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California LGBTQ politicos are building a pipeline to equality

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Equality California and the California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus hosted an historic Leadership Summit on March 15 in Sacramento. More than 175 LGBTQ national, state, and local officials met to network, discuss leadership and policy issues and to encourage building a pipeline to electoral and legislative involvement within the LGBTQ community.

California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, the first openly LGBTQ person elected to statewide office, and Rep. Mark Takano, the first LGBTQ person of color elected to Congress, were keynote speakers.

“What would Harvey Milk think of this historic gathering? What would he want us to do?” Lara asked poignantly, acknowledging the late San Francisco Supervisor, the first openly gay elected official in California who pushed the importance of coming out and being one’s authentic self.

Takano lauded the election of “the gayest Congress in history,” but getting more LGBTQ people elected to office is still of key importance, especially at the local level.

“A tremendous amount of services are delivered at the county level. Services that really matter to the LGBT community, health services especially,” Takano told the Los Angeles Blade in a phone interview. “There are parts of our state with HIV transmission rates that are unacceptably high and part of that is that we need decision makers who will allocate resources appropriately for effective outreach.”

Takano noted that while transgender people and lesbians attended the summit, they were underrepresented.

Takano hopes the summit will lead to LGBTQ officials supporting and mentoring each other and looking at how issues of health, safety, and economic opportunity can be addressed in the LGBTQ community.

The summit featured such panels as the rewards of public service, hot policy topics in California and “The Rainbow Ladder: Strategies on Building the Bench of LGBTQ Leaders.”

“We want to keep building a pipeline of folks, so that there’s an infrastructure in place for LGBTQ candidates,” said Equality California Managing Director Tony Hoang.

Mario Enriquez, Director of Domestic Programs at the Victory Institute, which trains LGBTQ candidates, said viability, a plan to win and success at fundraising are critical in getting an endorsement and hence money from the community-networked Victory Fund.

Xóchitl Murillo, Appointments Consultant for the Speaker’s Office of Protocol, gave precise advice for those seeking jobs in government: “Here’s what I say to people when they ask me where to start: apply!”

Rick Zbur, Executive Director of Equality California, speculated that half the summit attendees were from communities of color and agreed with Takano that despite positive steps, LGBTQ people are still underrepresented in elected positions.

“We’ve got great allies in the State of California, but there’s nothing like having LGBTQ people with a seat at the table who can speak to how policies effect members of our community firsthand,” Zbur told the Los Angeles Blade.

The summit was designed to facilitate networking, give tools for advocacy, provide a briefing on state and national policy priorities, and provide a space for the LGBTQ Caucus and Equality California to hear from leaders about issues LGBTQ people are dealing with in their communities were the primary goals of the summit, Zbur said.

He added that Equality California is committed to the “deeply intersectional” project of advocating for LGBTQ rights, including bills helping transgender prisoners and addressing homelessness.

“We fight for all LGBTQ people,” he said.

On March 18, out State Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco) officially introduced the amended SB 132 that requires that incarcerated transgender individuals be classified and housed based on their gender identity, instead of their birth-assigned gender, which puts them at heightened risk of violence.

“The best outcome [for the summit] is that we actually get more people, more LGBTQ, deciding to run for office and seek spots in appointed office,“ Zbur said. “The second one is that we’re engaging all these leaders across the state to be better equipped and more forceful and more prepared advocates to join with us to advocate for LGBTQ priorities at the state and national and local levels.”

The summit comes at a time when the LGBTQ community is facing many struggles. The ban on transgender people serving in the military is set to be implemented in April, hate crimes are on the rise, and there is still a high rate of homelessness amongst LGBTQ youth.

Indeed, California Assemblymember Evan Low brought the issue of hate home, calling for a moment of silence for the victims of the massacre in Christchurch, New Zealand where a white supremacist terrorist murdered 50 worshippers at two mosques.

