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The California Democrats’ need for unification

Will impeachment dominate the debates?

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Five Republicans are planning to challenge Rep. Katie Hill. (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

The eyes of the political universe will be on San Francisco as May slides into June and presidential hopefuls descend on the Moscone Center to tango with delegates at the California Democratic Convention. The nation’s most populous state final matters in the primaries as the biggest catch of 2020’s Super Tuesday next March 3.

For months, many politicos feared grassroots activists would bitterly squabble over who would replace Eric Bauman, the first openly gay chair of the California Democratic Party (CDP) who resigned amid allegations of sexual impropriety. But the imperative of replacing Donald Trump has relegated the chair contest to more of an internal matter, enabling delegates to spend May 31 to June 2 debating how to win the presidency and hold the House.

Seven candidates are vying for CDP chair, with election results announced on June 2. Bay Area activist Kimberly Ellis, whose dramatically contentious challenge to Bauman in 2017 was a shocker to party stalwarts and Daraka Larimore-Hall, a millennial activist primarily based in Santa Barbara, are the top two contenders. But less flashy longtime union organizer Rusty Hicks, who has a slew of endorsements from numerous LGBT politicos such as Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl and LA County Assessor Jeff Prang, appears to be the candidates many are hoping will restore order and the CDP’s reputation.

While that party business is going on in the background—as well as the race for new chairs of the LGBT Caucus—delegates will mostly focus on organizing for the big 2020 races, given the 8.6 million registered Democrats in California. Official CDP endorsements will occur at a second state convention in November in Long Beach.

But the San Francisco convention will no doubt also become caught up in impeachment mania. Longtime Democratic strategist House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been trying to tamp down calls for immediate impeachment hearings but featured speakers on Saturday night are Rep. Adam Schiff, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, and impeachment proponent Rep. Maxine Waters, Chair of the House Finance Committee.

Pelosi argues that the seven House seats flipped in the midterms are held by more moderate Democrats in red districts and impeachment could be the wedge Trump and the Republican National Committee need to flip those seats back to GOP control.

The RNC is already raising money and recruiting challengers in California. “We’re very confident we can get those seats back,” RNC spokesperson Torunn Sinclair told the San Francisco Chronicle. “There are a lot of folks who want to run against the socialist Democrats who were just elected.”

Though the filing deadline for the March 3, 2020 is on Dec. 6, several candidates have already jumped in and secured major backing. GOP businesswoman Young Kim is challenging Rep. Gil Cisneros again in the 39th District in Orange County. Kim was so confident of her win last year—before losing by 7,600 votes—that she went to Washington and posed with other women elected during the midterm elections. She has the backing of House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield.

Also being challenged is Rep. Harley Rouda of Laguna Beach in the 48th District. Orange County Supervisor Michelle Steel already has the backing of the conservative Republican Orange County Lincoln Club. Trump named Steele to the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Fred Whitaker, chair of the Republican Party of Orange County, tells the Chronicle that San Juan Capistrano Mayor Brian Maryott will be their likely pick to challenge Rep. Mike Levin in the 49th District.

Five Republicans have announced their challenge to Rep. Katie Porter in the 45th District—but that may take some doing. Law professor Porter has become an Internet sensation with her simple, direct schooling of Trump administration officials, most recently Housing and Urban Development Sec. Ben Carson who confused a real estate owned property term (REO) with Oreo cookies.

On May 20, retired Army colonel and Assemblymember Bob Elliott, who represents San Joaquin County’s District 5, announced he had received “new information” from the RNC that prompted him to abandon his race to replace Cathleen Galgiani in the state Senate and instead challenge Josh Harder, the Democrat from Turlock, for the 10th Congressional District, according to Recordnet.com. He didn’t reveal the “new information.”

No Republican has yet emerged to take on Rep. TJ Cox, who won a squeaker against Republican Rep. David Valadao by less than 900 votes.

