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Rep. Katie Hill’s powerful farewell to Congress (transcript, video)

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On Thursday afternoon, Oct. 31, Halloween, the historic day the House voted to proceed with an inquiry into the impeachment of President Donald J. Trump, bisexual Rep. Katie Hill delivered her powerful farewell to Congress. She resigned rather than having “revenge porn” stories and nude photos taken without her consent leak out day by day by Republican operatives.

Here is a transcript of her 7 minute farewell speech, followed by the video.

This is the last speech that I will give from this floor as a member of congress

I wasn’t ready for my time here to come to an end so soon.

 

It’s a reality I’m still grappling with and I will be for a long time to come. I expected or I at least hoped to be here for as long as the voters from California’s 25th district deemed me worthy of the honor of representing them.

 

I thought I could make a difference here in making our community, our great country and the world a better place for generations to come.

 

I, like so many of my colleagues, ran for office because I believe that our political system was broken, controlled by the powerful and the wealthy, ignoring and failing the regular people that it’s supposed to serve.

 

I came here to give a voice to the unheard in the halls of power. I wanted to show young people, queer people, working people, imperfect people that they belong here – because this is the people’s house.

 

I feel short of that and I’m sorry. To every young person who saw themselves and their dreams reflected in me, I’m sorry.

 

To those who felt like I gave them hope in one of the darkest times in our nation’s history, I’m sorry.

 

To my family, my friends, my staff, my colleagues, my mentors – to everyone who has supported and believed in me – I’m sorry.

 

To the thousands of people who spent hours knocking on doors in the hots summer sun, who made countless phone calls, who sacrificed more than I could ever know, to give everything they could in every possible way so that I could be here – I am so, so sorry.

 

And to every little girl who looked up to me, I hope that one day you can forgive me.

 

The mistakes I’ve made and the people I’ve hurt that led to this moment will haunt me for the rest of my life and I have to come to terms with that.

 

Ever since those images first came out, I’ve barely left my bed. I’ve ignored all the calls and the texts. I went to the darkest places that a mind can go. And I’ve shed more tears than I thought were possible.

 

I’ve hidden from the world because I’m terrified of facing the people that I let down.

 

But I made it through because the people who love me most dragged me back into the light and reminded me that I was stronger than that.

 

To those of you who were by my side in my worst moments – you know who you are – I love you, I’m so grateful, and I will never forget.

 

And I’m here today because so many of the people I let down, people close to me, supporters, colleagues, people I’ve never even met told me to stand back up and that despite all of my faults, they still believed in me and they were still counting on me. And I realized that hiding away and disappearing would be the one unforgivable sin.

 

I will never shirk my responsibility for this sudden ending to my time here. But I have to say more, because this is bigger than me.

 

I am leaving now because of a double standard. I am leaving because I no longer want to be used as a bargaining chip.

 

I’m leaving because I didn’t want to be peddled by papers and blogs and websites used by shameless operatives for the dirtiest gutter politics that I’ve ever seen  and the right wing media to drive clicks and expand their audience by distributing intimate photos of me – taken without my knowledge, let alone my consent – for the sexual entertainment of millions.

 

I’m leaving because of a misogynistic culture that gleefully consumed my naked pictures, capitalized on my sexuality and enabled my abusive ex to continue that abuse, this time with the entire country watching.

 

I am leaving because of the thousands of vile threatening emails, calls, and texts that made me fear for my life and the lives of the people I care about.

 

Today is the first time that I’ve left my apartment since the photos, taken without my consent, were released – and I’m scared.

 

I’m leaving because, for the sake of my community, my staff, my family and myself, I can’t allow this to continue.

 

Because I’ve been told that people were angry when I stood strong after the first article was posted, and that they had hundreds more photos and text messages that they would release bit by bit until they broke me down to nothing while they used my faults and my past to distract from the things that matter most.

 

I’m leaving because there is only one investigation that deserves the attention of this country – and that’s the one that we voted on today.

 

Today I ask you all to stand with me and commit to creating a future where this no longer happens to women and girls.

 

Yes, I’m stepping down. But I refuse to let this experience scare off other women who dare to take risks, who dare to step into this light, who dare to be powerful.

 

It might feel like they won in the short term, but they can’t in the long term. We cannot let them. The way to overcome this setback is for women to keep showing up, to keep running for office, to keep stepping up as leaders because the more we show up, the less power they have.

