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AG Becerra adds Idaho to restricted state travel list after anti-trans laws

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 Effective July 1, California will restrict state-funded travel to Idaho as a result of two anti-trans bills signed into law despite “significant concerns” from that state’s attorney general, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s office said in a press release.

Idaho Governor Brad Little signed House Bills 500 and 509 into law on March 30, 2020.

The Washington Blade reported Saturday, June 20, that President Trump and his Administration support the anti-trans laws. Chris Johnson wrote:

“U.S. Attorney General William Barr announced in a statement Friday the Trump administration would intercede in the lawsuit against the Idaho law, known as House Bill 500 and the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, to protect the statute on the basis that “allowing biological males to compete in all-female sports is fundamentally unfair to female athletes.”

 

“Under the Constitution, the Equal Protection Clause allows Idaho to recognize the physiological differences between the biological sexes in athletics,” Barr said. “Because of these differences, the Fairness Act’s limiting of certain athletic teams to biological females provides equal protection. This limitation is based on the same exact interest that allows the creation of sex-specific athletic teams in the first place — namely, the goal of ensuring that biological females have equal athletic opportunities.”

 

The Justice Department takes this position even though the Supreme Court ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County determined anti-transgender discrimination is a form of discrimination, thus prohibited in employment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The logic of the decision applies to all laws against sex discrimination, including Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in schools and requires schools to offer equal opportunities boys and girls in athletics.”

Restrictions on California state-funded travel resulting from another state’s anti-LGBTQ laws has been in place since 2016.

House Bill 500 repeals protections that enabled transgender students to compete on athletic teams consistent with their gender identity and House Bill 509 prohibits the amendment of birth certificates to be consistent with gender identity, says the release.

“Where states legislate discrimination, California unambiguously speaks out,” said Becerra. “The State of Idaho has taken drastic steps to undermine the rights of the transgender community, preventing people from playing sports in school or having documentation that reflects their identity. Let’s not beat around the bush: these laws are plain and simple discrimination. That’s why Idaho joins the list of AB 1887 discriminating states.”   

The press release notes:

“Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden had raised concerns about the bills’ compliance with equal protection and privacy laws. House Bill 500, among other things, runs contrary to existing guidance by the National Collegiate Athletic Association that encourages equal opportunity for transgender students to participate in athletics. Dubiously named the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,” House Bill 500 overrules existing local school policies in Idaho and directly works to ban transgender girls and women from school sports. Similarly, House Bill 509 not only authorizes but actually requires discrimination by prohibiting the amendment of birth certificates consistent with gender identity, a right previously recognized by an Idaho federal court on equal protection grounds. The laws are currently set to go into effect in Idaho on July 1, 2020.

 

AB 1887, which took effect beginning in 2017, restricts state-funded travel to states with laws that authorize or require discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. AB 1887’s restriction on using state funds for travel applies to California state agencies, departments, boards, authorities, and commissions, including an agency, department, board, authority, or commission of the University of California, the Board of Regents of the University of California, and the California State University. Each applicable agency is responsible for consulting the AB 1887 list created by the California Department of Justice to comply with the travel and funding restrictions imposed by the law. 

 

For additional information on AB 1887, including the list of states subject to its provisions, visit: www.oag.ca.gov/ab1887.’

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Ohio

Ohio Supreme Court allows hold to continue on trans care ban

“The state’s claim that this was an ‘emergency’ because it could not enforce an unconstitutional statute was utterly absurd”

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An advocate for the trans community protests outside the Senate Chamber while inside lawmakers debated and passed HB 68 that bans gender-affirming care for transgender youth and bars transgender kids from participating on sports teams, December 13, 2023, at the Statehouse in Columbus. (Photo by Graham Stokes for Ohio Capital Journal. Republish photo only with original article.)

By Megan Henry | COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Supreme Court of Ohio rejected a request by the state to narrow a temporary restraining order against Ohio’s gender-affirming care ban for trans youth.      

Wednesday’s decision allows the case to continue in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, where a trial is scheduled for July 15. 

“This decision was correct,” Freda Levenson, ACLU of Ohio’s legal director, said in a statement.

“The state’s request was egregious. The scope of the temporary restraining order was necessary and appropriate to prevent the constitutional violations and other irreparable harm that would immediately occur if HB 68 were permitted to take effect. Our legal battle will continue until this cruel restriction is permanently overturned.”

The ACLU of Ohio filed a lawsuit in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas on March 26 against the portion of House Bill 68 that prohibits gender-affirming care for transgender youth. The lawsuit said HB 68 violates four sections of the Ohio Constitution — the single-subject rule, the Health Care provision, the Equal Protection Clause, and the Due Course of Law provision.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of two families whose 12-year-old transgender daughters would lose access to gender-affirming health care. 

Franklin County Court of Common Pleas Judge Michael Holbrook issued the temporary restraining order on all of HB 68 on April 16. In addition to preventing transgender youth from starting hormone therapy and puberty blockers, the bill also prevents trans athletes from playing middle and high school sports. 

On April 22, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost filed an emergency motion with the Ohio Supreme Court to try to stop the restraining order — arguing Holbrook “acted beyond the scope of his powers.” He also said the injunction is illegal since it applies to all of Ohio, not just the two plaintiffs. 

“The state’s claim that this was an ‘emergency’ because it could not enforce an unconstitutional statute was utterly absurd,” Harper Seldin, American Civil Liberties Union’s senior staff attorney, said in a statement.

“Far from creating an emergency, the challenged temporary injunction merely maintains the status quo in Ohio – that trans youth be permitted to access life-saving medical care with support from parents and doctors.”

