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All of Trump’s anti-LGBT actions since last Pride (plus a few welcome moves)

Acts against LGBT people far outweigh beneficial policy

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President Donald Trump (Photo public domain)

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.”

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South America

Daniel Zamudio killer’s parole request denied by Commission

Zamudio’s mother, Jacqueline Vera, said after the commission rejected López’s request, “we as a family are calmer”

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Comisión de Libertad Condicional de Chile (Chilean Conditional Release [Parole] Commission) meeting in Santiago, Chile. (Photo Credit: Ministerio de Justicia y Derechos Humanos)

By Esteban Rioseco | SANTIAGO, Chile —  Chile’s Parole Commission on Tuesday rejected a request to allow one of the four men convicted of murdering Daniel Zamudio in 2012 to serve the remainder of his sentence outside of prison.

Raúl López Fuentes earlier this month asked the commission to release him on parole. Zamudio’s family and members of the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation, a Chilean LGBTQ rights group, had gone to court to block the request.

Among the arguments put forward that influenced the commission’s decision is what Movilh categorized as his “high risk of recidivism, linked to the adherence of an antisocial behavior with a tendency to minimize his acts transgressing social norms.” 

The commission pointed out that López has psychopathic traits because he is aware of the damage he did to Zamudio and his family. 

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“In addition, he maintains a high risk of violence, not being advisable to grant the benefit,” the report said.

Zamudio was a young Chilean man who became a symbol of the fight against homophobic violence in his country and around the world after López and three other young men with alleged ties to a neo-Nazi group beat him for several hours in Santiago’s San Borja Park on March 2, 2012. Zamudio succumbed to his injuries a few weeks later.

The attack sparked widespread outage in Chile and prompted a debate over homophobia in the country that highlighted the absence of an anti-discrimination law. Lawmakers in the months after Zamudio’s murder passed a law that bears Zamudio’s name.

López in 2013 received a 15-year prison sentence after he was convicted of killing Zamudio. Patricio Ahumada received a life sentence, while Alejandro Angulo Tapia is serving 15 years in prison. Fabían Mora received a 7-year prison sentence.

Daniel Zamudio’s mother, Jacqueline Vera. (Photo courtesy of Jacqueline Vera)

Zamudio’s mother, Jacqueline Vera, exclusively told the Washington Blade after the commission rejected López’s request that “we as a family are calmer.”

“Even with my husband we were in a lot of pain at the beginning. It was like a blow of very strong emotions, so we tried to stay calm because we still had to solve the problem,” Vera said. “We had four days to solve it.”

López will have to serve the remaining three years of his sentence before his release.

“I will continue working to improve the Zamudio Law and so that this murderer does not leave prison because he is a danger to society, he does not represent repentance and people like this cannot be free,” she said. “For the same reason, we have to work so that hate crimes have life imprisonment and that is what we will concentrate on.” 

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Photo Credit: Movilh

Esteban Rioseco is a Chilean digital communicator, LGBT rights activist and politician. He was spokesperson and executive president of the Homosexual Integration and Liberation Movement (Movilh). He is currently a Latin American correspondent for the Washington Blade.

On Oct. 22, 2015, together with Vicente Medel, he celebrated the first gay civil union in Chile in the province of Concepción.

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Research/Study

Same-sex couples vulnerable to negative effects of climate change

Same-sex couple households disproportionately live in coastal areas, cities & areas with poorer infrastructure and less access to resources

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FEMA worker surveys flood damage in the Spring of 2024 in the northeastern United States. (Photo Credit: Federal Emergency Management Agency)

LOS ANGELES – A new report by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law finds that same-sex couples are at greater risk of experiencing the adverse effects of climate change compared to different-sex couples.

LGBTQ people in same-sex couple households disproportionately live in coastal areas and cities and areas with poorer infrastructure and less access to resources, making them more vulnerable to climate hazards.

Using U.S. Census data and climate risk assessment data from NASA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), researchers conducted a geographic analysis to assess the climate risk impacting same-sex couples. NASA’s risk assessment focuses on changes to meteorological patterns, infrastructure and built environment, and the presence of at-risk populations. FEMA’s assessment focuses on changes in the occurrence of severe weather events, accounting for at-risk populations, the availability of services, and access to resources.

Results show counties with a higher proportion of same-sex couples are, on average, at increased risk from environmental, infrastructure, and social vulnerabilities due to climate change.

“Given the disparate impact of climate change on LGBTQ populations, climate change policies, including disaster preparedness, response, and recovery plans, must address the specific needs and vulnerabilities facing LGBTQ people,” said study co-author Ari Shaw, Senior Fellow and Director of International Programs at the Williams Institute. “Policies should focus on mitigating discriminatory housing and urban development practices, making shelters safe spaces for LGBT people, and ensuring that relief aid reaches displaced LGBTQ individuals and families.”

