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Kevin Spacey accuser dies suddenly but lawsuit may proceed

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Kevin Spacey. (Screen grab from YouTube)

Attorney’s for Kevin Spacey have filed a notice in U. S. District Court this week to dismiss the federal sexual assault lawsuit against the actor. In an article published Wednesday morning, The Hollywood Reporter wrote that the individual, who had sued Spacey as a “John Doe,” a legal maneuver allowed by U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Lew this past May over objections by Spacey’s defense team, had died.

According to the Reporter, the plaintiff had filed claims in Sept. 2018 in which he alleged being forced to grab Spacey’s genitals during a massage session in 2016 at a private residence in Malibu. 

The death occurred less than a month after the parties came to a plan for proceeding in the suit that detailed prospective discovery and envisioned a 7-to-11 day trial, the Reporter wrote adding that no further detail was provided, and a request to the plaintiff’s attorney for more information by the paper was not answered by the time the Reporter published.

The lawsuit could continue by the heirs of “John Doe,” though the issue of anonymity provides a complicating wrinkle. To show standing to sue, the heirs would likely have to identify the deceased accuser after getting a green light to administer his estate in probate court.” The Reporter notes adding, “A judge might also be less inclined to protect the privacy interests of the deceased. Even if the case moves forward, the loss of the most important witness to the alleged sexual assault would make it difficult to litigate.”

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Missouri

Planned Parenthood will fight Missouri AG on trans youth records

Lawyers representing Planned Parenthood and the Missouri AG argued Monday over HIPPA protections during a St. Louis Circuit Court hearing

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Advocates with PROMO and Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri rally outside of the St. Louis Civil Courts building Monday afternoon (Annelise Hanshaw/Missouri Independent).

By Annelise Hanshaw | ST. LOUIS, Mo. – A circuit court judge heard arguments Monday over whether the Missouri attorney general’s efforts to access medical records of transgender youth violate privacy protections.

Monday’s hearing was convened at the request of Bailey in the hopes that the court would amend a previous order that requires patients to waive HIPAA rights before their medical records could be shared. If they don’t waive HIPAA, their documents would be exempt from the attorney general’s request for medical records.

HIPAA, which stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, protects patients from their providers disclosing their personally identifiable health information.

St. Louis Circuit Court Judge Joseph Whyte did not immediately rule following the hearing. Richard Muniz, interim president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, said if the decision is unfavorable, his organization will appeal.

“Our commitment to our patients is that we will fight this as long as we need to,” Muniz told The Independent. “Today, we’ve already signaled that we are going to appeal because we think that we shouldn’t have to turn over documents, especially patient records, but we shouldn’t have to partake in this investigation at all.”

Bailey launched his investigation in March 2023 looking into gender-affirming care of minors after the affidavit of Jamie Reed, who worked at Washington University’s adolescent Transgender Center. In April, another circuit court judge ruled that Bailey may continue his investigation — adding that patients must waive HIPAA rights before their private health information could be shared.

Children’s Mercy in Kansas City, Washington University and Planned Parenthood Great Plains are also arguing against the attorney general’s civil investigative demands.

The April decision, beyond giving patients the ability to protect their medical records, granted Bailey power to investigate Planned Parenthood under the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act, a state law that allows the attorney general’s office to investigate deceptive marketing practices.

Matthew Eddy, an attorney representing Planned Parenthood said during his arguments Monday that the attorney general’s authority under the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act has yet to be fully litigated.

Health care providers are fearful of what the attorney general might do with more information. Prior reporting by The Independent revealed Bailey’s use of the Division of Professional Registration, which is investigating therapists as a result of a complaint from his office.

After the attorney general’s office received a list of minor patients that received care at the Washington University Transgender Center and other documents, therapists and social workers that had written letters of support for patients to go to the Transgender Center had their licenses at risk. As of early May, 16 of 57 cases were still open.

Hearing

Deputy Solicitor General Sam Freeland, representing the attorney general, argued Monday that a federal regulation allows medical records to be released when ordered by the court. He told the judge this exception was “not discussed by the plaintiff.”

“HIPAA has not barred the disclosure of the documents in question,” Freeland argued.

He said Planned Parenthood had the burden of proof to show that HIPAA covers the documents.

Eddy this was “simply not correct.”

“Planned Parenthood has proven the general rule that HIPAA protects disclosure,” he said. “The burden is on the respondent to show that the exception applies.”

Eddy further attacked the premise of Bailey’s investigation, which Freeland argued was not on the table Monday.

He said the attorney general’s civil investigative demands, which Eddy said were titled as an investigation into the Washington University Transgender Center, “had no allegations as to Planned Parenthood’s conduct.”

“He can’t point to a single complaint from a patient, a patient’s parent,” Eddy said.

Eddy said the attorney general “had 54 incredibly broad requests for information.”

“Included in the requests are information that would be deeply sensitive to transgender minors,” he told the judge.

Muniz told reporters one of the requests was for “any document that mentions TikTok,” calling the investigation a “sprawling phishing expedition.”

In press releases, Bailey has expressed a belief that all gender-affirming medical providers are connected.

