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HRC rolls out support for Biden on anniversary of marriage endorsement

Alphonso David says Tara Reade allegations should be ‘fully evaluated’

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Joe Biden, gay news, Washington Blade

The Human Rights Campaign has endorsed Biden for president. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The nation’s leading LGBTQ group has officially thrown its support behind Joseph Biden in the presidential election, drawing on the anniversary of his famous words in support of same-sex marriage on “Meet the Press” to make the case the candidate should unseat President Trump.

Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said Tuesday night in an interview with the Washington Blade that the board of directors voted unanimously to endorse Biden after an extensive review, which concluded the candidate had a commitment to LGBTQ people and other minority communities.

“We reviewed his record on marginalized communities,” David said. “We reviewed his prior comments on LGBTQ issues as well as issues that affect people who bring intersectional identities to the table. As an example, I’m black, I’m gay, I’m an immigrant. All of those issues are for me and they happen to be for the Human Rights Campaign.”

The announcement of the endorsement was timed to coincide with the eighth anniversary of Biden coming out in favor of marriage equality on “Meet the Press,” which helped bring a once contentious idea into the mainstream and preceded former President Barack Obama’s own endorsement three days later.

https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=171204870873659

The Human Rights Campaign, unlike in 2016, during this election cycle had stayed out of the Democratic presidential primary. Even before Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) dropped out, making Biden the presumptive Democratic nominee, David said the Human Rights Campaign had been reviewing Biden along with other candidates and had planned “a few days and weeks” to make the endorsement announcement on May 6.

“We thought it would be most appropriate — both from a symbolic perspective, but also substantively — to make the endorsement and we made the decision that May 6 was the right date,” David said. “It reminds us where we were several years ago, when same-sex couples could not marry in so many states in the country. And Joe Biden stood up, and was very vocal about his support of LGBTQ equality and that really changed the public discourse.”

As evidence of Biden’s commitment to LGBTQ rights, David pointed out the candidate’s promise to sign LGBTQ non-discrimination legislation known as the Equality Act, a plan to end HIV/AIDS by 2025 and a commitment to ensuring the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented.

In contrast, the Trump administration has established a transgender military ban, taken administrative actions in favor of religious freedom at the expense of LGBTQ rights and has refused to include LGBTQ people in the enforcement of civil rights law — going so far as to argue against it before the U.S. Supreme Court. (The Trump administration has, however, set up a plan aimed at ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic by 2030.)

As part of the endorsement, the Human Rights Campaign has unveiled a plan built on its successful strategies from 2016 and 2018 to get LGBTQ people and “equality voters” — voters who prioritize LGBTQ issues — to the polls.

There are an estimated 57 million “equality voters” across the nation and their demographics skew toward suburban women and more toward minority groups than the general population. According to the Human Rights Campaign, 60 percent are women, 48 percent are people of color and 30 percent are under the age of 35.

David said an estimated 3.4 million voters in that category are at risk of not turning out for the election and the Human Rights Campaign plans to work to make sure that doesn’t happen.

“We are going to be focused on those folks who may not be inclined to vote to make sure they understand the importance of the election, they’re engaged in the process,” David said.

To turn out those voters, the Human Rights Campaign is set to focus on seven states considered battlegrounds in the coming election. Six of the states — Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — were priorities in previous years, but the seventh is Texas and a new addition.

David said Texas was added because significant infrastructure was built in the state after years of beating back anti-LGBTQ legislation in the state legislature.

“We decided to make Texas one of our major priority states because there are half a dozen competitive U.S. House races on the ballot in 2020,” David said. “We also have the state houses in play in 2020, and we anticipate that the presidential campaigns will invest in the states more so than any other presidential election in recent memory because of the number of people in Texas. So for those three reasons we made a decision to include Texas.”

Polling shows Texas may be an attainable target for Biden. A University of Texas, Tyler/Dallas Morning News poll of registered voters out this week found Trump and Biden neck-and-neck at 43 percent in the state.

Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) told the Blade help from the Human Rights Campaign would be a boon for Biden because the nation’s leading LGBTQ group was essential to her U.S. House win in 2016 and the U.S. Senate win in 2018.

“Candidate support for LGBTQ equality is a crucial, a determining factor for over 55 million people across the country — and over 600,000 people in Nevada — they’re equality voters, so that’s why it matters,” Rosen said.

The upcoming election, Rosen said, is important not just for LGBTQ rights but other progressive issues because Biden is “in that fight as well.”

“You want somebody who’s going to stand up for equality, to stand up for human rights, try to stand up for all the things care about: health care, education, the environment…LGBTQ rights, but everyone has families so they care about all it,” Rozen said.

David: Tara Reade allegations should be ‘fully evaluated’

The endorsement also comes amid the emergence of sexual misconduct allegations against Biden from Tara Reade, a former staffer who worked for him when he was a senator in the 1990s.

The allegations have been picking up steam in the media and the public. A survey from POLITICO/Morning Consult— conducted in the days after Biden appeared on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Friday to deny the charges personally for the first time — found 28 percent of Democrats “definitely” or “probably” favor replacing Biden with another nominee to take on Trump.

David struck a middle ground when asked if he believes Biden in his denial, underscoring the importance of listening to survivors who have made their voices heard in the “Me Too” movement.

“It is absolutely critical that we listen to survivors, who for a long time, had to have their voices dismissed,” David said. “Survivors should be heard, survivors should be listened to, taken seriously, treated with respect and dignity. And when these allegations came forward and allegations like these come forward, we need to make sure that they’re fully evaluated — and I believe that is happening right now.”

At the same time, David emphasized the importance of electing a candidate to unseat Trump in the upcoming election.

“We cannot afford for LGBTQ voices to be marginalized in this election. We have six months, we cannot afford for Donald Trump to win this election in November, and every day his administration, as you know, rolls back our rights, and another queer kid contemplates suicide, another black trans woman is killed,” David said. “So this election is life or death for us in our community and we chose to fight for our lives.”

One distinction between the current presidential election and previous years is the contest is taking place amid the global pandemic of COVID-19, which makes grassroots organizing — traditionally a get-out-the-vote and door-knocking effort — difficult to say the least.

David, however, said the Human Rights Campaign will rise to the challenge with a focus on digital organizing as opposed to traditional methods.

Among other things, David said efforts will include use of the Team app to coordinate via text messages, Facebook Messenger, Instagram and Twitter, which he said is “nine times more effective than traditional door-to-door knocking where you’re engaging with strangers.” Other efforts, David said, are phone banking and volunteer opportunities at virtual or remote events.

“We are actively and aggressively, doing political organizing virtually because we understand that COVID-19 has changed the way we live, it’s changed the way we work, and it’s changing political organizing as well,” David said.

The Human Rights Campaign also launches its plan to elect Biden one week after confirming it had laid off 22 employees due to the coronavirus.

David, however, said that was the result of adjustments after initial projected growth for the organization and won’t impact their work in the presidential election.

“In fact, we’re going to be more effective because we have been planning and building a virtual network, which is why we’re prepared to launch the Team, app, which is why we have community hub, which is why we’re able to do virtual training, because the Human Rights Campaign is actually invested in this virtual infrastructure,” David said. “But it’s not going to affect our political work.”

The election of Biden to the White House, David said, would be a key victory for LGBTQ people hungry for change after four years of Trump.

“In addition to interacting with someone who’s sane and rational, and not abusive, and not dismissive of LGBTQ people, I think we would have a president who understands and values LGBTQ people at its very basic level, someone who understands us and values us as human beings, understands the value that we bring to the table provides us with the dignity that we are hiding,” David said. “And that is what we would expect of any human being but we would expect this of Joe Biden, and he’s shown us time and time again that not only does he respect us, but he’s going to make sure he protects and supports LGBTQ people.”

The Washington Blade has placed a request with the Biden campaign seeking comment on the Human Rights Campaign endorsement.

