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In first, House approves Equality Act to ban comprehensively LGBT discrimination

Legislation now faces uphill battle in Senate

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The U.S. House under Nancy Pelosi passed the Equality Act. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

For the first-time ever, a chamber of Congress has approved legislation with support that amend the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 to ban comprehensibly discrimination against LGBT people.

Under the new Democratic majority elected in the mid-term election, the House approved the legislation by a vote of 236-173 as openly gay Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) presided over the chamber.

As a majority of votes for the bill became apparent and as the vote was called, Democrats and guest in House gallery applauded and cheered. Among those giving a standing applause in the gallery were Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, and Sharon McGowan, legal director for Lambda Lega.

Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), the most senior openly gay member of Congress and chief sponsor of the Equality Act, said the legislation would “grant full legal to the LGBTQ community here in America” and the vote was “truly historic.”

“The American people think it’s time to protect the LGBTQ community,” Cicilline said. “There is nothing more central to the idea of America than the guarantee of equal protection under the law for every single American.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), wearing a rainbow wristband as she spoke on the House floor, invoked both the Founding Fathers and the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in support of the Equality Act.

“Fifty years after the LBGTQ Americans took to the streets outside of New York’s Stonewall Inn to fight against harassment and hate, we take pride in the progress we have forged together,” Pelosi said. “Our Founders, in their great wisdom, wrote in our beautiful preamble – wrote of the blessings of liberty, which were to be the birthright of all Americans. To bring our nation closer to the founding promise of liberty and justice for all, we, today, pass the Equality Act and finally, fully end discrimination against LGBTQ Americans.”

The Democratic caucus was united in support of the legislation. Eight Republicans voted for the Equality Act: Reps. Susan Brooks (Ind.), Mario Diaz-Balart (Fla.), Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.), Will Hurd (Texas), John Katko (N.Y.), Tom Reed (N.Y.), Elise Stefanik (N.Y.) and Greg Walden (Ore.).

The Equality Act would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Fair Housing Act to ban anti-LGBT discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, jury service, education, federal programs and credit.

The bill also seeks to update federal law to include sex in the list of protected classes in public accommodation in addition to expanding the definition of public accommodations to include retail stores, banks, transportation services and health care services. Further, the Equality Act would establish that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act — a 1994 law aimed at protecting religious liberty — can’t be used to enable anti-LGBT discrimination.

The House approved the Equality Act after a tumultuous 90-minute debate in which Democrat affirmed supported for equality for LGBT people and Republican stoked dubious and incorrect complaints about children being forced to have gender reassignment surgeries, imposition on women’s privacy and penalties imposed on religious organizations.

The House voted to approve the Equality Act after rejecting a motion to recommit introduced by Rep. Greg Steube (R-Ga.) to clarify the legislation can’t be construed to diminish Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which bars sex discrimination and fostered women’s participation in sports.

Prior to the vote, Rep. Ben McAdams (D-Utah) held with Cicilline a colloquy on the House floor to clarify houses of worship could continue to restrict entrance to its membership and clergy could refuse to perform same-sex weddings despite the ban on discrimination in public accommodations in the Equality Act. In the event of litigation before the courts, the colloquy would clarify that was intent of lawmakers behind the Equality Act.

With 241 co-sponsors in the House, there was no doubt when the vote was scheduled on Friday the chamber would approve the legislation. But the bill now heads to the Republican-controlled Senate, where it faces an uphill battle. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who has called himself the “grim reaper” of legislation approved by the Democratic-controlled House, controls the chamber.

In the miraculous event the Senate approves the Equality Act, the bill would head to the desk of President Trump, who indicated this week via a senior administration official to the Washington Blade he opposes the legislation based on unspecified “poison pills” in the bill.

More to come…

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Congress

EXCLUSIVE: Markey bill would offer additional support to LGBTQ elders

Measure would create Office of LGBTQI Inclusion within HHS

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U.S. Capitol Dome
U.S. Capitol (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

U.S. Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) will introduce a bill on Friday to support LGBTQ elders and older adults living with HIV by establishing an Office of LGBTQI Inclusion within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Among other responsibilities, the office would advocate, coordinate activities, issue policy recommendations, and oversee the collection of data from these communities.

A major piece of the work to improve health equity at HHS under the leadership of Secretary Xavier Becerra and Assistant Health Secretary Rachel Levine has been data collection initiatives for LGBTQ and other populations that can encounter barriers accessing care.

The Elder Pride Act will also “establish a rural grants program to serve the unique needs of rural LGBTQI+ older adults, including through education and training, community outreach and creation of community spaces, and improved cultural competency,” according to a press release announcing the legislation, which the senator’s office previewed exclusively with the Washington Blade.

“After years of exclusion and discrimination from health care settings, workplaces, and their local communities, LGBTQ+ older Americans deserve the protections their neighbors are afforded,” Markey said.

“Queer and trans elders should be able to age with dignity, grace, and surrounded by community,” he added. “The Elder Pride Act will ensure that all older adults are able to have access to the care and services they need.”  

Cosponsoring senators include Bob Casey (D-Penn.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Alex Padilla (D- Calif.), and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.). The legislation’s provisions were included in a pair of bills introduced earlier this year by U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), who chairs the Congressional Equality Caucus’s Aging Issues Task Force.

The press release from Markey’s office also highlights several of the challenges faced by LGBTQ older adults vis-a-vis their cisgender and heterosexual peers: Fewer sources of support. higher poverty rates, poorer healthcare, poorer health access, and poorer health outcomes.

