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Are Democrats taking LGBT voters for granted?

More action needed to match the words

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Black Trans rally at LA City Hall on May 24. (Photo by Melanie Chapman via UWC)

San Francisco is considered one of America’s safest havens for LGBT people to be themselves. But in the early morning of June 2, two unidentified gay young Democrats left a bar near the Moscone Center after a day at the California Democratic Convention and were called homophobic slurs and attacked. The 21-year-old, who was beaten until bloody, was taken to the hospital where he was treated and released.

San Francisco Police caught the suspect, Griffin Murray, 27, who was cited for two counts of misdemeanor battery and released. The SFPD is investigating the attack as a hate crime.

“Homophobia has no place in our communities, not in San Francisco, not anywhere. We stand with these two victims and we look forward to an appropriate response from local authorities that sends a strong signal to the public that this behavior is unacceptable and illegal, for the safety of our entire community,” said Tiffany Woods, newly elected co-chair of the California Democratic Party LGBT Caucus.

“I join the CDP LGBTQ Caucus and Democrats everywhere in strongly condemning the violent attack on two Democratic LGBTQ activists in San Francisco on Saturday,” newly-elected CDP Party Chair Rusty Hicks said in a statement to the Bay Area Reporter. “Violence motivated by hate and homophobia is particularly repulsive, and we must all speak out for safer communities and stand with the survivors today.”

But while Hicks is considered a strong LGBT ally, his statement is found nowhere else. Additionally, the CDP apparently made no similarly strong statements condemning the epidemic of Black trans murders— seven deaths so far this year. The body of the latest victim, Chynal Lindsey, 26, was found Saturday, June 1, in White Rock Lane, Dallas, according to TransGriot blogger Monica Roberts.

Last November, the Human Rights Foundation called the 26 murders of trans women in 2018 a “national epidemic.” Recently, on May 24, a coalition of trans activists and allies rallied at Los Angeles City Hall to serve as “examples of unyielding resiliency,” said organizer Chela Demuir, Founder and CEO of Unique Woman’s Coalition, who also promoted the National Trans Visibility March in Washington DC on Sept. 28. 

“The Trump administration announced Friday morning sweeping changes to the rules protecting transgender people from discrimination in health care. Combined with an announcement earlier this week ending gender identity protections in homeless shelters, the administration has now taken steps to exclude transgender people from almost every aspect of public life, including employment, housing, health care, education, prisons, and the military. We are being legally obliterated,” Demuir said.

Also being ignored by mainstream Democrats are the human rights violations against trans asylum seekers. Johana “Joa” Medina Leon, 25, an HIV-positive trans asylum seeker from El Salvador, died June 1 in a Texas hospital after being released from the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Trans refugees and asylum seekers are now being held in male ICE detention centers because the sole unit for trans detainees at the Cibola County Correctional Center in New Mexico is past capacity. 

Trans and LGBT issues were mentioned at Equality California’s “Pride and Politics” reception kicking off the convention. Reps. Katie Hill, Mark Takano and Eric Swalwell, a presidential contender, talked to the 1,000 LGBTQ and allied audience about the Equality Act and President Trump’s discriminatory ban on transgender military service, Equality California Communications Director  Samuel Garrett-Pate told the Los Angeles Blade. Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara and members of the LGBTQ Caucus also talked about “California’s leadership in the fight for LGBTQ civil rights and the our efforts at the state level to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination and violence — all LGBTQ people, including trans folks, LGBTQ people of color and immigrants and asylum seekers.”

Presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders was scheduled to appear but a young staffer impolitely said Sanders would be a no-show during the speaking program.

Sanders did show at the CDP’s LGBT Caucus, as did Sen. Amy Klobachar, another presidential candidate. Neither was scheduled to appear.  

“The LGBT Caucus did reach out to Mayor Pete [Buttigieg, out presidential candidate] to come and speak,” Woods tells the Los Angeles Blade. “However, he was unavailable, attending fundraisers in SF. No member of his team asked to come and speak. Very disappointing, as we had several LGBT Caucus members request we reach out to ask us to invite him.” 

Also surprising: the CDP website only lists support for “federal workplace protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity” and “nondiscrimination for the LGBT community in all aspects of their lives, including housing, employment, healthcare, family and adoption.”

There is no specific support of the Equality Act, passed by the House as #5 on Speaker Pelosi’s Top 10 list of priorities.

The Los Angeles Blade also reviewed the CDP’s 195-page packet of proposed resolutions and found “LGBT” (or related) in 11 Resolutions, with two being redundant and one from Stonewall Democratic Club about LGBT asylum seekers.