“Factors underlying the geographic vulnerability are crucial to understanding why same-sex couples are threatened by climate change and whether the findings in our study apply to the broader LGBTQ population,” said study co-author Lindsay Mahowald, Research Data Analyst at the Williams Institute. “More research is needed to examine how disparities in housing, employment, and health care among LGBT people compound the geographic vulnerabilities to climate change.”

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Political commentary & analysis

Anti-trans British pediatrician backpedals on her review on HRT

Dr. Cass’s latest statements are likely to cast more doubt on the study, which disregarded substantial evidence on trans care

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National Health Service Norfolk & Norwich University Hospital, a National Health Service hospital in England. (Photo Credit: Francis Tyers/NHS)

By Erin Reed | WASHINGTON – In the latest twist over the Cass Review, a controversial report released in England last week targeting transgender care, the review’s leader has seemingly walked back recommendations and findings that have already led to a crackdown on transgender care in the United Kingdom.

Dr. Hillary Cass, in an interview with LGBTQ+ organizations, reportedly stated that puberty blockers and hormone therapy should be made available at differing ages based on individual need, and that current policies in England often result in those medications being offered too late. This stands in stark contrast to the report itself, which presents much more restrictive findings and recommendations on trans youth care that have been used to ban treatments in the UK and cited by far-right organizations behind bans in the United States.

The Cass Review was commissioned and produced in England in the wake of political attacks on transgender people in the United Kingdom after clinic closures and skyrocketing wait times. The “independent” review was lead by Dr. Hillary Cass, who reportedly followed several anti-trans organizations on social media and who met with Governor DeSantis’ medical board and offered information in their efforts to ban care in Florida, leading to some to question that independence. Last week, the final review was published, leading to bans on puberty blockers in the country, citing the report as justification for doing so.

The report disregarded a substantial amount of evidence for transgender care as not “high quality” enough and then described the evidence surrounding transgender care as weak, despite other reviews, major medical organizations, and the largest psychological organization in the world finding the evidence compelling enough to support gender affirming care. This has led to a group of over 100 Irish academics decrying the review in a group letter. The report made a series of recommendations, such as Recommendation 8, which states that hormone therapy is available for 16-year-olds but should be administered with “extreme caution,” and encourages clinicians to delay the treatment until age 18 unless there are “clear rationales” for earlier intervention. It also called for significant restrictions on puberty blockers, limiting them to research studies only. These recommendations and Cass’s findings have been used to justify severe crackdowns on transgender care.

See recommendation 8 here:

Recommendation 8, Cass Review.

Now, in an interview first reported on twitter by TransSafetyNow, Dr. Hillary Cass appears to substantially walk back much of her review, interpretations of that review, and even attempts to brush off her meetings with political appointees in the DeSantis administration who met with her to obtain information they would later attempt to use to ban trans care there. In the interview with UK-based LGBTQ+ organization The Kite Trust, Dr. Hillary Cass is asked if she believes it is OK to prescribe puberty blockers. Her answer is significantly out of alignment with her report:

In the data the Cass Review examined, the most common age that trans young people were being initially prescribed puberty suppressing hormones was 15. Dr. Cass’s view is that this is too late to have the intended benefits of suppressing the effects of puberty and was caused by the previous NHS policy of requiring a trans young person to be on puberty suppressing hormones for a year before accessing gender affirming hormones. The Cass Review Report recommends that a different approach is needed, with puberty suppressing hormones and gender affirming hormones being available to young people at different ages and developmental stages alongside a wider range of gender affirming healthcare based on individual need.

Her answer aligns more closely with the current provision of transgender care in many countries, where individual needs and circumstances are prioritized for each patient. However, this is not the tone of the report, which has been used to advocate for significant restrictions and even outright bans. In the United States, the report has been cited by the Heritage Foundation (retweeted) and the Alliance Defending Freedom, organizations that have been actively involved in bans on trans care. In the United Kingdom, the report has even prompted an inquest into adult trans care, raising concerns about its potential impact on this care as well.

Some have accused her answers in the interview as being an attempt to deflect criticism. This is particularly evident in her response regarding a meeting with Dr. Patrick Hunter, a Catholic Medical Association doctor who was tapped by Governor Ron DeSantis in the United States to ban transgender care. Following the publication of the Florida reviews and standards of care, which bears a resemblance to the Cass Review, lawsuits revealed that the review was deceitfully conducted. Evidence, including a PowerPoint document, showed that the decision to ban trans care had been made before the review had even begun. Documents produced by the lawsuit also revealed that Dr. Cass had taken a meeting and exchanged emails with the Florida team.

