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Hyatt hotel near Palm Springs accused of ‘unlawfully’ firing gay chef

Lawsuit says hotel backs supervisor who expressed ‘disgust’ for gays

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Hyatt Regency Indian Wells

Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Resort and Spa. (Photo by Prayitno via Flickr)

A lawsuit that accuses a Hyatt Regency hotel located near Palm Springs, Calif., of supporting a supervisor who allegedly hatched a scheme to fire a gay chef after expressing “disgust and repulsion” for gay people is scheduled to go to trial on Aug. 9.

The lawsuit charges the Hyatt Corporation on behalf of its Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Resort and Spa hotel located in the city of Indian Wells, Calif., near Palm Springs, with wrongful termination and four other employment-related offenses for its decision to fire Dewy Rains, 58, an openly gay chef.

The lawsuit was filed in May 2018 in the Superior Court of the State of California for the County of Riverside.
It says Rains worked at Hyatt hotels at various locations since 1998 and worked as a banquet chef at the Hyatt in Indian Wells since 2007. It says he had an “exemplary” work performance record for 19 years without a single blemish up until November 2017.

It was at that time, the lawsuit charges, that Lawrence Eells, a newly hired executive chef who became Rains’ supervisor, “fabricated” allegations to “unlawfully and pretextually justify his wrongful termination” four months later on March 23, 2018. The lawsuit names Eells as a defendant in addition to the Hyatt Corporation.

“In or around October 2017, and within just mere days of Eells’ start as the Executive Chef at Hyatt Indian Wells, Eells pulled aside [Karine] Moulin (the kitchen manager and pastry chef),” the lawsuit says. “During this conversation, Eells ‘demean[ed] and belittle[ed] other Hyatt employees,” the lawsuit states.

“For no legitimate work-related reason, Eells also demonstrated personal disgust and repulsion for Rains and another gay Hyatt employee in the culinary department, and Eells’ disagreement with their gay ‘lifestyle,’” the lawsuit attributes Moulin as saying in a sworn statement.

The lawsuit also charges the Hyatt Corporation on behalf of Eells and other company officials with engaging in age and disability related discrimination against Rains for not providing reasonable accommodations for his status as a cancer patient and his need to take off from work for medical tests.

The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT advocacy group, has given the Hyatt Corporation a perfect score of 100 in its 2019 annual Corporate Equality Index, which rates U.S. corporations on their polices for protecting the rights of LGBT employees.

A spokesperson for the Hyatt Corporation didn’t respond to a phone message from the Blade seeking comment on the lawsuit.

In court documents responding to the lawsuit, the Hyatt Corporation denies all of Rains’ allegations of discrimination, saying that Eells and other hotel officials fired Rains for legitimate job performance issues.

Among other things, a Hyatt court brief calling for a dismissal of the lawsuit on summary judgment alleges that Rains was subjected to disciplinary action because he falsified an employee time card to hide the fact that the employee showed up for work late.

“After a few weeks under a new supervisor, Plaintiff was placed on a Performance Improvement Plan [PIP] that identified over twenty areas of deficiency in his performance and did not mention anything about his age, sexual orientation, or years-old cancer diagnosis,” Hyatt’s attorneys state in a motion to dismiss the case.

“Four months later Plaintiff was fired for failing to improve his performance in the areas outlined in the PIP and for altering the schedule of one of his subordinates to conceal the subordinate’s tardiness,” the Hyatt court filing says.

It adds that Rains “never witnessed” Eells or company personnel officials say or do anything to suggest the adverse personnel action was motivated by his age, sexual orientation, or cancer diagnosis.

In his response to the Hyatt motion to dismiss, Rains’ attorney, Kamran Shahabi, argues that Hyatt’s claim that Rains suddenly performed poorly at work after Eells became his supervisor lacks any credibility.

“There is no coincidence that, after zero performance-based issues for nearly 20 years of employment with Hyatt, Rains was given a pretextual performance improvement plan (that was subsequently retracted) – and fired just months after Rains made complaints of discrimination against defendant Lawrence Eells, who was newly hired as Rains’ supervisor in late 2017,” according to court papers filed by Shahabi opposing the motion to dismiss.

Shahabi told the Blade that Rains filed an internal complaint against Eells before a Hyatt employee grievance office accusing Eells of targeting him for discrimination, among other reasons, because he’s gay. The complaint prompted Eells to retaliate against Rains, the lawsuit charges, in another action that the lawsuit says violates state law in employment cases.

In a mixed ruling on July 2, Superior Court Judge Daniel A. Ottolia rejected Hyatt Corporation’s request for a full dismissal of the lawsuit and each of its 11 claims of wrongdoing and instead agreed to dismiss six of the claims.

The judge left standing five claims of action that Shahabi said represent the heart of the case and affirm that the lawsuit presented “substantial evidence” of wrongful termination and other charges sufficient to advance the case to a trial.

The five remaining claims set for trial on Aug. 9 are wrongful termination, retaliation, failure to prevent retaliation, negligent hiring (of Eells), and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

“Frankly, the judge made our case much simpler because all of those facts related to Dewey’s sexual orientation discrimination, age, disability, etc. will come into evidence for these causes of action,” Shahabi told the Blade.

He said there have been no serious discussions of a possible settlement of the case, but Rains would be willing to consider a proposed settlement should the Hyatt Corporation offer such a settlement.

“The ball is in their court,” he said. “We’ve engaged them in discussions and they’ve kind of been not interested. But cases can settle on the doorsteps of the courthouse, so it’s always a possibility.”