HB 68 was supposed to take effect April 24. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine vetoed HB 68, but lawmakers voted to override his veto. 

In two separate concurring opinions, Republican Ohio Supreme Court Justice Pat DeWine and Democratic Ohio Supreme Court Justice Jennifer Brunner took shots at one another.

“Although we deny the relief requested today, this case raises an important issue: Is it appropriate for one judge in a single county to issue a statewide injunction that goes beyond what is necessary to provide interim relief to the parties in the case,” Justice DeWine questioned.

“The other concurring opinion in this case offers a full-throated defense of universal injunctions and fulminates against this court ever taking up the issue. Unlike the other concurring justice, I will reserve judgment until we are presented with a case that properly presents the issue and we have had the benefit of adversarial briefing. … This court should address the propriety of the issuance of universal injunctions for the purpose of granting interim relief in an appropriate case.”

Justice DeWine was joined by Justices Patrick Fischer and Joseph Deters in his concurrence.

In her own concurrence, Justice Brunner took issue with Justice DeWine’s citation of a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

“A stay is not an injunction. The Ohio Constitution, unlike the federal Constitution, has a single-subject rule for legislation that results in multi-subject legislative acts being facially unconstitutional,” Brunner wrote. “The very nature of a facial constitutional violation is that the offending law violates the Constitution in every circumstance.”

Brunner wrote that if a law that is facially unconstitutional may not be applied to an individual, then it may not be applied to anyone else.

“Similarly, a temporary restraining order based on a substantial likelihood that a law is facially unconstitutional may not be limited to just the parties in the case. Moreover, when the court hearing such a challenge has jurisdiction over the state as a party-defendant, it has the power to enjoin the state from applying the law, regardless of the law’s subject matter.”

Brunner then explained why she chose to write her own concurrence in the first place.

“My colleague’s concurring opinion is more akin to a political statement than a legal one, which is why I have written this opinion,” Brunner concluded.

Gender-affirming care is supported by every major medical organization in the United States. Children’s hospitals across Ohio, the Ohio Children’s Hospital Association, and the Ohio Academy of Family Physicians all opposed HB 68.

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Megan Henry

Megan Henry is a reporter for the Ohio Capital Journal and has spent the past five years reporting in Ohio on various topics including education, healthcare, business and crime. She previously worked at The Columbus Dispatch, part of the USA Today Network.

Follow OCJ Reporter Megan Henry on X.

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The preceding article was previously published by the Ohio Capital Journal and is republished with permission.

The Ohio Capital Journal is an independent, nonprofit news organization dedicated to connecting Ohioans to their state government and its impact on their lives. The Capital Journal combines Ohio state government coverage with incisive investigative journalism, reporting on the consequences of policy, political insight and principled commentary.

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

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New Hampshire

New Hampshire lawmakers roll back existing trans protections

New Hampshire’s Senate passed HB396, repealing some discrimination protections for transgender people that the state passed in 2018

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New Hampshire State House in Concord. (Photo Credit: State of New Hampshire)

By Erin Reed | CONCORD, N.H. – In 2018, New Hampshire passed a non-discrimination law that included transgender people through an all-Republican legislature. On Wednesday, the state legislature repealed some of those protections, clarifying that such protections do not apply to bathrooms, sports, locker rooms, corrections centers, and mental health treatment centers.

The state is one of the first to roll back existing protections for transgender people and now allows for private bans of transgender people in bathrooms, locker rooms, sports, and more. The bill now heads to Governor Sununu’s desk and is the fourth anti-LGBTQ+ bill passed this year in New Hampshire.

The bill repealing protections is House Bill 396, and it was the subject of a contentious 192-184 vote earlier this year before passing the Senate yesterday. It states that though transgender people are still part of the “law against discrimination,” those protections are removed in “limited circumstances in which classification of persons based on biological sex is proper because such classification serves the compelling state interests of protecting the privacy rights and physical safety of such persons and others,” seemingly arguing that transgender people are inherently unsafe. It then outlines the specific places where discrimination against transgender people is now legal in New Hampshire:

  • Bathrooms
  • Locker rooms
  • Athletic or sporting events
  • Prisons, houses of correction, and juvenile detention centers
  • Mental health hospitals
  • Treatment centers

You can see the full bill here:

Importantly, the bill legalizes this kind of discrimination by private entities, meaning that all bathrooms in New Hampshire, including those run by private businesses, may exclude transgender people at the discretion of whoever is in charge of those bathrooms.

This could create a very confusing landscape for transgender people, who will have to research the policies of every private entity each time they wish to use a bathroom. Other similar bathroom bans have typically only applied to schools or public buildings. While the bill does not mandate that private entities exclude transgender people from bathrooms, it explicitly allows them to do so.

The State of New Hampshire added transgender people to its nondiscrimination law in 2018. Governor Sununu, who signed that law, stated, “Discrimination – in any form – is unacceptable and runs contrary to New Hampshire’s Live Free or Die spirit. If we really want to be the Live Free or Die state, we must ensure that New Hampshire is a place where every person, regardless of their background, has an equal and full opportunity to pursue their dreams and to make a better life for themselves and their families.”

At the time, Christian organizations criticized him for “failing to stand by Christian principles.” Shanon McGinley of the state conservative think tank Cornerstone Action said in response to the protections in 2018, “We MUST strengthen the Christian base of the NH legislature to improve our chance of winning critical votes in the next legislative session.”

