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Peru found responsible for rape, torture of transgender woman

Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled for Azul Rojas Marín

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transgender, Gender Conference East, trans, transgender flag, gay news, Washington Blade
(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights has issued a landmark ruling that says Peru is responsible for the rape and torture of a transgender woman.

Azul Rojas Marín alleges police officers in Casa Grande, a town in the La Libertad region of northern Peru that is roughly 370 miles northwest of the country’s capital of Lima, detained her on Feb. 25, 2008. Rojas says she was forcibly stripped and beaten before two officers sodomized her with a police baton.

Rojas filed a formal complaint against the officers two days after the incident took place.

The court’s ruling — released on March 12, but made public on April 6 — notes local prosecutors launched an investigation into Rojas’ allegations, but they later dropped it. Rojas appealed the decision, but a Peruvian court in January 2009 “dismissed the investigation into the crimes of aggravated sexual assault and abuse of power.”

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights accepted Rojas’ case nearly a decade later.

The ruling orders Peru to “provide medical, psychological and/or psychiatric treatment” to Rojas and to prosecute the officers who tortured her. The ruling also directs Peru to track anti-LGBTQ violence in the country and develop a national strategy to respond to them.

Gabriela Oporto Patroni, a lawyer with Centro de Promoción y Defensa de los Derechos Sexuales y Reproductivos, a Peruvian LGBTQ advocacy group known by the acronym PROMSEX, represented Rojas.

Oporto on April 8 told the Los Angeles Blade during a WhatsApp interview from Lima that Rojas “is very pleased with the sentence.” Oporto also said the ruling sends a strong message to LGBTQ Peruvians who remain disproportionately vulnerable to violence and discrimination because of their gender identity and/or sexual orientation.

“The Peruvian state in the entire process before the court, before the commission, all the time has denied the existence of discrimination against LGTB people in Peru,” Oporto told the Blade.

“It is absolutely false that there is no discrimination against LGTB,” added Oporto. “The court has recognized that this context persists to this day.”

Oporto said Peru has not responded to the ruling.

“We have not had any communication from them,” Oporto told the Blade.

The Organization of American States created the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which is based in Costa Rica, in 1979 in order to enforce provisions of the American Convention on Human Rights. Peru is among the countries in the Americas that recognize the convention.

The court has previously ruled in favor of LGBTQ rights.

The court in 2018 issued another landmark ruling that recognized same-sex marriage and trans rights in the Western Hemisphere. The court in 2012 ruled in favor of Karen Atala, a judge who lost custody of her three daughters to her ex-husband because she is a lesbian.

The court also works closely with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which has urged countries in the region to decriminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations and address anti-LGBTQ violence and discrimination.

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U.S. Federal Courts

Court hears arguments on injunction blocking Iowa school book law

The law was blocked before enforcement began, but, a significant number of books were removed from Iowa K-12 public schools due to the law

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Gender Queer, a graphic memoir by Maia Kobabe, was the most challenged book in America in 2022, according to the American Library Association. (Photo by New Jersey Monitor)


By Robin Opsahl | ST. PAUL, Minn. – Attorneys for the state of Iowa and civil liberties groups clashed in court Tuesday over an injunction blocking enforcement of a law that restricts school libraries from carrying books with material related to sex acts, sexuality and gender.

The injunction was imposed by U.S. District Court Judge Stephen Locher in December 2023, days before enforcement of the law was expected to begin. It was issued after Penguin Random House Books and the Iowa State Education Association sought an injunction in one of the two lawsuits now challenging the measure, with the other lawsuit filed by American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa and Lambda Legal.

The lawsuit filed by Penguin Random House in conjunction with the ISEA, educators and authors argues that Iowa students’ constitutional rights of free speech and equal protection are restricted by the law, as the measure unreasonably limits their ability to freely access and share ideas.

Books removed from schools due to the law include classics like “Brave New World” and “Ulysses,” but also include several books focused on LGBTQ+ and race issues, including “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” and “Gender Queer.”

Books related to sexual assault and rape have also been removed from several Iowa school library shelves. Laurie Halse Anderson, author of “Speak” and “Shout” and one of the plaintiffs in the case, told reporters in November that restrictions on books like hers on sexual assault and violence could isolate and harm students looking for support in the aftermath of traumatic incidents.

During Tuesday’s hearing before a three-judge panel of U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, Eric Wessan of the Iowa Attorney General’s Office told the judges the law is not violating constitutional free speech protections, as these books can still be found and obtained at a bookstore. The law’s restriction of materials in public-school libraries is a regulation of government speech, not private speech, he argued.

“The government’s interest in ensuring an education suitable to students’ age and in preventing minor students’ exposure to inappropriate material is a legitimate, compelling, even substantial one,” Wessan wrote in his brief on the case. “And removing from school library shelves books that describe or depict ‘sex acts’ is reasonably related to that legitimate interest.”

Christy Hickman, ISEA chief legal counsel, said in a news conference that U.S. Supreme Court precedent has not favored arguments that books can still be found by students outside of school libraries as a reason for allowing the removal of books from the schools’ shelves.

