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Straight Pride flops

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Modesto residents had every right to be concerned about the Straight Pride rally announced for their city on Aug. 24. Last month, a 19-year-old gunman fired an AK-47 style semiautomatic into the Gilroy Garlic Festival about an hour away from Modesto, killing three and wounding 13 others before turning the gun on himself. On Aug. 6, the FBI announced an investigation into domestic terrorism because the Gilroy mass shooter left a list of other potential targets. By then, there had been two more lone wolf mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio. White supremacy seemed ubiquitous.

Some associated Straight Pride with white supremacy since the National Straight Pride Coalition website promotes heterosexuality, describes “Caucasians” as “the biological majority of the historical developers and founders of Western Civilization,” and seeks to prevent “the current and future generations of all races and colors from being destroyed by the inherent malevolence of the Homosexual Movement toward our founding principles.”

Additionally, Straight Pride founder Don Grundmann had joined the local chapter of the Proud Boys, designated a California hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and he invited the boys to attend the rally. They declined. However, at least one supporter of the Family Research Council showed up.

The Modesto police were more concerned about the militant anti-fascist group antifa showing up to fight with the anti-LGBTQ conservatives. The Proud Boys and antifa mixed it up last Saturday in Portland (again) but the police had prevented a major rumble. Afterwards, a Proud Boy leader was caught on tape admitting that they stage events in order to fight and force the city to waste money defending their right to free speech against their anti-fascist foes.

Photo of police surveillance via Twitter

The Modesto Police Department was braced for any eventuality, city spokesperson Thomas Reeves told the Los Angeles Blade. But Straight Pride supporters had the right to gather on a sidewalk and express their opinions after the city denied them a permit.

And that’s what happened. Only Straight Pride was overwhelmed by counter-protesters chanting “No Hate, No Fear, Straight Pride is not welcome here!” There were a few scuffles, but the police presence was massive and intervened quickly. The crowd started filtering home by 2:50PM in the 93 degree heat.

“The city recognizes that many sides of the demonstration today were able to express themselves in a peaceful manner.  We are proud of the work of our law enforcement team in keeping safe our residents and our facilities,” Reeves told the Los Angeles Blade via email on Saturday.

The Modesto Police Department estimated the crowd size at about 200 people but did not differentiate between Straight Pride supporters and counter-protesters. The reporter for FOX40, however, estimated that the counter-protesters were nearly 200 people while Grundmann and his Straight Pride co-organizer Mylinda Mason of the California Republican Assembly could only muster about a dozen supporters.

After the city denied his request to use the park’s amphitheater, Grundmann pledged the rally would go on, but he didn’t say where. The Modesto Bee found him and several other speakers addressing “a seated crowd at the Durrer Barn west of Modesto” at a private event.

At 12:10pm, the Bee posted that: “A man locking the gate at the Durrer Barn identified himself as an owner. He told a Bee reporter that “the event is over” and “the sheriff is on his way.”

The meeting location had apparently been decided very early Saturday morning, with no advance warning to the owner.

From the Modesto Bee live blog:

“Update, 1:15 p.m.: Stanislaus County Supervisor Terry Withrow, a friend of the Durrer family, said the family had no idea that the event being held in its barn had to do with straight pride.

The Durrers were told it was a family event and they feel “hoodwinked,” Withrow said. Once they learned what was happening, they shut it down.

Grundmann, however, maintains that the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department had them close the venue down “for fear of protests and violence.”

Tom Mason from Sacramento, who attended the morning event, thought there were about 40 or 50 people at the barn. He learned of the location through a phone call at 7 a.m., and said people entering were questioned and screened before being admitted.”

Meanwhile, counter-protesters showed up at Enslen Park, along with mounted police. The event featured several speakers, booths and dancing to build community empowerment. The Modesto Bee later estimated the crowd at about 250 people.

“I wanted to come out here and be peaceful and rally with a bunch of people of the rainbow colors and have a great day,” said Michelle Riddle told the Sacramento CBS affiliate.

“We are rejecting this presence of hate, that we are rejecting the values that this Straight Pride Coalition represents like white nationalism and homophobia,” Max Reed, a member of the Modesto Non-Violent Collective who helped organize the counter-protest, told Fox40.”This community is standing together to reject this group and what they represent.”

“When people want to come into your own backyard and spread a message that you don’t agree with then you have a right to stand up against that too,” Modesto NAACP member Wendi Burg told Fox 40.

Around 12:40 p.m, Grandmann finally announced on his website where they were holding “our Parade”—the large Planned Parenthood parking lot on McHenry Avenue in Modesto. By 1:00pm the counter-protesters arrived at the parking lot from the park and the two sides converged.

Grundmann seemed thrilled to be the center of attention. “Masculinity it’s okay to be a man. femininity, it’s okay to be a woman,” Don Grundmann told the African American Fox40 reporter. “Masculinity, femininity, the natural family of man, woman children, babies, born and unborn western civilization, Caucasians and all people, all of those are basic foundations that are under attack.”