“I launched this investigation to obtain the truth about how this clandestine network of clinics subjected children to puberty blockers and irreversible surgery, often without parental consent,” he said in a statement following the hearing Monday. “We are moving forward undeterred with our investigation into Planned Parenthood. I will not stop until all bad actors are held accountable.”

Muniz said Planned Parenthood does not have a formal relationship with Washington University, which was the focus of Reed’s affidavit and the beginning of Bailey’s investigation.

Supporters of Planned Parenthood rallied before the hearing, calling the investigation a political attack.

“(Bailey) only wants (the records) so he can politicize gender affirming care and to put a target on transgender and gender-non-conforming patients,” Margot Riphagen, Planned Parenthood St. Louis’s vice president of external affairs, said during the rally.

Katy Erker-Lynch, executive director of LGBTQ advocacy organization PROMO, called the attorney general’s actions “scary.”

“He has pushed credentialing committees of social workers, professional counselors and family and marital therapists to investigate every single provider on the eastern side of the state that has offered a letter of support for a trans or gender expansive kid to receive care,” she said, referencing a Division of Professional Registration investigation that stemmed from the AG’s complaint.

Around 40 people attended the rally, filling the courtroom until a small group were standing in the back. Most wore t-shirts with phrases like “protect trans kids” or “I fight with Planned Parenthood” and filed into the seats behind Planned Parenthood’s lawyers before sitting on the opposing side.

“Thank you,” a few people told Eddy as they walked out of the St. Louis courtroom.

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Annelise Hanshaw

Annelise Hanshaw writes about education — a beat she has covered on both the West and East Coast while working for daily newspapers in Santa Barbara, California, and Greenwich, Connecticut. A born-and-raised Missourian, she is proud to be back in her home state.

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The preceding article was previously published by The Missouri Independent and is republished with permission.

The Missouri Independent is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization dedicated to relentless investigative journalism and daily reporting that sheds light on state government and its impact on the lives of Missourians. This service is free to readers and other news outlets.

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

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Montana

Montana court hears arguments defining sex as ‘male’ or ‘female’

The bill drew national attention from critics, who said it left no place for those who don’t fit a biologically narrow definition

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Thane Johnson, representing the state of Montana, gestures in Missoula County District Court during arguments over a bill that defines sex as “male” and “female.” (Keila Szpaller/The Daily Montanan)

By Keila Szpaller | MISSOULA, Mont. – Defining “sex” makes some people think back on the President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky scandal — so said lawyer Kyle Gray on Tuesday in Missoula County District Court.

In that case, the president swore he didn’t have “sexual relations” with a White House intern, but questions swirled around what exactly had been happening in the Oval Office when it came to sex.

 Lawyer Kyle Gray, left, with Holland & Hart, argues on behalf of plaintiffs who allege Senate bill 458 is unconstitutional. Lawyer Alex Rate, right, with the ACLU of Montana, also represents plaintiffs.
(Keila Szpaller/The Daily Montanan)

Gray, representing plaintiffs in a lawsuit over a 2023 bill that defines “sex,” said the word can mean sexual intercourse as much as it can refer to “male” and “female.”

Senate Bill 458, the subject of litigation, aims to define sex as “male” or “female.”

The Montana Constitution, however, says the public needs to have a clear idea of the topic of a bill, and that a bill must have “only one purpose.” As such, Gray argued SB 458 missed the mark.

The bill’s title is “an act generally revising the laws to provide a common definition for the word sex when referring to a human.” It lists 41 sections of law to be revised.

“It’s the poster boy for violating the single-subject clearly expressed in the title of the bill,” said Gray, of Holland & Hart.

On behalf of the State of Montana, however, attorney Thane Johnson told Judge Shane Vannatta the point of the “single subject” rule is to prevent fraud and deception. It ensures a bill isn’t hiding things or keeping information under wraps, he said, and SB 458 spells out its plan for updates.

SB 458 defines sex as male or female, and Johnson said the title “puts the world on notice” of its intent for numerous updates. Additionally, he said, a title can’t rule out all other interpretations without going on at length.

“Plaintiffs’ argument would lead to absurd results because our title would just … fill up pages,” Johnson said.

In 2023, the Montana Legislature adopted the controversial bill that defined sex based on people’s reproductive organs and the cells they produce at the time of birth.

In response, the American Civil Liberties Union of Montana sued the state of Montana on behalf of Shawn Reagor, Dandilion Cloverdale, Jamie Doe, Linda Troyer and Jane Doe, alleging the law “is hopelessly confusing, overbroad, and … invades the province of the courts.”

The bill drew national attention from critics, who said it left no place for people who don’t fit the biologically narrow and unscientific definition. The Human Rights Campaign referred to it as the “LGBTQ+ Erasure Act.”

Tuesday, however, the parties argued only about whether the bill’s title got crosswise with the Montana Constitution’s requirement that a bill generally address only one topic, and that its title clearly expresses it.

In the argument for the state, Johnson said the title did refer to a common definition of sex, and he pointed to Webster’s Dictionary as one piece of evidence. He also explained the rationale behind the bill as addressing an idea that’s emerged in the last 10 years or so.