Lambda Legal’s Jenny Pizer noted that 1 in 3 federal court nominees have deep histories of anti-LGBTQ attitudes and advocacy. And while much progress has been made in the last decade, the battle for equality is intensifying in several states. “These states are under siege,” Pizer said. “The rest of the country is depending on California to keep on doing this work.”

The post-summit tweet-fest was positive.

“Over 175 dynamic #LGBTQ elected & appointed officials gathered for the first #CALGBTQSummit. California continues to lead the nation in advancing the cause of equality for our #LGBTQ community & we will continue working to ensure that our state remains a beacon of hope for all!” tweeted Assemblymember Sabrina Cervantes.

“So proud of the incredible diversity,” tweeted Stonewall Young Democrats President Chris Nikhil Bowen. “We’re bringing the color to public office!” – Karen Ocamb contributed to this story.

(All photos courtesy Equality California. The photo of Mark Takano is by Tia Gemmell)

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World

Gay man who live-streamed anti-government protests in Cuba detained

Yoan de la Cruz taken into custody on July 23

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Yoan de la Cruz is a gay man who live-streamed the first videos of the anti-government protests in Cuba that took place on July 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Twitter)

SAN ANTONIO DE LOS BAÑOS, Cuba — A gay man who live-streamed the first anti-government protest that took place in Cuba on July 11 has been detained.

Luis Ángel Adán Roble, a gay man who was once a member of Cuba’s National Assembly, in a July 28 tweet wrote Yoan de la Cruz used Facebook Live to livestream a protest in San Antonio de los Baños, a municipality in Artemisa province that is just outside of Havana.

The San Antonio de los Baños protest was the first of dozens of anti-government demonstrations against mounting food shortages, the government’s response to the pandemic, a worsening economic crisis and human rights that took place across Cuba on July 11. Many of those who participated in the protests chanted “libertad” or “freedom.”

Cubalex, a U.S.-based Cuban human rights organization, confirms authorities detained De La Cruz on July 23. The Blade has not been able to confirm De La Cruz’s current whereabouts.

“Yoan is the man who live-streamed the July 11 protests from San Antonio, nothing else,” tweeted Adán. “They took him from his house a few days ago and he is being accused of ‘incitement of the masses.’ Free Yoan, he did not commit any crime!”

The Los Angeles Blade has confirmed De La Cruz is gay.

Vida Bohemia, a drag queen who is De La Cruz’s friend, also demanded de la Cruz’s release.

“If he didn’t throw a stone, (if) he didn’t break glass, (if) he didn’t hit anyone, (if) nobody yelled down below, please let him go,” Bohemia told 14ymedio, a website founded by Yoani Sánchez, a journalist who is a vocal critic of the Cuban government. “He has a mother, a grandmother, a family and thousands of friends suffering.”

Maykel González Vivero, editor of Tremenda Nota, the Blade’s media partner in Cuba, is among the hundreds of people who were arrested during the July 11 protests. The New York Times reports that De La Cruz is among the estimated 700 people who remain in custody.

Thousands Cuban Americans gathered in front of the White House on July 26 to demand the Biden administration do more to support the protesters on the island. They later marched to the Cuban Embassy.

The White House under the Global Magnitsky Act has sanctioned Cuba’s National Revolutionary Police (PNR), the Interior Ministry Special Brigade, Defense Minister Álvaro López Miera, PNR Director Oscar Callejas Valcarce and PNR Deputy Director Eddie Sierra Arias for their role in the government’s crackdown on the July 11 protests. Yotuel Romero, a Cuban singer who co-wrote “Patria y vida!”, a song that has become an anthem for anti-government protesters, is among those who met with President Biden at the White House on July 30.

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FBI joins investigation into murder of LGBTQ Atlantan

Atlanta Police continue to search for the suspect in the deadly stabbing of a woman asking that anyone with information to please come forward

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Katie Janness and her dog Bowie via Facebook

ATLANTA – The Atlanta Police Department’s murder investigation into this past Wednesday’s stabbing death of 40-year-old Katie Janness and her dog in Piedmont Park, located about 1 mile northeast of downtown between the Midtown and Virginia Highland neighborhoods, has been joined by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, (FBI).

