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Pelosi on National Pulse Memorial, Maloney on Pride (video)

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America is lurching into a new era. Though Donald Trump desperately clings to the racist confederate heritage he reveres, the pulse of a newly awakened generation, more empathic, more colorful and more demanding is coursing through the country.

And helping guide the transition to a more enlightened civilization is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is also ensuring the inclusion of the LGBTQ community that is otherwise overshadowed by momentous events.

Friday, June 26, the fifth anniversary of marriage equality since the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges. The historic decision was noted by some, though most of the media focused on the coronavirus pandemic and the police reform and anti-racist revolution underway since the murder of George Floyd by a white Minneapolis police officer.

But Pelosi, a decades-long LGBTQ ally, remembered on Twitter and though a House statement, noting the work that still remains:

“Five years ago, our nation made a historic step toward fulfilling the promise of equality and justice for all when the Supreme Court unequivocally declared that marriage is right of all people, regardless of who you are or whom you love.  Today, the love and commitment of countless LGBTQ couples and families enriches and strengthens our communities and honors our nation’s most fundamental values.

 

“As we mark this momentous anniversary, we also celebrate the recent Supreme Court victory, affirming the right of all LGBTQ individuals to live free from discrimination in the workplace.  Despite this great progress, the LGBTQ community still endures a relentless assault on their rights from the Trump Administration and widespread discrimination and violence throughout the country, particularly trans women of color who are face disproportionately high rates of homelessness, sexual assault, HIV and murder.

 

That is why, over a year ago, House Democrats took bold action to pass the landmark Equality Act to finally and fully end discrimination against the LGBTQ community, not just in the workplace but in every place.  Now, Leader Mitch McConnell must abandon his outrageous, partisan obstruction and allow the Senate to vote on this critical legislation.

 

“In honor of this important day, we must remain vigilant in defense of the rights and dignity of the LGBTQ community.  Together, we can confront the discrimination that continues to undermine our democracy as we work to build a brighter, more just and equal future for the LGBTQ community and all Americans.”

But more solemnly, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi took to the House Floor to deliver remarks in support of H.R. 3094, legislation to designate the National Pulse Memorial, four years after the mass shooting at the gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

“Pulse was a peaceful haven where young LGBTQ Americans could enjoy music, dancing, celebration knowing they were in a sanctuary of safety and solidarity.  Pulse was a monument to joy, a tribute to resilience and pride born out of the grief that Barbara Poma experienced after losing her brother, John, to AIDS.  That was her motivation for starting this.  May the grief that we experience now, at the loss of 49 who were murdered, move us to turn our pain into purpose,” Pelosi said.

“Shortly after the horrific act of hatred at Pulse, I had the solemn privilege of traveling to Orlando and meeting with survivors and families who had lost loved ones.  Their message to the Congress was – to a person that I met with there – was: ‘Please, do something to stop gun violence,’” she continued.  “Yet, painfully, since that tragic night, the horror that we saw in Orlando has been replicated in countless other communities across the country.  In too many places the epidemic of gun violence has killed too many innocent people and left too many families suffering unimaginable pain and loss.”

“Four years later, four years after Pulse, our grief remains raw, but our resolve to end the deadly scourge of gun violence and hatred – discrimination, that’s what it was about too – remains unwavering, strengthened by the memories of those who are lost to gun violence: 49 souls here, so many others,” Pelosi said. “Inspired by the spirit of hope that we celebrate during Pride month, especially this weekend, let us never relent in our mission to end the horror of gun violence once and for all, and end discrimination against anyone in our community.” (See her full remarks and video below)

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney of New York took the occasion of delivering the Weekly Democratic Address to discuss and celebrate Pride Month “and the critical legislation passed by House Democrats to ensure equality for the LGBTQ community, people of color and all Americans, including the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act and the Equality Act.” (See his full remarks below)

“Remember, we celebrate Pride in June to commemorate the Stonewall Inn riots from June 1969, which happened when police raided that Greenwich Village hangout, a normal thing back then, and brutalized the peaceful patrons for no other reason than they were Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender.  But that night was different.  The people fought back, and that changed everything,” said Maloney. “Every year since, even in the darkest days of the AIDS crisis, LGBTQ people and our allies have grown stronger and marched on.  Now, 51 years after Stonewall, the riots and marches have become parades and parties, but at its core, Pride Month commemorates a moment when brave men and women said enough and demanded equality.  People like me stand on the shoulders of those pioneers, and we must pick up their torch and carry it forward for ourselves and for all oppressed communities.”

Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

Thank you, Madam Speaker.  I thank the gentleman for yielding.  And I thank you and him for making this important memorial possible for us today.

 

Can I have the photos?  Set the photos?

 

I rise to solemnly join my colleagues to honor the 49 beautiful souls murdered four years ago in an unfathomable act of hatred and bloodshed at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

 

Thank you, Congressman Soto.  Thank you, Madam Speaker, for giving us this opportunity of observing, and for being a voice for peace and healing for all those affected.

 

Pulse was a peaceful haven where young LGBTQ Americans could enjoy music, dancing, celebration knowing they were in a sanctuary of safety and solidarity.  Pulse was a monument to joy, a tribute to resilience and pride born out of the grief that Barbara Poma experienced after losing her brother, John, to AIDS.  That was her motivation for starting this.  May the grief that we experience now, at the loss of 49 who were murdered, move us to turn our pain into purpose.

 

This poster is all of them, but sometime after the terrible tragedy we stood on the steps of the Capitol holding individual – their individual pictures.  And, at that time, we said we will never forget.  And thank you for giving us the opportunity to keep that promise, to turn pain into purpose.

 

Shortly after the horrific act of hatred at Pulse, I had the solemn privilege of traveling to Orlando and meeting with survivors and families who had lost loved ones.  Their message to the Congress was – to a person that I met with there – was: ‘Please, do something to stop gun violence.’

 

Yet, painfully, since that tragic night, the horror that we saw in Orlando has been replicated in countless other communities across the country.  In too many places the epidemic of gun violence has killed too many innocent people and left too many families suffering unimaginable pain and loss.

 

As one of the first actions of our Majority, last year, the House took action to end the bloodshed by passing H.R. 8 and H.R. 1112.  H.R. 8, so designated because it had been eight years since the assault on the life of our colleague, Gabby Giffords.  She survived.  She is doing remarkable things in terms of trying to end gun violence.  But other people died, including a 9-year-old child.  Hence H.R. 8, because it was eight years since.  And then, H.R. 1112, Mr. Clyburn’s legislation to address what happened in South Carolina.

 

485 days, nearly 500 days later, we continue to urge the Senate to take up this legislation, supported broadly: Democrats, Independents, Republicans, gun owners, hunters, many of whom have had to pass background checks in order to have their guns and to enjoy their sport and protect themselves.  They are not against background checks.

 

Across the country, this has broad support, nonpartisan support.  And yet, in the Congress of the United States, there is resistance to that safety of simply commonsense background checks.  And it isn’t – it isn’t as if we were starting something new.  This is just an expansion of the background checks that already exist to include gun shows and online sales, etcetera, just an extension.

 

I remind my colleagues that, on average, 100 people die every day from gun violence.  And let me restate: it has been almost 500 days since the House passed those bills and the Senate has failed to take them up.  Almost 500 times 100 a day, you see the consequences.  Not that all of them would have been saved, but many would have.  And many have been saved since the original background check legislation passed.

 

Four years later, four years after Pulse, our grief remains raw, but our resolve to end the deadly scourge of gun violence and hatred – discrimination, that’s what it was about too – remains unwavering, strengthened by the memories of those who are lost to gun violence: 49 souls here, so many others.

 

Inspired by the spirit of hope that we celebrate during Pride month, especially this weekend, let us never relent in our mission to end the horror of gun violence once and for all, and end discrimination against anyone in our community.

 

With that I, again, commend Mr. Soto, you, Madam Speaker, and urge a yes vote, and yield back the balance of my time.  Thank you.”

Below is a full transcript of Sean Patrick Maloney the address:

“Hello, I’m Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney, and it is my honor to represent New York’s 18th Congressional District in the Hudson Valley.  I am also proud to be New York’s first openly gay Member of Congress.

 

“Each June, the LGBTQ community and our allies come together to celebrate Pride Month.  Pride is different this year, but its fundamental promise has never been more important.

 

“Remember, we celebrate Pride in June to commemorate the Stonewall Inn riots from June 1969, which happened when police raided that Greenwich Village hangout, a normal thing back then, and brutalized the peaceful patrons for no other reason than they were Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender.  But that night was different.  The people fought back, and that changed everything.

