarized era
By Nancy Braus | On June 4, likely more than half of the students of the 1964-66 elementary school class of Charles Silverstein will attend his memorial in New York City. This man was a truly innovative, original and life changing public school teacher. Our class day, in a New York suburb, began with Mr. S reading the New York Times and discussing the many important issues of the day.
We were fortunate enough to then get to work on one of the many amazing projects this teacher presented to us: Learning to grow hydroponic vegetables, presenting a play to help us understand the meaning of propaganda by educating our fellow students about the evils of bubble gum, as well as a heavily rehearsed modern dance performance for the school.
The moms, who mainly were stay-at-home at that time, loved him because we all were so excited about attending school, so many moms volunteered to come in and teach to their strengths. He also took us all on a yearly trip to his alma mater, SUNY New Paltz, to learn about geology and use the science equipment like microscopes that our school did not own. I was a very insecure child, and having a teacher for two years who encouraged us to be ourselves and helped us to learn in a creative way was a lifesaver for me.
Mr. Silverstein stopped teaching in 1966, grew his hair, got hip glasses and co-authored “The Joy of Gay Sex” with Edmund White. He went back to school to get a PhD in psychology and proceeded to live a long and important life as an out gay therapist.
He was one of the major voices in getting the American Psychological Association to eliminate homosexuality as a disease. He wrote one of the earliest guides for families coming to terms with accepting their gay son or daughter.
Even as he was probably the most beloved teacher in the school, I feel certain that the idea of an out gay man teaching in 1966 would likely have been a non-starter. In the nearly 60 years that have passed, it seems we have come almost full circle, in a terrible backlash.
My children attended schools in Vermont from 1985 through the early 2000s. Many of their finest teachers were lesbians or gay men, a few of whom are still teaching in our district. I have not heard about any kind of negativity towards these educational professionals in Vermont, but what a contrast to the “red” states.
So many truly important social advances are currently targeted by the far right. Joe Biden actually spoke out at the end of April, publicly recognizing the damage done by the “lavender scare” during the 1950’s. Dwight Eisenhower signed a declaration banning LGBTQ citizens from working in the federal government — opening the door to invasive investigations as well as loss of jobs.
The far right has been trying to challenge the general societal acceptance of lesbians and gay men by banning any books for kids, even board books for babies, with any images, stories, or voices of same sex couples or gay individuals. By using the term, totally inappropriately, “groomer” for all non-straight people, the far right is trying to make your aunt, or brother, or buddy into a threatening figure.
Imagine living in Florida and being an out gay teacher under the “Don’t Say Gay” rule: You cannot refer to your partner, you are not supposed to provide assistance when young gay students approach you for help in staying sane, sometimes even in staying alive. It is probably necessary to slam that closet door that has been open for so many years if you are to keep your job.
Mr. Silverstein was not the only gay educator who was an absolutely phenomenal teacher. It is remarkable that the “parent’s rights” crowd seems to have zero interest in their children being taught by talented teachers who are preparing them for the 21st century instead of the 19th.
The 2022 Kentucky teacher of the year, Edward Carver, is on sabbatical this year and is afraid to return to his classroom. He states in an article in Education Week that the troubles began 4 or 5 years ago, that as a gay man, he was not harassed before that. Many of the finest, most exciting teachers are not heterosexual.
Given the huge teacher shortage, driving out a large class of qualified educators makes you think that maybe the right does not care about public schools. Of course, as the schools deteriorate, the elite can send their kids to private academies. Many of the most far right ideologues don’t even believe in public schools.
The gay rights movement was built from a need for personal and societal authenticity. To be a healthy human, your actions need to line up with your identity and your beliefs. The closet was never a healthy place for nonbinary people, and the reasons for the high suicide rate among gay and trans folks is generally a lack of ability to live their identities.
Our children are living through a horrible time — with all the gun violence and the fears about climate. Those who are LGBTQ+ deserve to have role models who are able to help them survive the challenges of the pre-teen and teen years. Driving out gay teachers, passing fascist laws like “Don’t Say Gay,” and violently attacking drag shows will never lead to a healthy society.
We should all raise a glass to the brave teachers who continue to take the abuse from the MAGA crowd. One of these teachers could save your child’s life.
As the public health emergency ends, a humanitarian crisis begins for LGBTQ+ asylum seekers
Title 42 ended on May 11
LGBTQIA+ people from around the world who come to the U.S. Southern border seeking safety from escalating discrimination and violence are now met with an impossible new system that denies us our human rights. Under Title 42, we struggled to find pathways from persecution in our home countries. When it was lifted on May 11, Biden replaced it with an asylum ban that forces us to stay in unsafe conditions while we try, and fail, to make an appointment on an app that does not work.
