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The color of new LGBTQ leadership 

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Photos: All Black Lives Matter march on Sunset Blvd (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

This is what the color of change looks like.

An estimated 25,000 protesters marched from Hollywood to West Hollywood railing against racism and police brutality, calling out the names of black victims of racist violence — Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks.

But what was different from the hundreds of other marches since George Floyd fell fatally silent under the knee of white Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin last May 25 was that among the names called out in this march were Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, the Stonewall-era trans activists.

Also called out was the name Tony McDade, 38, a Black trans man shot dead by Florida police on May 27.

“Tony was a queer Black American who was gunned down by law enforcement,” Gina Duncan, director of Transgender Equality for Equality Florida, told Mother Jones.

“What brings Tony McDade’s murder so close to home is that this is a national pandemic,” Duncan says. “We have not only COVID-19 impacting our nation, but also the virus of institutional racism. No matter what your gender, no matter how you identify, we still have this pervasive culture of Black Americans suffering under overt discrimination by law enforcement. And when you look at the big picture, Tony McDade’s shooting is a symptom of that national virus that we’re dealing with as a country.”

The Human Rights Campaign tracked 52 reported murders of transgender or gender non-conforming people in 2018 and 2019, the vast majority  of whom were trans women of color, which the American Medical Association called an “epidemic.”

And “the number of victims could be even higher due to underreporting and better data collection by law enforcement is needed to create strategies that will prevent anti-transgender violence,” says AMA Board Member S. Bobby Mukkamala, M.D.

HRC believes at least 15 transgender or gender non-conforming persons have violently died this year in America.

During the march, some shouted these names, too: Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells, 27, a Black trans woman was found June 9 in Philadelphia, stabbed with trauma to her head and face; and Riah Milton, 25, a Black trans woman, fatally shot when three suspects robbed her on June 9 in Liberty Township, Ohio.

“All Black Lives Matter” shouted the protesters of all races, ages and backgrounds as they marched from the “All Black Lives Matter” art installation in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater between Highland Avenue and Orange Drive on Hollywood Boulevard, past the Laugh Factory on Sunset Blvd and Laurel Ave, to the newly painted Transgender Flag painted at the intersection of Santa Monica Blvd and San Vicente in West Hollywood.

A name on no one’s lips is Howard Efland, a white gay nurse murdered by police on March 9, 1969 at the downtown SRO, The Dover Hotel. His name, like so many LGBTQ people before and since, has been largely forgotten, though Back2Stonewall’s Will Kohler reported on the anniversary of Efland’s murder last year.

“LA vice officers Lemuel Chauncey and Richard Halligan claimed that Efland groped them,” Kohler wrote, “so they arrested him, dragged him naked, bleeding and screaming down a flight of stairs by his feet and into the street. In front of several witnesses, the two police officers, who were well over 6’2 inches, started beating the slightly built, unarmed and non-resisting gay man to death while he screamed ‘Help me! My God, someone help me!’

“The two police officers kicked him repeatedly, did knee-drops onto his stomach, and savagely beat him. While several witnesses claimed that Howard Efland died at the scene,” Kohler wrote, adding that the LAPD lied to Efland’s parents about cause of death, which the LA County coroner ruled an “excusable homicide.”

The LA Advocate found out, prompting activist Morris Kight and the Rev. Troy Perry to lead a march of 120 marchers to the hotel for a rally.

“We were horrified and we did the first real organized protest about that — in that we asked that a coroner’s jury of civilians was put together — and they had two days of testimony of police brutality (us mostly), with the police saying he was a dirty faggot and so on. The homicide was called justified. We didn’t think it was justifiable,” Kight told the team at Preserving LGBT Historic Sites in California.

“That radicalized me,” said The Rev. Troy Perry, founder of the Metropolitan Community Church and co-founder of Christopher Street West with Kight and The Rev. Bob Humphries. “That was my radicalization of never saying, ‘I’m not gonna stand up for people’s rights.’”

More names, witch hunts, lobotomies, brutal deaths, the AIDS epidemic — so many names lost in the fog of war for dignity and civil rights.

All LGBTQ Lives Matter.

Out LA City Council member Mitch O’Farrell, who helped then-Councilmember Eric Garcetti turn the Black Cat and the Mattachine Steps into historical sites, temporarily stopped the erasure of the temporarily permitted All Black Lives Matter art installation and on June 17 introduced a motion to memorialize the march.

“We had a once-in-a-generation moment this weekend in Hollywood as tens of thousands gathered for a peaceful demonstration on one of the most recognizable boulevards in America,” O’Farrell said. “We now have a chance to memorialize the movement in a meaningful way. I look forward to working with BLAC (Black LGBTQIA Action Committee) and other community members on this project.”

