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Lawmakers form group to fight anti-LGBTI discrimination around the world

Mark Takano among Global Equality Caucus founding members

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U.S. Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) speaks at a Human Rights Campaign event on Jan. 4, 2019. The California Democrat is among the lawmakers who have created the Global Equality Caucus, which seeks to fight anti-LGBTI discrimination around the world. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Lawmakers from more than two dozen countries have formed a new group that seeks to combat anti-LGBTI discrimination.

U.S. Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.), Dominican Congresswoman Jacqueline Montero, Canadian MP Randy Boissonnault, Venezuelan Assemblywoman Tamara Adrián, Philippine Sen. Risa Hontiveros, Kenyan MP Esther Passaris, British MP Nick Herbert and Sen. Aziza Lake of Antigua and Barbuda are among the upwards of 100 legislators who have joined the Global Equality Caucus.

A press release indicates the Global Equality Caucus will “support” efforts to decriminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations and “the end of violence against LGBT+ people.”

The Global Equality Caucus will “promote equal rights and nondiscrimination and ensure that LGBT+ people have equal access to healthcare, including HIV treatment and support for trans people.” The press release also says the Global Equality Caucus “wants to ensure that data is collected so that governments can be held accountable for how LGBT+ people are treated, and support funding for NGOs which are working for LGBT+ people.”

A formal announcement is scheduled to take place on Friday at the U.N.

The press release says the Global Equality Caucus “is open to legislators across the world regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.”

“In too many places around the world LGBT+ people face discrimination and live in fear,” said Herbert in the press release. “We need to stand up for them, and politicians are in a unique position to drive change. We pass laws, vote funds and influence leaders. We have a platform to speak for those whose voice cannot be heard. The Global Equality Caucus will make the case for change, united by a belief in equality for all.”

Takano said the Global Equality Caucus “will give us a chance to learn from each other’s successes and better understand the challenges that exist in different nations.” New Zealand MP Louisa Wall agreed.

“As a passionate human rights practitioner, and a proud indigenous takatapui lesbian cis woman, I am committed to developing and supporting initiatives that uphold principles of equality and non-discrimination and protect the rights of our most vulnerable,” she said in the press release. “LGBTIQ+ human beings and citizens globally have a right to exist as we are. That is why the Global Equality Caucus is so very important.”

Friday’s announcement coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots.

The Trump administration earlier this year announced openly gay U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell will lead an initiative that encourages countries to decriminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations.

The State Department last month did not publicly acknowledge the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. It has also not issued a Pride month statement.

State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus on Monday defended a policy that prohibits U.S. embassies from displaying Pride flags on official flag poles.

“The Global Equality Caucus will be a network that will advance the rights of people throughout the world,” said Takano. “At a time when the cause of LGBT equality seems to be gaining ground in many places, but falling behind in as many others, the need for this caucus could not be greater.”

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California

Newsom announces historic Supreme Court nominations 

Judge Kelli Evans will be the second openly LGBTQ+ justice to serve on the state’s high court joining Justice Martin Jenkins

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California Supreme Court building (Photo Credit: State of California Courts)

SACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom announced his nomination of Supreme Court Associate Justice Patricia Guerrero to serve as California’s next Chief Justice after Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye concludes her current term of office on January 2, 2023.

A first-generation Californian, Justice Guerrero was the first Latina to serve on the California Supreme Court and, if confirmed, will be the first Latina to serve as California’s Chief Justice.  

Justice Patricia Guerrero

“Justice Guerrero has established herself as a widely respected jurist with a formidable intellect and command of the law and deep commitment to equal justice and public service,” said Governor Newsom. “A first-generation Californian from the Imperial Valley, Justice Guerrero broke barriers as California’s first Latina Supreme Court Justice, enriching our state’s highest court with her insights and deep understanding of the real-world impacts of the Court’s decisions in the lives of everyday Californians. I thank Justice Guerrero for her willingness to step into this role and am confident that the people of California will continue to be well served by her leadership for years to come.”   

“I am humbled by this nomination to lead our state’s Supreme Court and thank the Governor for entrusting me with this honor,” said Justice Guerrero, who was sworn in to the California Supreme Court by Governor Newsom earlier this year. “If confirmed, I look forward to continuing the strides the Court has made under Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye to expand equal access to justice and create a fairer justice system for all Californians.”  