Dr. Cass, in the latest interview, denies any wrongdoing, stating:

Patrick Hunter approached the Cass Review stating he was a paediatrician who had worked in this area. The Cass Review team were not aware of his wider connections and political affiliations at this time and so he met the criteria for clinicians who were offered an initial meeting. This initial contact was the same as any paediatrician who approached the study. The Cass Review team declined any further contact with Patrick Hunter after this meeting. Patrick Hunter and his political connections has had no influence on the content of the Cass Review Report.

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However, in a new email made exclusively available to “Erin In The Morning,” Dr. Cass’s denial of impropriety does not appear to tell the whole story. Although she claims that she was not aware of his political affiliations, we learn that the meeting was actually set up by Dr. Riittakerttu Kaltiala, a member of the Cass Advisory Board (declared in her conflicts of interest) whom Dr. Patrick Hunter says has worked with him many times in the past. In this email, we also learn that Dr. Cass followed up with information she wanted to share with the board.

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Email from Dr. Patrick Hunter about meeting with Dr. Cass.

Furthermore, Dr. Cass’s claim that this was the only meeting between members of the Cass Review team and medical board members appointed by Governor DeSantis to ban care is contradicted by a court deposition citing “regular meetings” with Dr. Kaltiala, the member of the Cass Review Advisory Board who arranged the meeting between Dr. Cass and Dr. Hunter.

https://glad-org-wpom.nyc3.cdn.digitaloceanspaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/doe-v-ladapo-plaintiffs-trial-brief.pdf?cshp_omh_redirect_404=1 deposition document discussing Hunter's communications with Dr. Ritta Kaltiala and Michael Biggs and SEGM.
Deposition of Dr. Roman in Florida Case

The interview is likely to further embroil the Cass Review in scandal both in the United Kingdom and internationally. It seems to represent a significant attempt to deflect criticism from the report by softening some of its conclusions. Moreover, the defensive tone of the report regarding those who influenced its production and meetings with politically charged appointees, who themselves have faced scrutiny over unethical and deceitful practices in reports on transgender healthcare, is bound to raise eyebrows.

However, it remains to be seen whether politicians in England or in red states in the United States, who are aggressively seeking any pretext to restrict care, will pause their efforts even with Dr. Cass tempering the implications of her report.

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Erin Reed is a transgender woman (she/her pronouns) and researcher who tracks anti-LGBTQ+ legislation around the world and helps people become better advocates for their queer family, friends, colleagues, and community. Reed also is a social media consultant and public speaker.

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

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Montana

ACLU sues Montana over gender markers on driver’s licenses

The Montana Department of Justice quietly adopted a new policy for changing gender markers on Montana driver’s licenses

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Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen being interviewed by local media. (Photo Credit: Montana Department of Justice)


By Nicole Girten | HELENA, Mont. – The Montana Department of Justice quietly adopted a new policy for changing gender markers on Montana driver’s licenses that would require transgender Montanans to provide an amended birth certificate, as opposed to only requiring a note from a doctor.

That’s according to a class action lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Montana on Thursday, which is asking the court to declare the new Motor Vehicle Division policy unconstitutional. The lawsuit targets a rule enacted by the state’s health department in 2022 which plaintiffs claim bans transgender applicants from changing the sex marker on their birth certificate.

This lawsuit follows other legal challenges in recent years involving legislation and rules regarding changing gender markers on birth certificates in the Treasure State. A law passed during the 2021 legislature restricting changes to birth certificates was found unconstitutional and there are two other ongoing lawsuits surrounding a 2023 law defining sex as binary in statute.

Defendants listed in the lawsuit include Attorney General Austin Knudsen, the Montana DOJ, Gov. Greg Gianforte, the Department of Public Health and Human Services and DPHHS Director Charlie Brereton.

A spokesperson for Gov. Gianforte said Thursday the governor “stands by the bill he signed in 2023 that brings the long-recognized, commonsense, immutable biologically-based definition of sex — male and female — into our state laws.”

“It is no surprise the ACLU would wade into Montana to challenge commonsense, immutable biological facts to advance its far left agenda,” the spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

A DPHHS spokesperson said the department does not generally comment on on-going litigation and a spokesperson for the DOJ did not respond to emailed questions in time for publication.

Plaintiffs include a former Montana resident and transgender woman, Jessica Kalarchik, who is looking to change the gender marker on her birth certificate, and Jane Doe, a transgender woman looking to change the gender marker on both her birth certificate and her driver’s license.

Plaintiffs claim the 2022 rule, the 2023 law and the new DMV protocol go against protections in Montana’s constitution.

