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Civil rights icon Rev. Joseph E. Lowery dies at 98

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As America grapples with an incompetent president and the fast-spreading, silent malevolent coronavirus, it is imperative to stop for a moment and acknowledge significant milestones as they flash and fade into history.

This is such a moment.

Civil rights icon, the Rev. Joseph E. Lowery, who co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., died of natural causes Friday at his Atlanta home. He was 98.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change announced his death on Twitter.

As a young Methodist minister, Lowery “successfully campaigned to integrate buses in Mobile, Ala.,” reports the Los Angeles Times, “before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus on Dec. 1, 1955.”

He subsequently worked with King, other civil rights leaders such as openly gay Bayard Rustin “and other Alabama ministers to oversee a 381-day boycott of Montgomery’s segregated buses.”

Two years later, in 1957, he worked with King, Rustin, Ella Baker, Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth of Birmingham, Rev. Ralph Abernathy of Montgomery, and Rev. CK Steele of Tallahassee in founding the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), which led to President Lyndon Johnson helping pass and then sign the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“We had been through sit-ins and kneel-ins where we had been beat up and locked up and cussed out and locked out,” Lowery said in a 1994 interview. “It was a milestone, a watershed. It helped America take off the cloak of official segregation.”

Lowery took the reins as president of SCLC in 1977 and led the organization for 20 years, during which time he fought for gay rights and promoted AIDS education.

Though he formerly retired in 1992, he could not retire his activism – continuing to stand up for LGBTQ rights, despite controversy. In May 2000, for instance, he stood up for gay inclusion at the United Methodist Church’s General Conference in Cleveland. Here’s how Gilbert H. Caldwell, leader of the LGBTQ group Affirmation, described the moment:

“Joseph E. Lowery, retired United Methodist minister, former President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), following Martin Luther King, Jr. and Ralph Abernathy,  electrified the [United Methodist] General Board of Church and Society Dinner with his Biblically-based, social-justice focused message.

Lowery, noted over the years for his ability to not only “talk the talk, ” but “walk the walk,” addressed a series of justice issues that still challenge us in this first year of the 21st century. Among these issues are -economic imbalances -biblically-based “affirmative action” -one-way racial integration -fear of Cuba, expressed through an embargo, contrasted by a quest for economic relations with China- a racially- biased justice system -the risk the church takes when it restricts, limits and excludes those whose orientation is homosexual. Dr. Lowery wondered out loud, “How could the church, because of a person’s sexual orientation, deny ministry to those whom God has called?” He then suggested that he would prefer to err on the side of inclusion rather than exclusion.

His comments on full inclusivity within the body of Christ were made in the late afternoon of a day that began with Bishop Arthur Kulah’s morning sermon, “Authority for What?” Bishop Kulah, the distinguished Bishop of the Liberia Annual Conference identified “homosexualism. ..as one of the threatening challenges to our church. …” It is interesting that Bishop Kulah near the end of the sermon, used the words that are so closely identified with Martin Luther King, Jr., “When you obey God. ..you will not judge people on the color of their skin, but by the content of their character!”

Two gifted God-confirmed leaders, Arthur F. Kulah, an African, and Joseph E. Lowery, African American, were both influenced by the courageous insights and life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

How, we ask Bishop Kulah, do we discover “content of character” in persons, if their very being “challenges” the church and renders them incompatible?

Thank you, Dr. Joseph Lowery, for being a living prophet in and beyond United Methodism. Your name added to our statement is deeply appreciated.”

In 2008, the year anti-gay marriage Prop 8 passed and Barack Obama was elected president, Lowery, a supporter of marriage equality, became the de facto champion of LGBTQ rights after Obama picked Prop 8-supporting evangelical Rick Warren to give the invocation at his Inauguration.

GLAAD, among other LGBTQ groups, was furious, issuing a scathing press release on Dec. 18, 2008 that reads, in part:

“Saddleback Church drew global media attention as the venue for a presidential debate on values, which Warren followed up by using his media influence to speak against marriage for same-sex marriage. He was instrumental in building support for the passage of Proposition 8, which banned marriage for gay couples. Today, President-elect Obama responded at a live press conference with carefully crafted talking points by saying that Warren had invited him to Saddleback in spite of their differing views on many topics and now he has invited Warren to be part of America’s “noisy conversation” of divergent opinions. Obama pointed to the Rev. Joseph E. Lowery as the minister who will give the benediction and has vastly different view on gay issues.”

Unlike Maya Angelou in her Inaugural poem Lowery did not specifically mention gays in his benediction. But he did call for love and inclusion that Jan. 20, 2009:

“And now, Lord, in the complex arena of human relations, help us to make choices on the side of love, not hate; on the side of inclusion, not exclusion; tolerance, not intolerance.

And as we leave this mountain top, help us to hold on to the spirit of fellowship and the oneness of our family. Let us take that power back to our homes, our workplaces, our churches, our temples, our mosques, or wherever we seek your will….

Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get in back, when brown can stick around…

(LAUGHTER)

… when yellow will be mellow…

(LAUGHTER)

LOWERY: … when the red man can get ahead, man; and when white will embrace what is right. That all those who do justice and love mercy say Amen.

AUDIENCE: Amen.

LOWERY: Say Amen.

AUDIENCE: Amen.

LOWERY: And Amen.

AUDIENCE: Amen.

(APPLAUSE)

Just some of the response:

President Barack Obama meets with civil rights movement leader Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery and his family in the Oval Office, Jan. 18, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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Idaho

Idaho ends legislative session, anti-LGBTQ+ bills sent to governor

Legislators missed their self-appointed adjournment deadline twice due to in-fighting and behind-the-scenes debates

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The Idaho House of Representatives in session at the State Capitol building in Boise on Jan. 23, 2024. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

By Clark Corbin | BOISE, Idaho – Idaho’s sometimes brutal and bruising 2024 legislative session came to a quiet end at the Idaho State Capitol in Boise on Wednesday, as without overriding any vetoes or introducing any new major bills.

After passing a controversial transportation budget on April 3, Idaho legislators recessed until Wednesday to give themselves an opportunity to try to overcome any late-session vetoes issued by Gov. Brad Little. The Idaho Senate adjourned for the year shortly before 2:45 p.m. Wednesday, and the Idaho House of Representatives adjourned a few minutes later, at 2:49 p.m.

Little did issue two vetoes on bills this week during the legislative recess – one relating to the jurisdiction of the Idaho Public Utilities Commission, another relating to a bill that would have granted the state treasurer the authority to keep a portion of state funds in physical gold and silver. The Idaho Senate attempted to override Little’s veto of Senate Bill 1323, the public utilities commission bill, but fell short of the necessary 23 vetoes. That means Little’s veto stands. 

On the other hand, Little allowed two of the most controversial late-session bills to become law. Little signed House Bill 710, which would require library’s to move so-called harmful materials upon a written request or face a lawsuit. Little also allowed House Bill 770, the transportation services budget that revokes the state’s authority to carry out the $51 million sale of the Idaho Transportation Department’s flooded former Boise headquarters on State Street, to become law without his signature. Little also allowed House Bill 726, a related budget bill for the Department of Administration, to become law without his signature.

Little addressed revoking the sale in a transmittal letter that was sent to House Speaker Mike Moyle, R-Star, on Wednesday. 

