The family of a transgender woman with HIV who died in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody in 2018 has filed a federal lawsuit against five private companies that were responsible for her care.
The Transgender Law Center and two immigration lawyers — Daniel Yohalem in Santa Fe., N.M., and R. Andrew Free in Nashville — filed the lawsuit on Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico. Management and Training Corporation, LaSalle Corrections, Global Precision Systems, TransCor America and CoreCivic are named as defendants.
Hernández, who was from Honduras, entered U.S. Customs and Border Protection custody on May 9, 2018, when she asked for asylum at the San Ysidro Port of Entry in San Diego. She was later sent to the Cibola County Correctional Center, a facility in Milan N.M., that CoreCivic, which was previously known as the Corrections Corporation of America, operates.
Hernández was admitted to Cibola General Hospital in Grants, N.M., shortly after she arrived at the detention center. Hernández died at Lovelace Medical Center in Albuquerque, N.M., on May 25, 2018.
The lawsuit alleges Hernández on May 14, 2018, “exhibited visible signs of deterioration requiring immediate medical intervention” when Management and Training Corporation transported her and 12 other trans detainees from San Ysidro to the San Luis Regional Detention Center, a facility in San Luis, Ariz., that LaSalle Corrections operates.
“MTC denied Roxsana and her fellow detainees food, water, and restroom access throughout their transfer,” reads the lawsuit.
The lawsuit notes one detainee said Hernández appeared “very weak and pale, almost yellow in pallor, with dark circles under her eyes” when she was at the San Luis Regional Detention Center.
Hernández was at the facility for only a “few hours,” but she “used the bathroom several times to vomit or spit up phlegm.” The lawsuit claims Hernández “was so weak from fever that she spent most of her time at SLRDC (San Luis Regional Detention Center) laying on the floor, coughing.”
“Officers of Defendant LaSalle Corrections witnessed Roxsana’s obvious state of medical need and failed to offer her emergency medical assistance,” reads the lawsuit. “Eventually during her time at SLRDC Roxsana was so ill she could not eat and had to use the restroom approximately every 15 minutes because she had such bad diarrhea.”
The lawsuit states Hernández and more than two dozen other trans detainees at around midnight on May 15 boarded a bus that took them to the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport in the Phoenix suburb of Mesa.
“Roxsana was very ill during the four-hour bus ride and pleaded for help to a person who sat with her, saying words to the effect of, ‘Help me! I don’t know if I’m going to survive,’” reads the lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleges a LaSalle Corrections officer “threatened” Hernández and the other detainees with whom she was traveling. The lawsuit says one detainee asked officers in both English and Spanish to provide medical care to Hernández, but they “ignored her.”
“When they arrived at the airport, one of the people being transported by LaSalle alongside Roxsana told an officer with beige pants and long red hair that Roxsana was very sick and needed immediate medical attention,” reads the lawsuit. “The officer refused to respond to her. During her five hour stay in the Mesa airport Roxsana remained in LaSalle’s custody and was provided no medical care or assistance for her sickness.”
The lawsuit states Hernández and the other detainees flew to El Paso, Texas, and arrived at the El Paso Processing Center at around 3:15 p.m. The lawsuit notes Hernández remained at the facility until the morning of May 16, 2018.
“She and her fellow asylum seekers woke up to ICE officers presenting them food that they were instructed to eat for breakfast at around 5:00 a.m.,” reads the lawsuit. “Roxsana attempted to eat the meal provided, but ended up vomiting and then going back to sleep.”
“By this time, Roxsana appeared to all around her to be gravely ill,” reads the lawsuit. “Despite LaSalle’s knowledge of Roxsana’s urgent need for medical care, during the entire time Roxsana was in LaSalle’s custody LaSalle did not provide her with medical care or assistance to alleviate her suffering.”
The lawsuit says Hernández and 29 other detainees who were going to the Cibola County Correctional Center boarded a bus at around 9 a.m.
“Each person was provided an 8-ounce bottle of water and sandwich to last the entire five and-half hour journey to the Cibola detention center in New Mexico,” says the lawsuit, which notes the temperature in El Paso that day reached 97 degrees before noon.
The lawsuit notes Hernández asked an officer for water during the trip, but he told her that he did not speak Spanish.
Hernández reportedly “had a fever and produced a significant amount of phlegm during the trip” and had bloody sputum when she blew her nose. The lawsuit also notes Hernández “felt dizzy and extremely exhausted, and her stomach hurt badly.”
The lawsuit says the bus arrived at the ICE Criminal Alien Program facility in Albuquerque at around 2:30 p.m.
“Despite GPS’s knowledge of Roxsana’s urgent need for medical care, during the entire time Roxsana was in GPS’s custody GPS did not provide her with medical care or assistance to alleviate her suffering,” it reads.
The lawsuit says officers from TransCor drove Hernández and 28 other trans detainees to the Cibola County Correctional Center, which is roughly 80 miles west of Albuquerque. The detainees arrived at the facility shortly after 8 p.m.
“Throughout this trip, Roxsana continued to appear gravely ill,” reads the lawsuit, noting she was unable to eat. 94. “Roxsana required immediate medical assistance that TransCor employees neglected to provide.”
The Cibola County Correctional Center at the time had a unit specifically for trans women who were in ICE custody.
The lawsuit states Hernández was booked into the facility at around 1:15 a.m. on May 17. It notes she spent the night in the facility’s “medical waiting room.”
“Roxsana lay on the floor, only getting up to use the restroom or drink a beverage officers brought around 4 a.m.,” reads the lawsuit. “Roxsana was so weak and ill that she became delirious.”
The lawsuit states Hernández was brought to an “onsite medical provider who conducted an intake screening.” Hernández received “electrolytes and Ensure” before she returned to a holding cell.
The lawsuit says “an onsite medical provider” examined Hernández at around 10 a.m. She reportedly weighted 89 lbs., and was diagnosed with “dehydration, starvation, extreme weight loss, muscle wasting, untreated HIV, fever and cough.” The lawsuit also notes Hernández’s blood pressure was 81/61 and she had “rough breathing sounds and increased amount of white phlegm mucus excreted in abnormally large quantities.”
