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Hungary lawmakers approve bill to ban transgender people from legally changing gender

Intersex activists also sharply criticized measure



The Hungarian Parliament in Budapest (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Lawmakers in Hungary on Tuesday approved a bill that would prevent transgender and intersex people in the country from legally changing their gender.

The Associated Press reported the proposal passed in the Hungarian Parliament by a 133-57 vote margin with the support of members of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party.

The proposal is part of an omnibus bill that Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjén introduced on March 31. The Hungarian Parliament the day before approved a controversial measure that gave Orbán even more power under the guise of combating the coronavirus pandemic in the country.

Transvanilla Transgender Association, a Hungarian trans advocacy group, in a statement said the bill “is contradictory to international and national human rights standards and violates the right to self determination.” The Háttér Society, an LGBTQ rights organization in the country, previously said the proposal would not only violate previous Hungarian Constitutional Court rulings that affirmed “the legal gender and name change for transgender people are a fundamental right.” but legal standards the European Court of Human Rights has established.

Transvanilla Transgender Association said it will challenge the proposal in the Hungarian Constitutional Court as soon as it becomes law.

“The Hungarian Constitutional Court made it clear in it’s decisions that changing name and gender is a fundamental right for transgender persons,” said the group in its statement. “Without name and gender recognition stigmatization is engrained in every aspect of life, often resulting in the trans person’s exclusion from meaningful participation in social and economic life.”

Transgender Europe, ILGA-Europe, Organization Intersex International and Amnesty International are among the groups that also criticized the bill’s passage.

“We are dismayed by this decision to roll back established rights,” said interim Transgender Europe Executive Director Masen Davis in a statement.  “Trans and intersex Hungarians, as all people in Hungary, should have their human rights equally protected and without discrimination.”



Philadelphia Police ID person of interest in murder of gay journalist

Philadelphia homicide investigators have identified a person of interest in the death of Josh Kruger, a journalist and advocate



Josh Kruger was shot in his home early Monday morning seven times & collapsed in the street after seeking help. (Photo Credit: Josh Kruger/Facebook)

PHILADELPHIA, Penn. – The Philadelphia Inquirer is reporting that investigators have said that they have a person of interest in the murder of a gay journalist earlier this week but declined to release a name.

According to the Inquirer Philadelphia homicide investigators have identified a person of interest in the death of Josh Kruger, a journalist and advocate who was shot inside his home Monday.

Police are searching for a man — whom they declined to identify — who they believe may have information on what happened to Kruger, said Deputy Police Commissioner Frank Vanore. An arrest warrant has not been issued, he said, but detectives want to bring the man into custody and ask him some questions.

Vanore said investigators have not identified a motive for the killing, but they believe the shooter was someone Kruger knew. “We don’t want to close any doors,” he told the Inquirer. “We’re working hard to try and fortify that person of interest.”

According to Officer Shawn Ritchie, a spokesperson for the Philadelphia Police Department, 39-year-old Kruger was shot in his Point Breeze neighborhood home in the 2300 block of Watkins Street in South Philadelphia early Monday morning at about 1:30 a.m.. He collapsed in the street after seeking help and was transported to Penn Presbyterian Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 2:13 a.m.

The Inquirer also reported that multiple law enforcement sources indicated that preliminary evidence and interviews indicate the killing may have been domestic in nature, or drug-related. The sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation, said the man police are searching for had previously broken into Kruger’s home and was struggling with drug addiction.

The local PBS/NPR affiliate, WHYY reported Kruger had written extensively with bylines in multiple publications, including The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Magazine, The Philadelphia Citizen, WHYY, and Billy Penn.

CBS News reported that Kruger overcame homelessness and addiction to work for five years in city government, handling Mayor Jim Kenney’s social media and serving as the communications director for the city’s Office of Homeless Services.

He left city government in 2021 to return to journalism, according to his website.

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West Hollywood

West Hollywood in brief- City government in action this week

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, ‘Howl-O-Ween Pet Showcase’ to Take Place on October 7 at West Hollywood Park, plus more



West Hollywood City Hall (Photo credit: City of West Hollywood/Jon Viscott)

City of West Hollywood to Recognize October as Domestic Violence & Intimate Partner Violence Awareness Month

WEST HOLLYWOOD – The City of West Hollywood recognizes October as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Awareness efforts will highlight the impact of domestic violence/intimate partner violence in the LGBTQ+ community and through the lens of Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Expression (SOGIE), as well as the intersection of other dimensions of diversity including age and ability status. The City will share information and resources with the community about the various types of intimate partner violence and where to get help. 

As part of the month’s activities, West Hollywood City Hall and the globe lanterns above Santa Monica Boulevard will glow purple through Friday, October 20, 2023. The City will join national and local organizations in participating in the “Purple Day” campaign, a social media action day to be held on October 19 urging people to flood social media with pictures of themselves wearing purple to raise awareness about domestic violence and work to end it. 

The City will also host a community-based temporary display of silhouettes symbolizing people killed by domestic violence and intimate partner violence, called Silent Witness. The Silent Witness Initiative promotes an end to domestic violence through community-based exhibits and education that started with a small group of volunteers in one state and grew into an international presence, with projects in all 50 States and in 23 countries. Silent Witness silhouettes will be displayed with anti-violence messaging at various locations in West Hollywood through the month of October.   

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, in the United States, more than 10 million adults experience domestic violence annually.  On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. On a typical day, domestic violence hotlines receive more than 20,000 calls, an average of close to 15 calls every minute.  

Domestic violence is prevalent in every community and affects all people regardless of age, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, gender, race, religion, or nationality. Domestic violence, also referred to as intimate partner violence, is abuse or aggression that occurs in a romantic relationship. It occurs in same- and opposite-sex relationships, and among those who are married, in long-term, and short-term relationships. 

Domestic violence can take many forms; in addition to physical abuse, it can include sexual abuse, verbal abuse, emotional abuse, intimidation, controlling behaviors, isolating behaviors, and economic abuse.  The devastating consequences of domestic violence and intimate partner violence can cross generations and last a lifetime, from adolescence to young adulthood to older age. Approximately one in four women and one in ten men have experienced sexual violence, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner during their lifetime. 