“The legislature just felt the need to define that term more clearly under the concept of modern times, and I don’t think there’s any question that this is the state of affairs that we are in,” Johnson said.

Although Johnson said the bill meets the single subject requirement, he said he believes it fits better as one of the exceptions to the rule. To that end, he peeled apart the requirement in Article 5 Section 11 subsection 3 of the state constitution:

“Each bill, except general appropriation bills and bills for the codification and general revision of the laws, shall contain only one subject, clearly expressed in its title. If any subject is embraced in any act and is not expressed in the title, only so much of the act not so expressed is void.”

Johnson argued the constitution allows for three exceptions — appropriation bills, codification bills, and general revision bills — and said SB 458 fit the exception given it was “generally revising” the law.

But he said the bill is constitutional either way, whether it’s an exception to the rule, as he believes, or it’s not.

Vannatta asked Johnson about “male” and “female” not being in the title, and Johnson pointed out the title refers to “humans.” Vannatta also wanted to know how the state responded to sex referring also to intercourse, but Johnson said the court is “obligated to liberally construe the definition.”

Vannatta had asked the plaintiffs whether the concepts of “male” and “female” don’t naturally flow from the term “sex,” as the defendants allege. Gray countered that defining sex led her to think of the political scandal with Clinton.

Gray also said the language about bill titles had never been interpreted the way the state was interpreting it. She said the point is to ensure the public knows what is taking place, and a reference to “generally revising” in the title doesn’t cut it.

“A bill generally revising laws about dogs wouldn’t tell you that the legislature has decided to outlaw rabies,” Gray said as an example.

In this case, Gray said the title appears to be “very deceptive,” although she said it’s possible no one thought about other definitions.

Regardless, she said, the title of the bill doesn’t give the public an idea of the way the law would change things in practice.

For example, she said, with its definition of sex as “male” or “female,” is Montana saying a hospital can discriminate against admitting a person who is transgender or intersex?

“Well, if they’re saying that, certainly the public wants to know,” Gray said.

Also, what do sex and gender have to do with interstate signage or building codes? Gray said some issues relate to gender, but some “make no sense at all,” and the public would need to dig into the subject matter to find out.

 Reagor, lead plaintiff, left, speaks with observer Keppen, right, after the hearing.
(Keila Szpaller/The Daily Montanan)

After the hearing, Vannatta said he would take the request for summary judgment under advisement and rule when possible.

If the judge finds in favor of the plaintiffs, the law will be off the books, said Alex Rate, lawyer for the ACLU of Montana.

However, if the judge finds in favor of the state, the court will consider the second claim from plaintiffs, he said; they also argue it is up to the courts, not the legislature, to determine the definition of sex because it’s part of the Equal Protection clause of the constitution.

That issue wasn’t the subject of Tuesday’s hearing.

Reagor, one of the plaintiffs, said the courtroom heard just one of the arguments the bill was unconstitutional, but it’s not the only one: “I think it’s really disappointing that so many taxpayer dollars are being wasted on defending bills that are malicious and that legislators knew were unconstitutional when they passed them.”

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Keila Szpaller

Keila Szpaller is deputy editor of the Daily Montanan and covers education. Before joining States Newsroom Montana, she served as city editor of the Missoulian, the largest news outlet in western Montana.

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The preceding article was previously published by The Daily Montanan and is republished with permission.

The Daily Montanan is a nonprofit, nonpartisan source for trusted news, commentary and insight into statewide policy and politics beneath the Big Sky.

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

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U.S. Federal Courts

Federal judge wants Q&A doc from lawyers in trans medical case

The report concluded lawyers had engaged in judge-shopping, adding sometimes lawyers consider potential judges in determining where to file

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The Frank M. Johnson Jr. Federal Building and United States Courthouse in Montgomery, Alabama, seen on January 24, 2023. (Brian Lyman/Alabama Reflector)

By Jemma Stephenson | MONTGOMERY, Ala. – A federal judge in Montgomery Friday ordered attorneys representing transgender families to turn over a document used to prep lawyers ahead of a hearing over alleged judge shopping. 

In the 51-page filing, U.S. District Judge Liles C. Burke told the lawyers to provide the information, known as a Q&A document, to the judge for an in-camera review, to decide whether or not the document is covered by attorney-client privilege.

Burke, appointed by former President Donald Trump, has accused the attorneys for the families of trying to a get a judge that would be favorable to their case.

“This is not an ordinary civil case in which a court simply disbelieved testimony about an important fact: here, a three-judge panel was investigating whether lawyers intentionally attempted to subvert the administration of justice by judge-shopping, unanimously found that they did, unanimously disbelieved their explanations that they did not, unanimously expressed concern about their candor, and unanimously found that one lawyer lied outright,” he wrote. “If this is not enough to open the door for an in camera review of the Q&A document, it is difficult to imagine what would suffice.”

According to the Legal Information Institute, “in camera” reviews “are held in private before a judge where the press and the public are not allowed to take part.”

In May, a filing from the attorneys said that the document was an appropriate preparation for questions from a panel investigating the allegations and not under a continuing order from the panel or generated to further crime or fraud. They wrote that it should not trigger the crime-fraud exception and that if an in-camera review must take place, it should be done by a special master.

