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Human Rights Campaign and UCLA to host 2020 Democratic presidential forum

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The Human Rights Campaign Foundation will co-host a presidential forum for 2020 Democratic candidates in conjunction with the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs this October. The forum will be dedicated to LGBTQ rights and issues of equality.

The forum will feature a succession of candidates sharing and being questioned about their agendas and policy positions before a live audience on Thursday, October 10, 2019 in UCLA’s historic Royce Hall, which can seat approximately 1,800 people. The event will take place the night before National Coming Out Day, which HRC now oversees. Last year, HRC commemorated the 30th anniversary of NCOD, founded in LA in 1988 by Jean O’Leary and Rob Eichberg (see 1988 video of Jean and Rob announcing NCOD here).

The forum is part of UCLA’s Luskin Lecture Series, which “enhances public discourse on topics relevant to the betterment of society,” according to a press release. The Luskin series has previously worked with the UCLA LGBTQ Center  on other events. UCLA has a long history of associating with LGBTQ people—the late judge Rand Schrader was openly gay in the early 1970s as a law student; now the law school is well known for the Williams Institute.

The criteria for candidate participation is akin to other presidential candidate forums and debates for Democratic candidates: at least a one percent showing in three separate national polls or having received contributions from 65,000 different people in 20 different states.

HRC Foundation has hosted two other forums—one in 2004 that included Sen. John Kerry (who became the Democratic presidential nominee); Rep. Dennis Kucinich; Sen. Carol Moseley Braun (America’s first African American US Senator); Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (who signed the historic civil unions bill); Sen. Joe Lieberman (Al Gore’s Vice Presidential nominee in 2000); Rev. Al Sharpton; and former House Speaker Richard Gephardt.

The Visible Vote ’08 forum on August 9, 2007, was broadcast on cable by forum co-host LOGO. This one made national news. Moderated by Margaret Carlson, the panelists were HRC’S Joe Solmonese; New York Daily News editorial page writer and In The Life reporter Jonathan Capehart; and singer Melissa Etheridge. The candidates were New York Sen. Hillary Clinton; Illinois Sen. Barack Obama; Sen. Mike Gravel; Rep. Dennis Kucinich; former Sen. John Edwards (before his affair was exposed); and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.

Etheridge asked Clinton why her husband threw gays under the bus; Capehart asked Obama if he’s stand up to the homophobia in the black church; and Richardson, already having raised eyebrows for having used a gay slur in Spanish on a radio show, draws audible gasps when Etheridge asks: “Do you think homosexuality is a choice, or is it biological?” Richardson doesn’t hesitate: “It’s a choice.” His campaign immediately tried to clean it up with blogger Pam Spaulding—to no avail. His candidacy was essentially doomed after that. (Read the entire transcript here.)

There is no information yet if the same format will be followed or who the moderator or panelists might be. But it’s the real deal – and it’s happening at an important time when STILL in America, LGBTQ individuals are second class citizens. In 30 states, LGBTQ people can STILL be not refused employment, not promoted, or fired simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. LGBTQ people can also be refused housing or evicted or denied public accommodations and services simply for living an authentic life. Additionally, 35 states still permit the junk science practice called “conversion therapy,” which California has officially deemed psychological child abuse.

And, despite the heartwarming videos produced as a result of the “It Gets Better” project following a rash of gay teen suicides, LGBTQ youth STILL face incredibly bullying and rejection. Additionally, according to FBI hate crimes statistics from 2017, there’s been a surge in hate crimes disproportionately affecting LGBTQ people, black people and religious minorities such as Jews and Muslims. And there’s what some have called an epidemic of murders of transgender people—at least 100, most of whom are trans women of color —since the beginning of 2015.

“If any LGBTQ person were to take a cross-country drive from HRC headquarters in Washington, D.C., to UCLA’s campus, their rights and protections under the law would change dozens of times at every city line and state border,” HRC President Chad Griffin says in a press release. “Millions of LGBTQ people will have their rights on the ballot in 2020 — but today we are also a powerful voting bloc that will help determine the outcome. We’re excited to partner with UCLA and create an opportunity to hear candidates’ agendas for moving equality forward.”

