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HISTORIC: House votes to impeach Trump

Lawmakers approve charges of abuse of power, obstruction of Congress

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The House has voted to impeach President Trump

In a historic move, the U.S. House voted Wednesday to impeach President Trump, accusing him of high crimes and misdemeanors as defined under the U.S. Constitution that warrant his removal from office.

The House approved two articles of impeachment against Trump, one for abuse of power, the other for obstruction of Congress. The vote for Article I: Abuse of Power was 230-197 and the vote for Article II: Obstruction of Congress was 229-198.

The votes were basically party-line with all Republicans unified in voting against impeachment and nearly all Democrats voting “yes.” Rep. Justin Amash (I-Mich.), a former Republican, joined his Democratic colleagues in voting for impeachment.

The exceptions to the party-line votes were Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), who voted “no”; and Rep. Jeff Van Drew (D-N.J.), who also voted “no” and has announced plans to leave the Democratic Party.

Rep. Jared Golden (D-Maine) voted for the article on abuse of power, but not obstruction of Congress. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate who has built a reputation for antagonizing her competitors in debates, voted “present” on both articles.

The charge of abuse of power is based on allegations Trump withheld U.S. aid to Ukraine to solicit from the nation’s president an investigation into Joseph Biden, Trump’s potential political opponent in the 2020 election, and whether Ukraine, not Russia, was responsible for the systematic interference in the 2016 election.

But for the charge of obstruction of Congress, the House was expected to impeach Trump for refusing to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry by responding to congressional subpoenas.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) opened the debate on the House floor Wednesday before the impeachment proceedings began by saying Trump “gave us no choice” but to impeach him.

“Our founders’ vision of a republic is under threat from actions from the White House,” she said. “If we do not act now, we would be derelict in our duty. It’s tragic the president’s reckless actions make impeachment necessary.”

Speaking about the danger of foreign interference in U.S. elections, Pelosi pointed to a nearby white poster board she brought to the floor depicting an American flag and the words: “To the Republic for which it stands…”

Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) the senior openly gay member of the House, didn’t hold back Wednesday on the House floor when he accused Trump of having “betrayed our national security and undermined the security of our elections.”

“This wasn’t an attack on Vice President Biden,” Cicilline said. “It was an attack on our democracy, and if we do not hold him accountable today, we will no longer live in a democracy. We will live in a dictatorship where any future president will be free to abuse their office in order to get re-elected.”

Also speaking out on the House floor in favor of impeachment was Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), another one of the seven openly gay members of the House.

“This is not about a single call or a single transcript,” Pocan said. “This is about a perfect storm — months of activity directly ordered by the President to his senior Cabinet and political appointees. Months of activity led by this President to pressure the Ukrainian government to conduct investigations into his political rivals.”

“There is no question about it: This was a clear and orchestrated plan laid out by this president, inviting a foreign power to interfere in our democracy,” Pocan concluded.

The night before impeachment vote was set to take place, the coalition group “Nobody Is Above The Law” held more than 600 rallies throughout the country in all 50 states in support of Trump’s impeachment.

Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, declared in a statement the nation’s leading LGBTQ rights group supports the impeachment of Trump, saying he “has proven time and again that he believes he is above the law and not beholden to the United States Constitution.”

“Trump’s ongoing efforts to undermine the 2020 election by soliciting foreign interference is unacceptable, deeply dangerous and an affront to the fundamental democratic principle of free and fair elections,” David added. “Because of these troubling facts, the Human Rights Campaign supports the impeachment of Donald Trump. The impeachment process is a constitutionally guaranteed process for preserving accountability and the integrity of our democracy. Now, Congress must ensure a conclusion consistent with law.

Any question about whether Democrats from more moderate districts would back impeachment faded away as many of them, including Reps. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), signaled their support.

Among them was Rep. Angie Craig (D-Minn.), the first lesbian mom in Congress, who declared she’d support impeachment in an open letter to constituents on Sunday.

“After reviewing the public testimony from non-partisan public servants and officials appointed to their roles by the President himself — as well as the final House Intelligence Committee report — I have decided that this week I will vote yes on both Articles of Impeachment,” Craig wrote. “No elected leader is above the law.”

But there was no question about disunity on the Republican side. Each of the Republicans has been lockstep behind Trump as the impeachment inquiry has proceeded.

Trump reacted to the impeachment in live time as spoke at a rally in Battle Creek, Mich., crowing in delight that “every single Republican voted for us.”

“The Republican party has never been so affronted but they have never been so united as they are right now,” Trump said.

Trump also counted three Democratic votes against impeachment as a victory for him.

“The Democrats always stick together,” Trump said. “Think of it: Three Democrats went over to our side,” he said. He added: “That’s unheard of.”

Charles Moran, managing director of Log Cabin Republicans, told the Washington Blade the Trump impeachment process in the House ignores reality.

“LGBTQ Americans are safer, more prosperous and have more opportunities now than any other time in history,” Moran said. “The Democrats in Congress announced their intent to impeach President Trump before he was even sworn in. The American people aren’t buying this sham impeachment, and come November, Democrats won’t have anything to show for it.”