A message was left with attorney Barry Ragsdale, who according to Burke created the document and represents some of the accused attorneys. A message was also left with the attorney for Kathleen Hartnett, who according to Burke’s filing has her own attorney. The whole Walker team was formerly represented by Ragsdale, according to Burke’s filing.

The plaintiffs sued Alabama in 2022 over a law making it a felony to prescribe hormones and puberty blockers in gender-affirming care. Burke, who heard the case, initially ruled for the plaintiffs and blocked the state law. But a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit overturned his ruling last year. The plaintiffs are seeking a full review of the decision by the circuit.

In 2022, shortly after Gov. Kay Ivey signed the restrictions on gender-affirming medical care, multiple lawsuits were filed against the law. According to an October report from a panel that investigated the charges of judge shopping, the first lawsuit in the U.S. Northern District of Alabama was originally assigned to U.S. District Judge Anna Manasco, who recused herself. The case was reassigned to Magistrate Judge Staci G. Cornelius. There was not unanimous consent for “dispositive jurisdiction” by a magistrate judge, so the court was reassigned to Judge Annemarie Carnie Axon.

The second lawsuit was filed in the U.S. Middle District of Alabama, and the attorneys marked the case as related to Corbitt v. Taylor, a 2018 case. The case was assigned to Chief Judge Emily C. Marks. The attorneys filed a motion that the case be reassigned to Judge Myron H. Thompson, who presided over Corbitt. Thompson has historically ruled for abortion and civil rights cases. They also called Thompson’s chambers.

In the report, the panel accused an attorney of having “deliberately misled” the panel about the call to Thompson’s office. In the Friday filing, Burke wrote that this “provides a stand-alone evidentiary basis for a prima facie showing of fraud on the court.”

“Put differently, the Panel’s finding (and independently, the transcripts they rely on) support a prima facie case of perjury as a ‘crime,’ but they also suffice to show a prima facie case of fraud on the court under the separate heading of ‘fraud,’” he wrote.

According to the October filing, Marks entered an order to show why the case should not be transferred to the Northern District. Lawyers from the two cases had a conference call, and the parties consented to a transfer. Then the attorneys responded to the order and withdrew their motion. Marks transferred the case and it was randomly assigned to Burke, who set a hearing date. The attorneys in the cases were going to consolidate their cases.

Axon was presiding over a criminal trial, so the first case was transferred to Burke. The state attorneys then indicated that they would not file a motion to consolidate.

Within minutes of each other, both of the lawsuits were dismissed by the attorneys. Attorneys told reporters that they were planning to refile.

Burke filed an order that included that the lawyers were giving an appearance of judge shopping. At his direction, the clerk forwarded that order to the chief judge of each district in Alabama.

A new case was filed in the U.S. Middle District and was assigned to Burke by designation.

The panelists’ October report concluded that the lawyers engaged in judge-shopping.

“The Panel is not naïve,” the panel wrote in their October report. “Lawyers sometimes consider potential judicial assignments in determining where to file a case, and there may be reasons why in certain cases some judges may be considered more favorable draws than others. So the panel does not condemn the lawyers for fretting about their chances of success before a particular judge. Of course, the irony here is that counsel ultimately succeeded before Judge Burke. But in this case, counsel did more than fret. They made plans and took steps in an attempt to manipulate the assignment of these cases.”

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Since then, Burke has requested that the document be overturned and met with the accused attorneys after a recent court hearing. The panelists had asked the attorneys if they had been coached on what to say in the proceedings, and most of the lawyers said no. One lawyer, Milo Inglehart, said he had been provided the Q&A document the night before that included talking points in response to some potential questions.

The panel asked for the document to be turned over. The attorney did not do so, allegedly at the direction of Ragsdale.

“Mr. Ragsdale unilaterally decided that Mr. Inglehart could avoid producing the Q&A Document anyway—even though the Panel had just rejected counsel’s arguments that the attorney-client privilege or the work-product doctrine shielded it from disclosure—because the July 25 order exempted ‘privileged communications’ from disclosure in the respondents’ declarations,” wrote Burke in a footnote. “Even though the panel denied the request for a protective order, Mr. Inglehart nonetheless withheld the Q&A document as privileged at his counsel’s advice.”

The judge wrote that the document must be provided by 5 p.m. on Tuesday.

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Jemma Stephenson

Jemma Stephenson covers education as a reporter for the Alabama Reflector. She previously worked at the Montgomery Advertiser and graduated from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

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The preceding article was previously published by the Alabama Reflector and is republished with permission.

The Alabama Reflector is an independent, nonprofit news outlet dedicated to covering state government and politics in the state of Alabama. Through daily coverage and investigative journalism, The Reflector covers decision makers in Montgomery; the issues affecting Alabamians, and potential ways to move our state forward.

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

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U.S. Federal Courts

Club Q shooter gets life in prison for federal hate crimes 

“The 2022 mass shooting at Club Q is one of the most violent crimes against the LGBTQIA+ community in history” – FBI Director Wray

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Assistant U.S. Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. (Screenshot/YouTube U.S. Justice Dept)

DENVER, Colo. – Anderson Lee Aldrich, 24, formerly of Colorado Springs, Colorado, was sentenced to 55 concurrent life sentences to run consecutive to 190 years in prison after pleading guilty to 74 hate crimes and firearms charges related to the Nov. 19, 2022, mass shooting at Club Q, an LGBTQ+ establishment in Colorado Springs.  