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California Politics

Effort to put measure limiting trans youth’s rights on Calif. ballot fails

The group claimed it had gathered more than 400,000 signatures, falling short of the requisite threshold number for inclusion on the ballot

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Protect Kids California CEO & Roseville school board member Jonathan Zachreson, (right) with anti-LGBTQ+ Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis and an unnamed delegate at the California GOP convention in Anaheim on Sept. 29, 2023. (Photo Credit: Zachreson/Facebook)

SACRAMENTO – The effort by the anti-LGBTQ+ conservative group Protect Kids California, headed by Roseville school board member Jonathan Zachreson, to collect some 550,000 valid signatures to place a transphobic trans youth proposal on the November 5 ballot has failed.

In a press release on Tuesday, the deadline set by the California secretary of state, the group claimed it had gathered more than 400,000 signatures, falling short of the requisite threshold number for inclusion on the ballot.

Protect Kids California submitted the proposed ballot initiative—presented as the “Protect Kids of California Act of 2024,” last September. The proposed ballot initiative would have:

  • Forced outing of transgender youth to their parents, ensuring that trans kids cannot have safety or privacy in schools if they are not ready to come out to family. Often these policies also include violations of privacy for the student when they discuss their gender identity with school counselors.
  • Banning of transgender youth from sports that match their gender identity, stigmatizing them and often forcing them out of sports altogether. Notably, these provisions typically fail to differentiate between high-stakes elite competitions and casual middle school teams. They also generally don’t provide for pathways to participation like hormone therapy, a method that has been researched and employed to address concerns of potential “unfair advantages” in competitions. California, which allows youth to access gender affirming care, will have youth who never underwent the puberty of their assigned sex at birth who would also be banned under this provision.
  • Banning gender affirming care for trans youth shown to be lifesaving. Gender affirming care is associated with a 73% reduction in suicidality and over 50 studies assembled by Cornell University show its benefits. California is one of several states that has recently moved to protect transgender youth and their medical care, and such a restriction would impact a large number of transgender kids in the state.

“We are relieved that anti-LGBTQ+ extremists have failed to reach the required signature threshold to qualify their anti-transgender ballot initiatives to the November 2024 ballot. Equality California will continue to advocate for the rights of LGBTQ+ youth everywhere, and push back against any and all efforts by extremist groups who seek to discriminate against them,” said Tony Hoang Equality California Executive Director. “To every LGBTQ+ youth in California: know that you are loved and valued.”

The anti-LGBTQ+ group placed partial blame for the failure on California Attorney General Rob Bonta, who the group had sued over the title and summary he assigned to its ballot measure that would strip rights from transgender minors.

The Bay Area Reporter noted the Liberty Justice Center filed a lawsuit February 13 in Sacramento County Superior Court on behalf of Protect Kids California that alleged Bonta’s personal beliefs led to a biased title and summary. Therefore, the center contended the ballot measure proponents should be given 180 additional days for signature gathering without discounting signatures already collected.

“Respondent [Bonta] has demonstrated that he personally, and in his official capacity, is opposed to any kind of notification by a public school to a parent or guardian that his or her child is exhibiting signs of gender dysphoria when the child asks the school to publicly treat him or her as the opposite sex with a new name or pronouns, and to allow the child to use the sex-segregated facilities of the opposite sex,” claimed the groups in their lawsuit.

But a Sacramento Superior Court judge sided with Bonta in a ruling that was first issued tentatively April 19 and was made final April 22. Judge Stephen Acquisto ruled that Bonta’s title and summary are accurate.

“Under current law, minor students have express statutory rights with respect to their gender identity,” Acquisto stated. “A substantial portion of the proposed measure is dedicated to eliminating or restricting these statutory rights. … The proposed measure would eliminate express statutory rights and place a condition of parental consent on accommodations that are currently available without such condition.

“The proposed measure objectively ‘restricts rights’ of transgender youth by preventing the exercise of their existing rights. ‘Restricts rights of transgender youth’ is an accurate and impartial description of the proposed measure,” Acquisto added.

The attorney general’s office has some leeway when it comes to determining ballot titles, the judge noted.

In a statement provided to the B.A.R. on April 24, after news that the decision had been made permanent, Protect Kids California attorney Nicole Pearson stated, “The mental gymnastics used to justify this prejudicial title and summary are not only an egregious abuse of discretion that entitles our clients to an appeal, but a chilling interpretation of law that jeopardizes the very foundation of our constitutional republic. We are reviewing our options for an appeal of these clear errors and will announce a decision shortly.”

Additional reporting by The Bay Area Reporter.

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Missouri

Missouri AG targets health care professionals over trans care

Health care professionals and parents of transgender youth are raising concerns about use of private medical records in the statewide probe

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A group of over 200 protesting MU Health's cancelation of transgender minors' prescriptions approaches Columbia City Hall Sept. 15. MU Health backed out of gender-affirming care for minors after the passage of a new state law including broad medical malpractice provisions (Annelise Hanshaw/Missouri Independent).

By Annelise Hanshaw | ST. LOUIS, Mo. – A state investigation of the Washington University Transgender Center in St. Louis expanded to include therapists and social workers across the state who work with minors seeking gender-affirming care.

Documents made public as part of various lawsuits show that Attorney General Andrew Bailey has obtained a collection of unredacted and loosely redacted records of transgender children, including a list of patients that received care at the Washington University Transgender Center at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. 

 Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey speaks Jan. 20 to the Missouri chapter of the Federalist Society on the Missouri House of Representatives dais (Annelise Hanshaw/Missouri Independent).

He is also seeking untethered access to the university’s digital medical records system.

The attorney general’s use of private medical records, and the targeting of therapists and counselors, has interrupted the health care of LGBTQ Missourians and has families worrying about their children’s privacy.

Katy Erker-Lynch, executive director for Missouri LGBTQ advocacy organization PROMO, told The Independent she fears that the pressure will drive health care providers out of the state, especially impacting rural Missourians.

“The attorney general has created a hostile environment for medical providers where they are afraid to stay and practice medicine,” she said. 

The saga began last year when Bailey launched an investigation based on an affidavit from Washington University whistleblower Jamie Reed. Bailey is using the affidavit to question other gender-affirming-care providers like Planned Parenthood, which he has said he hopes to “eradicate.”

The probe involves the Missouri Division of Professional Registration, which oversees medical licensing in the state. According to records obtained by The Independent, the agency interviewed 57 health professionals as part of the inquiry and had 16 cases open as of early May.

While Bailey announced the division would assist in the investigation when he first announced it, therapists did not expect to be included — or have their license to practice put at risk. 

The division’s chief legal counsel, Sarah Ledgerwood, told The Independent that the division and its boards can’t join other officials’ investigations. When asked about Bailey’s investigation, she said the boards “can only complete investigations based on receipt of a complaint.”

Division Director Sheila Solon said last year that she anticipated complaints as part of the attorney general’s investigation.

Kelly Storck, a licensed clinical social worker with a focus on LGBTQ-positive therapy, was interviewed last year and expressed grave concerns about unredacted medical records of minors being in the hands of a state official who has repeatedly opposed gender-affirming care.

When the division contacted Storck for an interview, she hired a lawyer before meeting with the investigator.

During the meeting, she says the investigator had a small stack of unredacted letters Storck had sent the Transgender Center to recommend clients for gender-affirming care.

Storck recalled senior investigator Nick McBroom telling her he wasn’t fully sure what he was doing, saying she was taking the interview more seriously than it was. He questioned why she had a lawyer.

McBroom asked about the process of writing letters of support, Storck said, opening a file with just a portion of the letters she had sent to the Transgender Center. She said she noticed the documents had green underlines added and asked McBroom if they were his edits. He didn’t seem to know the source of the underlines.

After a 30-45 minute interview, McBroom asked her to write up her process. Through her attorney, she declined, and her case was closed soon after.

McBroom declined to speak to The Independent about the case.