The motion directs city staff to work with BLAC on a permanent art installation around the Hollywood Blvd and Highland Ave area. That starts the discussion process with appropriate City Departments and the Black LGBTQ community on an appropriate tribute.

Photo of BLAC leaders Gerald Garth and Lucky Fuller (courtesy Cer Collins via Garth’s Facebook page)

“BLAC is centered on effective partnerships designed to bring visibility and action to the unique needs of Black LGBTQ+ communities. Efforts like this, designed by BLAC member, Luckie Alexander [a Black transman], and in collaboration with Councilmember O’Farrell’s office, Trailer Park Group, and all other partners and individuals that came together to make this happen is true proof of collaboration. And for a new installation of some kind to live permanently becomes a symbol not just to the city, but to the world,” said Gerald Garth and Brandon Anthony, co-founders of BLAC & lead organizers of the All Black Lives Matter march.

Photo: Screen grab of Trans Flag in West Hollywood

Things are more confusing in West Hollywood.

During the recent council meeting, Councilmember John Duran asked how the trans flag got there, since it did not go through the required government approval process.

The Los Angeles Blade was told by a reliable source that West Hollywood Mayor Lindsey Horvath, West Hollywood Planning Commissioner John Erickson, who is a candidate for city council, as well as several other city advisors were involved.

Mayor Horvath, in an email to Los Angeles Blade, said “If the organizers of this flag painting action had come to me in time, I would have proudly drafted an agenda item of support for the Council to consider, and I would like to think the Council would have passed it.”

“This action was clearly meant to lift up trans voices and visibility and stand as allies for the trans community, as trans people -especially Black trans women – continue to fall victim to violence and murder,” Erickson told the Los Angeles Blade. “I believe it’s important to center trans voices in the conversation and I hope West Hollywood will do more to include them in the conversation as we work to build a more just future.”

Erickson added: “While painting the flag was not my idea, I support the action.  While activists, advocates, and others are out fighting to keep our transgender community alive, some seem to be more concerned with washing away advocacy, rather than fighting for Black trans lives and supporting all members of our community.”

West Hollywood Sheriff’s Captain Ramirez said he doesn’t know who the female was who sought prior permission, nor does he know who came into the station.

“I received a call and someone asked a question but I was under the impression that it would take place during the march,” Ramirez told the Los Angeles Blade. “Their question was would they be arrested and charged if they painted it in the intersection? I told them there is a section for graffiti, but that their intention was peaceful and nonviolent so they would likely not be arrested. I didn’t want to be adversarial. But it was painted overnight. Members of the group came into the station overnight and requested permission, saying that ‘Ramirez was okay with it,’” so the late night officer responded like the Captain.

“That officer offered cars to observe, block the intersection. That was done for the personal safety of those painting the mural. We didn’t want anyone to get hit by a car or accosted by someone who doesn’t support trans people,” Ramirez said. “That was around 2 to 3:30 AM the morning of the march.

“I don’t think I was misled,” he said. “This was their way of memorializing all that has happened. We knew their actions would be peaceful and non-violent. These are tumultuous times and we need to work hand in hand with our community. We wanted to recognize the moment and have the trans community and black community celebrate it. The roar of the crowd showed their approval.”

As to whether the painting is illegal, Ramirez said: “There may be a Cal-Trans code. It could be considered vandalism like a street mural or side-walk painting. Sometimes they are left forever.”

Ramirez said the trans flag can stay, “as it maintains its luster. I don’t know why this wouldn’t stay unless it violates Cal-Trans code.”

“I am not aware of the Sheriff providing clearance to anyone. I do know our Sheriffs were there, protecting the peaceful protestors, and I truly appreciate them stepping up to protect our trans activists and their allies,” said Mayor Horvath.
She added “We need to direct our energy to support activists who are fighting to protect black trans lives. We should focus our anger on the recent brutal murders of two black trans women, or the Trump Administration’s erasure of healthcare protections for transgender people during Pride Month on the anniversary of the Pulse shooting. Better yet, maybe cisgender people can take a pause all together and listen to our transgender family, center their voices in this conversation, and empower their work.”
However, some question whether Ramirez has the authority to make such decisions about city public spaces. Duran, a criminal defense attorney who is also up for re-election, is troubled by city officials possibly committing a misdemeanor crime “under the color of authority.” 

Duran is also concerned about setting a precedent.

“There is a reason that law enforcement and government officials have to remain neutral on free speech,” Duran told the Los Angeles Blade. “For example, if this sets a precedent and a group wants to paint a confederate flag on Santa Monica Blvd, we can’t say ‘Oh, we agree with trans rights so that unauthorized mural can stay but your confederate flag has to go.’   Now we are regulating content. And the government cannot regulate free speech – whether its law enforcement or city government.”