“Public school libraries are intended to provide access to books to all children, regardless of whether or not they can buy it at the bookstore,” Hickman said. “So such an argument, while it might make sense in other contexts, doesn’t make a whole lot of sense in the context of our K-12 public schools, because some of our kids can’t afford to go across the street … to the bookstore and buy it. That’s the purpose of our public school libraries.”

The ACLU and Lambda Legal lawsuit, filed on behalf of Iowa Safe Schools and seven students and families in the state, similarly argues that the Iowa law violates the U.S. Constitution. Wessan argued that the student plaintiffs did not have standing in the lawsuit, because the law is enforced against school districts and school employees, not students.

While the law was blocked before enforcement began, there have been a significant number of books removed from Iowa K-12 public schools due to the law and potential violations. The Des Moines Register found school districts across the state have removed nearly 3,400 books from their libraries. While the state has repeatedly argued that not all of the books were removed correctly or would count as violations of the law, education advocates have said that ambiguity about the law’s scope have caused school districts and teachers to err on the side of caution.

In August 2023, the Iowa Department of Education chose not to release any guidance on schools should proceed in light of the law, despite requests from educators for more information to ensure compliance.

Bird calls book ban a ‘common sense’ law

During Tuesday’s court arguments, a judge said that school districts could be sued on an individual basis for removing books that do not fall under the law’s restrictions as a means to address inappropriate removals. But Hickman, the ISEA attorney, said the lawsuit against the state is the appropriate action, as individual school districts are trying their best with current resources to follow the law as intended.

“If we had to start all over and start suing individual school districts — think about the court and school and public resources that go in into that,” Hickman said. “I hope that that is not where we end up. What the education community needs, what our members need, is some guidance in how to implement this law.”

Another judge expressed concerns about questioning the law’s constitutionality before it has been implemented, an argument presented by Wessan. The law was created to help address the way Iowa students learn, he said, and the injunction against portions of the law has “stymied that” objective.

“The state believes that if this injunction is vacated, the school districts, the schools and the students will understand what the law means,” he said. “And as time moves forward, this will become an integral part of Iowa’s educational landscape.”

Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird said in a statement that her office is defending a “common sense” law that she said “protects kids, families, and parental rights.”

“Inappropriate books do not belong in the hands of school children,” Bird said. “As a mom, I know how important it is for parents to have a say in what books and materials their kids have access to.”

Attorney Thomas Story with the ACLU said that the law has already had a negative impact on Iowa schools and students.

“It restricts expression in terms that are so vague and overbroad that no two schools seem to agree on what they mean,” Story said in a news conference. “But the fact is that over 3,000 books were removed, student (gay-straight alliances) were closed, and LGBTQ+ students across the state were forced into silence. That is unconstitutional and we will continue to defend the rights of Iowa students as this case moves forward.”

The Eighth Circuit appeals panel did not provide a timeline as to when it might issue a ruling.

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Robin Opsahl

Robin Opsahl is an Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter covering the state Legislature and politics. They have experience covering government, elections and more at media organizations including Roll Call, the Sacramento Bee and the Wausau Daily Herald.

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The preceding article was previously published by The Iowa Capital Dispatch and is republished with permission.

Iowans value integrity in their government. Free and independent journalism is what keeps our public servants accountable and responsive to the people. That’s why Iowa Capital Dispatch, a nonprofit, independent source for quality journalism, is working every day to keep you informed about what government officials are doing with your money, your freedom and your safety.

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

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U.S. Federal Courts

Federal Court: Mass. school can enforce ban on anti-trans T-shirt

Denying the existence of the gender identities of trans & gender non-conforming students would have a serious negative impact

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Liam Morrison courtesy of the Alliance Defending Freedom

BOSTON, Mass. – A three-judge panel of the U. S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ruled earlier this week that Middleborough, Massachusetts, middle school is able to enforce its ban on clothing apparel that could potentially demean LGBTQ+ students.

The panel in its ruling noted that school administrators did not act “unreasonably” when they concluded Nichols Middle School 12-year-old seventh-grader Liam Morrison’s shirt may be understood “to demean the identity of transgender and gender-nonconforming” students.

According to local media reports, Morrison was wearing a T-shirt that read “There are only two genders,” which school administrators ask him take off. He later wore a T-shirt saying “There are only censored genders,” which officials also made him remove.

Liam Morrison wearing one of the two banned shirts in May of 2023. The shirt reads: “There are CENSORED genders” (Screenshot/WCVB.)

The Morrison family filed a federal lawsuit in 2023 represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom and Massachusetts Family Institute, which argued officials violated his First Amendment rights when they said his shirt was prohibited by the school’s dress code.

In the suit, ADF attorneys said:

Morrison attends Nichols Middle School in Middleborough. In March, he wore the shirt to school to peacefully share his belief, informed by his scientific understanding of biology, that there are only two sexes, male and female, and that a person’s gender—their status as a boy or girl, woman or man—is inextricably tied to sex. The principal of the school, along with a school counselor, pulled Morrison out of class and ordered him to remove his shirt. After Morrison politely declined, school officials said that he must remove the shirt or he could not return to class. As a result, Morrison left school and missed the rest of his classes that day.