The lawsuit states officers at the detention center called an ambulance that brought Hernández to Cibola General Hospital at 11:44 a.m. Hernández later that day was airlifted to Lovelace Medical Center where she died.
“Throughout her hospitalization, CoreCivic officers shackled Roxsana at her wrists and both ankles to her hospital bed except when medical personnel needed to remove them for certain medical procedures,” reads the lawsuit. “At least one armed CoreCivic officer guarded Roxsana at all times and checked that her restraints were secured at least every 20 minutes.”
“Each time medical staff needed CoreCivic officers to remove her restraints, the officer on duty made a call to ‘central’ to receive approval to remove them, delaying Roxsana’s receipt of medical care,” notes the lawsuit. “CoreCivic officers kept Roxsana shackled even after her treating medical providers medically paralyzed her and when she first went into cardiac arrest.”
‘Every private entity tasked with Roxsana’s care failed her’
An autopsy the New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator performed concluded Hernández died from Castleman disease associated with AIDS.
A second autopsy` that former Georgia Chief Medical Examiner Kris Sperry performed at the Transgender Law Center’s request concluded the cause of death was “most probably severe complications of dehydration superimposed upon HIV infection, with the probable presence of one or more opportunistic infections.” The second autopsy also found “evidence of physical abuse” that included bruising on Hernández’s rib cage and contusions on her body.
“Every private entity tasked with Roxsana’s care failed her,” said Dale Melchert, a Transgender Law Center staff attorney, in a press release that announced the lawsuit. “What we know about the short time that Roxsana was in immigration custody is that the officers tasked with transporting her saw her health deteriorate, heard her cries for help, and did nothing. She needlessly suffered as a result of their inaction.”
ICE has denied allegations that Hernández was abused while in its custody.
Amanda Gilchrist, a spokesperson for CoreCivic, on Thursday told the Los Angeles Blade in a statement the company offers “our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Roxsana Hernández.” Gilchrist also noted Hernández was “gravely ill” when she arrived at the Cibola County Correctional Center.
“When she arrived, she went through the intake process, which includes a medical evaluation,” said Gilchrist. “The medical team made the determination that she needed to be immediately transported to an outside hospital.”
“Ms. Hernandez was only at Cibola for 12 hours, where she stayed in the intake area before being transported to the hospital where she passed away nine days later,” she added.
Issa Arnita, a spokesperson for the Management and Training Corporation, on Thursday told the Blade in an email the company “disputes the allegations in the lawsuit, but is unable to comment any further because of the litigation.” Arnita in a second email noted Hernández was in Management and Training Corporation’s custody for “less than four hours, more than a week before her death.”
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First nonbinary US state lawmaker participates in Gaza ceasefire hunger strike
Oklahoma state Rep. Mauree Turner is Muslim
WASHINGTON — The country’s first nonbinary state lawmaker last week participated in a hunger strike for a permanent ceasefire in the Gaza Strip that took place in front of the White House.
Oklahoma state Rep. Mauree Turner took part in the 5-day action alongside actress Cynthia Nixon, Virginia state Del. Sam Rasoul, Delaware state Rep. Madinah Wilson-Anton, New York State Assemblymember Zohran Mamdani, Michigan state Rep. Abraham Aiyash, former New York Congressional candidate Rana Abdelhamid, Muslim Girl.com Founder Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, Adalah Justice Project Director of Strategy and Communications Sumaya Awad and Linda Sarsour. The U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights, Jewish Voice for Peace, Democratic Socialists of America, IfNotNowMovement, Dream Defenders, the Institute for Middle East Understanding and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee are the organizations that either participated in the hunger strike or endorsed it.
“This is the place where you should be,” Turner told the Washington Blade on Nov. 30 while they were standing in front of the White House.
Turner is from Ardmore, Okla., and has been a member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives since 2021. They are the first Muslim person elected to the Oklahoma Legislature.
“Oklahoma is no stranger to genocide, displacement, uprooting communities — beautiful, vibrant, vulnerable communities — just because they could,” said Turner, referring to the treatment of Native Americans in what became Oklahoma during the 1800s and early 1900s. “Specifically as a Muslim and as an Oklahoman it is my duty to be here.”
The hunger strike took place nearly two months after Hamas, which the U.S. has designated a terrorist organization, launched a surprise attack against communities in southern Israel from Gaza.
The Israeli government has said roughly 1,200 people have been killed, including at least 260 people who Hamas militants murdered at an all-night music festival in a kibbutz near the border between Israel and Gaza. The Israeli government also says more than 5,000 people have been injured in the country since the war began and Hamas militants kidnapped more than 200 others.
Yarden Roman-Gat, whose gay brother, Gili Roman, spoke with the Washington Blade on Oct. 30 in D.C., is one of the 105 people who Hamas released during a truce with Israel that began on Nov. 24 and ended on Dec. 1.
The Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry says more than 15,000 people have died in the enclave since the war began. Israel after Oct. 7 cut electricity and water to Gaza and stopped most food and fuel shipments.
“It’s absolutely wild to think about what is happening to the Palestinian people in Gaza and in the West Bank,” said Turner.
Turner noted the war began two days before Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
“By October the 10th, when the world was really seeing what was happening in Gaza,” they said. “So many people who had celebrated specifically Indigenous Peoples’ Day had also sided with the Israeli government over the indigenous people of the land.”
‘The death of civilians is absolutely horrible’
Turner in response to the Blade’s question about the Israelis who militants killed on Oct. 7 emphatically said “the death of civilians is absolutely horrible.” Turner added they “cannot stress enough that when we back people into a corner, we don’t know what will happen.”
“The truth of the matter is our governments, our governmental officials do not have to put people in a corner,” said Turner.
Turner was particularly critical of the Israeli government’s actions in Gaza after Oct. 7.