 

“Every year since, even in the darkest days of the AIDS crisis, LGBTQ people and our allies have grown stronger and marched on.  Now, 51 years after Stonewall, the riots and marches have become parades and parties, but at its core, Pride Month commemorates a moment when brave men and women said enough and demanded equality.  People like me stand on the shoulders of those pioneers, and we must pick up their torch and carry it forward for ourselves and for all oppressed communities.

 

“Just a few days ago the Supreme Court ruled that Americans cannot be fired simply because of sexual orientation or gender identity.  Millions of Americans in dozens of states where no protection existed can now legally fight back if they are fired because of who they are or who they love.  That’s reason to celebrate.

 

“Last year, the Democrats in the House, under the leadership of Speaker Pelosi, passed the Equality Act.  This landmark bill would finally protect LGBTQ people in the same way we protect all other minority groups in employment, education, access to credit, jury service, federal funding, housing and public accommodations.  No more, no less.  Simple equality.  But like so many other important bills passed by the Democratic House, this legislation is still sitting on Mitch McConnell’s desk.

 

“So, we still have work to do.  We must keep pushing and marching until all vulnerable LGBTQ people – our youth who’ve been rejected, our international brothers and sisters who face brutal persecution, our transgender neighbors, particularly trans women of color who face an epidemic of violence – until all of us are equal and free.

 

“Yes, this Pride is different.  There are few parades or parties, but we are still marching.  This time we’re protesting police brutality against people of color.  That’s the spirit of Stonewall.

 

“You know, my husband Randy and I celebrated our wedding anniversary this week.  We could legally marry just a few years ago, of course, but we’ve been together for 28 years.  Today, we celebrate the fifth anniversary of Obergefell v. Hodges, the historic ruling that delivered marriage equality to the United States.  It’s a beautiful thing when your country catches up to you.  Randy and I have raised three kids together, Reiniel, Daley and Essie.  We all joined the vigils and protests following the murder of George Floyd this month because, for us, demanding that Black Lives Matter is a powerful way to celebrate Pride Month.

 

“And this week, those of us in the LGBT Equality Caucus joined our colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus in casting our votes for the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.  This is the living embodiment of what Pride Month truly means.  You see, Pride Month isn’t something disease or violence can diminish or defeat.  Pride is the strength of people who come together across all our lines of difference to say, enough.  We want better – we want the promise of America for ourselves, for our families and for everyone.

 

“Thanks for listening, and Happy Pride!”

U.S. Federal Courts

Federal Court upholds Washington state ban on conversion therapy

NCLR successfully moved to intervene in the lawsuit on behalf of Equal Rights Washington– the state’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organization

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The William Kenzo Nakamura United States Courthouse for the 9th Circuit, Seattle, WA. (Photo by Joe Mabel)

SEATTLE — The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on Monday rejected a therapist’s request for the court to reconsider its previous decision upholding the State of Washington’s law protecting minors from conversion therapy by licensed health professionals.

Conversion therapy is a dangerous and discredited practice that attempts to change a minor’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Washington prohibited licensed mental health professionals from subjecting minors to conversion therapy in 2018, as more than 20 other states have also done.

Last September, the ninth circuit wrote:  “In relying on the body of evidence before it as well as the medical recommendations of expert organizations, the Washington Legislature rationally acted by amending its regulatory scheme for licensed health care providers to add ‘performing conversion therapy on a patient under age eighteen’ to the list of unprofessional conduct for the health professions.”

“The Ninth Circuit has affirmed that states can require licensed mental health providers to comply with ethical and professional standards prohibiting the use of unnecessary, ineffective, and harmful treatments on their minor patients,” said Shannon Minter NCLR Legal Director. “These are common sense protections that unfortunately are necessary to prevent unethical therapists from defrauding parents and causing severe harm to LGBTQ youth. Every major medical and mental health organization in the country supports these laws, which are supported by decades of research and clear standards of care.”

“We applaud the Ninth Circuit for permitting states to protect survivors like myself from the unethical practice of so-called ‘conversion therapy,” which has wreaked havoc on thousands of LGBTQ youth and their families,” said Mathew Shurka, a “conversion therapy” survivor and co-founder of Born Perfect. 

In 2018, Washington passed a law prohibiting state-licensed therapists from engaging in conversion therapy with a patient under 18 years old. Every leading medical and mental health organization in the country has warned that these practices do not work and put young people at risk of serious harm, including depression, substance abuse, and suicide. Twenty-five states and over 100 localities have laws or administrative policies protecting youth from these practices or preventing the expenditure of state funds on conversion therapy.

