All of Trump’s anti-LGBT actions since last Pride (plus a few welcome moves)
Acts against LGBT people far outweigh beneficial policy
President Trump acknowledged Pride month via Twitter last week, but his well wishes for the LGBT community fell on skeptical ears following the extensive anti-LGBT actions of his administration.
In just the year since last Pride, the tally of anti-LGBT actions from the Trump administration dwarf the number of good things that have come from his presidency for the LGBT community.
With Pride celebrations underway, the Blade presents a list in no particular order of Trump’s positive and negative actions with direct impact on the LGBT community since 2018’s Pride celebration.
(-) 1. Embracing the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision
When the U.S. Supreme Court issued a narrow ruling last year in favor of Colorado baker Jack Phillips, many observers saw the decision as limited. After all, justices declined to find the First Amendment right Phillips asserted to refuse to make custom-made wedding cakes for same-sex couples.
But the Trump administration fully embraced the decision as a win for “religious freedom.” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the court “rightly concluded” the Colorado Civil Rights Commission “failed to show tolerance and respect” for Phillips’ religious beliefs.
Soon after, the Labor Department issued guidance to ensure enforcement of LGBT non-discrimination rules complied with the ruling’s deference to religious freedom, even though the Trump administration wasn’t required to take that action.
(-) 2. White House meeting with Ginni Thomas
President Trump continues to meet with anti-LGBT activists in the White House, including a recent high-profile discussion with Ginni Thomas, the wife of conservative U.S. Associate Justice Clarence Thomas.
The New York Times reported Trump met in January with anti-LGBT activists led by Thomas in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. As Trump was reportedly “listening quietly,” members of the group denounced transgender people serving in the U.S. military.
In addition to decrying transgender military service, the anti-LGBT activists said women shouldn’t serve in the military “because they had less muscle mass and lung capacity than men.” They also said the Supreme Court ruling for marriage equality is “harming the fabric of the United States” and sexual assault isn’t pervasive in the military, according to the New York Times.
(-) 3. Coming out against the Equality Act
In the same week the U.S. House voted to approve the Equality Act, legislation that would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to ban anti-LGBT discrimination, Trump came out against the bill.
In an exclusive statement to the Blade, a senior administration official said Trump opposes the Equality Act based on unspecified “poison pill” amendments to the legislation.
“The Trump administration absolutely opposes discrimination of any kind and supports the equal treatment of all; however, this bill in its current form is filled with poison pills that threaten to undermine parental and conscience rights,” the official said via email.
(+) 4. AIDS advisory council restaffed
One year after firing all members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS without explanation as first reported by the Blade, Trump restaffed the advisory body with 11 new appointees.
Carl Schmid, deputy director of the AIDS Institute, and John Wiesman, secretary of health in Washington State, were named as co-chairs for the advisory council. Months later, the Department of Health & Human Services named nine additional members to PACHA from a variety of professions, including the pharmaceutical industry, activism and academia.
(-) 5. Trans military ban implemented
After the U.S. Supreme Court essentially green lighted Trump’s ban on transgender people in the military, the Defense Department implemented the policy in April.
Denying the transgender ban is, in fact, a ban, the policy prohibits anyone who has undergone gender reassignment surgery from enlisting in the military and requires anyone who identifies as transgender to serve in their biological sex (which would be a small number of transgender people.) Although transgender people who were already serving openly won an exemption, individuals who are diagnosed in the future with gender dysphoria or obtain transition-related care would be discharged.
(-) 6. Brief against trans protections under Title VII
In a brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court not to take up a case seeking clarification on whether anti-trans discrimination is a form of sex discrimination under federal law, the Trump administration asserted the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals wrongly decided transgender people have protections under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
“The court of appeals’ conclusion that gender-identity discrimination categorically constitutes sex discrimination under Title VII is incorrect,” the filing says. “As discussed above, the ordinary meaning of ‘sex’ does not refer to gender identity…The court’s position effectively broadens the scope of that term beyond its ordinary meaning. Its conclusion should be rejected for that reason alone.”
(-) 7. List of anti-LGBT appointments grows
The U.S. Senate continues to confirm Trump’s appointments, many of whom have long anti-LGBT records. The latest will reportedly be former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who once said homosexual acts are “against nature and are harmful to society,” for a position at the Department of Homeland Security
Other confirmations include U.S. District Judge Howard Nielson of Utah, who as an attorney argued a gay judge shouldn’t be able to decide the case against California’s Proposition 8, and U.S. District Judge Chad Readler of Ohio, who as acting assistant U.S. attorney general penned his name to briefs in favor of the transgender military ban and against LGBT protections under Title VII.
(+) 8. But a few are from the LGBT community
A handful of Trump’s appointments are from the LGBT community. Among them is former Log Cabin Republicans executive director R. Clarke Cooper, whom Trump appointed to a senior position at the State Department for political-military affairs. The Senate confirmed Cooper in April.
Other new LGBT appointments are Mary Rowland, a lesbian with ties to the LGBT group Lambda Legal whom Trump named to a federal judgeship in Illinois; and Patrick Bumatay, a gay federal prosecutor whom Trump named for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California. Both nominations are pending before the Senate.
(-) 9. Draconian anti-trans memo leaked
An explosive report in the New York Times last year exposed a planned memo within the Department of Health & Human Services that would effectively erase transgender people from federal law, igniting a massive outcry among transgender rights supporters.
The proposal reportedly asserts Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which bars sex discrimination in schools, doesn’t apply to transgender people and calls for government agencies to adopt an explicit and uniform definition of sex “on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable.” A dispute about one’s sex, the New York Times reported, would have to be clarified using genetic testing.
(-) 10. Anti-trans ‘conscience rule’ is final
The memo as described by the Times never came to light, but months later HHS did implement an anti-trans “conscience rule” allowing health care providers to opt out of procedures over which they have religious objections, including abortions or gender reassignment surgery.
Trump announced the rule was final during a speech in the White House Rose Garden on the National Day of Prayer.
(-) 11. HHS seeks to undo trans health rule
HHS wasn’t done. Weeks after the conscience rule was final, the department announced a proposed rule seeking to undo regulations in health care against anti-trans discrimination.
The Obama-era regulations asserted Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, which bars sex discrimination in health care, also covers discrimination on the basis of gender identity. Under the Trump rule, HHS would disavow those protections. (The Obama-era rule was already enjoined by a federal judge.)
(-) 12. Ending visas for unmarried partners of diplomats
The State Department last year cancelled visas for the unmarried same-sex partners of diplomats to the United States.
By canceling these visas for these partners, the State Department forced these partners to either marry or get out, which complicated matters if these diplomats are from countries where same-sex marriage isn’t legal. At the time of the decision, only 25 countries recognized same-sex marriage.