A gay asylum seeker myself, I experienced first-hand the challenges of proving my worthiness of protection under Title 42. Homosexuality is criminalized in a third of the world’s countries, forcing LGBTQIA+ people to face violence, harassment and discrimination, sometimes from our own government authorities. The Title 42 policy launched at the beginning of the COVID emergency prevented us from making an asylum case properly, leaving us in a state of vulnerability and without the protection we desperately needed. We faced increasing risks as we navigated detention or processing centers and were forced to return to countries where our lives were in danger.
I am now the client services manager at Lawyers for Good Government’s Project Corazon, where we coordinate legal services for thousands of LGBTQIA+ people fleeing danger, like I once did. Every day, I see how Biden’s new asylum ban makes pleading such claims nearly impossible. One of our clients, Mario, poses the perfect example.
Mario, a gender non-conforming Guatemalan asylum seeker from the Maya Qʼeqchiʼ community, carries on their late father’s legacy as a traditional herbal medicine expert and human rights advocate. In March 2022, they organized peaceful protests against the country’s homophobic “protection of life and family” bill, which was later passed by the Guatemalan Congress. However, their involvement led to persecution and torture by government-affiliated leaders, who accused them of witchcraft. Expelled from their community under indigenous “laws,” Mario sought refuge within Guatemala but faced ongoing persecution. Surviving two firearm assassination attempts, they fled to the United States’ Southern border to seek asylum.
Arriving at the Matamoros-Brownsville International Bridge, Mario exercised their rights under international law to express their intent to seek asylum directly to a Customs and Border Control asylum officer, the proper process before the U.S. government introduced the notoriously glitchy CBP One app earlier this year. Introduced to create an “orderly” means of arguing an exemption to Title 42, the app instead created yet another barrier to accessing asylum. Instead of accepting their declaration, the officer instructed them to use the app to make an appointment wherein they would check a box claiming they were exempt from the Title 42 public health emergency, and receive an appointment to tell their story and hopefully receive parole so they could begin the asylum process.
Mario managed to get access to a smartphone, but their limited literacy and unfamiliarity with technology posed challenges. The app failed to recognize their darker complexion during the photo capture process, as it did with numerous asylum seekers. Still, Mario did not give up: They struggled to secure an appointment every day, fearing their inability to verify their identity or meet the app’s listed vulnerabilities would hinder their right to request asylum. After 90 days of unsuccessful attempts and increasing dangers in Matamoros, they finally could not wait any longer and chose to instead risk crossing the hazardous river near the International Bridge to enter the U.S. They were intercepted by CBP and processed. Following a 72-hour case review, Mario received one-year parole, enabling them to pursue their asylum case in a safer environment.
If this new asylum ban had been in place, Mario would not be here today. They would have to prove that they had first sought asylum in Mexico, or figure out how to use an app that is not available in their language, or simply be forced to remain in a place where they had received numerous threats on their life. And had they attempted to cross, they would be deported “home” to a country that is notoriously hostile to LGBTQIA+ people, especially those with darker skin, and prohibited from seeking asylum in the U.S. again for five years.
This is now how asylum law works. Under existing asylum procedures that have been the law of the land since 1980, when Title 42 lifted on May 11, Mario should have just been able to walk up to an asylum officer and plead credible fear of harm based on their membership in a persecuted group. However, instead, the Biden administration pushed through critical, harsh changes to how asylum seekers on our southern border can seek protection, directly endangering our community and our lives.
It is not too late for the Biden administration to ensure that the new asylum rule does not exclude or discriminate against LGBTQIA+ people seeking protection in the United States. First, the administration should train immigration officials on the specific challenges facing our community, including understanding the laws and situations facing LGBTQIA+ people in different countries; this will guarantee a fair and appropriate evaluation in each individual case, and will avoid the perpetuation of stereotypes and prejudices that can lead to wrong decisions. Second, the administration must put mechanisms in place to provide legal advice and emotional support to people in our community seeking asylum, as we often face additional barriers due to our sexual orientation or gender identity. Third, the administration must fulfill its promise to create alternative pathways for people at imminent risk of harm, including our community members fleeing oppression.
The LGBTQIA+ community deserves an asylum system in the U.S. that recognizes and protects our fundamental human rights. Only then can we build an asylum system that reflects our values of equality and justice for all.
Estuardo Cifuentes is the client services manager at Lawyers for Good Government’s Project Corazon.