“I don’t think there’s any place where a government has the power to shut off right water, food, healthcare supplies, things like that,” they said. “It’s just in doing so against a population that has 2 million people … that’s not anyone looking for equitability or justice. That is genocide against its people.”
Turner noted Republican Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt continues to publicly support Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Turner told the Blade “when we oppress people over decades and decades … we cannot, we don’t get to cherry pick” or “we don’t get to tone police or however they are fighting back to be heard, to be, to live for vibrant lives.”
“We cannot tell oppressed people how to hurt out loud,” they said, specifically referring to Palestinian people. “We can create governments that care for people from a community standpoint who are thinking creatively about how we provide aid and support and we can ask our elected officials (members Congress, President Joe Biden, state and local officials) to teach truth. We can ask them to continuously make sure that we are providing the best care and understanding of the situations at hand. We can ask them to do a ceasefire to stop sending aid to the Israeli government and emboldening their military forces.”
Moms for Liberty distances itself from co-founder Bridget Ziegler
In its annual Year in Hate & Extremism report for 2022, the SPLC says Moms for Liberty advances an anti-student inclusion extremist agenda
ORLANDO, Fla. – As outrage continues to build over the sexual battery allegations of Florida GOP chairman Christian Ziegler, accused of raping a woman he had known for 20 years according to a law enforcement affidavit, calls for his resignation and that of his wife, Moms for Liberty co-founder Bridget Ziegler grows.
In a report by the Florida Center for Government Accountability journalist Bob Norman Tuesday, in an email sent to top Republican officials in Florida, embattled state GOP chairman Christian Ziegler characterizes himself as the victim of an ongoing rape investigation being conducted by the Sarasota Police Department.
The 40-year-old Ziegler calls it an “attack,” not on the victim in the case, but himself. He claims he’s being “targeted,” and notes that “anyone” can file a rape complaint. Ziegler promises to later reveal information about the “motive” and who was behind his ordeal.
“We have a country to save and I am not going to let false allegations of a crime put that mission on the bench as I wait for this process to wrap up,” wrote Ziegler. “Thank you to all who have reached out in support.”
Despite his denials and obfuscation of the report filed against him by Sarasota Police detectives, Ziegler refuses to step down which has Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis leading the chorus demanding Ziegler’s resignation.
“I said the other night when it came out, it’s, look, you’re innocent until proven guilty. There’s clearly things that are lodged against people that aren’t necessarily true. But I think when you have an investigation of crimes of this magnitude, I think that the mission has to come first,” the governor said Tuesday.
“It is not helpful to the mission to have this hanging over his head. I’ve said he should step aside. Paul Renner, the Speaker. Kathleen (Passidomo), Senate President. I think most people acknowledge that it’s just an untenable situation when you have things like that there,” he added.
“And so we’ll see what ends up happening. But I don’t know that you have any real standing with that hanging over you,” the governor acknowledged. DeSantis has been joined in his demands by Florida Republican U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, who told the Associated Press Ziegler should step down rather than be a distraction during an important election year.
Ziegler and his wife are also being called out for the hypocrisy of admitting a sexual relationship with another woman even though they very publicly oppose and campaign against LGBTQ+ rights.
Cameron Driggers, the Executive Director of the Gainesville, Florida-based Youth Action Fund alongside Jack Petocz, the non-profit’s Vice-Chair, in a joint statement to the Blade on Tuesday said:
“The revelations regarding the abusive behavior of Moms for Liberty Co-Founder Bridget Zieglar and her Husband, Christian Ziegler, Chair of the Florida GOP, comes as no surprise to the young people who have faced their reign of terror over the last few years.
The fanatically anti-queer culture war raging in Florida is in large part thanks to the Zieglers, who have put young LGBTQ+ Floridians within the crosshairs of bigotry and targeted legislation. At the same time, they were engaging in a non-traditional lifestyle of their own. The shameful hypocrisy of the Zieglers knows no bounds.
If they possess even one ounce of decency, Christian and Bridget Zielger should resign from their positions of power immediately.”
Petocz and Driggers organized a statewide walk-out in protest of Florida’s infamous Parental Rights in Education bill colloquially known as the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law signed by DeSantis in March of 2022 and also led a successful effort to oust a far-right incumbent school board member in deep red Flagler County where they were attending secondary school.
Beyond the efforts of activists like Driggers and Petocz, other LGBTQ+ advocates are also calling out the Zielgers who have long backed the Florida governor’s efforts.
In May of this year, Melanie Willingham-Jaggers, the executive director of GLSEN, which advocates for LGBTQ students, said in a statement that DeSantis “is trying to turn back the clock on progress and erase LGBTQ+ people from existence.”
“He’s using vulnerable communities as political pawns in an attempt to gain power and further his own career,” Willingham-Jaggers said. “We know that inclusive curriculum and LGBTQ+ representation benefits all students, and every single major medical association in the U.S. supports gender-affirming care for youth. As Floridians continue to face attacks on their education, health care and bodily autonomy, we’re calling on legislators, advocates and allies to rise up with us and support LGBTQ+ youth.”
Moms for Liberty as a group has factored into these attacks on the LGBTQ+ community and LGBTQ+ youth in general both in Florida and across the United States, leading the civil rights watchdog group, the Southern Poverty Law Center, to label the so-called “parental rights” group extremist.
In its annual Year in Hate & Extremism report for 2022, the SPLC says that Moms for Liberty advances an anti-student inclusion extremist agenda.
Bridget Ziegler is a sitting member of the Sarasota School Board and has been unabashed in her anti-LGBTQ+ agenda calling for removal of LGBTQ+ books from the libraries in the system and curtailing affirmation of the system’s LGBTQ+ minority student population.
The efforts by Ziegler and Moms For Liberty has had a chilling effect says Lance Preston, the Executive Director and founding CEO of Indianapolis, Indiana-based Rainbow Youth Project (RYP). The RYP offers no cost access to meaningful mental health and suicide prevention counseling, as well as reduced or no cost non-surgical healthcare assistance to trans and queer youth.