This story has been updated and corrected. – KO

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U.S. Federal Courts

Federal judge tosses a NY county’s suit defending trans sports ban

Bills banning trans youth from participating in sports already have passed in 24 states, although some have been blocked by active lawsuits

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Theodore Roosevelt Federal Courthouse at 225 Cadman Plaza East in Brooklyn, New York. (Photo Credit: U.S. Courts/GSA)

BROOKLYN, N.Y. – A U.S. District Court judge ruled Friday against a pre-emptive lawsuit from Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman fighting off an attempt by New York Attorney General Letitia James to litigate his transphobic executive order barring the county’s Department of Parks, Recreation, and Museums from issuing permits to any women’s or girls’ sports team with transgender players.

“This decision is a tremendous victory for justice and the rule of law, but our work here is not done,” said Alexis Richards, a spokesperson for the Attorney General. “It’s past time for Nassau County to rescind this [executive] order and treat all our communities with the basic respect and dignity they deserve.”

Earlier this month U.S. District Court Judge Nusrat Choudhury, who is on the bench of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, denied Blakeman’s request for a temporary restraining order against the Attorney General.

In that ruling Judge Choudhury wrote that the Long Island county “falls far short of meeting the high bar for securing the extraordinary relief,” the Associated Press reported.

Among other things, Choudhury said the county failed to “demonstrate irreparable harm,” which she said was a “critical prerequisite” for such an order.

The ruling, however, doesn’t address the legality of the county’s ban or James’ request that the lawsuit be dismissed. Those issues will be decided at a later date, the Associated Press noted.

Reacting to today’s ruling in a statement released to the media Blakeman said: “We vehemently disagree with the decision and will appeal.”

On March 1st, Attorney General James sent a order of cease and desist to Blakeman demanding that the Republican Nassau County Executive rescind his February 22 directive within five days or else face additional legal actions. 

“The law is perfectly clear: you cannot discriminate against a person because of their gender identity or expression. We have no room for hate or bigotry in New York,” the Attorney General wrote. “This executive order is transphobic and blatantly illegal. Nassau County must immediately rescind the order, or we will not hesitate to take decisive legal action.” 

Last month the Nassau County Executive announced he was filing a lawsuit over the Attorney General’s actions.

Last month on March 11, the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) filed a separate lawsuit against the Nassau County Executive. The lawsuit argues that the policy violates New York’s Human Rights Law and Civil Rights Law, which explicitly prohibit discrimination based on gender identity following passage of New York’s Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA).  

“Trans people who play sports need support and affirmation, not to be a political target. Nassau County’s cynical attempt to shut them out of public spaces is a blatant violation of our state’s civil and human rights laws. It also speaks to growing, nationwide attacks against LGBTQ+ rights, and we won’t stand for this hatred here in New York,” said Gabriella Larios, staff attorney at the New York Civil Liberties Union. “As promised the day this executive order was issued, we’re taking action so that the courts relegate this harmful, transphobic policy to the dustbin of history, where it belongs.” 

The ban will remain in effect as the litigation proceeds or it is enjoined by a judge.

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West Hollywood

David Cooley makes emotional exit as owner of The Abbey WeHo

Video captured by longtime patron Edgar Alvarez shows a tearful Cooley hugging his staff and patrons as he made his way out of The Abbey WeHo

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Actress & singer Jennifer Lopez with David Cooley, the founder and now former owner of The Abbey WeHo in January of 2024 at an event honoring Cooley. (Photo Credit: The Abbey WeHo/Facebook)

By Paulo Murillo | WEST HOLLYWOOD – David Cooley, the founder and former owner of The Abbey WeHo and The Chapel at The Abbey, made a tearful exit on his last day as owner of two of West Hollywood’s most iconic nightclub on Thursday night. He officially turned over the reins over to new owner Tristan Schukraft.

The final hurrah was a low-key affair. According to a witness, at one point all the bartenders lined up to bid their former boss a final farewell, but Cooley took too long to come out from the back, so they eventually went back to work.

David Cooley’s Final Day at the Abbey – Photo courtesy of Edgar Alvarez

Video captured by longtime patron Edgar Alvarez shows a tearful Cooley hugging his staff and patrons as he made his way out of The Abbey WeHo. The crowd clapped and cheered, and people can be heard thanking him as he made his final exit.

@wehotimes David Cooley, the founder and former owner of The Abbey WeHo and The Chapel at The Abbey, made a tearful exit on his last day as owner of two of West Hollywood’s most iconic nightclub on Thursday night. He officially turned over the reigns to new owner Tristan Schukraft. The final hurrah was a low-key affair. According to a witness, at one point all the bartenders lined up to bid their former boss a final farewell, but Cooley took too long to come out from the back, so they eventually went back to work. Video captured by longtime patron Edgar Alvarez shows a tearful Cooley hugging his staff and patrons as he made his way out of The Abbey WeHo. The crowd clapped and cheered, and people can be heard thanking him as he made his final exit. As a joke, and perhaps a final nod to Cooley’s longstanding relationship with the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station, a sheriff’s deputy vehicle waited for him out front and then whisked him away in a dramatic exit while people on the sidewalk waved goodbye. #wehotimes #wehonews #wehocity #weho #westhollywood #wehonightlife #westhollywoodnightlife @The Abbey ♬ original sound – WEHO TIMES

As a joke, and perhaps a final nod to Cooley’s longstanding relationship with the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station, a sheriff’s deputy vehicle waited for him out front and then whisked him away in a dramatic exit while people on the sidewalk waved goodbye.