It would appear that those strategies were successful. Whereas the nondiscrimination protections passed with large majorities in 2018, many of those protections were successfully reversed yesterday. Though it is unclear if Governor Sununu will sign the bill on his desk, he has recently supported anti-trans measures, such as signing a letter opposing President Biden’s Title IX protections.

New Hampshire has been a particularly rough state for transgender people this year when it comes to legislation. Just last week, the state passed three anti-trans and anti-LGBTQ+ laws, including a “Don’t Say Gay or Trans” bill, a sports ban that includes provisions for potential genital inspections, and a ban on surgery and referrals for transgender youth. Likewise, a Medicaid ban on some transgender care is currently pending a final vote in the Senate. Should all four bills be signed into law by the governor, New Hampshire will become one of the riskiest states in the Northeast for transgender people of any age.

Courtney Reed, Policy Advocate at the ACLU of New Hampshire, said of the bill’s passage, “Today is another grim day in New Hampshire. Nobody wins when we try to make discrimination law. HB 396 undermines the right to equal protection under the law for transgender people – and we urge Governor Sununu to veto this dangerous bill once it reaches his desk, keeping in tradition that the Granite State respects the rights of LGBTQ+ people.” 

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Erin Reed is a transgender woman (she/her pronouns) and researcher who tracks anti-LGBTQ+ legislation around the world and helps people become better advocates for their queer family, friends, colleagues, and community. Reed also is a social media consultant and public speaker.

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

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Texas

Texas AG Ken Paxton sues to stop new gender identity guidelines

Texas Attorney General aims 75th lawsuit at Biden Administration this one to halt compliance of gender identity mandates in the workplace

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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks at the Collin County Labor day picnic in Plano on Sept. 2, 2023. (Photo Credit: Azul Sordo for the Texas Tribune)

By Nina Banks | AMARILLO, Texas – Attorney General Ken Paxton is suing the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and members of the Biden Administration to contest LGBTQ+ workforce protections.

The guidance, released last month, states that denying an employee accommodations for their gender identity, such as prohibiting an employee to use the bathroom of their gender identity, is unlawful workplace harassment. The guidance isn’t legally enforced and instead it serves to distinguish what constitutes harassment under the EEOC.

The lawsuit filed on Tuesday argues that the EEOC specifically targeted Texas with its new guidance, as some Texas employers do not have to comply with federal policies meant to prohibit discrimination. Paxton claims the guidance would force Texas to reevaluate its agencies, causing “irreparable harm” to state finances and sovereignty, and redefine “sex” under the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“Yet again the Biden Administration is trying to circumvent the democratic process by issuing sweeping mandates from the desks of bureaucrats that would fundamentally reshape American law,” Paxton said in a statement. “Texas will not stand by while Biden ignores court orders forbidding such actions and we will hold the federal government accountable at every turn.”

This is Paxton’s 75th lawsuit against the federal government since Biden was inaugurated in January 2020. Paxton has long portrayed himself as the bulwark against Biden’s agenda and has positioned Texas at the forefront of the largest conservative legal battles of the day.

This lawsuit parallels a motion from October 2022 where Paxton sued the Biden administration over a 2021 EEOC guidance that explained the parameters then for gauging harassment and the Supreme Court’s stance on Bostock v. Clayton County, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

A longtime adversary to gender-affirming policy, Paxton claimed the 2021 guidance forced the Biden Administration’s “political agenda” onto Texas. In that case, the U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk ruled in favor of Paxton, concluding that the Biden Administration’s protections for LGBTQ+ employees were too extensive.

Paxton filed this lawsuit, like many of his legal challenges, in Amarillo, where one judge hears nearly all cases—Kacsmaryk.

Kacsmaryk was appointed to the bench by President Donald Trump as the first judge appointed directly from a religious liberty law firm. Kacsmaryk previously worked at First Liberty, a Plano-based conservative Christian law firm, where he frequently litigated cases involving abortion, contraception and gender identity.

Reporter Eleanor Klibanoff contributed to this story.

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Nina Banks’s staff photo

Nina Banks is the Tribune’s Dallas Press Club Foundation reporting fellow based in Arlington where she is studying communications at Tarrant County College. She is managing editor of the student-run newspaper, The Collegian, and hosts the staff’s podcast, The First Draft. When Nina isn’t hunched over her laptop, you can find her sipping on boba tea.

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

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The White House

Senate confirms Biden’s 200th judicial nominee

Among them are 11 LGBTQ judges, the same record-setting number who were nominated and confirmed under former President Barack Obama

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President Joe Biden speaks at the Respect for Marriage Act signing ceremony on Tuesday. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON — With the U.S. Senate’s confirmation of his 200th judicial nominee on Wednesday, President Joe Biden surpassed the number who were appointed to the federal bench by his last two predecessors at this point in their presidencies.

Among them are 11 LGBTQ judges, the same record-setting number who were nominated and confirmed under former President Barack Obama over the course of his two terms in office.

In a statement celebrating the milestone, Biden highlighted the diverse identities, backgrounds, and professional experiences of the men and women he has appointed over the past four years.

They “come from every walk of life, and collectively, they form the most diverse group of judicial appointees ever put forward by a president,” he said, noting that “64 percent are women and 62 percent are people of color.”

“Before their appointment to the bench, they worked in every field of law,” Biden said, “from labor lawyers fighting for working people to civil rights lawyers fighting to protect the right to vote.”

The president added, “Judges matter. These men and women have the power to uphold basic rights or to roll them back. They hear cases that decide whether women have the freedom to make their own reproductive healthcare decisions; whether Americans have the freedom to cast their ballots; whether workers have the freedom to unionize and make a living wage for their families; and whether children have the freedom to breathe clean air and drink clean water.”