Plaintiff Doe avoids using public restrooms and changing rooms for fear of mistreatment or violence. She’s already faced mistreatment from people in her life after coming out, according to the lawsuit.

Doe worries about showing her identification documents with her gender assigned at birth to someone who may react negatively.

“Ms. Doe is typically perceived as female, so anytime she is forced to present an identity document that incorrectly identifies her as male, she is forced to ‘out’ herself as transgender,” the lawsuit read. “As Ms. Doe’s appearance has shifted, her driver’s license no longer matches her appearance, and she has experienced increasing issues with this disparity.”

Kalarchik, 49, is a transgender woman and veteran who was born in Butte and currently lives in Anchorage, Alaska, with her wife, Renee. She’s looking to have the gender marker amended on her birth certificate for similar fears of retaliation as Doe. The lawsuit said she has previously experienced incidents of harassment and discrimination in both her personal and professional life.

Kalarchik started hormone therapy in 2022 and has legally changed her name and sex marker on both her Alaska driver’s license and her Social Security card.

The lawsuit said the 2022 rule and Senate Bill 458, which defines sex as binary and passed in 2023, prevent Kalarchik from changing the gender marker on her birth certificate.

DPHHS announced in February the department was reinstating the 2022 rule, which only allows changes to birth certificates in the event the gender marker was listed incorrectly as a result of a data entry error and does not authorize changes “based on gender transition, gender identity, or change of gender.”

“The effect of the 2022 Rule is to categorically ban transgender applicants from obtaining birth-certificate amendments to reflect the sex they know themselves to be,” the lawsuit said.

The rule was first enacted as the state was in ongoing litigation surrounding a similar law passed in 2021, Senate Bill 280, which restricted transgender Montanans’ ability to amend the gender markers on their birth certificates.

The court temporarily blocked SB 280 in 2022, and the state needed to re-institute the previous process for changing birth certificates as litigation continued – which only required an applicant to submit a supporting affidavit. But the state did not, and instead passed the 2022 rule. The court found the state in contempt for going against the preliminary injunction and also found SB 280 to be unconstitutional.

In February, DPHHS said the 2022 rule aligns with SB 458, the sex definition bill sponsored by Sen. Carl Glimm, R-Kila, who also sponsored SB 280. There are two open lawsuits against SB 458. Brereton said in the February announcement DPHHS “must follow the law, and our agency will consequently process requests to amend sex markers on birth certificates under our 2022 final rule.”

Plaintiffs are claiming the 2022 Rule, the new MVD policy, and SB 458 (within the context of amending birth certificates and driver’s licenses) are not constitutional. The lawsuit argues the policies violate protections in the Montana constitution for privacy, equal protection under the law, and against compelled speech.

The lawsuit says the policies are inherently discriminatory and require compelled speech in that in order to comply, transgender people have to “misidentify themselves by a sex designation that does not accurately state their sex.”

The filing said the “essential danger” of these policies are they “require transgender Montanans to carry identity documents that are contrary to the sex they know themselves to be” and therefore increase risk of potential discrimination or violence.

Plaintiffs are asking to establish a class that would include all transgender people born in Montana who currently or in the future wish to change the gender marker on their birth certificate or driver’s license.

Postscript

After publication, the Montana Department of Justice reached out to the Daily Montanan to say the Motor Vehicle Division’s policy to change a sex marker has not changed.

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Nicole Girten

Nicole Girten is a reporter for the Daily Montanan. She previously worked at the Great Falls Tribune as a government watchdog reporter. She holds a degree from Florida State University and a Master of Science from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

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The preceding piece was previously published by the Daily Montanan and is republished with permission.

The Daily Montanan is a nonprofit, nonpartisan source for trusted news, commentary and insight into statewide policy and politics beneath the Big Sky.

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

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Southern California

Equality California decries recall of elected Calexico trans official

During her tenure, Mayor Ureña championed numerous initiatives aimed at improving local infrastructure and public services

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Mayor Raúl Ureña (Screenshot/YouTube Calexico City Council session)

CALEXICO, Calif. – Equality California, the nation’s largest statewide LGBTQ+ civil rights organization, has publicly denounced the recent recall of Calexico Councilmember and former Mayor Raúl Ureña, the first out transgender mayor in the city’s history.

The organization’s response underscores significant concern over what it views as a politically motivated attack leveraging anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments.

Tony Hoang, Executive Director of Equality California, expressed profound disappointment over the outcome of the recall effort, criticizing the focus of the recall on Ureña’s transgender identity rather than his accomplishments in office.

“We are deeply disappointed that a group of far-right extremists succeeded in recalling Calexico’s first out transgender Mayor Raúl Ureña, who has a proven track record of delivering for the people of Calexico,” Hoang said.