Do LGBTQ+ people REALLY need allies like the Dodgers?
You are displaying what can rightly be considered outright homophobia. You literally are allowing the LGBTQ+ community to be bullied
LOS ANGELES – On Wednesday of this week I reported Florida Republican U.S. Senator Marco Rubio issued a statement on Monday that condemned the Los Angeles Dodgers Major League Baseball franchise for a scheduled “Community Hero Award” to be given to the LA Chapter of The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence drag group during Pride month in June.
By Wednesday, the Dodgers caved in, folded, and walked away from a total commitment to the LGBTQ community by “uninviting” The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence ludicrously claiming that the team felt it would be better to hold Dodger Pride Night without the “controversial” elements that honoring the drag group raised.
Let’s consider this for a moment, just the optics for example, a senior vice-president of the team is openly gay AND married. In addition to that, one of the team’s minority owners is- wait for it, a LESBIAN! The team would rather cater to the manufactured butt-hurt rage of the conservatives, not wishing to offend the faithful of a religious group whose priests have been convicted of molesting thousands of children over multiple centuries, mostly male victims I’ll add, rather than honor a drag group with a long established record of charity and philanthropic efforts? (Oh and NO record of molesting kids either.)
I have published the understandable and justifiable anger and critique by community leaders here in Los Angeles and beyond. The Los Angeles LGBT Center’s CEO noted in his statement:
“Buckling to pressure from out-of-state, right-wing fundamentalists, the Dodgers caved to a religious minority that is perpetuating a false narrative about LGBTQ+ people. They have been fed lies about the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, and have therefore contributed to the ongoing, anti-LGBTQ smear campaign happening in this country. In a year where over 400 pieces of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation are on the books—many of them targeting freedom of speech, expression, and the bodily autonomy of our community—the fight for LGBTQ+ rights is as critical as ever, and unfortunately the Dodgers chose to bow to the religious right rather than stand with our LGBTQ community.”
As I write these words, Texas Lawmakers are considering yet another bill banning drag or severely limiting the ability of drag performers to practise their artform, that state joining the dozen plus other states who have banned or are considering bans on drag performances.
This year has seen attacks on drag, attacks on trans healthcare, attacks on LGBTQ+ kids, book bans, a plethora of hate yet here in California, in Los Angeles no less, even with the aforementioned senior staff and owners being LGBTQ+ themselves, the Dodgers are tossing the LGBTQ+ community, its people, and THEIR fans out on the rubbish heap because of butt hurt rage by people who don’t even live in LA. Seriously?
Today is Friday and there is silence from the Dodgers… crickets.
Why even bother holding a Pride night? You either back us entirely or you don’t. And if you don’t? Well then I recommend that LGBTQ+ baseball fans and our community allies consider cheering for and backing the Angels, the Padres, the Oakland Athletics, or the Giants.
My message to the Dodgers is simple, screw you if you cannot support people who are in a battle for their very existence every.single.day! You are displaying what can rightly be considered outright homophobia. You literally are allowing the LGBTQ+ community to be bullied. Really? Honestly? You all suck.
I’ll let the Sisters have the final word:
Brody Levesque is a veteran journalist and the editor of the Los Angeles Blade.
For Israel’s LGBTQ citizens, threats are no longer theoretical
Proposed judicial reforms could have wide-ranging impact
In 2023, millions are engaging in protests all around the world. People are making their voices heard in France, Mexico, Bangladesh, Hungary and Greece – just to name a few.
The specific events triggering civic action vary by location. But whether it’s pension reforms, election concerns, human rights, or rank government incompetence, it’s undeniable that the world is shaking. Among the common threads are an existential threat to democratic institutions.
At A Wider Bridge, we are closely connected to the manifestation of this international phenomenon in Israel.
Israelis from across the political spectrum are taking a stand for their democracy in an unprecedented manner. They have taken to the streets in historic numbers day after day, week after week, in patriotic displays of defiance. LGBTQ Israelis are on the front lines in a battle over legislation that most of them feel would dramatically undermine the independence of Israel’s judiciary. The stakes are high. The Israeli Supreme Court has been a bastion for advancing LGBTQ equality.
With a different court, LGBTQ Israelis could see protections ended for male couples and single men who have children via surrogacy. Same-sex couples married overseas might lose recognition of their unions, and with that, benefits from health insurance to inheritance, not to mention the implications for parents where one partner is non-Israeli. Protections for students and trans Israelis could evaporate. But there is more than the court in play. A new generation of extremist politicians have gained true power — and the bully pulpit. The reverberations are being felt far and wide — and the threat they pose to LGBTQ Israelis is no longer theoretical.