The LGBTQ judges who were confirmed under Biden include Beth Robinson, the first LGBTQ woman to serve on a federal court of appeals, Nicole Berner, the 4th Circuit’s first LGBTQ judge, Charlotte Sweeney, the first LGBTQ woman to serve on a federal district court west of the Mississippi River, and Melissa DuBose, the first Black and the first LGBTQ judge to serve on a federal court in Rhode Island.

Echoing the president’s comments during a briefing with reporters on Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre noted Biden’s appointment of the U.S. Supreme Court’s first Black woman, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson.

“We’ve confirmed more Hispanic judges circuit courts than any previous administration,” she said. “We’ve confirmed more Black women to circuit courts than all previous presidents combined.”

Jean-Pierre added that while these milestones are “great news,” there is still “much more work to be done.”

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Federal Government

National Park Service clarifies uniform policies for all events

National Park Service issued a memo clarifying uniform policies for employees from attending any event.

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Stonewall National Monument NPS park rangers marching in 2021 NYC Pride parade. (Photo Credit: NPS/Facebook)

By Erin Reed | WASHINGTON – The National Park Service on May 17 clarified its policy on employees wearing official uniforms to non-sanctioned events, which has implications for Pride events.

It’s unclear what triggered the clarification. A source at the National Park Service told the Blade in a statement that the uniform policy “has not changed,” but some LGBTQ employees report feeling betrayed and note that official Pride participation in major cities is uncertain as applications to participate in parades remain unprocessed.

The clarification comes amid increasing crackdowns on Pride flags and LGBTQ people nationwide.

The announcement was first disclosed in a memo to park service employees that did not directly address Pride but stated that “requests from employees asking to participate in uniform in a variety of events and activities, including events not organized by the NPS” conflict with park service policy.

The specific provision cited states that park service employees cannot wear the uniform to events that would construe support for “a particular issue, position, or political party.” Applying this provision to bar Pride participation drew ire from some LGBTQ employees who assert that LGBTQ Pride is not about an “issue, position, or political party,” but about identity and diversity. The employees, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also pointed out that the internal ERG guide allowed for participation in Pride events and that park employees had participated in Pride events with approval for years under the current set of rules.

NPS Email outlining the change May 9, 2024

In a follow-up, the park service stated that the ERG resource known as the “OUTsiders Guide to Pride” conflicts with its policy and that it is in discussion with ERG leaders to review it and similar documents.

Meanwhile, it stated that park service participation in Pride “could imply agency support … on a particular issue of public concern,” essentially stating that celebrations of LGBTQ employees would be considered an “issue of public concern” rather than a non-political celebration of diversity. As such, they determined that park service official participation in parades “should be extremely limited.”

Concern spread among some park service employees . They noted that the park service has participated in Pride parades across the United States for years under the same set of rules, including during the Trump administration, which notably cracked down on LGBTQ Pride in government agencies, such as at embassies abroad.

They also noted that Stonewall National Monument is run by the park service. Importantly, Stonewall National Monument’s founding documents state, “The purpose of Stonewall National Monument is to preserve and protect Christopher Park and the historic resources associated with it and to interpret the Stonewall National Historic Landmark’s resources and values related to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender civil rights movement.”

Image
Pride Parade Celebration from the Department of the Interior at Stonewall

One park service employee, speaking on condition of anonymity, stated that multiple Pride parade requests are currently sitting on desks “collecting dust” for participation and representation in major city Pride festivities. When asked about the determination that Pride festivals are an “issue of public concern,” they said, “Pride is not political, it’s not a cause, you just are LGBTQ+. It’s a celebration of who we are.” They added, “Morale is just so low right now. There’s not a lot of fight left in us.”

The Blade reached out to a park service spokesperson to ask about Pride parades in major cities and whether the park service would continue participating this year as they have in previous years. The spokesperson stated that the policy “had not changed” and that “Previous interpretations of the uniform policy were inconsistent and, as you can imagine, approving participation in some events and not others could be seen as discrimination based on viewpoint.” They added that in-park Pride events have not been canceled and that community events outside of the parks that “directly relate to a park’s mission” could be approved. However, they did not indicate whether these events would include continued contingents in major U.S. city Pride parades and celebrations and could not be reached for a follow-up on this question.

Park service resources currently live on the site call for people to “Celebrate Pride,” citing Stonewall National Monument to state that “The LGBTQ experience is a vital facet of America’s rich and diverse past.” This resource emphasizes the importance of not rendering LGBTQ people invisible, stating, “By recovering the voices that have been erased and marginalized, the NPS embarks on an important project to capture and celebrate our multi-vocal past.”

Park Service employees have marched in uniform for years. According to the Bay Area Reporter, in 2014, Christine Lenhertz of the park service requested that a group of LGBTQ park service employees be allowed to wear their uniforms in the Pride parade. They were initially barred from doing so, prompting the group to file a complaint. She then sought a ruling from the Office of the Solicitor for the Department of the Interior, who ruled that there was no reason to bar her and other LGBTQ people from participating in uniform. Since then, many park service contingents have participated in Pride events.

Image
San Francisco Pride NPS contingent.

The future of Pride parade participation with in-uniform park service employees is uncertain. While it appears that there will be some Pride events in certain national parks, such as Stonewall, external participation in major city Pride events seems to be on hold in at least some major American cities.