“I still have a lot of distrust about who initiated it,” Storck said, “and who was in my documents.” 

Parents of transgender children told The Independent they have heard whispers of other therapists facing investigation.

Multiple providers declined to be interviewed about the investigation out of fear of retaliation. Storck, though, had already faced the attorney general as one of the plaintiffs attempting to block an emergency rule targeting transgender care filed by Bailey last year.

A fight for patient privacy

 The Washington University Transgender Center at St. Louis Children’s Hospital has received national attention since a whistleblower’s affidavit went public last year (Rebecca Rivas/Missouri Independent).

A legal battle between Washington University and the attorney general’s office shows the records used in the interviews may have directly come from the university itself.

In the attorney general’s office’s response to the litigation, a timeline is laid out of the university turning over three sets of documents. In its second document production, Washington University gave the attorney general a list of patients in a spreadsheet.

“The supplemental production included a spreadsheet titled ‘Transgender Patient data,’” the attorney general’s office wrote. “Which included various workbooks chronicling patient names, encounters and medications, among other information.”

The attorney general’s office has declined to comment about the scope of the investigation and the source of investigative documents. Washington University also declined comment. 

People who have received care at the Transgender Center have asked to be notified if their health records are accessed, but many assume some of their information is already in the attorney general’s hands.

The Independent asked Reed if she provided any of the documents to the attorney general. 

“I cannot definitively say what the therapists are being handed (or) where it came from,” she said. “We just don’t really know where those things directly came from. The one thing I will add is that any documents that were provided to the attorney general’s office from me were redacted.”

Reed said she did not give any documents that would be stored in the electronic health records software Epic. When asked where else the records could come from, she said, “email or shared drive.”

The records investigators had of Storck’s patients included names, something Reed said she redacted before providing to the attorney general.

Becky Hormuth and her 17-year-old son Levi, who was a patient at the Transgender Center, have been hearing about the scope of Bailey’s investigation for months.

They learned that the attorney general’s office had been looking into Levi’s psychologist’s records and heard about other providers that had interviews related to their support for gender-affirming care.

Levi said the attorney general’s work seemed like “complete government overreach.”

Bailey’s actions, like a tip line about gender-affirming care and an emergency rule that sought to limit access to certain procedures and prescriptions, prompted Hormuth to prepare to move out of state.

“It is very invasive, what he’s doing,” she told The Independent. “The state has already basically disrupted our lives. They’ve disrupted our families, our children’s lives with the legislation that has passed. Then for him to continue going on is even more invasive and damaging.”

When lawmakers passed a ban on gender-affirming care for minors that included a provision that allowed broad medical malpractice claims, the Transgender Center stopped providing Levi’s medication.

Hormuth learned from other parents to make her son’s medication stretch, just in case it would be a long time before a refill.

She had requested an appointment with a provider in Illinois prior to the law’s passage, and Levi was on a waiting list. The center told her at the time that they weren’t taking new out-of-state patients because there was already a large influx from multiple states.

But eventually, Hormuth got a call that they were ready to take out-of-state patients. So, she and Levi make periodic trips to Chicago to go to the doctor.

Levi is old enough to receive hormone-replacement therapy at the Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region’s clinics, which accept transgender patients 16 and up for gender-affirming care.

But Hormuth wanted to take her son someplace outside of Bailey’s reach.

“I was absolutely dead set against going to Planned Parenthood locally because I knew that as soon as we would establish ourselves at Planned Parenthood… that (Bailey) was going to come there and start digging through those papers and those personal records,” she said. “I absolutely was not going to give him the chance at any other aspect of our family’s life.”

Both branches of Planned Parenthood in Missouri are also subjects of Bailey’s investigation, according to court filings, despite the attorney general’s office only publicly announcing an investigation into the Transgender Center.

The attorney general is not allowed to investigate medical malpractice claims, but it can look into false advertising under the state’s consumer protection law, known as the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act. 

Bailey used that law to file an emergency rule, which he later rescinded before a court case could decide its bounds, and he is utilizing it again to dig into gender-affirming-care providers.

In a case in the Circuit Court of Jackson County, Bailey’s office admits the investigation into the Washington University Transgender Center at St. Louis Children’s Hospital has multiple subjects.

Planned Parenthood Great Plains filed a lawsuit to avoid the attorney general’s civil investigative demands which it argued sought sweeping information about its practice and patients.

In court documents, Solicitor General Josh Divine wrote that the civil investigative demand was looking into the organization and others in addition to the Transgender Center.

“The attorney general is investigating (the Transgender Center) and ‘others in the state’ who ‘may have used deception, fraud, false promises, misrepresentation, unfair practices, and/or the concealment, suppression, or omission of material facts within the scope of the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act,’” Divine wrote. “The attorney general has already made unequivocally clear that (Planned Parenthood) is under investigation.”

Similar arguments are on display in a case between the Planned Parenthood affiliate in St. Louis and the attorney general’s office.

“(Bailey’s) request encompasses hundreds, if not thousands, of patient records concerning treatment decisions, discussions with physicians, mental health assessments and prescription information, among other areas,” Planned Parenthood’s attorney wrote in its lawsuit.

Judges ruled in favor of the attorney general’s office in both cases, which have been recently appealed.

A case filed by Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City against Bailey’s investigative demands also went in favor of the attorney general.

Washington University’s case against the attorney general’s office is yet to be decided.

This fall, the attorney general’s office will defend the state in a case that seeks to reverse a ban on gender-affirming care for minors passed last legislative session.

Storck said the inquiry has compounded anxieties about access to gender-affirming care that patients have following the passage of the ban.

“I really was so afraid that some of my clients were going to be in absolute emergent situations and really struggle to get access to health care,” she said. “My patients have connected with what they need, but it is now an all-day or multiple-day event to get medical care. Previously, they could have gotten it (within two hours).”

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Annelise Hanshaw

Annelise Hanshaw writes about education — a beat she has covered on both the West and East Coast while working for daily newspapers in Santa Barbara, California, and Greenwich, Connecticut. A born-and-raised Missourian, she is proud to be back in her home state.

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The preceding article was previously published by The Missouri Independent and is republished with permission.

The Missouri Independent is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization dedicated to relentless investigative journalism and daily reporting that sheds light on state government and its impact on the lives of Missourians. This service is free to readers and other news outlets.

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

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Politics

Libertarian Party nominates gay presidential candidate for 2024

At the Libertarian National Convention Saturday, former President Trump was booed by the crowd after asking for the third party’s endorsement

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Libertarian Party nominees Mike ter Maat for Vice-President & for President Chase Oliver. (Chase Oliver Libertarian Party Campaign/Facebook)

WASHINGTON – After a contentious seven rounds of voting on Sunday, the Libertarian Party nominated Chase Oliver, a gay sales account executive and former U.S. Senate candidate, to run in the 2024 presidential election.

Oliver will represent America’s third largest political party, whose endorsement had been solicited by the leading Republican and Independent candidates, Donald Trump and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

Libertarian candidates typically earn about one percent of the national vote share during presidential elections, though Gary Johnson earned three percent in 2016, and Jo Jorgensen secured more votes than comprised the margin of victory in some 2020 battleground states.

Oliver’s third-party candidacy for the U.S. Senate in Georgia in 2022 helped force a runoff election that was won by U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.).

Both Trump and Kennedy spoke at the Libertarian convention over the weekend, but they only earned a respective 0.65 percent and two percent of the votes from the party’s 900 delegates. (Trump, a write-in candidate, would likely have been ineligible to receive the nomination since he is the presumptive GOP nominee.)

Taking aim at Trump as well as the Democratic nominee, President Joe Biden, Oliver said during his acceptance speech, “We know that the lesser of two evils continues to give us more evil. But we’re done with that, and so are the voters.”