“This isn’t about a T-shirt; this is about a public school telling a seventh grader that he isn’t allowed to hold a view that differs from the school’s preferred orthodoxy,” said ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom. “Public school officials can’t censor Liam’s speech by forcing him to remove a shirt that states a scientific fact. Doing so is a gross violation of the First Amendment.”

Chief U.S. First Circuit Court Judge David Barron in the 70 page opinion wrote:

“We think it was reasonable for Middleborough to forecast that a message displayed throughout the school day denying the existence of the gender identities of transgender and gender non-conforming students would have a serious negative impact on those students’ ability to concentrate on their classroom work.”

Judges O. Rogeriee Thompson and Lara Montecalvo joined in the 3-0 decision writing:

The school’s dress code bans clothing with messages that “state, imply, or depict hate speech or imagery that target[s] groups based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, religious affiliation, or any other classification.”

“[W]e see no reason to substitute our judgment for Middleborough’s with respect to its application of its Dress Code here,” the opinion continues. “We conclude the record supports as reasonable an assessment that the message in this school context would so negatively affect the psychology of young students with the demeaned gender identities that it would ‘poison the educational atmosphere’ and so result in declines in those students’ academic performance and increases in their absences from school.”

In a press statement released after the ruling, Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel and Vice President of U.S. Litigation David Cortman said there likely will be an appeal the noting students “don’t lose their free speech rights the moment they walk into a school building.”

“This case isn’t about T-shirts; it’s about a public school telling a middle-schooler that he isn’t allowed to express a view that differs from their own,” Cortman said. “The school actively promotes its view about gender through posters and ‘Pride’ events, and it encourages students to wear clothing with messages on the same topic—so long as that clothing expresses the school’s preferred views on the subject.”

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Africa

What’s next for LGBTQ+ rights in South Africa after the country’s elections?

African National Congress lost parliamentary majority on May 29

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Pretoria and Cape Town are the first cities in Africa to install Pride crosswalks. Activists are wondering what the outcome of South Africa's May 29 elections will mean for LGBTQ+ rights. (Photo courtesy of Bruce Walker/Pretoria Pride)

CAPE TOWN, South Africa — More than 50 independent candidates and political parties participated in South Africa’s national and provincial elections that took place on May 29. The Electoral Commission of South Africa declared the results on June 2.

No independent candidate or political party managed to secure the outright parliamentary majority of more than 50 percent of the votes, which prompts the creation of a coalition government. None of the 18 political parties that managed to win at least one seat in the National Assembly wholly represented the LGBTQ+ community.

Although South Africa is the only African country that constitutionally recognizes the rights of the LGBTQ+ community, some of the political parties that managed to secure seats in the National Assembly had signaled they would reserve these gains.

Former President Jacob Zuma, who leads the uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) party, during a January debate said the thought of dating within the same gender was unpalatable and un-African. The MK is now the country’s third largest political party after it won 14.58 percent of the vote, making it a pivotal player in the formation of a coalition government.

Dawie Nel, the executive director of OUT LGBT Well-being, said undermining the constitution is “a dangerous, misguided, and populist strategy to avoid acknowledging the failures of governance and the lack of implementation of constitutional values that are meant to improve the lives of South Africans.”

“South Africa’s constitution is celebrated as one of the most significant achievements of our transition to democracy, ensuring that all citizens are treated with dignity and respect, and that their rights are protected in all aspects of life,” said Nell. 

There now seems to be an impasse on who becomes the government’s next leader because of some of the demands that political parties made before they entered into any negotiations.

Bruce Walker of Pretoria Pride said the best possible outcome for the preservation of LGBTQ+ rights in South Africa would be if the former governing political party, the African National Congress (ANC), which garnered the most support with 40.18 percent of the vote, partners with the Democratic Alliance (DA), which finished second with 21.81 percent of the votes, to form a coalition government.

“I think it will be a good outcome for the community if the DA has some power in a coalition government,” said Walker.

Rise Mzansi, which managed to secure 0.42 percent of the votes with two seats in the National Assembly, said it will continue protecting the rights of the LGBTQ+ community.

“Rise Mzansi reaffirms its commitment in protecting LGBTQ+ rights in South Africa, as outlined in Section 9 of our constitution,” said the party.

Zubenathi Daca, program coordinator for student employability and entrepreneurship development in Nelson Mandela University’s Department of Student Governance and Development said the fight for LGBTQ+ rights in South Africa will continue.

“The battle has not yet been won,” said Daca. “Queer people are still being killed and homophobic remarks are still being made towards us daily, and we need people who have found the confidence to voice out their dissatisfactions against how they are treated and also speak out for the voiceless.” 

“This society is ours just as it is everyone else’s,” added Daca. “We are in corporate spaces, leadership positions, and political spaces to show that we belong here, and that we are here to stay.” 

The constitution says National Assembly members should be sworn in within two weeks of the elections. They will then meet for the first time and elect a new speaker, deputy speaker and president.

Chief Justice Raymond Zondo who will preside over the entire process, on Monday said the National Assembly will meet for the first time since the elections on Friday.