(-) 13. Proposal to gut trans protections at homeless shelters
Despite assurances from Secretary of Housing & Urban Development Ben Carson LGBT non-discrimination rules for federally funded housing would remain in place, HUD has proposed a rule that would gut transgender protections at homeless shelters.
The HUD proposal would allow homeless shelters with sex-segregated facilities — such as bathrooms or shared sleeping quarters — to establish policy consistent with state and local laws in which operators consider a range of factors when determining where to place individuals looking to stay, including “religious beliefs.”
(+) 14. Trump announces HIV plan in State of the Union
Trump in his State of the Union address announced an initiative to end the HIV epidemic by 2030, asserting “remarkable progress in the fight against HIV and AIDS” in recent years.
“Scientific breakthroughs have brought a once-distant dream within reach,” Trump said. “My budget will ask Democrats and Republicans to make the needed commitment to eliminate the HIV epidemic in the United States within 10 years. We have made incredible strides. Incredible. Together, we will defeat AIDS in America and beyond.”
The plan seeks to reduce new HIV diagnoses by 75 percent within five years, and by 90 percent within 10 years. Efforts will focus on 48 counties, D.C., and San Juan, Puerto Rico and seven states where the epidemic is mostly in rural areas.
(+) 15. And the budget follows through with that request
Trump’s budget request for fiscal year 2020 made good on his pledge in the State of the Union address, seeking $300 million in new funds for domestic HIV programs.
The bulk of the $300 million figure is an additional $140 million requested for HIV prevention at the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, which is a 19 percent increase in its overall budget from fiscal year 2019. The rest is $70 million for the Ryan White Health Care Program, $50 million for PrEP services at HRSA centers and $25 million to screen for HIV and treat Hepatitis C.
(-) 16. But NIH and global AIDS programs slashed
But the same budget sought to slash funds for the National Institutes for Health, which conducts HIV research, and global AIDS programs like PEPFAR. Moreover, the plan sought to make Medicaid a block-grant program, even though 40 percent of people with HIV rely on it. Congress ended up rejecting the cuts, fully funding NIH and global AIDS programs.
(-) 17. Giving Pete Buttigieg nickname of ‘Alfred E. Neuman’
Consistent with his track record of giving his political opponents nicknames, Trump gave an unflattering moniker to Pete Buttigieg, the gay presidential candidate with growing support in the Democratic primary.
Trump dubbed him “Alfred E. Neuman,” the Mad Magazine character famous for the phrase, “What Me Worry?” In a dog whistle that perhaps gay people could hear, Trump said, “Alfred E. Neuman cannot become president of the United States.”
(+) 18. Recognizing global initiative to end anti-gay laws
In his tweet recognizing June as Pride Month, Trump also acknowledged his global initiative to decriminalize homosexuality. Currently, same-sex relations are illegal in 71 countries.
The project is spearheaded by U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, the highest-ranking openly gay person in the Trump administration.
Previously, Trump seemed unaware of the project. Asked about it by reporters, Trump said, “I don’t know which report you’re talking about. We have many reports.”
(-) 19. No State Dept. recognition of Pride Month, IDAHO
In contrast to Trump, the State Department in 2019 issued no statement recognizing Pride Month, nor weeks before did it recognize the International Day Against Homophobia & Transphobia.
In 2018, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued statements recognizing Pride Month and IDAHO. Coming off a confirmation process in which he was criticized as homophobic, Pompeo said “too many governments continue to arrest and abuse their citizens simply for being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex.”
(-) 20. Refusing to recognize birthright of child to gay couple
Consistent with the policy of cracking down on immigration, the Trump administration refused to recognize the birthright citizenship of the son of U.S.-citizen Andrew Dvash-Banks and his Israeli husband Elad Dvash-Banks.
The couple had two twin boys conceived via a surrogate mother in Canada. The State Department, however, required a DNA test to prove the children were related to the couple to provide them U.S. passports. One child, Aiden, was deemed a citizen because he’s the biological son of Andrew, but the other, Ethan, wasn’t because he’s the biological son of Elad.
(-) 21. And appealed a court ruling for the couple
When the couple sued the Trump administration, a court sided with the couple in granting birthright citizenship to Ethan.
However, the State Department refused to accept the decision and appealed the ruling to the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, where the case remains pending. A mediation document reveals the State Department insists on its policy of “a biological relationship between a U.S. citizen parent and a child born outside the United States” to grant citizenship.
(-) 22. LGBT protections watered-down in USMCA
An initial version of the USMCA trade agreement with Canada and Mexico contained at the behest of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau language a call for countries to adopt policies “against sex-based discrimination, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.”
But Trudeau publicly buckled when asked about his commitment. After additional negotiations with the Trump administration, a footnote was added to USMCA stating Title VII in the United States, which bars discrimination on the basis of sex in the workforce, was sufficient to meet the requirements of the deal.
(-) 23. DOJ’s ‘Religious Liberty Task Force’
Before he was sacked by Trump, former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions held a summit at the Justice Department on religious freedom featuring Masterpiece Cakeshop’s Jack Phillips and Catholic leaders.
At the summit, Sessions established the Religious Liberty Task Force. The goal of the task force was to ensure his memo on “religious freedom” — widely seen as guidance in support of anti-LGBT discrimination — was being implemented throughout the federal government.
(+) 24. Hailing PrEP deal with Truvada as ‘great news’
The Department of Health & Human Services reached a deal with Gilead to make PrEP available for generic production one year earlier and to secure a donation of the medication for up to 200,000 individuals each year for up to 11 years.
Trump took to Twitter to hail the agreement: “Great news today: My administration just secured a historic donation of HIV prevention drugs from Gilead to help expand access to PrEP for the uninsured and those at risk. Will help us achieve our goal of ending the HIV epidemic in America!”
(-) 25. Deleting trans employee guidance on OPM website
In a little-noticed development over the holidays, guidance on the Office of Personnel Management’s website for federal workers who are transgender was deleted without explanation.
The Obama-era guidance spelled out the definition of terms for transgender identities and expectations for respecting transgender workers. The guidance ensured transgender people could dress according to their gender identity, be addressed by their preferred gender pronouns and use restrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity.
(+) 26. U.S. joins OSCE in calling for Chechnya investigation
Under the Trump administration, the United States joined 15 allied countries at the U.S. Organization for Security & Cooperation in Europe in the creation of a probe to investigate alleged anti-gay human rights abuses in Chechnya.
The report concluded, as the United States and human rights organizations long believed, Chechen government officials engaged in human rights violations, including “harassment and persecution, arbitrary or unlawful arrests or detentions, torture, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions.” Victims were LGBT people, human rights defenders, journalists and members of civil society.