WXIA 11 Alive news reported that the FBI is assisting the Atlanta Police Department, (APD) however a spokesperson for the APD told WXIA the department wouldn’t provide any specifics about the FBI’s involvement with the investigation, nor did the Atlanta Field Office of the FBI comment. 

The Georgia Voice, the local LGBTQ newspaper, reported that Janness, a member of Atlanta’s LGBTQ community and a bartender at the LGBTQ-owned Campagnolo, was found stabbed to death in the park on Wednesday (July 28) after walking her dog Bowie, who was also killed.

Janness was found by her partner of six years, Emma Clark, after Clark tracked her with her phone’s GPS.

“Today, I lost the love of my life and baby boy,” Clark said in a post shared to a GoFundMe page. “It was tragic. She was the most intelligent, kind, humble, and beautiful person I have ever known. I wanted to spend every second with her. [Bowie] was the sweetest, most loyal companion. My heart is so very broken, my world will never be the same.”

A vigil was held for Janness on Thursday evening at Piedmont Park.

Atlanta Police continue to search for the suspect in a deadly stabbing of a woman in Piedmont Park

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Janness’ murder is believed to be the first homicide inside the park in 12 years and according to family members of Janness’ longtime girlfriend, a security camera at an intersection near the park’s entrance captured the last known picture of Katherine Janness and her dog before the two were killed.

But other cameras in the area weren’t working, including one facing the entrance. As of Friday the AJC also reported, as of Friday afternoon, Atlanta police had released few details about the murder investigation that has left city residents and parkgoers on edge.

Atlanta Police are asking that anyone with information to please come forward, and tipsters can remain anonymous by contacting Crime Stoppers Atlanta at 404-577-8477, texting information to 274637 or visiting the Crime Stoppers website.

APD detectives are also asking those who live in this area to review footage from their security cameras and contact the police if they find anything that may be pertinent to this investigation. The timeframe for review should be between 10:30 p.m. on Tuesday to 1:30 a.m. on Wednesday.

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The CDC’s eviction moratorium ending at midnight Saturday stoking fears

CDC’s eviction ban expires at midnight tonight, millions of primarily lower income Americans are facing losing their homes

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Graphic via NBC News YouTube Channel

LOS ANGELES – As the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (CDC) eviction ban expires at midnight tonight, millions of primarily lower income Americans are facing losing their homes. Hopes of a federal extension approved by Congress failed this week and now lawmakers are on a six-week recess.

On Thursday, President Joe Biden announced that he would let the current CDC eviction moratorium expire instead of challenging the June U.S. Supreme Court ruling that extended the deadline to tonight. The high court ruled to extend moratoriums to the end of July but made it clear it would block any further extensions unless there was specific congressional authorization.

A White House official said that President Biden would have liked to extend the federal eviction moratorium because of the spread of the delta variant of the coronavirus which is highly contagious. However, the official conceded there were also concerns that challenging the high court may lead to a ruling that potentially could restrict the Biden administration’s ability to take unilateral actions in future public health crises.

On Friday, Missouri Democratic Representative Cori Bush angrily denounced House colleagues for adjourning for the August recess without passing an extension of the CDC eviction moratorium.

“The House is at recess. People are on vacations. How are we on vacation when we have millions of people who could start to be evicted tonight?” Bush told CNN’s Jessica Dean. “There are people already receiving and have received pay or vacate notices that will have them out on tomorrow. People are already in a position where they need help, our most vulnerable, our most marginalized, those who are in need,” she said, adding, “How can we go vacation? No, we need to come back here.”