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, domestic violence can occur in LGBTQ relationships at rates equal to or even greater than that of cisgender/heterosexual relationships. Statistics indicate that:

  • 44% of lesbians, 61% of bisexual women, and 35% of heterosexual women experience rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetimes;
  • 26% of gay men, 37% of bisexual men, and 29% of heterosexual men experience rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetimes; and
  • The 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey found that more than half (54%) of transgender and non-binary respondents experienced intimate partner violence in their lifetimes.

The following resources are provided on the City of West Hollywood’s website at If you or someone you care about has been a victim of domestic violence/intimate partner violence, sexual assault or stalking, there are resources to help:

  • The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence website at offers comprehensive and inclusive information for all about warning signs of domestic violence and abuse.
  • The National Domestic Violence Hotline website at offers immediate help to everyone  24/7/365 via the “chat now” button on the website or by calling 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or texting LOVEIS to 22522, and for people who are Deaf/hard of hearing: 1-855-812-1011 (VP) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY).
  • Immediate help if you are experiencing domestic violence and in need of shelter is also available via the Los Angeles County Domestic Violence 24- hour Support Services by contacting 1-800-978-3600. 
  • The Los Angeles LGBT Center offers domestic violence/partner abuse counseling services geared toward the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities by contacting (323) 993-7649.  
  • The Jewish Family Service – Hope program offers assistance and crisis services for survivors of domestic violence. The confidential 24-hour crisis line is able to assist English, Spanish, Farsi, and Armenian speaking callers, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by contacting (818) 505-0900 and
  • Peace Over Violence provides one-on-one intervention by contacting the 24-hour hotline (310) 392-8381 and provides accessible services for victims of sexual and domestic violence who are Deaf, hard of hearing, have a disability, and/or elder individuals at (213) 785-2684.
  • Love is Respect National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline provides 24/7 intimate partner violence help and support to young people between the ages of 13 and 26 by contacting 1-866-331-9474; TTY 1-866-331-8453 or text LOVEIS to 22522.
  • The National Deaf Domestic Violence Hotline (NDDVH) is available to Deaf callers across the nation 24/7 by phone or videophone by contacting 1-855-812-1001 or email at [email protected]. Callers using a voice phone will be connected to an interpreter for the duration of the phone call.  
  • The SPCA-LA Animal Safety Net provides temporary homes for pets of domestic violence survivors by contacting 1-888-527-7722.

For more information about Domestic Violence and Intimate Partner Violence Awareness Month, please contact City of West Hollywood Community Programs Coordinator Larissa Fooks at (323) 848-6413 or [email protected]. For people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, please call TTY (323) 848-6496.

West Hollywood Recognizes Banned Books Week through October 7

The City of West Hollywood recognizes Banned Books Week, which takes place through Saturday, October 7, 2023. The City Council of the City of West Hollywood adopted Resolution 23-082 in support of Banned Books Week at its regular meeting on Monday, September 18, 2023.

Banned Books Week was launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores, and libraries. Banned Books Week seeks to highlight the value of free and open access to information, celebrates the freedom to read, and spotlights current and historical attempts to censor books in libraries and schools.

According to a report by PEN America, a 100-year-old nonprofit organization that works to defend and celebrate free expression in the United States and worldwide through the advancement of literature and human rights, the number of individual book bans across the country increased by 28% during the first half of the 2022-23 school year, compared to the prior six months.

Book bans are happening at an alarming rate not only throughout the nation, but in California, as well. In 2022, The American Library Association (ALA) documented 1,269 demands to censor library books and resources, the highest number of attempted book bans since the ALA began compiling such data more than 20 years ago. Most of these censorship attempts targeted books for a teen audience and were by or about Black or LGBTQ+ persons.

According to the ALA, nearly all of the top 10 books targeted for censorship last year in California schools and libraries included LGBTQ+ themes. The LGBTQ+ community has increasingly come under fire including protests at Drag Story Hour events, as well as examples such as the Temecula Valley Unified School District Board of Trustees firing a superintendent for including LGBTQ+ civil rights icon Harvey Milk in a school curriculum. Observers note that decision was made in defiance of state law, the FAIR Education Act, which mandates California schools to include LGBTQ+ history in curricula. 

LA County Library has established a Books Unbanned initiative in response to a motion introduced by Los Angeles County Supervisors Janice Hahn and Lindsey P. Horvath. LA County Library is one of the largest public library systems in the United States, serving residents living in 49 of the 88 incorporated cities of Los Angeles County, including in the City of West Hollywood with West Hollywood Library.

The Books Unbanned initiative was launched with a news conference at West Hollywood Library on Monday, October 2, 2023, and makes digital library cards available to all California teenagers ages 13-18. It offers free and unrestricted access to the LA County Library’s entire digital eBook and audiobook collection, which includes many frequently banned titles. For more information about the initiative and about obtaining an LA County Library digital library card, visit  

Founded in 1912, LA County Library is one of the largest and most innovative library systems in the nation. It provides culturally responsive and dynamic collections, programs, and services to meet the literacy, information, personal enrichment, and entertainment needs of all LA County residents.

West Hollywood Library has been part of West Hollywood since before West Hollywood was incorporated as a city. The current Library was opened to the public in October 2011. The 32,000-square-foot, LEED-certified library, owned by the City of West Hollywood and operated by the LA County Library, showcases the City’s rich intellectual, literary, and cultural communities, and provides a landmark facility for the community’s passionate commitment to lifelong learning. It houses collections, materials, and programs as diverse as the community, itself, including a variety of books and content in English, Spanish, and Russian, as well as an LGBTQ+ collection, the Ron Shipton HIV Information Center, the Friends of the Library Bookstore, and more.

In recognition of Banned Books Week, the City of West Hollywood encourages community members to support and celebrate West Hollywood Library. Visit and sign up for a library card (or help someone apply for their first library card!) and attend programming at West Hollywood Library. Reading and accessing a wide variety of content can help open doors and create opportunities. It also helps people obtain unfiltered information to thoughtfully contribute to civil discourse on a range of complex topics, such as the right to vote, the environment, and the history and origins of inequities in society.

For more information or for questions, please contact the City of West Hollywood’s Government Affairs Liaison Hernán Molina at [email protected] or at (323) 848-6364.

For people who are Deaf or hard of hearing please contact [email protected] for more information and to request accommodation.