(-) 27. But U.S. didn’t sign U.N. statement against atrocities
Months later, the United States was nowhere to be found on a United Nations statement signed by more than 30 countries calling for a thorough investigation of the Chechnya atrocities. The State Department said the United States didn’t sign because it withdrew from the U.N. Human Rights Council “and no longer participates in its sessions.”
(-) 28. State Department proposes ‘natural law’ commission
LGBT rights supporters are viewing with skepticism a State Department proposal to create a “natural law” commission, which is set to “provide fresh thinking about human rights discourse where such discourse has departed from our nation’s founding principles of natural law and natural rights.”
The term “natural law” has been used to express condemnation of LGBT identities in religious discourse.
(-) 29. Eliminating LGBT youth data question in foster care
The Trump administration has proposed eliminating requirements for case workers to ask LGBT youth in foster care about their sexual orientation of youth for data collection purposes.
Although the Department of Health & Human Services concluded it was “intrusive and worrisome,” LGBT rights advocates say the questions are necessary to ascertain disparities facing LGBT youth in the foster care and adoption systems.
(-) 30. Trump stands with anti-LGBT adoption agencies
In a speech at the National Prayer Breakfast, Trump expressed solidarity with religious-affiliated adoption agencies, who are bristling over LGBT non-discrimination requirements to obtain federal funding.
“My administration is working to ensure that faith-based adoption agencies are able to help vulnerable children find their forever families while following their deeply held beliefs,” Trump said.
(-) 31. And defends Karen Pence teaching at anti-LGBT school
In the same speech, Trump also defended second lady Karen Pence for her decision to teach art at a Christian school in Virginia, which has a policy against employing LGBT teachers or admitting LGBT students.
“She just went back to teaching art classes at a Christian school,” Trump said, “Terrific woman.”
U.S. Federal Courts
SCOTUS weighs ban on Affirmative Action, advocates sound alarm
As the Supreme Court weighs a ban on Affirmative Action, advocates say such a ruling would negatively harm campus diversity
By Peter White | SAN FRANCISCO – The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on two cases this month that could prohibit consideration of race in college admissions, undoing a 45-year history of Affirmative Action dating back to 1978.
Last October, conservative activist Edward Blum, president of Students for Fair Admissions, filed a lawsuit against Harvard claiming it discriminated against Asian-American applicants. Lower courts found no evidence of that claim, and no students testified against the current race-based policies at Harvard or in a separate suit involving the University of North Carolina.
Still, given the Supreme Court’s conservative majority, many expect an end to the policy, which supporters say has helped boost enrollment in colleges and universities for historically underrepresented groups.
“Progressives, patriots, and free thinkers of all colors and creeds and sexual orientations need to unite in the struggle to preserve the core American principles of inclusivity and multicultural democracy,” said civil rights lawyer Lisa Holder, president of the Equal Justice Society (EJS) in Oakland, California.
Holder spoke with reporters last week during a news briefing organized by Ethnic Media Services. She noted Affirmative Action is the best way to undo the historical legacy of inequality and discrimination in higher education, adding that California schools would become more segregated without it.
“We’re looking at apartheid schools where children of color are not getting access to opportunity. That is un-American,” she said. Holder noted the consensus among social scientists that diverse educational environments are 35% more productive than those that are more homogeneous.
Students who testified before the high court in both the Harvard case as well as a separate case involving the University of North Carolina – also filed by Blum’s group – stressed the advantages of being part of a more diverse student body.
Echoes of Roe v. Wade
In its 1978 Regents of University of California v. Bakke decision, the Supreme Court ruled that schools’ use of Affirmative Action policies to enhance student diversity is constitutional.
Tomas Saenz, president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) and former member of the Los Angeles County Board of Education – where he served for two decades – worries this current court is poised to overturn that longstanding precedent.
“We don’t know when it will come down,” Saenz said. But given the court’s stated views on race-conscious Affirmative Action policies, he expects the justices will overturn it just as they did with the Dobbs ruling last year overturning Roe v. Wade.
“I consider that to be the likely outcome,” he said, noting the Supreme Court revisited the issue of race conscious Affirmative Action in higher education on three separate occasions. Each time the court majority reasserted that the Bakke precedent continued to be the law.
“So, overturning that precedent would be extraordinary and on a par with the Dobbs decision of last year,” Saenz said.
He also predicted that opponents of Affirmative Action would seek to expand the court’s rationale. “This case will have nothing whatsoever to say about Affirmative Action in employment or contracting. And anyone who asserts otherwise, is misleading you,” Saenz said.
“You will hear folks from the right assert that somehow this Supreme Court decision also means that ethnic studies, even critical race theory, must be eliminated from schools.” On the contrary, Saenz says the decision will say nothing about curriculum.
Impacts on campus diversity
\John C. Yang, president and CEO of Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC) reiterated that lower courts found no evidence of discrimination against Asian-Americans in Harvard’s admissions process, which is the basis of the lawsuit.
“An admissions process considering race… remains necessary to ensure that equally qualified students from communities of color have the same access as privileged white students,” Yang said.
He noted 28% of the incoming Harvard class are Asian-Americans and their numbers have quadrupled since 1978 when the Bakke decision was issued.
“Any suggestion that somehow Asian-Americans are being discriminated against is just belied by these simple facts,” Yang continued. If Affirmative Action is overturned, he anticipated campus diversity at Harvard would decrease from 14% to 6% for Blacks and from 14% to 9% for Latinos.
“At the end of the day, we have to recognize that we are not in a race-blind society. Our lived experiences should not be up for debate,” Yang said.
What about legacy admissions?
Michele Siqueiros has been supporting greater college access for students of color since 2004, and says it hasn’t been that long since women, Black, Latino, Indigenous and Asian-American students were even permitted to attend universities.
“Affirmative Action alone was never intended to be the panacea,” said Siqueiros, president of The Campaign for College Opportunity, a California-based non-profit.
“We must do everything in our power to provide all students an equal opportunity to pursue a college education,” she stressed, adding that with the anticipated SCOTUS ruling more will need to be done to ensure universities do not discriminate against students of color.
Siqueiros also pointed out that conservative opponents of Affirmative Action have nothing to say about legacy admissions – which can account for a quarter or more of all admissions at Ivy League schools like Harvard – or about recruiters exclusively visiting rich, wealthy, and predominantly white high schools.
“There are a lot of practices in higher education that should be challenged and removed,” said Siqueiros. “It’s really unfortunate that Affirmative Action is the one that’s being attacked today.”
The preceding article was published as part of an ongoing partnership between Ethnic Media Services and the Los Angeles Blade. For additional information or to learn more about Ethnic Media Services click on the link embedded in the logo above.