At the Libertarian National Convention in Washington, D.C. on Saturday night, former President Donald Trump was booed by the crowd after asking for the third party’s endorsement. The reception was far less friendly than the ones Trump receives at his own rallies, with some libertarian voters appearing hesitant to support him. NBC News’ Julie Tsirkin reported:

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India

Indian government committee to study rights for same-sex couples

Country’s Supreme Court last October ruled against marriage equality

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Indian flag (Photo by Rahul Sapra via Bigstock)

NEW DELHI — The Indian Supreme Court seven months ago declined to grant legal status to same-sex marriages. 

At the time of the verdict, however, the Supreme Court instructed the federal government to establish a committee to address the myriad issues faced by the LGBTQ+ community in India. These include matters such as pensions, joint property ownership, healthcare access, and child custody.

In compliance with the Supreme Court’s directive, the Indian government on April 16 established a committee with Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba appointed as its chair. The committee, consisting of six members, will include secretaries from the Home Affairs, Women and Child Development, Health and Family Welfare, Social Justice and Empowerment, and the Law Ministries.

“The Hon’ble Supreme Court vide its judgment dated 17.10.2023, in Writ Petition No. 1011/2022 Supriyo@Supriya vs. Union of India, has directed the central government to constitute a committee to be chaired by the Cabinet secretary to examine the various issues relating to queer community,” said the gazette notification.

A 5-judge constitutional bench led by Chief Justice Dhananjaya Yeshwant Chandrachud refused to recognize the right to marry as a fundamental right for same-sex couples. The country’s top court stated, while delivering the verdict last year, that parliament must decide whether to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples.

The Supreme Court acknowledged it cannot make laws but can only interpret them. It also recognized queer people cannot be discriminated against. The court had said that the material benefits and services given to heterosexual couples and denied to queer couples violate their fundamental rights. 

Chandrachud and Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul in their dissenting opinion advocated for civil unions instead of marriage, arguing this approach would grant legal rights to same-sex couples without extending full marriage rights. They emphasized that while marriage may not inherently confer rights, it offers certain “intangible benefits in the form of expressive advantages” and provides a “bouquet of rights” for couples to exercise.

“For the right to have real meaning, the State must recognize a bouquet of entitlements which flow from an abiding relationship of this kind. A failure to recognize such entitlements would result in systemic discrimination against queer couples,” said Chandrachud. 

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, the country’s second-highest law officer, at the time had stated a committee chaired by the Cabinet secretary would be formed to delineate the rights that should be available to LGBTQ+ couples in a union.

The Supreme Court had outlined several entitlements for the LGBTQ+ community that include the right for queer partners to be treated as part of the same family for ration card purposes, the ability to set up a joint bank account, jail visitation rights, recognition as “next of kin” by medical practitioners, and the right to access the body of a deceased partner to arrange the last rites.

“The committee shall set out the scope of the benefits which accrue to such couples,” stated the Supreme Court in its 2023 ruling. 

In last year’s judgment, the Supreme Court said “legal consequences such as succession rights, maintenance, financial benefits such as under the Income Tax Act 1961, rights flowing from employment such as gratuity and family pension and insurance.” 

The Income Tax Act 1961, provides some benefits to married couple in India, such as a maximum deduction of 199,654.44 ($2,400) that can be claimed in a financial year. Married couples can opt for a joint home loan with tax benefits on interest paid and principal repaid, and also get a higher loan amount. These financial benefits, however, are not available for LGBTQ+ couples in the country. Similarly, as per the rule of family pension in India, if a deceased government servant or pensioner is survived by a spouse, they will be the first to receive a family pension. Children and other family members become eligible for it only after the spouse of the decedent or pensioner become ineligible for a family pension or dies.

Activists say the establishment of a committee chaired by the Cabinet secretary to address the issues faced by LGBTQ+ couples in a union is a promising step forward. 

“The Supreme Court’s verdict on October 17 last year marked a significant milestone in recognizing the rights of LGBTQ individuals, and this committee could play a crucial role in translating legal recognition into practical and effective policy changes,” said Souvik Saha, an LGBTQ activist and founder of People for Change. “The formation of this committee is particularly important in a state like Jharkhand, where LGBTQ individuals face unique challenges. According to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), LGBTQ people in India, especially in rural areas, continue to face significant stigma and discrimination. In Jharkhand, these challenges are compounded by socio-economic factors and a lack of awareness and acceptance among the general population.”

He also said this committee’s effectiveness will depend on its ability to engage with LGBTQ+ communities, understand their needs, and implement policies that are both inclusive and practical. 

“As someone working on the ground, I would emphasize the importance of including voices from all parts of the LGBTQ spectrum, particularly those from marginalized communities,” Saha said.

Ankush Kumar is a reporter who has covered many stories for Washington and Los Angeles Blades from Iran, India, and Singapore. He recently reported for the Daily Beast. He can be reached at [email protected]. He is on Twitter at @mohitkopinion. 

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Politics

2024 Texas GOP convention: Republicans call for spiritual warfare

Delegates moved further right, preaching Christian nationalism & approving rules that would give them unprecedented control of elections

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Attendees at the Texas GOP Convention in San Antonio on May 24, 2024. (Photo Credit: Eddie Gaspar/The Texas Tribune)

By Robert Downen | SAN ANTONIO — From his booth in the exhibit hall of the Texas GOP’s 2024 convention, Steve Hotze saw an army of God assembled before him.

For four decades, Hotze, an indicted election fraud conspiracy theorist, has helmed hardline anti-abortion movements and virulently homophobic campaigns against LGBTQ+ rights, comparing gay people to Nazis and helping popularize the “groomer” slur that paints them as pedophiles. Once on the fringes, Hotze said Saturday that he was pleased by the party’s growing embrace of his calls for spiritual warfare with “demonic, Satanic forces” on the left.

From left: Conservative activists Steven Hotze and Jared Woodfill enter the Senate gallery during the afternoon session of Day 1 of the Ken Paxton impeachment trial in the Texas Senate on Sept. 5, 2023.
From left: Conservative activists Steven Hotze and Jared Woodfill enter the Senate gallery during the afternoon session of Day 1 of the Ken Paxton impeachment trial in the Texas Senate on Sept. 5, 2023. Credit: Bob Daemmrich for The Texas Tribune

“People that aren’t in Christ have wicked, evil hearts,” he said. “We are in a battle, and you have to take a side.”

Those beliefs were common at the party’s three-day biennial convention last week, at which delegates adopted a series of new policies that would give the party unprecedented control over the electoral process and further infuse Christianity into public life.

Delegates approved rules that ban Republican candidates — as well as judges — who are censured by the party from appearing on primary ballots for two years, a move that would give a small group of Republicans the ability to block people from running for office, should it survive expected legal challenges. The party’s proposed platform also included planks that would effectively lock Democrats out of statewide office by requiring candidates to win a majority of Texas’ 254 counties, many of which are dark-red but sparsely populated, and called for laws requiring the Bible to be taught in public schools.

Those moves, delegates and leaders agreed, were necessary amid what they say is an existential fight with a host of perceived enemies, be it liberals trying to indoctrinate their children through “gender ideology” and Critical Race Theory, or globalists waging a war on Christianity through migration.

Lt. Governor Dan Patrick speaks during the Texas GOP Convention Thursday, May 23, 2024 in San Antonio.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick speaks during the Texas GOP Convention on Thursday, May 23, 2024 in San Antonio. Credit: Eli Hartman/The Texas Tribune

Those fears were stoked by elected officials in almost every speech given over the week. “They want to take God out of the country, and they want the government to be God,” Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said Thursday morning.

“Our battle is not against flesh and blood,” Sen. Angela Paxton, R-McKinney, said Friday. “It is against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

”Look at what the Democrats have done,” U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said Saturday. “If you were actively trying to destroy America, what would you do differently?”

