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Stonewall ignited gay liberation

And even more LGBT history was made in 1970

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Morris Kight, center, in first CSW Pride parade with Rev. Troy Perry in black behind him. (Photo courtesy Brian Traynor and the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives, via ‘Making Gay History’)

The 1960s was the era of creative transformation as young people took up John F. Kennedy’s call to service and television changed life from black and white to vivid color. By May 18, 1969 Apollo 10 transmitted the first color images of the planet Earth as seen from space and suddenly “wonder” was no longer a fanciful promise offered by Walt Disney.

It was an era of peace, love, happiness and dreams that a shared humanity would eradicate poverty, racism, sexism, and entrenched inequality.

But it was also the era in which the government got caught lying about the war in Vietnam, about thousands of young men sent to ignoble and senseless deaths. Revolution was on the lips of thousands of Parisian students, Maoists in China and fans of the Beatles’ “White Album” in 1968. Changing the world was not a theory, a desire, but an action.

And action was fraught with danger. Two of the most prominent progressive heroes expected to lead that non-violent revolution and restore faith in America – Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy – were assassinated. Eyes on the prize were refocused, turning darkly inward as protests for justice and equality transformed into liberation movements with sharper edges and a pall of violence.

No one thought limp-wristed sissies who couldn’t throw a softball would even know how to throw a punch. But after Stonewall in June 1969, police and tabloid reporters in cities around the country speculated about all the pent up rage boiling behind those secret closet doors. It was clear to young New Yorkers that Stonewall was not a one-and-done reaction to a police raid. By November, some activists had organized into the Gay Liberation Front and the Gay Alliance and NYU’s Student Homophile League proposed an annual commemorative demonstration in New York on the last Saturday in June called CHRISTOPHER STREET LIBERATION DAY. The activists contacted gay activists in other cities to share their idea.

Being gay was no longer an arbitrary individual behavior; a chosen community was being born.

Meanwhile in Hollywood, anti-war activist/organizer Morris Kight also decided to start a Gay Liberation Front—LA was one of five cities launch GLFs in the aftermath of Stonewall. Kight’s GLF provided direct services to gays and lesbians, especially homeless youth, and pro bono legal advice for those being discharged from the military, STD shots, or busted for being gay. Kight also set up rap groups to develop self-esteem through shared story-telling akin to AA shares and feminist consciousness raising.

In November 1969, Kight took out a small ad in the leftist L.A. Free Press saying he wanted to hold a homosexual organizing meeting. He later told Eric Markus of Making Gay History that Stonewall “had not one trace of an influence upon my work.”

In fact, Kight said, “I had a number of telephone calls from payphones by Christopher Park, by Sheridan Square, while the Stonewall rebellion was going on, and since I was in the midst of a whole variety of rebellions, since I was up to my neck in civil disobedience, since I was up to my neck in television and radio and newspapers, I was up to my neck in organizing…against the war in Vietnam, and against poverty, and against racism, and against classism, and against redlining. I was involved in super-radical activities, and so I absorbed it as just one more interesting activity, except it was us instead of them. And that was the only difference, uh, that came in my mind, I said, “Well, fine, thank you for calling, that’s very interesting, I’m happy it’s happening.” Uh, the Stonewall, uh, rebellion did not influence my founding the Gay Liberation Front of Los Angeles.”

But it may well have influenced those who joined him, which in turn influenced Kight’s response.

“The country was ripe with discontent and rebellion, people were already mobilized and Kight seized the momentum, as he liked to put it, to ‘free my people.’ When Morris Kight shifted his thinking and refocused his energy, he made sure that it created a rippling effect. He tapped organizational muscle, skills, and funds from the Peace Movement, Black Power, Feminism, and the LA Mission,” writes Mary Ann Cherry in her upcoming biography MORRIS KIGHT: Humanist, Liberationist, Fantabulist A Story of Gay Rights and Gay Wrongs due out in April 2020 from Process Media.

Among those who joined GLF was a young activist named Don Kilhefner, with whom Kight would disrupt an American Psychiatric Association Conference and later found the Los Angeles Gay Community Services Center. Their first headquarters in a rented old Victorian on Wilshire Boulevard stopped traffic with residents and tourists alike shocked to see such an open display of the word “Gay.”

“After Stonewall, we were on fire. Something was unleashed in us. After all those decades of being told who we are, we began to define ourselves and found ourselves to be good, decent people,” Kilhefner told filmmakers Patrick Sammon and Bennett Singer for their forthcoming documentary Cured.  “So part of our work was not only fighting back against the shrinks, but also working with gay people to undo the harm that had been done to us. And it felt like ripples went out across the country. In every major city, something happened. In San Francisco and Chicago, in Atlanta, in New York, in Boston, something happened, and in each town it was different depending on what the circumstances were, who was meeting, and what was going on there — but we were everywhere.”

In LA, Kight wanted to ensure that GLF meetings were radical, democratic, and based in the spirit of non-violence, no matter how much rage spilled out at rap meetings tackling the root cause of gay oppression—lack of self-acceptance. That pain also created bitchy attacks on one another, which Kight called “oppression sickness.” 

But Kight was a keen organizer.

