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Trans March on DC called ‘first major step’ in visibility campaign

Participants march past Justice Department, Trump International Hotel

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A rally was held at Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C. before the National Transgender Visibility March on Sept. 28, 2019. (Blade photo by Michael Key

WASHINGTON— Organizers and observers said between 1,500 and 3,000 people turned out on Saturday for the first ever National Transgender Visibility March on Washington in which scores of participants held signs proudly declaring their status as transgender or gender nonconforming Americans.

The march kicked off at 11:35 a.m. on Sept. 28 from Freedom Plaza in downtown D.C. following the completion of a two-and-a-half hour rally. It traveled along Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., from 13th to 4th Streets, where the march ended four blocks from the U.S. Capitol.

(Blade photo by Michael Key)

Among the speakers at the rally was trans actress of “Pose” and “American Horror Story” fame Angelica Ross, who made an impassioned call for unity, inclusiveness and compassion within the transgender and overall LGBT rights movements and those movements’ allies.

Angelica Ross (Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

Also expressing strong support at the rally for the march and trans rights were D.C. Congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and Sheila Alexander-Reid, director of D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs.

Reid read an official proclamation issued by the mayor declaring Sept. 28, 2019, Trans Visibility Day in D.C.

Many of the marchers carried signs saying, “Trans Lives Matter.” Several told the Washington Blade they were moved and inspired as they walked past the buildings along Pennsylvania Avenue that they said symbolize the people and the institutions they are calling on to change to ensure their equal rights and dignity.

Among the buildings the marchers walked past were the FBI Headquarters, the Trump International Hotel, and the Justice Department, which, under the administration of President Trump, has taken positions against transg rights in pending federal court cases.

“This is amazing,” said trans activist Maggie Downs, who said she traveled from Florida to attend the march. “I’m here for black trans lives and trans children’s lives, and then my own rights,” she said as she walked past the Trump hotel.

“We’re here not to be invisible, which is what this administration is trying to do to us,” she told the Blade.

Marty Drake, an official with the Montgomery County Pride Center who marched with the group Maryland Trans Unity, said this was not the first time he has walked past the Trump hotel in a protest march.

“It’s always a treat going by the Trump hotel in any march,” he said. “This group was very polite. The shouts of ‘shame, shame, shame,’ were a lot politer than some of the other marches I’ve been at,” he said. “It was remarkable that a lot of people simply waved at the Trump Hotel.”

(Blade photo by Michael Key)

Several speakers at the rally, including Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, deputy executive director at the D.C.-based National Center for Transgender Equality, said an important objective of the trans rights movement is securing passage by Congress of the Equality Act, an LGBT civil rights bill that includes strong protections for trans people.

“Today’s march is about the power and visibility to get us equality,” he said. “At a lightening pace, Americans have seen our power at work as transgender people have moved from a side issue that our neighbors didn’t even know a lot about to a priority in the halls of power and the presidential campaign,” he told the rally.

“A community long forced into the darkness is now finally stepping into the daylight,” Heng-Lehtinen said. “But what the grassroots organizers of this march and what you know is that progress for any of us is not enough unless it is progress for all of us.”

Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, one of the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights groups, described as a crisis the large number of murders of mostly black trans women over the past several years in the U.S.

“As we gather here in the capital of the greatest country on earth there is a crisis raging across our country,” David, a long time civil rights attorney, told the rally. “There is a crisis that is shattering dreams and shattering lives. There is a crisis that has been largely overlooked by the media,” he said.

“It is a crisis that has taken the lives of more than 150 transgender people in the past five years, most of them black transgender women,” he continued. “It is a crisis that none of us can ignore anymore. We have to stand up. We have to speak out,” he said.

“For those of us who are gay or are lesbian or bisexual or queer or who are straight, we have to stand up for the transgender community, said David. “We have to stand up for the transgender community and stand up for them as if they are our family because you are our families.”

As in all protest marches in the nation’s capital, D.C. police have a policy of not releasing estimates of the number of people who turn out for such events. In the case of Saturday’s Trans Visibility March, although no official crowd estimate was released, it was clear to observers that the march was about three and a half blocks long as it traveled along Pennsylvania Avenue in the east bound lanes, which make up half the width of the famous street.

D.C. police closed the entire section of Pennsylvania Avenue between 13 and 4th Streets, where the march ended and many marches gathered at John Marshall Park, a small park located at 4th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue between the Canadian Embassy and the U.S. District Courthouse.

Among those walking in the rear of the march were members of the D.C. Police LGBT Liaison Unit. Also helping to oversee the police escort of the march and the closing of nearby streets was Lt. Brett Parson, who oversees the police liaison units.

“It was a sizable crowd,” Parson told the Blade. “And it was cooperative and it was well organized and we were proud to be there to provide safety and security,” said Parson, who noted that the entire march and rally went off without incident or any safety related problems.

Among the buildings the march passed near the end of its route on Pennsylvania Avenue were the Newseum, which currently includes an LGBT exhibit on the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots. People standing in front both buildings waved at and cheered marchers as they passed in front of the two buildings.

The National Trans Visibility March passes the Newseum. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

“I think it was fantastic,” said Lucky Alexander, the assistant national strategy director for the National Trans Visibility March, as he stood in John Marshall Park following the march. “We got a lot of diversity in the crowd. We didn’t have any hiccups as far as any counter protesters,” he said. “I think we did a fantastic job.”

Added Alexander, who traveled to D.C. from Los Angeles: “I would estimate 3,000 people at least and give or take maybe more than that” attended the march and rally.

(Blade photo by Michael Key)

Longtime D.C. trans activist Dee Curry called the march a highly successful “first step” in what she noted are plans for an annual trans march on Washington, including one next year in the midst of the 2020 presidential election campaign.

“This is an amazing start to a movement,” said Curry, standing at John Marshall Park, named after the first U.S. Supreme Court chief justice, where the marched ended. “I think that the numbers reflect that there is a consensus that we need to step up and do some things,” she said. “And I think this will be a catalyst so this will be much bigger next year.”

Other speakers at the rally included trans activist Bamby Salcedo, president and CEO of the Trans [email protected] Coalition; Jodie Patterson, chair of the HRC board of directors; Justin Nelson, president of the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce; Carter Brown, founder and executive director of Black Trans Men, Inc.; and trans activists Apyphanie Dawn and Lynn Morrison.

D.C. transgender activist Earline Budd, who was scheduled to speak, had to cancel due to illness, according to Alexander-Reid.

(Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Blade will be publishing soon the text of excerpts from most of the speakers at the rally.

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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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