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U.S. Federal Courts

Federal judge blocks Florida trans health care ban & restrictions

Florida plans to appeal the ruling, said Jeremy Redfern, spokesperson for DeSantis. An appeal would go to U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals

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Two Florida medical oversight boards held a meeting about proposed rules for treating gender dysphoria for minors in the state on Feb. 10, 2023. (Photo by Issac Morgan/Florida Phoenix)

By Jackie Llanos | TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida’s ban on puberty blockers and hormone replacement therapy for transgender minors and restrictions for adults are both unconstitutional, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle, who presided over the case in Tallahassee, sided with the plaintiffs in the class action — parents of transgender minors and transgender adults — who argued the measure violated the U.S. Constitution because it solely targeted transgender people.

“The federal courts have a role to play in upholding the Constitution and laws. The State of Florida can regulate as needed but cannot flatly deny transgender individuals safe and effective medical treatment — treatment with medications routinely provided to others with the state’s full approval so long as the purpose is not to support the patient’s transgender identity,” Hinkle wrote.

 FL Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo. Source: Screenshot/Florida Channel

Those restrictions came into place following Gov. Ron DeSantis’ approval of SB 254 in May 2023 and promulgation of rules from the Florida Board of Medicine and Florida Board of Osteopathic Medicine enacting that law. Those boards and Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo were named as defendants.

The measures banned minors’ use of puberty blockers and hormone replacement therapy, common treatments for gender dysphoria. Additionally, the law said only physicians, psychologists, and psychiatrists could treat adults seeking gender-affirming care, with the added requirements of frequent in-person visits, tests, and authorization through a consent form that contained false information about the harms of hormone replacement therapy.

However, the law didn’t impose the same restrictions on cisgender women needing to take testosterone or cisgender men needing to take estrogen.

Appeal incoming

The state plans to appeal the ruling, said Jeremy Redfern, press secretary to DeSantis. An appeal would go to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

“Through their elected representatives, the people of Florida acted to protect children in this state, and the court was wrong to override their wishes,” Redfern wrote in a statement to Florida Phoenix.

“We disagree with the court’s erroneous rulings on the law, on the facts, and on the science. As we’ve seen here in Florida, the United Kingdom, and across Europe, there is no quality evidence to support the chemical and physical mutilation of children. These procedures do permanent, life-altering damage to children, and history will look back on this fad in horror.”

Redfern wrote that the state would continue to “fight to ensure children are not chemically or physically mutilated in the name of radical, new age ‘gender ideology.’”

In his 105-page ruling, Hinkle noted that “there were no complaints from patients, no adverse results in Florida, just a political issue.”

However, the ruling does not lift the state ban on gender-affirming surgery for minors and restrictions on surgery for adults. That’s because the plaintiffs didn’t challenge the statutes relating to surgery for minors, and the adult plaintiff had not sought surgery and so lacked standing to challenge those restrictions.

Relief for plaintiffs

Plaintiff Gloria Goe (they used pseudonyms to protect the privacy of their children) is the mother of an eight-year-old (at the opening of the case) transgender boy. During the opening day of the trial on Dec. 13, she testified that she feared her son would be swallowed by depression if forced to go through puberty without medical treatment.

“This ruling lifts a huge weight and worry from me and my family, knowing I can keep getting Gavin the care he needs, and he can keep being the big-hearted, smiling kid he is now. I’m so grateful the court saw how this law prevented parents like me from taking care of our children,” Goe wrote in a press release.

Attorneys with GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, Human Rights Campaign Foundation, National Center for Lesbian Rights, Southern Legal Counsel, and the Lowenstein Sandler law firm represented the plaintiffs.

Hinkle compared the discrimination transgender people face nowadays to racism and misogyny.

“Some transgender opponents invoke religion to support their position, just as some once invoked religion to support their racism or misogyny,” Hinkle wrote. “Transgender opponents are of course free to hold their beliefs. But they are not free to discriminate against transgender individuals just for being transgender. In time, discrimination against transgender individuals will diminish, just as racism and misogyny have diminished.”

Los Angeles Blade Editor’s Note:

In a statement made to the Los Angeles Blade after Tuesday’s rule, Shannon Minter, the Legal Director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights said:

“This decision is important because is the first federal court to rule on a law restricting healthcare for transgender adults and because it finds that Florida’s laws are plainly based on anti-transgender bias, not science. This victory shows that we can and must keep fighting these dangerous laws, notwithstanding the deeply flawed rulings of some conservative appellate courts.

Judge Hinkle ruled in favor of the transgender plaintiffs in this case even after the negative Eleventh Circuit ruling that reversed our initially successful challenge to a similar ban in Alabama. He was able to do so because the evidence showing that these laws have no medical justification and are rooted in false stereotypes and bias was so strong. This is a huge victory, and one that shows that we can win these battles even in red states.”   

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Jackie Llanos is a recent graduate of the University of Richmond. She has interned at Nashville Public Radio, Virginia Public Media and Virginia Mercury.

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The preceding article was previously published by The Florida Phoenix and is republished with permission.

The Phoenix is a nonprofit news site that’s free of advertising and free to readers. We cover state government and politics with a staff of five journalists located at the Florida Press Center in downtown Tallahassee.

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

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Politics

Biden-Harris campaign debuts ads targeting LGBTQ voters

The Biden-Harris 2024 campaign will debut new ads on Tuesday targeting LGBTQ voters in battleground states for Pride Month

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Image courtesy of Biden-Harris 2024 campaign


WILMINGTON, Del. — The Biden-Harris 2024 campaign will debut new ads on Tuesday targeting LGBTQ voters in battleground states for Pride Month ahead of November’s election.