The CDC’s eviction ban was intended to prevent further spread of the coronavirus by people put out on the streets and into shelters. Congress had approved nearly $47 billion in federal housing aid to the states during the pandemic, but that funding has been slow to make it into the hands of renters and landlords owed payments. According to persons knowledgeable of the assistance system structure, one of the reasons for the delays are over complicated administrative requirements for renters seeking help.

The President had pleaded with local governments to “take all possible steps” to immediately disburse the funds. “There can be no excuse for any state or locality not accelerating funds to landlords and tenants that have been hurt during this pandemic,” he said in a statement released late Friday.

While the Senate was in a rare Saturday work session on the president’s infrastructure package during a floor speech Democratic Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren stated, “We are only hours away from a fully preventable housing crisis. We have the tools, and we have the funding. What we need is the time.”

The President’s apparent action angered many lawmakers in his own party on Capitol Hill some who expressed anger furious that he expected Congress to provide a last-minute solution to protect renters that they were unable to deliver.

Representative Maxine Waters, (D-Calif.), Chair of the House Financial Services Committee, said Saturday on CNN: “We thought that the White House was in charge.” Waters quickly produced a draft of a bill that would require the CDC to continue the ban through Dec. 31. At a hastily arranged hearing Friday morning to consider the bill she urged her colleagues to act, Stars and Stripes reported.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi implored colleagues to pass Waters’ bill extending the deadline, calling it a “moral imperative,” to protect renters and also the landlords who are owed compensation. Landlords are opposed to extending the CDC’s eviction moratorium and are also urging local and state governments to speed up disbursement of the funding designed to hep renters from losing their homes and landlords to meet their obligations.

When House Democrats failed to garner support for Waters’ legislative efforts, they then tried to simply approve an extension by consent, without a formal vote, but House Republicans objected.

According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, as of March of this year, 6.4 million American households were behind on their rent and as of July 5, the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey showed that in the next two months approximately 3.6 million Americans will face immediate eviction proceedings.

The Associated Press reported Saturday that some places are likely to see spikes in evictions starting Monday, while other jurisdictions will see an increase in court filings that will lead to evictions over several months.

The Biden administration is trying to keep renters in place through other means. It released more than $1.5 billion in rental assistance in June, which helped nearly 300,000 households.

The departments of Housing and Urban Development, Agriculture and Veterans Affairs extended their foreclosure-related eviction moratoriums through the end of September on households living in federally insured, single-family homes late Friday, after the president had asked them to do so.

In Los Angeles, the threat of a spate of evictions will greatly exacerbate the greater LA region’s homelessness crisis. This past week in a 13-2 vote Wednesday, the Los Angeles City Council voted to stop people from camping in public spaces including the areas around parks, schools, homeless shelters, bridges and overpasses, and other similar structures.

A spokesperson for Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said that he will sign the ordinance.  Once signed, the measure will go into effect 30 days later.  Opponents of this ordinance are decrying it as another effort to criminalise the homeless population.

Homeless and civil rights activist Eddie Cruz told KTLA, “this ordinance is targeting a specific group of people in the unhoused community. We believe that this is an irresponsible attack from the City Council and an irresponsible way to deal with the homelessness crisis that is occurring in Los Angeles,” Cruz said.

In a new poll released last week conducted by Inside California Politics and Emerson College of more than 1,000 registered voters, half rated Governor Gavin Newsom’s response to the homelessness crisis in California as ‘poor.’

Newsom’s low marks comes after he signed the largest funding and reform package for housing and homelessness in California history as part of the $100 billion California Comeback Plan. The package includes $10.3 billion for affordable housing and $12 billion over two years towards tackling the homelessness crisis including $5.8 billion to add 42,000 new housing units through the states’ Project Homekey .

Another $3 billion of this investment is dedicated to housing for people with the most acute behavioral and physical health needs.

However, say activists, there is no sense of urgency in assisting people navigate through what most people see as an overly complicated application process matched with tens of thousands who will be immediately impacted and without a time cushion to work through the assistance process once the moratorium is lifted.

Eviction Moratorium Ending

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