The Abbey Food & Bar and The Chapel at The Abbey were sold to entrepreneur Tristan Schukraft—a technology entrepreneur turned hotelier, nightlife aficionado, and well-known member of the West Hollywood LGBTQ+ community.

The Abbey and The Chapel add to Schukraft’s portfolio of businesses that enrich the LGBTQ+ community across the United States, which includes MISTR, the largest telemedicine provider of free online PrEP and long-term HIV care serving all 50 states, D.C., and Puerto Rico. More recently, Schukraft acquired and is in the process of reimagining Tryst and Circo, LGBTQ+ hotel and nightlife venues in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

“I’m excited to build on the legacy that David Cooley created over the last 33 years at The Abbey. David built a small coffee shop on an unknown side street into one of the most famous gay bars in the country, if not the world. This is both an honor and a significant responsibility,” explains Tristan Schukraft. “I plan to respect and honor The Abbey’s history while bringing new ideas that reflect our evolving LGBTQ+ community and my personal approach to hospitality. We’re not just maintaining a legacy business and an international landmark; we’re adding to the future of LGBTQ+ nightlife.”

David Cooley’s last day at The Abbey WeHo truly marks the end of an era.

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Paulo Murillo is Editor in Chief and Publisher of WEHO TIMES. He brings over 20 years of experience as a columnist, reporter, and photo journalist.

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

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Political commentary & analysis

Jimmy Kimmel Live’s hilarious faux ‘Out for Biden’ campaign ad

“It’s called ‘Out for Biden-Harris,’ which is a clunky title, but was definitely better than the original slogan: ‘I’m a Joemosexual”

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Late night host Jimmy Kimmel debuts a faux Biden-Harris reelection campaign advert poking fun at his allyship of the LGBTQ+ community. (Screenshot/YouTube Jimmy Kimmel Live ABC TV)

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. – During his opening monologue Thursday, ABC Television late night host Jimmy Kimmel took playful aim at a new push by the Biden-Harris reelection campaign’s effort to get more LGBTQ+ voters to the polls in November.

The Biden-Harris campaign on Wednesday debuted “Out for Biden-Harris,” a “national organizing and engagement program to mobilize LGBTQ+ voters, communities, and leaders across the country.”

In a press release announcement, the campaign stated: “From drag queens to elected leaders to LGBTQ+ faith leaders, Team Biden-Harris will use a wide range of validators to communicate what’s at stake for the LGBTQ+ community in this election and why it’s critical that we vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.”

In his satirical take on the announcement Kimmel noted:

“Yesterday they launched a new program to engage voters in the LGBTQ+ community,” Kimmel said, having a slight issue articulation the acronym for the community. “It’s called ‘Out for Biden-Harris,’ which is a clunky title, but was definitely better than the original slogan: ‘I’m a Joemosexual.”

The parody campaign advertisement voiced by a Biden impersonator said:

“What’s up bitches? It’s me, Joe Biden, and I’m excited to announce the launch of Out for Biden-Harris: a new campaign all about you LGBT-cuties out there,” he said. “Listen, I may be straighter than a bamboo fishing rod, but I’m the most gay-friendly president in history. Like your mother used to always say, ‘You can’t spell Biden without Bi.’ And that’s the tea.”

The campaign noted that LGBTQ voters will be “a key part” of its coalition, while 39 percent of voters consider LGBTQ equality a “make-or-break issue.”

“In 2020, nearly 11,000 LGBTQ+ volunteers mobilized to help elect President Biden and Vice President Harris,” the campaign wrote. “This year, Out for Biden-Harris will re-engage these supporters and build on their work. The program is designed around the idea that there is no better messenger to mobilize LGBTQ+ voters than their friends and neighbors to bring new supporters into our campaign.”

Related

The Biden-Harris administration is the most pro-LGBTQ in history, and LGBTQ groups with a combined 3.8 million members have endorsed President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign the Biden-Harris campaign manager Julie Chavez-Rodriguez pointed out.

“LGBTQ+ voters are a force to be reckoned with. They were critical to our victory in 2020, and they will be critical to winning again this November,” said Chavez-Rodriguez. “That’s why we’re thrilled to launch Out for Biden-Harris, which will harness the LGBTQ+ community’s organizing prowess to reelect President Biden and Vice President Harris this November.”

Watch

The Biden-Harris segment begins at the 7:22 minute mark:

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Maine

Maine House passes proposed trans & abortion shield law

Republican critics of bill to protect professionals who provide reproductive & gender-affirming care repeated disinformation to argue against

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March for Queer & Trans Youth Autonomy in Washington D.C. 2023. (Michael Key/Washington Blade)

By Evan Popp | AUGUSTA, Maine – After hours of contentious debate that stretched late into the night, the Maine House on Wednesday approved a proposed “shield law” designed to protect the state’s health professionals who provide reproductive and gender-affirming care from being targeted by other states’ bans or restrictions on such treatments.  

The chamber passed LD 227, sponsored by Anne Perry (D-Calais), by an 80-70 mostly party-line vote, with Democrats in support and Republicans opposed (with the exception of Democratic Rep. Bruce White of Waterville). The bill will now move to the Senate. 

“What this bill intends to do is to shield — and that’s why it’s called a shield law — the providers who provide this care while in the state of Maine … from another state coming in to enforce their laws on this state,” Perry said. “It is a sovereignty issue.”