“The Luskin School of Public Affairs is dedicated to enhancing the well-being of all Americans through an informed electorate and educated social leaders,” said Gary Segura, dean of UCLA Luskin. “We are beyond excited to partner with the Human Rights Campaign in raising LGBTQ issues and the policy stances of candidates to greater public attention in this cycle. UCLA is the perfect host for this conversation.”

HRC reports that: “on Election Day 2018, exit polling showed that more than seven million LGBTQ voters — six percent of total turnout — cast ballots, making the difference in key races from coast to coast. The new pro-equality majority in the U.S. House of Representatives has already taken action; Speaker Nancy Pelosi has made it a top priority to pass the Equality Act, a federal LGBTQ civil rights bill that will provide consistent and explicit non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people from coast to coast. This legislation was introduced with unprecedented support from members of Congress, national advocacy organizations and leading U.S. companies.”

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Virginia

Virginia lawmaker introduces anti-Trans bathroom legislation

Democrats still have a 21-19 majority in the state Senate, and they have signaled they will oppose any effort to curtail LGBTQ rights

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Virginia State Capitol building (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

RICHMOND – A Virginia lawmaker has introduced a bill that would restrict the ability of transgender students and school board employees to use bathrooms and other facilities in public schools that are consistent with their gender identity.

House Bill 1126, which state Delegate John Avoli (R-Stanton) introduced, would require “each school board to adopt policies to require each student and school board employee to have access to restrooms, locker rooms and other changing facilities in public school buildings that are shared only by members of the same biological sex; lodging accommodations during school-sponsored trips that are shared only by members of the same biological sex; and a single-user restroom, locker room, or other changing facility in a public school building, upon request, if the school can reasonably accommodate such a request.”

Avoli introduced HB 1126 on Jan. 12 on the same day the Virginia General Assembly’s 2022 legislative session began with Republicans in control of the House of Delegates. Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin took office on Jan. 15.

State Sen. Travis Hackworth (R-Tazewell County) last month introduced Senate Bill 20, which would eliminate the requirement that school districts must implement the Department of Education’s trans and non-binary student guidelines. State Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas), who in 2018 became the first openly trans person seated in any state legislature in the U.S., told the Washington Blade last week that she expects SB 20 “would be dead on arrival” in committee.

Equality Virginia, a statewide LGBTQ rights group, on its website notes HB 1126 is among the bills that it opposes.

Democrats still have a 21-19 majority in the state Senate, and they have signaled they will oppose any effort to curtail LGBTQ rights in Virginia. Outgoing Equality Virginia Executive Director Vee Lamneck last week said their organization “will work with the Senate’s pro-equality majority to act as a crucial back stop against harmful legislation and efforts to roll back our hard-earned wins passed during the last two years.”

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Los Angeles County

Critics attack LA DA over complicated case involving Trans woman

The crime would sit unsolved until 2019 when her DNA was entered into a database after she was arrested in Idaho on suspicion of battery

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Screenshot: Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón being interviewed by KABC7 LA in April of 2021

LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón is facing sharp criticism over his policy to never prosecute children as adults after a 26-year-old Trans woman pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a 10-year-old girl when she was 17. But, according to Gascón, the nature of the case is complicated.

Hannah Tubbs was weeks shy of her 18th birthday when she walked into a Denny’s bathroom in Palmdale, grabbed a 10-year-old girl by the throat and sexually assaulted her, according to prosecutors. 

The crime would sit unsolved until 2019 when her DNA was entered into a database after she was arrested in Idaho on suspicion of battery, reported the Los Angeles Times. Prosecutors filed charges in 2020, shortly after Gascón took office. 

According to the paper, Tubbs, who pleaded guilty, might be sentenced to a short stay in juvenile hall or probation later this month. 