“However, I did not sign these bills because the intent language unwinds statutory policy language about how the state handles surplus properties and it increases overhead for office space needs around the state,” Little wrote. “In addition it unfairly cancels an agreed upon sales process, causing future reputational risk for the State of Idaho.”

Idaho legislators missed adjournment targets partially because of GOP infighting

Wednesday was the 94th day of the session, which gaveled in back on Jan. 8. 

Legislators missed their self-appointed adjournment deadline twice due to in-fighting and behind-the-scenes debates. Legislative leaders originally hoped to wrap up the session on March 22. But the Idaho House got bogged down in a leadership struggle and contentious budget debate that set legislators back at least a week. On Feb. 8, House Republicans took what is widely viewed as the unprecedented step of removing a major member of leadership, former House Majority Leader Megan Blanksma, R-Hammett, from her leadership post during an ongoing session. Leadership elections traditionally take place in December of even numbered years following a general election. The vote or action to remove Blanksma appeared to happen behind closed doors. There was no announcement on the floor Feb. 8, and Blanksma quietly walked off the floor that day and was eventually replaced by new House Majority Leader Jason Monks, R-Meridian.

Several legislators on Wednesday agreed that it was time to wrap up the session for the year.

“It’s a privilege to be able to do this, but it’s time to be done,” Rep. Jack Nelsen, R-Jerome, told the Sun just before the Idaho House was called to order at noon Wednesday. 

What passed during Idaho’s 2024 legislative session?

  • House Bill 722: The fiscal year 2025 budget for the Workforce Development Council provides $71 million to implement grants for the Idaho Launch program that Gov. Brad Little champions. The Idaho Launch program provides Idaho high school and home school graduates with $8,000 grants to prepare for an in-demand career. Little said the program will help train the next generation of Idahoans for a trade, allow them to remain home in Idaho and support businesses. But some prominent Republicans in the Idaho Legislature, including House Speaker Mike Moyle, R-Star, targeted Launch as a “handout.” 
  • House Bill 521: According to Idaho Education News, House Bill 521 creates ways for the state to spend an estimated $2 billion on school facilities over the next 10 years. Little made school facilities a prominent feature in his Jan. 8 State of the State address, highlighting a school that has sewage leaking under its cafeteria and telling the Idaho Legislature to stop kicking the can down the road on addressing the state’s deteriorating school buildings. “The can we are kicking is getting heavier, and we are running out of road,” Little warned in his State of the State address. 
  • House Bill 399: After Idaho became the only state not to review maternal death data, this bill authorizes the Idaho Board of Medicine to collect and review that data. Before the Idaho Legislature allowed the state’s Maternal Mortality Review Committee to expire last summer, data between 2018 and 2021 had shown a steady increase in deaths among pregnant women and new mothers, the Sun previously reported.   
  • Senate Bill 1234: This bipartisan bill co-sponsored by Sen. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, and Rep. Jack Nelsen, R-Jerome, allows insurance enrollees to receive up to a six-month supply of contraceptives. Currently, many insurance plans only reimburse for a one-month to three-month supply, according to the bill’s statement of purpose. 
  • House Bill 770: The fiscal year 2025 enhanced transportation services budget revokes the state’s authority to carry out the $51 million sale of the Idaho Transportation Department’s flooded former Boise headquarters on State Street and provides the third successive $200 million installment to repair and replace aging and poorly rated local bridges across Idaho. The debate over whether to block the sale of the State Street headquarters at least partially led to delaying the end of the 2024 legislative session and caused the would-be buyers from Hawkins Companies, the Pacific Companies and FJ Management to weigh their legal options after they said they thought they had struck a deal with the state. “We’re obviously extremely disappointed in the passage of this legislation,” said Brian Huffaker, CEO of Hawkins Companies, in a statement on behalf of Hawkins, The Pacific Companies and FJ Management. “This governmental overreach is a massive waste of taxpayer dollars, and we’re confident the courts will agree this kind of legislative interference in the free market violates the state constitution. We will be exploring legal action.”
  • House Bill 421: The bill states the Idaho Legislature only recognizes two sexes in human beings; male and female. The bill also states the word “gender” shall be a synonym for the word “sex” and shall not be considered a synonym for gender identity. Both the Idaho House and Idaho Senate passed the bill, and Little signed it into law Tuesday.  
  • House Bill 710: This year’s version of “the library materials bill” would require libraries to move materials deemed harmful to minors upon written notification from a parent, legal guardian or child, or be faced with a lawsuit for $250 dollars in statutory damages, plus uncapped actual damages and any other relief available by law. The Idaho House passed the harmful materials bill March 13, and it was one of the final bills of the year passed by the Idaho Senate on April 3. Little signed it Wednesday.
  • House Bill 538: This bill enacts protections for public employees and teachers who are unwilling to use a person’s preferred pronouns. Idaho Education News reported that under the bill teacher’s will not be able to refer to a student by a name or pronoun that does not align with their birth sex without parental permission. Little signed the bill into law Monday. 
  • Senate Bill 1377: This bill requires people who are paid to gather signatures for a ballot initiative or a referendum to disclose that they are being paid. Little signed it into law on April 4, and it is scheduled to take effect on July 1.  
  • House Bill 599: Republican House Speaker Mike Moyle, R-Star and Rep. Brandon Mitchell, R-Moscow, co-sponsored the bill as a way to combat what supporters  described as “ballot harvesting.” Under the bill, it is illegal for someone to collect and turn in another person’s absentee ballot or unvoted ballot. If someone collects 10 or more ballots during any election a violation of the bill would become a felony. The bill includes exceptions for caregivers of voters, relatives of voters and a person who is a member of the voter’s household. However, opponents including the voting advocacy group Babe Vote, described the bill as a voter suppression law that criminalizes Idahoans for helping their neighbors turn in their absentee ballots. Little signed the bill into law Tuesday.

What didn’t pass or didn’t get done in Idaho this legislative session?