The Aguda, the Association for LGBTQ Equality in Israel, just released its 2022 report on LGBTQphobia in Israel. The findings show that anti-LGBTQ hate has skyrocketed. It rose during an election cycle in which some extremist politicians railed against LGBTQ rights, and it skyrocketed after the early November election. It has affected almost every aspect of LGBTQ life in the country.
In total, there were 3,309 reports of LGBTQ abuse last year — an enormous increase, and double what was reported as recently as five years ago. Delving deeper into the data, the news gets even scarier: an eightfold increase in year-on-year discrimination reports involving services by businesses, a fivefold increase in LGBTQ abuse reports in the public sphere, a 53 percent increase in reports from trans individuals, and a sevenfold increase in LGBTQ abuse reports where the offending parties are public figures and in the media.
On top of that, fully 25 percent of these reports came in November and December — during the election campaign and immediately following the commencement of the new government.
Some have urged patience with Israel’s new government and advocate a wait-and-see approach. They say nothing bad has happened yet. Sadly, they are wrong.
While these extremist politicians, now leading important government ministries, have yet to deliver fully on pledges to remove LGBTQ education from schools, groups working in that sector say it has become increasingly difficult to do programs they routinely offered in the past. They have yet to ban Pride parades, end hormone treatments and gender-affirming care for trans people, or provide financial support for organizations that provide conversion therapy. But all of these anti-LGBTQ policies are on the table. Unfortunately for LGBTQ Israelis, there is no safety in adopting a wait-and-see approach.
Recently, a group of right-wing youth harassed protesters carrying Pride flags in Tel Aviv. They threw rocks at a building at which a Pride flag was displayed. They even climbed a balcony to tear it down. They were caught in the act on video and later identified. But for weeks, no arrests have been made. In response, thousands of pro-LGBTQ Israelis protested in front of the police headquarters in Tel Aviv — a city justifiably celebrated for its LGBTQ-friendly environment and with one of the highest percentages of LGBTQ residents in the world. They were protesting police inaction, fully cognizant that the municipal police are controlled by the Israeli Ministry of National Security under Itamar Ben-Gvir, an open homophobe who ran for office on a far-right slate with a radical anti-LGBTQ platform.
Was the lack of police action a result of top-down pressure? We don’t know. But we do know that the physical security of LGBTQ people is often dependent on the institutions that govern us.
We also know that we can never take our rights and our safety for granted. That’s true whether one is LGBTQ in Tel Aviv, Black in Missouri, or Jewish on the streets of New York City, where antisemitic violence is on the rise.
The legislation Israelis are protesting is but one symptom of a global phenomenon to wrest power from institutions that have advanced the equality of marginalized groups — LGBTQ people, women, racial minorities, immigrants and others. It is not difficult to connect the dots from Jerusalem to Florida to certain eastern European countries, where democratic norms are under attack in general, as are the rights of LGBTQ people in particular.
So what do we do in the face of these challenges? First, we recognize the challenges as real, acute, and demanding immediate action.
Then we organize. We protest. We don’t allow ourselves to be gaslighted by those who say all is well, when clearly it is not. All one has to do to appreciate the threats to LGBTQ people in Israel is to speak with a few LGBTQ Israelis.
Accordingly, A Wider Bridge has dramatically increased our support of LGBTQ groups through additional public advocacy and an emergency campaign to fund their pro-democracy work and meet needs for increased social services. Next month, we will travel to Israel to stand with our LGBTQ family. We will march with them at the Jerusalem March for Pride and Tolerance and host an English livestream to the world.
We continue to be inspired by Israel’s democracy movement, where the LGBTQ flag has become as common a sight in the streets as the Israeli flag itself. We will stand with them today — and every day — to protect Israel’s democratic and pluralistic character in the face of this emergency.
Ethan Felson is the executive director of A Wider Bridge.
The road to decriminalization in Sri Lanka
Country’s Supreme Court this month ruled in favor of MP’s bill
Thanks to its colonial legacy, Sri Lanka is one of 67 countries in the world that still criminalizes same-sex sexual relations among consenting adults. Sections 365 and 365A of Sri Lanka’s Penal Code state that “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” (in other words, any type of sex that is considered unnatural) and “acts of gross indecency” are criminal offenses punishable by law, carrying a sentence of up to 10 years. While they do not specify that these offenses pertain to same-sex sexual relations anymore, they are most often used against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, Transgender, intersex and queer/questioning (LGBTIQ) community. In addition, the Vagrancy Law and Section 399 of the Penal Code regarding “cheating by personation” (referring to impersonation) are also used against the LGBTIQ community in Sri Lanka, particularly against transgender individuals.