By 2:50, the crowd started to dissipate, with Modesto Police declaring the streets clear by 3:16. “We would like to thank them for remaining peaceful, expressing themselves in a respectful manner while embracing our community’s diversity,” the department said in a tweet.

“This is not what Modesto is about,” Reed said. “We’re about inclusion and diversity and unity.”

And for a few hours on Saturday, Aug. 24, 2019, ordinary citizens got to bravely stand up together to shout down the piddling ugly forces of homophobia and white supremacy.

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U.S. Federal Courts

On 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade- is it the last? Biden & others weigh in

The whole country is waiting for the Supreme Court to decide on one of the most serious challenges to abortion rights since the Roe v. Wade

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Abortion opponents gathered Friday for the annual March for Life March and Rally (Screenshot via WUSA CBS9)

WASHINGTON – As thousands gathered on the National Mall in D.C. Friday for the annual anti-abortion ‘March for Life March and Rally 2022,’ there were signs among the speakers and the participants gathered of a renewed sense of optimism that with a pending Supreme Court case, this year maybe the last annual gathering as the court looks poised to overturn Roe v. Wade.

“We are hoping and praying that this year, 2022, will bring a historic change for life,” Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund, said at the event, The Associated Press reported.

A large portion of the crowd during the March for Life rally on Friday was made up of young people, with some holding signs saying they were the “pro-life generation.”

The whole country is waiting for the Supreme Court to decide on one of the most serious challenges to abortion protections that the institution heard since the Roe v. Wade decision 49 years ago, which gave women the constitutional right to abortion.

The justices of the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments this past December, in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case involving a Mississippi law that bans nearly all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. 

Mississippi’s Gestational Age Act, passed in 2018 but has been blocked by two lower federal courts, allows abortion after 15 weeks “only in medical emergencies or for severe fetal abnormality” and has no exception for rape or incest. If doctors perform abortions outside the parameters of the law, they will have their medical licenses suspended or revoked and may be subject to additional penalties and fines.

The lack of access is felt most heavily by marginalized people, says Kari White, a sociologist at the University of Texas at Austin and researcher with the Mississippi Reproductive Health Access Project. She was the lead author of a study published last month in the journal Contraception that found that Mississippians were more likely to wait longer for an abortion if they were low-income or Black, NPR reported.

In an analysis published by SCOTUS blogAmy Howe noted;

If the justices overturn Roe and Casey, the Guttmacher Institute estimates that 26 states (including Mississippi) will implement complete bans on abortion. Although the stakes in the case are thus obviously high, Mississippi takes pains to assure the justices that overruling Roe and Casey would not have ripple effects beyond abortion rights. It distinguishes abortion from other constitutionalized privacy interests, such as interracial marriage and same-sex marriage, saying that those interests – unlike abortion – do not involve the “purposeful termination of a potential life.”

In a statement to the Los Angeles Blade after the oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization last December had concluded, Shannon Minter, the Legal Director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) warned;

“[Today’s] arguments should be a wakeup call for LGBTQ people. We must face the reality of a Supreme Court packed by one of the most reactionary presidents of our time, and we must get serious about passing a federal law that protects basic rights and liberties for our community. If you care about LGBTQ equality, it is essential as never before to do everything within your power to elect fair-minded local, state, and federal officials and to engage in real dialogue with those who do not yet fully understand or support LGBTQ people. We do not have the luxury of disengagement or passivity. If you are not actively involved in supporting a federal civil rights law for LGBTQ people, you are part of the problem.”

Minter further cautioned;

“While restrictions on abortion primarily harm women, they also compound the challenges that trans men and nonbinary people already face in accessing gynecological and reproductive health care. Being a trans man or a nonbinary individual who needs an abortion is often a nightmare even in jurisdictions that support reproductive freedom. In places like Texas, which are making abortions inaccessible to anyone, it is terrifying,”

“My heart goes out to the trans and nonbinary people who are living in fear, praying they never need this care, and that if they do, they can find a way out of the state. And for those who know they can’t afford to travel or pay for out-of-state care, there is no hope,” he added.

Graphic via NBC News

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris released a joint statement Saturday commemorating the 49th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade;

The constitutional right established in Roe v. Wade nearly 50 years ago today is under assault as never before. It is a right we believe should be codified into law, and we pledge to defend it with every tool we possess. We are deeply committed to protecting access to health care, including reproductive health care—and to ensuring that this country is not pushed backwards on women’s equality.

In recent years, we have seen efforts to restrict access to reproductive health care increase at an alarming rate. In Texas, Mississippi, and many other states around the country, access to reproductive health care is under attack. These state restrictions constrain the freedom of all women. And they are particularly devastating for those who have fewer options and fewer resources, such as those in underserved communities, including communities of color and many in rural areas.