  • Health of the mother legislation: Under Idaho’s strict felony abortion ban, the law does not allow for a doctor to terminate a pregnancy to protect the health of the mother – only to save the mother’s life. Most Americans support an exception to abortion bans that allows for the medical professional to protect the health or save the life of the pregnant patient, the Sun and States Newsroom previously reported. Last year, Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa, worked on an unsuccessful bill that would have added an exception “to treat a physical condition of the woman that if left untreated would be life-threatening.” Crane pulled the bill back last year, the Sun previously reported, but vowed to continue working on a compromise on the issue, telling States Newsroom, “It has to be dealt with.” Legislators did not pass a bill this year that created a new exception to protect the health of the pregnant patient.  
  • House Bill 753: This bill was a Texas-style immigration bill sponsored by Rep. Jaron Crane, R-Nampa, which would have created a new state crime of illegal entry into the state, allowed local law enforcement officials to check a person’s immigration status and allow a magistrate judge to order someone who violates the bill to return to their country of origin. The Idaho House voted 53-15 to pass the bill on March 29, but the Idaho Senate never took up the bill. 
  • Senate Concurrent Resolution 135: This was an anti-racism and anti-hate speech resolution condemning the racist harassment allegedly directed at University of Utah women’s basketball team while visiting Coeur d’Alene Resort last month. The Senate voted 33-1 to adopt the resolution March 28, but the Idaho House never took up the resolution, and it died when the legislative session adjourned for the year. 
  • Senate Bill 1273: This bill would have required the Idaho secretary of state to mail a new informational voter guide to every household in the state 30 days before an election. The Idaho Senate voted 22-13 to pass the bill on Feb. 26, but the House State Affairs committee never took up the bill after it was referred to the committee in late February. 
  • Senate Bill 1445: This additional budget for the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare would have provided $545,300 in state funding to provide summer lunches for low income children, Idaho Education News reported. The federal government would have covered half of the administrative costs for the program and 100% of the lunch money, Idaho EdNews reported. But the Idaho Senate rejected the budget on a 10-25 vote March 28 after Sen. Cindy Carlson, R-Riggins, and others said the state would be sending the wrong message by providing something free without requiring something in return. The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee rewrote the budget without funding for the summer lunch program, killing the program in Idaho.  
  • House Joint Resolution 4: This proposed amendment to the Idaho Constitution was promoted as a way to block ranked choice voting, which is a component of the open primary ballot initiative. The proposed amendment sought to limit elections to one round of voting, with the person with the highest number of votes being elected. But some legislators worried passing the bill would create unintended consequences for nonpartisan judicial primary elections. Amending the Idaho Constitution requires a two-thirds majority vote of both the Idaho House and Idaho Senate. But the proposed amendment died in the Idaho House on March 11 on a 42-27 vote after falling short of the necessary 47 votes. The proposed amendment is now dead for the year.

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Clark Corbin

Idaho Capital Sun senior reporter Clark Corbin has more than a decade of experience covering Idaho government and politics. He has covered every Idaho legislative session since 2011 gavel-to-gavel.

Prior to joining the Idaho Capital Sun he reported for the Idaho Falls Post Register and Idaho Education News. His reporting in Idaho has helped uncover a multimillion-dollar investment scam and exposed inaccurate data that school districts submitted to the state.

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The preceding article was previously published by the Idaho Capital Sun and is republished with permission.

The Idaho Capital Sun is the Gem State’s newest nonprofit news organization delivering accountability journalism on state politics, health care, tax policy, the environment and more. We’re part of States Newsroom, the nation’s largest state-focused nonprofit news organization.

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Kansas

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly vetoes ban on gender-identity health care

Republicans vow to seek override of Democratic governor’s actions. Senate President Ty Masterson says reflects her radical left agenda

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Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly vetoed two abortion bills and a measure criminalizing transgender health care for minors. House and Senate Republican leaders responded with promises to seek veto overrides when the full Legislature returned to Topeka on April 26. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

By Tim Carpenter | TOPEKA, Kan. — Gov. Laura Kelly flexed a veto pen to reject bills Friday prohibiting gender-identity health care for transgender youth, introducing a vague crime of coercing someone to have an abortion and implementing a broader survey of women seeking abortion that was certain to trigger veto override attempts in the Republican-led House and Senate.

The decisions by the Democratic governor to use her authority to reject these health- and abortion-rights bills didn’t come as a surprise given her previous opposition to lawmakers intervening in personal decisions that she believed ought to remain the domain of families and physicians.

Kelly said Senate Bill 233, which would ban gender-affirming care for transgender minors in Kansas, was an unwarranted attack on a small number of Kansans under 18. She said the bill was based on a politically distorted belief the Legislature knew better than parents how to raise their children.

She said it was neither a conservative nor Kansas value to block medical professionals from performing surgery or prescribing puberty blockers for their patients. She said stripping doctors of their licenses for serving health interests of patients was wrong. Under the bill, offending physicians could be face lawsuits and their professional liability insurance couldn’t be relied on to defend themselves in court.

“To be clear, this legislation tramples parental rights,” Kelly said. “The last place that I would want to be as a politician is between a parent and a child who needed medical care of any kind. And, yet, that is exactly what this legislation does.”

Senate President Ty Masterson, R-Andover, and House Speaker Dan Hawkins, R-Wichita, responded to the governor by denouncing the vetoes and pledging to seek overrides when legislators returned to the Capitol on April 26. The transgender bill was passed 27-13 in the Senate and 82-39 in the House, suggesting both chambers were in striking distance of a two-thirds majority necessary to thwart the governor.

“The governor has made it clear yet again that the radical left controls her veto pen,” Masterson said. “This devotion to extremism will not stand, and we look forward to overriding her vetoes when we return in two weeks.”

Cathryn Oakley, senior director of the Human Rights Campaign, said the ban on crucial, medically necessary health care for transgender  youth was discriminatory, designed to spread dangerous misinformation and timed to rile up anti-LGBTQ+ activists.

“Every credible medical organization — representing over 1.3 million doctors in the United States — calls for age-appropriate, gender-affirming care for transgender and nonbinary people,” Oakley said. “This is why majorities of Americans oppose criminalizing or banning gender-affirming care.”

Abortion coercion

Kelly also vetoed House Bill 2436 that would create the felony crime of engaging in physical, financial or documentary coercion to compel a girl or woman to end a pregnancy despite an expressed desire to carry the fetus to term. It was approved 27-11 in the Senate and 82-37 in the House, again potentially on the cusp of achieving a veto override.

The legislation would establish sentences of one year in jail and $5,000 fine for those guilty of abortion coercion. The fine could be elevated to $10,000 if the adult applying the pressure was the fetuses’ father and the pregnant female was under 18. If the coercion was accompanied by crimes of stalking, domestic battery, kidnapping or about 20 other offenses the prison sentence could be elevated to 25 years behind bars.

Kelly said no one should be forced to undergo a medical procedure against their will. She said threatening violence against another individual was already a crime in Kansas.

“Additionally, I am concerned with the vague language in this bill and its potential to intrude upon private, often difficult, conversations between a person and their family, friends and health care providers,” the governor said. “This overly broad language risks criminalizing Kansans who are being confided in by their loved ones or simply sharing their expertise as a health care provider.”

Hawkins, the House Republican leader, said coercion was wrong regardless of the circumstances and Kelly’s veto of the bill was a step too far to the left.

“It’s a sad day for Kansas when the governor’s uncompromising support for abortion won’t even allow her to advocate for trafficking and abuse victims who are coerced into the procedure,” Hawkins said.

Emily Wales, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes, said HB 2436 sought to equate abortion with crime, perpetuate false narratives and erode a fundamental constitutional right to bodily autonomy. The bill did nothing to protect Kansas from reproductive coercion, including forced pregnancy or tampering with birth control.

“Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes trusts patients and stands firmly against any legislation that seeks to undermine reproductive rights or limit access to essential health care services,” Wales said.

Danielle Underwood, spokeswoman for Kansas for Life, said “Coercion Kelly” demonstrated with this veto a lack of compassion for women pushed into an abortion.

The abortion survey

The House and Senate approved a bill requiring more than a dozen questions be added to surveys of women attempting to terminate a pregnancy in Kansas. Colorful debate in the House included consideration of public health benefits of requiring interviews of men about reasons they sought a vasectomy birth control procedure or why individuals turned to health professionals for treatment of erectile dysfunction.

House Bill 2749 adopted 81-39 in the House and 27-13 in the Senate would require the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to produce twice-a-year reports on responses to the expanded abortion survey. The state of Kansas cannot require women to answer questions on the survey.