“This recall campaign was spearheaded by a group of disgruntled former politicians and littered with misinformation and transphobic rhetoric, focusing on Ureña’s identity and not the successful tangible results she has generated for her city. This was a calculated, anti-LGBTQ+ attack against Ureña that has sadly resulted in her recall and will no doubt lead to backsliding for a community already at a crossroads. 

We were proud to support Mayor Ureña throughout this ordeal, and will continue to speak out against any and all anti-LGBTQ+ attacks.”

During her tenure, Ureña championed numerous initiatives aimed at improving local infrastructure and public services while fostering a community environment that valued diversity and inclusion.

The recall campaign, however, argued that new leadership was necessary to fulfill unmet promises such as reducing water costs, revitalizing public spaces, and addressing homelessness and housing shortages.

Ureña posted a Facebook video addressing the recall along with the following caption: 

“The recall made a lot of promises. The clock of new administration begins. From now on my decisions will not affect the municipality.

My message to the youth: DON’T QUIT!

My message to the recall: Keep your promises between now and November. We want a standing Calexico:

  • All the poles fixed
  • All parks to perfection
  • Streets and new benches
  • Let the cost of water go down
  • Downtown Clean
  • Zero Homeless
  • More Housing
  • Police and Fire Department complete
  • City Wide Transport
  • More recreation for the seniors.
  • Line to Mexicali and traffic solved

I wish them luck for the good of Calexico.”

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Following the recall’s success, statements from the new administration promised to focus on various infrastructure projects, enhancements to public safety, and improved social services for seniors, pledging to transform campaign promises into tangible outcomes.

The decision to recall Ureña has polarized Calexico, with many residents and advocates worried about the potential regression in civil rights gains. Equality California has pledged ongoing support for Ureña and reaffirmed its commitment to fighting anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination.

For further details on Equality California’s initiatives and stance on this matter, please visit eqca.org.

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Riverside County

Murrieta Valley School Board votes to defy state over trans policy

The policy includes requests by students to use a name that “differs from their legal name or pronouns that don’t align with their birth sex”

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Murrieta Valley Unified School District support services & administration building. (Photo Credit: Murrieta Valley Unified School District)

MURRIETA, Calif. – The Murrieta Valley Unified School District Board on Thursday voted 3-2 to defy the California Department of Education’s written order and keep its anti-trans parent-notification policy.

The California Department of Education found that it violated the state’s education codes and warned MVUSD that the policy “provided no educational or administrative purpose that could justify the discrimination of LGBT+ students.” The Department of Education stated the policy “singles out and is directed exclusively toward one group of students based on that group’s legally protected characteristics of identifying with or expressing a gender other than that identified at birth.”

The Board essentially countermanded Superintendent Dr. Ward Andrus’ order to his staff reversing the policy after the April 10 DOE order was received. In an emailed notice sent out last Friday to parents, faculty, and staff members, school district administrators stated that the policy was reversed.

The policy, which was originally proposed by school board President Paul Diffley and trustee Nick Pardue and passed states:

[…] any member of a school’s staff “shall notify the  parent(s)/guardian(s), in writing, within three days from the date any District employee, administrator, or certificated staff, becomes aware that a student is: a. Requesting to be identified or treated, as a gender (as defined in Education Code Section 210.7) other than the student’s biological sex or gender listed on the student’s birth certificate or any other official records.”

The policy includes requests by students to use a name that “differs from their legal name (other than a commonly recognized diminutive of the child’s legal name) or to use pronouns that do not align with the student’s biological sex or gender listed on the student’s birth certificate or other official records.”

Last month the MVUSD school board voted 3-2 to keep the forced outing policy on the books even though, according to a Press-Enterprise report, MVUSD Board President Paul Diffley was warned by the district’s law firm, Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo (AALRR), that “‘going ahead (with the policy) in such an environment’ could cost the district $500,000 in legal expenses.”

After the board vote, two district educators, Jamie Goebel and Karen Poznanski, filed a complaint with the California Department of Education about the policy due to its “discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression.”

“This policy not only violated the privacy and dignity of our students but also perpetuated harm and discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals and their families,” Poznanski told the Press Enterprise once the California Department of Education sided with the teachers last week.

Reacting to the board vote, Tony Hoang, the Executive Director of Equality California told the Blade:

“Yet again, the extremist majority on the Murietta Valley School Board put politics over the safety and well-being of students. These politicians ignored the experts at the California Department of Education and their district staff and doubled down on a policy that is unnecessary, cruel, and opens students up to harm and discrimination.

The school board’s own student member Isabella Dadalt said it best – “if you’re a parent, and you feel threatened by the fact that your student is going to a teacher instead of you, I think you need to rethink your parenting.”