You can see the full response to the request for comment from a park service spokesperson here:

The NPS uniform policy has not changed. There are no restrictions on wearing of uniforms in NPS-organized in-park events. There has been no directive to cancel NPS-organized in-park events. Superintendents have discretion to approve park-organized events, which support park purpose and mission, and departmental mission, initiatives, and priorities (e.g., diversity, inclusion, climate change, and tribal engagement.) This would include many of the events planned to celebrate Pride month. 

Official NPS participation in community events that directly relate to a park’s mission can be approved by the park superintendent, provided it is consistent with applicable laws, rules, regulations, and NPS policies.

Last week, the service sent out a reminder about the uniform policy — specifically because there has been an in-flux of requests from folks asking to wear their uniforms for non-park service events. These requests run the gamut of topics, but could include weekend, off duty events that folks are of course able to do in their personal capacity, but not while wearing a uniform representing the federal government. Previous interpretations of the uniform policy were inconsistent and as you can imagine, approving participation in some events and not others could be seen as discrimination based on viewpoint. 

NPS employees represent a diversity of identities, cultures, and experiences, and we are committed to supporting all of our workforce. Like any large organization, we have a diverse workforce supporting myriad causes, and we welcome employees to express their personal support for various issues, positions, and political parties, provided they do not imply their presence or endorsement constitutes official NPS support for the same.  And, also like other large organizations, there are limits to what employees can do while on-duty and in uniform and seen as communicating on behalf of the NPS.

 

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Erin Reed is a transgender woman (she/her pronouns) and researcher who tracks anti-LGBTQ+ legislation around the world and helps people become better advocates for their queer family, friends, colleagues, and community. Reed also is a social media consultant and public speaker.

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

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Colorado

Colorado GOP tells parents the Democrats “turn more kids trans”

In a party-wide mass mailing the Colorado Republican Party is urging that all of the state’s parents pull their children from public schools

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Colorado State Capitol in Denver. (Screenshot/YouTube 9News Denver)

DENVER, Colo. – In a party-wide mass mailing Tuesday, the Colorado Republican Party is urging that all of the state’s parents pull their children from public schools because, according to the GOP leadership, “Democrats are using schools to “turn more kids trans.” 

In the email blast, Republicans allege: “Our next policy aims to save Colorado children from progressive Democrats who want to turn more kids trans by requiring teachers to use “pronouns” that do not make any sense and cause gender confusion.”

The email continues with an attack recent legislation signed into law by the state’s openly gay Governor Jared Polis:

“Sadly, with Democrats in the super majority in Denver, Non-Legal Name Changes- House Bill 24-1039, passed and was signed into law by Governor Polis. The bill, sponsored by four far-left progressives, two of whom do not know their own genders and do not have children, requires teachers in public schools to use “pronouns” for kids with gender confusion that do not align with their actual scientific gender, without parental consent.

If your child decides he identifies as a girl because he is angry with you, or all of his friends are doing it, the Colorado government will actively encourage his new fetish by allowing him to identify as “she,” “they,” or whatever nonsensical terms your son’s teachers and peers may dream up…all without notifying you of your child’s disturbing behavior, which should be treated rather then encouraged. 

The goal here is clear; the Colorado legislature seeks to break down the family unit while convincing kids that government knows best.”

Colorado has long been prominent in the culture wars over LGBTQ+ rights, reproductive rights, and being ground zero for the Evangelical Christian movement attacks on LGBTQ+ Americans.

Focus on the Family, founded in 1977 in Southern California by James Dobson, and based in Colorado Springs, has been one of the leading major conservative self labeled “family values” groups that has actively battled over same-sex marriage, equality rights, and trans rights.

NBC News affiliate 9News Denver reported:

Colorado Republicans’ 2022 nominee for Governor, Heidi Ganahl, issued a similar call for families to abandon the public education system last year. 

Speaking to the Truth and Liberty Conference in Woodland Park, which mixed anti-LGBTQ rhetoric with calls for Christian dominance of government, Ganahl said children should be removed from public schools and placed in church-run schools.

Ganahl said Colorado’s public schools teach “that parents are not to be trusted, that government is God, that sexual deviance is King.” 

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Louisiana

La. library board members launch federal suit over removal

The library board repeatedly refused to limit access to 150 books deemed sexually explicit by critics. Most of the titles have LGBTQ+ themes

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Opponents and a supporter of restrictions on library content talk before a St. Tammany Parish Council meeting Aug. 30, 2023. (Piper Hutchinson/Louisiana Illuminator)

By Piper Hutchinson | COVINGTON, La. – Three St. Tammany library board members removed after a years-long fight over book content are suing the parish council and one of its district representatives in an attempt to block their removal. 

Their federal lawsuit comes after the parish council voted earlier this month to replace five of the six members of the St. Tammany Library Board of Control, a volunteer body that oversees the parish library system. Their removal culminated months of contentious fights. 

Conservative activists in the parish, led by the far-right St. Tammany Library Accountability Project, attempted to ban more than 150 books it deemed sexually explicit. Most of the titles challenged have LGBTQ+ themes. The library board repeatedly refused to limit access to the books, rejecting arguments that the books were sexually explicit. Their refusal put them crosswise with the new, more conservative parish council that took office earlier this year. 

The three board members — Bill McHugh, Anthony Parr and Rebecca Taylor — are suing the St. Tammany Parish Council and Councilman David Cougle, a founder and attorney for the Accountability Project who led the charge to remove the members. The plaintiffs have asked the court for a temporary restraining order on their removal, which would allow them to stay in their positions while the lawsuit plays out. 

In a statement, the plaintiffs emphasized the lawsuit was undertaken by them as individuals, not as an official action by the library board. They also noted Kelly LaRocca, the parish’s library director, is not involved in the suit. 