According to the plea agreement, Aldrich admitted to murdering five people, injuring 19, and attempting to murder 26 more in a willful, deliberate, malicious, and premediated attack at Club Q. According to the plea, Aldrich entered Club Q armed with a loaded, privately manufactured assault weapon and began firing. Aldrich continued firing until subdued by patrons of the Club. As part of the plea, Aldrich admitted that this attack was in part motivated because of the actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity of any person.

“Fueled by hate, the defendant targeted members of the LGBTQIA+ community at a place that represented belonging, safety, and acceptance – stealing five people from their loved ones, injuring 19 others, and striking fear across the country,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “Today’s sentencing makes clear that the Justice Department is committed to protecting the right of every person in this country to live free from the fear that they will be targeted by hate-fueled violence or discrimination based on who they are or who they love. I am grateful to every agent, prosecutor, and staff member across the Department – from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado, to the Civil Rights Division, the ATF, and FBI – for their work on this case. The Justice Department will never stop working to defend the safety and civil rights of all people in our country.”

“The 2022 mass shooting at Club Q is one of the most violent crimes against the LGBTQIA+ community in history,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “The FBI and our partners have worked tirelessly towards this sentencing, but the true heroes are the patrons of the Club who selflessly acted to subdue the defendant. This Pride Month and every month, the FBI stands with the survivors, victims, and families of homophobic violence and hate.”

“ATF will not rest until perpetrators like this defendant are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” said Director Steven Dettelbach of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). “I hope today’s life sentence brings at least some peace to the victims and survivors of this senseless, horrific tragedy. That this sentence should come during Pride month reinforces how far we have left to go before all communities, including all LGBTQIA+ communities, are safe here. It also shows how far ATF and all our partners will go to ensure hatred does not win.”

“The defendant’s mass shooting and heinous targeting of Club Q is one of the most devastating assaults on the LGBTQIA+ community in our nation’s history. This sentence cannot reclaim the lives lost or undo the harms inflicted. But we hope that it provides the survivors, the victims’ families, and their communities a small measure of justice,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Our message today should be loud and clear. No one should have to fear for their life or their safety because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. The Justice Department will vigorously investigate and prosecute those who perpetrate hate-fueled, bias-driven attacks.”

“Hate has no place in our country and no place in Colorado” said Acting U.S. Attorney Matt Kirsch for the District of Colorado. “I hope that today’s sentence demonstrates to the victims and those connected to this horrific event that we do not tolerate these heinous acts of violence.”

The FBI Denver Field Office, Colorado Springs Police Department, and ATF investigated the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Alison Connaughty and Bryan Fields for the District of Colorado and Trial Attorney Maura White of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division prosecuted the case.

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U.S. Federal Courts

Appeals Court overturns Okla. anti-Trans birth certificate policy

The U.S. District Court dismissed the complaint in June 2023, and Lambda Legal appealed the decision to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals

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Courtroom, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, Byron R. White U.S. Courthouse, Denver, Colorado. (Photo Credit: Carol M. Highsmith Archive/Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division)

DENVER, Colo. – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit overturned a lower court ruling that had dismissed a lawsuit challenging Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt’s anti-trans birth certificate policy, which categorically prohibits transgender people from correcting the gender marker on their birth certificates to match their gender identity.

All three members of the panel agreed that the lawsuit stated a valid claim of unconstitutional discrimination against transgender people and that the government’s justifications for this discrimination were irrational.

The court explained the Constitution requires that “there must be some rational connection between the Policy and a legitimate interest. There is no rational connection here—the Policy is in search of a purpose.” A majority of the court also held that any government discrimination against transgender people triggers heightened judicial scrutiny.

“This ruling stands as a monumental win for the transgender community in Oklahoma and nationwide, sending a clear message to lawmakers everywhere that unconstitutional discrimination against transgender people will not be tolerated by the courts,” said Lambda Legal Senior Counsel Peter Renn. “This ruling comes at a critical time amidst a surge in anti-transgender policies of all stripes across the country. That includes attempts, like the one here, to roll back the basic ability of transgender people to correct their identity documents to match who they are, which can expose them to harassment, abuse, and physical danger.”

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On November 8, 2021, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt issued an executive order that reversed the Oklahoma State Department of Health’s (OSDH) prior practice of allowing transgender people to correct their birth certificates to match their gender identity, which had existed for at least 14 years from 1997-2021.

Governor Stitt explained, “I believe that people are created by God to be male or female.  Period,” and vowing to take “whatever action necessary to protect Oklahoma values and our way of life.”  Previously, transgender people could correct their birth certificates by presenting a court order to OSDH, but following the executive order, OSDH has refused to comply with such orders.

Lambda Legal joined by Tulsa attorney Karen Keith Wilkens filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma on March 14, 2022 challenging the Oklahoma Republican Governor’s executive order.