West Hollywood Celebrates Disabilities Awareness Month in October

The City of West Hollywood and its Disabilities Advisory Board will recognize October as Disabilities Awareness Month. This year marks the 33rd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA is landmark civil rights legislation that works to increase access and opportunity for people with disabilities across society, including in the workplace.

Throughout the month of October, the City of West Hollywood will commemorate Disabilities Awareness Month with the installation of 45 street pole banners along Santa Monica Boulevard, which recognize past recipients of the City’s Disability Service Awards in the individual and nonprofit organization categories.

The City will host two events to raise awareness and shine recognition on people and organizations that positively impact the lives of people with disabilities in the community.

On Tuesday, October 17, 2023 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., the City of West Hollywood, in partnership with Cedars-Sinai, will host a free Community Health and Wellness Event, in the Plummer Park Community Center, located at 7377 Santa Monica Boulevard. The flu season presents a challenge to public health because symptoms of influenza can be very serious. Services offered at this event are: flu vaccines for ages 6 months and older, blood pressure screening, blood sugar screening, total cholesterol screening, emergency preparedness, trauma prevention, voter registration, and more.

Walk-ins for vaccines will be accepted. Children under 18 years old must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Participants should bring a form of identification and any existing vaccination card. Please stay home if you are not feeling well. 

On Wednesday, October 18, 2023 at 6 p.m. the City of West Hollywood will host the 25th Annual Disability Service Awards at a special televised meeting of the Disabilities Advisory Board at the City Council Chambers/Public Meeting Room located at 625 N. San Vicente Boulevard. The City’s Disability Service Awards will also be broadcast live on WeHoTV on Spectrum Cable Channel 10 in West Hollywood; will be livestreamed on the City’s WeHoTV YouTube channel at and on the City’s website at; and will be livestreamed via the AppleTV, Amazon FireTV, AndroidTV, and Roku platforms by searching for “WeHoTV.”

This year’s Disability Service Awards honorees are:

  • Terry Shajirat: Lovedy Brydon Differently Abled Individual Award
  • The Abbey Food & Bar: Business Award   
  • Being Alive: Nonprofit Award; and 
  • Spectrum Laboratory for the film Boys Don’t Wear Dresses: Media Award 

The City of West Hollywood’s Disabilities Advisory Board was created in 1995 and is comprised of nine members. The Disabilities Advisory Board addresses issues affecting people with disabilities, including ADA compliance, transportation, housing, access to City government, and services for people with disabilities, and makes recommendations to the West Hollywood City Council relative to the adoption of programs, policies, or ordinances of benefit to the constituency.

For more information or for questions about the Community Health and Wellness Event, please call the City of West Hollywood’s Human Services Division at (323) 848-6510.

For people who are Deaf or hard of hearing please contact [email protected] for more information and to request accommodation.

The City of West Hollywood is thrilled to announce the selection of Jen Cheng as the next City Poet Laureate, serving from October 2023 to 2026. The selection was approved by the City Council of the City of West Hollywood at its regular meeting on Monday, September 18, 2023. 

The selection comes following a rigorous selection process led by the City Poet Laureate Selection Committee, which is comprised of representatives of the City of West Hollywood’s Arts Division and Arts and Cultural Affairs Commission, the LA County Library’s West Hollywood branch, the Friends of the West Hollywood Library, and former and current West Hollywood City Poet Laureates. 

The City of West Hollywood has a deep commitment to the arts and to celebrating the rich literary culture of West Hollywood, which includes such programs as its WeHo Reads literary series, Poetry Month celebrations and creation of the West Hollywood City Poet Laureate program in 2014. Previous City Poet Laureates are Steven Reigns, Kim Dower, Charles Flowers, and Brian Sonia-Wallace (who serves into October 2023).

Jen Cheng is a poet with a profound connection to the City of West Hollywood, where she resides. Her deep-rooted involvement in the local community and her active participation in various City programs have given her an insightful understanding of the vibrant and diverse West Hollywood community and identity.

One of the standout achievements that captured the attention of the City Poet Laureate Selection Committee is her leadership role in the highly successful “Pride Poets” project. This innovative initiative was created and headed by current City Poet Laureate Brian Sonia-Wallace for the WeHo Pride Arts Festival (at the time known as the One City One Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival) and has resulted in the creation of thousands of custom poems written for the public during various pop-up events and through an annual call-in telephone line.

As the newly appointed City Poet Laureate, Jen Cheng will serve as a cultural ambassador, using her gift of words and community organizing to celebrate the City’s arts scene, diverse population, and myriad of stories that define West Hollywood. Over the next three years, she will engage with the community through poetry, participate in public events, and promote the literary arts throughout the City. Jen Cheng’s selection as the City Poet Laureate aligns perfectly with West Hollywood’s ongoing commitment to promoting art, culture, and community engagement. 

An installation event will take place on Sunday, October 22, 2023 at 5 p.m. in the Plummer Park Community Center, Rooms 5 and 6, located at 7377 Santa Monica Boulevard. The event will also feature 2021-22 Poet Laureate of Los Angeles Lynne Thompson and former and current West Hollywood City Poets Laureate Steven Reigns and Brian Sonia-Wallace. RSVPs are requested, but not required, at 

Since 2019, Jen Cheng has been writing poems for West Hollywood neighbors and visitors during WeHo Pride as a member of Pride Poets and as a typewriter poet with arts and community events around the Los Angeles area. With roots in social justice activism, she has been a performance poet and local cultural events producer, and recently produced two WeHo Pride 2023 events to celebrate stories from LGBTQ elders with new souvenirs of poetry in turn building community bonds with intergenerational connection between older adults and younger poets. 

Her work and poetry has been showcased as part of the City of West Hollywood’s WeHo Reads series, VCP Socal, and Santa Monica’s Bergamot Station bG Gallery. During the COVID-19 social isolation era of 2020, she began writing dog poems for her West Hollywood neighbors and hosted a virtual party to bring humor and cheer to dog lovers. As a culture creator, Jen blends her East-West perspectives into a new form, Feng Shui Poetry, infusing five element wellness concepts into poetry. Her upcoming book, Braided Spaces, has themes of immigrant displacement, critical race feminism, and queer musings by a Chinese American eldest daughter. Jen’s interviews and poems can be found in outlets such as the Beverly Press, Queer Slam, and on KPFK’s Poets Cafe. She is a 2023 California Arts Council Fellow.