Anti-LGBT Rep. Duncan Hunter, who was almost defeated by newcomer Ammar Campa-Najjar in the 50th District, has been indicted on federal campaign corruption charges and faces trial in September. In the meantime, he’s trying to get an advance pardon from Trump for a Navy SEAL accused of killing civilians in Iraq. Hunter told reporters he doesn’t think the Navy will give the SEAL a fair trial, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.

Rep. Katie Hill, the proud moderate bisexual who defeated anti-LGBT Rep. Steve Knight in the 25th District, was given a leadership role by Speaker Pelosi early on. She already has four GOP challengers and may prove more vulnerable if Democrats take a hard plunge into impeachment. But as Trump flaunts his penchant for authoritarianism, the debate intensifies over how best to uphold the Constitution and the separation of powers.

“We’re just getting closer and closer to a point where we have to do something,” Hill told Politico. “Each of us is personally struggling because we see on so many levels … where he’s committed impeachable offenses.”

Politicos everywhere will be looking to California Democrats for direction, clarity and unification, if not a final conclusion.   

Congress

Speaker McCarthy confirms Santos faces House Ethics probe

“If ethics finds something, we’ll take action,’ McCarthy said. “Right now we’re not allowing him to be on committees”

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House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) (L) with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) (Photo Credit: Office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives/Facebook)

WASHINGTON – House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) confirmed to CNN on Tuesday that GOP Rep. George Santos (N.Y.) faces an investigation by the House Ethics Committee.

“Ethics is moving through, and if ethics finds something, we’ll take action,” McCarthy said.

For his part, Santos continued to lean into the defiant attitude with which he has recently treated the many scandals that have enveloped him since his arrival to Washington.

Santos told CNN he is “not concerned” about the Ethics probe and is eager to welcome the constituents from his district, New York’s Third Congressional, who are headed to Capitol Hill today to demand his resignation.

“Right now we’re not allowing him to be on committees from the standpoint of the questions that have arisen,” McCarthy told the network, following reports last week that Santos stepped down from the House Committees on Small Business and Science, Space and Technology.

Asked whether his resignations came at the speaker’s behest, Santos told reporters at the time: “Nobody tells me to do anything.”

Also last week came reports that the FBI was exploring allegations that Santos ran a GoFundMe scam, allegedly stealing crowdsourced money that was intended for oncology treatments for a homeless veteran’s treasured service dog.

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Montana

Montana Republicans support anti-Trans medical conscience bill

HB 303, which allows medical providers to decline services based on moral or religious beliefs, cleared a key House vote Monday

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Rep. Zooey Zephyr, D-Missoula (Photo Credit: August Payton Photography)

By Mara Silvers | HELENA – State lawmakers in the House of Representatives gave broad approval Monday to a bill that would allow medical providers, health care facilities and insurers to deny services based on “ethical, moral, or religious beliefs or principles,” signaling the bill’s likely advancement to the Senate this week. 

House Bill 303, sponsored by Rep. Amy Regier, R-Kalispell, passed the Republican-majority chamber largely along party lines, with 65 votes in favor and 35 against, after roughly 20 minutes of debate.

Regier portrayed the bill as a “preservation and protection for medical conscience” in the state for practitioners and health care institutions that object to specific “lifestyle and elective procedures” such as physician aid in dying, prescribing marijuana or opioids, abortion procedures and gender-affirming medical care for transgender people.

“To be clear, this bill would not give the right to refuse to serve a person. It would only apply to the narrow circumstances where a nurse or physician cannot conscientiously perform a specific procedure,” Regier said.

A subsection of the bill says it is not meant to conflict with the federal emergency health care access law known as EMTALA as it applies to health care institutions, such as hospitals. But the bill does not provide a holistic exemption for emergency departments and emergency health care providers. When it comes to abortion, for example, the bill would require providers to opt-in to participating in those procedures in writing beforehand.