Kelly said in her veto message the bill was “invasive and unnecessary” and legislators should have taken into account rejection in August 2022 of a proposed amendment to the Kansas Constitution that would have set the stage for legislation further limiting or ending access to abortion.

“There is no valid medical reason to force a woman to disclose to the Legislature if they have been a victim of abuse, rape or incest prior to obtaining an abortion,” Kelly said. “There is also no valid reason to force a woman to disclose to the Legislature why she is seeking an abortion. I refuse to sign legislation that goes against the will of the majority of Kansans who spoke loudly on August 2, 2022. Kansans don’t want politicians involved in their private medical decisions.”

Wales, of Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes, said the bill would have compelled health care providers to “interrogate patients seeking abortion care” and to engage in violations of patient privacy while inflicting undue emotional distress.

Hawkins, the Republican House speaker, said the record numbers of Kansas abortions — the increase has been driven by bans or restrictions imposed in other states — was sufficient to warrant scrutiny of KDHE reporting on abortion. He also said the governor had no business suppressing reporting on abortion and criticized her for tapping into “irrational fears of offending the for-profit pro-abortion lobby.”

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Tim Carpenter

Tim Carpenter has reported on Kansas for 35 years. He covered the Capitol for 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal and previously worked for the Lawrence Journal-World and United Press International.

The preceding story was previously published by the Kansas Reflector and is republished with permission.

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The Kansas Reflector is a nonprofit news operation providing in-depth reporting, diverse opinions and daily coverage of state government and politics. This public service is free to readers and other news outlets. We are part of States Newsroom: the nation’s largest state-focused nonprofit news organization, with reporting from every capital.

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Colorado

Transgender, nonbinary ICE detainees allege mistreatment at Colo. detention center

Advocacy groups filed complaint with federal officials on April 9

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The Aurora Contract Detention Facility (Photo courtesy of GEO Group)

AURORA, Colo. — Five Transgender and nonbinary people who are in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody at a privately-run detention center in Colorado say they continue to suffer mistreatment.

The Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network, the National Immigration Project and the American Immigration Council on April 9 filed a complaint with the Department of Homeland Security’s Offices for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, Immigration Detention Ombudsman and Inspector General and ICE’s Office of Professional Responsibility on behalf of the detainees at the Aurora Contract Detention Facility near Denver.

Charlotte, one of the five complainants, says she spends up to 23 hours a day in her room. 

She says in the complaint that a psychiatrist has prescribed her medications for anxiety and depression, but “is in the dark about her actual diagnoses because they were not explained to her.” Myriah and Elsa allege they do not have regular access to hormones and other related health care.

Omar, who identifies as Trans and nonbinary, in the complaint alleges they would “start hormone replacement therapy if they could be assured that they would not be placed in solitary confinement.” Other detainees in the complaint allege staff have also threatened to place them in isolation.

“They have been told repeatedly that, if they started therapy, they would be placed in ‘protective custody’ (solitary confinement) because the Aurora facility has no nonbinary or men’s Transgender housing unit,” reads the complaint. “This is so, despite other Trans men having been detained in Aurora in the past, so Omar is very likely receiving misinformation that is preventing them from accessing the treatment they require.”

Omar further alleges staffers told them upon their arrival that “they had to have a ‘boy part’ (meaning a penis) to be assigned to” the housing unit in which other Trans people live. Other complainants say staff have also subjected them to degrading comments and other mistreatment because of their gender identity. 

“Victoria, Charlotte and Myriah are all apprehensive about a specific female guard who is assigned to the housing unit for Transgender women at Aurora,” reads the complaint. “Victoria has experienced this guard peering at her through the glass on the door of her form. Charlotte, Myriah and the other women in her dorm experienced the same guard making fun of them after they complained that she had confiscated all of their personal hygiene products, like their toothbrushes and toothpaste, and replaced them with menstrual pads and tampons, which she knows they do not need.”

“She said something to them like, ‘If you were real women, you would need these things,'” reads the complaint. “The same guard told them that they had to ask her for their personal hygiene products when they wanted to use them, stripping them of their most basic agency.”

Victoria, who has been in ICE custody for more than two years, also says she does not have regular access to hormones. Victoria further claims poor food, lack of access to exercise and stress and anxiety because of her prolonged detention has caused has made her health deteriorate.

The GEO Group, a Florida-based company, operates the Aurora Contract Detention Facility.

Advocates for years have complained about the conditions for Trans and nonbinary people in ICE custody and have demanded the agency release all of them.

Roxsana Hernández, a Trans Honduran woman with HIV, on May 25, 2018, died in ICE custody in New Mexico. Her family in 2020 sued the federal government and the five private companies who were responsible for her care.

Johana “Joa” Medina Leon, a Trans Salvadoran woman, on June 1, 2019, passed away at a Texas hospital four days after her release from ICE custody. Kelly González Aguilar, a Trans Honduran woman, had been in ICE custody for more than two years until her release from the Aurora Contract Detention Center on July 14, 2020.

ICE spokesperson Steve Kotecki on Friday told the Blade there were 10 “self-identified Transgender detainees” at the Aurora Contract Detention Center on April 11. The facility’s “transgendered units” can accommodate up to 87 Trans detainees. 

A 2015 memorandum then-ICE Executive Associate Director of Enforcement and Removal Operations Thomas Homan signed requires personnel to allow Trans detainees to identify themselves based on their gender identity on data forms. The directive, among other things, also contains guidelines for a “respectful, safe and secure environment” for Trans detainees and requires detention facilities to provide them with access to hormone therapy and other Trans-specific health care.

“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is committed to ensuring that all those in its custody reside in safe, secure and humane environments,” said Kotecki. “ICE regularly reviews each case involving self-identified Transgender noncitizens and determines on a case-by-case basis whether detention is warranted.”

The complaint, however, states this memo does not go far enough to protect Trans and nonbinary detainees.

“ICE’s 2015 guidance has some significant flaws,” it reads. “It fails to provide meaningful remedies for policy violations. It does not acknowledge the challenges that nonbinary people face when imprisoned by ICE and the lack of such guidance explains why the needs of nonbinary people are largely misunderstood and unmet.”

“Further, the language used to describe people who are TNB is not inclusive and does not reflect terminology adopted by the community it is meant to describe,” adds the complaint. “Although this list is not exhaustive, it addresses some of the primary concerns voiced by the complaints.”

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U.S. Federal Courts

Federal judge tosses a NY county’s suit defending trans sports ban

Bills banning trans youth from participating in sports already have passed in 24 states, although some have been blocked by active lawsuits

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Theodore Roosevelt Federal Courthouse at 225 Cadman Plaza East in Brooklyn, New York. (Photo Credit: U.S. Courts/GSA)

BROOKLYN, N.Y. – A U.S. District Court judge ruled Friday against a pre-emptive lawsuit from Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman fighting off an attempt by New York Attorney General Letitia James to litigate his transphobic executive order barring the county’s Department of Parks, Recreation, and Museums from issuing permits to any women’s or girls’ sports team with transgender players.

“This decision is a tremendous victory for justice and the rule of law, but our work here is not done,” said Alexis Richards, a spokesperson for the Attorney General. “It’s past time for Nassau County to rescind this [executive] order and treat all our communities with the basic respect and dignity they deserve.”