The City of West Hollywood’s Arts Division delivers a broad array of arts programs including Art on the Outside (temporary public art), Arts Grants, City Poet Laureate, Drag Laureate, Free Theatre in the Parks, Human Rights Speaker Series, Library Exhibits, WeHo Pride Arts Festival, Summer Sounds + Winter Sounds, Urban Art (permanent public art), and WeHo Reads. For more information about City of West Hollywood arts programming, please visit  

For more information on the West Hollywood City Poet Laureate program please visit: or contact Mike Che, the City of West Hollywood’s Arts Coordinator, at (323) 848-6377 or at [email protected].

For people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, please call TTY (323) 848-6496.

First-Ever City of West Hollywood ‘Howl-O-Ween Pet Showcase’ to Take Place on Saturday, October 7 at West Hollywood Park

The City of West Pawllywood’s Recreation Services Division will host its first-ever Howl-O-Ween Pet Showcase on Saturday, October 7, 2023, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the Great Lawn at West Hollywood Park, located at 647 N. San Vicente Boulevard.  

Howl-O-Ween highlights will include a parade for pets and their guardians to walk side-by-side and showcase their spookiest, silliest, and funniest costumes, and perhaps even to dress with mutt as a doggleganger. Pet guardians are highly encouraged to dress in costumes, as well. Dogs must remain on leash for the duration of the event. Entertainment includes music, a pet-friendly bubble zone, pet trick/obstacle course, community groups, and of course lots of treats: Bon A-pet-treat

This is a free event, no RSVP is required. Attendees are encouraged to carpool, rideshare, or walk, as barking lot parking at West Hollywood Park is limited.

For more information about the City of West Hollywood’s Howl-O-Ween, please contact the City’s Recreation Services Division at (323) 848-6534 or at [email protected].

For people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, please call TTY (323) 848-6496. 

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LGBTQ+ rights group sues Kenya police chief over anti-gay protests

Mombasa demonstrations began after ruling allowed NGO to register



Kenya flag (Photo by rarrarorro/Bigstock)

MOMBASA, Kenya — An advocacy group in Kenya has sued Police Inspector General Japhet Koome for allowing religious leaders and lobby organizations to hold homophobic protests whenever court rulings favor the LGBTQ+ community.    

Two petitioners — Mr. JM and the Center for Minority Rights and Strategic Litigation — have sued Koome in the High Court in Mombasa, the country’s second largest city, and demanded a “ban on anti-LGBTQ protests in the country.” 

The petitioners’ move is in response to recent anti-LGBTQ+ protests, particularly in Mombasa after last month’s Supreme Court ruling that affirmed its February decision in support of the National Gay and Lesbian Rights Commission and its ability to register as an NGO.

The controversial ruling sparked criticism from clerics, politicians and the general public. Demonstrations the two petitioners have described as gross human rights violations against the LGBTQ+ community followed.

An MP from the ruling party and Mohamed Ali — a celebrated investigative journalist whose anti-gay motion for the government to ban public discussion, reporting and distribution of LGBTQ+ content in the country passed overwhelmingly in Parliament — are among those behind the homophobic Mombasa protests.

Six LGBTQ+ lobby groups applauded the rulings as a “crucial shot in the arm towards LGBTQ rights” and condemned protest organizers for “mobilizing towards hatred and marginalizing others.”        

Mr. JM and CMRSL have also sued two anti-LGBTQ+ activists and a national lobby group dubbed the “Anti-LGBTQ Movement” that organized the demonstrations, in addition to the police official whose office authorizes street marches by issuing permits to protesters.  

“The petitioners have sought to include new amendments to the petition filed last week via the court’s online filing system and they have until Oct. 11 when the court will give directions to the hearing of the case,” a source familiar with the petition told the Washington Blade. 

To stop any future homophobic protests, the petitioners want the court to declare the LGBTQ+ community is also entitled to constitutional rights and freedoms without hate or discrimination just like their opposite-sex counterparts. 

They argue the anti-LGBTQ+ protests, characterized by incitement to violence in March and last month in response to the Supreme Court’s rulings, have led to increased cases of homophobia and threats to the lives of the queer community across the country.

The petitioners claim the “Anti-LGBTQ Movement” group has been propagating “violence, elimination and expulsion” of the queer community from the country in its relentless homophobic campaign. They further allege that organizations working with LGBTQ+ people have recorded “more than 100 cases of violence, forced evictions and denial of services” by landlords, employers and the public as a result of these protests. 

The petitioners also claim the protests have led to the shutting down of “more than 20 organizations and medical facilities” that provide essential HIV and STI treatment services to LGBTQ+ people because of security concerns.   

Mr. MJ and CMRSL in their case have included the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, a state-funded watchdog organization, as an interested party, although it always distances itself from defending LGBTQ+ rights. 

The Kenyan Constitution, which only recognizes consensual opposite-sex relations, directs the KNCHR. Section 162 of the penal code criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual relations. 

This sidelining has forced the LGBTQ+ community to demand a representative to the KNCHR to represent their interests, such as intersex people who are represented after a landmark law that recognizes them as Kenya’s third sex, took effect in July 2022. The petitioners did not engage KNCHR before listing it as an interested party. 

The state-funded National Cohesion and Integration Commission, Amnesty International Kenya and the Kenya Human Rights Commission are among the other institutions the two petitioners have included in the case as interested parties.

Amnesty International Kenya with Irungu Houghton as its executive director on Sept. 30 held the “State of Freedoms and Rights in 2023” conference in partnership with United States International University Africa in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital. Participants demanded respect for the rights of every person, including members of the LGBTQ+ community.

The rights organization vowed to fight any infringement of the rights of any person or group, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation, in line with its newly launched 4-year strategic framework for 2024-2028 that will guide its human rights advocacy.

Meanwhile, some parents in one of Kenya’s all female high schools are angry after administrators suspended 18 students who allegedly engaged in what they described as lesbianism.

The students’ suspension from Cardinal Otunga Girls’ High School in the western part of the country last week has caused fury among their parents, because they are set to start taking their final high school national exams on Oct. 10. This action comes amid the government’s plans to consider a recommendation from a presidential task force on education reforms to hire imams and chaplains in schools to guide students against what they feel is the infiltration of LGBTQ practices.