“I would ask the public to reach out to Mr. Gascon and express their concerns and their outrage on a matter such as this involving a sexual predator.”

Lt. Richard Ruiz of the LA County Sheriff’s Department’s Special Victims Bureau

Critics of Gascón are expressing their frustration with the district attorney, saying Tubbs’ case highlights the problems with a blanket ban on not trying juveniles as adults. 

“It’s useless to catch criminals like [Tubbs] if we don’t follow through and seek justice for victims such as the 10-year-old girl [she] sexually assaulted. She bears the burden of a lifetime of trauma,” L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, whose district includes Palmdale, told the Times. “[She] will be offered therapeutic interventions under the auspices of ‘restorative justice’… and possibly granted only probation or parole. Where is the justice for [her] young victim and her family?”

Some critics are using the case as ammunition to fuel another recall effort of Gascón. The earlier attempt to recall the district attorney didn’t make it to a vote as proponents couldn’t collect enough signatures. 

However, Gascón has said that the case is complicated due to the years between the crime and Tubbs’ capture, as well as her criminal record and the impact on the victim. 

Tubbs has also been arrested for battery, drug possession and probation violations in Idaho and Washington, according to the paper. 

The victim, who did not want to testify on trial, has since moved from California and is still in therapy, said an impact statement read in court last month.

Gascón has also raised concerns about Tubbs’ becoming a victim herself if she was held in an adult facility because of her trans identity. A probation report recommended she be sentenced to home confinement, according to Gascón.

An email reviewed by the Times said Tubbs is diagnosed with multiple mental illnesses and might also qualify as “developmentally disabled.” These factors lead to legal questions about whether she can even be found responsible for the crime. 

In addition, at 26, Tubbs is too old to be legally held in a county juvenile detention facility, leading to more questions over Tubbs’ sentencing.

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Religious Extremism/Anti-LGBTQ+ Activism

Christian pastors launch flood of vituperation against Canadian law

Some 4,000 U.S. pastors spoke about it from their pulpits in a show of concern about similar laws coming into effect here

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Pastor John MacArthur speaking at Grace Community Church in LA (YouTube screenshot)

LOS ANGELES – A campaign launched by Liberty Coalition Canada and promulgated in the United States by Pastor John MacArthur of Los Angeles, who has a lengthy record of hateful & extremist public attacks on the LGBTQ+ community, against the Canadian Parliament’s recently passed legislation banning conversion therapy for LGBTQ+ people culminated in over 4,000 clergy in both countries protesting the new law Sunday, January 16.

In an editorial posted to his Facebook page, influential evangelical leader Franklin Graham, who has decades long actions of spreading misinformation and deceptive lies against the LGBTQ+ community decried the law writing:

The Canadian Parliament passed legislation banning what they refer to as “conversion therapy” for LGBTQ, and the law describes as a “myth” the belief that heterosexuality is preferable. They added a stiff penalty that can carry up to a 5-year jail sentence, and Canadian pastors feel they have been stripped of their religious freedoms. Critics of Bill C-4 say it is broadly worded and could even encompass private conversations about the topic, such as when a pastor or any Christian shares what the Bible teaches about sexuality.

One Canadian pastor said, “All socialistic and communistic movements hate the authority and law of God…Much of the church in Canada believes that compliance and compromise will promote peace and freedom, but this attitude only feeds the beast and will increase persecution and eliminate freedom.”

Today, some 4,000 U.S. pastors spoke about it from their pulpits in a show of concern about similar laws coming into effect here. Pray for pastors in Canada as this legal oppression continues to grow, and pray that all of us as Christians will have the boldness to continue to proclaim the life-changing truth of the Word of God—the only hope for this world.

Pastor John MacArthur, the 82-year-old leader of the Grace Community Church in Los Angeles, in an interview with FOX News, said that he believes widespread sexual immorality is evidence of divine judgment on a culture and predicted increased efforts to silence those who speak out against it.