“Kight saw the big picture of gay rights as building-up one person at a time, and he didn’t let anyone leave those meetings without being affected in some positive way or learning something,” Cherry writes. “Often described as a ‘warm and encouraging leader’ and ‘father figure’ in the Gay Liberation Front, Kight did a private appraisal of every able body that expressed interest in the movement and then found a specific function for each person to contribute to their liberation. He gave every young person at these meetings a direction or an assignment, to give them a new purpose.”

Cherry cites an anonymous GLF paper that expresses the point. “Look out straights, here comes the Gay Liberation Front… Understand this–that the worst part of being a homosexual is having to keep it secret. Not the occasional murders by police or teenage queer-baiters, not the loss of jobs or the expulsion from schools or dishonorable discharges–but the daily knowledge that what you are is so awful that it cannot be revealed. The violence against us is sporadic. Most of us are not affected. But the internal violence of being made to carry–or choosing to carry–the load of your straight society’s unconscious guilt–this is what tears us apart, what makes us want to stand up in the offices, in the factories and the schools and shout out our true identities.”

To press the point, get media attention and give GLFers an action to take, Kight planned zaps, some of which were potentially dangerous, such as the protest against Barney’s Beanery demanding the removal of their “Fagots Stay Out” sign

Another zap was a theatrical stunt declaring March 1,1970 “Lavender Sunday” during which gays protested the church of their choice then presented the church with a reparations bill for $90 billion for all the harm done to gays over the years. The reaction was mixed. Some said “God bless you!” and shouted “Gay Power!” while others screamed, “You will all burn in hell!”

Mattachine Society member and gay journalist Jim Kepner attended GLF meetings, as did the Rev. Troy Perry, founder of the Metropolitan Community Church with whom Kight subsequently co-founded Christopher Street West and the first gay Pride parade. By the spring of 1970 as planning began, three gay men had died in police custody and countless police beatings received no justice or accountability.

“It was outright dangerous to be openly gay much less part of gay liberation,” Cherry writes.

Nonetheless, Kight, Perry, and homeless advocate Rev. Bob Humphries made plans for a parade, not a demonstration, down Hollywood Boulevard.  The May 14, 1970 Parade Permit Application said the purpose of the parade was: “A joyous celebration of the total freedom of homosexuals in Los Angeles, with their families and friends, indicating that they are full citizens of this community and their rights to use the streets in the city of Los Angeles.”

The permit was denied but they appealed, including an extraordinary bond the LAPD required for extra police in case a Stonewall-like gay riot broke out.

On Friday June 26, California Superior Court Judge Richard Schauer ordered the Police Commissioner to issue the permit for a “Hollywood Blvd. homosexual-oriented parade without requiring a $1,500 cash bond.” It was the first official recognition of “gay” in California. 

Death threats against Kight intensified.

“Someone telephoned in the morning [of the Pride parade] and said, ‘How would you like it if I came over and killed you today?’ And I told him, ‘No, I cannot do that today. I have a very big day ahead of me and I must attend a parade.’ And I hung up,” Kight told Cherry. 

It took courage to step off the corner of McCadden Place and Hollywood Boulevard that June 28—but 1800 people showed up with thousands more lining the streets to watch gays and lesbians holding hands and more creative participants. Two men walked sheep dogs with signs saying, “Not all of us walk poodles.” The Guerrilla Theatre showcased “vice cops chasing screaming fairies wearing paper wings.” And The Militant Gay Movement floated a blown-up super-sized Vaseline jar. The GLF marched behind Kight.

“Los Angeles activists, by participating in a Stonewall commemoration the first year, played a crucial role in the survival of the Stonewall story,” the American Sociological Review reported in 2006. “The first commemoration of Stonewall was gay liberation’s biggest and most successful protest event.”

Gay Community Services Center with Executive Director Don Kilhefner, Vice President Morris Kight, Jim Kepner, June Herrle, President Martin Field, and John Platania, 1970. (Photo courtesy ©Lee Mason/ONE Archives at the USC Libraries via ‘Making Gay History’)

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U.S. Federal Courts

Florida gay man found guilty of threatening a member of Congress

Lawyers for Stanzione noted that he told federal agents that “he feels offended by Santos and does not want him in his (gay) community”

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USCG Station Eatons Neck Officer-in-Charge BMCS Erich White, disgraced former U.S. Rep. George Santos, and Capt. Eva J. Van Camp, former Commanding Officer U.S. Coast Guard Sector Long Island Sound, April 2023. (Photo Credit: USCG Public Affairs)

MIAMI, Fla. – On Feb. 22, following a two-day trial, a federal jury in Ft. Lauderdale convicted a man for calling the office of a Congress member in Washington, D.C. and threatening to kill the member of Congress and another person. 

On Jan. 29, 2023, Frank Stanzione, 53, of Boynton Beach, Florida, made a telephone call from his residence in Boynton Beach to the office of a member of the United States House of Representatives. Stanzione left a voice message for the member that stated the following:

[Victim 1 former Rep. Santos] you fat fucking piece of shit fucker. You better watch your mother fucking back because I’m gonna bash your mother fucking fucker head in with a bat until your brains are splattered across the fucking wall. You lying, disgusting, disgraceful, mother fucking fucker. You mother fucking piece of shit. You’re gonna get fucking murdered you goddamn lying piece of garbage. Watch your back you fat, ugly, piece of shit. You and [Victim 2 Redacted] are dead.