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Young Utah trans girl delivers stunning speech to school board

A speech is gaining attention across Utah. A young trans girl named Allison tells her story with her supportive father standing behind her




By Erin Reed | WASHINGTON – Across the United States, laws and policies aimed at transgender individuals, particularly transgender students, have taken center stage. This is markedly evident in school boards, where groups such as Moms For Liberty are orchestrating efforts to enact rules that marginalize LGBTQ+ students, with a specific ire towards transgender students.

In these school board meetings, derogatory remarks are often hurled at trans individuals, portraying transgender students as violent threats. Yet occasionally, a transgender student courageously steps forward to share their own story. This was precisely the scenario in Jordan School District, where a young transgender student named Allison delivered a captivating speech, imploring for her own acceptance and humanity.

Before Allison spoke, her father approached the microphone, arms encircling his daughter, and stated, “I am here to address the board as the father of Alison,” adding that “If you’ve known her her whole life, you know this is who she’s always been.”

He then inquired if she would like to speak. That’s when she leaned into the microphone and delivered her remarks, evoking tears and applause.

“Hello fathers, daughters, mothers, and everybody else who came here today with fear, anger, and confusion… three feelings that hurt inside badly. I came here not to fight, but to make peace. How am I going to do that? I’m going to tell a story.”

She articulated her speech with honesty and emotion, recounting the first time she donned a pretty white dress and had her hair styled, and how magical it made her feel. She spoke about seeing the person she is for the first time in her life, and how, when she envisions herself as an adult, she sees “a woman dancing in a white dress through a meadow of flowers,” concluding with a plea for acceptance.

Watch her tearjerker speech here:

Over the past year, the state of Utah has significantly targeted transgender individuals like Allison. It banned gender-affirming care — without this care, trans girls like her will be compelled to endure a boy’s puberty. The state barred individuals like her from participating in sports, although this ban was halted in court and substituted with a “commission.” Seated on that commission is Paul Hruz, a notorious anti-trans doctor who has testified in favor of bans on care. Additionally, a law was enacted that prevents transgender youth from obtaining birth certificates bearing their legal gender marker.

Alongside state level attacks on trans youth, individuals opposed to transgender people have testified in school districts, labeling trans youth like Allison as “peeping toms” and “voyeurs” purportedly at risk of “sexually assaulting” fellow students. Incendiary remarks such as these have propelled some schools into adopting restrictive policies that bar trans students from bathrooms.

Yet, such concerns markedly lose ground when young trans girls like Allison come forward. It defies belief to listen to her testimony and deduce that she poses a danger to other students, or even causes them discomfort. Instead, we glean that her friends are bewildered and upset when she is barred from accompanying them to the bathroom, and that in the eyes of her friends, she belongs just as rightfully as anyone else does.

Allison’s speech is gaining traction in the state. The state’s largest newspaper, The Salt Lake Tribune, has picked up the story. Meanwhile, the anti-trans organization known as “Genspect,” often cited as an authority on transgender people by publications such as the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, reacted by putting quotes around Allison’s name and the word “daughter.” Clearly, Allison has made an impact far beyond her home school district.

The school district has not decided if it will take action on transgender students following the meeting.


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:


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

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Right-wing media smear California Senator Laphonza Butler

Right-wing media was quick with attacks and smears, especially focusing on her identity, the fact that she is a Black, LGBTQ woman



Graphic by Andrea Austria for Media Matters

By Zachary Pleat & Jasmine Geonzon | WASHINGTON – Soon after California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced he would appoint Democratic activist Laphonza Butler to replace the late, longtime Sen. Dianne Feinstein, conservative media immediately moved to discredit Butler and attack her qualifications.

Right-wing media outlets and anti-abortion groups have falsely claimed she’s ineligible to serve in the U.S. Senate, suggested that she is an abortion extremist due to her previous role as president of EMILY’s List, and used Butler’s identity as a Black lesbian woman to undermine her appointment.

Butler has a long history of public service and political work in California, and she is qualified to serve as U.S. senator

  • On October 1, Newsom announced he would appoint Butler to the Senate to complete the remainder of Feinstein’s term following her death. The term ends in January 2025, and Butler is able to run for the seat again in 2024 if she so chooses. [The New York Times, 10/1/23]
  • Butler was officially sworn in to the U.S. Senate by Vice President Kamala Harris on October 3. Butler is now the third Black woman to serve in the history of the Senate. [The Associated Press, 10/3/23]
  • Butler recently served as the president of EMILY’s List, a political action committee that supports Democratic women in favor of abortion rights, but she previously worked in California politics for years. Though Butler moved to Maryland to lead EMILY’s List, she has long ties to California as a homeowner in the state and is soon expected to re-register to vote in the state before her swearing-in. [CNN, 10/2/23; The Associated Press, 10/2/23]
  • In the past, Butler has worked in California labor organizing and political consulting. Butler previously served as the president of SEIU Local 2015, the largest union in California, and she was an adviser to Harris’ 2020 presidential run. [Los Angeles Times, 10/1/23]
  • According to legal experts, Butler qualifies to represent California in the Senate as long as she resumes her residency there before assuming office. UCLA law professor Rick Hasen elaborated further on Butler’s eligibility based on previous legal precedent, writing, “9th Circuit case law says one must only be a resident upon assuming office, whether appointed or elected.” [Business Insider, 10/2/23; Twitter/X, 10/2/23]

Many right-wing media attacked Butler for being a Maryland resident when she was nominated, often without mentioning her extensive history in California

