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Unhappy Pride

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What a difference a year makes.

Twelve months ago, we were preparing for the city’s annual Pride celebration and marking 50 years since Stonewall with parades, galas and Madonna performing in New York City. At the Blade, we were also celebrating 50 years since the newspaper’s founding in 1969.

A year later, more than 100,000 Americans are dead of coronavirus, a pandemic that brought the world to a standstill. Unemployment is at Great Depression-era levels. Small businesses everywhere are hanging on by a thread. Police brutality against black citizens continues, triggering mass protests after George Floyd was murdered by a cop on video. And the president of the United States, hiding in a bunker and surrounded by fences, turns law enforcement officials against his own people, gassing peaceful demonstrators in service of a clumsy, cheesy photo op.

We are living through unprecedented times. As we reflect on Pride this week, we should remember that our own modern movement for equality began as a protest against police violence and raids on our bars. I can think of no better tribute to Pride than joining the movement for racial equality and the protests against police brutality and racism.

As the peaceful protests continued this weekend in communities large and small and in countries around the world, many asked what’s next for the movement. Many ideas are being floated, from investing more in mental health to outright defunding police departments. But one thing we should all agree on: On Nov. 3, we must clean house of the Republican Party and send not just Donald Trump packing, but all of his enablers in Congress who have turned a blind eye to this president’s criminal abuse of power, his cruelty, and his tactic of dividing the American people at a perilous time.

Trump didn’t create the coronavirus, but his incompetent response and delayed action unnecessarily cost thousands of American lives. Trump didn’t create racism or police brutality, but his heartless and cowardly response to Floyd’s murder served to exacerbate the exploding tensions. At a time when the country needed unity, our president doubled down on division and used the Bible as a prop to excite his shrinking base.

The time is now for Republicans everywhere to earn an ounce of redemption by condemning Trump, endorsing Joe Biden and actively campaigning for him. We don’t need coy innuendo from George W. and Laura Bush, who have issued vague statements hinting they won’t vote for Trump. They should publicly endorse Biden and then actively campaign all over Texas for his election. Polls show that Texas may be winnable for Biden. Imagine if the Bushes spent the summer crisscrossing the state for him. That may be a pipedream, but imagine.

The same is true of congressional Republicans who have cowered in fear of Trump’s twitter attacks and enabled this madness. The cracks are starting to appear, as Sen. Mitt Romney declared this weekend, “Black Lives Matter.” Sen. Lisa Murkowski, too, is hinting that she will oppose Trump’s re-election.

Polls show that Sen. Lindsay Graham, a target this weekend of sex worker tweets alleging all sorts of things that have long been rumored about his sexual orientation, is vulnerable in South Carolina. He must go, along with the ultimate toadie, Sen. Mitch McConnell.

They and so many other Republicans have shirked their responsibility to the Constitution in service of a racist, sexist fake president.

So in honor of Pride, LGBTQ Americans should resolve to vote in November and to protest against racism and police brutality. Let’s look forward to an unprecedented celebration next year of a new, pro-equality president, a favorable Supreme Court ruling expected any day now on LGBTQ workplace rights, and the sight of Donald Trump being led away in handcuffs.

Kevin Naff is editor of the Washington Blade. Reach him at [email protected].

Photo: Protesters at a Black Lives Matter demonstration on Saturday. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

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Kansas

Federal judge issues mixed ruling in Kansas Trans case

Fort Riley Middle School, located on the sprawling home to the U.S. Army’s First Division, has policies to protect LGBTQ+ students

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Geary County Unified School District 475 (Screenshot/WIBW News 13)

TOPEKA – In a ruling last week, a U. S. District Court allowed the Geary County Unified School District 475, (GCUSD 475) to continue its policy of requiring teachers and staff to respect trans students pronouns and additionally not out them to their parents.

However, Judge Holly Teeter sided with the teacher that brought the lawsuit prohibiting the GCUSD 475 from disciplining her for her refusal to follow policies based on her religious beliefs.

Fort Riley Middle School, located on the Ft. Riley post, the sprawling home to the U.S. Army’s First Division, has a long standing set of policies to protect LGBTQ+ students.

A math teacher Pamela Ricard, sued Geary County Schools over LGBTQ anti-discrimination those policies claiming that those policies conflicted with her Christian beliefs. Ricard was represented by Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian legal advocacy group listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group for its anti-LGBTQ+ lying and deceptive propaganda.

Teeter, was nominated by former President Donald Trump and on August 1, 2018, the U.S. Senate confirmed her as United States District Court Judge for the District of Kansas.

Topeka Capital-Journal journalist Jason Tidd reported , Teeter issued a preliminary injunction on Monday blocking the school from disciplining Ricard if she reveals preferred names and pronouns of her transgender students when communicating with their parents.

“The Court relies on Plaintiff’s statements that she does not intend to communicate with a parent for the sole purpose of disclosing a student’s preferred name and pronouns,” Teeter wrote.

Ricard has two transgender students in her class, the judge wrote, neither of whom have authorized the district to disclose their preferred names and pronouns to their parents. While Ricard uses their preferred names in class and avoids pronouns, she has emailed parents using a student’s legal name and biological pronouns, the Topeka Capital-Journal noted.

“Plaintiff believes that addressing students one way at school and a different way when speaking to their parents is dishonest,” the opinion states. “Being dishonest violates her sincere religious beliefs.”