The measure comes as many Republican-led states have sought to curb access to reproductive care following the overturning of federal abortion rights in 2022 and have also targeted gender-affirming care for transgender youth. So far, in reaction to such efforts, 22 states and Washington, D.C. have passed shield laws protecting abortion and eleven of those states and D.C. also have protections specifically for gender-affirming care.

The Maine Legislature’s Judiciary Committee voted down a separate shield law proposal in January. The text of LD 227 was subsequently introduced and advanced by the Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services Committee last month. 

During the House debate on the bill Wednesday night, Democratic supporters said the bill is needed to ensure health professionals can provide legally-protected care without fear of being targeted by out-of-state actors. 

In contrast, Republicans repeated claims that the bill would facilitate criminal activity — arguments that legal experts have said are not based in reality. They also expressed concern that the measure would hamstring law enforcement by preventing them from sharing information and expressed their general opposition to gender-affirming care for minors and reproductive health rights like abortion. 

In his speech, Rep. Joshua Morris (R-Turner) argued the bill would make it easier for traffickers to find safe haven in Maine, claiming the measure would allow for kids to be brought to the state without parental consent for the services mentioned in the proposal. 

The argument that LD 227 represents an attack on parental rights was also invoked by numerous opponents of the legislation. 

“I have only scratched the surface of the problems with this bill,” Morris said, also citing issues with the process, including the late introduction of the measure and a lack of publicly-available text. 

Bill proponents say claims that the bill would facilitate kidnapping and trafficking are blatant lies. And legal authorities, including Attorney General Aaron Frey, have also pushed back against such arguments. Frey told Maine Morning Star that the bill makes “no changes to criminal law, nor does it legalize any currently illegal behavior.”

“There is no reading of the bill that would authorize criminal acts, like kidnapping or trafficking,” Frey stated. 

Furthermore, in response to concerns about the bill, lawmakers on the Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services Committee narrowed it to provide protections specifically for health care professionals and those who assist them, rather than offering protections for any person. Colleen McCarthy Reid, a legislative analyst from the Office of Policy and Legal Analysis, said the change was meant to emphasize the bill’s intended use following the claims about child trafficking and kidnapping. 

During Wednesday’s debate, opponents of the bill also said they were worried about the bill’s impact on law enforcement. Rep. Scott Cyrway (R-Albion) referenced the opposition of the Maine Sheriff’s Association to LD 227. Cyrway said the provisions in the bill that prevent law enforcement from sharing information to aid another state’s investigation into a legally-protected health activity in Maine would hamper the ability of police to work with colleagues in other places to address criminal activity. 

LD 227 does prevent police from knowingly providing information for an interstate investigation into legally-protected health activity or arresting someone in relation to such treatment. However, it provides some exceptions to these rules, including: if federal law requires action, if police have a good faith belief a warrant is valid in Maine, or if there isn’t enough time to comply with the provisions of LD 227 and there is a compelling need for action because of an imminent danger to public safety. 

Republicans attack gender-affirming care

Opponents of LD 227 also denounced gender-affirming care in general during Wednesday’s debate. They said the bill would allow kids to come from out of state to get what they referred to as treatment that cannot be reversed. Multiple Republicans claimed gender-transitioning services are unproven and dangerous for youth.

“This bill will allow doctors to mutilate beautiful bodies, completely throw a child’s fertility away, and hide and ignore true mental health issues and struggles,” said Rep. Katrina Smith (R-Palermo). 

However, proponents of the measure such as Rep. Matt Moonen (D-Portland) pointed out that reproductive health care and gender-affirming care are legally protected in Maine and that LD 227 does not change the extensive regulations in place for such treatments, particularly when it comes to youth. 

As Maine Morning Star previously reported, parental consent is needed in most cases for minors to obtain gender-affirming care. A law in Maine passed last session allows for people who are at least 16 years old to receive non-surgical gender-affirming hormone therapy — not gender reassignment surgery — without a parent’s consent, but only under a set of specific circumstances.   

Furthermore, Democrats pointed out that myriad health care organizations support gender-affirming care as necessary treatment for gender dysphoria.  

Providers say they fear prohibitions on such services will lead to worse mental health outcomes for transgender youth, with the American Medical Association calling efforts to curb gender-affirming care “a dangerous intrusion into the practice of medicine.”  

Rep. Sam Zager (D-Portland), a family physician, said safe and effective gender-affirming care is crucial to young people’s mental health and overall well-being. 

“People whose gender identity does not match their assigned gender I believe deserve access to evidence-based health care for their full being, just like everybody else. So health care practitioners can’t be intimidated …from providing it,” he said. 

Lawmakers push back against Republican AGs’ letter

In pushing for passage Wednesday, multiple Democrats also referenced a letter about the bill penned in March by 15 Republican attorneys general from around the country. In the letter, the officials argued a shield law would be unconstitutional and said they would “vigorously avail” themselves of “every recourse our Constitution provides” if the bill passed.  

Democratic lawmakers called the letter an egregious attempt to intimidate legislators and a prime example of why the state needs a shield law in the first place. Proponents also cited actions such as those taken by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who issued investigative subpoenas to a Washington state hospital that he alleged violated Texas law by providing gender affirming care to Texas youths.  

“At its core, this bill is about our state’s sovereign ability to set and enforce our state’s laws without interference from Texas, Tennessee or Kentucky,” said Rep. Amy Kuhn (D-Falmouth). 

Following Wednesday’s vote, Planned Parenthood Maine Action Fund praised lawmakers for passing the bill. 