At the city and county level, older adults are served by local area agencies on aging (AAAs), which receive services and activities from HHS. Fewer than half of these organizations report that they will be able to provide LGBTQ-specific activities by the time the population of LGBTQ elders reaches 7 million, which is expected by 2030.

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United Nations

US ambassador to UN: LGBTQ+ community ‘has shown remarkable bravery and resilience’

Linda Thomas-Greenfield hosted Pride Month reception on Tuesday

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U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield speaks at her annual Pride Month reception at the U.N. on June 18, 2024. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

UNITED NATIONS — U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield on Tuesday at her annual Pride Month reception at the U.N. criticized those in the U.S. and elsewhere who continue to crackdown on LGBTQ+ and intersex rights.

Thomas-Greenfield noted in the U.S. “a small, but threatening group of people continues to garget the LGBTI+ community, and especially trans individuals.” She specifically pointed out the increase of hate crimes in schools, especially in states with laws that target LGBTQ+ students. 

Thomas-Greenfield described Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act — which contains a death penalty provision for “aggravated homosexuality” — as “draconian.” She also cited the case of a Russian woman who authorities jailed because she wore rainbow earrings.   

“Despite these challenges, the LGBTI+ community has shown remarkable bravery and resilience,” said Thomas-Greenfield. 

Lawmakers in Greece, Estonia and Thailand since Thomas-Greenfield hosted her 2023 Pride Month reception extended marriage rights to same-sex couples.

Latvian President Edgars Rinkēvičs and French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, who are both gay, took office in July 2023 and in January 2024 respectively.

Dominica’s High Court of Justice in April struck down provisions of a law that criminalized consensual same-sex sexual relations. German lawmakers the same month approved a statute that will make it easier for transgender and nonbinary people to legally change their name and gender.

The U.N. has faced criticism over its response to Hamas’s surprise attack against Israel on Oct. 7. The Washington Blade, which attended Tuesday’s reception, saw at least one person wearing a keffiyah, a symbol of Palestinian solidarity.

“Since day one, the Biden administration has made it a priority to prevent and combat discrimination, hatred and violence on the basis of sexual orientation, and gender identity,” said Thomas-Greenfield. “I’m proud of the many, many ways … that U.S. U.N. has led on this front.”

Thomas-Greenfield in 2023 chaired a meeting that examined ways the U.N. Security Council can integrate LGBTQ+ and intersex rights into its work. 

The U.S. is among the dozens of countries that are members of the LGBTI Core Group, a group of U.N. countries that have pledged to support LGBTQ+ and intersex rights.

Thomas-Greenfield on Tuesday noted the U.S. continues to work with the U.N. Economic and Social Council to include LGBTQ+-specific language in resolutions that focus on elections and democracy. She also referenced the group of activists who gathered in Dag Hammerskjöld Plaza, which is across the street from the U.N., in April 1965 to “protest the treatment of gay individuals at home and abroad.”

“We’re following in the footsteps of those marchers outside in Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza all those years ago,” she said.

Jessica Stern, the special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBTQ+ and intersex rights abroad, also spoke at the reception. The New York City Gay Men’s Chorus and the West Point Benny Havens Band performed.

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Politics

Rollins’ campaign- more than gunning for anti-LGBTQ Rep. Calvert

In this election cycle, the Democratic challenger believes he is better positioned to win the seat, which could tip control of the U.S. House

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Will Rollins and his partner, Paolo at the 2022 Palm Springs Pride Parade. (Photo courtesy of Will Rollins for Congress)


RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Two years ago, openly gay prosecutor Will Rollins launched his first bid for public office and nearly defeated incumbent Republican Congressman Ken Calvert, who has represented California’s 41st Congressional District since the presidential administration of George H.W. Bush.

In this election cycle, the Democratic challenger believes he is even better positioned to win the seat, which could tip control of the U.S. House of Representatives to his party now that Republicans have only a feeble five-member majority in the chamber.

And if accurate proxies can be found in the results of recent polls, quarterly fundraising metrics, and extra muscle deployed by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, it appears Rollins’s confidence is shared by critical masses of voters, donors, and party leaders.

On the one hand, Rollins said he is buoyed by flagging support for his opponent. He argued that instead of working to deliver results for his constituents like “high paying jobs, better wages, and better benefits for workers,” Calvert has instead spent much of his time in Congress helping to fuel costly culture wars and embracing right-wing extremism while enriching himself through “legalized corruption” schemes and undermining the justice system and rule of law.

At the same time, Rollins said that his background in law enforcement, his political orientation as a moderate, and his policy agenda, which includes a focus on popular and often populist reforms, has proven to be a winning formula on the campaign trail from the westernmost parts of Southern California’s Inland Empire to the Colorado Desert town of Palm Springs.

The city, home to a thriving LGBTQ community, helped make the 41st district far purpler after congressional maps were redrawn to include the region in 2022. Rollins said the redistricting helps to explain “part of why people are so bullish on flipping the seat.”

He explained, “Calvert has historically [represented] deep red parts of southern California, and that used to include Murrieta and northern Temecula,” Rollins said. When the new maps were drawn, “he lost those two cities and he gained the Coachella Valley, Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, La Quinta, Indian Wells, all of which had previously been represented by a Democrat, Raul Ruiz.”

Rollins is well positioned at this point in the race

Congressional Candidate Will Rollins during the 2022 campaign.
(Photo Credit: Rollins for Congress campaign)

Reflecting on his performance in the midterm elections, Rollins noted that 2022 saw higher turnout among Republican voters and lower turnout among Democratic voters, a hurdle made more difficult by the advantages Calvert exercised by virtue of his 32-year incumbency.