The Congress member’s chief of staff reported the message to the United States Capitol Police (USCP) the next morning. The USCP began investigating the voice message as a threat and determined that it was made from a telephone number assigned to Stanzione. 

On Jan. 31, 2023, USCP special agents went to the address associated with the telephone number and interviewed Stanzione. USCP confirmed that Stanzione had left the voice message for the Congress member. Stanzione found the telephone number on an online search engine. 

In a motion to dismiss, lawyers for Stanzione noted in the interview he told federal agents that “he feels offended by Santos and does not want him in his (gay) community.” He said he left the message to make Santos “feel like a piece of shit.”

The court filing described Stanzione as “a long-standing, active advocate for gay rights.”

In the motion to dismiss, Stanzione claimed his prosecution was “retaliatory and vindictive” and “based upon his exercise of political speech related to gay rights.”

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“Others who have allegedly committed similar acts,” his attorneys stated in the motion, “have not been prosecuted.”

U.S. Attorney Markenzy Lapointe for the Southern District of Florida and Chief J. Thomas Manger of USCP announced the guilty verdict. The USCP – Threat Assessment Section investigated the case.

Stanzione will be sentenced in May and faces penalties including up to five years in federal prison, a fine of up to $250,000, or both.

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Oklahoma

LGBTQ+ groups call for removal of Okla. education official

Walters appointed anti-transgender activist Chaya Raichik to serve on the Oklahoma library board “despite her not living in Oklahoma

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Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters with anti-LGBTQ+ extremist Libs Of TikTok creator Chaya Raichik on Feb. 6. (Raichik/selfie on Waters Okla. State Facebook Page)

WASHINGTON – A coalition of more than 350 advocacy groups issued a letter on Wednesday calling for the removal of Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters along with a federal investigation into the “actions and policies” by the Oklahoma Department of Education that have facilitated a “culture where rampant harassment of 2SLGBTQI+ students has been allowed to go unchecked.”

The letter comes as the death of nonbinary teenager Nex Benedict earlier this month, a day after they were allegedly assaulted in a school restroom and after enduring months of bullying, has drawn national attention to, and scrutiny of, the state’s policies targeting the rights of LGBTQ+ Oklahomans, particularly youth.

An investigation into the circumstances surrounding Benedict’s death is ongoing. LGBTQ+ advocates including Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson have called for independent probes by the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education.

“Superintendent Ryan Walters is responsible for fostering a culture of violence and hate,” the letter argues. “Just a month ago, he passed an emergency rule to prevent an Oklahoma teen who was fearful of being bullied from changing his gender on school files,” and he also “called for the firing of a principal who performed in drag on weekends, which led to violent threats against the educator.”

Additionally, the letter notes, Walters appointed anti-transgender activist Chaya Raichik, creator of the anti-LGBTQ+ social media account Libs of TikTok, to serve on the Oklahoma library board “despite her not living in Oklahoma and having no credentials for the position.” 

Per a press release from GLAAD, “Signers span Oklahoma-specific civil rights groups, churches and faith denominations, legal groups and unions, and more, to national education and youth advocacy groups, civil rights organizations, women’s rights leaders and equality groups in neighboring states.”

Among the national nonprofit organizations are the American Association of School Librarians, the Center for American Progress, GLAAD, GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders (GLAD), GLSEN, HRC, the Interfaith Alliance, It Gets Better, Lambda Legal, the Matthew Shepard Foundation, the Movement Advancement Project, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the National Center for Transgender Equality, the National Education Association, the National LGBTQ Task Force, the National Women’s Law Center, PFLAG National, the Rainbow Youth Project USA, the Trevor Project and the Transgender Law Center.

The release notes they were joined by public figures who include Kristin Chenoweth, Demi Lovato, Cynthia Nixon, Jonathan Van Ness, Tommy Dorfman, Alok, Peppermint, Emma Roberts, Amy Schneider and K.D. Lang.

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National

APA passes policy supporting gender-affirming care

The American Psychological Association, representing 157,000 members, has issued a resolution calling for an end to trans care bans

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The American Psychological Association headquarters in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Harrison Keely)

By Erin Reed | WASHINGTON – On Wednesday, Feb. 28, the American Psychological Association announced in a historic policy resolution that it opposes gender-affirming care bans for transgender youth.

The association, the largest psychological organization in the world with 157,000 members, declared, “Government bans on gender-affirming care disregard the comprehensive body of psychological and medical research supporting the positive impact of gender-affirming treatments,” and resolves the organization’s support for the necessity of that care for transgender youth and adults. 

The policy, which passed 153-9, is the strongest yet from the organization in support of gender-affirming care and represents a major consensus among leading psychologists on the importance of gender-affirming care for youth and adults.

President Cynthia de las Fuentes, speaking of the new policy resolution, states, “It sends a clear message that state bans on gender-affirming care disregard the comprehensive body of medical and psychological research supporting the positive impact of such treatments in alleviating psychological distress and improving overall well-being for transgender, gender diverse and nonbinary individuals throughout their lives.”