30,000 march in Jerusalem Pride parade
Anti-LGBTQ violence reported after event
WDG is the Washington Blade’s media partner in Israel. WDG originally published this article on Friday.
JERUSALEM — Upwards of 30,000 people on Thursday marched in the Jerusalem Pride and Tolerance Parade, which marked the beginning of Pride month in Israel.
The parade, organized by the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance, began with the traditional gathering at Gan Happamon. Many politicians also came to support and encourage the marchers.
Opposition leader Yair Lapid, who chairs the Yesh Atid party, in his speech referred to the counterprotest the Lahava movement organized near the parade’s starting point. Several dozen LGBTQ+ and intersex rights opponents participated in the protest.
“Outside are standing, like every year, the wretched thugs of Lahava movement, demonstrating against us,” said Lapid. “Only this year these people are no longer just a ridiculous bunch of dark extremists — they are part of the government. Bezalel Smotrich, (Internal Security Minister) Itamar Ben-Gvir [and] Avi Maoz, are trying to push us all back into the closet, to the dark closet of their foreknowledge. In Israel there is not one fight for democracy and a separate fight for LGBT rights. It’s the same struggle against those enemies. in the name of those values. Those who attack Israeli democracy attack the LGBTs, those who attack the LGBTs attack democracy.”
Benny Gantz, chair of the National Unity Party, referred to the need to hold parades in the capital.
“We won’t have to march when in this parade we won’t need security, we won’t need snipers and undercover policemen. We won’t have to walk when each and every one can walk in any neighborhood they want, holding hands like any couple. We will not have to march when gay will not be a curse in school but simply self-determination, when each and every one can fill out any government form according to what he is,” he said. “We will not have to march when a prime minister in Israel would not think of giving the keys to the education system to a dark racist and allocating hundreds of millions to oversee liberal education programs. I am ashamed of this and I tell you that even at the most difficult political price, I will never do such a thing. We will not have to march when there are no racists in the government. Such people would be denounced and would not be elected, not because of the law — but because no one would want to elect them. We won’t have to step when simple love won’t be complicated or will be as complicated as any simple love.”
At the end of the gathering, the marchers began marching towards Independence Park where Ran Danker, Ivri Lider, Roni Duani, Rinat Bar and others were performing.
More than 2,000 police officers and soldiers, visible and hidden, secured parade participants with the assistance of reinforcements and volunteers.
As with every year, the police commissioner and the Minister of internal Security came to the parade area to examine the work of the police in the field. But unlike previous years, Ben-Gvir was received with shouts of “shame.” Ben-Gvir came to supervise the parade, despite a prior demand from the parade organizers that he refrain from doing so.
“In my position as a minister, I do and will do everything so that there is no crazy case, as was the case with the murder of Shira Banki,” said Ben-Gvir, “My policy is to give freedom of speech to those who oppose the parade, even to those who speak against the parade, that is their right. They are not breaking the law yet. Our job on this day is to allow the parade and protest, this is democracy, this is the beautiful mosaic in the state of Israel and this is how I act as minister of national security.”
Several serious incidents of violence against the LGBTQ+ community took place after the parade ended and marchers dispersed. In one of them, boys and young men were seen setting Pride flags on fire, and in the second, a group of young people attacked a number of LGBTQ+ people near Jerusalem’s Central Station. They shouted at them to “go back to Tel Aviv, you son of a bitch.”
“This is a resounding slap in the face that reminds us that no matter how much we spread light, the struggle is not over yet, and the hatred towards us exists and understands,” Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance said in response to the violence. “In Jerusalem those who walk around the city tonight, are asked to be alert and take care of themselves. Don’t worry, we will win.”
“The Jerusalem parade is the strongest expression of our opposition to hatred, and to the plans of the hate lobby to fight in our community,” Hevruta, an LGBTQ+ religious organization, said. “Even hundreds of millions of shekels, the authority and standards of Avi Maoz and the Noam party will not be able to extinguish our love for God, for who we are and for our families.”
U.S. Federal Courts
Federal Judge rules Tennessee drag ban is unconstitutional
Parker’s ruling comes after a two-day trial. A Memphis based LGBTQ theatre company, Friends of George’s, had sued the state of Tennessee
MEMPHIS – U. S. District Court Judge Thomas L. Parker of the U. S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee declared Tennessee’s anti-drag Adult Entertainment Act to be unconstitutional.
Parker’s ruling comes after a two-day trial last month. A Shelby County-Memphis based LGBTQ theatre company, Friends of George’s, had sued the state of Tennessee, claiming the law unconstitutional under the First Amendment.
In April Judge Parker ordered a temporary injunction halting the just enacted Tennessee law that criminalizes some drag performances, hours before it was set to take effect Saturday, April 1. In his 15 page ruling ordering the temporary injunction Parker wrote:
“If Tennessee wishes to exercise its police power in restricting speech it considers obscene, it must do so within the constraints and framework of the United States Constitution. […] The Court finds that, as it stands, the record here suggests that when the legislature passed this Statute, it missed the mark.”
Attorneys for the theatre company had argued that drag performances were an artform and protected speech under the first amendment.
In his 70 page ruling Friday, June 2, 2023, Parker wrote:
“After considering the briefs and evidence presented at trial, the Court finds that—despite
Tennessee’s compelling interest in protecting the psychological and physical wellbeing of
children—the Adult Entertainment Act (“AEA”) is an UNCONSTITUTIONAL restriction on
the freedom of speech.”
“The Court concludes that the AEA is both unconstitutionally vague and substantially
overbroad. The AEA’s “harmful to minors” standard applies to minors of all ages, so it fails to
provide fair notice of what is prohibited, and it encourages discriminatory enforcement. The
AEA is substantially overbroad because it applies to public property or “anywhere” a minor
could be present.”
Read the entire ruling:
Texas Governor Abbott signs bill banning trans youth healthcare
Texas joins over a dozen other states restricting transgender minors from accessing puberty blockers and hormone therapies
By Alex Nguyen & William Melhado | AUSTIN – Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law Friday a bill that bars transgender kids from getting puberty blockers and hormone therapies, though the new law could face legal challenges before it takes effect on Sept. 1.
Senate Bill 14’s passage brings to the finish line a legislative priority for the Republican Party of Texas, which opposes any efforts to validate transgender identities. Trans kids, their parents and LGBTQ advocacy groups fiercely oppose the law, and some have vowed to stop it from going into effect.
Texas — home to one of the largest trans communities in the U.S. — is now one of over a dozen states that restrict transition-related care for trans minors.
“Cruelty has always been the point,” said Emmett Schelling, executive director of the Transgender Education Network of Texas. “It’s not shocking that this governor would sign SB14 right at the beginning of Pride [Month]; however this will not stop trans people from continuing to exist with authenticity — as we always have.”