By contrast, as a first-time candidate, “when you go from a job as a federal prosecutor, where it’s the antithesis of self-promotion, to suddenly needing to build an entire brand and raise your name I.D. and self promote and campaign, that’s a steep learning curve, and I had basically six months after a primary to do it,” Rollins said.

As November approaches, the presidential race is expected to even out the disparities in voter turnout, and by now Rollins has now spent nearly three years introducing his candidacy and his campaign to residents across CA-41.

For the first time in either cycle, Rollins was ahead of his opponent (by one point) in an internal poll last month that provided respondents with no additional information about the candidates, a sign that “more people are getting to know me, and our name I.D. is increasing, and more people are also hearing our message,” he said.

The Democratic hopeful also noted his campaign out-raised Calvert’s in the third consecutive quarter, Q1 2024, and by more than $1 million, thanks to “voters and our grassroots supporters [who] know that this seat is primed to flip.”

The DCCC seems to agree with their assessment. As one of the organization’s “Red to Blue” candidates, a highly competitive distinction awarded to those with the best odds of unseating Republicans in their districts, Rollins receives “strategic guidance, staff resources, training, and fundraising support” to ensure the best possible odds for his victory in November.

Additional help from the organization responsible for fundraising and organizing on behalf of Democratic House candidates could be decisive in a race as close as this one, but Rollins also stressed his appeal among center and center-right constituents.

Building coalitions in a purple district

For example, the campaign recently secured high-profile endorsements from the likes of Stan Sniff, retired Republican sheriff of Riverside County, and California State Assemblymember Chad Mays, who previously served as the elected Republican leader.

Additionally, last month, the Palm Springs Police Officers Association, which had supported Calvert in 2022, announced it would back Rollins this year. Asked how he managed to win over the organization, Rollins pointed to his ability to relate to law enforcement officers along with his tenacious approach to engaging with the group.

“For cops in Riverside County, having somebody represent them who has worked alongside them, prosecuting MS-13, the Sinaloa Cartel, murderers, rapists, terrorists, that’s really powerful for the line officers who want somebody that understands what it is like every single day to do an important job that they do, putting their lives on the line to keep us safe,” he said.

Rollins added that he was now cowed by the group’s endorsement of his opponent during the midterms and was persistent in reaching out to facilitate a dialogue. “I refuse to give up on trying to persuade people that I would do a better job of representing them in Congress than Ken Calvert, ” as well as his ability to relate to law enforcement officers.

The campaign’s efforts to engage with the Log Cabin Republicans, the conservative LGBT group, were less successful. Rollins said that during both election cycles “we reached out to [chapters located in CA-41] repeatedly, and all of our outreach was ignored.”

It is easy to imagine areas in which the organization could find common ground with the Democratic candidate. Rollins would be the first LGBTQ member of Congress with a law enforcement background, a candidate who has worked for a Republican governor and deliberately engaged with and courted support from other individuals and groups that are right-of-center.

He also questioned why conservative LGBTQ+ Californians would ally themselves with his opponent. “What is Ken Calvert done for you? He’s voted against the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act. He’s voted against letting you serve in the military. It makes no sense to go out and support somebody like that.”

Rollins said it seems Log Cabin “is increasingly used by elected Republicans to try to maintain the appearance of support and to conceal some of their actual record on our rights” and their refusal to engage with him is likely a sign of the extent to which the GOP has become mired in partisanship.

Drawing the contrast


Rollins attributes much of his success in winning major endorsements and contributions to the many contrasts voters are seeing between his campaign and his opponent’s, perhaps starting with the professional backgrounds and records on which they are running.

In recent months, Calvert’s campaign has sought to portray Rollins as “soft on crime” because of his opposition to a criminal justice initiative, California’s Proposition 47, but the former prosecutor told the Blade he welcomes the chance to frame their race around these issues.

Rollins pointed out that while his career was spent “going after drug cartels, terrorists and violent criminals across southern California,” Calvert “is somebody who has voted to defund the FBI, who voted to defund Border Patrol, who said that the FBI has been infiltrated, [that] the Department of Justice has become a political weaponization tool,” and “called for dropping charges against people who assaulted the U.S. Capitol” on January 6.

Further undermining Calvert’s effort to position himself as the “law and order” candidate is the encounter he had with police who found him consorting with a sex worker shortly into his first term in Congress, Rollins said.

He added the incident also shows the hypocrisy of his opponent’s legislative record, considering the Republican’s habit of “voting to get the government into our bedrooms and into our exam rooms, and to prevent gay people from getting married, from serving in the military.”

Rollins, who has prosecuted cases involving white collar crime, also accused his rival of exploiting “a system of legalized corruption” in Congress through which members from both parties have been allowed to exploit the powers and privileges of their office for personal financial gain with loopholes and loose oversight protecting them from consequences.

Specifically, he said Calvert has enriched himself to the tune of $20 million over his 17 terms in office “by using earmarks to benefit his own personal real estate investments,” Rollins said, “a form of insider trading in real estate.”

Rollins said that his opponent has earned a reputation for self-dealing and topped lists of the most corrupt members of Congress, with California’s 41st district taking notice. “When people have seen their own rent and gas and groceries skyrocket while their member of Congress makes $20 million since 1992, that is a major red flag for voters,” he said.