In a news release, the group’s vice president of public affairs Lisa Margulies said, “Maine is one step closer to protecting our providers of essential medical care from hostile attacks by out-of-state extremists.” Margulies applauded lawmakers who voted for the bill “in the face of vile rhetoric and lies, political posturing and threats of violence.” 

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Evan Popp

Evan Popp studied journalism at Ithaca College. He joins Maine Morning Star following three years at Maine Beacon writing about statewide politics. Before that, he worked for the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper and interned at the Progressive magazine, ThinkProgress and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

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The preceding article was previously published by the Maine Morning Star and is republished with permission.

Maine Morning Star is an independent, nonprofit and nonpartisan news site covering state policy and politics — and how they impact the lives of Maine people. We aim to hold powerful people and institutions accountable and explain how their actions affect communities from Kennebunk to Caribou.

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

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Politics

First Lady warns Trump is ‘dangerous to the LGBTQ community’

Delivering a keynote address at the HRC’s ‘Equality in Action’ event, she warned Trump is “a bully” who’s “dangerous to the LGBTQ community”

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Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson introduces the First Lady Dr. Jill Biden at the Human Rights Campaign's Equality in Action event on Friday, April 12, 2024 in Arlington, Va. (Kevin Wolf/AP Images for Human Rights Campaign)

ARLINGTON, Va. — Delivering a keynote address at the Human Rights Campaign’s ‘Equality in Action’ event Friday, First Lady Jill Biden warned former President Donald Trump is “a bully” who is “dangerous to the LGBTQ community.”

Her appearance at the three-day volunteer and board gathering at the Sheraton Pentagon City in Arlington, Virginia comes as part of the Biden-Harris reelection campaign’s “Out for Biden” program, which aims to “mobilize LGBTQ+ voters, communities, and leaders across the country.”

“Today, this community is under attack,” Mrs. Biden said. “Rights are being stripped away. freedoms are eroding. More and more state laws are being passed targeting this community. Just last month, we had to fend off more than 50 anti gay amendments that Republicans tried to force into the government funding bill.”

“These were extreme measures aimed directly at this community — measures that would have limited health care and weakened protections for same sex couples,” she said. “And they served only one purpose to spread hate and fear.”

In a nod to her long career as an educator, Mrs. Biden said, “History teaches us that our rights and freedoms don’t disappear overnight. They disappear slowly. Subtly. Silently.”

She continued, “A book ban. A court decision. A ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law. One group of people loses their rights and then another. And another. Until one day you wake up and no longer live in a democracy…This is our chapter of history and it’s up to us how it ends.”

Mrs. Biden then highlighted some of the advancements for LGBTQ rights secured under the Biden-Harris administration.

“Thanks to President Biden, marriage equality is now the law of the land,” she said. “He ended the ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood. He’s made it possible for trans Americans to serve openly and honorably in our military. And he’s standing firmly against conversion therapy.”

“Yes, there are forces outside these walls that are trying to erase these hard fought gains, trying to unwind all the progress that we’ve made,” Mrs. Biden said. “They want to take our victories away. But we won’t let them. Your President will not let them — I will not let them.”

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Tennessee

Tennessee lawmakers: “Recruiting” for trans youth care a felony

The bill was passed alongside an abortion bill that would make it illegal for adults to help minors obtain abortions without parental consent

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Tennessee Capitol Building in Nashville. (Photo Credit: State of Tennessee)

By Erin Reed | NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Republican-controlled Tennessee Senate passed a bill Thursday that would make it a felony to help a transgender youth obtain gender-affirming care.

Read broadly, the bill could apply even to those providing information about healthcare resources and laws in other states to youths in Tennessee. The bill borrows old language from anti-gay rhetoric of decades past around “recruiting” to further clamp down on information given to transgender youth about healthcare.

It signals a new phase in the fight over transgender care in the United States, potentially having nationwide repercussions and pitting the state against others that have passed shield laws protecting patient healthcare from out of state investigations.

The bill is Senate Bill 2782. The language of the bill was amended before its passage Thursday, stating that any adult who “recruits, harbors, or transports” a minor in Tennessee for the purpose of gender-affirming care could be guilty of a Class C felony, which carries a prison sentence of three to 15 years.

 Read broadly, it could prohibit discussing healthcare options available in other states with transgender youths or providing maps of “safe states” for transgender healthcare to a transgender youth, though some legal experts say that this reading is constitutionally dubious and could violate first amendment protections.

You can read the amended bill here:

The bill is not the first to target transgender people, although it is the first to specify that it applies over state lines. Some gender affirming care bans in the United States have also banned “aiding and abetting” gender affirming care, such as in Mississippi and Iowa. Those bans have sparked concern that even counselors, voice therapists, and LGBTQ+ organizations could be targeted for “aiding and abetting” transgender youth obtaining care.

The Tennessee bill was passed alongside an abortion bill that would make it illegal for adults to help minors obtain abortions without parental consent, also dubbed an “abortion trafficking” law.

If passed, Tennessee would become only the second state to enact such a law after a similar one in Idaho was blocked in court. The Idaho law uses identical language, barring “recruiting, harboring, or transporting” a pregnant minor seeking an abortion. Together, these laws represent the latest in the cross-pollination between attacks on gender-affirming care and reproductive freedom that have become increasingly common in recent years.

This has in turn led to several states passing “safe state,” “shield,” or “sanctuary” laws for transgender people and those seeking or providing abortions or gender-affirming care. Currently, 15 states have enacted legislation or policies declaring themselves “sanctuary states” for gender-affirming care and reproductive healthcare

. These shield laws assert that other states cannot subpoena healthcare legally provided within their borders, and that they maintain jurisdiction over their own territories. These shield laws have already made an impact; Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton recently attempted to subpoena medical records from Seattle Children’s Hospital, which informed him that it could not comply due to Washington’s shield law.

