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AIDS Quilt moving to San Francisco

New caretaker, future plans for memorial announced at D.C. ceremony

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AIDS Memorial Quilt, gay news, Washington Blade

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi attends the AIDS Memorial Quilt ceremony at the Library of Congress. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Atlanta-based Names Project Foundation, which has served as the custodian of the massive AIDS Memorial Quilt since 1987, is turning over that task to the San Francisco-based National AIDS Memorial, officials with both organizations announced at a Washington ceremony on Wednesday. The officials, who were joined by U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, also announced that the two organizations have agreed to donate the “care and stewardship” of the Quilt’s large archival collection of artifacts and documents to the Library of Congress’s American Folklife Center in Washington. A joint statement released by the foundation and the National AIDS Memorial says the Quilt currently consists of over 50,000 individual 3-by-6 foot memorial panels commemorating more than 105,000 people who have died of AIDS since the start of the epidemic in the early 1980s. “This historic decision will return The Quilt to the San Francisco Bay area, where 32 years ago during the height of the AIDS epidemic, a group of strangers gathered at a San Francisco storefront to remember the names and lives of their loved ones they feared history would forget – and with that seemingly simple act of love and defiance, the first panels of The Quilt were created,” the statement says. “This is the culmination of decades of work that achieves a vision long held by The Names Project leadership who, armed with an unwavering commitment to The Quilt, were determined to see that the AIDS Memorial Quilt would stand the test of time,” said Julie Rhoad, president and CEO of the Names Project in the joint statement. “With this set of new caretakers, we are confident that the legacy of The Quilt and the Names Project is secure,” she said. The ceremony in which the AIDS Memorial Quilt changes were to be announced was scheduled to take place Wednesday morning in the Great Hall of the Library of Congress’s main building across the street from the U.S. Capitol. Among those scheduled to speak and participate in the ceremony were Pelosi; U.S. Reps. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and Barbara Lee (D-Calif.); Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden; Names Project Foundation CEO Rhoad; and AIDS Quilt founders Cleve Jones, Mike Smith, and Gert McMullin. The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, D.C. and Broadway performer Glenn Rainey were scheduled to sing during the event. According to its website, the National AIDS Memorial is the organization that operates the National AIDS Memorial Grove located at a site in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. It also oversees various memorial related programs and projects, including the Pedro Zamora Young Leaders Scholarship program. “The mission of the National AIDS Memorial is to provide, in perpetuity, a place of remembrance so that the lives of people who have died from AIDS are not forgotten and the story is known by future generations,” the memorial’s website says. “In 1996, through legislation signed by President Bill Clinton, it was federally designated a national memorial,” the website says. The Names Project Foundation’s website says the foundation has been in charge of caring for and displaying the AIDS Memorial Quilt since its founding in 1987. It notes that in October 1987, the Quilt’s first 1,920 panels were displayed on the National Mall in D.C., where a half million people came to see it. An estimated 1.2 million people visited the Quilt when it returned to Washington in October 1996 and covered the entire National Mall from the Washington Monument to the grounds of the U.S. Capitol, the foundation states. The foundation notes on its website that in 2000 its Board of Directors elected to move its national headquarters and the Quilt to Atlanta, and the move was completed in December 2002. The joint statement this week by the foundation and the National AIDS Memorial announcing the transfer of custody over the Quilt to the National AIDS Memorial didn’t provide a reason for the change, but further details were expected to be discussed at the Library of Congress ceremony on Wednesday. “The American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress will become the new home for the National AIDS Memorial Quilt Archive in 2020,” the joint statement says. “This archival collection currently totals more than 200,000 items. It includes biographical records, correspondence, photographs, tributes, epitaphs, news clippings and artifacts submitted by panel makers that add context about the lives memorialized on The Quilt panels,” it says. “The Library of Congress is proud to serve as the home of the National AIDS Memorial Quilt Archive to preserve its legacy and give the memorial a home on both the East Coast and West Coast,” said Librarian of Congress Hayden. More details about the Quilt can be found at AIDSmemorial.org.
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U.S. Federal Courts

Justice Breyer announces his retirement from high court sets up new battle

President Joe Biden told reporters that he would have “more to say later” about Justice Breyer’s retirement

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U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen Breyer (Photo Credit: SCOTUS official portrait)

WASHINGTON – U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen Breyer, who had joined landmark decisions from the Court in support of LGBTQ rights, announced on Wednesday he’d retire, opening up a new battle over the judiciary and the potential for President Biden to add his first nominee to the high court.