Controlling elections

The Texas GOP’s conventions have traditionally amplified the party’s most hardline activists and views. In 2022, for instance, delegates approved a platform that included calls for a referendum on Texas secession; resistance to the “Great Reset,” a conspiracy theory that claims global elites are using environmental and social policies to enslave the world’s population; proclamations that homosexuality is an “abnormal lifestyle choice”; and a declaration that President Joe Biden was not legitimately elected.

The 2024 convention went a step further.

It was the first Texas GOP convention set against the backdrop of a civil war that was sparked by the impeachment of Attorney General Ken Paxton and inflamed by scandals over white supremacists and antisemites working for the party’s top funders, West Texas oil billionaires Tim Dunn and Farris Wilks. This year’s convention was also sparsely attended compared to past years, which some longtime party members said helped the Dunn and Wilks faction further consolidate their power and elect their candidate, Abraham George, for party chair.

“What we’re seeing right now is a shift toward more populism,” said Summer Wise, a former member of the party’s executive committee who has attended most conventions since 2008, including last week’s. “And the [party’s] infrastructure, leadership, decision-making process, power and influence are being controlled by a small group of people.”

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and his wife Senator Angela Paxton wave to conventioneers during the Texas GOP Convention Thursday, May 23, 2024 in San Antonio.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and his wife, state Sen. Angela Paxton, R-McKinney, wave to attendees during the Republican Party of Texas convention in San Antonio on Thursday, May 23, 2024. Credit: Eli Hartman/The Texas Tribune

That shift was most evident, she said, in a series of changes to the party’s rules that further empower its leaders to punish dissent. The party approved changes that would dramatically increase the consequences of censures — which were used most recently to punish House Speaker Dade Phelan for his role in impeaching Paxton, and against U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales for voting for gun safety legislation.

Under the changes, any person who is censured by the party would be banned for two years from appearing on GOP primary ballots — including judges, who are elected in partisan races but expected to be politically neutral once on the bench. The party also voted to unilaterally close its primaries, bypassing the Legislature, in a move intended to keep Democrats from voting in Republican primaries.

“It’s pretty hypocritical,” Wise said of the changes, which legal experts and some party members expect will face legal challenges. “Republicans have always opposed activist judges, and this seems to be obligating judges to observe and prioritize party over law — which is straight-up judicial activism.”

The convention came amid a broader embrace of Christian nationalism on the right, which falsely claims that the United States’ founding was God-ordained and that its institutions and laws should reflect their conservative, Christian views. Experts have found strong correlations between Christian nationalist beliefs and opposition to migration, religious pluralism and the democratic process.

Wise said she has seen parts of the party similarly shift toward dogmatic political and religious views that have been used “to justify or rationalize corrupting the institution and stripping away its integrity, traditions, fundamental and established principles” — as if “‘God wants it, so we can rewrite the rules.’”

“Being Republican and being Christian have become the same thing,” she said. “If you’re accused of being a (Republican in Name Only), you’re essentially not as Christian as someone else. … God help you if you’re Jewish.”

The “rabbit hole”

Bob Harvey is a proud member of the “Grumpy Old Men’s Club,” a group in Montgomery County that he said pushes back against Fox News and other outlets that he claims have been infiltrated by RINOs.

“People trust Fox News, and they need to get outside of that and find alternative news and like-minded people,” Harvey, 71, said on Friday, as he waited in a long line to meet Kyle Rittenhouse, who has ramped up his engagement in Texas politics since he was acquitted of homicide after fatally shooting two Black Lives Matter protesters.

Rather, Harvey’s group recommends places such as the Gateway Pundit, Steve Bannon’s Breitbart News or the Epoch Times, a far-right website that also had a booth at this year’s convention and is directly linked to the Falun Gong, a hardline anti-communist group.

Such outlets, Harvey said, are crucial to getting people “further down the rabbit hole,” after which they can begin to connect the dots between the deep-state that has spent years attacking former President Donald Trump, and the agenda of the left to indoctrinate kids through the Boy Scouts of America, public schools and the Democratic Party.

Harvey’s views were widely-held by his fellow delegates, many of whom were certain that broader transgender acceptance, Critical Race Theory or “diversity, equity and inclusion” initiatives were parts of a sinister plot to destroy the country and take over its churches.

The culprits behind the ploy differed — Democrats, socialists or “globalists,” to name a few. But their nefarious end goals loomed over the convention. Fearing a transgender takeover of the Republican Party of Texas, delegates pushed to explicitly stipulate that the party’s chair and vice chair must be “biological” men or women.

At events to recruit pastors and congregations to ramp up their political activism, elected leaders argued that churches were the only thing standing between evil and children. And the party’s proposed platform included planks that claim gender-transition care is child abuse, or urge new legislation in Texas that’s “even more comprehensive” than Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law, which prohibits the teaching of sexual orientation or gender identity in public schools.

Kyle Rittenhouse shakes hands with conventioneers at a meet and greet during the Texas GOP Convention Thursday, May 23, 2024 in San Antonio.
Kyle Rittenhouse shakes hands with conventioneers at a meet and greet during the Texas GOP convention on Thursday in San Antonio. Credit: Eli Hartman/The Texas Tribune

“Our next generation is being co-opted and indoctrinated where they should have been educated,” Rep. Nate Schatzline, R-Fort Worth, said at a Friday luncheon for pastors and churches. “We are in a spiritual battle. This isn’t a political one.”

For at least a half-century, conservative Christian movements have been fueled by notions of a shadowy and coordinated conspiracy to destroy America, said Mark Chancey, a religious studies professor at Southern Methodist University who focuses on movements to put the Bible in public schools.

“It’s like the boogeyman that won’t go away, that gets summoned whenever a justification is needed for these types of agendas,” he said. “They say that somebody is threatening quintessential American freedoms, and that these threats are posed by some sort of global conspiracy — rather than just recognizing that we’re a pluralistic democracy.”

In the 1950s, such claims were the driving force behind the emergence of groups such as the John Birch Society, a hardline anti-communist group whose early members included the fathers of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and Trump. After decades of dwindling influence, the society has seen a revival since Trump’s 2016 election. And in the exhibit hall last week, so-called Birchers passed out literature and pamphlets that detailed the New World Order’s secret plans for “world domination.”

Steve Oglesby, field director for the Birch Society’s North Texas chapter, said interest and membership in the group has been on the rise in recent years — particularly, as COVID-19 lockdowns and international climate change initiatives have spurred right-wing fears of an international cabal working against the United States.

“COVID really helped,” he said, adding that the pandemic proved the existence of a global elite that has merely shifted its tactics since the 1950s. “It’s not just communism — it’s the people pulling the strings.”

Throughout the week, prominent Republicans invoked similar claims of a coordinated conspiracy against the United States. On Friday, Patrick argued that a decadeslong decline in American religion was part of a broader, “Marxist socialist left” agenda to “create chaos,” including through migration — despite studies showing that migrants are overwhelmingly Christian. Attorney General Ken Paxton echoed those claims in his own speech minutes later, saying migration was part of a plan to “steal another election.”

“The Biden Administration wants the illegals here to vote,” he said.

Ella Maulding and Konner Earnest watch as Lt. Governor Dan Patrick speaks during the Texas GOP Convention Thursday, May 23, 2024 in San Antonio.
Ella Maulding and Konner Earnest watch as Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick speaks during the Republican Party of Texas convention in San Antonio on Thursday, the first day of the gathering. Credit: Eli Hartman/The Texas Tribune

As Paxton continued, Ella Maulding and Konner Earnest held hands and nodded their approval from the convention hall’s front row. Last year, the two were spotted outside of a Tarrant County office building where Nick Fuentes, a prominent white nationalist and Adolf Hitler fan, was hosted for nearly seven hours by Jonathan Stickland, then the leader of Dunn and Wilks’ most powerful political action committee. They eventually lost their jobs after The Texas Tribune reported on their ties to Fuentes or white nationalist groups.