In 2021, an anti-LGBTQ legal group filed a federal lawsuit challenging the new law on behalf of Brian Tingley, a “therapist” and advocate of “conversion therapy”.

Tingley, who is represented by the Scottsdale, Arizona-based anti-LGBTQ Alliance Defending Freedom, (ADF), identifies himself as a “Christian licensed marriage and family therapist”  and alleges in the court filings that the provided definition of “conversion therapy” is “vague, content-biased, and biased against one perspective or point of view.”

 The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) successfully moved to intervene in the lawsuit on behalf of Equal Rights Washington (ERW) – the state’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organization and a primary supporter of the law during the legislative process. ERW and the State of Washington urged the court to uphold the law in light of the overwhelming consensus of medical and mental health professionals that conversion therapy poses a serious risk to the health and well-being of Washington’s youth. In August 2021, the federal district court for the Western District of Washington upheld the law and rejected Tingley’s challenge.

In September 2022, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision, ruling that state laws protecting minors from conversion therapy by licensed health professionals are constitutional. Tingley then asked the full Ninth Circuit to order the September decision to be reconsidered by a larger panel of Ninth Circuit judges. Today, the court rejected that request. 

The court’s order means that the September 2022 panel decision upholding the Washington law will be the Ninth Circuit’s final decision in the case.

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State Department

Rainbow Railroad participates in new US refugee resettlement program

State Department announced Welcome Corps on Thursday

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A flyer from the U.N. Refugee Agency in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, on Jan. 29, 2019, advises migrants who are fleeing violence, persecution, war or discrimination have a right to apply for refugee status. Rainbow Railroad is participating in a new State Department program that will allow American citizens to help refugees resettle in the U.S. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

WASHINGTON — A group that works with LGBTQ+ and intersex refugees and asylum seekers will participate in a State Department program that will allow American citizens to help refugees resettle in the U.S.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday announced Welcome Corps, which a senior State Department official noted will allow Americans to “form private sponsor groups to support refugees and help them integrate into American society as thriving members of their local communities.” Another senior State Department official told reporters the program in its first year hopes to “mobilize at least” 10,000 Americans “to step forward as private sponsors and offer a welcoming hand to at least” 5,000 refugees.

Rainbow Railroad is among the organizations with which the State Department has partnered to help implement the program. The Organization for Refuge, Asylum and Migration is also participating in Welcome Corps.

“We are excited to see the impact of this program, which will empower communities of care — LGBTQI+ Americans supporting LGBTQI+ refugees. This program will help at-risk LGBTQI+ people get to safety across the United States,” said Rainbow Railroad in a press release. “As an organization with extensive experience and expertise in private sponsorship, including in Canada, Rainbow Railroad was proud to be a consultative partner in the development of this new U.S. program, advocating for a model that will support LGBTQI+ persons at risk.”

“We are excited to be recognized as a private sponsorship organization by the U.S. consortium which is going to be operating this private sponsorship program,” added the organization. “This is an important moment for global LGBTQI+ rights and the advancement of refugee support in the United States, and we look forward to the opportunity to get more at-risk LGBTQI+ people to safety through this new program.”  

Rainbow Railroad in 2022 helped resettle LGBTQ+ and intersex refugees from Afghanistan, Ukraine, Russia and more than 30 other countries. President Joe Biden in 2021 signed a memo that committed the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ+ and intersex rights abroad as part of his administration’s overall foreign policy.

The White House earlier this month announced the creation of a humanitarian parole program for Cubans, Haitians and Nicaraguans that officials said combines “safe, orderly and lawful pathways to the United States, including authorization to work.”

Cubans, Haitians and Nicaraguans through a U.S. Customs and Border Protection app “can seek advance authorization to travel to the United States and be considered, on a case-by-case basis, for a temporary grant of parole for up to two years, including employment authorization, provided that they: Pass righrous biometric and biographic national security and public safety screening and vetting; have a supporter in the United States who commits to providing financial and other support and complete vaccinations and other public health requirements.” The Biden administration also announced it will expand the use of “expedited removal” of Cubans, Nicaraguans, Haitians and Venezuelans who enter the U.S. from Mexico without legal authorization. 

Immigration Equality and the Organization of Refuge, Asylum and Migration are among the myriad organizations that sharply criticized the White House over its expanded use of “expedited removal.” 