Similar legislation has had recent success in other states. For instance, a Medical Ethics and Diversity Act was signed into law in South Carolina last spring. The legislation in that state saw support from the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative religious advocacy group that is also backing the Montana proposal. 

The opposition to South Carolina’s legislation, including from transgender patients and LGBTQ advocacy groups, echoes concerns now surfacing in Montana over HB 303. Medical associations and groups, including the Montana Hospital Association, Montana Primary Care Association, Montana Nurses Association and the Montana Medical Association, testified against the bill during a January committee hearing, saying it would put patients’ care at risk. 

During Monday’s debate on the House floor, Democrats reiterated that the bill includes no discrimination protection for patients, and does not guarantee that a patient has a right to access health care even if a specific provider declines to participate in those services. 

Rep. Zooey Zephyr, D-Missoula, told fellow lawmakers the bill would mean transgender people like herself could be turned away from medical services they need.

“What is actually going to happen is it will be a denial based on diagnosis. Something like, I am diagnosed with gender dysphoria,” Zephyr said. “And the thing is, that is inherently discriminatory because you cannot pass my diagnosis from who I am. To deny me based on my diagnosis of gender dysphoria is to deny me based on my being a trans woman.”

Republican moderates appeared to try and derail the bill by proposing a strategic amendment during Monday’s floor session. 

As written, HB 303 does not apply to a “health care institution or health care payer owned or operated by the state or a political subdivision of the state.” Some Republican representatives showed interest in striking that provision from the bill, an amendment that would have triggered a higher threshold for the bill to pass because of a specific provision of the state constitution. That amendment, proposed by Rep. Tom Welch, R-Dillon, failed in a 39-61 vote. 

Republicans who spoke in support of the bill on the floor said they hoped the bill would protect freedom of expression for medical providers, even those they disagree with. 

“I think in this increasingly lack of traditional values and conscience world, and oftentimes profit-driven world, that protection needs to be provided for providers and health care workers that do have those values and do have that conscience,” said Rep. Jerry Schilling, R-Circle. 

Other Democrats who considered the bill as part of the House Judiciary Committee urged lawmakers to consider the unintended consequences of the bill. Rep. Laura Smith, D-Helena, said she’d heard stories from parents of young children faced with challenging medical circumstances who feared that, had HB 303 been in place, their desires for care would have been trumped by the prerogative or ideology of their providers. 

“This is just one of many examples that I receive where medical teams have tried to deny parents’ rights to choose procedures for their children,” Smith said. “If the bill passes, it will take away parental rights, and your constituents’ parental rights, to make these life-and-death procedural and medical decisions for our own children.”

The bill ultimately passed with widespread Republican support and one affirmative vote from Rep. Frank Smith, D-Poplar. Four Republican lawmakers joined Democrats in opposition.

If the bill passes a third, non-debatable vote this week, it will then be transmitted to the Senate and assigned to a committee for a second hearing. 

Speaking to Montana Free Press Monday afternoon, Regier said she was pleased by the vote margin. 

“It’s what we all hope for,” she said. 

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Mara Silvers writes about health and human services stories happening in local communities, the Montana statehouse and the court system. She also produces the Shared State podcast in collaboration with MTPR and YPR. Before joining Montana Free Press, Mara worked in podcast and radio production at Slate and WNYC. She was born and raised in Helena, MT and graduated from Seattle University in 2016.

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The preceding piece was previously published by Montana Free Press and is republished with permission.

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Orange County

Huntington Beach could ban Pride flags on city property

The new rule would only allow the American flag, California state flag and the city of Huntington Beach flag to be flown

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The city first hoisted the Pride flag on May 22, 2021 (Photo Credit: City of Huntington Beach)

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. – A new ordinance that would only allow the American flag, California state flag and the city of Huntington Beach flag to be flown or displayed on city property has been proposed by Councilmember Pat Burns to be heard Tuesday at the regular city council meeting starting at 6 p.m..