You can see a state map of shield laws currently in effect here:

The fight over transgender rights is spilling into a battle over jurisdictional issues that have not been litigated in over a century and a half. In response to a recent proposal in Maine to pass a shield law, 16 Republican attorneys general signed a letter authored by the AG of Tennessee stating their intention to sue Maine if they pass a law that would bar complying with requests for patient healthcare information from across state lines.

similar letter, written by Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita and signed by 18 Republican AGs, announced similar opposition to shielding abortion records. In response, the Maine Legislature passed LD227, making it the potential 16th state to enact such a shield law, despite legal threats from Republican states like Tennessee.

The Tennessee bill is slated for a subcommittee hearing on April 16th. If the bill passes, there could be a showdown between the state and other states that have acted to protect their transgender citizens and citizens seeking abortions. Likewise, there could be an enormous chilling effect on providing information about transgender healthcare to minors in the state.

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

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

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Ohio

Trans student bathroom ban bill passes Ohio House Committee

HB 183 would require Ohio K-12 schools & colleges mandate students only use bathroom or locker room that matches their sex assigned at birth

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Gender-neutral bathroom at Grant High School, Portland Oregon. (Screenshot/YouTube KGW NBC News Portland, Oregon)

By Megan Henty | COLUMBUS, Ohio – A bill that would ban transgender students from using the bathroom and locker room that matches up with their gender identity passed out of the Ohio House Higher Education Committee Wednesday by a 10-5 party line vote.

State Reps. Beth Lear, R-Galena, and Adam Bird, R-New Richmond, introduced House Bill 183 which would require Ohio K-12 schools and colleges to mandate that students could only use the bathroom or locker room that matches their sex assigned at birth. It would also prohibit schools from allowing students to share overnight accommodations with the opposite sex.

HB 183 now awaits further consideration in the House, which is next scheduled to be in session April 24. 

Parents, grandparents, and school superintendents asked Bird for this bill, he said. 

The American Medical Association officially opposes policies preventing transgender individuals from accessing basic human services and public facilities consistent with gender identity.

HB 183 would not prohibit a school from having single-occupancy facilities and it would not apply to someone helping a person with a disability or a child younger than 10 years old being assisted by a parent, guardian, or family member.

State Rep. Gayle Manning, R- North Ridgeville, thought about bringing an amendment to the committee that would have carved colleges and universities out of the bill, but she decided against it. 

“I’m hopeful we will continue to have these discussions on the removal of higher ed,” she said. “The reason being, we’re talking about adults. Universities are similar to a city with the number of students that they have. Frivolous lawsuits that will increase the cost of tuition eventually and the cost of our families.” 

Manning voted in favor of the bill even though she hopes lawmakers can continue conversations to “find a better solution.”

Bird opposes taking the higher education component out of the bill. 

“The reason I oppose that is because we have college credit plus in Ohio,” he said. “We seventh graders going to college, kids in high school going to colleges and in that college environment, we got to make sure they are protected.”

State Rep. Joe Miller, D-Amherst, vocalized his disdain for the bill before the committee voted. 

“Here we are again … taking away school districts and colleges’ ability and their leadership to make decisions that are best for providing safe, equitable access for all Ohio students,” Miller said. “I hope that this doesn’t see the floor and doesn’t see the governor’s desk.”

More than 100 people submitted opponent testimony on HB 183 and more than 30 people submitted proponent testimony. 

“We do love and care about all kids,” Bird said when asked about all the backlash the bill has received. “Me and my Republican colleagues have heard from constituents all across the state. They may not have been loud. They may not have been vocal. They may not have come with a sign to the Statehouse, but we are here representing the vast majority of Ohioans who want protections.” 

Trans advocates speak out against HB 183

Transgender advocates hosted a press conference following the House Higher Education Committee to voice their opposition to HB 183. Trans Ohio Board Member Carson Hartlage said HB 183 is harmful to all students, including cisgender students.

“Most trans non binary and gender non conforming students only begin using restrooms that align with their gender identities after they’ve experienced some form of trauma when using a restroom that aligns with their sex assigned at birth,” Hartlage said.

Thirty percent of LGBTQ+ students said they were prevented from using the bathroom that aligned with their gender, and 26% were stopped from using the locker room that aligned with their gender, according to Ohio’s 2021 state snapshot by GLSEN, which examines the school experiences of LGBTQ middle and high school students.

When looking specifically at transgender and nonbinary students, 42% were prevented from using the bathroom that aligned with their gender and 36% couldn’t use the locker room that aligned with their gender, according to the Ohio GLSEN report. 

Ohio’s first openly transgender public official and member of the Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools’ Board of Education Dion Manley shared his concerns. 

“As a trans man is I’ve been going into men’s restrooms for 25 years without incident,” Manley said. “I go visit the schools on a regular basis. So these legislators want me to go into a girls restroom in the elementary school, middle school, and high school.”

Mallory Golski, civic engagement and advocacy manager at Kaleidoscope Youth Center, said how Ohio was recently at the center of history in a positive way with Monday’s eclipse.

“We’re here reflecting on how we’re at the epicenter of another piece of history,” she said. “And unfortunately, we’re at the wrong place at the wrong time. Unlike the fleeting blackout of the total solar eclipse, the history I’m talking about here today at the statehouse leaves transgender youth in the dark.”