“These ads will be featured across national and battleground LGBTQ+ media outlets, and will run throughout the month,” the campaign explained in a press release.

The aim is to “uplift” Biden’s record as “the most pro-LGBTQ+ president in history” while also highlighting “Donald Trump’s history of attacking their rights and his plans to go further.”

One ad that was previewed exclusively by the Washington Blade reads, “Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are fighting for the LGBTQ community!” with a photo of the president and vice president.

Another, formatted for social media, features a photo of Pride flags atop a quote from the “PBS NewsHour”: “On the campaign trail, Donald Trump has been outlining what he plans to do if elected in November. That includes rolling back the rights of millions of LGBTQ+ people. It’s part of a wider playbook to undo many civil rights advances for minority groups.”

“This Pride is an important time to remember the progress we’ve made for our community under President Biden, and the stakes of this election for LGBTQ+ Americans as Trump proudly runs to strip us of our rights,” said Biden-Harris 2024 Spokesperson Kevin Munoz, who is gay.

“From threatening IVF treatments to threatening LGBTQ+ marriages, Trump’s Project 2025 agenda would rip away our rights, and sow needless hate and division for Trump’s political gain,” he said. “LGBTQ+ Americans deserve to hear from us about these stakes, and this buy shows we will continue to show up and make our case to them in this election.”

The ad blitz on Tuesday comes after the campaign’s announcement of a paid media and organizing push for Pride month, which includes sizable investments in courting LGBTQ voters in battleground states.

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Politics

New poll: 60% oppose laws banning youth gender-affirming care

A slim majority believe that changing one’s gender is morally wrong. Yet, a majority also oppose laws banning gender-affirming care

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“March for Queer and Trans Youth Autonomy” on Transgender Day of Visibility 2023. (File photo: Washington Blade/Michael Key)

WASHINGTON – A new Gallup poll out this week found that six in 10 U.S. adults oppose laws banning gender-affirming care for minors. The poll also found that a steady 51% of Americans think changing one’s gender is morally wrong, while 44% say it is morally acceptable.

According to the researchers at Gallup: There are significant demographic differences in Americans’ views of the morality of changing one’s gender. Majorities of political liberals (81%), Democrats (72%), those who do not identify with a religion (67%), those who do not attend religious services regularly (59%), young adults aged 18 to 29 (56%) and college graduates (53%) believe changing genders is morally acceptable. Less than half of their counterparts say the same.

While slightly less than half of women believe in the moral acceptability of changing genders, they are significantly more likely than men to think as much (48% vs. 39%, respectively).

In data published by the Human Rights Campaign, as of May 2024, 39% or 117,600 trans youth aged 13-17 are living in the 25 states that have passed bans on gender-affirming care. This includes 18,500 youth living in the three states–Florida, Ohio, and Montana–where bans are currently on hold or blocked from enforcement through court orders.

In its survey, Gallup researchers gauged Americans’ support for laws banning such care for minors with two questions, each asked of half of the total sample. One question asks about bans in general terms, on “treatments and medical procedures,” while the other spells out some of the specific treatments that could be banned, such as “psychological support, hormonal treatments and medical surgeries” to help minors align with their gender identity.

Gallup researchers found that on both questions, Republicans are more supportive than Democrats and independents of bans on gender-affirming care for minors.

On the more specific question that includes psychological support, hormonal treatments and medical surgeries, a majority of Republicans (53%) but far fewer Democrats (25%) and independents (34%) favor a ban.

On the more general question, Republicans are somewhat less likely to support a ban on treatments and medical procedures (45%), while Democrats’ and independents’ responses remain unchanged from the more specific question.

Gallup researchers measured U.S. adults’ gender identity in all of its surveys; an average of 0.9% of U.S. adults in 2023 identified as transgender. Transgender identification among adults is highest (2.8%) for those in Generation Z (born between 1997 and 2005).

The Gallup polling data also revealed:

A slim majority of Americans believe that changing one’s gender is morally wrong. Yet, a majority also oppose laws banning gender-affirming care to help minors align with their gender identity.

This discrepancy could be because the questions about gender-affirming care specifically mention minors, while the question about the morality of changing one’s gender does not. In addition, the relatively low support for banning laws on gender-affirming care may be attributable to Americans’ general distaste for bans, a pattern that can be seen in Gallup trends on banning cigarette smoking and handguns.

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Pennsylvania

Sen. Bob Casey: $400,000 for LGBTQ+ health & wellness center

The Mazzoni Center provided over 5,500 vaccines to patients for over 7,200 visits, including 100 patients every month receiving HIV meds

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U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) at the Mazzoni Center in Philadelphia June 6, 2024 (Capital-Star/John Cole)

By John Cole | PHILADELPHIA, Penn. – U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) visited the Mazzoni Center on Thursday to announce $400,000 in community project funding for the center. 

“This community project funding will modernize the center’s basic equipment, like vitals machines or security systems, or air conditioning. It will also enable Mazzoni to purchase a generator,” Casey said.