  • RedState: Newsom was “birthing an immediate scandal” by appointing “a Maryland resident to the seat.” RedState compared the situation to “the constant jabs that Mehmet Oz got from the press for previously living in New Jersey” during his failed 2020 run for Senate in Pennsylvania. [RedState, 10/2/23]
  • The Gateway Pundit: “Newsom to Appoint Abortion Activist Laphonza Butler to Fill Feinstein’s Senate Seat – Who Lives In Maryland and Registered to Vote There Last Year.” The article added, “Laphonza Butler lives in Maryland and registered to vote there LAST YEAR!” [The Gateway Pundit, 10/1/23]
  • Newsmax host Eric Bolling listed some of Butler’s history of public service in California, then asked: “Why not a Californian … to represent their own state?” Bolling noted that after Butler began working as a union organizer, “she moved to California, where she was instrumental in raising minimum wages and hiking taxes on wealthy Californians. She also served as a University of California regent for three years until she moved to Maryland.” [Newsmax, Eric Bolling The Balance10/2/23]
  • The Gateway Pundit posted a second article attacking Butler for living in Maryland while ignoring her history in California. [The Gateway Pundit, 10/2/23]
  • The Daily Wire: “Journalists online noted that Butler listed her state of residence on her X account as Maryland.” The article added, “EMILY’s List was already cleaning up their website to hide where Butler allegedly lives. The organization removed the following line from their website: ‘She lives in Maryland with her partner Neneki Lee and their daughter Nylah.’” [The Daily Wire, 10/1/23]
  • The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro: “Congrats to the state of Maryland on finally obtaining three Senators.” [Twitter/X, 10/2/23]
  • HotAir: “Meet California’s new senator: Laphonza Butler of … Maryland?” HotAir portrayed Butler as an out-of-state carpetbagger without a single mention of her extensive history in California, concluding: “We will apparently have our interests handled by, checks notes again for accuracy, Maryland’s Laphonza Butler. I’m sure she’ll represent California just fine, though…from 2,645 miles away.” [HotAir, 10/2/23]
  • In a Townhall article titled “Here’s What’s Odd About Newsom’s Pick to Fill Feinstein’s Vacancy,” the only “odd” thing mentioned was that “some are pointing out that Ms. Butler might be a Maryland resident.” [Townhall, 10/2/23]
  • National Review emphasized that Butler “is a Maryland resident” without mentioning her history in California. National Review focused on the upcoming primary election for that Senate seat while continuing to portray Butler as having no association with California: “By naming an out-of-state resident, Newsom may have helped himself avoid the wrath of the Democrats who have already launched campaigns in the 2024 Senate primary. If they can’t defeat a Maryland resident in a California primary, they’ll really only have themselves to blame.” [National Review, 10/2/23]
  • LifeNews: “Congratulations to Maryland on getting a third Senator, Laphonza Butler.” [Twitter/X, 10/2/23]

Right-wing media and anti-abortion organizations portrayed Butler as an extremist for leading EMILY’s List

Many of these right-wing media comments falsely portrayed Democrats as supporting “on demand” abortion “up until the moment of birth.” But multiple fact checks by news organizations have explained that Democrats generally support abortion until fetal viability, with exceptions for the health of the person carrying the fetus and other extremely rare exceptions.

  • Fox host Lisa Kennedy Montgomery: Butler is a “carpetbagging baby killer.” [Fox News, Outnumbered10/2/23]
  • TheBlaze: “Butler has made clear she seeks a uniformly Democratic state that guarantees women the legal ability to exterminate their offspring.” TheBlaze described EMILY’s List as “a leftist outfit that raises money to support prospective female lawmakers who will support the abortion agenda once in office.” The article also criticized Butler for speaking out against anti-abortion legislation nationwide. [TheBlaze, 10/2/23]
  • Hugh Hewitt: “She is the president of EMILY’s List so she’s an abortion rights absolutist, left-wing, way out there, on demand, right up to the point of birth and maybe beyond.” Hewitt also said, “She’s a Black lesbian woman, which checks a couple of boxes for Gavin Newsom with the party’s activist base,” and twice mentioned that she currently lives in Maryland. [Salem, The Hugh Hewitt Show10/2/23]
  • Ben Shapiro complained that Butler is “a lesbian Black woman who leads an organization devoted to abortion.” [The Daily Wire, The Ben Shapiro Show10/2/23]
  • Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America: Newsom appointed “the biggest pro-abortion extremist he could find.” The anti-abortion organization concluded its press release objecting to Butler’s appointment by writing: “The last thing Washington needs is another rubber stamp for the brutal abortion industry.” [Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, 10/2/23]
  • LifeSiteNews criticized Butler as an “abortion activist” and claimed that EMILY’s List “is actually a pro-abortion group that opposes any limits on the killing of preborn children up until the moment of birth.” [LifeSiteNews, 10/2/23]
  • LifeNews: “Democrats are the party of abortions up to birth. Joe Biden, Gavin Newsom, Laphonza Butler.” [Twitter/X, 10/2/23]
  • Fox News contributor Guy Benson: “‘Butler currently lives in Maryland’ — but she’s fanatically devoted to activism on behalf of unlimited abortion, so that’s what matters most.” [Twitter/X, 10/2/23]
  • National Right to Life attacked Newsom for appointing a “pro-abortion activist” to the Senate. The anti-abortion organization called the action “just another example in a long line of actions that Newsom has taken to push unlimited abortions.” [National Right to Life Committee, 10/2/23]
  • Fox guest Chris Bedford: “Sen. Dianne Feinstein has been dead for 24 hours and they appoint a Black lesbian who has devoted her life to killing babies in the womb.” [Fox News, The Ingraham Angle10/2/23]

Right-wing media also used Butler’s race and sexuality to attack her appointment to the Senate

  • RedState: Butler’s “only qualifications appear to be working on Kamala Harris’ failed 2020 presidential campaign while being a ‘black lesbian.’” The author continued, “I’m just really glad we select the most powerful people in the country based on race and who they sleep with.” [RedState, 10/2/23]
  • TheBlaze: “Extra to being an exponent of the abortion regime, Butler, a lesbian, is also an outspoken LGBT activist.” [TheBlaze, 10/2/23]
  • Steven Crowder: “Laphonza Butler in Swahili means nothing. … Laphonza means nothing. It’s something that African Americans, Black Americans make up.” [YouTube, Louder with Crowder10/2/23]
  • Newsmax host Rob Schmitt: “Laphonza Butler is a Black lesbian and is also a rabid, full-term abortion advocate. Now, whether or not she’s qualified for this, that doesn’t really matter.” Schmitt also said that Newsom’s “pandering” about appointing a Black woman to a vacant Senate seat “is just incredibly disappointing and incredibly insulting,” adding that the governor “certainly checked the box, not to mention a few others, when he appointed Laphonza Butler.” [Newsmax, Rob Schmitt Tonight10/2/23]
  • Fox contributor Tammy Bruce: Butler’s appointment is “an insult to Black women who have served.” Bruce said: “This is a message to the far left, to Kamala perhaps. … It’s the height of identity politics, right? It’s like these boxes get checked. It’s an insult to Black women who have served, who continue to make a difference in this country, who’ve paid their dues. It is about the ultimate in politics, but this is all politics for us.” [Fox News, Outnumbered10/2/23]

Charlie Kirk calls Senate appointee Laphonza Butler “the high priestess of the oppression Olympics”10/02/23 4:37 PM EDT

Ben Shapiro complains that Laphonza Butler is “a lesbian Black woman who leads an organization devoted to abortion”10/02/23 12:39 PM EDT

Conservatives respond with racist smears and vitriol following Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson’s affirmative action dissent


The preceding article & research study was previously published by Media Matters for America and is republished with permission.