The members of the Murrietta Valley School Board should take note of what happened last month when extremist school board members in Orange Unified and Woodland Unified were successfully recalled after they attacked LGBTQ+ students.

Equality California will continue to for the rights of all students to have safe and supportive learning environments in Murietta Valley, and across the state.”

The Blade has reached out to the California Department of Education and the Murrieta Valley Unified School District Board for comment.

 

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West Hollywood

Bouncer at Heart WeHo arrested in brutal beating of gay stylist

Anyone with questions or information about this incident is encouraged to contact the LA County Sheriff’s Department’s West Hollywood Station

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Captain William (Bill) Moulder, commander of the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station speaks with KTLA about the beating of 54-year-old Albert Jimenez last month outside of Heart WeHo nightclub. (Screenshot/YouTube KTLA 5)

By Paulo Murillo | WEST HOLLYWOOD – An arrest has been made in the brutal beating of gay hair stylist Albert Vasquez, 54. According to a statement by the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, a security guard at Heart WeHo was identified, arrested, and charged with battery causing great bodily harm.

The statement by LASD reads as follows:

On Friday, April 05, 2024, at approximately 10:40PM, the victim attempted to enter a nightclub in West Hollywood. The suspect, who was working as a security guard, did not allow the victim entry due to the victim not having proper identification. Both the suspect and the victim engaged in a verbal and physical altercation, in which the suspect punched the victim once in the face. The victim fell to the ground and was transported to a nearby hospital.

The suspect was identified and arrested for battery causing great bodily injury.

Vasquez’s sister, Gloria Jimenez, tells WEHO TIMES that a detective at the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station reached out to the family earlier today, and she can confirm that the beating happened in front of Heart WeHo. She also said one of their bouncers was arrested.

The family will be allowed to view the surveillance footage to see exactly what happened on Friday night, April 5, 2024, when Vasquez was found in a pool of his blood with two head fractures, bruises to his lungs, a black eye, and scrapes and bruising to his arms and legs.

“They reached out to me and said an arrest has been made,” said Jimenez. “We kept saying it was Heart WeHo and it happened at Heart WeHo and it was one of their bouncers. We want to see the footage, and we’ll be able to see it because we are family, so we can determine exactly where to go from there. We’re glad an arrest was made, and we’re going to take the next step necessary. We don’t know what that step is. He’s still recovering. We don’t know how long his recovery will take. We don’t know.”

Family, friends, and supporters of Albert Vasquez were relentless in getting the story out to the media, and they pressured the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station to step up the investigation. They also demanded that Heart WeHo release video footage from that night.

Heart WeHo complied and released the following statement:

“Heart WeHo remains deeply committed to the safety and well-being of our community. We are aware of the incident that occurred on April 5th and have been actively collaborating with the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Department to assist in their investigation since the beginning. We have provided the authorities with unrestricted access to our security footage,” reads the statement by Heart WeHo. “We urge anyone with additional information pertaining to this incident to come forward and assist the West Hollywood Department in their efforts to ensure the safety and security of our neighborhood.”

According to authorities, Heart WeHo was asked not to release the footage to family until authorities were able to investigate the footage first.

Jimenez’s sister points out that Heart WeHo turned over surveillance footage to the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station on Monday, ten days after the incident occurred.

Doctors discovered a second skull fracture on the other side of Vasquez’s head ten days after he landed in the hospital, according to his family. They also discovered that his lungs had bruising after the fact, which went unnoticed throughout his stay at the hospital.

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However, despite his newly discovered injuries, Albert seems to be on the mend. He was in a coma for one day when he was brought to the hospital but is currently awake and seems to be aware of his surroundings. He starts therapy this week and is expected to be in the hospital for another week and a half. He has not spoken about what happened to him that Friday night, mainly because he’s heavily medicated, and nurses feel it’s too soon to pressure him to relive the trauma.

Jimenez thanks the community for their support and for being relentless in holding investigators accountable and demanding they get answers. She’s also grateful for the public’s generosity to help cover medical expenses.

Anyone with questions or information about this incident is encouraged to contact the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s West Hollywood Station Detective Lombera at (310).
358-4028.

The link to GoFundMe campaign is here: (Link)

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Paulo Murillo is Editor in Chief and Publisher of WEHO TIMES. He brings over 20 years of experience as a columnist, reporter, and photo journalist. Murillo began his professional writing career as the author of “Love Ya, Mean It,” an irreverent and sometimes controversial West Hollywood lifestyle column for FAB! newspaper. His work has appeared in numerous print and online publications, which include the “Hot Topic” column in Frontiers magazine, where he covered breaking news and local events in West Hollywood. He can be reached at [email protected]

The preceding article was previously published at WeHo Times and is republished with permission.