Authored by New Braunfels Republican state Sen. Donna Campbell, the law bars trans kids from getting puberty blockers and hormone therapies, treatments many medical groups support. Children already receiving these treatments will have to be “weaned off” in a “medically appropriate” manner. The law also bans transition-related surgeries for kids, though those are rarely performed on minors.
Those who support the law claim that health care providers have capitalized on a “social contagion” to misguide parents and push life-altering treatments on kids who may later regret their decisions. SB 14’s supporters have also disputed the science and research behind transition-related care.
But trans kids, their parents and major medical groups say these medical treatments are important to protecting the mental health of an already vulnerable population, which faces a higher risk of depression and suicide than their cisgender peers. At the same time, doctors say cutting off these treatments — gradually or abruptly — could bring both physical discomfort and psychological distress to trans youth, some of whom have called it forced detransitioning.
In response, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Texas, Lambda Legal and the Transgender Law Center pledged on May 18 to fight SB 14 in court. They have yet to file a lawsuit.
“Transgender people have always been here and will always be here,” Ash Hall, policy and advocacy strategist at the ACLU of Texas, said Friday. “Our trans youth deserve a world where they can shine alongside their peers, and we will keep advocating for that world in and out of the courts.”
This legal threat is not new; some of these groups have sued several other states over their restrictions. Earlier this year, the Department of Justice also joined the legal fight against Tennessee’s ban.
While the lawsuits are tailored to each state, Sasha Buchert, a senior attorney at Lambda Legal and the director of its Non-Binary and Transgender Rights Project, told the Texas Tribune last month that a major common challenge to the laws hinges on the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause and the argument that these laws are stopping trans kids from accessing the same medical treatments that are still available to their cisgender peers.
Buchert added that the lawsuits’ immediate goal is generally to get a preliminary injunction to stop these laws from taking effect, a tactic that has seen some success.
“It’s one thing to see some of the things that state legislators do, but it’s a completely different thing when you’re under the white-hot spotlight of judicial scrutiny,” she said.
And prior to SB 14, the ACLU and Lambda Legal successfully sued Texas last year to halt state-ordered child abuse investigations of parents who provide their trans kids with access to transition-related care. Impeached attorney general Ken Paxton later appealed the decision in March, but the 3rd Court of Appeals has yet to issue a ruling on it.
“It’s a privilege to be able to fight,” Buchert said about the ongoing court challenges that Lambda Legal is involved in.
Los Angeles Blade Editor’s Note:
In a late Friday evening phone call, Landon Richie, with the Transgender Education Network of Texas, told the Blade:
“Today Governor Abbott signed cruelty into law. Legislation that purports to “protect youth” while stripping them of the life-saving, life-giving care that they receive will cost lives, and that’s not an exaggeration. Trans kids deserve not only to exist, but to thrive as their authentic selves in every facet of their lives, and we will never stop fighting to to actualize a world where that is undisputed. Despite efforts by our state, trans people will always exist in Texas, as we always have, and we will continue to exist brilliantly and boldly, and with endless care for one another.”
The preceding article was previously published by The Texas Tribune and is republished by permission.
The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.
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SoCal school district vetoes social studies curriculum over LGBTQ
The board signaled that they were opposed to any curriculum that included former openly gay San Francisco City Supervisor Harvey Milk
TEMECULA, Calif. – A contentious and at times acrimonious Temecula Valley Unified School District School Board meeting ended with the board vetoing the social studies curriculum proposed for the district’s elementary schools. At issue was pushback on LGBTQ+ issues by the three conservative members.
Board Member Jennifer Wiersma, is one of the three backed by the Inland Empire Family Pac, a far-right group that opposes LGBTQ+ rights, transparent sexual education curriculum, and so-called ‘Critical Race Theory’ although that material is not taught in K-12 schools anywhere in the United States.
During the discussion, Wiersma told other board members and the audience: “I don’t want my 3rd grader studying an LGBTQ issue. I don’t want them going into gender ideology.” Wiersma, supported by the other two conservatives, Danny Gonzalez and Dr. Joseph Komrosky, signaled that they were also opposed to any curriculum that included lessons or information about former openly gay San Francisco City Supervisor Harvey Milk.
Milk along with LGBTQ+ ally, George Moscone, the 37th mayor of San Francisco, were assassinated by a homophobic former San Francisco City Supervisor Dan White in their offices at city hall on November 27, 1978.
“My question is, why even mention a pedophile?” asked Komrosky, referring to Milk.
Curriculum that deals with LGBTQ+ history is mandated under California’s FAIR Education Act, which was signed into law on July 14, 2011, and went into effect on January 1, 2012. It amends the California Education Code to include the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful reference to contributions by people with disabilities and members of the LGBTQ community in history and social studies curriculum.
Voting against the proposed elementary school social studies curriculum due to its inclusion of Milk will leave 11,397 students without a social studies textbook for the next academic school year.
The frustration was evident in the testy public comments, many taking aim at the conservatives on the board. In a video of the meeting, one audience member can be heard shouting “You’re not qualified! You’re not qualified!’ at the board.
In a statement, Edgar Diaz, the president of the Temecula Valley Educator Association said:
“We’ve never experienced this before. I’ve never heard of a top performing district or any district say you know what we are going to withhold these materials.”
The pilot social studies program, which included material approved by the California Department of Education, was approved by 47 Temecula Valley Unified Schools teachers who had taught the material in 18 elementary schools.
During the discussions, Board Member Allison Barclay, who voted to approve the new curriculum, told fellow members and the audience: “It was piloted, we followed every policy, and procedures. The options were out there for parents. Thirteen-hundred family’s kids learned from this curriculum. We did not receive any complaints.”
The California Education Code has been updated over time to ensure that the contributions of members of underrepresented racial, ethnic and cultural groups to the economic, political, and social development of California and the United States are included in history and social studies lessons.
To this end, California Education Code’s Social Content statute requires that instructional materials:
- Portray accurately and equitably the cultural and racial diversity of American society
- Demonstrate the contribution of minority groups and males and females to the development of California and the U.S.
- Emphasize people in varied, positive, and contributing roles in order to influence students’ school experiences constructively
- Not contain inappropriate references to commercial brand names, products, and corporate or company logos
The three member conservative majority also alleged that district parents lacked having had sufficient opportunities for input into the new curriculum. In the mission credo of the Inland Empire Family PAC, it states the group was created to ensure parents are the final decision maker in the education of their children, not the Government.
School Board Member Steven Schwartz, who joined fellow board member Barclay said: “Parents didn’t respond. Whose fault is it that parents didn’t respond? It’s their fault. Not our fault and not the teacher’s fault.”