According to Preston, “Moms for Liberty claims to promote “traditional family values” and fights against what they label as “indoctrination.” Unfortunately, their actions have had severe consequences for countless young individuals struggling with their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Rainbow Youth Project has recorded over 23,000 crisis calls and live chats since April 2022, with approximately 4,361 of the callers specifically mentioning Moms for Liberty activities in their schools and communities as at least a major reason for their depression, isolation, anxiety, self-harming behaviors, and even suicidal ideation, Preston noted.
“The hypocrisy would be laughable if it weren’t so dangerous. For instance, they profess to stand for “liberty” while attacking school children for sending the organization colorful cards begging the group to stop bullying LGBTQ+ kids. The group immediately condemned those youth, calling their cards “hate mail,” and sought to deny those kids their liberties under the First Amendment,” Preston said.
“Every LGBTQ+ youth deserves love, acceptance, and support during their difficult journey. It is heartbreaking to witness the harm caused by Moms for Liberty, who spread misinformation and stigma, perpetuating intolerance and prejudice. We will continue to call upon communities to stand against discrimination and work alongside us to create a world where LGBTQ+ youths can thrive, free from the fear of rejection or harm caused by anti-LGBTQ+ groups like Moms for Liberty,” Preston told the Blade.
“These allegations are incredibly serious and deserve a full investigation. Whether through elected office, GOP party leadership, or Moms For Liberty, the Zieglers have spent years telling people how to live and who to be. They’ve been the tip of the spear for right wing extremism in a state being hijacked by the anti-LGBTQ+ agenda. Their desperation for power and complete disregard for people has been and will continue to be a stain on Florida’s history,” Brandon J. Wolf, National Press Secretary & Senior Director, Political Comms, for the Human Right Campaign said in an emailed statement to the Blade.
In addition to the political leadership calls for Ziegler’s stepping down, his wife now faces similar calls in Sarasota. According to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Sarasota County School Board member Tom Edwards called for his colleague Bridget Ziegler to resign from the board amid accusations that her husband sexually assaulted a woman who had been part of a three-way relationship with him and Bridget.
Edwards told the newspaper that last year’s School Board chairwoman has become too much of a distraction for the district.
“She is nothing but a distraction from before and only getting worse, and it will never go away as long as she sits there,” he said. “As a School Board member, my focus is on our students, their academic achievement and educational outcomes. It is not on the Zieglers’ escapades.”
Edwards added that the Zieglers, both Christian and Bridget, “cannot any longer be near children or public policy” because of their advocacy against critical race theory and the discussion of LGBTQ+ topics in schools, which he said has caused damage to students’ mental health.
Edwards, the only openly gay member of the board, had been attacked publicly by a woman at a board meeting who referred to him as a ‘groomer,’ a homophobic and offensive slur during a public comments section of a board meeting. Bridget Ziegler, then Chair, refused to eject or silence the woman saying only that personal attacks in public comment happen to elected officials on all sides and that stopping the speaker would have only escalated tensions.
In an emailed statement received Tuesday morning by the Blade and other media outlets, current executives of Moms For Liberty and co-founders Tina Descovich and Tiffany Justice said:
“We have been truly shaken to read of the serious, criminal allegations against Christian Ziegler. We believe any allegation of sexual assault should be taken seriously and fully investigated.
“Bridget Ziegler resigned from her role as co-founder with Moms for Liberty within a month of our launch in January of 2021, nearly three years ago. She has remained an avid warrior for parental rights across the country.
“To our opponents who have spewed hateful vitriol over the last several days: We reject your attacks. We will continue to empower ALL parents to build relationships that ensure the survival of our nation and a thriving education system. We are laser-focused on fundamental parental rights, and that mission is and always will be bigger than any one person.”
The fallout from the scandal over the Ziegler’s hypocrisy and allegations of rape and misconduct have also affected Moms for Liberty chapters in other states. According to Moms for Liberty the group has 300 plus chapters in 47 states.
The News-Item newspaper in Shamokin, Pennsylvania, reported that The Northumberland County chapter of Moms for Liberty is on pause as it breaks from the national organization, according to its chapter chair Clarissa Paige.
Paige said she formed the Northumberland County Chapter of Moms for Liberty in April 2022 out of concern for a lack of accountability and representation in county schools.
She said, “We hit significant milestones by ensuring school board members were accountable and supporting the elections of responsible community leaders.”
Paige, who has three children attending Warrior Run schools, has been outspoken against the curriculum she alleges to contain aspects of social-emotional learning or critical race theory, and threatened legal action against the school for reenacting a mask mandate.
Paige refuted claims by the Southern Poverty Law Center that Moms for Liberty spreads hateful imagery and rhetoric against the LGBTQ community.
Paige is seeking nonprofit status for Northumberland County Academic Alliance, which she told The News-Item will continue to focus on parental rights in schools.
“The journey has always been the strength of our local community and we found all the support we need among us,” Paige said Monday. “We are going to continue to champion parental rights with dignity and integrity.”
Bridget Ziegler, and her husband Christian did not respond to requests for comment by the Blade Tuesday.
Iowa’s Supreme Court upholds anti-LGBTQ hate crime conviction
Robert Clark Geddes, 27, of Boone, Iowa, was arrested after leaving handwritten notes reading, “Burn that gay flag”
DES MOINES, Iowa – The Iowa State Supreme Court on December 1, upheld the conviction of a man who left threatening notes on the homes of people displaying LGBTQ Pride flags during the June 2021 Pride month.
Robert Clark Geddes, 27, of 1814 Eighth Street in Boone, Iowa, was arrested after leaving handwritten notes reading, “Burn that gay flag,” at four different houses in this small hamlet of 12,000 located 49 miles northwest of Iowa’s capital city.
According to a local media outlet, the Perry News in its June 23, 2021 reporting, Boone City Council member Elijah Stines was one of the victims of the hate crimes.
“Let me be very clear,” Stines said on Facebook. “I will never back down from standing up for the lives of my LGBTQ friends, family, constituents and all members of our community. My house was one of five locations in my ward alone that I know of that received a similar cowardly note this weekend. To everyone in the Boone LGBTQ community: There are so many more people here who will stand with you and ensure your safety than would threaten it. Call on us any time!”