The U.S. District Court dismissed the complaint in June 2023, and Lambda Legal appealed the decision to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.

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U.S. Federal Courts

Doctor charged: Unauthorized access to personal info of trans kids

If convicted, Dr. Haim faces up to 10 years in federal prison and a $250,000 maximum possible fine for his actions

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Ethan Haim/Screenshot YouTube

HOUSTON – A Houston doctor has been indicted for obtaining protected individual health information for patients that were not under his care and without authorization, announced Alamdar S. Hamdani, the United States attorney for the Southern District of Texas.

The case against Ethan Haim, 34, Dallas, has now been unsealed, and he is set to make his initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Yvonne Y. Ho in Houston.

The four-count indictment alleges Haim obtained personal information including patient names, treatment codes and the attending physician from Texas Children’s Hospital’s (TCH) electronic system without authorization. He allegedly obtained this information under false pretenses and with intent to cause malicious harm to TCH.

According to the indictment, Haim was a resident at Baylor College of Medicine and had previous rotations at TCH as part of his residency.

In April 2023, Haim allegedly requested to re-activate his login access at TCH to access pediatric patients not under his care. The indictment alleges he obtained unauthorized access to personal information of pediatric patients under false pretenses and later disclosed it to a media contact.

According to Houston’s CBS News affiliate KHOU-TV 11, shortly after Haim allegedly accessed the records, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced he was launching an investigation into Texas Children’s Hospital to find out whether they are “actively engaging in illegal behavior and performing gender transitioning procedures on children.

Calling himself a ‘whistleblower’ last year as the FBI conducted the investigation, he tweeted a request for funding to support his legal defense:

If convicted, Haim faces up to 10 years in federal prison and a $250,000 maximum possible fine.

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Congress

Rep. Garcia urges Feds to protect LGBTQ+ people during Pride

“Ensuring that people can peacefully and safely celebrate Pride and the diversity of the LGBTQ+ community is of utmost importance”

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Participants of the Capital Pride Festival in D.C. on June 8, 2024. Gay U.S. Rep. Robert Garcia (D-Calif.) has urged U.S. officials to ensure LGBTQ people are safe during Pride Month. (Washington Blade/Emily Hanna)

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Robert Garcia (D-Calif.) on June 12 sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, and Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Christopher Wray to work to ensure LGBTQ people during Pride events.

“Over the last several weeks, your respective agencies and departments have issued stark warnings, and travel advisories to the public over potential threats from foreign terrorist organizations (FTO), and their supporters during this year’s Pride Month,” said Garcia in his letter. “I understand that these steps have come after deeply concerning increases in anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric, calls for targeted violence, and foiled violent plots.”

The FBI on May 10 issued an advisory that warned of potential violence at Pride events and other LGBTQ-specific events. The State Department on May 17 — the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia — announced a similar warning.

“Ensuring that people can peacefully and safely celebrate Pride and the diversity of the LGBTQ+ community is of utmost importance,” wrote Garcia, a gay man who represents California’s 42nd Congressional District that includes Long Beach.

June 12 also marked eight years since a gunman killed 49 people inside the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla.

The massacre at the time was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. The gunman pledged his allegiance to the Islamic State, even though there is no evidence that suggests the extremist group ordered him to carry out the massacre. 

“This week marks the eight (sic) anniversary of the horrific Pulse nightclub Orlando shooting — during which the attacker deliberately and viciously targeted the LGBTQ+ community,” wrote Garcia in his letter. “It is important to put the recent escalation of extremist anti-LGBTQ+ propaganda and messaging in the context the Pulse nightclub shooter who was influenced by these same forces of extremism.”

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Florida

Tampa trans woman qualifies to run for state House seat

LGBTQ activist Ashley Brundage aims to become the first transgender elected official in Florida history as she faces a primary challenge

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HD 65 Democratic candidate Ashley Brundage at the WMNF studio in Tampa on June 14, 2024. (Photo by Mitch Perry/Florida Phoenix)

By Mitch Perry | TAMPA, Fla. – The Florida Democratic Party boasted as candidate qualifying closed Friday that for the first time since the state Legislature flipped red three decades ago, it has a Democrat running for every state House and Senate district.

That includes Hillsborough County’s 65th House District, where Ashley Brundage hopes to make history by becoming the first transgender person elected to serve in Tallahassee.

“While I’m going to be making history on something like me and my personal life, which really has no impact on anything, but what I think is even more history-making is that I used to be the DEI person for PNC Bank and 60,000 employees as their national president of diversity, equity, inclusion,” she said on Friday, speaking on WMNF 88.5 FM radio in Tampa (on a show which this reporter participated in).

Yes, that’s right. If running as a transgender woman isn’t cutting enough against the established conservative grain in Florida politics in 2024, then touting her credentials as the “DEI candidate” certainly is.

“Florida is where DEI goes to die … ,” Gov. Ron DeSantis wrote on X in March, responding to a report that the University of Florida was eliminating all diversity, equity, and inclusion employee positions to comply with new Florida Board of Governors regulations.

That board defines DEI as “any program, campus activity, or policy that classifies individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, gender identity, or sexual orientation and promotes differential or preferential treatment of individuals on the basis of such classification.”