For eons, criminalization has led to arbitrary arrests, inhumane forceful anal examinations, degrading treatment etc. It has sanctioned discrimination, stigmatization, denial of basic human rights, harassment and violence towards LGBTIQ community by state officials in the criminal justice system and unfortunately by the wider public as well. This has led to social and economic marginalization and to the exclusion of LGBTIQ individuals and groups from vital services. EQUAL GROUND, the oldest and one of the truly diverse organizations in Sri Lanka, has been fighting relentlessly for over 19 years to decriminalize consenting same-sex relationships. This has been a roller coaster ride where EQUAL GROUND encountered political and social backlash, tackled online and offline threats, hate comments etc., but it has never given up. As they say, “Rome wasn’t built in a day, but they were laying bricks every hour.” Rather, the attacks and barriers motivated EQUAL GROUND to stand firmly and continue fighting the good fight. Due to its relentless hard work and support from allies, the international community and like-minded organizations, finally we are seeing decriminalization firmly on the table — something which seemed so far-fetched only a couple of years back.
As mentioned earlier, the criminalization of same-sex sexual conduct in Sri Lanka has its origins in 19th century British colonial law. Introduced in 1883, section 365A originally criminalized “any act of gross indecency” between males. In 1995, when reforming the Penal Code — due to a private members bill in 1995 — the government ignored recommendations to repeal the provision and instead amended Section 365A from “male person” to “person,” bringing lesbian and bisexual women within its remit. Consequently, lesbian, bisexual, Transgender and queer (LBTQ) women in Sri Lanka are extremely vulnerable to harassment, violence and discrimination by State actors and by society at large. At the same time, it perpetuates and reinforces the widespread societal stigma against LBTQ women, giving license to harassment and discrimination in employment, housing, education, health care and family relations, to name a few. Realizing and experiencing such discriminatory treatment, in 2018 Rosanna Flamer-Caldera, executive director of EQUAL GROUND (with the support of Human Dignity Trust) challenged the criminalization of lesbians and bisexual women in Sri Lanka by submitting a communication to the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) under the Optional Protocol in August 2018. This move was the first steppingstone towards initiating the process and talk of decriminalization. This ground-breaking case was the first time CEDAW considered an individual complaint relating specifically to the criminalization of lesbian and bisexual women. Flamer-Caldera sought a wide range of remedies, beginning with the repeal of criminalization of same-sex consensual relationships between adult women which is contrary to the Convention. She also sought amongst other things, the wider decriminalization of consensual same-sex activity in private between adults and effective protection from gender-based violence against women based on the intersection of their sex and sexual orientation.
After years of struggle, finally in February 2022, the CEDAW committee ruled the judgment in Flamer-Caldera’s favor. The committee decided that Rosanna Flamer-Caldera’s rights had been violated by the criminalization of same-sex sexual intimacy in Sri Lanka. Moreover, the CEDAW committee urged the government to decriminalize same-sex sexual relations.
In August 2022 Parliamentarian and lawyer Premanath C. Dolawatte presented to Parliament a Private Member’s Bill to amend Sections 365 and 365A of the Penal Code of Sri Lanka with the aim of ensuring the rights of the LGBTIQ community. The bill was subsequently handed over to President Ranil Wickremesinghe where he stated that the government will not oppose the amendment. Dolawatte, at a public forum inclusive of major political parties including the Samagi Jana Balawegaya and Ceylon Workers’ Congress, also stated that he was hopeful that a majority of MPs in the House would support his bill and join the effort to protect the rights of the LGBTIQ community. A revised version of this gill was gazetted and presented to Parliament in March and April 2023 respectively.
In September 2022, EQUAL GROUND was invited by MP Buddhika Pathirana (SJB) to put together a discussion on LGBTIQ inclusion, following which a proposal was made and accepted to (a) the Samagi Jana Balawegaya’s (SJB) National Reforms Committee to incorporate LGBTIQ rights in their party manifesto, (b) sensitize SJB parliamentarians and politicians on sexual orientation and/or gender identities/expressions (SOGIE) issues. This discussion was attended by LGBTIQ activists, lawyers, healthcare professionals, business personnel as well as politicians from the SJB party including the party leader Mr. Sajith Premadasa, who is also the current leader of the opposition.