Investigators determined that the four notes were “linked together by consistent handwriting, matching paper tear marks and marker bleed through on each page,” according to court records.
The victims were “annoyed and alarmed” by the notes, and Geddes “had no legitimate purpose to be on the property other than commit a public offense,” according to court records.
Associate Judge Stephan A. Owen, for the Iowa District Court for Boone County, found Geddes guilty and sentenced him to up to two years of probation.
On September 14, 2023, he appealed his convictions for trespass as a hate crime, arguing that the evidence of guilt was insufficient and that the convictions violated his constitutional rights of free speech and due process.
In its Friday ruling the high court disagreed noting: “The individuals’ display of the LGBTQ+ flag or flag decal on their own properties was an exercise of First Amendment rights; the defendant’s surreptitious entry onto those properties to post his harassing notes was not.”
The Associated Press reported that as the court noted, the rainbow flag has come to symbolize support for LGBTQ+ rights. The majority said the state statute in question does not criminalize speech, but rather conduct with a specific intent — trespassing because the property owners or residents had associated themselves with a protected class.
The AP also reported that in his dissent, Justice Matthew McDermott said there was no evidence in the record that the recipients of Geddes’ notes were members of the LGBTQ+ community or whether he believed they were, nor whether any of the residents had an “association with” an actual person in those protected classes. He noted that the Legislature chose the words “association with” rather than “solidarity with” when it wrote the hate crime law.
“As a symbol, a flag doesn’t independently create or express actual association with particular persons,” McDermott wrote, adding that, “Not everyone who displays a pirate flag is associated with actual pirates.”
LGBTQ resort communities threatened by climate change
LGBTQ communities and destinations are grappling with the “existential” threat posed by the crisis of worsening weather storms
By Cal Benn | WASHINGTON – As the world reckons with worsening impacts of climate change, some LGBTQ communities and destinations are grappling with the “existential” threat posed by the crisis.
The United Nations’ annual climate conference will take place in the United Arab Emirates through Dec. 12. LGBTQ climate activists, however, are concerned about representation at COP28 because the meeting is taking place in Dubai, which is in a country that criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual relations.
President Joe Biden on Nov. 14 delivered a statement on climate change policy during his administration. Biden spoke on the American Rescue Plan, the Fifth National Climate Assessment, new transparency about the state of the country’s climate and more.
Biden emphasized “advancing environmental justice for disadvantaged communities, because they’re the ones always left behind.” Evidence of this trend can be found in LGBTQ destinations across the country.
Julian Cyr, a gay Massachusetts state senator who represents Provincetown and other towns on Cape Cod, recognizes the state’s importance to the LGBTQ community, stating that “according to the Census, it may be the highest per capita density of LGBTQ+ people certainly in the United States, and perhaps internationally.”
Provincetown, a popular gay destination located at the tip of Cape Cod, is facing worsening storms as climate change advances. These storms reshape the natural environment as well as damage the built environment. A series of Nor’easters in 2018 flooded Provincetown, damaging homes, businesses and the town hall.
“The climate crisis is … already forcing us to do a lot of planning and reevaluation of coastal resilience of our built environment,” said Cyr.
All hope isn’t lost yet for Massachusetts destinations.
Then-Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, in 2022 introduced the Climate Roadmap, which aims for zero carbon emissions by 2050. The state also is building the country’s first offshore wind farm, Vineyard Wind.
Cyr said citizens can push for climate change legislation by making the urgency known to their local elected officials.
“This is truly existential for coastal, low-lying communities like those that I represent,” said Cyr. “It’s really important that constituents weigh in with their elected officials and make sure that they know that this issue is crucially important. I don’t know how we not solve this issue.”
Experts are seeing similar effects in nearby LGBTQ destinations, such as Cape Cod.
“One thing that we do see already is the effect of storms,” said Mark Adams, a retired Cape Cod National Seashore cartographer. “Those storms are the signal of sea level rise.”
Adams said that as a result of rising temperatures and new, intense storms, he is also starting to see damaged ecosystems, unnatural migration patterns of local wildlife, and planting-zones moving northward. Adams told the Washington Blade these changing ecological relationships may mean an uncertain future for life along the coast: the self-sustaining lifestyle and seafood could be at risk as ocean acidification puts shellfish in danger.
“If you can’t get oysters and clams, that would really change life on Cape Cod,” he said.
In addition to the damage caused by storms, Cape Cod’s natural environment is also facing the threat of littering and plastic pollution. While the area’s beaches keep tourism alive, fishing gear and marine debris washing up on the shore are growing concerns for the community.
Adams said this is where the choices individuals make to avoid plastics will make a huge difference in the future of these communities.
“There are little choices we can make to get off of the petroleum stream,” he said.
Aspen Gay Ski Week adapts to warmer winters
Aspen Gay Ski Week was the first gay ski week, and it is the largest such event in the world, and is the only non-profit gay ski week.
Rising temperatures and short winters are growing concerns for destinations like Aspen, Colo., that depend on snow, according to AspenOUT Executive Director Kevin McManamon.
“As our seasons get shorter … we have to plan for the future,” McManamon said.
Colorado has also faced increased forest fires in recent years.
The Marshall Fire in 2021 devastated the state, destroying buildings and killing two people. Increasingly dry conditions feed into these fires, which will mean more impacts on humans, nature, and infrastructure.
McManamon nevertheless said he is optimistic about Aspen Gay Ski Week’s future due to the organization’s forward thinking. One such initiative is its involvement with Protect Our Winters, an organization that advocates for protecting the environment with the support of the outdoor sports community.
“The cool part about being here in Aspen and having a great relationship with Aspen Skiing Company is that they are … on the leading edge of climate change,” said McManamon.
Stronger storms threaten Fire Island
Fire Island Pines on New York’s Fire Island has been a safe haven for the LGBTQ community since the 1950s.