The Biden-Harris Administration strongly supports efforts to codify Roe, and we will continue to work with Congress on the Women’s Health Protection Act. All people deserve access to reproductive health care regardless of their gender, income, race, zip code, health insurance status, immigration status, disability, or sexual orientation. And the continued defense of this constitutional right is essential to our health, safety, and progress as a nation.

We must ensure that our daughters and granddaughters have the same fundamental rights that their mothers and grandmothers fought for and won on this day, 49 years ago—including leaders like the late Sarah Weddington, whose successful arguments before the Supreme Court led to the landmark Roe v. Wade decision in 1973.

At this pivotal moment, we recommit to strengthening access to critical reproductive health care, defending the constitutional right established by Roe, and protecting the freedom of all people to build their own future.

A recent poll conducted by CNN found that a large majority of Americans — almost 70 percent — said that they oppose overturning Roe v. Wade. Thirty percent of respondents said that they supported the move. 

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Pennsylvania

New GOP majority city council to repeal LGBTQ+ law in Pennsylvania

“I don’t know of any reasons for repealing it other than a political move […] This issue should not be politicized”

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Chambersburg, Pennsylvania (Photo Credit: Borough of Chambersburg)

CHAMBERSBURG – The council of this central Pennsylvania borough (town) will meet on Monday, January 24 for a likely vote to repeal an ordinance passed this last October that safeguards residents against discrimination based on their sexual orientation, ethnicity or gender identity.

Opposition to the ordinance is led by newly installed borough council president Allen Coffman, a Republican. In an interview with media outlet Penn Live Saturday, Coffman said, “All of us that ran in this election to be on council we think we got a mandate from the people,” he said. “People we talked to when we were campaigning did not like this ordinance at all. I don’t know what the vote will be, but I have a pretty good idea.”

The political makeup of the council changed with the November municipal election, which ushered in a 7-3 Republican majority.

The ordinance, which extends protections against discrimination to gay, transgender or genderqueer people in employment, housing and public accommodations, was passed in October by the then-Democratic majority council, Penn Live reported.

“I don’t know of any reasons for repealing it other than a political move,” said Alice Elia, a Democrat and the former Chambersburg borough council president. “This issue should not be politicized. It’s an issue of justice and having equal protection for everybody in our community. It shouldn’t be a political or a Democratic or Republican issue. This should be something we are all concerned about.”

Coffman told Penn Live that the ordinance serves no purpose and is redundant. He points out that Pennsylvania’s Human Relations Commission handles discrimination complaints from residents across the state.

“There are no penalties, no fines,” he said. “There’s nothing that the ordinance can make someone do. The most they can hope for is that the committee request the two parties to sit down with a counselor or mediator and talk about it. Quite frankly there is nothing that compels them to. There’s no teeth in this.”

Penn Live’s Ivey DeJesus noted if Chambersburg succeeds in repealing the ordinance, it would mark the first time an LGBTQ inclusive law is revoked in Pennsylvania. To date, 70 municipalities have ratified such ordinances.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is one of the 27 states in the nation that have no explicit statewide laws protecting people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations.

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Virginia

Virginia Republican lawmaker introduces anti-Trans youth sports bill

Under the bill, male students are not permitted to participate on any school athletic team or squad designated for ‘females’

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Virginia State Capitol building (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

RICHMOND – A Virginia lawmaker has introduced a bill that would ban transgender students from joining school sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity.

Senate Bill 766, which state Sen. Jennifer Kiggans (R-Virginia Beach) introduced on Friday, would require “each elementary or secondary school or a private school that competes in sponsored athletic events against such public schools to designate athletic teams, whether a school athletic team or an intramural team sponsored by such school, based on biological sex as follows: (i) ‘males,’ ‘men,’ or ‘boys’; (ii) ‘females,’ ‘women,’ or ‘girls’; or (iii) ‘coed’ or ‘mixed.’”

“Under the bill, male students are not permitted to participate on any school athletic team or squad designated for ‘females,’ ‘women,’ or ‘girls’; however, this provision does not apply to physical education classes at schools,” adds the bill. “The bill provides civil penalties for students and schools that suffer harm as a result of a violation of the bill. Such civil actions are required to be initiated within two years after the harm occurred.”

Kiggans introduced her bill less than a week after Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin took office.

Youngkin during his campaign said he does not support allowing trans children to play on sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity. Elizabeth Schultz, an anti-LGBTQ former member of the Fairfax County School Board, has been named the Virginia Department of Education’s Assistant Superintendent of Public Instruction.

The General Assembly’s 2022 legislative session began on Jan. 12 with Republicans in control of the state House of Delegates. Democrats still control the state Senate, and they have pledged to thwart any anti-LGBTQ bills.

“Let’s be clear: This is part of an ongoing, nationwide effort to exclude trans people from enjoying the benefits of sports like their cisgender peers,” tweeted the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia on Friday after Kiggans introduced SB 766. “We won’t tolerate this.

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