The Republican councilman, a former Long Beach Police Department Lieutenant, told KABC 7 Eyewitness News: “Special flags or recognition flags of some sort that aren’t governmental or representative of the community, as one, I don’t believe has a space on our government flag poles,” he said.

Burns said the only exception would be the Prisoner of War and Missing in Action flag that honors those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for this country. “So many of the men gave all to give us the rights we enjoy today,” Burns said.

Although he did not specifically call out the Pride flag, Burns stated in a staff report explaining his reasoning for the request. “The City of Huntington Beach should avoid actions that could easily or mistakenly be perceived as divisive. [We] are one community with many different cultures and people. All are equally valued members of our community, and none are to be treated differently or discriminated against.”

 “People have asked if we can fly other flags, whatever they may be, and I don’t believe that we should fly any other flags but equal flags that represent us all,” Burns added.

Many Republicans and conservatives view the display of the LGBTQ flag as divisive, some stating moral objections to affirming LGBTQ+ people as “represented” by display of the flag. According to Huntington Beach Public Affairs Manager Jennifer Carey, the Pride flag was previously approved is the only other banner approved by members of the council for civic display.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Carey told the Times that the city first hoisted the Pride flag on May 22, 2021— the birthday of former San Francisco supervisor and civil rights activist Harvey Milk, fatally shot in 1978 — after the City Council voted 6-0 in a May 3 meeting to keep the banner flying throughout the month of June to mark LGBTQ Pride Month.

Defending his proposed ordinance Bruns said: “We’re one community with different cultures, different people, and if anything, it’s a unifying measure.” 

KABC also reported that in a letter, Peter Levi, regional director for the Anti-Defamation League of Orange County/Long Beach, asked the Huntington Beach City Council to reject the proposed ordinance to limit flag displays.

“Celebrating the rich diversity of the Huntington Beach community is not a political statement and prohibiting the display of pride flags because they are allegedly ‘divisive’ sends a dangerous message to the LGBTQ+ community and allies,” said Levi.

From KABC 7:

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News Analysis

Daily Wire host: Demons are “always trans”

“They’re never beautiful, truly gorgeous women with classical proportions- They’re always androgynous. They’re always trans”

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Michael Knowles Show (Screenshot/YouTube)

By Media Matters Staff | WASHINGTON – In his latest episode of his show, Daily Wire host Michael Knowles says the CBS network endorses Satan worship after the airing of the performance on the GRAMMYs Sunday night of Out Trans artist Kim Petras along side nonbinary artist Sam Smith singing their song “Unholy.”

Petras and Smith won a GRAMMY for Best Solo Pop Duo/Group Performance for “Unholy.”

Watch:

Transcript:

MICHAEL KNOWLES (HOST): So, Sam Smith gives an overtly satanic performance with all sorts of transsexuals and fire coming up. First point there, by the way — and I noticed this the other day even before Sam Smith’s performance — isn’t it odd how depictions of demons, how depictions of weird ghoulish devilish demonic figures are always androgynous?

They’re never super duper hyper-masculine chads. They’re never beautiful, truly gorgeous women with classical proportions and representations of beauty. They’re always androgynous. They’re always trans. And the reason for that is that the Devil hates human beings and sexual difference is, basically, at the very core of human nature.

The difference between man and woman, the complementarity of man and women, is right there at the heart of human nature. And the Devil hates humanity and so he tries to cut away at the very core of humanity.  

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California

Newsom calls for Federal investigation of high Natural Gas prices

California accelerating bill credits of $90-$120 starting next month to support with high gas and electric bills

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Governor Gavin Newsom (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor)

SACRAMENTO – As millions of California families experience soaring gas utility bills, Governor Gavin Newsom took action today urging the federal government to investigate the recent price spike affecting the Western U.S. and highlighted the state’s action to provide relief to Californians.