Fire Island Pines Property Owners’ Association President Henry Robin notes natural disasters cause more damage in the community as opposed to those that are across the Great South Bay on Long Island because Fire Island is a “barrier island.”
“When Superstorm Sandy hit, or when a Nor’easter hits, or a hurricane hits, the brunt of the storm is first taken by the Pines,” said Robin.
Robin said “the Pines is thriving” just over 11 years since Sandy, but there is no climate change response. The federal government implemented a beach restoration project for Fire Island, and later, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers created an engineered beach for the Pines.
Robin also formed three task forces — comprised of community members — to address local concerns, many of which were climate related, according to focus groups and a survey. Robin is also hoping to introduce recycling programs and solar energy to the Pines.
Cal Benn, is a journalism major at Emerson College who is in D.C. with the Washington Center, and is a Fall intern at the Washington Blade.
Benn’s work focuses on human rights, climate change and how the two issues intersect. They are also passionate about sustainability, advocacy and writing and enjoy skateboarding and playing with their cats when they are not writing.
US announces more sanctions for Ugandan officials
Anti-Homosexuality Act signed on May 29
WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday announced sanctions against current and former Ugandan officials who committed human rights abuses against LGBTQ+ people and other groups.
“After Uganda’s flawed 2021 presidential elections, I announced a visa restriction policy targeting those believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the democratic process in Uganda,” said Blinken in a statement. “At that time, I implored the government of Uganda to significantly improve its record and hold accountable those responsible for flawed electoral processes, violence and intimidation.”
Blinken announced “the expansion of the visa restriction policy to include current or former Ugandan officials or others who are believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the democratic process in Uganda or for policies or actions aimed at repressing members of marginalized or vulnerable populations.”
“These groups include, but are not limited to, environmental activists, human rights defenders, journalists, LGBTQI+ persons and civil society organizers,” he said. “The immediate family members of such persons may also be subject to these restrictions.”
Blinken added the U.S. “stands by the Ugandan people and remains committed to working together to advance democracy, human rights, public health and mutual prosperity.”
“I once again strongly encourage the government of Uganda to make concerted efforts to uphold democracy and to respect and protect human rights so that we may sustain the decades-long partnership between our countries that has benefited Americans and Ugandans alike,” he said.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on May 29 signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act, which contains a death penalty provision for “aggravated homosexuality.” The State Department a few weeks later announced visa restrictions against unnamed Ugandan officials.
The Biden-Harris administration in October said it plans to remove Uganda from a program that allows sub-Saharan African countries to trade duty-free with the U.S. The White House has also issued a business advisory for Uganda in response to the Anti-Homosexuality Act.
Queen Latifah among the Kennedy Center 2023 honorees
After decades of speculation about her sexuality, Latifah publicly acknowledged her partner Eboni Nichols and son Rebel in 2021
WASHINGTON – Rapper, actor, and singer Queen Latifah was among the honorees who were welcomed to the White House for a reception in the East Room on Sunday prior to the Kennedy Center Honors show, where she joined the latest class of inductees alongside singer Dionne Warwick, comedian Billy Crystal, Bee Gees member Barry Gibb, and opera star Renée Fleming.
“It’s a wonderful tradition at the White House to recognize the President and Mrs. Kennedy’s love of the arts and the culture in America — love that endures 60 years after his death, tragically,” President Joe Biden said in prepared remarks. “The anniversary was marked last month.”
The honor is “not just based on the length of the career or the scope of work or the height of fame but because of their unique place in the conscience and the very soul of our dynamic and diverse nation,” the president said. “You’re an incredible group.”
After decades of speculation about her sexuality, Latifah publicly acknowledged her partner Eboni Nichols and son Rebel for the first time during an acceptance speech at the BET Awards in 2021.
She is also the recipient of a Grammy Award, a Primetime Emmy Award, a Golden Globe Award, three Screen Actors Guild Awards, and two NAACP Image Awards. Latifah was also nominated for an Academy Award in 2003 for her performance in “Chicago.”
Calling her “a natural storyteller,” Biden noted that Latifah released her first album at age 19. “In the studio, she rapped about everything from the pain of losing her brother to the abuse of power, respect for Black women to — the respect that Black women deserve, and how infinite love is the only hope for unity.”
“She’s also a skillful storyteller onscreen,” the president said, “The first woman in hip-hop to earn an Oscar nomination, which she did for her role in ‘Chicago'” and also “the first hip-hop artist with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.”
Biden also celebrated Latifah’s honorary degree in 2011 “from Delaware State University, my HBCU” and her other contributions “From serving as a mentor for young women of color to building housing in her hometown of Newark.”
“Tonight, Queen Latifah,” the president said, “you become the first female hip-hop artist to receive a Kennedy Center Honor, lifting — and fitting because it’s tribute to the 50th anniversary of hip-hop.” The award serves as proof, he said, “that anything is possible when we discover our own voice, write our own story, and share it with the world.”
46th Kennedy Center Honors – White House Reception
Hyatt Regency Miami settlement over ‘Drag Queen Christmas’
The Hyatt Regency Miami agreed to pay a $5,000 fine & the consent order said the hotel “admits no liability by settling” the dispute
MIAMI, Fla. – The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (FDBPR) and the Hyatt Hotels Corporation reached a settlement this past week stemming from enforcement actions taken by the state’s Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco, which operates under the FDBPR, targeting the Hyatt Regency Miami for an event it hosted that included a drag show last December.
Orlando’s ABC News affiliate WFTV 9 reported that under the settlement, known as a consent order, the Hyatt Regency Miami agreed to pay a $5,000 fine and to prevent minors from attending performances at a facility known as the James L. Knight Center if such a performance “contains, depicts or simulates” activities targeted in the new law which is currently blocked by two Federal courts.
The consent order said the hotel “admits no liability by settling” the dispute. The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation announced the settlement Wednesday.
The hotel’s affiliated James L. Knight Center had hosted “A Drag Queen Christmas” performed Dec. 27, 2022 with minors present in the audience. The Knight Center is a major South Florida venue and has previously hosted the Miss Universe and Miss USA pageants. The venue’s main room can seat 4,600 people.