The Temecula Valley Unified School District released the following statement:
“The district is currently extending the window for viewing and feedback on textbook materials that were piloted and recommended by our teachers. We will continue to gather additional community and parent feedback for the board.
At this time, we are not looking at changes with the publisher since TCI is a CDE approved curriculum that complies with the FAIR Act. TCI is also our approved Social Studies textbook at the middle school level.
We are working with TCI and our pilot teachers to provide additional parent/community nights to share the materials again and provide an opportunity for additional questions. We want to ensure that parents and community members have as much information as possible and are able to provide even more feedback.
We are also working with the Riverside County Office of Education and CDE to explore next steps if the curriculum is not adopted. Our goal is to ensure we are compliant with the Williams Act and ensure the high quality instruction for students in TVUSD continues.”
A spokesperson for the Temecula Valley Educator Association said that there will be rallies On June 6 and June 13 to support the the new social studies curriculum.
Requests for comment from Dr. Joseph Komrosky, Temecula Valley Unified School District School Board’s president went unanswered.
May 16, 2023, 6:00 PM – Open Session – TVUSD Governing Board Meeting:
Ipsos Survey: Pride month poll, 9% of adults identify as LGBTQ+
The prevalence of knowing someone who is LGBTQ+ is much higher among younger adults than among older adults
By Nicolas Boyon |PARIS, France – A new global poll released by French international multinational market research and consulting firm, Institut Public de Sondage d’Opinion Secteur, (Ipsos SA) in its LGBTQ+ Pride 2023 survey finds that an average of 9% of adults in 30 countries identify as LGBTQ+, with sharp generational differences. Other findings include:
- Increased LGBT+ visibility since the 2021 survey with large geographic variations remaining;
- Majority support in most (but not all) countries surveyed for allowing same-sex couples to marry and to adopt children; and
- Widespread support for protecting transgender people from employment and housing discrimination, but divided views on other pro-transgender measures.
The survey was conducted by Ipsos on its Global Advisor online platform in February and March 2023 among more than 22,500 adults under the age of 75.
On average, across the 30 countries surveyed, 3% of adults identify as lesbian or gay, 4% as bisexual, 1% as pansexual or omnisexual, and 1% as asexual.
Gen Zers are about twice as likely as Millennials and four times as likely as Gen Xers and Boomers to identify as bisexual, pansexual/ omnisexual, or asexual.
Sexual orientation by gender and generation
Source: Ipsos Global Advisor | LGBTQ+ Pride 2023
Men are more likely than women to identify as gay/lesbian/homosexual (4% vs. 1% on average globally), but both are equally likely to identify as bisexual, pansexual/omnisexual, or asexual.
Spain is where respondents are most likely to say they are gay or lesbian (6%) while Brazil and the Netherlands are where they are most likely to say they are bisexual (both 7%). Japan is the country they are least likely to identify as either gay or lesbian (less than 1%) and as bisexual (1%).
When asked about their gender identity, 1% on average globally describe themselves as transgender, 1% as non-binary, gender non-conforming, or gender fluid, and 1% as neither, but differently from male or female. There are also large differences between younger and older adults when it comes to their propensity to describe themselves as any of these. This is the case of 6% of Gen Zers and 3% of Millennials, compared to 1% of both GenXers and Boomers. And the gap is growing: +2 percentage points since 2021 among both Gen Zers and Millennials vs. +1 point or less among Gen Xers and Boomers.
Overall, the average share of the self-identified LGBT+ population is 9%. The share of self-identified LGBT+ adults varies widely across generations and geographies: from a 30-country average of 18% among Gen Zers to 4% among Baby Boomers, and from 15% of all respondents in Brazil to 4% in Peru.
LGBTQ+ visibility is up, but still differs widely across countries
The visibility of LGBTQ+ people has increased since the previous LGBTQ+ Pride survey, two years ago. On average, across the 30 countries surveyed this year:
- 47% of all adults say they have a relative, friend, or work colleague who is a lesbian/gay/ homosexual, up 5 points since 2021;
- 26% say they know someone who is bisexual, up 2 points;
- 13% say they know someone who is transgender, up 3 points; and
- 12% say they know someone who is non-binary, gender non-conforming, or gender fluid, up 3 points.
LGBTQ+ visibility varies widely across countries. Having a relative, friend, or work colleague who is lesbian/gay or bisexual is most commonly reported in Latin America, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. Gender diversity is most visible throughout the Anglosphere, in Brazil, and especially in Thailand.
On the other hand, the visibility of different segments of the LGBTQ+ community is lowest in Japan, South Korea, Turkey, Romania, Hungary, and Poland.
Women are more likely than men to report knowing people of different sexual orientations and gender identities. Consistent with self-identification, the prevalence of knowing someone who is LGBTQ+ is much higher among younger adults than among older adults. Generational differences are particularly pronounced when it comes to knowing people who are bisexual and people who are non-binary/ gender non-conforming or fluid: in both cases, Gen Zers are twice as likely as Gen Xers, and three times as likely as Boomers, to say they do.
Majorities support same-sex marriage and parenting in most, but not all countries
On average, across the 30 countries surveyed, 56% say same-sex couples should be allowed to marry legally while 16% say they should be allowed to obtain some legal recognition, but not to marry and just 14% say they should not be allowed to marry or get any kind of legal recognition. Another 14% are not sure.
Support for same-sex marriage ranges from 49% to 80% in all 20 countries surveyed where it is legal. Among the other 10 countries, majorities in Italy and Thailand support same-sex marriage and majorities in all other countries except Turkey support at least some form of legal recognition for same-sex couples. Opponents of any form of legal recognition for same-sex couples make up no more than one-third of all respondents in any of the countries surveyed.
Women are significantly more likely than men to support same-sex marriage with a difference between both of 10 percentage points on average globally.
In 2021, support for same-sex marriage was significantly higher in 13 of the 15 countries where Ipsos began tracking it in 2013. However, it has plateaued or declined in many countries over the past two years. Of the 23 countries Ipsos surveyed both in 2021 and this year, nine show a decline of 4 points or more in the percentage saying same-sex couples should be allowed to marry legally (Canada, Germany, the United States, Mexico, the Netherlands, Sweden, Great Britain, Brazil, and Turkey), while only two show an increase of 4 points or more (France and Peru).
While views on same-sex parenting are warmer than those on same-sex marriage, they show similar patterns. Globally, 65% say same-sex couples are just as likely as other parents to raise children successfully and 64% say they should have the same rights to adopt children as heterosexual couples do. These views are held by majorities in 26 countries, including several where same-sex couples are not allowed to adopt. The only countries where more people disagree than agree with both opinions are Poland, Turkey, Romania, and South Korea.
Again, women are more supportive of same-sex parenting than are men (by an average of about 10 points) as are younger adults vs. older adults.