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Vote to oust House Speaker Kevin McCarthy succeeds

Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), a close McCarthy ally, will serve as Speaker pro tem, or as temporary acting Speaker



Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz delivers his closing argument prior to the vote on the resolution he introduced to oust Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. (Screenshot/YouTube Washington Post live coverage)

WASHINGTON – A motion to declare the chair vacant House Resolution submitted by Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida to oust U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, succeeded on a 216 to 210 vote Tuesday, after an at times contentious debate between House Republicans on the floor.

The last to vote in the full order of the roll call was Speaker Kevin McCarthy who voted against the motion to remove him from his post. U.S. Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.), who chaired the proceedings declared the Speaker vacant after the House chamber went silent, after he had asked if anyone wished to change their vote, then read off the tally submitted by the clerk.

Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), a close McCarthy ally, will serve as Speaker pro tem, or as temporary acting Speaker.

With a sharp bang of the gavel, he declared the chamber in recess.

This is a historic action by the House as never before has a Speaker of the House successfully been voted out of the Chair. The last time the House had a vote to oust the speaker was in 1910.

The vote that year stemmed from angst among progressive Republicans that the speaker at the time, Joseph Cannon, a conservative known as “Uncle Joe,” refused to bring progressive legislation to the floor for a vote.

The House Cannon Office Building, which was completed in 1908 and is the oldest congressional office building- a significant example of the Beaux Arts style of architecture is named for Cannon who had served as Speaker of the House of Representatives. 

Earlier Tuesday afternoon the chamber voted 208-218 with Democrats supporting, a motion to table Gaetz’s resolution to oust McCarthy, setting the stage for a vote on whether McCarthy should remain in the top spot. Democratic leadership had told reporters earlier that their conference would be united in an effort to remove the House Speaker.

The roll call vote on Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2023. (Screenshot/YouTube Washington Post live coverage)

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Laphonza Butler sworn in as California’s newest senator

Consistent with her work in progressive politics, Butler was previously a labor leader with Service Employees International Union, SEIU



U.S. Sen. Laphonza Butler (D-Calif.) with her wife, Neneki Lee, in the U.S. Senate chamber on Oct. 3, 2023, as Vice President Kamala Harris administers the oath of office. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON — Vice President Kamala Harris on Tuesday swore in Democrat Laphonza Butler as California’s newest U.S. senator during a ceremony at the U.S. Capitol.

The first Black lesbian to serve in the Senate, Butler was president of the nation’s largest organization dedicated to electing women to public office, EMILY’s List, and previously was a senior advisor to the vice president during her 2020 bid for the Oval Office.

Harris, the country’s first woman vice president as well as the first Black and South Asian person to serve in that role, also made history with her tenure as attorney general and then senator for California.

Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed Butler to fill the vacancy caused by the death, on Friday, of U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who had represented the state in the upper chamber since 1992.

Per the terms of her appointment, Butler will be eligible to run for the seat during next year’s elections, in which case she would face competition from three high profile Democrats now representing California in the House: U.S. Reps. Barbara Lee, Katie Porter and Adam Schiff.

Newsom in 2021 pledged that he would appoint a Black woman to Feinstein’s seat. Lee, so far the only Black woman among the declared candidates, congratulated Butler in a statement in which the congresswoman said she is “singularly focused on winning” her Senate campaign.

California “deserves an experienced senator who will deliver on progressive priorities,” she said. “That’s exactly what I’m running to do.”

Consistent with her work in progressive politics, Butler was previously a labor leader with Service Employees International Union, SEIU, the powerful union where her wife, Neneki Lee, serves as director of the Public Services division.

Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson and Claire Lucas and Judy Dlugacz were among those who attended the swearing in alongside Butler’s wife.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) escorted Butler into the chamber. Lee and Schiff were among those who attended the ceremony.

“It’s a good day,” Lucas told the Washington Blade as she left the chamber.

Michael K. Lavers contributed to this story.

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U.S. Federal Courts

Florida bathroom ban challenge, plaintiffs say its unconstitutional

A temporary restraining order (TRO) would allow use of public bathrooms for the National March to Protect Trans Youth in Orlando on October 7



Courtroom, United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Orlando. (Photo Credit: U.S. Courts/GSA)

ORLANDO, Fla. – Last week on Sept. 29 a group of trans and non-binary people asked a federal court to declare Florida’s bathroom ban unconstitutional and to issue an order temporarily prohibiting authorities from enforcing it against them while they are in Florida in the coming weeks.

The temporary restraining order (TRO) would allow the plaintiffs to use public bathrooms that align with their gender as they travel to, participate in, and return from the National March to Protect Trans Youth in Orlando on October 7. 

An anticipated 1,000 people are marching in Orlando, Florida, in support of transgender youth and other marginalized communities on October 7, organizers stated.

Under Governor Ron DeSantis, Florida has been at the forefront of a national movement to legislate against trans rights. In May, DeSantis signed four anti-trans and anti-queer legislation passed by the Florida Legislature including Florida Statute § 553.865.

This law, also known as the Bathroom Ban, prevents transgender, gender nonconforming, and certain kinds of intersex people from accessing a restroom in line with their gender because it defines sex as one’s anatomy and naturally occurring hormones at birth. 

The lead defendant named in the lawsuit is Andrew Bain, the State Attorney for the Ninth Judicial Circuit in Florida. DeSantis appointed Bain last month to replace Monique Worrell, whom he removed, in part, because she signed a statement pledging not to prosecute people accused of transgender-related “crimes.” 

A complaint, along with a motion for the TRO, filed on the plaintiffs’ behalf by the Center for Constitutional Rights and Southern Legal Counsel says the ban forces trans, gender-nonconforming, and certain intersex people (TGNCI people) to use a bathroom inconsistent with their identities, risk arrest by using a bathroom consistent with their identities, or forego multi-stall restrooms in public facilities altogether.