 

I’m leaving but we have men who have been credibly accused of intentional acts of sexual violence and remain in board rooms, on the Supreme Court, in this very body, and worst of all, in the Oval Office.

 

So, the fight goes on to create the change that every woman and girl in this country deserves.

 

Here in the halls of Congress, the fight will go on without me. And I trust so many of my colleagues to be strong on this front while I move on to one of the many other battlefields.   Because we have an entire culture that has to change. And we see it in stark clarity today.

 

The forces of revenge by a bitter, jealous man, cyber exploitation and sexual shaming that target our gender and a large segment of society that fears and hates powerful women have combined to push a young woman out of power and say that she doesn’t belong here.

 

Yet a man who brags about his sexual predation, who’s had dozens of women come forward to accuse him of sexual assault, who pushes policies that are uniquely harmful to women and who has filled the courts with judges who proudly rule to deprive women of the most fundamental right to control their own bodies, sits in the highest office of the land.

 

And so today, as my last vote, I voted on impeachment proceedings. Not just because of corruption, obstruction of justice, or gross misconduct – but because of the deepest abuse of power, including the abuse of power over women.

 

Today, as my final act, I voted to move forward with the impeachment of Donald Trump on behalf of the women of the United States of America.

 

We will not stand down. We will not be broken. We will not be silenced. We will rise and we will make tomorrow better than today.

 

Thank you and I yield the balance of my time, for now but not forever.

 

 

 

 

 

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Florida

Florida prohibits Medicaid reimbursement for trans healthcare

Lambda Legal tells the LA Blade its “exploring all possible avenues for challenging this discriminatory rulemaking”

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Photo Credit: Equality Florida

TALLAHASSEE – On Thursday, Florida officially joined the roster of conservative states whose Medicaid programs carve out coverage exemptions for transgender related healthcare, including gender-affirming therapies for young people. 

Against the guidance of mainstream medical opinion, the state’s Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) ratified new rules prohibiting taxpayer reimbursement for puberty blockers, hormone therapies, or surgical procedures to treat gender dysphoria. 

“We are exploring all possible avenues for challenging this discriminatory rulemaking,” wrote Carl Charles, senior attorney at Lambda Legal, in an emailed statement to The Los Angeles Blade. “Lambda Legal has secured victories on this issue in other states such as Alaska (Being v. Crum), and just this month in our case, Fain v. Crouch, in West Virginia.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and its Florida Chapter (FCAAP) wrote in an emailed statement to The Blade that they were “disheartened” by AHCA’s finalization of rules blocking Medicaid coverage for gender affirming care: 

“The state’s interference with the physician-patient relationship and its prohibition of this vital care will negatively impact Floridians who are trying to live their lives as their true, healthiest selves. As pediatricians, our only goal is to work with families and provide our patients with the best evidence-based care possible. When necessary and appropriate, that includes gender-affirming care. The AAP and FCAAP will continue to stand up in support of all young people, including those who are transgender.”

The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services did not return a request for comment in time for publication. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Also on Thursday, Florida’s AHCA inaccurately accused HHS and the AAP of misleading the public about the safety of transgender related healthcare, though it was not the first time the state’s health agency has butted up against its federal counterparts and associations of medical practitioners. 

AHCA previously issued a bulletin in April that prompted rebukes from groups including the Endocrine Society, which accused AHCA of spreading misinformation about healthcare treatments for transgender people, including youth. The bulletin’s contents also conflicted with official positions on these matters held by HHS. 

A coalition of legal advocacy organizations including Lambda Legal immediately condemned the AHCA’s latest move in a joint statement Thursday, writing: “Ignoring thousands of public comments and expert testimony, Florida’s AHCA has finalized a rule that will deny Medicaid coverage for all medically necessary gender-affirming care for both youth and adults. This discriminatory and medically unsound rule will take effect on August 21, 2022, putting transgender people in jeopardy of losing access to critical gender-affirming health care services.”

The statement also took aim at Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis: “AHCA’s actions, at the behest of Governor DeSantis and his political appointees, are morally and legally wrong as well as medically and scientifically unsound. This rule represents a dangerous escalation in Governor DeSantis’s political zeal to persecute LGBTQ+ people in Florida, and particularly transgender youth.”

The Movement Advancement Project publishes a chart tracking state-by-state Medicaid coverage for transgender-related care, which is a patchwork of different exemptions and carveouts that generally maps onto the extent to which each leans conservative. 

Much like with other public health insurance programs like state employee health plans, discriminatory state Medicaid programs have often been the subject of litigation challenging them, in lawsuits that are often successful.