In December 2022, EQUAL GROUND submitted the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) report (4th cycle), in collaboration with the Center for International Human Rights of Northwestern Pritzker School of Law in Chicago. In this joint submission, as remedial measures EQUAL GROUND sought to decriminalize consensual same-sex sexual conduct by repealing Penal Code Section 365 and 365A and ensuring that Penal Code Section 399 and the Vagrants Ordinance are not misused to target LGBTIQ persons. In February 2023, at the U.N. Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review Working Group session (42nd session), the U.S., the U.K., Canada, New Zealand and Norway, among others, urged Sri Lanka to decriminalize same-sex relationships. Responding to all the recommendations, Minister of Foreign Affairs, President’s Counsel (PC) M.U.M. Ali Sabry assured that the government would work towards decriminalization, however same-sex marriage would not be legalized. Referring to the Private Member’s Bill, he stated that the government will support its position of decriminalizing same-sex relationships.
A petition was presented to the Supreme Court in April this year challenging the constitutionality of the bill to amend the Penal Code. After hearing more than a dozen petitions on both sides of the argument, the Supreme Court has determined that a private member’s bill seeking the decriminalization of homosexuality is not inconsistent with the Constitution. The decision is seen as a historic development that has created hope towards real change. Activists will still have to lobby for support from the 225 parliamentarians to push forward the proposed legislation through Parliament; but it has opened the door of an inclusive and equal future where everybody will be able to enjoy their basic rights regardless of their sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity etc.
Both the president of Sri Lanka and the joint opposition has stated they will not oppose the bill. The next steps for it to eventually become legislation, is a vote with a simple majority at Parliament to see this through.
This Supreme Court decision in early May 2023 is major for the community in terms of any kind of progress they have seen over the last few decades.
On several occasions, the international community has urged the government to decriminalize consensual same-sex sexual conduct. For instance, in 2021 the European Union Parliament adopted a resolution with regard to the withdrawal of Sri Lanka’s GSP+ status given their concern over Sections 365 and 365A of the Penal Code that criminalize individuals with diverse sexual orientations and gender identities. Unfortunately, the EU dropped this condition from at the last moment granting GSP+ status to Sri Lanka. It was a severe blow to the LGBTIQ community and EQUAL GROUND who had lobbied at high levels within the EU and had been assured by the EU that indeed decriminalization would be an important condition of Sri Lanka’s GSP+ status.
LGBTIQ rights, from 2021 to until now, has seen some positive changes developing with national laws and policies.
According to EQUAL GROUND’s mapping study in 2021, approximately 12 percent of the Sri Lankan population identify themselves as LGBTIQ. Continuing to preserve Victorian, homophobic laws that penalizes individuals for who they are and/or for choosing a same-sex partner, violates their human rights as citizens of this country and drives the community underground to live in constant fear and in the shadows. Therefore, in order for Sri Lanka to be consistent with international standards of human dignity and rights, these laws can no longer be viewed with the moral standards that existed during the time of their creation. Rather, they have to be viewed in line with modern-day community standards based on the principles of human dignity and respect.
Rosanna Flamer-Caldera is the executive director of EQUAL GROUND.
The “Find Out” generation: A new generation for a new America
The “find out” generation that won’t settle for business as usual and are willing to face down the forces of status quo
By Steve Dunwoody | LOS ANGELES – In an op-ed I wrote in April entitled “On Gun Violence, the New Generation Will Not Be Silenced,” I wrote about Tennessee State Representative Justin Thomas and Justin Pearson being expelled from the Tennessee legislature.
Since then, both have been reinstated by local county governing boards that sent them back to the legislature unanimously. Let’s recall they and the remaining legislator Gloria Johnson’s “crime,” was deciding enough was enough by protesting against gun violence on the legislative floor. The national support they have received since then has been enormous.
Similarly, in Montana, Zooey Zephyr, the first transgender legislator there, was silenced by the Republican majority legislature there, being censured (prevented from public speaking) for saying there would be “blood on the hands” of members that voted on an anti-trans piece of legislation.
Zephyr and the “Tennessee Three,” as they’ve come to be called, are part of a new generation of leaders in America, or the “find out” generation that won’t settle for business as usual and are willing to face down the forces of status quo that want to maintain a system built on White supremacy and assimilation.
They follow a lineage of resistance of those willing to cause “good trouble,” as the late Congressman John Lewis once said. As the former head of the Student Nonviolent Coordination Committee in the 60s, Lewis was arrested multiple times and was part of the Tennessee sit-ins at segregated lunch counters in Nashville. (He would later, in 2016, bring Congressional House proceedings to a halt in a protest against gun violence.)