The policy includes several findings and resolutions, such as:

  • Gender affirming medical care is medically necessary – “the APA underscores the necessity for access to comprehensive, gender-affirming healthcare for transgender, gender-diverse, and nonbinary children, adolescents, and adults”
  • The organization opposes bans on gender affirming care – “the APA opposes state bans on gender-affirming care, which are contrary to the principles of evidence-based healthcare, human rights, and social justice, and which should be reconsidered in favor of policies that prioritize the well-being and autonomy of transgender, gender-diverse, and nonbinary individuals”
  • Being trans is not “caused” by autism or post-traumatic stress – “legislative efforts to restrict access to care have involved the dissemination of misleading and unfounded narratives (e.g., mischaracterizing gender dysphoria as a manifestation of traumatic stress or neurodivergence, and equating affirming care for transgender, gender-diverse, and nonbinary youth with child abuse), creating a distorted perception of the psychological and medical support necessary for these youth and creating a hostile environment that adversely affects their mental health and wellbeing.”
  • False information on trans care needs to be combatted – “APA supports efforts to address and rectify the dissemination of false information to ensure the well-being and dignity of transgender, gender-diverse, and nonbinary individuals”
  • Discrimination, non-affirmation, and rejection risks suicide – “gender-based bias and mistreatment (e.g., discrimination, violence, non-affirmation, or rejection in response to gender diversity) pose significant harm, including risk of suicide, to the well-being of children, adolescents, adults, and families.”

Previously, the organization has released several policies supporting the rights of transgender individuals, such as a policy against conversion therapy and a policy opposing discriminatory laws and practices.

However, this policy goes much further than any of those, directly supporting gender-affirming care as medically necessary and opposing misinformation that emerges in legislative hearings targeting care.

Although virtually all major medical organizations in the United States have issued policies affirming the importance of care for transgender individuals, few rebut anti-trans talking points as comprehensively as this recent policy.

The policy emerges amid an international debate on gender-affirming care and seems to directly counter many claims made in hearings targeting such care. For instance, Representative Gary Click in Ohio attributed the increase in transgender individuals coming out in recent years to autism, using those claims to justify passing a ban on care.

Pamela Paul, in her recent New York Times piece criticizing trans care, similarly suggested that neurodivergence and obsessive-compulsive disorder could cause gender dysphoria. The APA policy directly refutes such notions by a significant margin.

The resolution also directly counters the claim that there is no scientific consensus on gender-affirming care. Conversion therapy organizations such as the Gender Exploratory Therapy Association, now renamed Therapy First after its previous name became associated with conversion therapy, have asserted that “there is no genuine medical consensus” on transgender care. Groups opposed to transgender rights, like the Society for Evidence-Based Gender Medicine, which has strong connections to SPLC-designated hate groups and pseudoscience networks, have argued that there is a “lack of clinical consensus” on the appropriateness of gender-affirming care.

However, the resolution’s passage by an overwhelmingly large margin suggests otherwise. The council of representatives, an elected body of leaders representing the consensus of the association’s 157,000 members, can be seen as accurately reflecting the views of psychologists from the world’s largest psychological organization.

Though the policy document may not convince Republican officials to back off on targeting trans care, it will be important in court fights moving forward. Findings of fact from places where gender affirming care bans have been overturned often point to the professional consensus on the importance of care.

Similarly, the document will be an important rebuttal to increasing misinformation around transgender care. Other professional organizations are similarly in the process of releasing updated policies themselves which will bear watching in the coming days.

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Erin Reed is a transgender woman 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.

The preceding post was previously published at Erin in the Morning and is republished with permission.

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Ohio

Ohio State University student charged in anti-LGBTQ+ crime

City prosecutors file multiple charges against an individual who vandalized a pride flag & directed homophobic remarks toward residents

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Screenshot/YouTube WBNS 10TV Columbus

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein announced that city prosecutors have filed multiple misdemeanor criminal charges against an Ohio State University student who was caught on camera urinating on a pride flag and directing homophobic remarks toward residents at a home in Columbus’s Weinland Park neighborhood in February.

Prosecutors filed four misdemeanor charges against 20-year-old Trey Samuel Fetzer in Franklin County Municipal Court Tuesday, including ethnic intimidation, criminal mischief, criminal trespass and disorderly conduct.

“Vandalizing property and making homophobic remarks in an attempt to intimidate members of the LGBTQ+ community will not be tolerated in our city,” said Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein. “Columbus is diverse and tolerant, and we celebrate our LGBTQ+ community. Hate has no home here, and as long as I’m City Attorney, we will continue to aggressively prosecute hate and bias crimes.”

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According to court documents and released home surveillance video, on Feb. 8, the defendant walked up to the front porch of a home in the Weinland Park neighborhood near Ohio
State’s campus and urinated on a pride flag while another man recorded the incident on a cell
phone. The defendant then proceeded to make homophobic remarks and banged on the door of the house before fleeing on foot.

Penalties for the misdemeanor charges filed Tuesday could include hundreds of dollars in fines, possible jail time or probation, among other penalties.

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Congress

Partisan fights imperil efforts to undo harm of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

The Pentagon has endeavored to address the problem, but advocates say the agency has been too slow to act to address the issue

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U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and U.S. Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer (R-Ore.) (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON — Despite bipartisan agreement over the need to bring justice to U.S. service members who were harmed by discriminatory military policies like “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” competing legislative efforts have divided members of Congress and sparked accusations that both Democrats and Republicans are “playing politics” with the issue.

Following the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2011, thousands of veterans who were discharged other than honorably over their sexual orientation continue to face barriers finding housing and employment, with many unable to access federal benefits that otherwise would be available to them.