“We know for many of our clients, this is the only place they feel safe coming for care,” Mazzoni Center executive development and communications officer David Weisberg said. He said the comprehensive health and wellness center is the largest LGBTQ nonprofit of any kind in Philadelphia, serving 15,000 clients a year, with a staff of 130.

Dr. Stacey Trooskin, executive medical officer at the Mazzoni Center, said the center provides medical care, including gender affirming care, HIV care, medication for opioid use disorder and primary care. 

“We are priding ourselves on being a one stop shop for all of our patients,” she said. 

Last year, the Mazzoni Center provided over 5,500 vaccines to its patients and lab work for over 7,200 visits, including more than 100 patients every month receiving HIV medication, Trooskin said, emphasizing that having access to electricity at all times is vital for the center to care for its patients. 

“We are incredibly grateful and quite relieved to have access to a generator that will protect us from service dysfunction,” Trooskin said. 

The federal money will also go to expanding its low threshold services for STI testing, HIV testing and viral hepatitis testing at their Washington West location, she added. 

“I’m just grateful to be here during Pride month to be able to announce some good news from Washington, which doesn’t happen every week,” Casey said.

Sultan Shakir, president and executive officer of Mazzoni Center said the funding will “make a real impact on our ability to provide culturally competent care to individuals who need it in our community.”

The funding was secured as a part of the Fiscal Year 2024 government funding bill.

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John Cole

John Cole is a journalist based in Philadelphia. He’s worked for various outlets such as The Northeast Times, PoliticsPA, and PCN. In these previous roles, he covered a wide range of topics from local civic association meetings to races across the commonwealth. He earned a degree in journalism from Temple University.

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The preceding article was previously published by The Pennsylvania Capital-Star and is republished with permission.

The Pennsylvania Capital-Star is a nonpartisan, nonprofit news site dedicated to honest and aggressive coverage of state government, politics and policy.

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

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Religious Extremism/Anti-LGBTQ+ Activism

Bogus Doctors org pushed by Musk & Fox News against trans care

Headlines on conservative news sites stated that the “American College of Pediatricians” opposes trans care

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A video featuring Dr. Jill Simons states that there must be an end to "social affirmation, puberty blockers, and cross-sex hormones" for trans youth. (Photo Credit: Erin Reed)

By Erin Reed | WASHINGTON – On Friday, numerous conservative accounts and news sources promoted headlines that the “American College of Pediatricians” had issued a statement against transgender care.

video accompanied the announcement featuring Dr. Jill Simons, who, wearing a white lab coat, states that there must be an end to “social affirmation, puberty blockers, and cross-sex hormones” for transgender youth.

Despite the official-looking attire and name, the organization’s name serves to mislead observers into thinking they are the much larger American Academy of Pediatrics, which represents tens of thousands of pediatricians. In reality, the ACP is a hyper-conservative Christian group of doctors created in 2002 to oppose gay parenting.

In the announcement released on Friday, Simons called for an end to social transition and gender-affirming care for transgender youth. One video, which went viral, begins with a statement that the organization has released a “declaration” authored by the American College of Pediatricians, along with “hundreds of doctors and healthcare workers,” opposing transgender care.

It references the highly-politicized Cass Review from the United Kingdom, whose author controversially blames pornography for being transgender, as well as the Climategate-style leak of the “WPATH Files” to support the statement.

The video, which was viewed over 51 million times on Twitter, cuts off just before the next speaker is introduced: Dr. Andre Van Mol, who represents the Christian Medical and Dental Associations. Van Mol serves on the board of the Bethel Church of Redding, which made headlines in 2019 for attempting to pray a dead child back to life.

He is followed by representatives from several other Christian medical organizations that also support banning transgender care. The website promoted at the event lists signatories to the statement, including the Catholic Medical Association, Genspect, The National Catholic Bioethics Center, the Family Research Council, and the Discovery Institute, an organization that promotes intelligent design over evolution in schools.

The American College of Pediatricians has been hugely influential in the promotion of anti-trans policy in the United States, relying in part to its misleading name. Members of the organization testify in state houses and courtrooms across the United States, misleading legislators into thinking they are the much larger American Academy of Pediatrics, the professional society that represents 67,000 pediatricians in the United States.

In 2023, the organization inadvertently left a Google Drive public, leading to the leak of a massive trove of files showing their extremist roots. According to these documents, the group received significant media training from the Alliance Defending Freedom, a right-wing organization that has played a large role in the passage and defense of anti-LGBTQ+ laws in the United States.

It also received free video production from Family Watch International, a group of Christian fundamentalists opposing homosexuality, birth control, abortion, and sex education. The American College of Pediatricians itself has been listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center since 2012, when the group’s leader stated that “homosexuality poses a danger to children” and that the group was “essentially a Judeo-Christian values organization.”

Despite its clear Christian fundamentalist opposition to LGBTQ+ people, the organization’s name has been utilized to help create misleading headlines about the state of medical acceptance of transgender care in the United States.

On Friday, conservative influencer Robby Starbuck posted a video of Simons speaking with a statement that “The American College of Pediatricians” had called for groups to “IMMEDIATELY stop the promotion of social affirmation, puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones and surgeries for children and adolescents who experience distress over their biological sex.”