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Federal Government

Lambda Legal praises Biden admin’s finalized Title IX regulations

The new policy also reverses some Trump-era Title IX rules governing how schools must respond to sexual harassment & sexual assault

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U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona (Photo Credit: Office of the U.S. Secretary of Education)

WASHINGTON – The Biden-Harris administration’s revised Title IX policy “protects LGBTQ+ students from discrimination and other abuse,” Lambda Legal said in a statement praising the U.S. Department of Education’s issuance of the final rule on Friday.

Slated to take effect on Aug. 1, the new regulations constitute an expansion of the 1972 Title IX civil rights law, which prohibits sex-based discrimination in education programs that receive federal funding.

Pursuant to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the landmark 2020 Bostock v. Clayton County case, the department’s revised policy clarifies that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity constitutes sex-based discrimination as defined under the law.

“These regulations make it crystal clear that everyone can access schools that are safe, welcoming and that respect their rights,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said during a call with reporters on Thursday.

While the new rule does not provide guidance on whether schools must allow transgender students to play on sports teams corresponding with their gender identity to comply with Title IX, the question is addressed in a separate rule proposed by the agency in April.

The administration’s new policy also reverses some Trump-era Title IX rules governing how schools must respond to reports of sexual harassment and sexual assault, which were widely seen as imbalanced in favor of the accused.

Jennifer Klein, the director of the White House Gender Policy Council, said during Thursday’s call that the department sought to strike a balance with respect to these issues, “reaffirming our longstanding commitment to fundamental fairness.”

“We applaud the Biden administration’s action to rescind the legally unsound, cruel, and dangerous sexual harassment and assault rule of the previous administration,” Lambda Legal Nonbinary and Transgender Rights Project Director Sasha Buchert said in the group’s statement on Friday.

“Today’s rule instead appropriately underscores that Title IX’s civil rights protections clearly cover LGBTQ+ students, as well as survivors and pregnant and parenting students across race and gender identity,” she said. “Schools must be places where students can learn and thrive free of harassment, discrimination, and other abuse.”

Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.), a Congressional leader on LGBTQ and education issues, also hailed the finalized rule on Title IX from the Biden Administration:  

The Education Department and Biden Administration showed real courage today, delivering on a long-held promise to ensure that the federal government does more to protect all Americans—especially LGBTQ Americans—from discrimination.  

This groundbreaking rule is a major victory, but we still have much to do. We need to enshrine and expand its protections by passing the Equality Act because for too many Americans, their rights and protections depend on the zip code they live in.   

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Arkansas

Another wound that will never heal; another tragic teen’s death

“Let Ethan’s legacy serve as a beacon of hope and a call to action for a more inclusive and accepting future”

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Ethan (Family photo)

LOS ANGELES, Calif. – The pain was palpable as it radiated from the grief stricken single mother who lost her only child- her beloved son, to suicide this past Sunday as she spoke in the phone call Thursday evening with the Blade.

Ethan was only 15 in fact he had just celebrated his birthday this past month.

Ethan was a bright and compassionate teenager, quick to help his elderly neighbors with lawncare, carrying in the groceries, or just sitting out on their porches listening to them tell stories or chat. “He was such a good boy, so loving, so caring,” his mother said.

Growing up in a small rural community in Arkansas, Ethan loved to hunt, fish, and spend time with Dad and he was a dutiful son to his mother, but that all changed a year ago when Ethan told his parents his truth- he was gay.

His mother was good with it she says, “His Dad left us, just walked away from him. No contact, silence.” His father’s rejection and abandonment left Ethan feeling guilt and despair, struggling to cope with the fallout of his father’s departure and the financial burdens placed on his now single mother.

She explained: “He began to withdraw and late at night he started to hurt himself even to the point to go to the E.R.” Adding to Ethan’s stress “the local farm boys would say hateful things, they’d call him faggot, they’d stay away telling him he was gonna give them AIDS or die from it.,” she said. The rejection and bullying got so bad at the school that staff stepped in and put an end to it. “The school was so supportive, they even gave in-school suspensions, but then those boys, others, went on line and it got worse,” she told the Blade.

Like most teens Ethan kept much of his pain to himself as his despair over loss of the relationship with his father, worry over his single Mom and money as she works in food service and money is scare became too much. “He was fine on Saturday- I mean it was a good day I didn’t see any problems,” she related to the Blade. On Sunday, he was gone- forever.

Now his mother is left with memories and questions that will never be answered. For now, his mother, Connie, asks for privacy during this difficult time as she grapples with the devastating loss of her only child.