The Governor also announced his intention to appoint Alameda County Superior Court Judge Kelli Evans to serve as an Associate Justice of the California Supreme Court to fill the vacancy created by Justice Guerrero’s elevation to Chief Justice.

Equality California, the nation’s largest statewide LGBTQ+ civil rights organization, released the following statement from Executive Director Tony Hoang:

“Representation is power, and it’s critical in our collective fight for full, lived equality. Governor Newsom’s historic appointment of Judge Evans ensures that California’s highest court better reflects the diversity of our state and sends an important message to the rest of the country at a time when LGBTQ+ people, women and communities of color are under attack. Judge Evans is an outstanding, highly qualified jurist, and we are confident she will continue to uphold and advance equal justice under the law for all Californians.”

Judge Evans assumed office in 2021 as a judge of the Superior Court of Alameda County. Evans served as an Assistant Public Defender at the Sacramento County Public Defender’s Office, as an Attorney for the ACLU of Northern California and as a Senior Trial Attorney in the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice from.

She was Senior Director for the Administration of Justice at the California State Bar and Special Assistant to the Attorney General at the California Department of Justice. From 2019 to 2020, Evans worked as Deputy Legal Affairs Secretary for Criminal Justice in the Office of Governor Newsom, where she worked as Chief Deputy Legal Affairs Secretary from 2020 to 2021.

“Throughout her career, Judge Evans has dedicated herself to helping all Californians have an equal chance at justice,” said Governor Newsom. “Raised by her grandmother in public housing, Judge Evans was inspired from a young age to find ways to help expand justice and opportunity for everyone, especially marginalized and vulnerable communities. I have seen firsthand her commitment to the highest ideals of public service, and her passion to protect and advance civil rights and liberties for all Californians. I have no doubt that her exemplary talent, wide-ranging knowledge and experience, strong moral compass, and work ethic will make her an outstanding Supreme Court Justice,” said Governor Newsom.   

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Kelli Evans (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor)

Judge Evans will be the second openly LGBTQ+ justice to serve on the state’s high court joining Justice Martin Jenkins who was appointed October 2020.

“I am truly honored by this opportunity to serve the people of California on our state’s highest court,” said Judge Evans. “I have worked my entire career to promote equality and access to justice and to protect the rights of some of society’s most disenfranchised members. If confirmed, I look forward to furthering our state’s work to ensure equal justice under the law for all Californians.”  

“Governor Gavin Newsom has made historic appointments to the California Supreme Court in nominating Justice Patricia Guerrero to be the new Chief Justice and Judge Kelli Evans to be a Justice. These two individuals are impeccably qualified,” said Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean of the University of California, Berkeley School of Law. “They will lead the California Supreme Court in using the California Constitution and California law to advance freedom and equality.”  

Background biographical on the Governor’s choices:

Raised in the Imperial Valley by immigrant parents from Mexico, Justice Guerrero, 50, of Coronado, served as an Associate Justice at the Fourth District Court of Appeal, Division One from 2017 to 2022 and has wide-ranging experience as a trial court judge, partner at a major law firm and Assistant U.S. Attorney.  

As an appellate justice at the Fourth District Court of Appeal, Justice Guerrero authored numerous opinions to protect the rights of consumers and individuals, while also ensuring that defendants’ constitutional rights are protected and that all parties, including the government, are treated fairly and consistent with the rule of law. She served as a Judge at the San Diego County Superior Court from 2013 to 2017 and was Supervising Judge for the Family Law Division at the Court in 2017. Justice Guerrero was hired as an Associate at Latham & Watkins and became a Partner in 2006. She served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Southern District of California from 2002 to 2003. Justice Guerrero earned a Juris Doctor degree from Stanford Law School. The compensation for this position is $293,286. She is a Democrat.   

“This is truly an exceptional and historic day for the people of California and for the justice system. Justice Guerrero is an outstanding choice to lead our court system. This includes chairing the work of the California Supreme Court in reviewing the landscape of thousands of legal opinions across the state and ensuring that the development of the law is consistent with the statutory and Constitutional mandates that govern our state,” said retired California Supreme Court Justice Carlos R. Moreno. “Justice Guerrero’s inspiring nomination demonstrates that, regardless of humble beginnings, hard work and commitment to one’s values can lead to the fulfillment of the true American dream.”