The Biden administration has sought to end Title 42, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rule that closed the Southern border to most asylum seekers and migrants because of the pandemic, but Texas and more than a dozen other states filed a lawsuit. The U.S. Supreme Court last month ruled the Trump-era must remain in place. Oral arguments are expected to take place in the case next month. 

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Congress

George Santos: Same-sex parents undermine the family unit

“They’re teaching kids don’t need a mommy and a daddy, you can can have two mommies and two daddies. That’s an attack on the family unit”

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U.S. Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) (Official U.S. House Portrait)

WASHINGTON – Two years ago, embattled gay Republican Rep. George Santos (Ny.) told the host of a conservative YouTube show that same-sex couples and parents are harmful to children and undermine the family unit.

Children who are raised by single parents or gay and lesbian couples tend to grow up “troubled,” Santos said during the hour-long interview on “Indivisible with John Stubbins.” Clips from the conversation were excerpted and shared Thursday on Twitter by Patriot Takes.

“The family unit has been under attack for decades in different ways,” Santos told Stubbins. “The flavor of the decade is same-sex couples. They’re teaching in schools that kids don’t need a mommy and a daddy, you can can have two mommies and two daddies. That’s an attack on the family unit.”

“I think that’s a little much for kids,” the congressman added.

According to the show’s YouTube page, “Indivisible” “endorses” My Pillow founder and far-right conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell and has a modest 3,690 subscribers. The video featuring Santos’s interview earned six likes and no comments.

Also on Thursday, Reuters reported claims by former acquaintances that Santos was a drag performer in his native Brazil 15 years ago. Despite the online circulation of photos appearing to show the congressman dressed in drag, Santos tweeted that the reports were untrue.

The matter earned significant media attention given Santos’s far-right positions on LGBTQ issues, consistent with comments from his interview on “Indivisible,” as well as his allyship with the most extreme anti-LGBTQ members of the House GOP Caucus.

Conservative Republicans, including these lawmakers, have increasingly attacked drag events and performances, accusing hosts and participants of harming children or facilitating the sexual abuse or exploitation of minors.

Meanwhile, Santos has been buffeted by a host of other scandals, beginning with reporting last month that revealed the congressman fabricated practically everything about his life and identity.

He also faces investigations by multiple law enforcement agencies over allegations of financial malfeasance and violations of campaign finance laws.

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Maryland

Wes Moore, first Black Governor of Maryland sworn in Wednesday

“We’re always going to fight to ensure Maryland’s a state open & welcome to all, regardless of who you are, regardless of who you love”

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Maryland Governor Wes Moore (Photo via Twitter)

ANNAPOLIS – Maryland’s new governor Wes Moore was sworn into office on Wednesday.

Moore, who defeated then-state Del. Dan Cox (R-Frederick County) last November, is Maryland’s first Black governor. Lieutenant Gov. Aruna Miller is the first woman of South Asian descent elected lieutenant governor in the country.

Moore and Miller will succeed Republicans Larry Hogan and Boyd Rutherford respectively. Oprah Winfrey is among those who attended Wednesday’s inauguration that took place at the State Capitol in Annapolis.

“In the state of Maryland, anything is possible,” said Moore in his inaugural speech. “Today is a celebration of our collective future.”

Moore during a pre-election interview with the Washington Blade expressed his support for LGBTQ rights.

“I care deeply about the LGBTQ+ community,” he said. “And we’re always going to fight to ensure that Maryland is a state that is open and welcome to all, regardless of who you are, regardless of who you love.”

Moore told the Blade that he will enforce the Inclusive Schools Act that, among other things, bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in Maryland’s public schools. Moore in his inaugural speech specifically mentioned the need to protect the state’s LGBTQ students.

Moore last October told the Blade he will urge lawmakers to support the Trans Health Equity Act, which would expand coverage of gender-affirming health care for transgender Marylanders under the state’s Medicaid program.

Moore has appointed Anthony Woods, an openly gay U.S. Army veteran who was discharged under ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ in 2008, as head of the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs. 

“The thing that people will see is that this is not just a new thing to me,” Moore told the Blade. “We have a track record on working on these issues, whether it is the work I did on the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ whether it is the work I did when I was running one of the largest poverty-fighting organizations in the country, and supporting organizations that were supporting LGBTQ plus homeless youth.”

