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Maria & Jason’s wedding: ‘I am because you are’

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The rain clouds parted, letting the sun shine down on St. John’s Cathedral in downtown Los Angeles as if God knew how magnificent this moment was for Maria Roman and Jason Taylorson, and their family, friends and the LGBT community that has appreciated Maria’s leadership in the transgender and HIV communities for more than 20 years.

For a few hours on March 23, 160 participants and guests shed their concerns over the constant threat of violence and erasure in Donald Trump’s America and turned the spotlight on the uplifting romance of a trans woman and a cis-gender straight man who too often are left out of discussions about marriage equality.

But not Maria and Jason. As Metropolitan Community Church Pastor Alejandro Escoto recounted as he officiated their service, Jason, an artist and musician, lived about a block away from Maria and used to watch her jogging in the neighborhood. They officially met in the summer of 2013. By March 23, 2014, they moved in together.

By June 2015, they were engaged, which Maria celebrated with the LGBT community in West Hollywood after the June 26 Supreme Court decision declaring marriage equality. And they were obviously in love no matter where they went or who was watching.

Their love was a cause for celebration not just out of respect for the beloved trans activist but as a symbol that love and romance is possible beyond the internalized shaming myths society imposes.

Maria was a resplendent bride.

During the elegant ceremony , Pastor Escoto read two biblical passages, and Soneto LXIX, a poem by Pablo Neruda:

Maybe nothingness is to be without your presence,
without you moving, slicing the noon
like a blue flower, without you walking
later through the fog and the cobbles,

 

without the light you carry in your hand,
golden, which maybe others will not see,
which maybe no one knew was growing
like the red beginnings of a rose.

 

In short, without your presence: without your coming
suddenly, incitingly, to know my life,
gust of a rosebush, wheat of wind:

 

since then I am because you are,
since then you are, I am, we are,
and through love I will be, you will be, we’ll be.

 

(Tal vez no ser es ser sin que tú seas,
sin que vayas cortando el mediodía
como una flor azul, sin que camines
más tarde por la niebla y los ladrillos,

 

sin esa luz que llevas en la mano
que tal vez otros no verán dorada,
que tal vez nadie supo que crecía
como el origen rojo de la rosa,

 

sin que seas, en fin, sin que vinieras
brusca, incitante, a conocer mi vida,
ráfaga de rosal, trigo del viento,

 

y desde entonces soy porque tú eres,
y desde entonces eres, soy y somos,
y por amor seré, serás, seremos.)

Escoto shared the couple’s story how Maria came to realize that “Jason doesn’t judge her – and she realized that in her good and not so good moments, Jason was there. It didn’t take long for Maria to know that he was a keeper.”

She also saw how he cared for his blind old dog and realized he would take good care of her, too. “And Jason knew that behind the beauty was a woman who not only cared for him but also cares for the community.”

Escoto also dispensed some marital advice about accepting each other’s faults.

“Perfection is a fault all its own. Loving one another without highlighting one another’s faults is love in action,” he said. “Forgiving comes about because we learn from each other’s mistakes. Maria and Jason, love is sharing.”

A wonderful singer wrapped everyone’s feelings in a musical bow.

Escoto asked Jason and Maria to look into each other’s eyes as they recited their vows, to “look at the window of the soul of your beloved” and each take the other “just as you are. I shall love and respect you for who you are. I shall trust you and respect your integrity. My faith in you is a result of my abiding love for you. I shall love you through all our years and in all that life may bring.”

And then:

“You have declared before all of us that you will live together in marriage. You have made special promises to each other. You have symbolized it by the holding of hands, the taking of vows and the exchanging of rings.

You have declared before all of us that you will live together in marriage. You have made special promises to each other and in doing so, as an ordained clergy for the Metropolitan Community Church, by the authority vested in me by the State of California and the United States government, I now pronounce you legally united in marriage. May no one separate what God has united. (Applause)”

 

But after the kiss and before the couple turned to their family and friends for the full recognition of their love, Escoto bestowed upon them an Apache blessing:

“Now you will feel no rain, for each of you will be the shelter for each other. Now you will feel no cold for each of you will be the warmth for the other. Now you are two persons but there is only one life before you. You will go now to your dwelling to enter into your days of your life together. May your days be good and long upon the earth. Blessings to both of you today and ever more.”

Therefore, on behalf of the community, I introduce the newly weds—Jason Taylorson and Maria Roman-Taylorson.”

They became the first trans/cis couple to get married at the historic St John’s Cathedral in its over 100-year history.

Their story is being developed as a documentary entitled “TransTale,” which will also feature comments from Maria’s beautiful biological mother and her bridal entourage—her community mother, Karina Samala; her best friend and Maid Of Honor, longtime activist and [email protected] Coalition founder Bamby Salcedo; and Maria’s 16 year old trans flower girl, Zoe Luna, who was featured in HBO’s “Quinceanera.”