The Pentagon has endeavored to address the problem, but advocates say the agency has been too slow to act while service members, rather than the Department, bear the considerable burden of requesting reviews of their papers – a process so complicated that many have had to seek legal counsel for help navigating the bureaucratic red tape.

Gay U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), who chairs the Congressional Equality Caucus, has long worked to address the challenges faced by veterans who are in this position with his Restore Honor to Service Members Act, which he first introduced in 2013 and re-introduced several times over the years, most recently in 2023.

Among the subsequent iterations were the bicameral version introduced in 2019 by Pocan and U.S. Rep. Katie Hill (D-Calif.) along with U.S. Sens. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and another that was introduced in the Senate last year by Schatz, which was backed by Republican U.S. Sens. Todd Young (Ind.) and Susan Collins (Maine).

The National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2024 was passed in the Senate with provisions taken from the Restore Honor to Service Members Act, including directions for the Pentagon to establish a “Tiger Team” to “build awareness among veterans of the process established [by the NDAA in FY 2020] for the review of discharge characterizations by appropriate discharge boards.”

Pocan, along with caucus co-chairs U.S. Reps. Robert Garcia (D-Calif.) and Chris Pappas (D-N.H.), wrote to U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin last month to request information to facilitate implementation of the department’s decision to (1) review records for service members who were discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” (2) forward cases to their respective secretaries to consider correction through the service boards, and (3) reach out to veterans to make sure they are kept up to speed throughout the process.

Last week, however, another bill targeting the same issue, the Recover Pride in Service Act, was announced by Republican U.S. Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer (Ore.) in conjunction with Log Cabin Republicans, the conservative LGBT group.

A spokesperson for the congresswoman told the Washington Blade in a statement, “There’s a significant difference between the two bills. The Recover Pride in Service Act requires the Department of Defense to automatically upgrade all discharges that were solely based on sexual orientation within five years.”

The spokesperson continued, “This key provision would ensure veterans adversely impacted by Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell won’t have to endure an arduous and costly application process and can get their status updated without having to lift a finger. I would also note that just 10 percent of LGBTQ+ veterans have had their discharges upgraded, and that’s because of the application process. Only requiring an outreach group isn’t enough.”

The Recover Pride in Service Act would also, per the press release announcement, establish an “Outreach Unit” to contact service members who were discharged for their sexual orientation along with other reasons specified in their papers. The bill promises to simplify administrative requirements and includes a provision stipulating that “a lack of documentation cannot be used as a basis for denying a review, and the responsibility of finding and producing relevant documentation lies with the DOD, not the service member.”

“If Republicans truly cared about helping veterans discharged under ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ they would have signed on to the Restore Honor to Service Members Act, which has been around for a decade and has support among the broader LGBTQI+ community,” Pocan told the Blade in a statement.

“Instead, they introduced a bill that plays partisan politics with the issue rather than advance it,” he said. “If we really want to do something to help veterans, there is a decade-long effort to get that done. Posing for pictures with a duplicative effort doesn’t get us closer to the goal.”

Log Cabin Republicans Senior Advisor Alex Walton told the Blade by phone last week that “discussions about the Restore Honor to Service Members Act all happened close to eight to nine months ago before we kind of shifted focus when we realized that they weren’t going to cooperate and work with us.”

Walton said that while there was significant interest in joining Pocan’s bill among House Republicans, “they were only going to do it assuming that Democrats were going to match the number of Republicans that co-sponsored the legislation, so you didn’t have 150 Democrats and, you know, 12 Republicans.” A source familiar with the discussions said Pocan was never asked to limit the number of Democratic cosponsors.

Additionally, Walton said, the House Republicans “also wanted a Republican lead,” but Pocan “was unwilling to let that happen.”

Months later, Walton said Pocan and House Democrats remained uncooperative in discussions over the Recover Pride in Service Act, the bill that was ultimately introduced by Chavez-DeRemer.

Meanwhile, he said, “We spoke to over 90 Republican offices, both in the House and the Senate, and we had a lot of conversations about this issue in general. And one of the things that we kept hearing from Republican offices is if a piece of legislation like this is going to pass, you’re gonna have to cut bureaucratic extras that are included in the Pocan version of the bill, and you’re just gonna have to get directly to the problem. And that’s what the legislation does by requiring the DOD to proactively upgrade these discharges.”

With Republicans holding the majority in the House, Walton said, Log Cabin and Republican members wanted a Republican lead sponsor on the bill in the lower chamber, while discussions were held with Senate Democrats with the expectation that a Democrat would be lead sponsor of the Senate version of the Recover Pride in Service Act.

Walton added that Pocan was offered the opportunity to be the lead Democratic member in the House — a claim that is disputed by the source familiar with the talks, who said the Wisconsin congressman was not consulted as the Recover Pride in Service Act was being drafted.

Pocan told the Blade, in a separate statement, that “I’ve had the Restore Honor to Service Members Act available for co-sponsorship for 12 years. Unfortunately, only a few Republicans have been interested in signing on. I welcome additional support. The best way to help our wrongly discharged veterans is to work in a bipartisan fashion with the members who’ve been working on this for a decade.”

He added, “I’ve been focused on getting justice for veterans discharged under ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ for years, which is why part of the Restore Honor to Service Members Act became law several years ago” with the NDAA. “Losing the majority doesn’t mean I should surrender the rest of my bill —that’s not how Congress works. But I do welcome any support from Republicans who haven’t drunk the anti-equality Kool-Aid.”