Cougle has not yet responded to a request for comment for this report. 

On May 4, the parish council voted to replace five board members, ostensibly because the council had discovered the board was not serving in staggered terms, as required by state law. But rather than staggering the current board members, the council used the opportunity to remove board members that resisted book restrictions. 

That violated the First Amendment rights of the ousted board members, the plaintiffs charge. 

“Plaintiffs were engaged in constitutionally protected activity when they spoke and acted at Library Bord [sic] meetings, as well as when they spoke out on matters of public concern such as the controversy over books with LGBTQ themes and characters, the presence or absence of sexually explicit material in libraries, whether or not certain materials available in libraries is ‘pornography’ or constitutes ‘obscenity,’ and whether and how minors have access to such materials,” the lawsuit reads. 

The lawsuit alleges the concern over staggered terms was an “obvious ploy” used to retaliate against their protected speech and their refusal to restrict access to books.

“Supreme Court precedent has focused “not only on the role of the First Amendment in fostering individual self-expression but also on its role in affording the public access to discussion, debate, and the dissemination of information and ideas,” the lawsuit says. “And it has recognized that ‘the State may not, consistently with the spirit of the First Amendment, contract the spectrum of available knowledge.’”

The suit has been filed in federal court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. If the court opts to grant a temporary restraining order, the existing library board would be allowed to continue serving pending the outcome of the lawsuit, which seeks to permanently block the council’s resolution to remove members. 

“Preventing the Parish Council from engaging in unlawful patronage dismissal will preserve the integrity and independence of the Library Board, rather than leaving it subject to the political whims of the Parish Council,” the lawsuit says. 

The lawsuit also says allowing the members to continue serving would continue to protect the public’s constitutional rights to receive information by maintaining their access to library books. 

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Piper Hutchinson is a reporter for the Louisiana Illuminator. She has covered the Legislature and state government extensively for the LSU Manship News Service and The Reveille, where she was named editor in chief for summer 2022.

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The preceding piece was previously published by the Louisiana Illuminator and is republished by permission.

Louisiana Illuminator is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Louisiana Illuminator maintains editorial independence.

Follow Louisiana Illuminator on Facebook and Twitter.

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U.S. Federal Courts

Supreme Court declines Maryland anti-LGBTQ+ guidelines suit

Three parents of students in the school district outside of D.C., — none of whom have trans children — filed the lawsuit

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U.S. Supreme Court (Photo: Washington Blade/Michael Key)

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a lawsuit against Montgomery County Public Schools guidelines that allow schools to create plans in support of transgender or gender non-confirming students without their parents’ knowledge or consent.

Three parents of students in the school district in suburban Maryland outside of D.C., — none of whom have trans or gender non-confirming children — filed the lawsuit. 

A judge on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last August dismissed the case. The plaintiffs appealed the decision to the Supreme Court.

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Montana

ACLU asks court: Stop Montana state agencies harming trans folks

ACLU argues the rule violates the right to privacy, which the Montana Constitution says is “essential to the well-being of a free society”

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Lewis and Clark County District Courthouse 228 E Broadway Street, Helena, Mont. (Photo Credit: Lewis and Clark County/Montana BW)

By Keila Szpaller | HELENA, Mont. – People who are transgender need to be able to amend their birth certificates and driver’s licenses without interference from the state of Montana, plaintiffs in a lawsuit argued this week in a request for a preliminary injunction.

So the Lewis and Clark County District Court should block the Department of Public Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice from unconstitutionally preventing them, the plaintiffs said.

The status quo not only violates the constitutional rights of transgender Montanans, it causes harm, said the motion filed Thursday.

“Uncorrected identity documents serve as constant reminders that one’s identity is perceived by society and the government as ‘illegitimate,’” said the ACLU Montana in the filing.

The result can exacerbate gender dysphoria — a serious medical condition associated with incongruity between assigned sex and gender identity — and cause psychiatric disorders and even the risk of suicide, the plaintiffs said.

On the other hand, The World Professional Association for Transgender Health states that “changing the sex designation on identity documents greatly helps alleviate gender dysphoria,” the filing said.

Last month, the ACLU Montana filed a lawsuit on behalf of Jessica Kalarchik, Jane Doe, and “all others similarly situated” alleging Gov. Greg Gianforte, the Department of Public Health and Human Services, and the Department of Justice are violating the constitutional rights of transgender people.

The plaintiffs argue people who are transgender used to be able to amend their birth certificates without issue and without negative consequences to the state.

However, a 2022 rule through the health department, a new Motor Vehicle Department practice through the DOJ, and Senate Bill 458 treat them differently than cisgender people — whose gender identity corresponds to their assigned sex — and infringes on their rights.

“The 2022 Rule, the new MVD policy and practice, and SB 458 are solutions in search of a problem,” the plaintiffs said.

A spokesperson for Gianforte earlier said the governor stands by the bill he signed in 2023 “that brings the long-recognized, commonsense, immutable biologically-based definition of sex — male and female — into our state laws.”

The state health department earlier said it does not typically comment on pending litigation. The Department of Justice earlier denied the MVD had changed its policy on updating a sex designation on a driver’s license.

This week, the plaintiffs asked the court for a preliminary injunction to stop enforcement of the rule, practice and law, citing infringement of their constitutionally protected rights.

They also asked the court to certify the lawsuit as a class action on behalf of all Montanans who are transgender and need to change their birth certificates and driver’s licenses.

The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of New York and Nixon Peabody of Chicago also are representing plaintiffs, pending approval from the court.

DPHHS Director Charlie Brereton and Attorney General Austin Knudsen also are sued as heads of state agencies.