That video was retweeted by Elon Musk, who quote tweeted it with a reply of “wow.” Michael Shermer of “Skeptic Magazine” also promoted the misleading video. Following millions of views on twitter, Fox News reported on the video, stating that “American College of Pediatricians issues fiery statement condemning child gender transition” and that “The American College of Pediatricians and other groups argue evidence does not support transgender medical procedures.”

The Fox News article makes no mention of the nature of the ACP and its Christian conservative roots.

The article and tweets successfully fooled many people. Replies to the Fox News story, for instance, feature top-rated comments such as “I’m a retired physician, pathologist, who has been wondering why this group and others have taken so long to publish a position paper along these lines,” “I never thought I would see anything like this in my entire life,” and “Finally…….a medical group has the courage to speak out against this evil practice!”

Despite the widespread misinformation, every major medical organization in the United States supports gender-affirming care. In February, the American Psychological Association, the largest psychological association in the world, released a policy resolution stating that gender-affirming care is medically necessary and saves lives.

The American Academy of Pediatrics currently recommends that transgender youth have access to gender-affirming care tailored to their unique needs. The Advocates for Trans Equality maintains a list of over 30 of the largest U.S.-based medical organizations that support transgender care, including the Endocrine Society, the Pediatric Endocrine Society, the American Public Health Association, and the American Medical Association.

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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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District of Columbia

Douglas Emhoff & Billy Porter kick off Capital Pride festivities

Nationally acclaimed singer Billy Porter, who performed the next day at the Capital Pride festival, also spoke at the press conference

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Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff speaks at a press conference at the starting location of the Capital Pride Parade on June 8. (Washington Blade/Michael Key)

WASHINGTON – Douglas Emhoff, the husband of U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, who has the title of Second Gentleman, was among the speakers at a press conference on Saturday, June 8, at the location of the start of D.C.’s Capital Pride Parade that was called by Capital Pride organizers.

Emhoff and nationally acclaimed singer Billy Porter, who performed the next day at the Capital Pride festival and concert, and who also spoke at the press conference, each emphasized the importance of the LGBTQ rights movement at a time when lawmakers in states across the country are pushing legislation to curtail LGBTQ rights.

“It’s great to be here again to enjoy the ambiance and to celebrate with the generations of LGBTQ+ Americans who have fought for their right to live openly and proudly and authentically,” Emhoff told those attending the press conference, which included Capital Pride officials and supporters.

“I love coming to Pride,” Emhoff said. “I was here with my wife, your vice president, in 2021, when she became the first sitting vice president ever to march in a Pride parade. We go to Pride parades all over – San Francisco, L.A., and love doing it,” he said.

Porter joined Emhoff at the press conference urging people to vote “blue” in the November election.

“I don’t care who you are. I don’t care where you come from,” he said. “It’s an election year and our democracy is at stake, period,” he continued. “There is one choice. That choice is for democracy. Vote blue down the ticket,” he said, referring to Democratic Party candidates.

 “The one thing I will say as a 54-year-old Black queer man who came out in the ’80s at the beginning of the AIDS crisis, is that I’ve lived long enough to know that love always wins,” said Porter. “I’ve lived long enough to have seen the circle of life play out in our favor,” he said.

Actor Billy Porter speaks at the Capital Pride Parade on June 8. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Others who spoke at the press conference included Kenya Hutton, deputy director of the Center for Black Equity, the group that organizes D.C.’s annual Black Pride events; Ryan Bos, executive director of Capital Pride Alliance, the group that organizes most of D.C.s Pride events; Ashley Smith, chair of the Capital Pride Alliance Board; and Bernie Delia, co-chair of the World Pride Steering Committee.

Bos and Smith provided details about the parade, festival, and concert during the 2024 Capital Pride weekend, while Delia provided details about World Pride 2025, the international Pride celebration that D.C. and Capital Pride Alliance were selected to host in June 2025.

Hutton said the Center for Black Equity is excited to be working with Capital Pride Alliance on plans for World Pride 2025, when the Black Pride events will be the kickoff events for World Pride. “We are especially proud of partnering with Capital Pride Alliance in organizing the World Pride Human Rights Conference,” he said.

Also speaking at the press conference were Theresa Belpulsi, Senior Vice President of Tourism, Sports, and Visitor Services for Destination D.C.; and Angie Gates, president and CEO for Events D.C. The two organizations promote tourism and business events such as conventions in D.C. and are playing a lead role in helping to promote World Pride 2025, the two said.

“Right now, our estimations are that we will see over two million visitors coming to Washington, D.C. for World Pride,” Belpulsi said at the press conference. “And that does not include our local families that are here,” she said. “What that actually means is and why this matters is the economic impact is over $787 million to Washington, D.C. over two weeks.”

Delia, who introduced D.C.’s Wanda Alston Foundation executive director June Crenshaw as his co-chair of the World Pride Steering Committee, said the committee has been “working diligently to guarantee the World Pride celebration showcases the best of the national capital region and the best of the United States.”

He said that in addition to the parade, festival, and concert, World Pride events will  include the human rights conference mentioned by Hutton, a sports festival, a rally at the Lincoln Memorial, a march on Washington, a music festival, and an international choral festival managed by the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington.