Among the quests were James Wen, who serves on the West Hollywood Transgender Advisory Board with Karina Samala,

and documentary filmmaker Dante Alencastre

Amita Swadhin and her boyfriend, trans boxer Patricio “Cacahuate” Manuel, who says he may have a fight coming up, as well as Manuel’s manager Rodney Scott and longtime LGBT aide to several California Assembly Speakers, Liliana Perez.

Here are some photos from the wedding:

 

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NBC Universal cancels Golden Globe awards broadcast for 2022

NBC Universal announced the network would not broadcast the 2022 Golden Globes awards ceremony

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Screenshot NBC coverage of the Golden Globes from previous years on YouTube

BURBANK – In the wake of an in-depth investigation into the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), the organization responsible for the Golden Globes by the Los Angeles Times, which revealed a lack of racial diversity among its voting members and various other ethical concerns, NBC Universal announced Monday the network would not broadcast the 2022 Golden Globes ceremony.

This past February ahead of the HFPA’s 78th Annual Golden Globes ceremony, HFPA board chair Meher Tatna told Variety magazine that the organization that the organization of international journalists which covers the film, television, and entertainment industry has not had any Black members in at least 20 years.

Actor Sterling K. Brown,  a Golden Globe winner and two-time nominee, posted to Instagram; 

Criticism of the HFPA, which puts on the Globes and has been denounced for a lack of diversity and for ethical impropriates, reached such a pitch this week that actor and superstar celebrity Tom Cruise returned his three Globes to the press association’s headquarters, according to a person who was granted anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly about the decision, the Associated Press reported.

“We continue to believe that the HFPA is committed to meaningful reform. However, change of this magnitude takes time and work, and we feel strongly that the HFPA needs time to do it right,” a spokesperson for NBC said in a statement.

“As such, NBC will not air the 2022 Golden Globes,” the spokesperson added. “Assuming the organization executes on its plan, we are hopeful we will be in a position to air the show in January 2023.”

NBC’s decision comes as Vogue reported that the backlash to the HFPA came swiftly and decisively. Some of Hollywood’s biggest studios, including Netflix, Amazon, and WarnerMedia, announced they were severing ties with the organization until efforts were made to increase diversity and stamp out corruption, while a group of more than 100 of the industry’s biggest PR firms released a statement in March in which they pledged to boycott the ceremony for the foreseeable future. 

The HFPA did not immediately respond to inquiries by media outlets requesting comment about NBC’s decision.

In February, the organization said it was “fully committed to ensuring our membership is reflective of the communities around the world who love film, TV, and the artists inspiring and educating them.”

“We understand that we need to bring in Black members as well as members from other underrepresented backgrounds, and we will immediately work to implement an action plan to achieve these goals as soon as possible,” it said.

HFPA also announced a full timetable through this summer for implementing promised reform initiatives in response to NBC’s decision.

“Regardless of the next air date of the Golden Globes, implementing transformational changes as quickly — and as thoughtfully — as possible remains the top priority,” the HFPA board said in a statement. “We invite our partners in the industry to the table to work with us on the systemic reform that is long overdue, both in our organization as well as within the industry at large.”

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Coronavirus

LA County expected to hit herd immunity by mid summer

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Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles County could reach COVID-19 herd immunity among adults and the older teenagers by mid- to late July, public health officials announced Monday. Over the weekend LA Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that appointments are no longer needed for Angelenos to get COVID-19 vaccinations at any site run by the city.

Garcetti’s move is intended to give people who don’t have the time or technological resources to navigate online booking platforms a chance to get the shot.

The percentage of the population the County needs to vaccinate to achieve community immunity is unknown, however Public Health officials estimate it’s probably around 80%. Currently, 400,000 shots each week are getting into the arms of L.A. County residents, and there are over 2 million more first doses to go before 80% of all L.A. County residents 16 and older have received at least one shot.

At this rate, Public Health expects the County will reach this level of community immunity in mid- to late July and that assumes the County continues to at least have 400,000 people vaccinated each week. That would include both first doses that people need as well as their second doses.

This news came as Los Angeles Unified School District officials announced that attendance numbers at all grade levels in the District have been considerably lower than expected as extensive safety measures have failed to lure back the vast majority of families in the final weeks of school.

Only 7% of high school students, about 30% of elementary school children and 12% of middle school students have returned to campuses.

As of May 7, more than 8,492,810 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered to people across Los Angeles County. Of these, 5,146,142 were first doses and 3,346,668 were second doses.

On Monday the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) expanded the emergency use authorization for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for adolescents 12 to 15 years of age. The Pfizer vaccine is already authorized for people 16 years old and older.

Pfizer’s testing in adolescents “met our rigorous standards,” FDA vaccine chief Dr. Peter Marks said. “Having a vaccine authorized for a younger population is a critical step in continuing to lessen the immense public health burden caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

In a statement released Monday by the White House, President Joe Biden the FDA’s decision marked another important step in the nation’s march back to regular life.