In targeting of the show, which is a holiday-themed drag show that toured in 36 different cities and featured stars from the reality show “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” Insider webzine journalist Kimberly Leonard reported that the DeSantis administration officials accused the Knight Center of several violations, including a prohibition of “lascivious exhibition” before people younger than 16.
The department’s complaint said performers engaged in “acts of simulated sexual activity, and lewd, vulgar, and indecent displays” that included:
- Performers forcibly penetrating or rubbing exposed prosthetic female breasts against faces of audience members
- Intentionally exposing performers’ prosthetic female breasts and genitalia to the audience
- Intentionally exposing performers’ buttocks to the audience
- Simulating masturbation through performers’ digitally penetrating prosthetic female genital
- Graphic depictions of childbirth and/or abortion
Last Spring state lawmakers in Tallahassee passed SB 1438, signed by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, that put a statewide ban on drag performances where children may be present. In June, U.S. District Judge Gregory Presnell ruled it unconstitutional noting [SB 1438] ” is specifically designed to suppress the speech of drag queen performers.”
Presnell in his twenty-four page ruling further noted: “The state claims that this statute seeks to protect children generally from obscene live performances. However, as explained [in court filings], Florida already has statutes that provide such protection.”
The State then appealed his ruling to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit based in Atlanta, Georgia.
In a significant ruling released in October by the 11th Circuit, the court determined that the law posed a threat to constitutionally-protected free speech and expression and affirmed that the block of the law would stand for the entire state of Florida.
911 tape released in criminal investigation of Florida GOP chairman
The criminal investigation, which sources say involves video recordings and the seizure of Christian Ziegler’s phone, is ongoing
By Bob Norman | SARASOTA, Fla. – The sexual battery investigation of Florida GOP chairman Christian Ziegler began with a 911 call from a friend of the alleged victim who was worried about her well-being, according to a recording of the call obtained by the Florida Trident.
The 911 call, made on October 4 at 2:46 p.m., reveals the caller was concerned about the mental health of the woman, who isn’t being identified due to the nature of the investigation.
“I was hoping to do a wellness on a friend of mine,” the caller began. “She hasn’t shown up for work the past two days and I just got off the phone with her and she sounds drunk and I know she has pain medication on her and she told me that she doesn’t think she can do it anymore.”
The dispatcher then asked questions about the victim’s address, which was redacted, before the caller said the alleged victim had been struggling with addiction that had “gotten worse and worse the last couple of months.” Then she relayed the information that kicked off a criminal investigation that is ongoing.
“She won’t answer anyone else at work except for me but she told me she was raped yesterday and that she’s scared to leave her house,” said the caller. “… She’s saying she’s scared that — the person that raped her came to her house — that she’s scared to leave.”
The caller then told the dispatcher, “I’m worried about her right now.”
“I have units en route,” said the dispatcher.
The alleged perpetrator is Ziegler, who has yet to publicly comment on the investigation first reported by the Trident on Thursday morning. His attorney, Derek Byrd, said in a written statement Ziegler would be fully exonerated in the investigation.
Sources close to the investigation told the Trident that Ziegler and his wife, Sarasota County School Board Member Bridget Ziegler, who is also an appointee of Gov. Ron DeSantis and cofounder of the right-wing group Moms For Liberty, had a three-way sexual relationship with the woman prior to the alleged October 2 sexual assault.
A copy of the search warrant involved in the case was released late Friday that substantiated much of the Trident’s earlier reporting and added a wealth of new information.
Ziegler, according to the affidavit, had known the woman for 20 years and they had agreed to a tryst at the woman’s home on October 2 with Ziegler’s wife. When Bridget Ziegler wasn’t able to make it, the woman canceled via text to Christian Ziegler, writing that she had been “more in for her,” meaning Bridget. She told police that Christian Ziegler came to her home anyway and entered uninvited as she opened the door to walk her dog. Inside, she said he raped her.
In an interview with detectives attended by his attorney, Christian Ziegler admitted he had sex with her that day but said it was consensual sex with the woman. He also admitted that he shot video of the incident, which he said he initially deleted, but later uploaded to a Google Drive. When the affidavit was filed with the court on November 15, police had yet located the video. The contents of the Google Drive was among items seized by police under the warrant, along with his Gmail and iPhone.
According to the affidavit, Bridget Ziegler told detectives she was involved in a sexual encounter with her husband and the woman once over a year ago.
News of the criminal investigation led DeSantis to publicly call for Ziegler to step down from his role at the top of Florida’s Republican Party shortly after the presidential candidate’s debate with California Gov. Gavin Newsom Thursday night on the Fox News Channel.
“I don’t see how he can continue with that investigation ongoing, given the gravity of those situations,” DeSantis told reporters. “And so, I think he should step aside. I think he should tend to that. He’s innocent until proven guilty, but we just can’t have a party chair that is under that type of scrutiny. And so, I hope that — I hope the charges aren’t true. I’ve known him, I’ve known Bridget; they’ve been friends. But the mission is more important,”
The criminal investigation, which sources tell the Trident involves video recordings and the seizure of Christian Ziegler’s phone, is ongoing.
Florida Center for Government Accountability public access director Michael Barfield contributed to the reporting of this story.
Bob Norman is an award-winning investigative reporter who serves as Editor-in-Chief of the Florida Trident and journalism program director for the Florida Center for Government Accountability. He can be reached at jo[email protected] or by phone at 954-632-4343.
The preceding article was previously published by the Florida Center for Government and is republished with permission.
The Florida Center for Government Accountability, a non-partisan 501(c)(3) organization, focuses its government accountability and journalistic efforts primarily on local governments, providing support and assistance for citizens and investigative journalists working to hold government accountable. All donations made to FLCGA are tax deductible.
FLCGA is a member of the Institute for Nonprofit News — a nationwide network of independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan news organizations. Learn more at inn.org.