In a letter to the federal agency responsible for regulating wholesale natural gas, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the Governor requested that the agency “immediately focus its investigatory resources on assessing whether market manipulation, anticompetitive behavior, or other anomalous activities are driving these ongoing elevated prices in the western gas markets.”

Additionally, millions of Californians will soon see relief from high utility bills – with credits of $90 to $120 showing up on gas and electric bills as soon as next month. 

On Thursday, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) voted to accelerate the California Climate Credit to help California families with high gas bills.

The $90-$120 credit will be applied to residential utility customer bills starting in March for customers of PG&E, Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas & Electric, and Southern California Gas Company. Customers of Bear Valley, Liberty, PacifiCorp, and Southwest Gas will also receive an accelerated credit of varying amounts. 

Tomorrow, the CPUC and the California Energy Commission will host an en banc hearing to examine the causes and impacts of the recent spike in natural gas prices. 

“Millions of California families are opening their utility bills to sticker shock – and we’re taking action now to provide relief to help with those high gas bills,” said Newsom. “We know this provides only temporary relief from soaring bills. That’s why I’m asking the federal government to use its full authority to investigate the spike in natural gas prices and take any necessary enforcement actions. We’re going to get to the bottom of this because Californians deserve to know what’s behind these exorbitant bills.”

California accelerating bill credits of $90-$120 starting next month to support with high gas and electric bills

Californians do not need to do anything to get the credit. Every spring and fall, millions of Californians receive credits on their electric and natural gas bills identified as the California Climate Credit. The California Climate Credit comes from the State’s cap-and-trade program managed by the California Air Resources Board. The credit on utility bills represents the consumer’s share of the payments from the State’s program.

The CPUC and California Energy Commission will hold an en banc hearing on February 7 to bring together market experts to examine the possible drivers behind the natural gas price spikes and explore potential state actions that can be taken. The hearing includes participation of the California Independent System Operator and market experts from across the country to discuss possible drivers and explore any state measure to protect California customers.

More information is available here.

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Politics

Victory Institute urges Senate to confirm Gigi Sohn for FCC

Sohn, whose appointment has been languishing since October 2021, would be the first LGBTQ person ever to serve in that role

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Gigi Sohn (Screen capture via C-SPAN)

WASHINGTON – The LGBTQ Victory Institute submitted a letter Monday with more than 375 signatories urging Senate leadership to confirm Gigi Sohn’s nomination for commissioner at the Federal Communications Commission.

Sohn, whose appointment has been languishing since October 2021, would be the first LGBTQ person ever to serve in that role where she would become the tie-breaking vote on the bipartisan-led commission.

“Gigi is one of the nation’s leading public advocates for open, affordable, and democratic
communications networks,” the Victory Institute wrote in its letter. “Gigi has worked across the country to defend and preserve the fundamental competition and innovation policies that have made broadband internet access more ubiquitous, competitive, affordable, open, and protective of user privacy. During this time, she has worked across the industry, notably as Counselor to former FCC Chair Tom Wheeler.”

Despite these qualifications – and the Biden-Harris administration’s decision to nominate her for a third time – Sohn’s confirmation has been delayed amid coordinated attacks by industry lobbyists, conservatives on the Senate’s Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and right-wing media organizations.

Fox News, Breitbart, and the Daily Mail have recently focused on Sohn’s membership on the board of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a respected organization that has come out against a pair of laws that were enacted in 2018 amid the panic over child sex trafficking.

The laws, according to the Los Angeles Times, “have proved to be largely ineffective for their stated purpose and rife with adverse side effects,” with the EFF writing that they “will not stop sex trafficking and will instead make stopping it harder.” Regardless, the matter has nothing to do with the work in which Sohn would be engaged at the FCC.

Nevertheless, these attacks on Sohn, an out lesbian, dovetail with efforts to link the LGBTQ community with child sexual abuse and exploitation. The EFF came out in support of Sohn, too, arguing that the attacks against her were “dog whistles.”