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Illinois

Homophobe with hammer attacks LGBTQ owned bar in Chicago

“Hate has no home here, & we’re not afraid. We love our neighborhood. We work with local police, locally elected officials. We feel safe”

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R Public House/Twitter

CHICAGO – A man wielding a hammer and shouting homophobic slurs at customers smashed a glass entrance door to the LGBTQ owned R Public House, located 1508 W Jarvis Ave in Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood, Monday night.

The R [pronounced ‘our’] Public House is a community-driven bar and grill that welcomes everyone and as an anchor business in the neighborhood has established a reputation for providing goodwill for the diverse and queer friendly population of Rogers Park.

WLS-TV ABC News 7 reported the incident started during happy hour, about 5:40 p.m. Monday afternoon, when an unknown masked man approached a man and a woman as they were getting out of their car near the bar & grill.

A Chicago police spokesperson said that the masked suspect then began yelling homophobic slurs and threatening them before walking away and shortly returning to follow them into the bar. Corey Rolon, an employee of R Public House, told WLS ABC 7: “He walked in, started calling them some like anti-gay slurs, and they were like, ‘just leave, man – just get out of here,’ and then he took out a hammer and started bashing everything.”

Renee Labrana and Sandra Carter, the lesbian couple who have owned R Public House for a decade spoke to multiple media outlets about the incident.

“It’s very frustrating and disconcerting because we live in this neighborhood because it’s so diverse, and we love that about the neighborhood,” Labrana said. “So you tend to forget that there’s people that hate you out there just for who you love. And it makes me really angry that we even have to think about it.”

Carter said the incident was jarring for patrons, some of whom were left running out the back door with the manager as the man started shattering the window.

“They weren’t sure if it was gunshots,” she said. “And knowing the horrific hate crimes that have happened in different bars, it was scary.”

“It hits you in the pit of your stomach. It really does. And these things shouldn’t matter. Love is love. I don’t know how many other ways we can say that,” Labrana said.

The pair said the community is already rallying around them, and that love is stronger than hate.

“Hate has no home here, and we’re not afraid. We love our neighborhood. We work with local police, locally elected government officials. We feel safe,” Carter said.

No arrests have been made in the case. Local NBC News owned WMAQ-TV  NBC 5 noted:

The Chicago Police Department reported 177 hate crimes last year, by far the most in at least 11 years, according to city records. The Rogers Park police district has recorded the second-most hate crimes over that period, and anti-LBGTQ incidents have been the most common citywide.

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Wisconsin

Wisconsin Republicans block conversion therapy ban

Republican legislators say they object on procedural grounds

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Wisconsin Capitol (Photo Credit: Library of Congress)

MADISON – An effort to outlaw conversion therapy in Wisconsin was blocked for the second time on Thursday by a group of four Republican members of a state legislative committee.

In 2020, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers banned the dangerous and scientifically discredited practice via occupational licensing requirements for therapists, social workers and counselors.

The Republican controlled legislature responded by temporarily blocking the ban, doing so again on Thursday with all six GOP members voting against their Democratic colleagues.

Twenty states along with the District of Columbia have banned conversion therapy for minors, as it is inconsistent with clinical practice guidelines governing evidence based care, ineffective at changing a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, and tends to cause long term psychological harm.

The practice is often considered fraudulent and has been described as torture.

“It’s disappointing that the very first move the GOP is going to make this legislative session is to green-light abusive practices against children,” State Sen. Kelda Roys said.

Republican Wisconsin legislators contend their objection is rooted in the fact that the examining board in the Department of Safety and Public Standards does not have the authority to enforce the conversion therapy ban.

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Congress

Speaker McCarthy stands by George Santos

McCarthy said Santos has a “long way to go to earn trust” and acknowledged the scepter of an investigation by the House Committee on Ethics

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GOP Rep. George Santos (Ny.) (Official U.S. House of Representatives portrait)

WASHINGTON – Asked whether he would urge GOP Rep. George Santos (Ny.) to resign, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told reporters the congressman is “part of the Republican conference,” having been duly elected to represent New York’s Third Congressional District.

At the same time, McCarthy said Santos has a “long way to go to earn trust” and acknowledged the scepter of an investigation by the House Committee on Ethics pursuant to a complaint filed by Democratic New York Reps. Ritchie Torres and Daniel Goldman.

Reporting over the past several weeks has revealed the congressman lied about practically every element of his biography and identity, while multiple law enforcement agencies have initiated investigations into his and his campaign’s finances.