According to the Topeka Capital-Journal, Teeter, ordered the injunction to remain in place until May 18 or until Ricard’s contractual responsibilities to the district end, whichever comes last. Court records state that Ricard is not returning to work next year at Fort Riley Middle School, after teaching in the district since 2005.

Will Rapp, a statewide organizer for the Kansas chapter of GLSEN, told the Capital-Journal:

“Any effort to force teachers to out students to their guardians is a violation of young people’s privacy and can place vulnerable young people in harm’s way,” Rapp said. “When transgender and nonbinary youth feel unsafe at school, they experience negative impacts not only to their health, but to their academic achievement and likelihood of graduating or moving to higher education opportunities.

“Attempts to forcibly out students also jeopardize educators’ ability to foster trust and create the kind of safe school environment that allows young people to grow and learn without fear of harassment or discrimination.”

 

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The White House

WNBA players back petition for Biden to ‘prioritize’ Brittney Griner’s release

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Russian state TV has released a photo of WNBA star Brittney Griner, who was arrested on drug charges in the country after Russian officials say cannabis oil was found in her luggage. (Screenshot)

WASHINGTON — The Women’s National Basketball Players Association has endorsed a petition that urges the Biden administration to “prioritize” WNBA star Brittney Griner’s release.

“It is imperative that the U.S. government immediately address this human rights issue and do whatever is necessary to return Brittney home quickly and safely,” reads the Change.org petition that Tamryn Spruill, a freelance journalist and author, created.

“The WNBPA and its members proudly join Tamryn Spruill, the creator of this petition, in demanding that lawmakers prioritize Griner’s return,” it continues. “White House and Biden adminsitration, we ask that you take action today—doing whatever is necessary—to bring Brittney Griner home swiftly and safely.”

More than 135,000 people have signed the petition.

Spruill on Saturday in a tweet said the WNBPA, a union that represents WNBA players, partnered with them and Change.org “in demanding that our elected officials work urgently to gain BG’s swift and safe release.”

Griner — a center for the Phoenix Mercury and a two-time Olympic gold medalist who is a lesbian and married to her wife — was taken into custody at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport in February. Russian officials said customs inspectors found hashish oil in her luggage.

The State Department earlier this month determined Russia “wrongfully detained” Griner. A Russian court on Friday extended her detention for another month.

“The Russian system wrongfully detained Ms. Griner,” then-White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Friday during her last White House briefing. “We take our responsibility to assist U.S. citizens seriously.  And we will continue to press for fair and transparent treatment for all U.S. citizens when they are subject to legal processes overseas.”
 
“Now, because the State Department recategorized her as wrongfully detained, it means that our Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs — it’s quite a title but a well-deserved one — is going to be overseeing this case and leading the effort,” added Psaki. “Because it’s a deliberative process and we know from experience of bringing other Americans home, we’re just not going to detail what those efforts look like at this point in time.”

Griner faces up to 10 years in prison.

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Wyoming

University of Wyoming graduates boo U.S. Senator for anti-trans remarks

“My reference to the existence of two sexes was intended to highlight the times- times in which the metric of biological sex is under debate”

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Screenshot/University of Wyoming YouTube

During her speech delivered to the University of Wyoming’s College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Education commencement Saturday afternoon, Republican U.S. Senator Cynthia Lummis told graduates that “the existence of two sexes, male and female” was a “fundamental scientific truth.” 

The audience’s immediate reaction to her transphobic remarks were loud expressions of disapproval including jeering, boos, and demands she leave the podium.

The senator’s remarks came in the latter third of her twenty-minute address which had primarily focused on the critical need for teachers and in the fields of agriculture and other endeavors she noted were Wyoming hallmarks.

In a statement released by her office Sunday, a spokesperson noted that Lummis was apologizing to those who felt “un-welcomed or disrespected” by the comments.

“My reference to the existence of two sexes was intended to highlight the times in which we find ourselves, times in which the metric of biological sex is under debate with potential implications for the shared Wyoming value of equality,” the statement read.

“I share the fundamental belief that women and men are equal, but also acknowledge that there are biological differences and circumstances in which these differences need to be recognized. That being said, it was never my intention to make anyone feel un-welcomed or disrespected, and for that I apologize. I have appreciated hearing from members of the University of Wyoming community on this issue, and I look forward to continuing this dialogue.” 

Dr. Jenni Tabler, an Assistant Professor in the University of Wyoming’s Sociology Program in the College of Arts and Sciences tweeted, pointing out the graduate’s reactions along with the fact that the UW campus community had recently lost a Trans student to suicide, making the senator’s remarks more hurtful.

The university’s president also issued a statement Sunday expressing support for all members of the UW campus and community:

May 15, 2022

To the UW community:

On Saturday, the university celebrated spring 2022 commencement with a series of events that showcased the best of what makes us special: our students, our staff, our faculty and our ability to openly embrace and debate complex issues. One of our speakers made remarks regarding biological sex that many on campus take issue with. While we respect the right of all to express their views, from students to elected officials, we unequivocally state that UW is an institution that supports and celebrates its diverse communities that collectively make us the wonderful place that we are.

Thank you to the many students and families who celebrated with us this weekend. We welcome the incredible individuality and intellect of all our dynamic and diverse students and never want you to feel otherwise.

Sincerely,

Ed Seidel, President

Senator Cynthia Lummis’ remarks are at the 50:11 time mark:

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