The corruption problem is bigger than Calvert, which is why Rollins said he has made reforms and policy solutions in this area a cornerstone of his campaign.

If elected, the Democrat said he will push for “a ban on members trading stock across the board” as well as “a ban on [members] using inside information to benefit their real estate investments” and “a ban on lobbying by former members of Congress.”

Rollins said he will also work to implement term limits for members of Congress and to fix the problems created by the U.S. Supreme Court’s Ruling in Citizens United v. FEC (2010), which allowed for unlimited spending by corporations and outside groups on political campaigns.

He said that even more modest reforms like establishing “disclosure rules for members” would go a long way toward mitigating concerns about the flow of dark money “into these competitive congressional races through independent expenditures.”

Each of these proposals “have been tied into our own theme of the campaign around public service and protecting our communities, and law enforcement service versus self-enrichment, self-dealing,” Rollins said. “There’s no movement to police ourselves, and yet that is what the public craves most,” he added.

Polls have long shown the overwhelming popularity of measures designed to improve the functioning of Congress along with mechanisms requiring more accountability and transparency from its members, which should perhaps come as little surprise considering that 66.7 percent of Americans disapprove of the institution according to FiveThirtyEight.

Rollins said audiences from across the political spectrum have responded enthusiastically whenever he has discussed his anti-corruption proposals, whether before a chamber of commerce or a meeting of the Stonewall Democratic Club.

Generally speaking, rather than “angertainment and click-bait politics,” most Americans want to see policy solutions aimed at addressing real problems, he said. “They want money out of politics. They want common sense solutions to traffic problems in their district. They want safer streets. They want clean energy. They want term limits.”

Likewise with their elected representatives, Rollins said. Voters “want people in the middle, not necessarily on the far left or the far right,” especially in purple districts where “you can run a successful campaign just being on what I call ‘team normal.'”

“The challenge for Democrats,” particularly those running for competitive seats, “is to make it really clear that the current MAGA majority [in the House] is different from the moderate, regular Republican voters in your district,” Rollins said.

Democrats should embrace populism


One way to reassure conservative-leaning voters is for Democrats to talk openly about the problems that helped facilitate the ascent of Donald Trump and the rise of right-wing populist movements, Rollins said.

Americans, regardless of their politics, are right when they say “government is broken,” or “The system is corrupt,” but solutions are not going to come from elected Republicans, least of all “the former host of Celebrity Apprentice,” Rollins said.

The more Democrats elected to the House who “are focused on those reforms, the better the party will do,” he said. “Because our brand can become an anti-corruption brand, and we should try to to cultivate that as much as possible, because certainly the GOP isn’t about that right now.”

Rollins added, “Right now, there’s only one political party that cares about getting money out of politics,” meaning that Democrats have the opportunity to campaign on an issue that “is supported by 90 percent of Americans.”

When it comes to more divisive matters, “a lot of it is tied to kitchen table issues, and I think that’s where we as a party are our strongest, where we’re talking about how it affects your wallet and why the far-right’s focus on culture wars is actually a massive waste of your tax dollars,” Rollins said.

Of course, it is important to call out the ways in which women, LGBTQ communities, and other groups are harmed when elected Republicans endeavor to restrict their rights, freedoms, and protections, but there is also an opportunity to explain why all Americans suffer as a result, he said.

For instance, after noting that Calvert and Congressional Republicans support “a national [abortion] ban with no exceptions,” along with restrictions on access to the abortion medication mifepristone and measures to make it more difficult for women in the military to access reproductive healthcare, Rollins stressed how these moves could damage the economy and threaten national security.

Likewise with LGBTQ rights. “I would be remiss if I didn’t also state the obvious,” Rollins said, “which is Calvert has one of the most horrible anti-LGBTQ rights voting records of any member in Congress, and started his political career by outing Mark Takano,” the gay congressman who ran against him in 1992 and now represents California’s 39th Congressional District.

Rollins said that when the subject comes up on the campaign trail, “I also talk about the way that his votes don’t just impact the LGBTQ community, because obviously they have hurt our community over the years, but they’ve actually hurt every American.”

For instance, he said, “when you try to make it harder for openly gay people to serve in the U.S. military, you deprive us of qualified pilots, snipers, Marines, Navy SEALs, Arabic linguists,” thereby weakening America’s military and security interests.

Rollins also noted the widely reported story last year about pediatric cardiologist Jake Kleinmahon, who ultimately decided to relocate out of Louisiana with his husband and daughter when conservative state lawmakers in Baton Rouge advanced a slate of anti-LGBTQ bills last year.

Following the family’s move to Long Island, Kleinmahon told CNN the only two remaining physicians in Louisiana who manage heart transplants would be expected to serve the same number of patients as they did before his departure.

“That is going to affect care,” he said, adding that “the absolute hardest part is me saying goodbye to my patients.”

“I believe the kids in Louisiana should have the same world class health care as any other part of the United States.”

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Los Angeles County

LA County Pride lifeguard tower at Will Rogers beach vandalized

The tower had homophobic, racist and antisemitic slurs and symbols spray painted on it and its windows were broken out

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Los Angeles County LGBTQ+ Pride lifeguard tower at Will Rogers State Beach vandalized. (Screenshot/YouTube Fox 11 LA)

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles County lifeguard tower at Will Rogers State Beach was vandalized Monday evening or early Tuesday morning with homophobic, racist and antisemitic slurs and symbols were spray painted on it and the windows were broken out.