Justin Jones himself has been arrested 13 times for non-violent protest and jokes that one of the reasons he ran for the state legislature is that “members of the Tennessee Legislature can’t be arrested,” which is true, at least while in session. But Justin’s arrests are part of the tradition of the civil rights movement in the South. Tennessee was indeed the home resistance.
In May of 1960, over 150 students were arrested by the police for attempting to desegregate lunch counters in downtown Nashville. During the trial, the students, including Diane Nash, were defended by a group of 13 lawyers, headed by Z. Alexander Looby, a Black lawyer from the British West Indies, whose house was later bombed by segregationists. Looby and his wife were thankfully unharmed.
Later that day, 3,000 protesters marched to Nashville City Hall to confront Mayor Ben West to demand something be done about the violence. He agreed the lunch counters should be desegregated but that it should be up to the store managers.
The city later reached an agreement to desegregate numerous stores before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited desegregation altogether. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. later came to Nashville, saying he “did not come to bring inspiration, but to find it.”
Meanwhile, in Montana, Zooey Zephyr, the first transgendered state legislator in Montana, follows in the footsteps of early LGBT activists/officeholders like the late Harvey Milk of San Francisco. Zephyr’s courageous stance against a majority of the legislature who voted for an anti-trans bill prohibiting gender-affirming healthcare for minors resulted in Zephyr being censured and prohibited from giving speeches on the House floor. Since then, there has been a tremendous national backlash against such fascist tactics both there and in Tennessee.
As we look ahead to Junteenth and Pride next month, Jones, Pearson, and Zephyr are visible symbols of the rise of a new generation coming up, the “find out” generation that refuses to accept the status quo and who is willing to put everything on the line to face injustice in the name of service to their communities.
Whether it is gun violence, housing, or hate, leadership like this will create the multigenerational, intersectional leadership we need at the local, state, and federal levels in the Halls of Congress to bring about solutions to the issues we have been facing. To create a new America that works for everyone. And I’m here for it.
A millennial, based in Los Angeles, Steve Dunwoody is a veteran, college educator, and community advocate.
CNN should have known better than to give Donald Trump free rein
Anyone could have predicted he would make a mockery of CNN’s town hall, turning it into another extremist political rally
By Eric Kleefeld | WASHINGTON – Disgraced former President Donald Trump appeared Wednesday night for a prime-time campaign town hall event on CNN, during which the live audience cheered his continued lies about the 2020 election, applauded his pledge to pardon January 6 insurrectionists, and laughed as he described sexual assault.
Moderator Kaitlan Collins addressed him as “Mr. President” throughout the event, even though the title currently belongs to President Joe Biden, and she failed to fact-check many of his various blatant lies, including a heinous claim about infanticide that CNN debunked years ago. When Collins did push back on Trump’s flagrant lies, the fawning audience rallied to his defense with laughter and applause.
The entire display was so debasing to the network, Fox News gloated about it.
The fault for this debacle lies with CNN itself.
The network should have known better, especially after stocking the live audience with Republican primary voters in New Hampshire. That same demographic previously nominated election-denier candidates during the 2022 midterm elections, and Trump himself in 2016, so it was obvious from the start that they would provide a receptive crowd for his never-ending trail of falsehoods.
In one telling moment, Collins seemed to temporarily stump Trump with a persistent rebuttal to his false claims about mishandling classified documents, but the audience laughed and applauded when he personally insulted her in response:
"You're a nasty person" — Trump to Kaitlan Collins (the audience cheers) pic.twitter.com/Sa7XMTBPI9— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) May 11, 2023
It was also clear in advance that Trump would use CNN as a rhetorical punching bag for his own benefit. Tuesday morning, he posted on his social media site that he would be appearing on CNN, “because they are rightfully desperate to get those fantastic (TRUMP!) ratings once again.”
When CNN first announced the town hall event last week, the network indicated that it would treat Trump like any other candidate, despite the unprecedented nature of his candidacy and his previous tenure in office — among other things, he spurred an insurrection to stay in power. In addition, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav declared the company was “happy that he’s on our network” because he’s the front-runner for the Republican nomination, seemingly casting Trump and other extremist Republicans as equal voices on both sides of a political debate.
Former District of Columbia police officer Michael Fanone, who is now a CNN contributor, wrote a scathing piece on the network’s various rationales for hosting Trump. His guest piece published at Rolling Stone on Wednesday was titled “CNN Is Hosting a Town Hall for a Guy Who Tried to Get Me Killed,” referring to Fanone’s own experiences when he was brutally attacked by insurrectionists on January 6, 2021. (By his own admission, Fanone actually supported Trump in 2016, but he later became disillusioned with the former president.)