Additional reporting by Troy Masters

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NBC Universal cancels Golden Globe awards broadcast for 2022

NBC Universal announced the network would not broadcast the 2022 Golden Globes awards ceremony

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Screenshot NBC coverage of the Golden Globes from previous years on YouTube

BURBANK – In the wake of an in-depth investigation into the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), the organization responsible for the Golden Globes by the Los Angeles Times, which revealed a lack of racial diversity among its voting members and various other ethical concerns, NBC Universal announced Monday the network would not broadcast the 2022 Golden Globes ceremony.

This past February ahead of the HFPA’s 78th Annual Golden Globes ceremony, HFPA board chair Meher Tatna told Variety magazine that the organization that the organization of international journalists which covers the film, television, and entertainment industry has not had any Black members in at least 20 years.

Actor Sterling K. Brown,  a Golden Globe winner and two-time nominee, posted to Instagram; 

Criticism of the HFPA, which puts on the Globes and has been denounced for a lack of diversity and for ethical impropriates, reached such a pitch this week that actor and superstar celebrity Tom Cruise returned his three Globes to the press association’s headquarters, according to a person who was granted anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly about the decision, the Associated Press reported.

“We continue to believe that the HFPA is committed to meaningful reform. However, change of this magnitude takes time and work, and we feel strongly that the HFPA needs time to do it right,” a spokesperson for NBC said in a statement.

“As such, NBC will not air the 2022 Golden Globes,” the spokesperson added. “Assuming the organization executes on its plan, we are hopeful we will be in a position to air the show in January 2023.”

NBC’s decision comes as Vogue reported that the backlash to the HFPA came swiftly and decisively. Some of Hollywood’s biggest studios, including Netflix, Amazon, and WarnerMedia, announced they were severing ties with the organization until efforts were made to increase diversity and stamp out corruption, while a group of more than 100 of the industry’s biggest PR firms released a statement in March in which they pledged to boycott the ceremony for the foreseeable future. 

The HFPA did not immediately respond to inquiries by media outlets requesting comment about NBC’s decision.

In February, the organization said it was “fully committed to ensuring our membership is reflective of the communities around the world who love film, TV, and the artists inspiring and educating them.”

“We understand that we need to bring in Black members as well as members from other underrepresented backgrounds, and we will immediately work to implement an action plan to achieve these goals as soon as possible,” it said.

HFPA also announced a full timetable through this summer for implementing promised reform initiatives in response to NBC’s decision.

“Regardless of the next air date of the Golden Globes, implementing transformational changes as quickly — and as thoughtfully — as possible remains the top priority,” the HFPA board said in a statement. “We invite our partners in the industry to the table to work with us on the systemic reform that is long overdue, both in our organization as well as within the industry at large.”

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Coronavirus

LA County expected to hit herd immunity by mid summer

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Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles County could reach COVID-19 herd immunity among adults and the older teenagers by mid- to late July, public health officials announced Monday. Over the weekend LA Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that appointments are no longer needed for Angelenos to get COVID-19 vaccinations at any site run by the city.

Garcetti’s move is intended to give people who don’t have the time or technological resources to navigate online booking platforms a chance to get the shot.

The percentage of the population the County needs to vaccinate to achieve community immunity is unknown, however Public Health officials estimate it’s probably around 80%. Currently, 400,000 shots each week are getting into the arms of L.A. County residents, and there are over 2 million more first doses to go before 80% of all L.A. County residents 16 and older have received at least one shot.

At this rate, Public Health expects the County will reach this level of community immunity in mid- to late July and that assumes the County continues to at least have 400,000 people vaccinated each week. That would include both first doses that people need as well as their second doses.

This news came as Los Angeles Unified School District officials announced that attendance numbers at all grade levels in the District have been considerably lower than expected as extensive safety measures have failed to lure back the vast majority of families in the final weeks of school.

Only 7% of high school students, about 30% of elementary school children and 12% of middle school students have returned to campuses.

As of May 7, more than 8,492,810 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered to people across Los Angeles County. Of these, 5,146,142 were first doses and 3,346,668 were second doses.

On Monday the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) expanded the emergency use authorization for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for adolescents 12 to 15 years of age. The Pfizer vaccine is already authorized for people 16 years old and older.

Pfizer’s testing in adolescents “met our rigorous standards,” FDA vaccine chief Dr. Peter Marks said. “Having a vaccine authorized for a younger population is a critical step in continuing to lessen the immense public health burden caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

In a statement released Monday by the White House, President Joe Biden the FDA’s decision marked another important step in the nation’s march back to regular life.

“The light at the end of the tunnel is growing, and today it got a little brighter,” Biden said.

Los Angeles County will offer the Pfizer vaccine for 12 to 15-year-olds once the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) affirms the FDA recommendation, which can happen as early as Wednesday. All adolescents 12-17 will need to be accompanied by a parent or guardian to get vaccinated.