Instilled with the importance of education by her grandmother, Judge Evans, 53, of Oakland, excelled academically and was able to attend a top-rated high school when her family moved from a public housing project to a HUD subsidized apartment. One of only a small number of students of color at the school, she managed to thrive and graduate among the top of her class while working 20 hours a week to help support her family. Judge Evans went on to attend Stanford University and earn a Juris Doctor degree from the University of California, Davis School of Law, where she received the Martin Luther King, Jr. award for exceptional public service.    

Judge Evans has served as a Judge in the Alameda County Superior Court since 2021. Prior to this appointment, she served as Chief Deputy Legal Affairs Secretary in the Office of Governor Gavin Newsom, where she helped shape California’s moratorium on capital punishment and advised the Governor and executive agencies on myriad issues in administrative proceedings and in state and federal trial and appellate courts. 

Judge Evans served as Special Assistant to the Attorney General at the California Department of Justice from 2017 to 2019 and was Senior Director for the Administration of Justice at the California State Bar from 2014 to 2017. She was Associate Director of the ACLU of Northern California from 2010 to 2013, where she served as an Attorney from 1995 to 1998. She was a Partner at Independent Assessment & Monitoring LLP from 2006 to 2010 and an Associate at Relman and Associates from 2001 to 2004. Judge Evans served as a Senior Trial Attorney in the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice from 1998 to 2001 and as an Assistant Public Defender at the Sacramento County Public Defender’s Office in 1995. She has served as a member of federal court-appointed monitoring teams for the Oakland and Cleveland Police Departments.  

“Judge Kelli Evans is a brilliant choice to serve as Associate Justice on the California Supreme Court. Besides being an amazingly accomplished lawyer and judge, she has devoted her professional life – and her very heart and soul – to social justice for all and is ideally suited for service on the state’s highest court. I cannot imagine anybody better than Judge Evans to fill the vacancy,” said Kevin Johnson, Dean of the University of California, Davis School of Law.

The Governor’s nominations and appointments must be submitted to the State Bar’s Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation and confirmed by the Commission on Judicial Appointments.

The Commission on Judicial Appointments consists of Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, Attorney General Rob Bonta and Senior Presiding Justice of the state Court of Appeal Manuel Ramirez.

The nomination of Justice Guerrero as Chief Justice must also be confirmed by the voters in the November 8, 2022 general election. 

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Research/Study

Twitter & Facebook allowing hate labels “pedophile/groomer” on platforms

“Online hate & lies reinforce offline violence. The normalization of anti-LGBTQ+ narratives in digital spaces puts LGBTQ+ people in danger” 

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Photo by Christopher Kane

WASHINGTON – According to a report released Wednesday by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and The Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), Twitter and Facebook are permitting the spread of content linking LGBTQ+ people to pedophiles or “groomers.”

The authors of “Digital Hate: Social Media’s Role in Amplifying Dangerous Lies about LGBTQ+ People” found a dramatic uptick this year in posts mentioning “grooming,” which refers to the practice of pursuing relationships with children for the purpose of sexually abusing or exploiting them. 

Use of this term and related terms as a slander against LGBTQ+ people is an explicit violation of Twitter’s rules governing hate speech, the company said. And yet, even as the platform saw a 406% increase in such tweets beginning in March, it failed to take action in 99% of reported cases, the study shows. 

Forty-eight million people viewed these tweets, the study estimates, with the majority coming from a small group of right-wing extremists, including lawmakers like Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (GA). 

Of the most-viewed “grooming” tweets, 66% of impressions were driven by just ten users, the report finds. 

For its part, Meta prohibits anti-LGBTQ+ content on Facebook and Instagram but removed only one paid advertisement mentioning the “grooming” narrative. 

The findings echo CCDH’s report last year on misinformation concerning the covid pandemic (including vaccines), the online spread of which was linked to just a dozen people with large followings on social media platforms. 

“Facebook, Google and Twitter have put policies into place to prevent the spread of vaccine misinformation; yet to date, all have failed to satisfactorily enforce those policies,” CCDH’s CEO Imran Ahmed wrote in the report. 