Walton said that by refusing to work with Republicans in good faith, “Pocan put himself over all of these veterans,” adding, “I’m not disregarding everything Pocan has done for gays and lesbians in Congress. But the reality is that he put himself and his own pride in this legislation over actually getting stuff done.”

Walton stressed the broad ideological base of support for Chavez-DeRemer’s bill among House Republicans, 13 of whom have signed on as co-sponsors. Along with more moderate members, “we have extremely conservative Republicans on this legislation,” he said.

Those co-sponsoring members are GOP Reps. Kat Cammack (Fla.), Andrew Garbarino (N.Y.), Anthony D’Esposito (N.Y.) Nicole Malliotakis (N.Y.), Nancy Mace (S.C.), Derrick Van Orden (Wis.), Juan Ciscomani (Ariz.), Ken Calvert (Calif.), John Duarte (Calif.), Mark Amodei (Nev.), Mike Turner (Ohio), Max Miller (Ohio), and Mike Carey (Ohio).

Several of these House Republicans have voted for anti-LGBTQ military policies, such as prohibitions on Pride month celebrations at U.S. military bases and provisions allowing employees at the Defense Department and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to discriminate against LGBTQ service members if they oppose, for instance, same-sex marriage on religious grounds.

House must pass spending bills by Friday


Meanwhile, House Republicans have held up passage of critical spending bills by insisting on conservative policy mandates that stand no chance of passing in the Senate with Democrats in the majority, nor of being signed into law by President Joe Biden.

If they are not able to reach an agreement by Friday, funding will lapse for military construction, agriculture, transportation, and housing programs. A full government shutdown would be triggered if spending packages are not passed by March 8.

The Equality Caucus, in a post on X Monday, said, “Just a reminder as we barrel towards a gov’t shutdown this week: House Republicans’ partisan funding bills include more than 45 provisions attacking the LGBTQI+ community.”

They added, “The House GOP needs to stop playing games with queer people’s rights & agree to bipartisan funding bills.”

Historically, appropriations packages have been cleared by both chambers with wide bipartisan margins.

During a conference call on Friday, Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson (La.) told GOP members they were unlikely to see many of their policy priorities included in the spending bills. He met with Biden at the White House on Tuesday, alongside other congressional leaders including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), to continue negotiations ahead of Friday’s deadline.

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U.S. Federal Courts

Appeals court allows Indiana’s ban on gender care for Trans youth

“This ruling is beyond disappointing and a heartbreaking development for thousands of transgender youth, their doctors, & their families”

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Main courtroom, for the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, Indianapolis, Ind. (Photo Credit: U.S. Courts/GSA)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals today issued a stay that will lift a lower court’s injunction blocking Indiana’s gender-affirming care ban. The law, originally set to take effect on July 1, 2023, will now take effect immediately.

In June 2023, Judge Patrick Hanlon, a Trump-appointed federal judge, issued a temporary restraining order halting Indiana’s ban on gender-affirming care for transgender youth. The request for a preliminary injunction against SB 480 came in a lawsuit brought by four transgender youth and their families, as well as a doctor and health care clinic,

The law prohibits medical providers from providing gender-affirming health care to transgender youth, effective immediately.

“This ruling is beyond disappointing and a heartbreaking development for thousands of transgender youth, their doctors, and their families. As we and our clients consider our next steps, we want all the transgender youth of Indiana to know this fight is far from over and we will continue to challenge this law until it is permanently defeated and Indiana is made a safer place to raise every family,” said Ariella Sult, a spokesperson for the ACLU of Indiana in a joint statement issued with the American Civil Liberties Union on Tuesday.

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Arizona

Senator breaks with GOP: Arizona anti-trans ballot measure dies

In a stunning defeat for anti-trans activists in Arizona, SCR1013 will not appear on the November ballot in the state

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Arizona Republican state Sen. Ken Bennett (LD-1 Prescott) (Screenshot/YouTube)

By Erin Reed | PHOENIX, Ariz. – In a stunning defeat for anti-trans activists in Arizona, a major bill targeting transgender people in schools has failed. The bill, Senate Concurrent Resolution 1013, would have banned transgender students from using bathrooms matching their gender identity. It also would have forced teachers to misgender their transgender students unless parental permission was received.

Most importantly, the bill would have placed the issues on the November election ballot, bypassing Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs’ veto, which has been used against similar legislation. This represents the first major ballot referendum on transgender people that has been defeated in 2024 and could signal Republican hesitancy around the electoral impacts of such referendums.

The bill was brought forward by Sen. John Kavanaugh, who has previously sponsored other legislation targeting transgender people in schools. Sen. Kavanaugh’s district includes portions of Scottsdale, Arizona, which is notably the same city where the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is headquartered.

The ADF has been intricately involved in the drafting and defending of anti-trans laws across the United States this year and has backed Chloe Cole, who is leading a similar referendum effort in California.

In the Senate Education Committee earlier this month, over 500 people registered opposition to the bill, and only 32 registered in favor, one of the most lopsided testimony ratios in any bill this year nationwide. Speaking against the bill in the hearing, Democratic Sen. Marsh pointed out the negative consequences that hearing such a bill would have, stating, “This will become a debate on a statewide level harming god knows how many kids and forcing them into further isolation, harassment, bullying, victimization, and vulnerability that comes. I think the effect of that will be incalculable.”