“Democrats can’t claim to support LGBTQ rights while failing to stand up to blatant bigotry targeting one of their own nominees,” Evan Greer, director of the digital rights organization Fight for the Future, told the Los Angeles Times. “If they remain silent and complicit, this will become a go-to strategy to tank LGBTQ nominees to any public position,” she said.

According to research provided by GLAAD, one of the groups that signed the Victory Institute’s letter, “These criticisms [of Sohn] have led extremists, especially those from the QAnon movement, to conclude that Sohn supports sex trafficking and is participating in a secret plot by Democrats and other ‘far left elites’ to silence conservatives.”

Former U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) called Sohn a “she-male” and “fringe lunatic,” claims that prompted other users to make death threats against her, according to research provided by GLAAD.

Separately and in the past, Sohn earned criticism for her social media posts, including one authored by the acclaimed actor and comedian Issa Rae that Sohn shared, which read: “Your raggedy white supremacist president and his cowardly enablers would rather kill everybody than stop killing black people.”

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State Department

State Department spokesperson welcomes Pope Francis’ opposition to criminalization laws

Ned Price is openly gay, said pontiff ‘speaks with authority’

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State Department spokesperson Ned Price, center, speaks at the LGBTQ Victory Institute's International LGBTQ Leaders Conference in D.C. on Dec. 3, 2022. Price, who is openly gay, welcomes Pope Francis' recent comments against laws that criminalize LGBTQ and intersex people. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

WASHINGTON — State Department spokesperson Ned Price on Monday said he welcomes Pope Francis’ recent comments against criminalization laws.

“His Holiness using his voice in this way is something that will be noticed by people and governments around the world,” Price told the Washington Blade during his daily press briefing. “He obviously speaks with authority that perhaps no one else can. We welcome those remarks.”

Francis, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and the Rt. Rev. Ian Greenshields of the Church of Scotland on Sunday after they left South Sudan publicly denounced criminalization laws and said their respective churches should welcome LGBTQ+ and intersex people. Francis during an exclusive interview with the Associated Press on Jan. 24 described criminalization laws as “unjust” and said “being homosexual is not a crime.”

The Vatican’s tone towards LGBTQ+ and intersex issues has softened since Francis assumed the papacy in 2013, but the church continues to consider homosexuality a sin. The Vatican remains opposed to marriage rights for same-sex couples. 

Price on Monday referred to President Joe Biden’s memorandum that committed the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ+ and intersex rights abroad as part of his administration’s overall foreign policy. 

The openly gay State Department spokesperson in May 2021 told the Blade the decriminalization of consensual same-sex sexual relations is one of the five priorities for the White House in its efforts to promote LGBTQ+ and intersex rights abroad. Singapore, Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda and St. Kitts and Nevis have legalized homosexuality since that interview.

“We will continue, as an administration, as a government, to doing (sic) what we can, perhaps in a very different way, but practical steps that we can to promote and protect the rights of LGBTQI+ persons around the world,” said Price on Monday, referring to Biden’s foreign policy memorandum. 

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Crime & Justice

Patrons of Gay bar in New York City robbed of thousands

NYPD investigators believe the criminals used facial recognition to access the victims’ phones and funds once they were incapacitated

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The Eagle NYC (Screenshot/YouTube)

NEW YORK – The New York City Police Department, (NYPD) confirmed that a series of robberies committed at The Eagle NYC, a Chelsea gay leather bar last Fall, had the three victims losing thousands of dollars after the criminals used facial recognition to access the victims’ phones.

NBC News Out correspondent Matt Lavietes reported the three men, who were in their late 30s and 40s, visited The Eagle NYC, on separate nights in October and November and were each robbed of $1,000 to $5,000, according to the NYPD’s deputy commissioner of public information. 

No arrests have been made and the investigation is ongoing, authorities said.