Different law, same fight

Starting in 2017, people who were transgender could change their sex designations by submitting an affidavit to the health department.

In 2021, the Montana Legislature adopted Senate Bill 280, which restricted the ability of people who are transgender to change their birth certificates. But in a separate lawsuit, the court temporarily halted the law and ordered the health department to use the 2017 process instead.

“DPHHS pointed to no adverse consequence of having had to revert to the 2017 procedure,” said the filing this week.

The district court permanently enjoined SB 280 in 2023 and also found DPHHS to be in contempt for “openly and repeatedly defying” its order.

In February 2024, however, the state health department said it wouldn’t amend birth certificates based on gender identity, but only to correct errors, citing an administrative rule from 2022 and its alignment with Senate Bill 458.

Signed by Gianforte in 2023, SB 458 states that “there are exactly two sexes, male and female … (and) the sexes are determined … without regard to an individual’s psychological, behavioral, social, chosen or subjective experience of gender.”

The DOJ took action this year as well, ending the prior practice at the MVD of allowing changes to sex based on a letter from a doctor stating the person was changing or had changed their gender, according to the court filing.

“Instead, without following any notice-and-comment procedure, the DOJ and Attorney General Austin Knudsen adopted a new policy and practice that the MVD would only issue an amended driver’s license with a sex designation consistent with a person’s gender identity, rather than their assigned sex at birth, if the person provided an amended birth certificate — which the 2022 Rule prohibits transgender people from obtaining,” said the filing.

Constitutional rights violated, plaintiffs allege

The plaintiffs argue the changes violate multiple constitutional rights.

They violate their right to equal protection because the health department and MVD “single out transgender people for different and less favorable treatment vis-a-vis cisgender people,” the filing said.

The rule and practice also don’t serve a compelling state interest, the plaintiffs said.

In fact, 45 other states allow transgender people to amend their sex markers on their birth certificates, and 38 allow them to change the same on their driver’s licenses without an amended birth certificate, the filing said.

“Many of these states have allowed these changes to birth certificates and driver’s licenses for years without any widespread problems with the ability of those states to maintain ‘accurate vital statistics,’” the filing said.

They noted Montana was in the same boat earlier, making changes at the health department “without incident” from 2017 until the 2021 law was adopted.

The plaintiffs also argue that the rule, MVD practice and law violate the right to privacy, which the Montana Constitution says is “essential to the well-being of a free society.”

The state says that right shall not be infringed without a compelling state interest,” and the plaintiffs note the state affords even broader privacy protections than the federal constitution.

And they said health information is personal, sensitive and private.

“The mental and emotional toll of being forced, against one’s will, to publicly share personal information related to one’s transgender status is both humiliating and degrading,” the plaintiffs said.

If transgender people can’t change their birth certificates, they’re forced to reveal their transgender status every time they’re required to show those documents, the plaintiffs said.

“This forced ‘outing’ has serious adverse psychological effects and health consequences and often results in outright hostility toward transgender people,” said the court filing.

“Conversely, transgender people whose identity documents are consistent with the way they present themselves to the public experience better mental health and less mistreatment.”

The plaintiffs cited a study that said transgender people who changed their sex designation on documents were 35% less likely to have experienced related mistreatment than those who hadn’t made the changes.

“Other studies have shown that accurate identity documents promote economic benefits, including higher rates of employment and increased income,” the plaintiffs said.

They noted nearly one-third of transender people fall below the poverty line and the same number have experienced homelessness.

The state also is forcing people who are transgender to “express or embrace a viewpoint to which they disagree,” in violation of the right to be free from compelled speech, the plaintiffs allege.

Rather, transgender people are forced to carry and present identity documents with a sex designation that conflicts with what they know their sex to be and one that forces them to “disseminate the state’s view of their sex,” the plaintiffs argue.

The rule, policy and law are also “scientifically incorrect,” said the court filing.

“They ignore the existence of multiple genes involved in sex differentiation; the breadth of the endocrine system, which has multiple organs with multiple functions; and growing research documenting that gender identity is biologically based,” the plaintiffs said.

Class certification request

The plaintiffs also propose a class that includes all transgender people in Montana who want to change sex designations on their birth certificates or driver’s licenses.

Citing a study, the filing estimates roughly 0.41% of Montanans over 18 identify as transgender, or more than 3,400, and an estimated 49% don’t have documents that reflect the sex to which they identify, or some 1,700.

It said a class action case would account for the high number of potential plaintiffs, their geographic dispersion in a state such as Montana, the resources of the court, the resources of individual class members, and their vulnerability to threats of violence.

“Proceeding as a class diminishes the salience of such threats to any individual class member, as there is both safety in numbers and relative anonymity for class members,” said the request for class certification.

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Keila Szpaller

Keila Szpaller is deputy editor of the Daily Montanan and covers education. Before joining States Newsroom Montana, she served as city editor of the Missoulian, the largest news outlet in western Montana.

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The preceding article was previously published by the Daily Montanan and is republished with permission.

The Daily Montanan is a nonprofit, nonpartisan source for trusted news, commentary and insight into statewide policy and politics beneath the Big Sky.

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

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Alabama

New policies tie Alabama library funding to LGBTQ book restrictions

A former employee of the Autauga-Prattville Public Library said the guidelines allow the APLS to “basically act like Big Brother”

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“Gender Queer,” a graphic memoir by Maia Kobabe, was the most challenged book in America in 2022, according to the American Library Association. (Photo by New Jersey Monitor)

By Ralph Chapoco | MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Libraries that do not restrict access to materials deemed sexually inappropriate by the Alabama Public Library Service Board could lose state funding under rules adopted by the APLS Board on Thursday.