Earlier this month U.S. District Court Judge Nusrat Choudhury, who is on the bench of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, denied Blakeman’s request for a temporary restraining order against the Attorney General.

In that ruling Judge Choudhury wrote that the Long Island county “falls far short of meeting the high bar for securing the extraordinary relief,” the Associated Press reported.

Among other things, Choudhury said the county failed to “demonstrate irreparable harm,” which she said was a “critical prerequisite” for such an order.

The ruling, however, doesn’t address the legality of the county’s ban or James’ request that the lawsuit be dismissed. Those issues will be decided at a later date, the Associated Press noted.

Reacting to today’s ruling in a statement released to the media Blakeman said: “We vehemently disagree with the decision and will appeal.”

On March 1st, Attorney General James sent a order of cease and desist to Blakeman demanding that the Republican Nassau County Executive rescind his February 22 directive within five days or else face additional legal actions. 

“The law is perfectly clear: you cannot discriminate against a person because of their gender identity or expression. We have no room for hate or bigotry in New York,” the Attorney General wrote. “This executive order is transphobic and blatantly illegal. Nassau County must immediately rescind the order, or we will not hesitate to take decisive legal action.” 

Last month the Nassau County Executive announced he was filing a lawsuit over the Attorney General’s actions.

Last month on March 11, the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) filed a separate lawsuit against the Nassau County Executive. The lawsuit argues that the policy violates New York’s Human Rights Law and Civil Rights Law, which explicitly prohibit discrimination based on gender identity following passage of New York’s Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA).  

“Trans people who play sports need support and affirmation, not to be a political target. Nassau County’s cynical attempt to shut them out of public spaces is a blatant violation of our state’s civil and human rights laws. It also speaks to growing, nationwide attacks against LGBTQ+ rights, and we won’t stand for this hatred here in New York,” said Gabriella Larios, staff attorney at the New York Civil Liberties Union. “As promised the day this executive order was issued, we’re taking action so that the courts relegate this harmful, transphobic policy to the dustbin of history, where it belongs.” 

The ban will remain in effect as the litigation proceeds or it is enjoined by a judge.

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Maine

Maine House passes proposed trans & abortion shield law

Republican critics of bill to protect professionals who provide reproductive & gender-affirming care repeated disinformation to argue against

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March for Queer & Trans Youth Autonomy in Washington D.C. 2023. (Michael Key/Washington Blade)

By Evan Popp | AUGUSTA, Maine – After hours of contentious debate that stretched late into the night, the Maine House on Wednesday approved a proposed “shield law” designed to protect the state’s health professionals who provide reproductive and gender-affirming care from being targeted by other states’ bans or restrictions on such treatments.  

The chamber passed LD 227, sponsored by Anne Perry (D-Calais), by an 80-70 mostly party-line vote, with Democrats in support and Republicans opposed (with the exception of Democratic Rep. Bruce White of Waterville). The bill will now move to the Senate. 

“What this bill intends to do is to shield — and that’s why it’s called a shield law — the providers who provide this care while in the state of Maine … from another state coming in to enforce their laws on this state,” Perry said. “It is a sovereignty issue.”

The measure comes as many Republican-led states have sought to curb access to reproductive care following the overturning of federal abortion rights in 2022 and have also targeted gender-affirming care for transgender youth. So far, in reaction to such efforts, 22 states and Washington, D.C. have passed shield laws protecting abortion and eleven of those states and D.C. also have protections specifically for gender-affirming care.

The Maine Legislature’s Judiciary Committee voted down a separate shield law proposal in January. The text of LD 227 was subsequently introduced and advanced by the Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services Committee last month. 

During the House debate on the bill Wednesday night, Democratic supporters said the bill is needed to ensure health professionals can provide legally-protected care without fear of being targeted by out-of-state actors. 

In contrast, Republicans repeated claims that the bill would facilitate criminal activity — arguments that legal experts have said are not based in reality. They also expressed concern that the measure would hamstring law enforcement by preventing them from sharing information and expressed their general opposition to gender-affirming care for minors and reproductive health rights like abortion. 

In his speech, Rep. Joshua Morris (R-Turner) argued the bill would make it easier for traffickers to find safe haven in Maine, claiming the measure would allow for kids to be brought to the state without parental consent for the services mentioned in the proposal. 

The argument that LD 227 represents an attack on parental rights was also invoked by numerous opponents of the legislation. 

“I have only scratched the surface of the problems with this bill,” Morris said, also citing issues with the process, including the late introduction of the measure and a lack of publicly-available text. 

Bill proponents say claims that the bill would facilitate kidnapping and trafficking are blatant lies. And legal authorities, including Attorney General Aaron Frey, have also pushed back against such arguments. Frey told Maine Morning Star that the bill makes “no changes to criminal law, nor does it legalize any currently illegal behavior.”

“There is no reading of the bill that would authorize criminal acts, like kidnapping or trafficking,” Frey stated. 

Furthermore, in response to concerns about the bill, lawmakers on the Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services Committee narrowed it to provide protections specifically for health care professionals and those who assist them, rather than offering protections for any person. Colleen McCarthy Reid, a legislative analyst from the Office of Policy and Legal Analysis, said the change was meant to emphasize the bill’s intended use following the claims about child trafficking and kidnapping. 

During Wednesday’s debate, opponents of the bill also said they were worried about the bill’s impact on law enforcement. Rep. Scott Cyrway (R-Albion) referenced the opposition of the Maine Sheriff’s Association to LD 227. Cyrway said the provisions in the bill that prevent law enforcement from sharing information to aid another state’s investigation into a legally-protected health activity in Maine would hamper the ability of police to work with colleagues in other places to address criminal activity. 

LD 227 does prevent police from knowingly providing information for an interstate investigation into legally-protected health activity or arresting someone in relation to such treatment. However, it provides some exceptions to these rules, including: if federal law requires action, if police have a good faith belief a warrant is valid in Maine, or if there isn’t enough time to comply with the provisions of LD 227 and there is a compelling need for action because of an imminent danger to public safety. 

Republicans attack gender-affirming care

Opponents of LD 227 also denounced gender-affirming care in general during Wednesday’s debate. They said the bill would allow kids to come from out of state to get what they referred to as treatment that cannot be reversed. Multiple Republicans claimed gender-transitioning services are unproven and dangerous for youth.

“This bill will allow doctors to mutilate beautiful bodies, completely throw a child’s fertility away, and hide and ignore true mental health issues and struggles,” said Rep. Katrina Smith (R-Palermo). 

However, proponents of the measure such as Rep. Matt Moonen (D-Portland) pointed out that reproductive health care and gender-affirming care are legally protected in Maine and that LD 227 does not change the extensive regulations in place for such treatments, particularly when it comes to youth. 

As Maine Morning Star previously reported, parental consent is needed in most cases for minors to obtain gender-affirming care. A law in Maine passed last session allows for people who are at least 16 years old to receive non-surgical gender-affirming hormone therapy — not gender reassignment surgery — without a parent’s consent, but only under a set of specific circumstances.   

Furthermore, Democrats pointed out that myriad health care organizations support gender-affirming care as necessary treatment for gender dysphoria.  

Providers say they fear prohibitions on such services will lead to worse mental health outcomes for transgender youth, with the American Medical Association calling efforts to curb gender-affirming care “a dangerous intrusion into the practice of medicine.”  