“Hate has no place in Los Angeles County. We will not back down from celebrating and protecting our LGBTQ+, Jewish, and Black communities – among our many diverse communities – across Los Angeles County. This act of hatred reminds us why our continued commitment to solidarity is necessary,”  L.A. County Supervisor Lindsey Horvath said in a statement to the Blade. “We are working with our County departmental partners to repaint Lifeguard Tower 18 at the historic and beloved Ginger Rogers Beach.”

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Rhode Island

Survey ranks Rhode Island first in nation on LGBTQ+ safety

This year a number of state lawmakers and officials could be spotted marching in the parade on Saturday, June 15

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Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos, festively attired in a rainbow jacket, marches in the Rhode Island Pride Illuminated Night Parade on Dorrance Street Saturday, June 15, 2024. (Christopher Shea/Rhode Island Current)

By Alexander Castro & Christopher Shea | PROVIDENCE, R.I. – In Rhode Island, the pinnacle of LGBTQ+ Pride Month is one colorful Saturday halfway through June, when RI PrideFest and its accompanying parade fill downtown Providence from daylight until dark.

This year a number of state lawmakers and officials could be spotted marching in the parade on Saturday, June 15. The show of support from LGBTQ+ lawmakers and allies came after a productive season at the State House for legislation meant to improve both directly and indirectly the lives of queer Rhode Islanders. 

Among the bills passed by both House and Senate by end of session last week included a health care provider shield law, expanded coverage for PrEP drugs and legislation to make name changes easier in probate court. 

Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee smiles as he marches in the Rhode Island Pride Illuminated Night Parade on Dorrance Street Saturday, June 15, 2024.
(Christopher Shea/Rhode Island Current)
A spectator waves a pride flag in front of the Reserve banquet hall on Dorrance Street in Providence. (Christopher Shea/Rhode Island Current)
Providence Mayor Brett Smiley is shown on Dorrance Street after handing out pride flags during the Rhode Island Pride Illuminated Night Parade on Saturday, June 15, 2024. (Christopher Shea/Rhode Island Current)
Sen. Tiara Mack, a Providence Democrat, in pink, marches in the Rhode Island Pride Illuminated Night Parade on Dorrance Street Saturday, June 15, 2024.
(Christopher Shea/Rhode Island Current)
Left to right, Sen. Victoia Gu, a Westerly Democrat, the back of U.S. Rep. Seth Magaziner, and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse march in the Rhode Island Pride Illuminated Night Parade on Dorrance Street Saturday, June 15, 2024.
(Christopher Shea/Rhode Island Current)
Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha marches in the Rhode Island Pride Illuminated Night Parade on Dorrance Street Saturday, June 15, 2024.
(Christopher Shea/Rhode Island Current)

Last Wednesday, June 12, Gov. Dan McKee also retweeted some positive news: Rhode Island scored first place in a national ranking of safe places for LGBTQ+ people. 

This is the third year the report cards have been released by SafeHome.org, a website that analyzes security and safety trends nationwide. State laws protecting LGBTQ+ rights are used to calculate the composite scores, which also factored in hate crime data for the first time this year.

SafeHome.org cited Rhode Island’s existing LGBTQ+ legislation, including the strength of its anti-bullying laws, lack of discrimination toward LGBTQ+ foster parents, state Medicaid inclusion of transgender people, and required hate crime reporting from law enforcement agencies. Hate crime rates in the state are low, and Rhode Island is one of only six states where every law enforcement agency needs to report hate crimes, according to SafeHome.org. 

Massachusetts — which often outpaces or matches its neighbors in quality-of-life rankings — was the lowest-ranking New England state in the SafeHome.org survey, coming in at 28th place.

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Alexander Castro

Alexander Castro covers education and health for Rhode Island Current. He has worked extensively in the visual arts as a critic, curator and adjunct professor.

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Christopher Shea

Christopher Shea covers politics, the criminal justice system and transportation for the Rhode Island Current.

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The preceding article was previously published by the Rhode Island Current and is republished with permission.

The Rhode Island Current is an independent, nonprofit news outlet focused on state government and the impact of public policy decisions in the Ocean State. Readers can expect relentless reporting with the context needed to understand key issues affecting the lives of Rhode Islanders.

We’re part of States Newsroom, the nation’s largest state-focused nonprofit news organization.

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U.S. Federal Courts

Attorneys in Alabama trans medical case turn over document

A U.S. District Judge ordered the lawyers to turn over the Q&A document, which was used to prepare for questions from a three-judge panel

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A sign outside the Frank M. Johnson Jr. Federal Building and United States Courthouse in Montgomery, Alabama seen on January 24, 2023. (Brian Lyman/Alabama Reflector)

By Jemma Stephenson | MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Attorneys in an ongoing lawsuit against the state over Alabama’s gender affirming care for minors ban turned over a document Tuesday to a federal judge in an investigation of allegations of judge shopping. 

U.S. District Court Judge Liles C. Burke ordered the lawyers to turn over the Q&A document, which the attorneys said was used to prepare the lawyers for questions from a three-judge panel investigating allegations that the attorneys manipulated the random assignment of cases to seek a judge favorable to their case.

The attorneys have lodged objections to the production of the document, arguing that it is covered by attorney-client privilege. Burke wants the document for an in camera review. 

“Respondents submit the Q&A Document to confirm that their attorney-client privileged communications with their counsel were proper, to resolve this collateral issue as promptly as possible, and to dispense with the reputationally harmful allegations that they sought legal advice in furtherance of a crime or fraud,” the attorneys for the respondents wrote.