The next step in the process is for the U.S. Senate to hold a trial based on the impeachment articles approved by the House. A conviction will result in Trump’s removal from office, but that requires a two-thirds vote of senators present — a high hurdle that would require 20 Republican senators in the chamber to defect.

It remains to be seen how impeachment will play out with the American public and the 2020 election. If the polls are any indication, Americans are divided on the issue and support for Trump has, in fact, been slightly increasing.

A Gallup poll on Wednesday found Trump has an approval rating of 45 percent, compared to 51 percent of the American public who say they disapprove of his job performance. That’s a six-point increase since the House began its impeachment inquiry this fall.

More Americans also opposed impeachment compared to those who support it, according to the poll.

Currently, 46 percent support impeachment and removal — a six-point decrease since Pelosi announced the impeachment inquiry. Meanwhile, 51 percent oppose such action — a five percentage-point increase over the same period.

At the same time, the Gallup poll found Congress is enjoying one of its best ratings ever in the Trump era. The poll found 27 percent of the American public approves of the job Congress is doing, which is nine points up from September.

Only three U.S. presidents have been impeached in U.S. history. The first was President Andrew Johnson in 1868, the second was President Bill Clinton in 1998.

In 1974, it was widely believed President Richard Nixon would have been impeached over Watergate, but he resigned his office before that happened after the House Judiciary Committee approved articles of impeachment against him.

Other LGBTQ groups joined HRC in calling for Trump’s impeachment.

“Since his first day in office, President Trump and his administration have attacked the LGBTQ community,” said Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur in a statement. “… The president has abused the power of his office and obstructed Congress. The Framers prescribed a remedy for such high crimes and misdemeanors, and the Constitution commands the Congress to pursue it. … On behalf of our members, we urge the United States House of Representatives to impeach the president and the United States Senate to remove him from office.”

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U.S. Federal Courts

Indiana GSA sues school district that banned Pride flags over another ban

“The treatment aimed at PHGSA by administrators is unwarranted- these students must be treated in the same manner all others are treated”

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Pendleton Heights High School in Pendleton, Indiana (Screenshot via WTHR NBC 13 News)

INDIANAPOLIS – A student led Gay-Straight Alliance at Pendleton Heights High School in Pendleton, Indiana filed suit against their school and the South Madison Community Schools District for banning public announcements and adverts in-school for their club.

Last Spring officials in the Schools District, in this suburban community 30 miles northeast of Indianapolis, ordered faculty members at Pendleton Heights High School to remove Rainbow Pride flags from classrooms. The Schools District labeled the flags “political paraphernalia”  and instructed the Spanish, French and art teachers to get the flags out of their classrooms saying the flags violate their school district’s “political paraphernalia” policy.

In the suit filed last Wednesday by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana on behalf of the Pendleton Heights High GSA, in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, the ACLU noted that the principal at Pendleton Heights has stated that the PHGSA cannot publicize its existence on school bulletin boards or on the school’s radio station, while other curricular and non-curricular clubs at the school are able to do so. 

“This group aims to create an environment that provides support to students, during a time that otherwise might be increasingly difficult for LGBTQ students,” said Kit Malone, advocacy strategist at ACLU of Indiana. “The differential treatment aimed at Pendleton Heights Gay-Straight Alliance by administrators is unwarranted and these students must be treated in the same manner that all other student groups are treated.” 

Pendleton Heights Principal Connie Rickert has the authority to decide what student groups are allowed to meet at the school and which ones are deemed to be “official.” Last Spring she deflected on the apparent anti-LGBTQ+ messaging the order to remove the flags sent telling one media outlet; ““Teachers are legally obligated to maintain viewpoint neutrality during their official duties to ensure all students can focus on learning and we can maintain educational activities and school operations,” she said. “Our counselors are trained to respond to any student who desires support.”

While she has allowed the GSA club to meet, her banning announcements and notifications for the GSA runs contrary to her statements last Spring that that her school prides itself on creating a welcoming environment for all. 

“Students at Pendleton Heights High School may participate in non-curricular clubs recognized by the school,” said Ken Falk, ACLU of Indiana legal director. “By creating additional hurdles for Pendleton Heights Gay-Straight Alliance such as censoring the group’s promotions and prohibiting fundraising, the school is infringing on these students’ rights.” 

The South Madison Community Schools District has declined comment.

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Texas

Alarming numbers of Texas Trans kids in crisis over litany of anti-Trans bills

“Under the guise of protecting children- Texas legislators are directly harming thousands of transgender & nonbinary youth”

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LGBTQ youth protest anti-Trans bills at the Texas Capitol building (Photo Credit: Equality Texas)

NEW YORK – The Trevor Project received nearly 4,000 crisis contacts from transgender and nonbinary youth in Texas in 2021, with many directly stating that they are feeling stressed and considering suicide due to anti-trans laws being debated in their state.

This new data comes during a year when Texas lawmakers have proposed nearly 70 anti-LGBTQ bills, including more than 40 bills that specifically target transgender and nonbinary youth — far more than any other state.

The Texas State Senate passed its anti-trans sports ban SB3 this week, and the companion bill HB10 is now moving forward in the Texas House. 