Rep. Sam Zager (D-Portland), a family physician, said safe and effective gender-affirming care is crucial to young people’s mental health and overall well-being. 

“People whose gender identity does not match their assigned gender I believe deserve access to evidence-based health care for their full being, just like everybody else. So health care practitioners can’t be intimidated …from providing it,” he said. 

Lawmakers push back against Republican AGs’ letter

In pushing for passage Wednesday, multiple Democrats also referenced a letter about the bill penned in March by 15 Republican attorneys general from around the country. In the letter, the officials argued a shield law would be unconstitutional and said they would “vigorously avail” themselves of “every recourse our Constitution provides” if the bill passed.  

Democratic lawmakers called the letter an egregious attempt to intimidate legislators and a prime example of why the state needs a shield law in the first place. Proponents also cited actions such as those taken by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who issued investigative subpoenas to a Washington state hospital that he alleged violated Texas law by providing gender affirming care to Texas youths.  

“At its core, this bill is about our state’s sovereign ability to set and enforce our state’s laws without interference from Texas, Tennessee or Kentucky,” said Rep. Amy Kuhn (D-Falmouth). 

Following Wednesday’s vote, Planned Parenthood Maine Action Fund praised lawmakers for passing the bill. 

In a news release, the group’s vice president of public affairs Lisa Margulies said, “Maine is one step closer to protecting our providers of essential medical care from hostile attacks by out-of-state extremists.” Margulies applauded lawmakers who voted for the bill “in the face of vile rhetoric and lies, political posturing and threats of violence.” 

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Evan Popp

Evan Popp studied journalism at Ithaca College. He joins Maine Morning Star following three years at Maine Beacon writing about statewide politics. Before that, he worked for the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper and interned at the Progressive magazine, ThinkProgress and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

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The preceding article was previously published by the Maine Morning Star and is republished with permission.

Maine Morning Star is an independent, nonprofit and nonpartisan news site covering state policy and politics — and how they impact the lives of Maine people. We aim to hold powerful people and institutions accountable and explain how their actions affect communities from Kennebunk to Caribou.

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

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Tennessee

Tennessee lawmakers: “Recruiting” for trans youth care a felony

The bill was passed alongside an abortion bill that would make it illegal for adults to help minors obtain abortions without parental consent

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Tennessee Capitol Building in Nashville. (Photo Credit: State of Tennessee)

By Erin Reed | NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Republican-controlled Tennessee Senate passed a bill Thursday that would make it a felony to help a transgender youth obtain gender-affirming care.

Read broadly, the bill could apply even to those providing information about healthcare resources and laws in other states to youths in Tennessee. The bill borrows old language from anti-gay rhetoric of decades past around “recruiting” to further clamp down on information given to transgender youth about healthcare.

It signals a new phase in the fight over transgender care in the United States, potentially having nationwide repercussions and pitting the state against others that have passed shield laws protecting patient healthcare from out of state investigations.

The bill is Senate Bill 2782. The language of the bill was amended before its passage Thursday, stating that any adult who “recruits, harbors, or transports” a minor in Tennessee for the purpose of gender-affirming care could be guilty of a Class C felony, which carries a prison sentence of three to 15 years.

 Read broadly, it could prohibit discussing healthcare options available in other states with transgender youths or providing maps of “safe states” for transgender healthcare to a transgender youth, though some legal experts say that this reading is constitutionally dubious and could violate first amendment protections.

You can read the amended bill here:

The bill is not the first to target transgender people, although it is the first to specify that it applies over state lines. Some gender affirming care bans in the United States have also banned “aiding and abetting” gender affirming care, such as in Mississippi and Iowa. Those bans have sparked concern that even counselors, voice therapists, and LGBTQ+ organizations could be targeted for “aiding and abetting” transgender youth obtaining care.

The Tennessee bill was passed alongside an abortion bill that would make it illegal for adults to help minors obtain abortions without parental consent, also dubbed an “abortion trafficking” law.

If passed, Tennessee would become only the second state to enact such a law after a similar one in Idaho was blocked in court. The Idaho law uses identical language, barring “recruiting, harboring, or transporting” a pregnant minor seeking an abortion. Together, these laws represent the latest in the cross-pollination between attacks on gender-affirming care and reproductive freedom that have become increasingly common in recent years.

This has in turn led to several states passing “safe state,” “shield,” or “sanctuary” laws for transgender people and those seeking or providing abortions or gender-affirming care. Currently, 15 states have enacted legislation or policies declaring themselves “sanctuary states” for gender-affirming care and reproductive healthcare

. These shield laws assert that other states cannot subpoena healthcare legally provided within their borders, and that they maintain jurisdiction over their own territories. These shield laws have already made an impact; Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton recently attempted to subpoena medical records from Seattle Children’s Hospital, which informed him that it could not comply due to Washington’s shield law.

You can see a state map of shield laws currently in effect here:

The fight over transgender rights is spilling into a battle over jurisdictional issues that have not been litigated in over a century and a half. In response to a recent proposal in Maine to pass a shield law, 16 Republican attorneys general signed a letter authored by the AG of Tennessee stating their intention to sue Maine if they pass a law that would bar complying with requests for patient healthcare information from across state lines.

similar letter, written by Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita and signed by 18 Republican AGs, announced similar opposition to shielding abortion records. In response, the Maine Legislature passed LD227, making it the potential 16th state to enact such a shield law, despite legal threats from Republican states like Tennessee.

The Tennessee bill is slated for a subcommittee hearing on April 16th. If the bill passes, there could be a showdown between the state and other states that have acted to protect their transgender citizens and citizens seeking abortions. Likewise, there could be an enormous chilling effect on providing information about transgender healthcare to minors in the state.

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Erin Reed is a transgender woman (she/her pronouns) and researcher who tracks anti-LGBTQ+ legislation around the world and helps people become better advocates for their queer family, friends, colleagues, and community. Reed also is a social media consultant and public speaker.

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The preceding article was first published at Erin In The Morning and is republished with permission.

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Ohio

Trans student bathroom ban bill passes Ohio House Committee

HB 183 would require Ohio K-12 schools & colleges mandate students only use bathroom or locker room that matches their sex assigned at birth

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Gender-neutral bathroom at Grant High School, Portland Oregon. (Screenshot/YouTube KGW NBC News Portland, Oregon)

By Megan Henty | COLUMBUS, Ohio – A bill that would ban transgender students from using the bathroom and locker room that matches up with their gender identity passed out of the Ohio House Higher Education Committee Wednesday by a 10-5 party line vote.

State Reps. Beth Lear, R-Galena, and Adam Bird, R-New Richmond, introduced House Bill 183 which would require Ohio K-12 schools and colleges to mandate that students could only use the bathroom or locker room that matches their sex assigned at birth. It would also prohibit schools from allowing students to share overnight accommodations with the opposite sex.

HB 183 now awaits further consideration in the House, which is next scheduled to be in session April 24. 

Parents, grandparents, and school superintendents asked Bird for this bill, he said. 

The American Medical Association officially opposes policies preventing transgender individuals from accessing basic human services and public facilities consistent with gender identity.

HB 183 would not prohibit a school from having single-occupancy facilities and it would not apply to someone helping a person with a disability or a child younger than 10 years old being assisted by a parent, guardian, or family member.