The plaintiffs sued Alabama in 2022 over a law making it a felony to prescribe hormones and puberty blockers in gender-affirming care. Burke, who heard the case, initially ruled for the plaintiffs and blocked the state law. But a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit overturned his ruling last year. The plaintiffs are seeking a full review of the decision by the circuit.

Multiple challenges to the law were filed after Gov. Kay Ivey signed the bill into law in 2022. After multiple transfers of the cases, the attorneys withdrew the case and later refiled it. Burke said the moves gave the appearance of judge shopping, which the investigative panel said had occurred in a report in October.

In a separate Tuesday filing, the attorneys also objected to Burke’s order to turn over the document, objecting to the judge’s portraying of the panel’s findings.

“Even if the one or two narrow  examples cited by the panel were really ‘inconsistencies and apparent misrepresentations’  (they are not), they do not  support  or  justify this Court’s  all-encompassing claim that the Panel ‘unanimously discredited’ the Walker Respondents’ testimony or otherwise ‘reject[ed] their testimony as unworthy of belief,’” they wrote.

The attorneys also pushed back against a Burke claim that an attorney had committed perjury before the panel. In an October report from the panel the judges wrote that one attorney had “deliberately misled” the panel about a phone call to a judge’s chamber, which Burke connected to perjury.

“There is no basis to conclude that no reasonable person could believe in good faith that he potentially perjured himself,” Burke wrote. “Likewise, there is no basis to conclude that an in camera review of the Q&A document would surely fail to turn up evidence that he intentionally lied to the court.”

 The attorneys wrote that the claim of “perjury” is not supported by facts and referenced an earlier order. They also wrote that the panel did not wholly discredit their testimony and wrote that claims of a lack of candor were limited to one footnote.

“To be clear, however, Walker counsel’s candor on the whole is concerning,” the panel wrote in a footnote.

They wrote that claims of a prima-facie case only exists because of the panel’s findings, which had due-process violations. They wrote that some were denied a right to counsel and others were excluded from proceedings.

“Respondents continue to steadfastly maintain that they testified truthfully and honestly before the Panel and in subsequent submissions to this Court. There  is  no  basis  for  this  Court  to  assert  that  the  Panel  disbelieved  or  discredited Respondents’ testimony or otherwise engaged in any purported fraud on the Court,” they wrote.

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Jemma Stephenson

Jemma Stephenson covers education as a reporter for the Alabama Reflector. She previously worked at the Montgomery Advertiser and graduated from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

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The preceding article was previously published by the Alabama Reflector and is republished with permission.

The Alabama Reflector is an independent, nonprofit news outlet dedicated to covering state government and politics in the state of Alabama. Through daily coverage and investigative journalism, The Reflector covers decision makers in Montgomery; the issues affecting Alabamians, and potential ways to move our state forward.

We’re part of States Newsroom, the nation’s largest state-focused nonprofit news organization.

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Research/Study

LGBTQ people in LA County struggle with cost of living & safety

Approximately 665,000 LGBTQ adults live in Los Angeles County, according to new research from the Williams Institute

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Photo courtesy of the California Department of Aging/California government

LOS ANGELES – Approximately 665,000 LGBTQ adults live in Los Angeles County, according to new research from the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law that looks at the lived experiences and needs of LGBTQ people.

The majority (82%) believe that LA County is a good place for LGBTQ people to live and that elected officials are responsive to their needs. However, affording to live in LA County is their most common worry.

Over one-third (35%) of LGBTQ Angelenos live below 200% of the federal poverty level (FPL), including almost half (47%) of transgender and nonbinary people, and they experience high rates of food insecurity and housing instability.

Nearly one in three (32%) LGBTQ households in Los Angeles County and more than one in five (23%) non-LGBTQ households experienced food insecurity in the prior year. In addition, more than 60% of LGBTQ people live in households that are cost-burdened by housing expenses, spending 30% or more of their household income on housing. A quarter (26%) of LGBTQ people live in households where over 50% of the household’s monthly income is spent on rent or mortgage payments.

“LA County represents a promise of equality and freedom to LGBTQ people who live here and throughout the country,” said lead author Brad Sears, the Founding Executive Director at the Williams Institute. “But that promise is being undermined by the County’s rapidly escalating cost of living.”

This report used representative data collected from 1,006 LGBTQ adults in Los Angeles County who completed the 2023 Los Angeles County Health Survey (LACHS) conducted by the Los Angeles County Public Health Department. The data also included responses from 504 LGBTQ individuals who participated in the Lived Experiences in Los Angeles County (LELAC) Survey, a LACHS call-back survey developed by the Williams Institute.

More than half (51%) of LGBTQ adults said they have been verbally harassed, with 39% experiencing this in the past five years. As a result, one in five LGBTQ people have avoided public places such as businesses, parks, and public transportation in the last year. About 40% of LGBTQ people do not believe that law enforcement agencies in Los Angeles County treat LGBTQ people fairly.

companion study published today surveyed 322 trans and nonbinary individuals in Los Angeles County. Results showed that the cost of living in LA County was the most significant concern for trans and nonbinary respondents, with 59% indicating that it is a serious problem. More than one-quarter (28%) of the participants were unemployed, compared to 5% of LA County overall.

The survey also revealed significant disparities in health and health care access, especially for trans and nonbinary adults who were women or transfeminine, immigrants, and those living at or near the FPL.