Republican Texas Governor Abbott has prioritized SB 3 and called for a third consecutive special session of the legislature to consider this bill, which would ban transgender student-athletes from playing on sports teams consistent with their gender identity.

“The Trevor Project’s crisis counselors have been hearing from transgender and nonbinary youth in Texas who are scared and worried about anti-trans laws being debated in their state — and some have even expressed suicidal thoughts. This is a crisis. We urge Texas lawmakers to consider the weight of their words and actions — and to reject HB10/SB3,” said Amit Paley, CEO and Executive Director of The Trevor Project.

  • Between January 1 and August 30, 2021, The Trevor Project received more than 10,800 crisis contacts (calls, texts, and chats) from LGBTQ young people in Texas looking for support. More than 3,900 of those crisis contacts (36%) came from transgender or nonbinary youth.
  • Crisis contacts from LGBTQ young people in Texas seeking support have grown over 150% when compared to the same time period in 2020.
  • While this volume of crisis contacts can not be attributed to any one factor (or bill), a qualitative analysis of the crisis contacts found that:
  • Transgender and nonbinary youth in Texas have directly stated that they are feeling stressed, using self-harm, and considering suicide due to anti-LGBTQ laws being debated in their state.
  • Some transgender and nonbinary youth have expressed fear over losing access to sports that provide important acceptance in their lives.

“As a transgender young person in Texas, this new data from the Trevor Project is not surprising, but it’s nonetheless harrowing and alarming to see this representation of the detrimental impact Texas Lege is having on our community — especially our kids. Lawmakers and proponents of bills like SB3 and HB10 should be alarmed by these statistics, too,” Landon Richie a Trans youth activist and GenderCool Youth Leader from Houston told the Los Angeles Blade.

“Under the guise of protecting children and promoting fairness, Texas legislators are directly harming thousands of transgender and nonbinary youth, denying them the dignity, respect, and childhoods that they deserve. It’s never an exaggeration to say that the passage — and merely debate — of these bills will cost lives,”  Richie added.

National mental health organizations like The Trevor Project and state LGBTQ equality groups including Equality Texas and Transgender Education Network of Texas (TENT) are raising concerns about the impact of such legislation on the mental health and wellbeing of transgender and nonbinary youth.

The Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that more than half (52%) of transgender and nonbinary youth seriously considered suicide in the past year and 1 in 5 attempted suicide. Further, Trevor released a new research brief earlier this month on LGBTQ youth participation in sports, which found that a majority of LGBTQ young people (nearly 66%) do not actively participate in sports — with many citing fear of bullying and discrimination as a key factor for not participating.

If you or someone you know needs help or support, The Trevor Project’s trained crisis counselors are available 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386, via chat at TheTrevorProject.org/Help, or by texting START to 678678. 

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Utah

2nd largest school district in Utah bans Pride & BLM flags as ‘too political’

“We have to have a politically neutral classroom, and we’re going to educate the students in the best possible way that we can”

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Davis School District Offices in Farmington Utah (Photo Credit: Davis School District)

FARMINGTON, Ut. – Administrators this week in the Davis School District, which is Utah’s 2nd largest school district with 72,987 students, banned LGBTQ Pride and Black Lives Matter flags, saying they are ‘politically charged.’

According to the Salt Lake City Tribune, Davis Schools spokesperson Chris Williams told the paper; “No flags fly in our schools except for the flag of the United States of America.” Williams later walked that statement back adding a clarification that some of the Districts schools have flags from sports team or international countries which are considered “unrelated to politics.”

“What we’re doing is we’re following state law,” said Williams. “State law says that we have to have a classroom that’s politically neutral.”

Amanda Darrow, Director of Youth, Family, and Education at the Utah Pride Center in Salt Lake City, told multiple media outlets the school district is “politicizing the rainbow flag” which doesn’t belong on a political list.

“That flag for us is so much more,” said Darrow. “It is just telling us we’re included in the schools, we are being seen in the schools, and we belong in these schools.”

KUTV CBS2 News in Salt Lake City checked with the Utah State Board of Education. In an email, spokesman Mark Peterson said, “There is nothing in code that specifically defines a rainbow flag as a political statement so it would be up to district or charter school policies to make that determination.”

The local Utah chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union also weighed in saying in a statement;

Whether or not a school district has the legal ability to ban inclusive and supportive symbols from classrooms, it is bad policy for them to do so,” the advocacy organization said in a statement. “Utah schools have an obligation to ensure that all students, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identify, feel welcome inside a classroom. We urge school administrators and teachers to adopt policies that make all students feel safe and included.”

Williams insisted the policy is not meant to exclude anyone and that all students are loved and welcomed – they just want to keep politics out of school he told the Tribune and KUTV.

“We have to have a politically neutral classroom, and we’re going to educate the students in the best possible way that we can,” said Williams.

A Utah based veteran freelance journalist, writer, editor, and food photographer weighed in on Twitter highlighting the negative impact of the Davis Schools decision on its LGBTQ youth.

Davis County School District bans LGTBQ and BLM flags as ‘too political’

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