Capt. Robert Gault of the city’s 10th Precinct, who spoke about the incidents at a police community council meeting last week, told NBC News that NYPD investigators believe the criminals used facial recognition to access the victims’ phones and funds once they were incapacitated.

“What we think is happening with this scheme is they’re being lured away from the club, maybe to say, ‘Hey, you wanna come with me? I got some good drugs,’ or something like that,’” Gault said. “And then, once they get into a car to do whatever it is that they’re going to do, at some point or another, they don’t know what happened when they wake up.”

Criminals use facial recognition to rob patrons at NYC gay bar:

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West Hollywood

WeHo hosts public hearing on PrEP & PEP February 23 at City Hall

Access to PrEP & PEP & adherence to recommended treatment are just 2 necessary steps in the efforts to reducing community transmission of HIV

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Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) pills (Photo Credit: San Francisco AIDS Foundation)

WEST HOLLYWOOD – The City of West Hollywood will host a public hearing to gather input from community members about whether individuals at high risk for HIV transmission are able to effectively access medications approved as part of FDA-approved protocols for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis(PrEP) and Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP).

City staff and officials have become aware from anecdotal information in the community that there may be barriers to easily accessing PrEP and PEP at pharmacies in Los Angeles County and other regions of the state.

While statewide legislation, SB 159, authorizes pharmacists to furnish PrEP and PEP without a physician prescription and prohibits insurance companies from requiring prior authorizations to obtain PrEP coverage, there is concern that national pharmacy chains and local pharmacies may not be participating in ways the legislation intended.

City outreach to local pharmacists indicates that many local pharmacists have not taken the California State Board of Pharmacy (CSBP) training to dispense PrEP and PEP, and may not have been aware of the training at all.

The City’s aim in hosting a public hearing is to gather input from impacted residents and community stakeholders; findings will then be relayed to legislators and other key decision makers.

The public hearing is open to the public and will take place on Thursday, February 23, 2023 at 6:30 p.m. at the West Hollywood City Council Chambers/Public Meeting Room, located at 625 N. San Vicente Boulevard. Limited validated parking will be available in the adjacent West Hollywood Park five-Story structure.

Community members may view the public hearing live on WeHoTV on Spectrum Channel 10 within West Hollywood; by clicking on the ‘Watch Live’ link on the City’s WeHoTV website page www.weho.org/wehotv; or through City’s WeHo YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/wehotv.

It will also be live-streamed on streaming services such as AndroidTV, AppleTV, FireTV, and Roku. Digital streaming platform viewers can find programming by searching for “WeHoTV.”

Individuals who would like to provide comments but are unable to attend the hearing, or who would prefer to share their experience directly, can send their comments by email to Hernán Molina, the City of West Hollywood’s Governmental Affairs Liaison, at [email protected].

In January 2019, Senator Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco introduced SB 159 HIV: preexposure and postexposure prophylaxis. The bill, which was signed by Governor Newsom into law on October 7, 2019, seeks to make PrEP and PEP more readily available to HIV negative individuals who are at high risk of HIV infection. SB 159 does so, among other things, by:

  • Authorizing a pharmacist to furnish PrEP and PEP in specified amounts and requires a pharmacist to furnish those drugs if certain conditions are met, including that the pharmacist determines the patient meets the clinical criteria for PrEP and PEP consistent with federal guidelines; and
  • Requiring a pharmacist, before furnishing PrEP and PEP, to complete a training program approved by the California State Board of Pharmacy.

Having easy access to PrEP and PEP and proper adherence to the recommended treatment are just two necessary steps in the efforts to reducing community transmission of HIV. PrEP is a key prevention strategy for ending the HIV epidemic in the U.S.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports fewer than 25% of the approximately 1-million Americans who could benefit from PrEP are using this preventative medication. One of the goals of the federal Ending the HIV Epidemic in the U.S. (EHE) initiative is to have 50% of people who could benefit from PrEP using it by 2025.