“Putting him onstage, having him answer questions like a normal candidate who didn’t get people killed in the process of trying to end the democracy he’s attempting to once again run, normalizes what Trump did,” Fanone wrote. “It sends a message that attempting a coup is just part of the process; that accepting election results is a choice; and that there are no consequences, in the media or in politics or anywhere else, for rejecting them.”
Maybe CNN didn’t set out to produce an hour of pro-Trump propaganda, but that’s exactly what it did. Other media outlets need to learn a lesson from this spectacle and realize that Trump is unlike any other candidate in American history — whatever the rules used to be, they don’t apply to him or his radicalized base of Republican primary voters.
The previous commentary was originally published by Media Matters for America, a Los Angeles Blade contributor, and was republished with permission.
“Freedom” is little more than a hollow DeSantis campaign slogan
Transgender Floridians will pay the steepest price for the Governor’s craven pandering to the most extreme faction of his base
By Brandon J. Wolf | ORLANDO – Matt Walsh super fans toting firearms they learned how to use on YouTube and conducting vigilante genital inspections in public restrooms.
If that visual doesn’t invoke freedom for you, that’s because it’s not. But it is the Sunshine State’s pending reality under the DeSantis regime, where “freedom” is little more than a hollow campaign slogan and the power of government is routinely weaponized against anyone who might serve as a punching bag for a Governor drunk on presidential ambition.
This year, in his desperation to outflank Donald Trump to the far right and bolster his 2024 resume, Governor DeSantis led an unprecedented legislative assault on freedom, in the most virulently anti-LGBTQ session in Florida’s history. Bills ranged from those that accelerate book bans and revoke a parent’s right to ensure their child’s pronouns are respected in school to others that target drag shows and threaten custody agreements over health care for transgender young people.
Among the policy onslaught is HB 1521, the Anti-Trans Bathroom Bill. On paper, it’s a redux of the ill-fated legislation that decimated the North Carolina economy less than a decade ago and spelled doom for the political career of then-Governor Pat McRory.
In practice, it’s a sinister invasion of privacy that bars transgender people from using the restroom in publicly-owned buildings that aligns with how they live their lives everyday and deputizes people to challenge one another’s presence in those spaces. The bill opens the door to the same abuse, mistreatment, and dehumanization that other efforts to police restroom use have precipitated.
Just last year, Noah Ruiz, a transgender man in Ohio, was brutally assaulted by a crowd of people and subsequently jailed after using the women’s restroom as instructed by staff at a campground.
Therein lies the danger of policies like these. Filed and fast tracked under the false premise of “protecting” the public, transphobic bathroom bans are fueled by dangerous disinformation about the transgender community. And their enforcement endorses grotesque invasions of privacy and dangerous accusations.
Are we prepared for escalating confrontations at convention center stalls? How will someone “prove” that they’ve selected the appropriate restroom? Will we all be expected to carry a copy of our birth certificate or will the state rely on vigilantes monitoring the external anatomy of those one toilet over?
A question arose as we began spelling out the realities of a draconian bathroom ban: who might get swept up? What about cisgender people who don’t fit someone else’s idea of how a man or woman should look? Could elected officials and appointees suddenly find themselves in handcuffs for making a necessary pitstop near their airport arrival gate?
The answer is yes. It’s conceivable that Admiral Rachel Levine, the nation’s Assistant Secretary for Health, could end up in police custody for using the restroom at Orlando International Airport or the University of Florida campus — the very same restroom she uses back home in Washington D.C..
Transgender Floridians will pay the steepest price for the Governor’s craven pandering to the most extreme faction of his base. Policies like this are little more than campaign fodder for someone like DeSantis. He craves a Fox News headline and content for his next fundraising email.
For him, transgender people are merely a rung on the ladder he must climb to reach his political destination, a stepping stone on his way to the GOP convention stage. But transgender people are not pawns or political fodder. They are our neighbors. Our family members. Our friends. They are human beings who deserve the dignity of taking care of basic needs without the prying eyes of government or someone hopped up on the latest Ben Shapiro video peering over the walls of their stall.
Ron DeSantis likes to claim that we are the “freest state in the nation.” But tell me: does a government regime telling you what you can read, what health care you can receive, who you can be, and where you can use the bathroom sound like freedom to you?
Brandon J. Wolf is the press secretary for Equality Florida, the largest state-wide LGBTQ+ rights and advocacy organization.
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