Nikole Parker, Equality Florida’s Director of Transgender Equality in an emailed statement said:

“Just over one week from today, Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration, at the behest of Governor DeSantis, plans to strip thousands of vulnerable Floridians of their health care. Transgender people have been accessing gender-affirming care through Medicaid for years. That care is now being shut off by a state agency that has been corrupted, weaponized, and stacked with extremists by a governor desperate to fuel his own political ambitions.

Today, more than 9,000 transgender Floridians access care through Medicaid. On August 21, the state government will put  that care on the chopping block. As further evidence for his complete disregard for the health and well being of transgender Floridians, the DeSantis Administration has done nothing to quantify or assess the terrible impact this rule would have on the thousands of transgender people who rely on Medicaid for their care. The transgender community, like all people, shouldn’t have necessary, life-saving care stripped away by extremist politicians working overtime to stoke right-wing fervor. This brazen, politically-motivated attack is cruel, dangerous and puts the health of thousands at risk.”

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Virginia

Virginia’s Gov. Youngkin will force teachers to out their LGBTQ+ students

“I firmly believe that teachers and schools have an obligation to make sure that parents are well informed”

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Virginia Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin (Screenshot/YouTube CBS News)

RICHMOND – Virginia Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin affirmed his support on Tuesday for measures that would require teachers to notify parents of their children’s sexual orientation or gender identity, regardless of the students’ consent. 

The move was justified under the pretext of protecting “parental rights,” a specious argument that has given cover to policies enacted by conservative legislatures across the country that target LGBTQ+ people, including students, in public schools. 

“With regards to informing parents with most important decisions about their children…Parents should be at the forefront of all of these discussions,” Youngkin told WJLA News. “And I firmly believe that teachers and schools have an obligation to make sure that parents are well informed about what’s happening in their kids’ lives.”

Critics, however, charge that coming out is an intensely personal act, that taking away a student’s ability to do so on their own terms can be psychologically damaging, intrusive, and hurtful. In some cases, for students whose parents or guardians might harbor anti-LGBTQ+ views, it can be dangerous. 

Lambda Legal reports between 20 and 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ+ and are “frequently rejected by their families or fleeing abusive long-term placements.” Forcibly outing young LGBTQ+ people can mean they will be forced to live on the streets. 

Notwithstanding Youngkin’s efforts to portray himself as a moderate when campaigning for governor, Tuesday’s statement follows a series of extreme rightward moves he has made with respect to education policies in the state that concern LGBTQ+ youth and subject matter. 

Florida’s controversial “Parental Rights in Education” bill, which critics termed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, was similarly premised on the right of parents to control the material to which their children will have access in school. 

In reality, the overbroad legislation prohibits any classroom discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity for students in certain grades, which could potentially lead to disciplinary action against a teacher who mentions their same-sex spouse. 

Youngkin has similarly taken aim at educational materials in public schools, such as by signing into law SB656, which requires parental notification of nebulously defined “sexually explicit content.” 

Just after taking office in January, he set up a “tip line” to solicit comments from Virginia parents on “divisive practices” or the inclusion of curricula and materials they may consider objectionable. 

Plaintiffs in multiple lawsuits, the most recent of which was filed on Monday, accuse Youngkin of violating public records laws by his refusal to share “tip line” emails with news media organizations.

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Vermont

Out Vermont state senator wins Democratic primary in U.S. House race

Tuesday’s victory makes her likely to become the first woman and openly LGBTQ+ person to represent the heavily Democratic state in Congress

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Screenshot via Becca Balint for Congress

MONTPELIER – The Green Mountain State’s state Senate president pro tempore has won the Democratic nomination for the state’s at-large congressional seat, the state’s lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Becca Balin is running to succeed U.S. Rep. Peter Welch and Tuesday’s victory makes her likely to become the first woman and openly LGBTQ+ person to represent the heavily Democratic state in Congress if elected in November. Vermont is the only state that has never had a female member of its congressional delegation.

The VTDigger, a statewide news website, reported; “Balint, 53, is the first openly gay woman elected to the Vermont Senate and the first woman to serve as its president. The former middle school teacher and stay-at-home mother won her first political contest in a race for her southeastern Vermont Senate seat in 2014

She rose quickly through the ranks of the Democrat-controlled chamber, becoming majority leader in 2017, at the start of her second term. Four years later, in 2021, she was elected pro tem — the top position in the Senate.”

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