Ultimately, the dissenters, the ones who will not cave in, are going to be those who are faithful to the Bible,” he said. “And that’s what’s already leading to laws made against doing what we are commanded to do in Scripture, which is to confront that sin. And that’s just going to escalate,” MacArthur said.

The fact that they identified it as a criminal conduct that could give you as much as five years in prison takes it to a completely different level, because Canadian pastors have been put in jail for just having church services,” he continued.

Legislation banning conversion therapy passed in the states of California, New York, New Jersey and Nevada, among other U.S. jurisdictions. Alarmed by this, MacArthur sees Canada as a portent for the potential of a national ban in the U.S. telling Fox; “I think it’s reached a level there in Canada that it hasn’t yet reached here, but it’s coming,” he said. “It’s coming fast.”

The American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association and a host of therapeutic professional organizations oppose the use of conversion therapy, stating it is ineffective, harmful and not evidence-based.

Currently, 20 states and numerous localities, including D.C., ban the use of this discredited practice.

In two recently issued reports from the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism (GPAHE), anti-LGBTQ groups “easily” spread dangerous disinformation online about the so-called conversion therapy as tech companies fail to de-platform such content, especially in non-English languages.

The reports detail that even though conversion therapy is a widely condemned practice, content related it is “distressingly easy” to find through simple searches on various platforms.

Both Graham and MacArthur’s anti-LGBTQ+ animus has been well documented. New York City-based journalist, editor, and blogger Joe Jervis who publishes the widely popular ‘Joe My God’ website has a partial tabulation of MacArthur’s egregious vitriolic statements.

John MacArthur says God gave humanity a “disposable planet.” MacArthur declares that the response to COVID is setting the stage for the Anti-Christ. MacArthur says lockdowns are “Hitler false science.” MacArthur says gay people do not exist. MacArthur signs petition condemning churches that advocate for social justice. MacArthur declares that Christianity which isn’t “offensive” about homosexuality isn’t really Christianity at all. MacArthur signs statement declaring that Jesus hates people who don’t hate LGBTs. MacArthur tells parents that if their child comes out, “turn him over to Satan.”

The GLAAD Accountability Project has cataloged anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and discriminatory actions by Graham including: 

Said celebrating LGBTQ+ Pride is like celebrating “lying, adultery, or murder.” Graham’s comment came in a Facebook post marking the end of Pride Month. “This is an entire month set aside to celebrate a lifestyle that God defines as sin.”

Claimed that public schools have no right to “teach our children something that is an affront to God” in his support for Alfonso Cirulli, the mayor of Barnegat Township, New Jersey, who was fighting a state law requiring schools to teach about LGBTQ history.

Called out Taylor Swift “for using her platform to try to push the socialist left’s so-called Equality Act, which has nothing to do with equality, but is about pushing the LGBTQ agenda down the throats of the American people.”

Said: “LGBT agenda wants to force everyone to accept & condone their lifestyle which God’s Word defines as sin.”

Said: “LGBT activists are trying to hook their caboose to the ‘freedom train’ & drag an immoral agenda into our communities.”

—When HB2 was rolled back in North Carolina, tweeted: “Thanks to the gov, people of NC will be exposed to pedophiles & sexually perverted men in women’s public restrooms.”

In Facebook post since deleted, claimed Satan is behind LGBTQ rights and advocacy: “This is a full-scale assault against Christianity and the followers of Christ. When prayer is banned from the public square, when our President fails to defend biblically defined marriage, and he openly and zealously advocates for gay rights; when legislators rush to overrule existing laws to promote gay marriage; when schools and courts consistently suppress religious freedoms; we know we are locked in a war against the Christian faith, not culture. The architect behind this offensive is none other than Satan himself. The Scripture says that the devil, our archenemy, is bent on as much destruction as possible.”

—Insists that gay and lesbian people cannot have families: “[Same-sex marriage] takes the family away and there is no way you can have a family with two females or two males, if you just think biologically how God made us our plumbing is completely different.”

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