After being contacted, Indianapolis-based Rainbow Youth Project USA has stepped in to support Ethan’s grieving mother, providing grief counseling services and assisting with final arrangements.

“In the face of adversity, it is crucial for communities to come together to support LGBTQ+ individuals and their families. Hate and intolerance have no place in a society that values love and acceptance for all. By honoring Ethan’s memory and advocating for inclusivity, we must strive to create a world where every individual is celebrated for who they are,” said Lance Preston CEO and Founder of Rainbow Youth to the Blade.

“As Connie navigates this overwhelming grief and loss, let us stand united in compassion and solidarity, offering our support and understanding. Let Ethan’s legacy serve as a beacon of hope and a call to action for a more inclusive and accepting future,” Preston added.

Editor’s Note: In consideration of preserving her privacy the Blade has not published Connie’s surname nor her residence’s location in Arkansas.

If you are in a life-threatening situation, please dial 911.

If you are in crisis, please dial 988 or contact Rainbow Youth Project directly at +1 (317) 643-4888

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Pennsylvania

Moms for Liberty member, others block Maulik Pancholy’s speech

“It clearly sends a message to our staff, our students, and our residents that identify as LGBTQ+ that they’re not welcome”

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Maulik Pancholy (Screenshot/YouTube MSNBC)

CUMBERLAND COUNTY, Penn. — On Monday the Cumberland Valley District school board, a large, rural and suburban public school district located in Central Pennsylvania, voted to cancel an appearance and event on anti-bullying by openly gay actor and author Maulik Pancholy.

Pancholy, best known for his work on NBC Television’s 30 Rock and who authored “The Best at It,” a semi-autobiographical debut novel that explores the queer main character’s journey to self-acceptance and self-love in the 7th grade in a small Indiana town, was set to attend an anti-bullying school assembly scheduled for May 22 at Mountain View Middle School in Mechanicsburg, Pa.

Anti-LGBTQ+ activists including newly elected board member Kelly Potteiger, who is a member of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s listed extremist group Moms for Liberty along with board member Bud Shaffner and board chair Greg Rausch in an off agenda discussion brought up the event and strongly objected to Pancholy’s presence.

WPMT Fox 43 reported that Rausch asked Shaffner: “My only question is, do we even have any idea what he’s going to be talking about? I know he’s a homosexual activist and what have you and has written books and things like that but do we even know what he’s going to be talking about?”

Potteiger weighed in: “It’s not discriminating against his lifestyle, that’s his choice, but it’s him speaking about it and it did say that’s not the topic, but that’s what his books are about and he will probably talk about his pathway because he talks about anti-bullying and empathy and inclusion so part of that is his journey as an individual,” said Potteiger. “And as a self-proclaimed activist, that’s where it gets concerning I think.”

“If you research this individual, he labels himself as an activist, he is proud of his lifestyle and I don’t think that should be imposed upon our students at any age,” added Shaffner.

The board ended up in a unanimous 8-0 vote to rescind permission for Pancholy to visit the school.

The result of the vote led one former student, Tony Conte, to publish an open letter to Shaffner on Facebook, recalling his experience as a closeted gay teen and his struggles with suicidal ideation because of it, Entertainment Weekly reported.

On Thursday, Pancholy released a public statement on his Instagram regarding the controversial vote.

“On Monday evening, I learned via social media that the school board of the Cumberland Valley School District in Pennsylvania voted 8-0 to cancel my scheduled author visit with the students of Mountain View Middle School due to concerns about my ‘activism’ and what they called my ‘lifestyle.’ My heart goes out to the entire Mountain View Middle School community, and particularly to the students.” 

His statement continues, addressing his books and growing up without a representation of South Asian-American or LGBTQ+ characters in media. 

“When I visit schools, my ‘activism’ is to let all young people know that they’re seen. To let them know that they matter. When I talk about the characters in my books feeling ‘different,’ I’m always surprised by how many young people raise their hands- regardless of their identities and backgrounds- wanting to share about the ways in which they, to, feel different,” Pancholy continued. 

In a phone interview with Entertainment Weekly, Shaffner denied the claim that Pancholy’s sexual orientation was the reason for the vote.“That’s absolutely unfounded,” he said. “That wasn’t even part of the discussion. We simply voted to uphold the [school] policy of no political speeches, no political activism.”

He added, “We just cannot allow political speeches within our school. And he identified himself as a political activist.”

“I thought it was outrageous and very concerning,” Trisha Comstock, a parent who is behind a petition now circulating online, asking the board to reverse its decision told Fox 43. “It clearly sends a message to our staff, our students, and our residents that identify as LGBTQ+, that part of the community, that they’re not welcome, they’re not seen, they’re not respected.”

The full April 15 school board meeting can be watched here.

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