State Rep. Gayle Manning, R- North Ridgeville, thought about bringing an amendment to the committee that would have carved colleges and universities out of the bill, but she decided against it. 

“I’m hopeful we will continue to have these discussions on the removal of higher ed,” she said. “The reason being, we’re talking about adults. Universities are similar to a city with the number of students that they have. Frivolous lawsuits that will increase the cost of tuition eventually and the cost of our families.” 

Manning voted in favor of the bill even though she hopes lawmakers can continue conversations to “find a better solution.”

Bird opposes taking the higher education component out of the bill. 

“The reason I oppose that is because we have college credit plus in Ohio,” he said. “We seventh graders going to college, kids in high school going to colleges and in that college environment, we got to make sure they are protected.”

State Rep. Joe Miller, D-Amherst, vocalized his disdain for the bill before the committee voted. 

“Here we are again … taking away school districts and colleges’ ability and their leadership to make decisions that are best for providing safe, equitable access for all Ohio students,” Miller said. “I hope that this doesn’t see the floor and doesn’t see the governor’s desk.”

More than 100 people submitted opponent testimony on HB 183 and more than 30 people submitted proponent testimony. 

“We do love and care about all kids,” Bird said when asked about all the backlash the bill has received. “Me and my Republican colleagues have heard from constituents all across the state. They may not have been loud. They may not have been vocal. They may not have come with a sign to the Statehouse, but we are here representing the vast majority of Ohioans who want protections.” 

Trans advocates speak out against HB 183

Transgender advocates hosted a press conference following the House Higher Education Committee to voice their opposition to HB 183. Trans Ohio Board Member Carson Hartlage said HB 183 is harmful to all students, including cisgender students.

“Most trans non binary and gender non conforming students only begin using restrooms that align with their gender identities after they’ve experienced some form of trauma when using a restroom that aligns with their sex assigned at birth,” Hartlage said.

Thirty percent of LGBTQ+ students said they were prevented from using the bathroom that aligned with their gender, and 26% were stopped from using the locker room that aligned with their gender, according to Ohio’s 2021 state snapshot by GLSEN, which examines the school experiences of LGBTQ middle and high school students.

When looking specifically at transgender and nonbinary students, 42% were prevented from using the bathroom that aligned with their gender and 36% couldn’t use the locker room that aligned with their gender, according to the Ohio GLSEN report. 

Ohio’s first openly transgender public official and member of the Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools’ Board of Education Dion Manley shared his concerns. 

“As a trans man is I’ve been going into men’s restrooms for 25 years without incident,” Manley said. “I go visit the schools on a regular basis. So these legislators want me to go into a girls restroom in the elementary school, middle school, and high school.”

Mallory Golski, civic engagement and advocacy manager at Kaleidoscope Youth Center, said how Ohio was recently at the center of history in a positive way with Monday’s eclipse.

“We’re here reflecting on how we’re at the epicenter of another piece of history,” she said. “And unfortunately, we’re at the wrong place at the wrong time. Unlike the fleeting blackout of the total solar eclipse, the history I’m talking about here today at the statehouse leaves transgender youth in the dark.”

Jeanne Ogden’s daughter would be directly impacted by this bill. Her daughter’s college classroom building does not have single-use restrooms in the building, forcing her daughter to go across the street to use the restroom. 

“These kids getting bullied and yes, their mental health is suffering,” said Ogden, the executive director of Trans Allies of Ohio. “Trans people are tired. Parents are exhausted.”

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Megan Henry is a reporter for the Ohio Capital Journal and has spent the past five years reporting in Ohio on various topics including education, healthcare, business and crime. She previously worked at The Columbus Dispatch, part of the USA Today Network.

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The preceding article was previously published by the Ohio Capitol Journal and is republished with permission.

The Ohio Capital Journal is an independent, nonprofit news organization dedicated to connecting Ohioans to their state government and its impact on their lives. The Capital Journal combines Ohio state government coverage with incisive investigative journalism, reporting on the consequences of policy, political insight and principled commentary.

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

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National

Day of [no] silence, a call to speak out against anti-LGBTQ+ hate

GLSEN reframes its Day of Silence to confront the alarming rise in anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment, the message is clear: the time for action is now

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GLSEN/Los Angeles Blade graphic

NEW YORK – In a move to counteract the surge in anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, GLSEN, a leading national organization advocating for safe and inclusive schools for LGBTQ+ youth, has announced a significant shift in its annual Day of Silence event. 

Traditionally observed as a silent protest against LGBTQ+ discrimination and bullying, this year’s event will transform into the Day of (No) Silence, calling on advocates, students, educators, and allies to actively speak out against the wave of exclusionary policies sweeping across the nation.

Scheduled for April 12, 2024, the Day of (No) Silence emerges in response to over 470 anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced in state legislatures throughout the United States. The event’s reimagining encourages participants to leverage their voices, platforms, and votes to demand legislative support and protection for the LGBTQ+ community, especially trans and non-binary individuals.

“Education is the cornerstone of our democracy, yet it’s under attack by those with the  loudest voices pushing hateful agendas, using trans and queer students as pawns,” said GLSEN Executive Director, Melanie Willingham-Jaggers. “From bathroom bans to book bans, the attacks on our education system are relentless and widespread. It’s on us, as adults, to rise up for every child’s right to a safe and inclusive education. That’s why this year, we refuse to remain silent. We’re rising together, using our collective voices to fight back against these injustices. While some students are silenced by censorship laws or unsafe school environments, if you can, I urge you to join us. Speak up, vote, use your platform, and support GLSEN programs. Together, let’s build a future where every student can thrive.” 

The organization has laid out a comprehensive action plan for participants to follow on April 12th, ranging from using social media platforms to share student stories and resources, participating in the National School Climate Survey, to educators creating an inclusive classroom environment through GLSEN’s Rainbow Library.

In an interview with The Blade,  GLSEN’s Director of Communications Madison Hamilton, expounded on the shift to Day of (No) Silence. “It is imperative, with the over 480 hateful anti LGBT+ bills that have been presented this year alone that we make this shift,” Hamilton said. “We have heard from students and educators in our network, telling us that they want to take action and speak out. The silent protest is just not working anymore.”

Hamilton also addressed the broader impacts of discrimination, highlighted by the tragic murder of 16-year-old nonbinary Oklahoma resident, Nex Benedict, a vivid reminder of the deadly consequences of anti-LGBTQ+ hate. GLSEN’s statement underscores the urgent need for accountability and a collective fight against extremism targeting queer and trans youth within the educational system.

“At GLESN we believe education is the cornerstone of our democracy. All this hate rhetoric leads to hate crimes. Nex was in that bathroom because politicians in Oklahoma required them to be in that bathroom,” Hamilton told The Blade, emphasizing that holding adults accountable for their hateful rhetoric against the community is imperative to creating a more inclusive society in schools and beyond. 

GLSEN offers resources for educators, including an action guide for creating supportive environments for LGBTQ+ students, and calls on allies to engage in various forms of advocacy, such as hosting events, volunteering, and fundraising, to support the cause.