“The light at the end of the tunnel is growing, and today it got a little brighter,” Biden said.

Los Angeles County will offer the Pfizer vaccine for 12 to 15-year-olds once the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) affirms the FDA recommendation, which can happen as early as Wednesday. All adolescents 12-17 will need to be accompanied by a parent or guardian to get vaccinated.

To find a vaccination site near you, to make an appointment at vaccination sites, and much more, visit: www.VaccinateLACounty.com (English) and www.VacunateLosAngeles.com (Spanish). If you don’t have internet access, can’t use a computer, or you’re over 65, you can call 1-833-540-0473 for help finding an appointment or scheduling a home-visit if you are homebound. Vaccinations are always free and open to eligible residents and workers regardless of immigration status.

In the meantime, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that unvaccinated people — including children — should continue taking precautions such as wearing masks indoors and keeping their distance from other unvaccinated people outside of their households.

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Health

HHS takes steps to reverse Anti-LGBTQ+ healthcare policy

The announcement came minutes before a scheduled hearing before the U.S. District Court for Equality California’s lawsuit challenging the Trump-Pence Administration’s “Rollback Rule”

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HHS the Hubert H. Humphrey Building (Photo: GSA)

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Monday morning that the Biden-Harris Administration will interpret and enforce Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Title IX’s prohibitions on discrimination based on sex to include discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The announcement came minutes before a scheduled hearing before the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts in BAGLY v. HHS, Equality California’s lawsuit challenging the Trump-Pence Administration’s “Rollback Rule.”

The Trump-era policy undermines the ACA’s nondiscrimination protections on the basis of sex — including pregnancy, gender identity and sex stereotyping — as well as protections for patients with limited-English proficiency and those living with chronic illnesses, including HIV. Because the issues in BAGLY v. HHS are broader than what the Administration announced today, the Court scheduled a hearing on the government’s motion to dismiss for June 3rd at 2:30 PM EST.

In reaction to the HHS announcement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a statement Monday:

“Today, the Biden Administration has taken essential and potentially life-saving action to affirm that all people in America have the right to quality, affordable health care – no matter who they are or whom they love.  During this time of pandemic and always, it is vital that the most vulnerable have access to care, including LGBTQ Americans, who have long suffered injustice and discrimination that has left them dangerously exposed to health risks.
 
“The Trump Administration’s decision to greenlight anti-LGBTQ discrimination in health care in the middle of a pandemic was an act of senseless and staggering cruelty, made in blatant defiance of our values and a Supreme Court ruling made just a month prior.  
 
“Congressional Democrats together with the Biden Administration are proud to uphold the equal right of every American to access the care that they need to pursue a life of dignity and health.  We must now build on this progress and enact the House-passed Equality Act to fully ban anti-LGBTQ discrimination in our nation.”

In addition to Equality California, co-plaintiffs in BAGLY v. HHS include Darren Lazor, The Boston Alliance of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Youth (BAGLY), Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, Campaign for Southern Equality, Equality California, Fenway Health, and Transgender Emergency Fund.

Lazor is a transgender man near Cleveland, Ohio, who experienced numerous counts of discrimination from healthcare providers on the basis of his gender identity from 2012 to 2017. He is a member of Equality California. Plaintiffs are represented by National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), the Transgender Law Center (TLC), the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF), the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation (CHLPI) of Harvard Law School and law firm Hogan Lovells.

The lawsuit asserts that the new rule violates the Administrative Procedures Act by being contrary to law, arbitrary and capricious and a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. Notably, it was published on June 19,  just days after the June 15, 2020 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County, which found that it is unlawful sex discrimination to fire employees based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The lawsuit also asserts that the new rule will embolden discrimination and harm LGBTQ+ patients and people seeking reproductive health care, further stigmatize abortion and other pregnancy-related care, harm patients with limited-English proficiency, especially immigrants, and harm people with chronic illnesses, including those living with HIV. The rule will also create confusion about the scope of protections against discrimination under federal law. 

Trans people, like plaintiff Darren Lazor, already face disproportionate discrimination in health care settings, including mistreatment by insurers and humiliation and harassment by doctors – problems that are exacerbated for trans people of color and trans people living in rural regions and the U.S. South. In seeking to deny trans people access to the healthcare they need, the Trump Administration had placed trans people, and especially Black trans women, in danger through deliberately harmful governmental action.

“We are thrilled by the news that the Biden-Harris Administration will take initial steps to reverse President Trump’s dangerous, discriminatory Rollback Rule, which undermined healthcare nondiscrimination protections critical to the LGBTQ+ community, and trans people in particular,” said Equality California Executive Director Rick Chavez Zbur.

“As the world recovers from a global pandemic, it’s more important than ever that every American have access to quality, affordable healthcare without fear of harassment and discrimination. We remain hopeful that under Secretary Becerra and Assistant Secretary Levine’s leadership, HHS will continue to take further steps to rescind the Trump-era regulation and address the harms that it has caused,” he added.

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