Over the past two years, support for same-sex adoption has declined significantly in Sweden, the U.S., Canada, the Netherlands, and Turkey, but it has increased significantly in France, Italy, Colombia, and Peru.
Support for protection from employment and housing discrimination is broader than for other pro-transgender measures
Globally, 67% say that transgender people face at least a fair amount of discrimination, compared with 19% who say they face little or no discrimination. Perceptions of discrimination are highest in Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking countries, and lowest in Switzerland, Germany, and Japan.
Majorities in each of the 30 countries surveyed (76% on average) agree that transgender people should be protected from discrimination in employment, housing, and access to businesses such as restaurants and stores.
Other measures receive more lukewarm support: on average, 60% agree that transgender teenagers should be allowed to receive gender-affirming care with parental consent; 55% agree that transgender people should be allowed to use single-sex facilities (e.g., public restrooms that correspond to their gender); 53% agree that government-issued documents such as passports should have options other than “male” and “female” for people who do not identify as either; and 47% agree that health insurance systems should cover the costs of gender transition no differently than the costs of other medical procedures.
Among the 30 countries surveyed, support for various pro-transgender measures is consistently high in Thailand, Italy, Spain, and throughout Latin America; it tends to be lowest in South Korea, throughout Eastern Europe, in Great Britain, and in the United States where transgender rights and protections have become polarizing political issues.
Women and younger adults are more likely than men and older adults, respectively, to say the transgender community faces a lot of discrimination. They also show higher levels of support for all types of measures in favor of transgender people differences of about 6 to 9 points between women and men and between Gen Zers and Boomers. Partly driving this generational gap, Gen Xers and Boomers are more likely than younger adults to have no opinion about specific transgender issues or about the amount of discrimination transgender people face, possibly because they are less likely to know a transgender person.
About the study
These are the results of a 30-country survey conducted by Ipsos on its Global Advisor online survey platform between February 17 and March 3, 2023. For this survey, Ipsos interviewed a total of 22,514 adults aged 18-74 in Canada, South Africa, Turkey, and the United States, 20-74 in Thailand, 21-74 in Singapore, and 16-74 in all other countries
The preceding article was previously published by Institut Public de Sondage d'Opinion Secteur, (Ipsos SA) and is republished with permission.
LAPD responds to anti-LGBTQ+ protest at valley elementary school
A spokesperson for the LAPD said that the protests were mostly peaceful although acknowledged there was heated rhetoric between the two groups
LOS ANGELES – Officers from the Los Angeles Police Department’s North Hollywood Community Station responded to an assistance request from the Los Angeles Unified School District’s School Police Department to keep dueling groups of protestors separate at Saticoy Elementary School early Friday morning.
LAPD is at Saticoy Elementary School this morning. We are here to support our LAUSD partners and facilitate a peaceful and lawful exercise of constitutional rights.— LAPD PIO (@LAPDPIO) June 2, 2023
Media staging at Ethel Avenue and Arminta Street. pic.twitter.com/X3iwDUmO1n
The two groups of protestors numbered approximately 120 people, many carrying signs and waving American national flags and LGBTQ+ Pride flags. One group of parents had taken to social media and distribute flyers to protest the scheduled June 2, LGBTQ+ Pride event at the school located at 7850 Ethel Avenue in North Hollywood.
Earlier this week, the LAPD announced that investigators were looking into an incident where a small LGBTQ+ Pride flag located outside of a classroom of a trans teacher at the elementary was destroyed in an act of arson.
At today’s protests, KTLA’s Kimberly Cheng spoke with people advocating for parents of LGBTQ+ kids and their allies as well as those opposed. Cheng also interviews LAUSD Board Member Kelly Gonez who told KTLA that there were only two sentences in a book read out loud at the Pride assembly and that the school district was standing by its LGBTQ students and faculty.
A spokesperson for the LA LGBT Center, Terra Russell-Slavin, said in a statement:
“I am beyond disappointed to read about the events unfolding at Saticoy Elementary School—and not just from where I sit as the Chief Impact Officer of the Los Angeles LGBT Center. To be completely frank, I am more so concerned as a lesbian mother who’s raising a child in Los Angeles County.
The rhetoric we’re seeing from ‘concerned parents’ at Saticoy Elementary mirrors the dangerous misinformation campaigns that have been lodged against our community by far-right activists and religious extremists. For the past few years, they’ve planted seeds in the public imagination that LGBTQ+ people are attempting to ‘indoctrinate’ or ‘sexualize’ children. These outrageous lies have, sadly, taken hold throughout our country; the backlash we’re facing is among the worst chapters in our movement’s history. There are more than 500 pieces of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation on the books this year, accompanied by an increase in threats to LGBTQ service providers and schoolteachers, the banning of books that tell our stories and history, and the criminalization of our access to healthcare.
The Pride celebration scheduled at Saticoy Elementary School was meant to celebrate LGBTQ+ community members and families like mine. My wife and I are proudly raising our child to be accepting, welcoming, and loving to everyone—and hope that his education reflects those same values of basic human dignity and decency. The fact that this is somehow a controversial or ‘hot-button issue’ is not just alarming, it’s deeply saddening. Families like mine deserve to be included and represented in our classrooms and our school events. My child should not be educated to be ashamed of his mothers. I am not a threat to anyone by loving my family.
As the Chief Impact Officer of the Center, I know that if this kind of anti-LGBTQ+ demonstration is happening here in Los Angeles, this fight is only getting uglier in other parts of our country. That’s why we have to confront ignorance and hatred head-on, and make sure we don’t give it the oxygen to proliferate. We should be leaders of this movement and a safe haven for queer and trans people everywhere—and we should be using our example to help families across the country fight for their rights and their safety.
I hope LAUSD knows they can always rely on the Center to intervene in situations like these—and I hope the parents protesting Pride at Saticoy Elementary can come to an understanding that there is nothing dangerous about LGBTQ+ people. On the contrary: The real danger is the homophobia and transphobia that result in organizations like ours needing to house, feed, educate, and celebrate youth displaced by their families simply based on their identity. If we really care about our youth, we will nurture them with examples of radical love and acceptance—which is exactly what the spirit of Pride is all about.”
A spokesperson for the LAPD said that the protests were mostly peaceful although acknowledged there was heated rhetoric between the two groups.
Dueling protests separated by police ahead of Pride event at North Hollywood elementary school:
Elon Musk to lobby for criminalizing healthcare for trans youth
Musk’s 18-year-old trans daughter had filed papers in court to legally change her first and last name and request a new birth certificate
SAN FRANCISCO – Elon Musk started Pride Month with a series of transphobic tweets that constitute his most extreme attacks agains the community to-date and included a pledge on Thursday that he will be “actively lobbying to criminalize” healthcare interventions for transgender youth.