On Wednesday, more than a dozen elected Republican officials from his district and surrounding areas demanded Santos’s immediate resignation.

Nevertheless, the freshman congressman has been defiant. During his first few days in office, Santos tried to dodge Capitol Hill reporters, but more recently he has vocally and publicly dismissed calls for him to step down.

McCarthy’s comments were echoed by other Republican House leaders, like Majority Leader Steve Scalise (La.), who said: “Obviously, you know, we’re finding out more, but we also recognize that he was elected by his constituents.”

House GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (Ny.) said “It will play itself out,” noting that, “There have been members of Congress on the Democrat side who have faced investigations before.”

Other Republican members of the House, however – New York Reps. Nick LaLota, Nick Langworthy, Brandon Williams, Anthony D’Esposito, Marc Molinaro, and Mike Lawler, as well as South Carolina Rep. Nancy Mace and Ohio Rep. Max Miller – have demanded Santos’s resignation.

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Virginia

Virginia bill would force school staff to out transgender students

HB 1434 would require schools to notify parents if they are trans & prevent trans kids from being acknowledged as who they are in school

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Virginia State Del. Tara Durant (R-Fredericksburg) (Photo via Twitter)

RICHMOND – Virginia state Del. Tara Durant (R-Fredericksburg) on Monday introduced a bill that would require school personnel to notify a student’s parents if they are transgender.

House Bill 1707 would require “any person licensed as administrative or instructional personnel by the Board of Education and employed by a local school board who, in the scope of his employment, has reason to believe, as a result of direct communication from a student, that such student is self-identifying as a gender that is different than his biological sex to contact, as soon as practicable and in accordance with board guidelines, at least one of such student’s parents to ask whether such parent is aware of the student’s mental state and whether the parent wishes to obtain or has already obtained counseling for such student.” 

The Fredericksburg Republican who is running for the Virginia Senate introduced HB 1707 two days before the Virginia General Assembly’s 2023 legislative session begins.

State Del. Karen Greenhalgh (R-Virginia Beach) has introduced a bill that would ban trans athletes from school sports teams that correspond with their gender identity. State Del. Jason Ballard (R-Giles County)’s House Bill 1434 would ban “any school board member or school board employee from changing the name of a student enrolled in the local school division on any education record relating to such student unless the member or employee receives a change of name order for such student that was issued in accordance with relevant law.”

Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin last September announced his plans to revise guidelines for trans and nonbinary students that his predecessor, Democratic Ralph Northam, signed in 2020. The Virginia Department of Education has not announced when the proposed changes will take effect.

State Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas), who is the first openly trans woman elected to a state legislature in the U.S., on Tuesday told the Washington Blade during a telephone interview that HB 1707 would forcibly out trans students. The Manassas Democrat who is also running for the state Senate further noted HB 1434 would “prevent trans kids from being acknowledged as who they are in school.”

“This is what happens when straight people, never in their lives, have worried about being outed to other people,” said Roem.

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Congress

Attorney expects Santos FEC complaint will deadlock

New York Democratic Reps. Ritchie Torres and Daniel Goldman have filed a complaint against Santos to the House Committee on Ethics

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Rep. George Santos (R-Ny.) seated with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) (Screen shot via CSPAN)

WASHINGTON – An attorney with the group that filed a complaint to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) on Monday against Republican Rep. George Santos (Ny.) said the FEC is unlikely to pursue an investigation or bring any enforcement action against the congressman or his campaign.

“There are at least 3 commissioners who are ideologically opposed to enforcing campaign finance law,” Campaign Legal Center Senior Vice President and Legal Director Adav Noti told The Washington Blade by phone on Tuesday.

With a four-vote majority of the FEC’s six sitting commissioners required to open an investigation, “the working assumption has to be – for every FEC complaint, no matter how egregious – that at least 3 commissioners will block an investigation,” Noti said.

Noti previously served at the FEC in the Office of General Counsel, as associate general counsel for policy, and in the Litigation Division, where he argued cases before federal district and appellate courts as well as the U.S. Supreme Court, including the landmark 2010 case Citizens United v. FEC.

Notwithstanding what may happen at the FEC, Noti told The Blade the Santos case is unlike anything he had ever seen, in multiple respects.