Brundage says her history as vice president of DEI at PNC Bank as well as her work with her own small business, Empowering Differences, which does diversity, equity, and inclusion training for companies, has shown her the benefits of such programs.

“Inclusion also shouldn’t be scary,” she said.

“Because inclusion is literally the opportunity for us to learn and grow as people. And that’s what every program I’ve ever built that had DEI in mind, was an opportunity for someone to learn about a community, and then go and sell more goods and services to make more money from that community,” Brundage continued.

“And that’s what happened when I became a part-time bank teller at PNC Bank while I was homeless, living in Tampa. I showed up on day one and, ultimately, I started building relationships in my community, and I started bringing those people to bank at PNC Bank. Because it wasn’t people they were literally marketing to immediately. So, by them practicing diversity, I became the number-one revenue producing employee for three straight years out of all of the entire bank around the country.”

Representing Tampa

 Rep. Marilyn Gonzalez Pittman via Florida House

House District 65 encompasses most of South and downtown Tampa, as well as a portion of northwest Hillsborough County, and has been held since 2022 by Republican Marilyn Gonzalez Pittman, who succeeded Republican Jackie Toledo.

It’s a seat that breaks down as 39% Republican, 31% Democratic, and 30% NPA (non-party-affiliated) and other third-party registered voters as of Feb. 20, according to the Florida Division of Elections.

Brundage calls those NPA voters “the secret sauce to our win.”

“And the Republicans are scared about that, because they’ve been running on all of these issues that are all about scaring people and hurting our economy long term,” she said, adding that she’s running on issues such as lowering the cost of property insurance, getting the government out of making decisions about people’s bodies, and economic empowerment for small businesses.

Brundage is running in a state not considered friendly to the LGBTQ community, to say the least. Under Gov. Ron DeSantis, Florida has been a leader in passing anti-LGBTQ laws. One of those laws, banning minors from receiving gender-affirming health care, was struck down by a federal judge in Tallahassee earlier this week.

The day after that decision, DeSantis predicted in Tampa that the state would win its appeal at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. “This has already been decided by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. They upheld Alabama’s law, which was almost identical to Florida’s law. This will be reversed. There’s no question it will be reversed,” the governor said.

Community award

Brundage received a “Spirit of the Community Award” for her work from the Florida Commission on the Status of Women two years ago. While DeSantis did not attend the awards ceremony in West Palm Beach, he did sign a letter telling her to “keep up the great work!”

Brundage said on Friday that the governor didn’t initially respond to media inquiries about why he had given tribute to a transgendered woman until she announced in April that she was running for a legislative seat and his team responded to the U.K. Daily Mail.

The publication wrote that “a source close to DeSantis told Daily.Mail.com that the commendation was bestowed because the governor’s team was under the impression that Brundage was a biological female. When it was revealed that was not the case, the congratulation letter was removed from the governor’s website.”

Brundage doesn’t believe that. “If he had read the actual nomination before signing the letter, he would have known” about her transgender status, she said.

Brundage is not the Democratic candidate for HD 65 yet, as she faces a primary challenge from Nathan Kuipers in the Aug. 20 primary. Gonzalez Pittman hasn’t drawn an opponent in her primary and will face the winner of the Brundage-Kuipers race on Nov. 5.

Note: Ashley Brundage spoke Friday on WMNF’s “The Skinny” program, for which this reporter is a co-host.

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Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has covered politics and government in Florida for more than two decades. Most recently he is the former politics reporter for Bay News 9. He has also worked at Florida Politics, Creative Loafing and WMNF Radio in Tampa. He was also part of the original staff when the Florida Phoenix was created in 2018

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The preceding article was previously published by The Florida Phoenix and is republished with permission.

The Phoenix is a nonprofit news site that’s free of advertising and free to readers. We cover state government and politics with a staff of five journalists located at the Florida Press Center in downtown Tallahassee.

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

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The White House

White House reaffirms commitment to advancing LGBTQ+ rights

Jean-Pierre noted how many of the challenges facing LGBTQ youth have dovetailed with the ongoing mental health crisis in America

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White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre speaking to reporters on June 17, 2024 from the White House James Brady press briefing room. (Photo Credit: Washington Blade/Christopher Kane)


WASHINGTON — White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre began her briefing with reporters on Monday by honoring Pride Month as a time to “reflect on the progress we have made in pursuit of equality, justice, inclusion” and “recommit ourselves to do more to support LGBTQI+ rights at home and around the world.”

She said that while the Biden-Harris administration has taken “historic action” to expand freedoms and protections for the community “since day one,” state legislatures last year filed more than 600 anti-LGBTQ bills, which disproportionately target transgender youth.

Not only are conservative state lawmakers potentially on track to surpass that number in 2024, but Republican members of Congress along with the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Donald Trump, have pledged their support for at least a dozen anti-LGBTQ policies at the federal level.

Jean-Pierre said this administration “is going to continue to speak out and stand up against these attacks,” adding, “as President Biden says, these young [transgender and queer] people are some of the bravest people he knows, but no one should have to be brave just to be themselves.”