Maulding has been particularly vocal about her support for Great Replacement Theory, a conspiracy theory that claims there is an intentional, often Jewish-driven, effort to replace white people through migration, LGBTQ+ acceptance or interracial marriage. Once a fringe, white nationalist worldview, experts say that Great Replacement Theory has been increasingly mainstreamed as Republican leaders, including some who spoke last week, continue to claim that migration is part of a coordinated effort to aid Democrats. The theory has also been cited by numerous mass shooters, including the gunman who murdered 22 Hispanic people at an El Paso WalMart in 2019.

Five hours after Paxton and Patrick spoke, Maulding took to social media, posting a cartoon of a rabbi with the following text: “I make porn using your children and then make money distributing it under the banner of women’s rights while flooding your nation with demented lunatics who then rape your children.”

David Barton

Kason Huddleston has spent the last few years helping elect Christians and push back against what he believes is indoctrination of children in Rowlett, near Dallas. Far too often, he said, churches and pastors have become complacent, or have been scared away from political engagement by federal rules that prohibit churches from overt political activity.

Through trainings from groups like Christians Engaged, which advocates for church political activity and had a booth at this year’s convention, he said he has been able show more local Christians that they can be “a part of the solution” to intractable societal ills such as fatherlessness, crime or teen drug use. And while he thinks that some of his peers’ existential rhetoric can be overwrought, he agreed that there is an ongoing effort to “tear down the family unit” and shroud America’s true, Christian roots.

“If you look at our government and our laws, all of it goes back to a Judeo-Christian basis,” he said. “Most people don’t know our true history because it’s slowly just been removed.”

He then asked: “Have you ever read David Barton?”

Since the late 1980s, Barton has barnstormed the state and country claiming that church-state separation is a “myth” meant to shroud America’s true founding as a Christian nation. Barton, a self-styled “amateur historian” who served as Texas GOP vice chair from 1997 to 2006, has been thoroughly debunked by an array of historians and scholars — many of them also conservative Christians.

David Barton, left, of WallBuilders talks with a delegate as he poses for photos at a Texas Eagle Forum reception at the Texas Republican Convention in Fort Worth on June 7, 2012.
David Barton, left, of WallBuilders, at a Texas Eagle Forum reception at the Republican Party of Texas convention in Fort Worth on June 7, 2012. Credit: Bob Daemmrich for The Texas Tribune

Despite that, Barton’s views have become widespread among Republicans, including Patrick, Texas Supreme Court Justice John Devine and U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson. And his influence over the party was clear at last week’s convention, where his group, WallBuilders, maintained a booth and delegates frequently cited him.

This year’s platform, the votes for which are expected to be released later this week, included planks that urged lawmakers and the State Board of Education to “require instruction on the Bible, servant leadership and Christian self-governance,” and supports the use of religious chaplains in schools — which was made legal under a law passed by the state Legislature last year.

Warren Throckmorton, a former Grove City College professor and prominent conservative, Christian critic of Barton, told the Tribune that the platform emblematized Barton’s growing influence, and his movement’s conflicting calls to preserve “religious liberty” while attempting to elevate their faith over others. The platform, he noted, simultaneously demands that students’ religious rights be protected, and for schools to be forced to teach the Bible.

“What about the other students who aren’t Christians and who don’t believe in the Bible?” he said. “This is not religious liberty — it’s Christian dominance.

As Zach Maxwell watched his fellow Republicans debate and vote last week, he said he was struck by the frequency and intensity with which Christianity was invoked. Maxwell previously served as chief of staff for former Rep. Mike Lang, then the leader of the ultraconservative Texas House Freedom Caucus, and he later worked for Empower Texans, a political group that was funded primarily by Dunn and Wilks.

He eventually became disillusioned with the party’s right wing, which he said has increasingly been driven by purity tests and opposition to religious or political diversity. This year’s convention, he said, was the culmination of those trends.

“God was not only used as a tool at this convention, but if you didn’t mention God in some way, fake or genuine, I did feel it was seen as distasteful,” he said. “There is a growing group of people who want to turn this nation into a straight-up theocracy. I believe they are doing it on the backs of people who are easily manipulated.”

Disclosure: Southern Methodist University has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

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Robert Downen’s staff photo

Robert Downen is a reporter covering democracy and the threats to it, including extremism, disinformation and conspiracies. Before joining the Tribune in 2022, he worked for five years at the Houston Chronicle. As a Hearst Media fellow, he developed what would become “Abuse of Faith,” a landmark investigation into child sexual abuse in the Southern Baptist Convention that prompted a Department of Justice investigation.

Before coming to Texas, Robert was a business reporter in New York’s capital region, and the managing editor of six newspapers in his home state of Illinois. He is a 2014 graduate of Eastern Illinois University.

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The preceding article was previously published by The Texas Tribune and is republished with permission.

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Minnesota

Minnesota bans Gay & Trans Panic Defense

“Gay and trans panic defenses are based on irrational fears and prejudice and they imply that violence against LGBTQ+ people is acceptable”

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Minnesota Governor Tim Walz speaking at Twin-Cities Pride in 2023. (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor/Facebook)

By Erin Reed | St. PAUL, Minn. – On Friday, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz signed into law HF5216, a judiciary, public safety, and corrections supplemental budget bill that includes a ban on the gay and trans panic defense.

The law, which narrowly passed the Senate on a party-line 34-33 vote, prohibits individuals who commit violence against gay or trans people from using their surprise at the victim’s identity as a justifiable reason for their actions. This defense has been used at least 351 times in homicide trials, according to researchers, and has often led to reduced sentences. Now, Minnesota becomes the 19th state to bar such defenses.

The bill states that the use of force against a person in reaction to their sexual orientation or gender identity is prohibited. It also specifies that it is not a defense to any crime that the defendant acted “based on the discovery of, knowledge about, or disclosure of” a victim’s LGBTQ+ status. Such defenses have been used previously to justify violence against transgender people who do not disclose their gender identity to an intimate partner, romantic partner, or even during mere flirtation.

You can see the applicable provisions in the new law here:

The transgender panic defense, according to one study, has been used at least 351 times. W. Carsten Andresen, a professor who has tracked instances where the gay and trans panic defenses have been used, states that the defense has been effective. In 32% of cases, murder charges have been reduced in sentence when the defense is used, and 5% of people who use the defense are acquitted entirely. Andresen notes that this is notable given that these murders often “involve incredible violence.”

The defense has been implicated in high-profile cases. In 2013, James Dixon killed Islan Nettles, a Black transgender woman, in Harlem after his friends mocked him for flirting with her. He informed police that he had “flown into a fury” after discovering her gender identity. Ultimately, he received only 12 years in prison, with activists and family members saying that the sentence was made more lenient due to justifications that implicate the transgender panic defense.

In recent years, there has been a push to outlaw such defenses. New Hampshire and Delaware outlawed the defense in 2023, and New Mexico banned it in 2022. Efforts to outlaw the defense have failed, however, in more conservative states such as Montana, where transgender legislator Rep. Zooey Zephyr’s bill was defeated 11-8, with Republicans voting against the bill while Democrats voted in favor. Similar bills failed in Arizona, Florida, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin this year, with Michigan’s bill pending action but not yet passed.

You can see a map of the legal status of panic defenses here:

Movement Advancement Project. “Equality Maps: Panic Defense Bans.” https://www.lgbtmap.org/equality-maps/panic_defense_bans.

In the Minnesota Senate, the bill passed 34-33 on party lines. “Gay and trans Minnesotans deserve the same protections under the law as all our neighbors receive,” said Demcoratic Senator Westlin after the bill’s passage, adding, “Gay and trans panic defenses are based on irrational fears and prejudice toward LGBTQ+ people, and they imply that violence against LGBTQ+ people is acceptable under certain conditions. I am proud to see our state continue to protect LGBTQ+ Minnesotans, especially when they are victims of violent crime.”

The new law will go into effect August 1st, 2024.