In his remarks at the press conference, Emhoff told of his wife’s long record of support for the LGBTQ community in her past role as District Attorney in San Francisco, as California’s Attorney General, and as a U.S. senator from California.

“And now as vice president, she and Joe Biden are responsible for the most pro-LGBTQ+ administration in history,” he said. “And all that goes away if Donald Trump wins in November. We can’t let that happen, right?” Many in the crowd of Capital Pride supporters and volunteers attending the press conference shouted, “That’s right.”

“So, make no mistake,” Emhoff replied. “The upcoming election is about your freedom and your rights,” he said, adding, “My message today is simple. You are not alone. We are here for you. …We love you for who you are and we’re fighting right beside you. And together we are going to win this election and we are going to protect our freedoms. Thank you.”

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New Jersey

Bill on library book selection clears NJ Assembly panel 

The bill would require school boards to explain their decision when either removing a book or going against recommendations of a committee

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he measure would require school districts to draft policies on library curation and the removal of books from library shelves. (Photo Credit: Dana DiFilippo/New Jersey Monitor)

BY: Nikita Biryukov | TRENTON, N.J. – An Assembly panel advanced a bill that would create a new, more uniform process for the removal of library books in a near-unanimous vote following nearly four hours of testimony Thursday.

The bill, which the Assembly Education Committee approved in a 7-1 vote with the no vote from Assemblywoman Dawn Fantasia (R-Sussex) and an abstention from Assemblyman Erik Simonsen (R-Cape May), would require local districts to adopt discrete policies on library curation and removing books from school libraries while barring districts from granting requests that seek to remove books a filer believed were offensive but not age-inappropriate.

“Parents will continue to have the right to decide what their own child reads, but one parent should not have the ability to solely determine what another parent’s child reads,” said bill sponsor Assemblywoman Mitchelle Drulis (D-Hunterdon).

The bill’s authors have dubbed it the “Freedom to Read Act.”

The bill would require local districts to create written policies on library curation that bar book removals made on the basis of its authors’ backgrounds, origins, or views and require librarians to periodically review their collections for relevance and recency, among other things.

It would require local school boards to reject book removal requests filed by those without a connection to the district — someone other than a teacher, parent, or student there — and mandate district superintendents to convene boards to adjudicate requests for removal.

“Out-of-state individuals and organizations will no longer be able to ride into New Jersey with a political agenda and target our public libraries,” Drulis said.

Those committees must include the superintendent, school principal, a board representative, a grade-appropriate teacher, a parent or guardian of a child enrolled in the district, and a student, in some cases.

Individuals who filed the request for removal cannot sit on such a committee, and the superintendent may appoint additional members if they see fit.

The bill is a response to recent pushes by religious and anti-LGBT groups to remove books with themes or content related to sex and gender, among others.

“During the school day, parents are not present to give their consent and support their children who may view this material,” said Hilary Jersey, a co-leader with NJStandsUp, an anti-vaccine group. “Age-inappropriate content isn’t just in the school libraries. My seventh grader just shared that she read a school-supplied book about a 13-year-old who was pregnant.”

The final decision on book removals would remain with school boards under the bill, and the committees it requires must make their non-binding recommendations within 60 days of their next meeting.

The bill would require school boards to explain their decision when either removing a book or going against the recommendations of a committee, and books that survive a challenge would be immune from further challenges for one year.

The Department of Education would be required to draft a model policy on library curation, and the state librarian must draft a model policy on the adjudication of book removal requests.

The bill advanced Thursday was narrower than past versions of the legislation. It would no longer amend the state’s obscenity statute to add protections for librarians and teachers; instead it would immunize librarians who make good-faith efforts to comply with the bill’s provisions on curation and book removal.

Separate language that would have allowed librarians to lodge civil suits for protective orders against harassers was also removed by amendments, as was language that would have amended the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination to bar employers from considering a librarian’s actions on a given book removal request in hiring decisions.

Those changes softened some opposition but did little to turn its opponents into supporters.

“I’m grateful for that the freedom to read is more now like the freedom to remove, and I’m sure many school boards are going to remove many of these books that parents have been challenging for months and for years,” said Shawn Hyland, director of advocacy for the New Jersey Family Policy Center, which previously opposed the bill but was neutral Thursday.

The measure has yet to move in the Senate and must be approved by the Assembly Appropriations Committee before it sees a full vote on the chamber’s floor.

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Nikita Biryukov

Nikita Biryukov is an award-winning reporter who covers state government and politics for the New Jersey Monitor, with a focus on fiscal issues and voting. He has reported from the capitol since 2018 and joined the Monitor at its launch in 2021. The Rutgers University graduate previously covered state government and politics for the New Jersey Globe. Before then he covered local government in New Brunswick as a freelancer for the Home News Tribune. You can reach him at [email protected].

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The preceding article was previously published by The New Jersey Monitor and is republished with permission.

New Jersey Monitor provides fair and tough reporting on the issues affecting New Jersey, from political corruption to education to criminal and social justice. We strive to hold powerful people accountable and explain how their actions affect New Jerseyans from Montague to Cape May.

New Jersey Monitor, PO Box 6843, Lawrenceville, NJ 08648

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

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