As GLSEN reframes its Day of Silence to confront the alarming rise in anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment, the message is clear: the time for action is now. By raising our voices, we can push back against discrimination, celebrate diversity, and pave the way for a future where all students can thrive, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

GLSEN is the nation’s leading organization dedicated to creating safe and inclusive K-12 schools for LGBTQ+ students. Founded over 34 years ago, it works tirelessly to combat harassment and discrimination through education, policy advocacy, and community building.
For more information on how to participate in the Day of (No) Silence and support LGBTQ+ youth, visit www.glsen.org.

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Louisiana

Severe weather doesn’t stop GOP anti-LGBTQ+ bills in Louisiana

As severe weather shut down nearly every government entity- a legislative committee met & quietly advanced anti-LGBTQ+ legislation

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As severe weather shut down nearly every government entity in Louisiana Wednesday, a legislative committee met and quietly advanced two pieces of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. (Allison Allsop/Louisiana Illuminator)

By Piper Hutchinson | BATON ROUGUE, La. – As severe weather shut down nearly every government entity in Louisiana Wednesday, a legislative committee met and quietly advanced two pieces of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. 

The Louisiana House Committee on Education advanced House Bill 121 by Rep. Raymond Crews, R-Bossier City, which prohibits the use of transgender and nonbinary youth’s chosen names and pronouns in public K-12 schools without parental permission, along a party line 9-3 vote. 

House Bill 122 by Rep. Dodie Horton, R-Haugton, which limits discussion of gender and sexuality in public K-12 schools, also advanced on a 9-3 vote, with Rep. Barbara Freiberg, R-Baton Rouge, joining Democrats in opposing the bill.   

The Legislature approved both bills last year. Then-Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, vetoed them, and Republicans were unable to overturn his action. A representative for Gov. Jeff Landry, a Republican, filed a card in support of both Crews’ and Horton’s bills. 

Committee hearings on the same bills in previous years stretched on for hours with extensive public testimony, primarily from LGBTQ+ youth, but Wednesday’s hearing moved at an unusually fast clip, with many advocates stuck at home. 

The committee was scheduled to meet at noon, an hour before a tornado watch expired for Baton Rouge. Tornadoes had touched down in Slidell and Lake Charles in the morning, and flooding and storm debris blocked roads across the state. 

Just four people testified against the bills Wednesday. By comparison, more than 40 people testified against the same bills in 2023, and over 300 more filed cards in opposition but did not speak. 

The Louisiana Senate decided late Tuesday afternoon to cancel its committee meetings the next day to avoid the hazardous weather. Senators aren’t scheduled to return to the Capitol until Monday.

The House of Representatives canceled all but two of its six scheduled committee meetings, In addition to Education, the House and Governmental Affairs Committee also met at noon to discuss several election-related bills  

Advocates with Forum For Equality, an LGBTQ+ rights organization, called on House Speaker Phillip DeVillier, R-Eunice, to cancel the two committee hearings.

Crews’ bill would require teachers and other school personnel to use a student’s given name and pronouns that align with their birth sex unless a student has permission from their parents to use their chosen name. 

Teachers would be allowed to disregard a parent’s choice to respect their transgender or nonbinary child’s preferred name and pronouns if they have religious opposition to doing so. 

Freiberg noted this double standard during the hearing, pointing out the bill was touted as a parental rights bill but allowed a parent’s choice to be invalidated. 

In an interview after the hearing, Crews said that while his bill supports parental rights, parents should not be able to eclipse somebody else’s religious rights. 

His bill does not have an exception for those who have a religious opposition to deadnaming or misgendering students. 

Deadnaming is when someone uses a transgender or nonbinary individual’s birth name, or “dead name,” against their wishes. Misgendering occurs when someone refers to an individual as a gender that they do not identify. 

At the core of Crews’ proposal is his belief that parents have the right to know whether their children are transgender. Advocates for the LGBTQ+ community say the bill would force transgender youth to out themselves to their parents or else be deadnamed and misgendered at school. They have raised concerns about what happens when parents find out — and don’t approve.

A survey from the Trevor Project found 38% of transgender women, 39% of transgender men and 35% of nonbinary youth have experienced homelessness as a result of parental rejection. 

Horton’s bill is similar to a Florida law referred to by critics as a “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Her proposal is much broader and would apply to K-12 grades, whereas Florida’s law applies only to early grade students. 

Florida recently settled a lawsuit over the law filed by civil rights activists. As part of the agreement, students and teachers are permitted to discuss gender and sexuality as long as  it is not part of classroom instruction. 

Horton’s bill would not just apply to classroom instruction. It also prohibits “covering the topics of sexual orientation or gender identity” during any extracurricular and athletics events, meaning it could potentially hinder student chapters of the Gay-Straight Alliance and other LGBTQ+ student organizations. 

Horton said she didn’t believe teachers should discuss their “lifestyle choices” with students and made reference to a Caddo Parish teacher who she said bragged about confusing children with their sexual orientation. 

As written, the bill would also prevent discussion of heterosexuality and the cisgender identity. 

The bills will next be discussed by the full House of Representatives. 

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Piper Hutchinson is a reporter for the Louisiana Illuminator. She has covered the Legislature and state government extensively for the LSU Manship News Service and The Reveille, where she was named editor in chief for summer 2022.

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The preceding piece was previously published by the Louisiana Illuminator and is republished by permission.

Louisiana Illuminator is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Louisiana Illuminator maintains editorial independence.

Follow Louisiana Illuminator on Facebook and Twitter.

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U.S. Federal Courts

Federal judge tosses suit against Calif. trans sanctuary state law

The law provides legal protections for families who come to Calif. to obtain gender-affirming care that is inaccessible where they live

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Robert T. Matsui U.S. Courthouse and Federal Building, Sacramento, Calif. (Photo Credit: U.S. Courts/GSA)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California dismissed a second amended complaint challenging the constitutionality of Senate Bill 107 (SB 107), also referred to as California’s Transgender Sanctuary State Law.

In the dismissal without leave to amend, the court dismissed the lawsuit on Article III standing grounds, finding that the plaintiff failed to allege that SB 107 injured them in any way, and failed to allege any facts showing that SB 107 forced the plaintiff to divert staff time and resources.

SB 107 protects children and families seeking gender affirming care, as well as their health care providers, from bigoted anti-trans laws in other states that criminalize medically necessary health care that is legal in California. 

The Transgender Sanctuary State Law provides legal protections for families who come to California to obtain gender-affirming care that is inaccessible where they live, as well as doctors and staff providing such care in California. It implements various safeguards against the enforcement of other states’ laws that would penalize people for obtaining medically necessary care that is legal in California.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta issued a statement following the U.S. District Court’s order granting the California Department of Justice’s motion to dismiss the second amended complaint challenging the constitutionality of Senate Bill 107 (SB 107).

“No one should ever be marginalized for seeking the care they need,” said Bonta. “The court’s decision is a major win for transgender children and their families in California and across the U.S. amidst a growing assault on LGBTQ+ rights nationwide. My office stands ready to defend SB 107 to ensure transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals obtain the care that empowers them to lead healthier, happier lives.”

“Transgender people just want to live their lives authentically and in peace, and California is defending their right to do so,” said the law’s author, state Senator Scott Wiener. “This ruling shows once again that trans people are living authentically in California without any of the negative impacts on those around them of which right-wing zealots accuse them. California’s leadership is united in defending transgender people, and LGBTQ people generally, from the vicious attacks they face in other states. I thank Attorney General Bonta and his team for their incredible work securing this major civil rights victory.”

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