Also on Thursday, Musk responded “Totally agree” to a tweet from a trans-exclusionary LGB account that said, “LGB don’t even want Pride month anymore. We just want to be separated from the TQ+.”
And then on Friday, the Twitter owner intervened on behalf of anti-trans pundit Matt Walsh when the platform took steps to limit the reach of his “documentary” attacking the community, and then he re-tweeted Walsh’s video.
The New Republic named Walsh “Transphobe of the Year” in 2022, noting that he stood out in a crowded field of hate purveyors, having “raised his profile by spreading grotesque conspiracy theories about grooming” and pedophilia in the LGBTQ community.”
Responding to Musk’s promise to fight for the criminalization of gender affirming care, anti-trans conservative media commentator and University of Toronto Professor Jordan Peterson tweeted, “Prison. Long term. Without Parole. No Mercy. And maybe for the compliant ‘therapists’ and the butchers they enable.” Musk replied, “Absolutely.”
Medical societies that develop and publish clinical practice guidelines for the treatment of gender dysphoria in minor patients do not generally recommend genital surgeries before the age of 18.
Access to the interventions proscribed in these guidelines, which are supported by every mainstream scientific and medical body, have been shown to dramatically reduce rates of depression, suicidal ideation, and suicides among trans youth. Studies show rates of post-treatment regret are exceedingly rare.
Musk has long been known as an online provocateur, often taking aim at institutions like Hollywood, big businesses, and the mainstream news media that he believes promote a left-leaning agenda without providing room for dissenting voices.
However, the tech billionaire has increasingly aligned himself with more extreme right-wing politics and conservative political figures like Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who launched his 2024 presidential campaign last week with a Twitter Spaces discussion hosted by Musk just days after signing some of the most extreme anti-trans laws of any state in the country.
Likewise with his public statements concerning the transgender community. A few years ago, Musk courted controversy for mocking and complaining about the practice of calling trans and nonbinary people by their preferred pronouns. This week’s anti-trans tirade was markedly more extreme.
Last year, Insider noted Musk’s comments about gender pronouns in its coverage of a Reuters report that the South African born entrepreneur’s 18-year-old transgender daughter had filed papers in a California court to legally change her first and last name and request a new birth certificate.
Per Reuters, the teen said that she no longer wished to be “related to my biological father in any way, shape or form.”
A month later, the elder Musk publicly declared his support for the Republican Party. In an interview with the Financial Times, he said the reason for his estrangement from his daughter was “full on communism” in elite colleges and universities.
Latvia elects first openly gay President
Latvia’s neighbors have also been slow to advance LGBT rights, although Estonia’s government is expected to advance a same-sex marriage bill
By Rob Salerno | RIGA – The Latvian Parliament elected Edgars Rinkēvičs as the country’s next president in a vote held Wednesday. When he assumes office on July 8, he will be the country’s first openly gay head of state, as well as the first openly gay head of state of an EU country or a former Soviet country.
Latvia’s President is a largely ceremonial role that is elected by the national Parliament. He won a narrow majority of 52 out of 100 votes on the third ballot, held coincidentally during Pride week in the capital, Riga.
Rinkēvičs has served as Latvia’s foreign minister since 2011, a post where he became popular for championing European integration.
In 2014, he became the first Latvian political figure to come out publicly, while the country debated a same-sex civil union law. To date, the Latvian Parliament has still been unable to pass any laws recognizing same-sex couples, despite multiple court decisions ordering it to do so.
Reached for comment after the election, the Latvian LGBT advocacy group Mozaika and Riga Pride released a joint statement saying they are thrilled with the election.
“We are thrilled about the fact that Edgars Rinkevics will be the next President of Latvia. First and foremost, he is one of the most popular and professional politicians in Latvia, and with this election “he broke the glass ceiling.” He is an absolute inspiration to many young people and the LGBT community at large.
“We are hopeful that he will stand behind his promise to have human rights and democracy as one of his priorities and we believe he will play an instrumental role to strengthen Latvia’s society and will make it safer not just for the LGBT community but for many vulnerable groups,” the groups say.
Not everyone has been so thrilled. Former Member of the European Parliament Andrejs Mamikins, tweeted that “God will no longer bless Latvia,” in response to the election.
“Today, godlessness won the presidential election in Latvia. Disgrace and misery @edgarsrinkevics,” he wrote.
Latvian TV reports that the State Police have opened an investigation into Mamikins’ post for possible violations of the law banning incitement to hatred.
Latvia, a deeply conservative Baltic nation of about 1.8 million people about one-third of whom are Russian-speakers, regained its independence amid the breakup of the Soviet Union. Since that time, it has taken a stridently pro-Western political orientation, including joining NATO, the European Union, and the Eurozone.
But the country’s political elite has never warmly embraced LGBT rights. According to ILGA-Europe’s Rainbow Index 2023, Latvia scored only 22% on a list of legislated rights for LGBT people, placing it 37th among 49 ranked countries.
Latvia’s neighbors on the Baltic Sea have also been slow to advance LGBT rights, although Estonia’s government is expected to advance a same-sex marriage bill in Parliament next week, and Lithuania’s parliament passed a civil union bill through a second reading vote in May.
While openly gay and lesbian people have served as prime minister of several other EU countries – including Ireland’s Leo Varadkar, Luxembourg’s Xavier Bettel, and Belgium’s Elio Di Rupo – Rinkēvičs will be the first gay person to hold the role of head of state of an EU country. The only other openly gay head of state in modern history was Paolo Rondelli, who was one of the two Captains Regent of the microstate San Marino for six months in 2022.
Rob Salerno is a writer, journalist and actor based in Los Angeles, California, and Toronto, Canada.
Biden sends Sean Patrick Maloney nomination to the Senate
New York’s first openly gay member of Congress, he finished his fifth term as chair of the DCCC before narrowly losing his bid for reelection
WASHINGTON – The White House on Thursday officially announced the nomination of former Democratic congressman Sean Patrick Maloney of New York to serve as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s U.S. representative with the rank of ambassador.
Since February 2022, former Delaware Gov. Jack Markell has represented U.S. before the OECD, an intergovernmental body with 38 member countries founded to promote economic progress and stimulate world trade.
Along with Maloney’s nomination to replace him, Markell’s nomination last month to serve as ambassador to Italy is now pending before the Senate.
New York’s first openly gay member of Congress, Maloney finished his fifth term as chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Democratic Party’s sixth highest-ranking position in the House, before narrowly losing his bid for reelection in 2022.
Maloney was credited with helping to secure the Democrats’ better-than-expected performance in the midterm elections but lost his own race by just 1,800 votes after New York’s 17th Congressional District was redrawn
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