According to newly elected LGBT Caucus Co-Chair Lester F. Aponte, president of Stonewall Democrats, only 10 resolutions are passed at each convention. They included support for the Green New Deal and ending the federal cannabis ban. But no Equality Act. One LGBT resolution “on which former LGBT Co-Chair Evan Minton was very involved” did make the cut, however, Aponte said.  Resolution 19-05.142 “relates to proposed partnerships between UC hospitals and Dignity Health, the catholic chain of hospitals that requires its hospitals to apply religious teachings to their care by, for instance, refusing treatments to transgender individuals.” 

LGBT Democrats have always been reliable as ATMs, volunteers and voters. When will the CDP’s reciprocal actions match their words?

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U.S. Federal Courts

White House blocked from ending Title 42

Advocacy groups say policy further endangered LGBTQ+ asylum seekers

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The Mexico-U.S. border in Mexicali, Mexico, on July 22, 2018. A federal judge in Louisiana has blocked the Biden administration from terminating Title 42, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention policy that closed the Southern border to most asylum seekers and migrants because of the pandemic. The previous White House's policy was to have ended on May 23, 2022. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

LAFAYETTE, La. — A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rule that closed the Southern border to most asylum seekers and migrants because of the pandemic was to have ended Monday, but it remains in place after a federal judge blocked the Biden administration’s plans to end it.

The White House last month announced it would terminate Title 42, a policy the previous administration implemented in March 2020.

U.S. District Judge Robert Summerhays in Louisiana on May 20 issued a ruling that prevented the Biden administration from terminating the Trump-era policy. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre in a statement announced the Justice Department will appeal the decision, while adding the administration “will continue to enforce the CDC’s 2020 Title 42 public health authority pending the appeal.”

“This means that migrants who attempt to enter the United States unlawfully will be subject to expulsion under Title 42, as well as immigration consequences such as removal under Title 8 (of the U.S. Code),” said Jean-Pierre.

Advocacy groups and members of Congress with whom the Washington Blade has spoken since Title 42 took effect say it continues to place LGBTQ asylum seekers and other vulnerable groups who seek refuge in the U.S. at even more risk.

Oluchi Omeoga, co-director of the Black LGBTQIA+ Migrant Project, last month described Title 42 as a “racist and harmful policy.” ORAM (Organization of Refuge, Asylum and Migration) Executive Director Steve Roth said Title 42 “put asylum seekers in harm’s way in border towns and prevented them from seeking safety in the United States.”

Title 42 was to have ended less than a month after five members of Congress from California visited two LGBTQ+ shelters for asylum seekers in Tijuana.

The Council for Global Equality, which organized the trip, in a tweet after Summerhays issued his ruling described Title 42 as a “catastrophe.”

“The Biden administration cannot breathe a sign of relief until it’s a matter of the past,” said the Council for Global Equality on Saturday. “We remain committed to end Title 42.”

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Maine

High school students in Maine rescue Pride parade & festival

Maine’s motto is “Dirigo” Latin for “I Lead.” In keeping with that spirit a group of teens stepped up to make sure Pride happens this year

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Belfast Area High School/Facebook

BELFAST, Me. – Located at the mouth of the Passagassawakeag River estuary on Belfast Bay and Penobscot Bay, Belfast is a coastal city of 6,938 people and county seat for Waldo County, 51 miles Southwest of Bangor.

The city is known for being a significant tourist destination in the region over the years due to its antique buildings, historic districts, theater and arts, delicious food, and opportunities to get out into nature.

This year it will be a destination for LGBTQ+ Mainers to celebrate Pride- thanks to some dedicated high schoolers.

The state motto of Maine is “Dirigo” which is Latin for “I Direct” or “I Lead.”  In keeping with that spirit, The Bangor Daily News reported that when no adults would revive the community Pride parade in Belfast, a group of motivated Belfast Area High School students stepped up to make sure that the event — which has been on a pandemic hiatus — happens this year.

The city’s first-ever Pride parade and festival took place in 2016, and became an annual tradition. But no adult organizers had come forward this year to keep the tradition going, the paper reported.

Enter members of the Gender and Sexuality Alliance, which formed at Belfast Area High School eight years ago. According to the Daily News, Willa Bywater, 17-year-old president of the school’s GSA decided that keeping Pride alive, especially after the lock-downs and isolation of the coronavirus pandemic, was a critical need not just only for Belfast’s LGBTQ+ community but others as well.

Bywater and her fellow 20 club members secured a permit from the city of Belfast, found sponsors, raised money for banners, flags and other expenses and grappled with the procuring of liability insurance. Ultimately, the high school agreed to cover the event under the school’s policy, a move that surprised and pleased the teens, Annie Gray, the club’s co-advisor told the Daily News.

Bywater noted that it has been a lot of work to organize the parade — but it’s well worth it.