To find a vaccination site near you, to make an appointment at vaccination sites, and much more, visit: www.VaccinateLACounty.com (English) and www.VacunateLosAngeles.com (Spanish). If you don’t have internet access, can’t use a computer, or you’re over 65, you can call 1-833-540-0473 for help finding an appointment or scheduling a home-visit if you are homebound. Vaccinations are always free and open to eligible residents and workers regardless of immigration status.

In the meantime, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that unvaccinated people — including children — should continue taking precautions such as wearing masks indoors and keeping their distance from other unvaccinated people outside of their households.

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Health

HHS takes steps to reverse Anti-LGBTQ+ healthcare policy

The announcement came minutes before a scheduled hearing before the U.S. District Court for Equality California’s lawsuit challenging the Trump-Pence Administration’s “Rollback Rule”

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HHS the Hubert H. Humphrey Building (Photo: GSA)

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Monday morning that the Biden-Harris Administration will interpret and enforce Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Title IX’s prohibitions on discrimination based on sex to include discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The announcement came minutes before a scheduled hearing before the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts in BAGLY v. HHS, Equality California’s lawsuit challenging the Trump-Pence Administration’s “Rollback Rule.”

The Trump-era policy undermines the ACA’s nondiscrimination protections on the basis of sex — including pregnancy, gender identity and sex stereotyping — as well as protections for patients with limited-English proficiency and those living with chronic illnesses, including HIV. Because the issues in BAGLY v. HHS are broader than what the Administration announced today, the Court scheduled a hearing on the government’s motion to dismiss for June 3rd at 2:30 PM EST.

In reaction to the HHS announcement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a statement Monday:

“Today, the Biden Administration has taken essential and potentially life-saving action to affirm that all people in America have the right to quality, affordable health care – no matter who they are or whom they love.  During this time of pandemic and always, it is vital that the most vulnerable have access to care, including LGBTQ Americans, who have long suffered injustice and discrimination that has left them dangerously exposed to health risks.
 
“The Trump Administration’s decision to greenlight anti-LGBTQ discrimination in health care in the middle of a pandemic was an act of senseless and staggering cruelty, made in blatant defiance of our values and a Supreme Court ruling made just a month prior.  
 
“Congressional Democrats together with the Biden Administration are proud to uphold the equal right of every American to access the care that they need to pursue a life of dignity and health.  We must now build on this progress and enact the House-passed Equality Act to fully ban anti-LGBTQ discrimination in our nation.”

In addition to Equality California, co-plaintiffs in BAGLY v. HHS include Darren Lazor, The Boston Alliance of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Youth (BAGLY), Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, Campaign for Southern Equality, Equality California, Fenway Health, and Transgender Emergency Fund.

Lazor is a transgender man near Cleveland, Ohio, who experienced numerous counts of discrimination from healthcare providers on the basis of his gender identity from 2012 to 2017. He is a member of Equality California. Plaintiffs are represented by National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), the Transgender Law Center (TLC), the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF), the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation (CHLPI) of Harvard Law School and law firm Hogan Lovells.

The lawsuit asserts that the new rule violates the Administrative Procedures Act by being contrary to law, arbitrary and capricious and a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. Notably, it was published on June 19,  just days after the June 15, 2020 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County, which found that it is unlawful sex discrimination to fire employees based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The lawsuit also asserts that the new rule will embolden discrimination and harm LGBTQ+ patients and people seeking reproductive health care, further stigmatize abortion and other pregnancy-related care, harm patients with limited-English proficiency, especially immigrants, and harm people with chronic illnesses, including those living with HIV. The rule will also create confusion about the scope of protections against discrimination under federal law. 

Trans people, like plaintiff Darren Lazor, already face disproportionate discrimination in health care settings, including mistreatment by insurers and humiliation and harassment by doctors – problems that are exacerbated for trans people of color and trans people living in rural regions and the U.S. South. In seeking to deny trans people access to the healthcare they need, the Trump Administration had placed trans people, and especially Black trans women, in danger through deliberately harmful governmental action.

“We are thrilled by the news that the Biden-Harris Administration will take initial steps to reverse President Trump’s dangerous, discriminatory Rollback Rule, which undermined healthcare nondiscrimination protections critical to the LGBTQ+ community, and trans people in particular,” said Equality California Executive Director Rick Chavez Zbur.

“As the world recovers from a global pandemic, it’s more important than ever that every American have access to quality, affordable healthcare without fear of harassment and discrimination. We remain hopeful that under Secretary Becerra and Assistant Secretary Levine’s leadership, HHS will continue to take further steps to rescind the Trump-era regulation and address the harms that it has caused,” he added.

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