All of these options are legally impermissible because they deny TGNCI people basic freedoms afforded others, according to the complaint. 

 “The State of Florida believes it can eradicate the lives and identities of trans, gender nonconforming, intersex, and queer people through numerous pieces of legislation, including Fla. Stat. § 553.865, otherwise known as the bathroom ban, ” said  Zee Scout, a Bertha Justice Fellow and attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights. “But this law is an unconstitutional reaction to the growing acceptance of these communities. The state cannot erase viewpoints that it dislikes. It cannot force people to accept its idea of sex and gender. And it cannot demonize these communities by referring to them as ‘demons,’ ‘mutants,’ and ‘imps.’ This lawsuit is a message that trans, intersex, and queer people nationwide will not tolerate this discriminatory behavior against their siblings in Florida or anywhere.”

“The bathroom ban is yet another unconstitutional and politically-motivated maneuver in the state of Florida’s relentless, multi-faceted attack on the rights, lives, and dignity of transgender Floridians,” said Simone Chriss, Director of the Transgender Rights Initiative at Southern Legal Counsel. “SLC denounces the state’s weaponization of fear and misinformation to strip away the rights of TGNCI Floridians under the guise of protecting others, and we are honored to stand beside the brave plaintiffs and all others who plan to travel to Florida to speak out and stand up for trans rights on October 7th!”

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West Hollywood

WeHo Mayor Shyne taken to hospital after medical emergency

The mayor was taken to Cedars by ambulance. Sources report that the mayor was in good spirits shortly after landing in the hospital



West Hollywood Mayor Sepi Shyne (Screenshot/YouTube WeHo TV)

By Paulo Murillo | WEST HOLLYWOOD – West Hollywood Mayor Sepi Shyne was taken to Cedars Sinai Hospital after experiencing chest pains during a regular city council meeting on Monday, October 2, 2023.

A call received at 6:55pm reported a medical emergency at North San Vicente Boulevard in West Hollywood. The Los Angeles County Fire Department Division 7 was on the scene, along with sheriff deputies. The mayor was taken to Cedars by ambulance. Sources report that the mayor was fine and she was in good spirits shortly after landing in the hospital.

Mayor Shyne was lively at the start of the council meeting. She posed for photos during the presentations portion of the meeting and she appeared to be fine while she led the meeting through the early part of public comments.

“I was sitting right in front and I noticed the mayor lean in to whisper something to Mayor Pro-Tem Erickson,” a witness told WEHO TIMES. “Then she got up and left the council chambers through the side door. That’s when Erickson called for a break which seemed odd to me because it took forever. No one knew what was happening.”

The council normally breaks for ten minutes. However, the timer struck 18 minutes at Monday night’s meeting when the council returned to the chambers. Shyne was noticeably absent as Mayor Pro-Tem Erickson took over the gavel, which he pounded several times to call the meeting to order. He led the council meeting in Shyne’s absence, which was noticeably shorter than most meetings at a little under two hours.

The meeting proceeded sans the mayor, which left some community members saying they were confused and sending messages to this publication regarding her absence which was not addressed during the meeting by the Mayor Pro-Tem, or any of three remaining council members

UPDATED: On Tuesday evening Oct. 3, 2023 the City of West Hollywood issued a statement:

During the regular meeting of the West Hollywood City Council on Monday, October 2, 2023, Mayor Sepi Shyne stepped away from the meeting while not feeling well. The meeting continued, led by Mayor Pro Tem John M. Erickson until it was adjourned. In an abundance of caution, paramedics were called, and Mayor Shyne was transported to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. She spent the night under observation, and she was discharged this afternoon. She feels well and is happy to be back home. She extends her appreciation to community members and colleagues who reached out.


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.


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

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The Vatican

Pope Francis expresses openness to blessings for same-sex unions

Pontiff vehemently opposed marriage equality in native Argentina



Pope Francis (Photo by palinchak via Bigstock)

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has said he is open to the possibility that the Catholic Church would allow blessings for same-sex unions. 

The Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith on Monday released a letter that Francis wrote to five cardinals who urged him to reaffirm church teaching on homosexuality ahead of this week’s Synod on Synodality, a meeting during which LGBTQ+ Catholics, women in the church and other issues will be discussed.  

Francis wrote the letter on July 11.

The Associated Press reported Francis said “such (same-sex) blessings could be studied if they didn’t confuse the blessing with sacramental marriage.”

“This new step, outlined in a document released on Oct. 2 by the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, allows for pastoral ministers to administer such blessings on a case-by-case basis, advising that ‘pastoral prudence’ and ‘pastoral charity’ should guide any response to couples who request a blessing,” noted Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministrya Maryland-based organization that ministers to LGBTQ+ Catholics, on Monday in a press release. “It also indicates that permitting such blessings cannot be institutionalized by diocesan regulations, perhaps a reference to some dioceses in Germany where blessings are already taking place with official and explicit permission. ‘The life of the church,’ the pope writes, ‘runs through many channels in addition to the standard ones,’ indicating that respecting diverse and particular situations must take precedence over church law.”

DeBernardo in the same press release said the “allowance for pastoral ministers to bless same-gender couples implies that the church does indeed recognize that holy love can exist between same-gender couples, and the love of these couples mirrors the love of God.”

“Those recognitions, while not completely what LGBTQ+ Catholics would want, are an enormous advance towards fuller and more comprehensive equality,” he said. “This statement is one big straw towards breaking the camel’s back of the marginalized treatment LGBTQ+ people experience in the church.”

The Vatican’s tone towards LGBTQ+ and intersex issues has softened since Francis assumed the papacy in 2013.

Francis has publicly endorsed civil unions for same-sex couples, and has said laws that criminalize homosexuality are “unjust.” Church teachings on homosexuality and gender identity have nevertheless not changed under Francis’ papacy.

Francis earlier this year told a newspaper in his native Argentina that gender ideology as “one of the most dangerous ideological colonizations” because “it blurs differences and the value of men and women.” 

The pope was the archbishop of Buenos Aires when a law that extended marriage rights to same-sex couples in Argentina took effect in 2010. Francis was among those who vehemently opposed the marriage equality bill before then-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner signed it.

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