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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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West Hollywood

Sheriff Luna expected to march in this year’s WeHo Pride Parade

The third annual WeHo Pride Parade will step off at 12:30 p.m. along Santa Monica Boulevard on Sunday, June 2, 2024

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Sheriff Robert Luna, along with other LASD personnel participated in West Hollywood’s 2nd annual Pride Celebration in 2023. (Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles)

By Paulo Murillo | WEST HOLLYWOOD – Sheriff Robert G. Luna is expected to march at this year’s WeHo Pride Parade kicking off on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood. An email sent earlier this month invited all Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department members to join and march with at this year’s parade.

“All Department members are invited to attend,” reads the email. “Come show your support and march with Sheriff’s Department members, friends and family. We welcome you, your spouse/significant other, children, and family members to join us.”

Sheriff Luna marched in the 2023 WeHo Pride parade. He was joined by LASD sworn personnel, civilian employees, volunteers, FBI, LAPD, and their friends and families.

LASD group photo before 2023’s WeHo Pride parade. (Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles)

The WeHo Pride Parade will step off at 12:30 p.m. along Santa Monica Boulevard on Sunday, June 2, 2024. The parade will Feature Festive Floats with Community Groups, Nonprofit Organizations, Local Businesses, and More. Grammy, Emmy, and Tony Award-winning artist Cyndi Lauper will be the WeHo Pride Parade’s Lifetime Ally Icon this year.

The City of West Hollywood reminds the community and the region about WeHo Pride-related street and facility closures. Drivers and Metro riders can anticipate increased traffic and commute times; please plan to use alternate routes.

Street Closures will take place, as follows:

  •  N. San Vicente Boulevard closed from Melrose Avenue to Santa Monica Boulevard fromThursday, May 30, at 7 p.m. through Monday, June 3, at 10 a.m.
  • Santa Monica Blvd (Eastbound) closed from N. La Cienega Boulevard to N. Doheny Drive from Friday, May 31, at 12 p.m. (noon) through Monday, June 3, at 7 a.m.
  • N. Robertson Boulevard closed from Santa Monica Boulevard to Melrose Avenue fromFriday, May 31, at 12 p.m.(noon) throughMonday, June 3 at 7 a.m.
  • Santa Monica Boulevard (Westbound) closed from N. La Cienega Boulevard to N. Doheny Drive from Saturday, June 1, at 6 a.m. through Monday, June 3, at 7 a.m.
  • N. San Vicente Boulevard closed from Santa Monica Boulevard to Cynthia Street from Saturday, June 1, at 6 a.m. through Monday, June 3, at 7 a.m.
  • Santa Monica Boulevard closed from N. Fairfax Avenue to N. Doheny Drive (including side streets one block north and one block south of Santa Monica Boulevard) from Sunday, June 2 at 5 a.m. through Sunday, June 2, at 5 p.m. for the WeHo Pride Parade. Santa Monica Boulevard from N. La Cienega Boulevard to N. Doheny Drive will remain closed though Monday, June 3 at 7 a.m.

Facility Closures will be, as follows:

  •  West Hollywood Park from Monday, May 27 through Wednesday, June 5 (West Hollywood Park will reopen Thursday, June 6).
  • Small Dog Park at West Hollywood Park from Monday, May 27 through Wednesday, June 5 (Small Dog Park will reopen Thursday, June 6).
  • Large Dog Park at West Hollywood Park from Wednesday, May 29 through Tuesday, June 4 (Large Dog Park will reopen Wednesday, June 5).
  • Five-Story Parking Structure at West Hollywood Park from Thursday, May 30, at 7 p.m. through Monday, June 3, at 10 a.m.
  • West Hollywood Library Garage at West Hollywood Park from Thursday, May 30, at 7 p.m. through Monday, June 3, at 10 a.m.
  • Aquatic and Recreation Center Garage at West Hollywood Park from Thursday, May 30, at 7 p.m. through Monday, June 3, at 10 a.m.
  • Plummer Park South Lot from Thursday, May 30, at 7 p.m. through Monday, June 3, at 12 p.m.
  • Robertson Lot from Thursday, May 30, at 7 p.m. through Monday, June 3, at 10 a.m.

The City of West Hollywood will activate its annual Pride Ride free shuttle service during #WeHoPride Weekend. The City’s free transit services, The PickUp and Cityline, will offer combined Pride Ride services that will operate over the weekend.

Pride Ride vehicles (both PickUp and Cityline vehicles marked with route/destination) will travel through West Hollywood from N. La Brea Avenue to N. Kings Road along Santa Monica Boulevard. Select Pride Ride vehicles (marked with route/destination) will also run to the Hollywood & Highland Metro Station as follows:

  • Friday, May 31, 2024 – West Hollywood route will run from 4 p.m. to 3 a.m. From 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. service will run to-and-from the Hollywood & Highland Metro Station.
  • Saturday, June 1, 2024 – West Hollywood route will run from 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. From 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. service will run to-and-from the Hollywood & Highland Metro Station.
  • Sunday, June 2, 2024 – West Hollywood route will run from 11 a.m. to midnight. From 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. service will run to-and-from Hollywood & Highland Metro Station to N. Fairfax Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard due to WeHo Pride Parade street closures. Following the Pride Parade, once streets have reopened, Pride Ride will run along Santa Monica Boulevard between N. La Brea Avenue and N. La Cienega Boulevard until midnight.

WeHo Pride Weekend (May 31 to June 2) will include a free WeHo Pride Street Fair representing a diverse array of LGBTQ community groups as part of visibility, expression, and celebration; the Women’s Freedom Festival; the annual Dyke March; free Friday Night at OUTLOUD; OUTLOUD at WeHo Pride music festival; the WeHo Pride Parade, and a wide range of community group programming throughout Pride month. The WeHo Pride Arts Festival (June 14 – June 16) will take place at various locations throughout West Hollywood.

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Paulo Murillo is Editor in Chief and Publisher of WEHO TIMES. He brings over 20 years of experience as a columnist, reporter, and photo journalist. Murillo began his professional writing career as the author of “Love Ya, Mean It,” an irreverent and sometimes controversial West Hollywood lifestyle column for FAB! newspaper. His work has appea

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The preceding article was previously published by WeHo Times and is republished with permission.

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U.S. Federal Courts

Federal judge may delay Alabama’s trans medical care ban trial

The law makes it a felony, punishable by 10 years in prison, for physicians to prescribe puberty blockers or HRT to trans youth under age 19

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The Frank M. Johnson Jr. Federal Building and United States Courthouse in Montgomery, Alabama, seen on January 24, 2023. (Brian Lyman/Alabama Reflector)

By Jemma Stephenson | HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – A federal judge this past Thursday weighed arguments on whether to move to a trial over Alabama’s ban on gender-affirming medical care for individuals under the age of 19. 

During a roughly three-and-half-hour hearing Thursday, attorneys for the state and for transgender children and their families suing over the law considered the merits of moving forward while circuit courts around the country consider similar laws with different conclusions, and whether a trial over Alabama’s law could move forward as planned or be delayed.

Alabama’s 2022 law makes it a felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, for physicians to prescribe puberty blockers or hormones to transgender youth under the age of 19. SB 184, sponsored by Sen. Shay Shelnutt, R-Trussville, also banned reconstructive surgery and genital surgeries on minors, which providers have stressed do not happen in Alabama.

The families that filed suit said the ban would jeopardize the physical and psychological health of their children. The state repeatedly questioned the effectiveness of the treatments. 

Following a two-day hearing in 2022, U.S. District Judge Liles C. Burke issued a preliminary injunction against the law, ruling that it interfered with parental rights.

The state appealed to the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, where a federal panel reversed the injunction. U.S. Circuit Judge Barbara Lagoa, whose ruling cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2022 Dobbs decision overturning federal abortion rights, wrote that earlier rulings did “not establish that parents have a derivative fundamental right to obtain a particular medical treatment for their children as long as a critical mass of medical professionals approve.”