Amicus brief: No negative incidents from Trans people in bathrooms
The brief details the constitutionality of bathroom bans. Courts across the U.S. have determined trans people have right to access bathrooms
By Erin Reed | WASHINGTON – On Thursday, 21 state attorneys general filed an amicus brief with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, stating that transgender people must be allowed to use restrooms matching their gender identity.
The letter represents the latest development in a fight that has worked its way across the country, focusing on equal rights in bathroom accommodations for transgender people and barreling towards the Supreme Court.
The amicus brief is substantial. It represents the work of attorneys general in 21 states, and contains legal precedents, nondiscrimination laws, and the experiences of those states around allowing equal accommodations for transgender people. It cites 13 pages worth of laws, court decisions, and studies to support the rights of transgender people in bathrooms. It draws a final conclusion stating that disallowing trans bathroom access causes “emotional, psychological, educational, and constitutional harm,” and requests that the court uphold these rights for transgender students.
The brief is unique in that it outlines the findings of negative events that stem from allowing transgender people to use the bathroom of their gender identity. The brief finds that “nondiscriminatory restroom policies produce important benefits and pose no safety concerns.” Importantly, it shows that in states that allow trans students to use bathrooms according to their gender identity, there were “no reported instances of transgender students harassing others in restrooms or locker rooms.”
See the briefing on this topic:
Meanwhile, the brief highlights the many negative effects of disallowing transgender people from using locker rooms and bathrooms. The report states that discriminatory policies for transgender people promote absenteeism, leading to trans youth missing valuable school time. These policies also harm the physical and mental health of transgender students.
The brief reports that 73% of trans students avoid restrooms in school because they feel unsafe or uncomfortable. Additionally, over half report negative health effects from doing so, such as kidney infections and other kidney-related problems. Rebecca, one of the plaintiffs in the case, reported limiting fluid intake at school and suppressing bathroom urges, both of which are unsafe for children.
The brief also details expansive case law surrounding the constitutionality of bathroom access. Courts across the United States have determined that transgender people have the right to access bathrooms that match their gender identities. Among the most significant cases is Grimm v. Gloucester County, where the 4th Circuit Court ruled that a transgender boy has the right to use the bathroom of his gender identity.
Similarly, in the 7th Circuit Court, A.C. v. Metropolitan School District of Martinsville was ruled in favor of a transgender plaintiff. Even the 9th Circuit Court, which is hearing this case, has favorable precedent. In Parents for Privacy v. Barr, it was ruled that transgender bathroom access does not violate other students’ privacy.
Ultimately, the strength of these cases was bolstered by the Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, which the report also heavily references. In that decision, which was ruled 6-3 with conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch authoring the opinion, the Supreme Court ruled that “it is impossible to discriminate against a person for being homosexual or transgender without discriminating against that individual based on sex.”
Although the decision covered employment law and not bathroom access, many courts have interpreted it as applicable to bathroom access and other areas protected by Title IX.
The brief also directly addresses the idea that Title IX only protects “biological sex.” It points out that Title IX regulations do not state that it only applies to “biological” sex “as determined by chromosomes and internal and external reproductive anatomy.” Instead, the brief argues that discrimination based on assigned sex at birth treats, for instance, a transgender girl different from a cisgender girl when allowing restroom access. The overreliance on a very specific facet of biological sex likely renders the bill unconstitutional, the brief states.
For now, the bill is blocked in court, allowing Idaho transgender students to use the restroom that matches their gender identity if their school permits it. Meanwhile, cases concerning bathroom access are swiftly moving towards the Supreme Court, with a recent decision from the 7th US Circuit Court currently being appealed to the Supreme Court.
It appears likely that the Supreme Court will soon revisit transgender rights. In this interim, this coalition of 21 states has emerged, vocally advocating for the rights of transgender students and leveraging their collective authority to do so.
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.
Follow her on Twitter (Link)
Website here: https://www.erininthemorning.com/
“To hell with this place:” Santos booted from Congress
The third vote to expel the congressman comes after a 56-page report by the U.S. House Ethics Committee detailing his egregious behavior
WASHINGTON – Lawmakers on Friday voted 311-114 to expel embattled U.S. Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) from Congress, exceeding the two-thirds majority needed for the resolution to pass with two members voting present.
The third vote to expel the congressman comes after a 56-page report by the U.S. House Ethics Committee found Santos had siphoned campaign contributions to shop at luxury retailers like Hermes and for purchases at OnlyFans, a site used primarily by sex workers who produce pornography.
During the previous votes to expel Santos, critical numbers of members from both parties voted “nay” for fear that it would set a dangerous precedent in the absence of a guilty verdict from a court of law or the committee.
Members who debated the expulsion resolution on the House floor Friday mentioned the many scandals that have enveloped Santos from the time he began serving in January, such as the revelations that he had lied on the campaign trail about having Jewish heritage, ties to the Holocaust, and a parent who was at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11.
“George Santos is a liar — in fact, he has admitted to many of them — who has used his position of public trust to personally benefit himself from Day 1,” said U.S. Rep. Anthony D’Esposito, another Republican from New York.
The number and nature of those lies, along with the allegations of financial malfeasance, made Santos a pariah, as well as a liability for Republicans in vulnerable districts, particularly in neighboring parts of New York.
Politico congressional reporter Olivia Beavers posted a photo on X of members talking to news cameras, captioned “NY Rs taking a victory lap.”
NY Rs taking a victory lap pic.twitter.com/lVl55UmU3g— Olivia Beavers (@Olivia_Beavers) December 1, 2023
Democratic New York Gov. Kathy Hochul will now schedule a special election to replace Santos, with her party privately lining up behind Thomas Suozzi, who held the seat from 2017 to 2023 and who last year defended Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, calling the measure prohibiting classroom discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity “reasonable” and “common sense.”
Separately, Santos is facing a 23-count indictment for alleged financial crimes that was brought by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.
He walked out of the chamber before Friday’s vote was finalized, stepping into a waiting car as he told reporters “Why would I want to stay here?” and “To hell with this place.”
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