“I think that this is the Pride parade for Waldo County, and it feels really important,” she said. “After all these years of COVID, it’s important to remind ourselves that we’re all still here and still going.”

The students found support from local businesses the Daily News also reported.

Seth Thayer, a local businessman who was delighted that the high school students have taken the initiative to organize the event and that it will happen again this year. There’s something special about the way that rainbow flags fly from homes and businesses all over the city during Pride, he told the paper.

“The thing I love about Pride is that the whole town is involved,” he said. “It’s such an isolating feeling, to have to hide yourself. And just to see that visual support from people that you don’t know, just seeing the Pride flag, it’s a powerful thing. I’m excited that it’s going to happen.”

Thayer said he was glad to make a financial contribution to the students, who have been canvassing for donations.

“I’m really happy that the high schoolers took it over,” he said. “I think they’ll do a good job. Kids always bring a new energy to things.”

Those interested in participating in the Belfast Pride parade are asked to meet at Belfast Area High School at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, June 4, and the parade will begin at 11 a.m. The parade will end just before the Public Landing and Heritage Park.

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U.S. Military/Pentagon

U.S. Army considering letting LGBTQ+ troops transfer out of hostile states

This policy tweak to the existing Army regulations pertaining to compassionate reassignment would clarify the current standard rules

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Top Army G-1 officer & enlisted advisor speaking with Joint Base Lewis-McChord single and dual military parents (Photo Credit: U.S. Army)

ARLINGTON, Va. – A draft policy is circulating among top officials of the U.S. Army that would allow soldiers to be able to request a transfer if they feel state or local laws discriminate against them based on gender, sex, religion, race or pregnancy.

Journalist Steve Beynon writing for Military.com reported last week the guidance, which would update a vague service policy to add specific language on discrimination, is far from final and would need approval from Army Secretary Christine Wormuth. But if enacted, it could be one of the most progressive policies for the Army amid a growing wave of local anti-LGBTQ+ and restrictive contraception laws in conservative-leaning states, where the Army has a majority of its bases and major commands.

“Some states are becoming untenable to live in; there’s a rise in hate crimes and rise in LGBT discrimination,” Lindsay Church, executive director of Minority Veterans of America, an advocacy group, told Military.com. “In order to serve this country, people need to be able to do their job and know their families are safe. All of these states get billions for bases but barely tolerate a lot of the service members.”

This policy tweak to the existing Army regulations pertaining to compassionate reassignment would clarify the current standard rules, which are oft times fairly vague.

A source in the Army told Beynon the new guidance has not yet been fully worked out through the policy planning process or briefed to senior leaders including the Army Secretary or the Office of the Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.

“The Army does not comment on leaked, draft documents,” Angel Tomko, a service spokesperson, told Military.com in an emailed statement. “AR 600-100 and 600-200 establish the criteria for which soldiers may request for a compassionate reassignment. The chain of command is responsible for ensuring Soldiers and Families’ needs are supported and maintain a high quality of life.”

A base member wears rainbow socks during Pride Month Five Kilometer Pride Run at Joint Base Andrews, Md., June 28, 2017.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Valentina Lopez)

The Crystal City Virginia based RAND Corporation had published a study on Sexual Orientation, Transgender Identity, and Health Among U.S. Active-Duty Service Members in 2015 that listed approximate numbers of LGBTQ+ troops are 6% gay or bisexual and 1% is transgender or nonbinary.

A senior analyst for RAND told the Blade on background those numbers are likely much lower than in actuality as 2015 was less than 4 years after the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell’ and prior to the Trump enacted Trans service ban in 2017 which was then repealed by the Biden Administration which has had a chilling effect on open service. Another factor is that the current 18-24 year old troops colloquially referred to as ‘Gen Z’ are much more inclined to embrace an LGBTQ+ identity and that would cause the numbers to be higher than reported.

Also factored in is uncertainty in the tweaking of policy in light of the recent leak of the draft U.S. Supreme Court decision that would effectively repeal Roe v Wade.

According to Military.com it’s unclear whether the Army’s inclusion of pregnancy on the list would protect reproductive care for soldiers if Roe v. Wade is overturned. That language could be intended to protect pregnant service members or their families from employment or other discrimination, but could also be a means for some to argue for transfers based on broader reproductive rights.

One advocacy group pointed out that the current wave of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation will negatively impact the moral of service members:

“What we’re seeing across the board is a small group of elected officials who are trying to politicize and weaponize LGBTQ identities in despicable ways. They’re not only doing that to our youth, but the collateral damage is hurting our service members,” Jacob Thomas, communications director for Common Defense, a progressive advocacy organization, told Military.com. “[Troops] can’t be forced to live in places where they aren’t seen as fully human.”

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