Just as with covid, the companies’ failure to intervene and take down misinformation and hate speech can have dire consequences. “Online hate and lies reflect and reinforce offline violence and hate,” Ahmed said in a statement about the new report. “The normalization of anti-LGBTQ+ narratives in digital spaces puts LGBTQ+ people in danger.” 

An old, dangerous slander is resuscitated 

In the 1970s, anti-LGBTQ+ crusader Anita Bryant campaigned against inclusive non-discrimination measures by spreading the lie that gay men and lesbians sought to recruit children for sexual abuse. 

Passage, in March of this year, of Florida’s Parental Rights in Education bill – deemed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by critics – appears to have been a turning point that led to the resuscitation of the slanderous rhetoric linking LGBTQ+ people to pedophiles or “groomers.” 

The label was weaponized by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s spokesperson, Christina Pushaw, to push back against critics of the legislation, which prohibits public school teachers from discussing sexual orientation or gender identity with students in certain grade levels. 

LGBTQ+ advocates say non-cisgender and non-heterosexual youth will be harmed as the bill effectively erases their identities, while potentially criminalizing something as innocuous as a teacher’s mention of their same-sex spouse. 

“The bill that liberals inaccurately call “Don’t Say Gay” would be more accurately described as an Anti-Grooming Bill,” Pushaw wrote on Twitter. 

She added, “If you’re against the Anti-Grooming Bill, you are probably a groomer or at least you don’t denounce the grooming of 4-8 year old children. Silence is complicity. This is how it works, Democrats, and I didn’t make the rules.” 

According to the CCDH and HRC’s report, the social media platforms saw a corresponding spike in content targeting LGBTQ+ people as pedophiles and child abusers after Gov. DeSantis signed the Parental Rights in Education bill into law.

The narrative has occasionally been used to attack non-LGBTQ+ people, as Michigan State Sen. Mallory McMorrow experienced at the hands of her Republican colleague Sen. Lana Theis. 

McMorrow told The Los Angeles Blade there is a moral as well as a political obligation to stand up to conservative extremists who baselessly accuse LGBTQ+ people, or their political opponents, of being pedophiles or enablers of child sexual abuse. 

Read the full report here: [LINK]

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California

Newsom launches nation’s largest college savings program

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Governor Gavin Newsom launches CalKIDS at the State Controller's Office (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor)

SACRAMENTO – Starting today, all Californian families of low-income public school students – 3.4 million across the state – can now access college savings accounts created in their children’s names, with seed investments of between $500 and $1,500.

The CalKIDS program, launched by Governor Gavin Newsom, invests $1.9 billion into accounts for low-income school-age children in grades 1-12 and for newborn children born on or after July 1, 2022. 

“California is telling our students that we believe they’re college material – not only do we believe it, we’ll invest in them directly,” said Newsom. “With up to $1,500, we’re transforming lives, generating college-going mindsets, and creating generational wealth for millions of Californians.”

“I am proud and excited to finally see CalKIDS in action,” said Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian. “My goal with this program was to bridge the gap between wealth inequality and the high cost of education. CalKIDS will expand access to college through savings by providing each child born in the state of California a seed deposit in a ScholarShare 529 college savings account. Furthermore, thanks to Governor Newsom’s investment and expansion of the Program to make college more accessible to low-income California kids, additional deposits will be made for low-income first graders across the state, with supplemental deposits for foster and homeless youth. Our shared vision ensures each child across the state will have an opportunity at higher education.”

FIND OUT IF YOU’RE RECEIVING MONEY BY CLICKING HERE.

Up to $1,500 for 3.4 Million School-Age Children:

  • $500 Automatic Deposit: Eligible low-income public school students in grades 1-12.
  • $500 Additional Deposit: Eligible low-income public school students in grades 1-12 identified as foster youth.
  • $500 Additional Deposit: Eligible low-income public school students in grades 1-12 identified as homeless.

Up to $100 for Newborn Children:

  • $25 Automatic Deposit: Every eligible child born on or after July 1, 2022.
  • $25 Additional Deposit: Those who register on the program’s online portal.
  • $50 Additional Deposit: Those who link a new or existing ScholarShare 529 account to the CalKIDS account.

Californians can begin accessing their accounts via the online portal now. In the coming months, CalKIDS will send notification letters to qualifying children and families with more information. 

To learn more, visit the CalKIDS website and FAQ.

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