Lawyers for the plaintiffs in the case moved for an en banc hearing where the entire 11th Circuit would hear the case. The full circuit had not ruled on the motion as of Thursday afternoon.

In Burke’s court on Thursday, Jeff Doss, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said that the decision to go to trial was a “purely discretionary” one for the court. The attorney said the full 11th Circuit — covering Alabama, Georgia and Florida — may not have the votes for the en banc hearing but said the court might not want “active machinery” until “we see there are further developments.”

The motion for the stay filed by the plaintiffs on May 3 also referenced waiting to see if pending cases in Tennessee and Kentucky were taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Burke told Doss to be trial ready for a regular track, but told Alabama Solicitor General Edmund LaCour, arguing for the state, that Doss’s statements were persuasive.

LaCour said they had “done a lot of work over the past two years.”

“We need a decision right away,” he said.

LaCour told Burke that it has become a “playbook” for the United States to enter the cases and ask for trust from doctors rather than lawmakers.

LaCour also referenced sealed evidence that the state had and said they had created a “very robust record.”

Burke said that they were “reading tea leaves,” and they did not know what would happen. He said he did not see the harm in waiting three months and that it is “certainly possible I could be reversed twice.”

LaCour told Burke that he could rule on a summary judgment, or a judgment entered without a full trial. 

Burke told LaCour that the state could enforce the law now, but LaCour replied that they had spent a lot of time on the case. 

“At some point, when is it our turn to finally get justice?” he said.

Burke said he was sympathetic to LaCour’s statements that one plaintiff has already aged out, and they might need new experts.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall was in attendance Thursday but did not present any of the state’s arguments.

Burke told the court that he was going to think more, but he checked around the room for major conflicts for Oct. 27, which no one objected to.

The attorneys for the plaintiffs have faced accusations of judge-shopping after they dismissed and refiled the case in 2022, prior to the two-day hearing. Burke clarified with one attorney Thursday that judge shopping is prohibited under the 11th Circuit.

Burke spent over an hour meeting with the attorneys – and their attorneys – in separate meetings Thursday on the format for hearings in the matter. While they met, the attorneys went around speaking in small groups amongst themselves. 

“Think we’ve got a plan,” Burke said at the end, saying that he would be open to attorneys taking the lead on discussion, or doing that himself. 

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Jemma Stephenson

Jemma Stephenson covers education as a reporter for the Alabama Reflector. She previously worked at the Montgomery Advertiser and graduated from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

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The preceding article was previously published by the Alabama Reflector and is republished with permission.

The Alabama Reflector is an independent, nonprofit news outlet dedicated to covering state government and politics in the state of Alabama. Through daily coverage and investigative journalism, The Reflector covers decision makers in Montgomery; the issues affecting Alabamians, and potential ways to move our state forward.

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

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Florida

St. Petersburg Fla. Rainbow street mural vandalized by two drivers

It’s going to cost the City of St. Petersburg $1100 to restore. The City aims to have the mural repainted in time for Pride month festivities

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Volunteers refresh painting the Progressive Pride Street Mural, St. Petersburg, Florida in May of 2022. The mural was originally installed in 2020. (Photo Credit: stpete.org/Facebook)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The Progressive Pride Street Mural at the 2500 Central Avenue roundabout in the Grand Central District was defaced and damaged in two separate incidents earlier this month. The St. Petersburg Police Department is seeking the public’s assistance to facilitate the arrest of the drivers of the vehicles involved.

The first occurred on May 17th at 9:36 a.m. when a truck accelerated through the mural. The second incident happened on May 22nd at 2:41 a.m. involving a blue two-door vehicle doing doughnuts on the mural.

WTVT FOX 13 Tampa Bay reported that Lee Manuel, the owner of Cocktail St. Pete, a bar just down the street from the mural, said just a few days later, someone did donuts on the mural, damaging it more. A bar across the street from the mural seemed to capture it early Wednesday morning around 2:45 a.m.

Investigators have no reason to believe the incidents are related.

It’s going to cost the City of St. Petersburg $1100 to restore. The City aims to have the mural repainted in time for Pride month festivities.

Anyone with information on the blue vehicle pictured in the video [see Fox 13 report], please contact the St. Petersburg Police at 727-893-7780 or text SPPD + your tip to TIP411.

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Africa

South Sudan refugee camp is ‘not a safe haven’ for LGBTQ+ residents

Gorom Refugee Settlement is outside country’s capital of Juba

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Michael Adler visits the Gorom Refugee Settlement on Oct. 25, 2023. The camp's LGBTQ+ residents remain marginalized. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Embassy in South Sudan)

GOROM REFUGEE SETTLEMENT, South Sudan — LGBTQ+ people who live at a refugee camp in South Sudan say the mistreatment they are suffering because of their sexual orientation and gender identity has left them even more marginalized.

The U.N. Refugee Agency runs the Gorom Refugee Settlement, which is roughly 16 miles from Juba, the country’s capital, in partnership with ACROSS and other South Sudanese NGOs.

UNHCR says more than 20,000 refugees live at Gorom, with the Anyuak people from Ethiopia making up the largest group. They have been there since 2011 when South Sudan became its own country after it broke away from Sudan.

Although this is not the first time the plight of LGBTQ+ people has been raised; the challenges seem to continue unabatedly and grow worse as each year passes. They are denied employment opportunities, with some of their children unable to access education.

Yaga Piuson, an LGBTQ+ activist for Gorom, says the situation has become even more dire.

“The immediate challenges faced by LGBT persons within the camp are severe and pervasive,” said Piuson. “They endure daily attacks, lack of police assistance, death threats, stoning, abuses, discrimination, bullying, denial of medical care, and the inability for their children to access education. Many are also deprived of proper shelter, leading to health risks such as pneumonia.” 

Piuson added UNHCR and ACROSS have done little to address these challenges, while the South Sudanese government has turned a blind eye.

“As of now, both the UNHCR and ACROSS have not provided a durable solution,” said Piuson. “While they have initiated interviews with LGBTQIA+ individuals, the options presented, relocation to other camps within South Sudan or urban areas, pose significant risks due to the country’s stance against homosexuality.”

“Unfortunately, the South Sudanese government and civic organizations have yet to offer any substantial assistance in alleviating these challenges,” added Piuson.

Piuson added some of the refugees have fled Gorom because of the continued persecution they face. Piuson said the settlement was no longer safe for LGBTQ+ refugees who include Anyuak, Darfurians from Sudan, Congolese and Burundians.

“Many of these nationalities have fled because of wars,” noted Piuson. “However, LGBTQIA+ individuals have fled solely due to persecution based on their sexual orientation.”

“Resolving the plight of LGBTQIA+ persons within the settlement requires providing them with a safe environment to freely exercise their rights, including freedom of movement and access to basic needs such as shelter and education for their children,” added Piuson. “It’s crucial to emphasize that the Gorom Refugee Settlement is currently not a safe haven for LGBTQIA+ individuals.”

ACROSS Executive Director Elisama Daniel in response to the Washington Blade’s request for comment said the organization did not have the mandate or jurisdiction to answer questions on the plight of LGBTQ+ people at Gorom, and directed questions to UNHCR. The agency did not respond to a request for comment.

Consensual same-sex sexual relations in South Sudan remain criminalized with up to 10 years in prison, although there is little to no evidence that anyone has been charged with homosexuality. The South Sudanese government, however, is contemplating an anti-homosexuality bill that is similar to those pending in neighboring Kenya and other countries.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in May 2023 signed his country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act that prompted worldwide outrage.  

South Sudanese Minister of Information, Communication, Technology and Postal Services Michael Makuei Leuth ahead of Pope Francis’s visit to the country last year said marriage is between a man and a woman and added any form of same-sex marriage violates the constitution. The government spokesperson also emphasizes there would not be any discussions around LGBTQ+-specific issues. 

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