When it came time for a committee decision, Republican Sen. Ken Bennett voted in favor of the bill but stated he had concerns with the way the bill was written and that he would have trouble supporting it for final passage in the Senate.

Then, on Monday, the bill was brought forward for a final vote on the full Senate floor. Democratic senators read statements from parents and trans youth who would be impacted by the bill as the votes rolled in. Then, Republican Sen. Bennett voted “no,” explaining his vote: “I am very concerned about putting this bill to a vote of the people. These bills combined are roughly a third of the entire US Constitution. When we put things on the ballot for people to vote on them, if something goes awry, if there are unintended consequences, we have to go back to the people to fix it.”

The defeat means that in Arizona, the question will not advance to the November ballot. However, in other states, ballot measures are currently being pursued. In California, the group “Protect Kids California” has enlisted high-profile anti-trans activists such as Chloe Cole and Chris Elston to collect signatures. Measures there would out transgender students to their parents, ban them from participating in sports and using bathrooms that match their gender identity, and would ban gender-affirming care for trans youth. Similar ballot measures are also being pursued in Colorado. Nevertheless, with the defeat of SCR1013, there may be hesitancy to push for this as a major ballot issue in 2024 in a swing state like Arizona.

Anti-LGBTQ legislation is not highly popular, especially in general election contests. In the most recent school board elections in 2023, Moms for Liberty lost 70% of their school board elections, having run primarily on anti-trans issues in schools. Meanwhile, Democrats took the House and Senate in Virginia after Gov. Glenn Youngkin pushed a party platform at rallies that targeted trans youth throughout the state. Anti-trans politics have also previously failed to help Republicans in Arizona. In the 2022 governor’s race, Republicans attempted to target Gov. Katie Hobbs’ husband for providing counseling for trans youth in the closing weeks of the campaign—a gambit that failed to swing results in their favor.

That is certainly what Gaelle Esposito, a partner at Creosote Partners who has worked with major organizations supporting transgender people in the state, believes. When asked about what the bill’s defeat says in an election year, she responded, “we are also starting to see that Republicans recognize that anti-trans hatred and pure bigotry is not a big winner for them. It’s not like they have seen time and again, including here in Arizona, that this just doesn’t play well with voters. It doesn’t sit well with people.”

Esposito added a hopeful message: “The fact that we didn’t see the full force of their network trying to squeeze them to get this on the ballot shows they know it too. That they, in an election year here in Arizona, where so much is critical for them, this went down in flames… I think shows how the tide is turning in our favor.”

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Erin Reed is a transgender woman 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.

The preceding post was previously published at Erin in the Morning and is republished with permission.

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Florida

Seminole artist brings queer indigenous lives into focus

“Sometimes that visual existence as a queer person in our community is enough,” Battiest said. “Sometimes it just starts with you”

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NBC journalist Jay Valle with his partner of seven years, Spencer Battiest. (Photo Credit: Spencer Battiest/Facebook)

By John McDonald | FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – There was no big announcement or meeting called in Spencer Battiest’s coming out story. 

“They all just kind of knew,” said Battiest, who at the age of 21, came out to his immediate family. “I did it on my own time. I’m not one to make anyone feel uncomfortable, I don’t like to say: ‘Come sit down family, I have something to say to you.’ That’s not how we as Native people are. We don’t have those moments.” 

Instead, the award-winning singer/songwriter/actor sensed acceptance as he brought his boyfriend to tribal functions on the Seminole reservation. There, he gradually introduced family members to his truth.

“Sometimes that visual existence as a queer person in our community is enough,” Battiest said. “Sometimes it just starts with you.”

On March 9, Battiest will receive the Harvey Milk Medal at the eighth annual Diversity Honors at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. Initially, Battiest said he felt unworthy of such recognition, but his partner of seven years, NBC journalist Jay Valle, pointed to the impact their relationship was having among Native Americans. 

“He had some really good words for me,” Battiest said. “He reminded me that I’ve taken him to every tribal function since we’ve been together. Fully and authentically being myself and sharing with my community and family the person that I love and share my life with — sometimes just being that can be inspiring to others.” 

Battiest started performing publicly as a 4-year-old in Broken Bow, Okla., singing at his grandfather’s church. By age 11 he was belting out the National Anthem before large crowds, an honor that continues today. 

In 2011, Battiest collaborated with his brother Doc to produce The Storm, a passion project that was critically acclaimed in the Native American music industry.

“I’ll forever sing that song no matter where I go in our career because that’s the history as taught to us by our grandparents, chairmens and family.”

Although he is half Choctaw from his father, Battiest is a member of the Seminole tribe — the Indigenous people of Florida who escaped European colonization and remain unconquered to this day. 

It is on his ancestral land that a shiny new Guitar Hotel was built and inside is a display dedicated to Spencer and Doc’s award-winning work.

“I wouldn’t be in this position if it weren’t for allies like Susan Renneisen [Hard Rock VP of Community Affairs & Special Events] who has watched me progress in my career since I was 14,” said Battiest. 

As a songwriter, Battiest doesn’t shy away from heartbreak, as evidenced in his album “Stupid In Love”, and prefers to keep lyrics gender-neutral for more universal appeal. 