“Understanding the life experiences of trans and nonbinary people is important so that we can begin to improve the quality of our lives in LA County,” said study co-author Bamby Salcedo, President and CEO of the TransLatin@ Coalition. “Trans and nonbinary people are best suited to envision ways to support and uplift the community, along with trans-led organizations that have already been doing this work. LA County must commit to greater support of the organizations serving our community.”

Survey respondents were twice as likely as the general population of LA County to report having fair or poor health (27%), being uninsured (14%), and going without health care (46%).

“Despite a supportive policy environment in Los Angeles County, experiences of stigma and discrimination still exist and can hinder access to necessary resources for trans and nonbinary residents,” said lead author Jody Herman, Senior Scholar of Public Policy at the Williams Institute. “It is crucial for local officials and service providers to enact policies, provide education and training, and establish accountability to ensure respectful and positive interaction with the trans and nonbinary community.”

third report focuses on LGBTQ people’s assessment of LA County programs and services and recommendations for local elected officials.

“These findings from the Williams Institute provide invaluable data that will guide our Board, County departments, and the inaugural LGBTQ+ Commission in shaping policies and programs to truly deliver for our diverse LGBTQ+ communities,” said LA County Board Chair Lindsey P. Horvath, who initiated the motion to present the findings to the Board. 

“It’s especially critical that we support our trans, gender-nonconforming, and nonbinary communities, ensuring they feel safe and supported, and that they are able to afford to live in Los Angeles County. These insights will guide our essential and transformative work.”

“Many LGBTQ people provided recommendations for elected officials to improve quality of life in Los Angeles County,” said principal investigator Kerith J. Conron, Research Director at the Williams Institute. “LGBTQ people are asking for visible allyship, increased representation of LGBTQ individuals in elected positions and civil service, and housing and financial support.”

“These recent findings serve as a sobering reminder of the persistent barriers faced by the LGBT community in Los Angeles County,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, PhD, MPH, MEd, Director of Public Health. “These reports underscore the profound impact of the disparities on the health and wellbeing of a community that include our family members, colleagues, and friends. It is imperative that we not only acknowledge these inequities but actively engage in eliminating them. Through collaborative efforts with community leaders, policymakers, and the public, Public Health is committed to upholding principles of justice and equity by ensuring that every member of our community has the resources they need to thrive.”

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Politics

Trump announces Day 1 funding ban for trans supportive schools

Trump turned his aim towards trans people near the end of a rally in Racine, Wisconsin, which was mostly focused on immigration and crime

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Donald Trump campaign rally in Racine, Wisconsin. (Screenshot/YouTube)

By Erin Reed | RACINE, Wis. – On Wednesday, former Republican President Donald Trump turned his aim towards transgender people near the end of a speech in Racine, Wisconsin, which was mostly focused on immigration and crime.

In the speech, he announced that his administration would shut down federal funding for schools that support transgender people, describing these schools as “pushing transgender insanity,” on day one. He also announced his intent to target transgender people in sports. These statements suggest that the candidate may increasingly prioritize targeting transgender people as a key election issue should he win.

Though the first hour of the speech went by without a mention of LGBTQ+ people, Trump turned his attention towards schools abruptly after speaking about crime, where he announced his day one priorities:

“We’re going to be proud of our Capital, we’re going to take care of our Capital. On day one, I will sign a new executive order to cut Federal funding of any school pushing critical race theory, transgender insanity, and other inappropriate racial, sexual, or political content onto the lives of our children, and I will not give one penny to any school that has a vaccine mandate or a mask.”

He then turned towards the topic of transgender athletes, claiming that a cisgender woman was injured by a volleyball hit by a transgender woman, which he claimed “came out at her at a speed that which she’s never seen before.” He also took aim at transgender swimmers and weightlifters.

This is not the first time that Donald Trump has spoken about transgender issues. Recently, his campaign slammed President Biden’s proclamation of Transgender Day of Visibility as “blasphemous” for falling on the same day as Easter. Notably, Trans Day of Visibility has been on March 31st for several years, whereas Easter is a moving holiday. Shortly after, he endorsed Pastor Mark Burns in South Carolina, who has called for executions over transgender people.

Recently, in a rally in Michigan, he stated that his day-one priorities included reversing Title IX protections for trans youth. Likewise, last year he released a video stating he intends to target programs promoting gender-affirming care “at any age” and to treat gender-affirming care as child abuse.

Wisconsin has seen an extreme number of anti-transgender and anti-LGBTQ+ bills: over 17 bills were proposed in 2024 targeting transgender people. Though many of these bills passed due to Republican legislative majorities, which are forecast to lessen after redistricting this year, all bills were stopped by Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers, who promised to veto bills targeting transgender people in the state:

“I’ll keep my promise to veto any bill making Wisconsin less safe, less inclusive, and less welcoming for LGBTQ people and kids — including this one,” Evers said. “And I’ll be damn proud to do it.”

If Trump is making a play for a political win using transgender issues as a major campaign issue, he may face difficulties. In the 2022 gubernatorial election, Republicans spent money on ads warning voters in Wisconsin of “transgender kindergarteners” and campaigned heavily on the issue.

Evers won his election and thanked voters in his victory speech for standing up for transgender kids. Similarly, millions were spent on ads against Judge Janet Protasiewicz for the Wisconsin Supreme Court over transgender youth. These ads also failed, with the judge outperforming expected results and winning her election.

Nevertheless, the Trump campaign is doubling down on this issue, mirroring the approach of many far-right Republicans in other states. His emphasis on transgender policies in a swing state is a strategic move worth monitoring to see if it solidifies as a cornerstone of his election platform.