The changes, recommended by Gov. Kay Ivey but pushed considerably further by a board member who also chairs the Alabama Republican Party, come amid divisive battles over content and leadership in libraries around the state, often over books with LGBTQ+ themes or characters.

“I think the important thing here, and one of my priorities from the beginning, is that we protect children in the state of Alabama,” said John Wahl, the chair of the Alabama Republican Party and a member of the board who led the push for the changes. “No one should want a child to stumble across sexually explicit material in the children’s section of the libraries.”

Opponents say the new rules amount to censorship and that the language is too vague to determine what materials fall under the ban.

“The policies approved today by the state Public Library Service are a sequel that no one asked for,” said Read Freely Alabama, a group originally organized to oppose restrictive circulation policies in Prattville. “They are virtually identical to the harmful censorship policies that Prattville’s extremist-stacked library board imposed earlier this year on families who rely on the community’s public libraries.”

Under the new rules, libraries must develop a materials selection policy, addressing how minors “are safeguarded from sexually explicit material deemed inappropriate for children or youth.” They must have a policy outlining where books will be located or relocated if they are “sexually explicit or other material deemed inappropriate for children or youth.”

Libraries must also develop policies for obtaining advance approval for placing such materials in displays targeted to children. The rules leave it unclear who would approve the display materials. They must also have stated guidelines that ensure sections for children do not have materials that are obscene, sexually explicit or believed to be inappropriate.

Local policies must also bar the purchase of such materials for the collection and state that minors younger than 18 years old must have parental approval before borrowing materials designated for the adult section.

APLS is responsible for distributing funding allocated to libraries by the state. Ivey sent a letter to APLS Director Nancy Pack last fall  requesting that the organization condition library funding on them adopting “sensible” policies to allow parents to better supervise their children while visiting a library.

She also wanted libraries to affirm that they will respond to parents’ concerns regarding materials they believe are sexually explicit or inappropriate on library shelves. Ivey also wanted money allocated to the American Library Association to be subject to approval by a “relevant governing authority.”

The changes adopted Thursday by the APLS Board went even further and included several proposals that Wahl believed were necessary to mitigate confusion by the public, including the selection criteria for minors that should exclude sexually explicit materials.

Right-wing groups have been targeting content in libraries, particularly books reflecting the experiences of LGBTQ+ people. The battle over content at the Autauga-Prattville Library began last year when a parent complained that a book contained inclusive pronouns.

Critics say the restrictions reflect an attitude that the existence of LGBTQ+ people is in itself obscene. Lacie Sutherland, a former employee of the Autauga-Prattville Public Library who attended Thursday’s meeting,  said the guidelines allow the APLS to “basically act like Big Brother.”

“Just because you think talking about LGBTQ+ plus books is inappropriate doesn’t mean they are,” she said in an interview following the meeting. “You just have a very disgusting viewpoint about the existence of human beings.”

Ivey’s recommended changes to the administrative code sparked a public input process. APLS solicited feedback from the public for several months since that October letter from Ivey was received.

Outside groups suggested their own changes. The Alabama Library Association proposed a code that would direct libraries to adopt policies to deal with patrons and children who were unsupervised by adults, the location of materials as well as establish a display policy. The Eagle Forum, a right-wing organization, wanted further restrictions beyond what Ivey had suggested.

APLS hosted a public hearing April 30 where more than 100 people spoke, most in opposition to the rules. Another 6,000 letters were submitted. APLS said about 1,600 of them favored the changes recommended by the Alabama Library Association while another 2,179 aligned with the changes submitted by Eagle Forum. The rest were a smattering of recommendations.

“Everyone is clearly very sincere in their views,” said Ronald Snider, the chair of the APLS Board. “We don’t question the sincerity of what their positions are. I have said this before, all this dissension has hurt the libraries of this state generally, as evidenced by the cut in our funding.”

The APLS has a total budget of about $15 million in the Education Trust Fund budget, which passed the Legislature earlier this month. Most of that funding goes to outside programs. About $4.12 million goes to its operations. For this year, that figure is roughly $3.77 million, almost 9% less.

The Alabama Legislature cut $351,000 (9%) from the APLS’  2025 operating budget, bringing it to roughly $3.77 million. The House of Representatives originally cut the agency’s budget by $701,000, but the Senate reduced the reduction by half.

House Ways and Means Education Committee Chair Danny Garrett, R-Trussville, who oversaw the budget, said in April the cuts were not punitive and that the money would be allocated to Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and Better Basics, a Birmingham-based nonprofit that assists children with reading and math skills.

The allocation for the Imagination Library, under the Department of Early Childhood Education, increased by $250,000 in the final version of the ETF. Better Basics received $500,000.

The day began with a subcommittee meeting led by Wahl who introduced the proposed changes.

“It is time that we make sure Alabama libraries are safe for children in their children’s sections,” Wahl said. “I think we accomplished that today.”

Snider, who voted against the proposed amendments, abstained on a motion to change the administrative code. He noted that the Autauga-Prattville Library faced a lawsuit over restrictive policies it adopted earlier this year.

“We all are aware that the Prattville Library is now in litigation in federal court over the proposals they adopted that are substantially similar to what you have suggested,” Snider said to another board member, Amy Minton. “I would hate for the agency itself to be involved in litigation with respect to that.”

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Ralph Chapoco

Ralph Chapoco covers state politics as a senior reporter for States Newsroom. His main responsibility is the criminal justice system in Alabama.

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

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

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

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