First reported by NBC News, the retirement of Breyer, appointed by former Bill Clinton and confirmed in 1994, fulfills a wish among progressives for him to step down for him to step down to ensure a replacement would be named with Biden in the White House and Democrats in control of the U.S. Senate.

President Joe Biden told reporters that he would have “more to say later” about Justice Breyer’s retirement, but said that he was waiting for the justice’s own statement.

“There has been no announcement from Justice Breyer — let him make whatever statement he wants to make, and I’m happy to talk about it later,” the president remarked.

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Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania borough revokes protections for its LGBTQ+ citizens

The Republican-majority Chambersburg Borough Council made good on its promise repealing the ordinance in the 7-3 vote

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Chambersburg Borough Council voting to repeal protections for LGBTQ residents (Screenshot via ZOOM)

CHAMBERSBURG – The council of this central Pennsylvania borough (town) met on Monday, and voted to repeal an ordinance passed this last October that safeguards residents against discrimination based on their sexual orientation, ethnicity or gender identity.

The Republican-majority Chambersburg Borough Council made good on its promise repealing the ordinance in the 7-3 vote, citing a litany of reasons.

Opposition to the ordinance was led by newly installed borough council president Allen Coffman, a Republican. 

Coffman told Penn Live prior to the vote this past week 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.”

“We are a very diverse community,” said council vice president Bill Everly, a lifelong resident. “For that reason I don’t understand why we need to have special protections for people. I think by creating special protections for people we open the door for other protections for other people. I think we need to come together and not divide us. I think this would divide us.”

“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.”

For more than three hours, council heard the impassioned pleas from scores of borough residents, overwhelmingly speaking out in support for the ordinance. Only a few borough residents spoke in favor of repeal, Penn Live reported.

Some visibly overcome with emotion, resident after resident implored council members to keep intact the ordinance citing a litany of personal challenges faced as members of the LGBTQ community, while others spoke about the stain on the reputation of the borough if repealed.

“It feels like we are going backwards,” said Kierstin Stockum, a borough resident. “This is just protecting somebody. Why would we not want that as a community? A repeal says we not welcoming to anybody whether LGBTQ or not. It’s saying we discriminate here. Why would we want to send that message?”

Dawn Abraham, a high school teacher and cosponsor of the gay-straight alliance, noted that the LGBTQ population at Chambersburg High School had grown exponentially in recent years.

“Kids are reporting being bullied, being pushed down the stairs, barked at and called multiple expletives,” she said. “By pulling support for this you are showing our community that you don’t support the school children in the community.”

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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Federal Government

Federal Bureau of Prisons revises manual for incarcerated Trans people

“Transgender Offender Manual,” improves policies relating to the housing and treatment of transgender people in federal custody

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Los Angeles Blade file photo/screenshot

WASHINGTON – The federal Bureau of Prisons issued this week long awaited revisions to the “Transgender Offender Manual,” improving policies relating to the housing and treatment of Transgender people in federal custody.

The new Manual rescinds the transphobic language added by the prior administration that weakened protections for incarcerated Trans people– who are already 10 times more likely than the general prison population to be targeted for violence – and undercut compliance with the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) and constitutional protections. 

Among other changes, the updated guidance requires that in making housing unit and programming assignments serious consideration must be given to an incarcerated Trans or intersex person’s own views with respect to their safety. It explicitly states that deliberately and repeatedly mis-gendering an inmate is not permitted. And it includes a process for an incarcerated person to receive gender-affirming surgery.

In 2018, Lambda Legal and the Southern Poverty Law Center sued the U.S. Department of Justice and the BOP for documents and communications connected to the Trump Administration’s harmful and discriminatory changes to the Transgender Offender Manual

“The federal BOP has issued important new guidelines that will hopefully help keep Transgender people in its custody safe and provide access to life-saving healthcare including gender-affirming surgery,” said Richard Saenz, Lambda Legal Senior Attorney and Criminal Justice and Police Misconduct Strategist. “This reaffirms the constitutional rights of incarcerated Transgender people and should be an example for state prisons systems and local jails to do their duty to keep people in their custody safe.” 

“We would like to thank the BOP and our partners for working on these changes. And would like to thank Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) for his calls to reverse the previous administration’s harmful changes to the manual,” Saenz added.  

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