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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.

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The preceding article was first published at Erin In The Morning and is republished with permission.

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Research/Study

New Polling: 65% of Black Americans support Black LGBTQ rights

73% of Gen Z respondents (between the ages of 12 and 27) “agree that the Black community should do more to support Black LGBTQ+ people”

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Photo courtesy of the National Black Justice Coalition.

WASHINGTON – The National Black Justice Coalition, a D.C.-based LGBTQ advocacy organization, announced on June 19 that it commissioned what it believes to be a first-of-its-kind national survey of Black people in the United States in which 65 percent said they consider themselves “supporters of Black LGBTQ+ people and rights,” with 57 percent of the supporters saying they were “churchgoers.”

In a press release describing the findings of the survey, NBJC said it commissioned the research firm HIT Strategies to conduct the survey with support from five other national LGBTQ organizations – the Human Rights Campaign, the National LGBTQ Task Force, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Family Equality, and GLSEN.

“One of the first surveys of its kind, explicitly sampling Black people (1,300 participants) on Black LGBTQ+ people and issues – including an oversampling of Black LGBTQ+ participants to provide a more representative view of this subgroup – it investigates the sentiments, stories, perceptions, and priorities around Black values and progressive policies, to better understand how they impact Black views on Black LGBTQ+ people,” the press release says.

It says the survey found, among other things, that 73 percent of Gen Z respondents, who in 2024 are between the ages of 12 and 27, “agree that the Black community should do more to support Black LGBTQ+ people.”

According to the press release, it also found that 40 percent of Black people in the survey reported having a family member who identifies as LGBTQ+ and 80 percent reported having “some proximity to gay, lesbian, bisexual, or queer people, but only 42 percent have some proximity to transgender or gender-expansive people.”

The survey includes these additional findings:

• 86% of Black people nationally report having a feeling of shared fate and connectivity with other Black people in the U.S., but this view doesn’t fully extend to the Black LGBTQ+ community. Around half — 51% — of Black people surveyed feel a shared fate with Black LGBTQ+ people.

• 34% reported the belief that Black LGBTQ+ people “lead with their sexual orientation or gender identity.” Those participants were “significantly less likely to support the Black LGBTQ+ community and most likely to report not feeling a shared fate with Black LGBTQ+ people.”

• 92% of Black people in the survey reported “concern about youth suicide after being shown statistics about the heightened rate among Black LGBTQ+ youth.” Those expressing this concern included 83% of self-reported opponents of LGBTQ+ rights.

• “Black people’s support for LGBTQ+ rights can be sorted into three major groups: 29% Active Accomplices, 25% Passive Allies (high potential to be moved), 35% Opponents. Among Opponents, ‘competing priorities’ and ‘religious beliefs’ are the two most significant barriers to supporting Black LGBTQ+ people and issues.”

• 10% of the survey participants identified as LGBTQ. Among those who identified as LGBTQ, 38% identified as bisexual, 33% identified as lesbian or gay, 28% identified as non-binary or gender non-conforming, and 6% identified as transgender.

• Also, among those who identified as LGBTQ, 89% think the Black community should do more to support Black LGBTQ+ people, 69% think Black LGBTQ+ people have fewer rights and freedoms than other Black people, 35% think non-Black LGBTQ+ people have fewer rights and freedom than other Black people, 54% “feel their vote has a lot of power,” 51% live in urban areas, and 75% rarely or never attend church.

Additional information about the survey from NBJC can be accessed here.

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Los Angeles County

LAUSD board votes to ban student cellphone use during school day

Mobile phone apps are often cited as the leading cause among adolescents to suffer from episodes of mental health crisis or being bullied

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LAUSD board votes to ban student cellphone use during school day. (Screenshot/YouTube KABC 7 Eyewitness News)

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) voted Tuesday to ban mobile phone use during the school day starting in January of 2025. The ban is a complete prohibition against access and use of mobile phones by students on all LAUSD school campuses, including break periods.

“No matter what we bring to the board in the next four months, it will come with an awareness campaign for all stakeholders including students, but advances also the critical element of pursuing litigation against social media giants for their careless, irresponsible and immoral actions that have put kids across the country in the position they’re in today,” said LAUSD Superintendent Alberto Carvalho.

There was dissension as two school board members opposed the ban citing how difficult it would be for employees of the second largest school district in the country to enforce the ban and stay on top of it, KABC 7 reported.

Nick Melvoin, the LAUSD school board member for District 4, who spearheaded the ban, spoke with KABC 7:

“When I talk to teachers and students and parents… I also hear the same, which is that more and more time is being spent on policing student phone use. There’s not a coherent enforcement and they’re looking for some support from the board and from the district,” Melvoin said Tuesday. “The schools that have gone farther and that have already implemented a phone-free school day report incredible results. Kids are happier, they’re talking to one another, their academics are up.”

Some parents and others are opposed to the ban telling KABC that they wanted to be able to communicate with their children. Others however see the ban as a means to improve learning and lead to less bullying.

On Monday, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy wrote an op-ed calling for warning labels for younger users on social media platforms.

With mobile phone apps most often cited as the leading cause among adolescents to suffer from episodes of mental health crisis or being bullied as is a majority of cases for LGBTQ+ youth, especially trans and gender non-conforming youth, limiting school day usage could mitigate a portion of those instances a San Fernando Valley youth mental health crisis counselor, who asked to remain unidentified, told the Blade Tuesday afternoon.

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