“I write from a place of truth and honesty,” he said.  “As queer indigenous people, we’ve lived in a space where it hasn’t always been great.” 

Expressing vulnerability is part of the authenticity Harvey Milk proclaimed when he famously declared, “Hope will never be silent.” For Battiest that means striking the right balance. 

“I try to find harmony and peace in the life that I’ve lived and to be an example for anyone who sees me and that includes the struggle, insecurity and negative responses that come with being a queer person especially living out here in this state,” he said. “You have to find the harmony and peace that’s within yourself and for me that’s my family, tribe and partner.” 

Diversity Honors is scheduled for Saturday, March 9 at 7 p.m. and includes a cocktail reception, seated dinner and after party at the Guitar Hotel.

For tickets or more information, call (954) 463-9005, ext. 105 or visit www.diversityhonors.org.

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John McDonald is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Oregon. He has written for many publications over the course of a 29-year career that started as a high school football writer in Troy, Alabama. His memoir, Slice of Good Ol Boy Life, is available on Amazon. 

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Texas

Texas High School cancels play about Matthew Shepard

“As a queer student in this show, I’m livid it’s been cancelled not once, but 2X. People in KISD should not have the right to discriminate”

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A Timber Creek High School theatre production dress rehearsal. (File Photo Credit: Timber Creek High School - Keller ISD/Facebook)

FORT WORTH, Texas – In an email sent out to students and parents last week, officials of Timber Creek High School in suburban Ft. Worth announced that student-led production of The Laramie Project — a play about the aftermath of the 1998 murder of 21-year-old University of Wyoming freshman Matthew Shepard was cancelled.

According to The Dallas Morning News:

In the brief email to families, school leaders said they are “working on developing an alternative production opportunity for our students.” Keller Independent School District spokesman Bryce Nieman said in a statement that the decision was “made by many stakeholders.”

“The decision to move forward with another production at Timber Creek High School was based on the desire to provide a performance similar to the ones that have created much excitement from the community, like this year’s Keller ISD musical productions of Mary Poppins and White Christmas,” Nieman wrote in an email.

The Dallas Morning News also reported that parents were not given an explanation when they were informed the show was cancelled. “We understand that it is unusual for a production change like this to take place. Students will still have an opportunity to read, discuss, and analyze the play during the school day,” Nieman’s email read. 

Judy Shepard, told the paper she was disappointed. “My heart is broken when people still refuse to see how important this work is,” she said. Judy and her husband Dennis founded the Denver, Colorado-based Matthew Shepard Foundation in the months after their son’s murder 25 years ago.

The Laramie Project, written by Moisés Kaufman, is one of the many programs endorsed by the Foundation in its ongoing effort to advocate for LGBTQ+ youth and has been performed tens of thousands of times globally since it premiered at The Ricketson Theatre by the Denver Center Theatre Company in February of 2000.

The Matthew Shepard Foundation provides help and resources for those wishing to produce The Laramie Project or The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later. The Foundation’s Laramie Project Specialist can help with media, historical context, creative consulting, and other resources and services at no charge to non-profit theatres and educational and religious institutions. The Foundation can also help those who wish to engage their communities in a conversation about how to erase hate in the world.

A Change.org petition was started to get the Keller ISD administrators to reconsider their decision. A signer and Timber High School drama and theatre student who identified himself as Danny Street commented:

“As a queer student in this show, I am absolutely livid that it has been cancelled not once, but TWICE. My freshman year we were meant to perform Laramie, and it was changed right before auditions. KISD has been continuously pushing their anti-lgbtq agenda these past few years and it’s hurtful and uncalled for. This year alone we have given teachers “the right” to not call transgender students by their preferred name, which is a problem I have to face daily. The people in our district should not have the right to discriminate against its queer students. Let us tell this story, if you don’t then you are proving you’re on the wrong side of history and you stand right with the bigots who caused the demise of Matthew Shepard. Protect queer kids and queer art in schools.”

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National

Libs of TikTok’s Raichik says Washington Post reporter is a “lizard”

Chaya Raichik is livid after this weekend’s Washington Post interview revealed her to be an admitted and unrepentant liar

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Libs of TikTok is interviewed by Washington Post journalist Taylor Lorenz.in California. (Screenshot/YouTube The Washington Post)

By Joe Jervis | NEW YORK – Libs Of TikTok creator Chaya Raichik is livid after this weekend’s Washington Post interview revealed her to be an admitted and unrepentant liar who revels in accusations of having incited terrorism, which Raichik says makes her feel “important.”

Today she writes this about the reporter Taylor Lorenz: 

– she’s not at all concerned about our open border and millions of people invading our country
– she’s pro mutilation and castration of minors
– she wants p*rn in schools
– she wants the media to be allowed to defame me with impunity
– she wants me to be responsible for all reactions, comments, and actions that happen after I post a tiktok but doesn’t want to take responsibility for what happens after her reporting on me
– she’s a lizard person
– she’s scared of people knowing her age
– she’s still wearing a mask outdoors in 2024

Lorenz has said she is immuno-compromised. Of note, “lizard person” is a common QAnon claim about people they accuse of pedophilia. Many of them actually believe in literal so-called “reptilians.”

Libs also tweeted:

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Joe Jervis is a senior editor and veteran journalist whose Joe.My.God blog reaches nearly 1.5 million visitors every month as he covers issues of importance to the LGBTQ+ community.

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