The press secretary concluded her opener by discussing the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, which provides a “line dedicated to serving LGBTQI+ young people that can be reached by dialing nine eight and pressing three.”

Afterwards, when fielding questions from reporters, Jean-Pierre noted how many of the challenges facing LGBTQ youth have dovetailed with the ongoing mental health crisis in America.

She also addressed a ruling on Monday that blocked the administration’s newly passed LGBTQ-inclusive Title IX rules, which clarify that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is covered by the statute’s language barring sex discrimination in education programs and activities that receive federal assistance.

A Trump-appointed judge on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana had issued an injunction against the regulations on Thursday, with a handful of Republican state attorneys general promising more legal challenges.

Declining to address specific legal questions that she noted are best directed to the Justice Department, Jean-Pierre stressed the need for students to feel safe and to be treated equally.

“That is why the protections are all about making sure students have equal rights restored,” she said.

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U.S. Federal Courts

LGBTQ Title IX protections blocked in six more states

Chief Judge Danny Reeves of the U.S. District Court blocks Biden Title IX rules, says ‘sex,’ ‘gender identity’ not the same thing

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Los Angeles Blade graphic

By McKenna Horsley | LEXINGTON, Ky. – A federal judge has blocked new Title IX rules, including those aimed at protecting LGBTQ+ students from discrimination in K-12 schools, and sided with Republican attorneys general in several states — including Kentucky. 

Chief Judge Danny Reeves of the U.S. District Court in Eastern Kentucky on Monday issued a ruling siding with Republican Attorney General Russell Coleman and his counterparts in five other states. The ruling prevents the U.S. Department of Education from “implementing, enacting, enforcing, or taking any action to enforce the Final Rule, Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Sex in Education Programs or Activities Receiving Federal Financial Assistance,” which was set to begin Aug. 1. 

Kentucky Attorney General Russell Coleman (Kentucky Lantern photo by Mathew Mueller)

Coleman and the GOP attorneys general filed the lawsuit in April. At the time, they argued the Department of Education “used rulemaking power to convert a law designed to equalize opportunities for both sexes into a far broader regime of its own making” with the new Title IX regulations. 

Reeves limited the injunction to the plaintiff-states of Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Virginia and West Virginia.

The Biden administration introduced the rules to “build on the legacy of Title IX by clarifying that all our nation’s students can access schools that are safe, welcoming, and respect their rights,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a statement. The rules also would have rolled back Trump administration changes that narrowly defined sexual harassment and directed schools to conduct live hearings, allowing those who were accused of sexual harassment or assault to cross-examine their accusers.

President Joe Biden with U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. (Official White House photo by Adam Schultz)

In their complaint, the state attorneys general said that under the Biden rule, “Men who identify as women will, among other things, have the right to compete within programs and activities that Congress made available to women so they can fairly and fully pursue academic and athletic excellence — turning Title IX’s protections on their head. … And anyone who expresses disagreement with this new status quo risks Title IX discipline for prohibited harassment.” 

Established in 1972, Title IX was created to prevent “discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance,” according to the Department of Education.

Reeves wrote in his opinion that “the Department of Education seeks to derail deeply rooted law” created by the implementation of Title IX. 

“At bottom, the Department would turn Title IX on its head by redefining ‘sex’ to include ‘gender identity.’ But ‘sex’ and ‘gender identity’ do not mean the same thing,” he wrote. “The Department’s interpretation conflicts with the plain language of Title IX and therefore exceeds its authority to promulgate regulations under that statute.” 

In a press release, Coleman’s office said Monday that schools that would fail to comply with the new rules would risk losing federal funding. Citing the Department of Education, the office said Kentucky’s public and private schools received a total of $1.1 billion in federal funding last year.

related

“As a parent and as Attorney General, I joined this effort to protect our women and girls from harm. Today’s ruling recognized the 50-plus years of educational opportunities Title IX has created for students and athletes,” Coleman said in the press release. “We’re grateful for the court’s ruling, and we will continue to fight the Biden Administration’s attempts to rip away protections to advance its political agenda.”

A spokesperson for the department said it was reviewing the ruling.

“Title IX guarantees that no person experience sex discrimination in a federally-funded educational environment,” the spokesperson added. “The Department crafted the final Title IX regulations following a rigorous process to realize the Title IX statutory guarantee. The Department stands by the final Title IX regulations released in April 2024, and we will continue to fight for every student.”

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McKenna Horsley

McKenna Horsley covers state politics for the Kentucky Lantern. She previously worked for newspapers in Huntington, West Virginia, and Frankfort, Kentucky. She is from northeastern Kentucky.

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The preceding story was previously published by the Kentucky Lantern and is republished with permission.

The Kentucky Lantern is an independent, nonpartisan, free news service based in Frankfort a short walk from the Capitol, but all of Kentucky is our beat.

We focus on how decisions made in the marble halls of power ripple through the lives of Kentuckians. We bring attention to injustices and hold institutions and officials accountable. We tell the stories of Kentuckians who are making a difference and shine a light on what’s working. Our journalism is aimed at building a fairer, healthier Kentucky for all. 

Kentucky Lantern is part of States Newsroom, the nation’s largest state-focused nonprofit news organization.

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