Jeanne Ogden’s daughter would be directly impacted by this bill. Her daughter’s college classroom building does not have single-use restrooms in the building, forcing her daughter to go across the street to use the restroom. 

“These kids getting bullied and yes, their mental health is suffering,” said Ogden, the executive director of Trans Allies of Ohio. “Trans people are tired. Parents are exhausted.”

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Megan Henry is a reporter for the Ohio Capital Journal and has spent the past five years reporting in Ohio on various topics including education, healthcare, business and crime. She previously worked at The Columbus Dispatch, part of the USA Today Network.

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The preceding article was previously published by the Ohio Capitol Journal and is republished with permission.

The Ohio Capital Journal is an independent, nonprofit news organization dedicated to connecting Ohioans to their state government and its impact on their lives. The Capital Journal combines Ohio state government coverage with incisive investigative journalism, reporting on the consequences of policy, political insight and principled commentary.

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

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Los Angeles

24-year-old trans Latina Angeleno & makeup artist shot to death

“This incident has prompted renewed calls for legislative action to address gun control and protect marginalized groups from violence”

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Meraxes Medina/Instagram

LOS ANGELES – In a tragic incident that has shaken the community and advocates for LGBTQ+ rights, Meraxes Medina, a 24-year-old transgender Latina and makeup artist, was fatally shot in Los Angeles on March 21.

According to the Los Angeles Police Department, Medina was found dead on the road in South Los Angeles. The LAPD said she was shot in the head and that there was evidence she was also struck by a vehicle. Friends and family have confirmed Medina’s identity, celebrating her life and mourning her untimely death, which marks another violent act against transgender individuals.

Medina, known for her work at Universal Studios and her vibrant presence on social media, had begun hormone therapy and was navigating life as an undocumented person who had faced homelessness. Despite these challenges, those close to her remembered her for her potential and the positive impact she had on those around her. Friends have expressed their grief and shock, emphasizing Medina’s kindness, talent, and the bright future they believed she deserved.

The circumstances surrounding Medina’s death reflect a larger pattern of violence targeting the transgender community, particularly transgender women of color. Advocacy groups have highlighted the disproportionate impact of gun violence on transgender individuals, noting that a significant percentage of homicides within this community involve firearms.

The incident has prompted renewed calls for legislative action to address gun control and protect marginalized groups from violence.

California chapters of groups with Everytown for Gun Safety released a statement underscoring Medina was at least the third transgender person killed by gun violence in the U.S.

“We cannot ignore the disproportionate impact of gun violence on our transgender and gender-expansive neighbors, especially its impact on Black trans women and trans Latinas. We must honor Meraxes’ legacy by continuing to fight to protect our transgender and gender-expansive communities not only in California, but across the country,” said Ashley Castillo, a student leader with Students Demand Action and National Organizing Board Member.

As the investigation continues, Medina’s death serves as a poignant reminder of the urgent need for a societal shift to ensure the safety and dignity of all individuals, regardless of gender identity. “The loss of Meraxes Medina is not only a tragedy for those who knew her but also a call to action to combat hate and violence against the transgender community,” said one activist.

“Meraxes was a young woman who deserved to live out a long and fulfilling life. At just 24-years-old, she had so much more to give. Yet again, we find ourselves honoring the life and mourning the loss of someone from our transgender community killed by gun violence, and that alarming reality should emphasize our collective need to fight against lax gun laws. We need to come together and remind everyone, especially lawmakers and politicians, that our lives are worth saving and worth living,” said Tori Cooper, Human Rights Campaign Director of Community Engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative.

Bamby Salcedo, President/CEO of The TransLatin@ Coalition, issed the following statement:  “It’s unfortunate that our sister Meraxes Medina had to perish to the ignorance and violence that we continue to experience as a community, and these are just another examples of what our lives are, and we want to ensure that we hold elected officials accountable for bettering our lives and our future.”

KABC 7 reported between 2017 and 2023, there were 263 reported homicides of transgender people in the U.S., according to the organization. A gun was used in 193 of them.

In California, there were 14 homicides of transgender people reported between 2018 and 2024 so far, and 37% were in Los Angeles.

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National

Day of [no] silence, a call to speak out against anti-LGBTQ+ hate

GLSEN reframes its Day of Silence to confront the alarming rise in anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment, the message is clear: the time for action is now

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GLSEN/Los Angeles Blade graphic

NEW YORK – In a move to counteract the surge in anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, GLSEN, a leading national organization advocating for safe and inclusive schools for LGBTQ+ youth, has announced a significant shift in its annual Day of Silence event. 

Traditionally observed as a silent protest against LGBTQ+ discrimination and bullying, this year’s event will transform into the Day of (No) Silence, calling on advocates, students, educators, and allies to actively speak out against the wave of exclusionary policies sweeping across the nation.

Scheduled for April 12, 2024, the Day of (No) Silence emerges in response to over 470 anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced in state legislatures throughout the United States. The event’s reimagining encourages participants to leverage their voices, platforms, and votes to demand legislative support and protection for the LGBTQ+ community, especially trans and non-binary individuals.

“Education is the cornerstone of our democracy, yet it’s under attack by those with the  loudest voices pushing hateful agendas, using trans and queer students as pawns,” said GLSEN Executive Director, Melanie Willingham-Jaggers. “From bathroom bans to book bans, the attacks on our education system are relentless and widespread. It’s on us, as adults, to rise up for every child’s right to a safe and inclusive education. That’s why this year, we refuse to remain silent. We’re rising together, using our collective voices to fight back against these injustices. While some students are silenced by censorship laws or unsafe school environments, if you can, I urge you to join us. Speak up, vote, use your platform, and support GLSEN programs. Together, let’s build a future where every student can thrive.” 