Per the Campaign Legal Center’s complaint, Santos and his 2022 campaign committee, Devolder-Santos for Congress, stand accused of engaging “in a straw donor scheme to knowingly and willfully conceal the true sources of $705,000 that Santos purported to loan to his campaign; deliberately reporting false disbursement figures on FEC disclosure reports, among many other reporting violations; and illegally using campaign funds to pay for personal expenses, including rent on a house that Santos lived in during the campaign.”

Some of these allegations, which sometimes result in prosecutions, happen, unfortunately, “with some regularity,” Noti said. “But I cannot think of another situation where a successful candidate turns out to have fabricated his entire campaign apparatus.”

Sometimes, candidates will falsify the source of the money they received to fund their campaigns, and other times they will conceal how they spent those funds, but “I can’t think of another instance where every dollar that went into a campaign and a significant portion of the dollars that were spent by that campaign appear to be fictitious, or just made up,” Noti said.

Looking at the money that was funneled through the campaign, even if assuming that the dollar amounts that were reported were accurate, “we don’t know where it came from, and we know where almost none of it went,” Noti said.

Unfortunately, however, “Even in the highly unlikely event that the FEC does conduct an investigation or [pursue an enforcement action], it would take years,” Noti said, adding that slow-rolling the process is another means by which the commissioners can prevent the agency from enforcing the law.

Nevertheless, Santos is in potential legal jeopardy. Investigations of the congressman have reportedly been opened by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office, and the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James.

On Tuesday, New York Democratic Reps. Ritchie Torres and Daniel Goldman filed a complaint against Santos to the House Committee on Ethics.

Noti said the Justice Department’s case would be a criminal probe into Santos’s possible violations of campaign finance laws, but otherwise the FEC has sole jurisdiction over these matters, so other legal actors are likely looking into other types of financial malfeasance by the congressman.

The FEC will typically wait for the resolution of a criminal probe initiated by the U.S. Attorney’s Office before proceeding with a complaint, Noti said. “If the DOJ starts investigating, they’ll tell the FEC, and then the FEC will wait for the criminal investigation to conclude.”

Either way, “I would be shocked if [Santos] were not seeking legal counsel,” Noti said, adding that he might have a difficult time finding an attorney to represent him.

Santos has been under fire for weeks after media reports revealed the congressman had lied about virtually every aspect of his life, career, and identity.

With respect to his treatment of campaign finance laws, “What he did was intentionally deprive the public of the information that voters are entitled to before they decide who to vote for,” Noti said.

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U.S. Federal Courts

Federal Judge rules West Virginia can ban trans youth sports

“The legislature’s definition of ‘girl’ based on ‘biological sex’ is substantially related to equal athletic opportunities for females”

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Becky Pepper-Jackson (Photo credit: ACLU/Raymond Thompson)

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Goodwin for the Southern District of West Virginia ruled last Friday that the ban on transgender athletes competing in female school sports that the state’s Gov. Jim Justice signed into law in 2021 is constitutional.

“I recognize that being transgender is natural and is not a choice,” Goodwin wrote in his decision. “But one’s sex is also natural, and it dictates physical characteristics that are relevant to athletics.”

The ruling came in the lawsuit challenging the ban filed by Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of West Virginia and Cooley LLP on behalf of then 11-year-old Becky Pepper-Jackson, the plaintiff in the lawsuit.

When the suit was filed, Josh Block, senior staff attorney with the ACLU LGBTQ & HIV Project said: “Becky — like all students — should have the opportunity to try out for a sports team and play with her peers. We hope this also sends a message to other states to stop demonizing trans kids to score political points and to let these kids live their lives in peace.” 

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey applauded the decision Thursday.

“This is not only about simple biology, but fairness for women’s sports, plain and simple,” the attorney general said. “Opportunities for girls and women on the field are precious and we must safeguard that future.”

NPR and the Associated Press reported the plaintiff’s lawsuit did not challenge whether schools should be allowed to have separate sports teams for males and females, and Goodwin was tasked with determining whether the Legislature’s definition of the terms “girl” and “woman” is constitutionally permissible. The Save Women’s Sports Bill signed by Republican Gov. Jim Justice says they mean anyone assigned the female gender at birth.

“The legislature’s definition of ‘girl’ as being based on ‘biological sex’ is substantially related to the important government interest of providing equal athletic opportunities for females,” Goodwin determined.

The judge also rejected the plaintiff’s claim that the state law violated Title IX, the landmark gender equity legislation enacted in 1972.

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