The HIV/AIDS epidemic has had a significant impact on the City of West Hollywood. The disease’s elevated infection rate among gay men caused a devastatingly high number of deaths in the City in the era following the City’s founding in 1984.

The City of West Hollywood was one of the first government entities to provide social services grants to local AIDS and HIV organizations. The City sponsored one of the first AIDS awareness campaigns in the country in October 1985 and the City’s response to the AIDS crisis has been recognized as a model for other cities, nationally and globally.

In 2015, the City of West Hollywood City Council adopted the HIV Zero Strategic Plan. The City Council directed staff to work with social service providers, community clinics, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, and other governmental agencies to develop a strategic plan aimed at reducing the rates of transmission and slowing disease progression.

The City’s HIV Zero Initiative embraces a vision to “Get to Zero” on many fronts: Zero new infections. Zero progression of HIV to AIDS. Zero discrimination. Zero stigma. The City currently contracts with APLA Health, Healthcare in Action, the Los Angeles LGBT Center, Men’s Health Foundation, and Planned Parenthood to provide biomedical interventions, such as PrEP and PEP to community members at risk of acquiring HIV.

For more information, please contact Hernán Molina, the City of West Hollywood’s Governmental Affairs Liaison, at (323) 848-6364 or at [email protected].

For people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, please call TTY (323) 848-6496.

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Asia

Japanese Prime Minister sacks aide over anti-LGBTQ remarks

An openly gay member of the House of Councilors, Taiga Ishikawa, said the situation was “beyond one’s patience”

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President Joe Biden walks along the West Colonnade with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Friday, January 13, 2023, at the White House. (Official White House Photo by Cameron Smith)

TOKYO – Masayoshi Arai, who until Saturday served as executive secretary to Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, was fired after he made anti-LGBTQ comments to reporters late Friday afternoon local time.

Arai told reporters in a gaggle at the prime minister’s office he would “not want to live next door” to an LGBTQ couple and that he does “not even want to look at them.”

He also said during an off-the-record conversation with reporters that if same-sex marriage is introduced in Japan, it would “change the way society is” and “quite a few people would abandon this country.”

At a press conference Saturday, a clearly agitated Kishida told reporters Arai’s remarks were “completely inconsistent with the policy of the Cabinet,” the prime minister adding, “We have been respecting diversity and realizing an inclusive society.”

Kishida acknowledged that he had fired Arai upon learning of the comments calling them “inexcusable.”

Tetsuro Fukuyama, Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and member of the Japanese House of Councilors, the upper house of the National Diet [Parliament] of Japan, took to Twitter writing:

“It’s an outrageous remark, even off the record. It would be a big problem if all the secretaries of the prime minister’s official residence had such a sense of human rights. “We respect human rights and values, but if same-sex marriage is recognized, some people will abandon the country.” Do you understand the meaning of respect? It deserves immediate dismissal.”

An openly gay member of the House of Councilors, Taiga Ishikawa, said the situation was “beyond one’s patience” on Twitter and noted that Arai had also said that all of Kishida’s executive secretaries are against same-sex marriage.

The lawmaker, also a member of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, called for the entire team of secretaries to be dismissed and said he would pursue the matter in Parliament.

Japanese media outlet  Kyodo News reported that Japan has not legally recognized same-sex marriage as many members of the conservative Liberal Democratic Party, led by Kishida, have opposed the concept, emphasizing the country’s traditional values such as the role of women in giving birth and raising children.

The 150-day ordinary Diet session began on Jan. 23. The latest gaffes about LGBTQ people will likely prompt left-leaning opposition bloc lawmakers to grill Kishida over his views on family affairs in Japan, political experts said.

Late last year, LGBTQ issues in Japan drew fresh attention as LDP lawmaker Mio Sugita, the then parliamentary vice minister for internal affairs and communications, was pressured to retract past remarks against sexual minority couples.

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