The organization has laid out a comprehensive action plan for participants to follow on April 12th, ranging from using social media platforms to share student stories and resources, participating in the National School Climate Survey, to educators creating an inclusive classroom environment through GLSEN’s Rainbow Library.

In an interview with The Blade,  GLSEN’s Director of Communications Madison Hamilton, expounded on the shift to Day of (No) Silence. “It is imperative, with the over 480 hateful anti LGBT+ bills that have been presented this year alone that we make this shift,” Hamilton said. “We have heard from students and educators in our network, telling us that they want to take action and speak out. The silent protest is just not working anymore.”

Hamilton also addressed the broader impacts of discrimination, highlighted by the tragic murder of 16-year-old nonbinary Oklahoma resident, Nex Benedict, a vivid reminder of the deadly consequences of anti-LGBTQ+ hate. GLSEN’s statement underscores the urgent need for accountability and a collective fight against extremism targeting queer and trans youth within the educational system.

“At GLESN we believe education is the cornerstone of our democracy. All this hate rhetoric leads to hate crimes. Nex was in that bathroom because politicians in Oklahoma required them to be in that bathroom,” Hamilton told The Blade, emphasizing that holding adults accountable for their hateful rhetoric against the community is imperative to creating a more inclusive society in schools and beyond. 

GLSEN offers resources for educators, including an action guide for creating supportive environments for LGBTQ+ students, and calls on allies to engage in various forms of advocacy, such as hosting events, volunteering, and fundraising, to support the cause.

As GLSEN reframes its Day of Silence to confront the alarming rise in anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment, the message is clear: the time for action is now. By raising our voices, we can push back against discrimination, celebrate diversity, and pave the way for a future where all students can thrive, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

GLSEN is the nation’s leading organization dedicated to creating safe and inclusive K-12 schools for LGBTQ+ students. Founded over 34 years ago, it works tirelessly to combat harassment and discrimination through education, policy advocacy, and community building.
For more information on how to participate in the Day of (No) Silence and support LGBTQ+ youth, visit www.glsen.org.

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Los Angeles County

City of Malibu backing two bills aimed at making PCH safer

Between March 11 & 17, the Malibu CPH Task Force issued 109 citations (88 for speeding & two for distracted driving)

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CHP patrol cruiser on Pacific Coast Highway (CA-1) near Malibu during a traffic stop. (Photo Credit: California Highway Patrol Media Affairs)

MALIBU, Calif. – The City of Malibu is supporting efforts by officials in Sacramento to increase and ensure efforts aimed at making the Pacific Coast Highway safer for drivers and pedestrians.

In a statement a spokesperson said that as part of the City’s commitment to addressing PCH safety and ensuring public safety in the community, the City sent a delegation of officials to Sacramento to support two State traffic safety bills, SB 1297 and SB 1509. Both bills were approved by the key State Senate Transportation Committee April 9 and will continue through the legislative process.

SB 1297, introduced by Senator Allen (co-authored by Assemblymember Irwin and Senators Stern and Friedman), would expand the State’s automated speed safety pilot program to allow the City of Malibu to participate. The City has advocated for the installation of the speed camera systems on PCH that can automatically issue citations to speeding motorists as one of the steps to help improve safety on PCH.

AB 1509, the NOT in California Act, was introduced by Senator Stern (co-authored by Senators Allen, Niello, Seyarto and Umberg), and would amend the CA Vehicle Code to make convictions of driving 26 MPH or greater over the posted speed limit, a two-point violation against a person’s driver’s license.

Malibu Mayor Pro Tem Doug Stewart, City Manager Steve McClary, Deputy City Manager Alexis Brown gave testimony and advocated for the Bills.

They were joined by Barry Stewart, whose daughter Peyton was one of the four Pepperdine students who were tragically killed by a speeding motorist while walking on PCH in October 2023, and Michel Shane, whose 13-year-old daughter Emily was tragically killed by a motorist while walking on PCH in 2010. Shane produced the powerful, moving film “21 Miles” about the dangers of PCH in Malibu. Both gave impassioned testimony about the dangers of PCH and the urgent need to improve safety conditions on the highway.

According to the California Highway Patrol, between March 11 and 17, the Malibu CPH Task Force issued 109 citations (88 for speeding; two for distracted driving; one for a seatbelt violation; and 18 for equipment violations). Four verbal warning were issued. One driver was stopped for speeding, and was arrested for DUI. Year-to-date, the CHP Malibu Taskforce has issued 721 citations. 

The City Council on March 25 approved sending a letter urging Governor Gavin Newsom, State Senator Ben Allen, Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin, LA County Supervisor Lindsey Horvath, LA County Sheriff Robert Luna, California Secretary of Transportation Toks Omishakin, and Caltrans Director Tony Tavares to work collaboratively to make changes to the State Vehicle Code to help address PCH safety. The changes include: 

  • Anybody who exceeds 100 MPH shall lose their driver’s license for three months, and anybody who exceeds 100 MPH more than once in a 12-month period shall lose their driver’s license for six months.
  • Anybody who exceeds twice the posted speed limit shall lose their driver’s license for one month, and anybody who exceeds twice the posted speed limit more than once in a 12-month period shall lose their driver’s license for two months. 
  • The loss of license in these instances shall be mandatory not discretionary.

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