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LGBTQ nonprofits are working harder than ever

This Pride Month, here’s how you can helpl Give Out Day is June 30th.

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If LGBTQ nonprofit organizations disappeared for even a single day, hundreds of thousands of LGBTQ people — especially the most vulnerable — would be cut off from  health care, shelter, food, safety, and community. Today, in the midst of COVID-19 and economic collapse, our community’s nonprofits are truly and profoundly more important than ever before. 

These organizations need our help. This Pride Month, we can all step up and support these organizations for Give OUT Day, the only national day of giving for the LGBTQ community. This year, over 475 LGBTQ nonprofits are participating, spanning nearly every state, D.C. and Puerto Rico, and working in every facet of queer life, from advocacy groups to community centers to performance troupes.

In the face of an unprecedented public health and economic crisis, we see these organizations working relentlessly to keep LGBTQ people healthy, delivering food to at-risk seniors and retooling their mental health services — in a matter of days — for our new world of physical distancing. We see them providing critical services, granting stipends to those who’ve suddenly lost income and finding housing for youth who are sheltered in place in abusive homes. 

As the pandemic forces many of us physically apart, these organizations are offering — virtually — a sense of community, holding online spaces for healing, performance, and connection, more important now than ever. 

And as protests over police brutality and systemic racism continue to grow, we see these organizations elevating Black LGBTQ voices, taking to the streets in allyship, and loudly joining calls for racial justice.

We also see how much these organizations need your help. In fact, in a survey of nonprofits by Charity Navigator and Reuters News, 83% of respondents reported that they are suffering financially due to the pandemic. 

That’s where Give OUT Day comes in — and just when it’s needed most. During all of Pride Month, until 11:59 p.m. EDT on Give OUT Day (June 30), all donations to participating nonprofits on giveoutday.org help these organizations do this critical work. But Give OUT Day donations go even further: The organizations that earn the most individual donors win additional prize grants that boost their impact.

Participating in Give OUT Day is a simple way to show your pride and make a difference. Here’s how you can take part:

  1. Right now, visit giveoutday.org/search to select which organizations you want to support. Click “donate,” and use the shopping cart to support multiple nonprofits in a single transaction.
  2. Go a step further and click “fundraise.” Launch a fundraiser for a favorite organization by using this toolkit, and maximize your impact by reaching out to your network.
  3. Whether or not you have the ability to donate, share giveoutday.org on social media to encourage your friends to give, especially on Give OUT Day, June 30.

Remember, though it looks different this year, Pride isn’t canceled. Show your pride by making a gift, starting a fundraiser, and sharing about Give OUT Day. You’ll support the LGBTQ community at a time of profound need — and unprecedented action.

 

Roger Doughty is the President of Horizons Foundation, the organizer of Give OUT Day. Celebrating its 40th anniversary, Horizons is the world’s first community foundation of, by, and for LGBTQ people.

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Kamala Harris: The down-ticket savior we needed

Vice president’s POTUS campaign will provide a significant boost

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Vice President Kamala Harris in Philadelphia (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

President Joe Biden not seeking re-election isn’t just good for Democrats looking to stave off a second Donald Trump presidency, but it’s good news for all the other candidates on the ballot who were at serious risk of millions of Democratic voters sitting out November altogether.

This unexpected, but much needed, turn of events has generated a wave of reactions across the nation, but one thing is clear: Vice President Kamala Harris’s entry into the presidential race is going to provide a significant boost to down-ticket races for the Democratic Party.

Before Biden’s delayed departure from the election, the Democratic Party was doing an excellent job at ignoring the increasing number of voters of all ages who were not willing to compromise their morals or values in November for Biden to vote in the lesser of two evils — which to them is still evil. From the administration’s handling of the Israel-Hamas War, immigration, the economy, and more — these Democrats were okay with dealing with the consequences of Biden losing understanding that they will struggle under Republicans, they will struggle under Democrats. No matter who is in office, they will struggle. Why should their conscience be in conflict as well? And that was before Biden’s “Weekend at Bernie”’s debate performance.

Biden staying on the ticket wasn’t just going to hurt our chances to keep the White House and democracy alive in the U.S., but it was going to hurt all the local and state candidates and propositions that had the luck of being on the same ballot had Democratic voters sat this one out.

Now, I am not really under the illusion that his decision not to seek re-election had anything to do with the millions of Democratic voters who were set to watch the chips falls where they may. I am pretty sure it had to do more with hard to have conversations about the millions of dollars that were not going to go to the Democratic Party had Biden stayed the course. And now that Harris is in and will be the presumptive nominee, the spigots are on again and the money is flowing. I haven’t seen this much excitement for a candidate since a then-Senator Barack Obama earned the nomination of the Democratic Party back in 2008.

Whether you like her or not, for millions of Democrats, Kamala Harris represents a new era of leadership, one that is more inclusive and reflective of America’s diverse population. Within 24 hours, her candidacy has galvanized a broad coalition of voters, including women, people of color, and young people. This renewed enthusiasm at the top of the ticket is going to have a ripple effect, energizing the base and increasing voter turnout, which is crucial for down-ticket candidates.

For states like California and counties like Los Angeles, the largest in the U.S., this is a game changer.

Californians have 11 ballot propositions on their November ballot. Among them, a controversial ballot proposition to repeal parts of Proposition 47 (Prop 47) and increase drug crime and theft penalties and allow a new class of crime to be called treatment-mandated felony, which gives offenders the option to participate in drug and mental health treatment.

Prop 47 was a ballot measure passed by California voters on in 2014 that made some non-violent property crimes, where the value does not exceed $950, into misdemeanors. It also made some simple drug possession offenses into misdemeanors and provided for past convictions for these charges to be reduced to a misdemeanor by a court. Under Prop 47, offenders qualified for a reduction from a felony to a misdemeanor for certain crimes including: certain forgeries, commercial burglary, petty theft with priors, bad check, grand theft crimes, possession of stolen property, and possession of a controlled substance.

Realistically, there is very little that could happen to keep California’s 54 electoral college votes from going to Harris — assuming she’s the nominee — a low voter turnout of Democrats would favor this conservative backed proposition.

Even though local races are “technically” nonpartisan in California, a similar fate was projected in the Los Angeles County’s district attorney race that sees progressive prosecutor Democrat George Gascón fighting to keep his job against former Republican turned No-Party-Preference Nathan Hochman. Hochman has been endorsed by at least six of the nine people (excluding Gascón) that he ran against during the primary. Setting the stage for a second showdown between Gascón and seemingly everyone else who was on the ballot during the primary and has now lined up behind Hochman.

Harris’s historic candidacy as the first Black and South Asian woman on a major party’s presidential ticket holds immense symbolic value. Her presence has already mobilized minority voters who feel underrepresented in the political arena. Increased turnout among these demographics can significantly impact races at all levels which is going to be especially key for progressive candidates like Gascón and criminal justice reform measures on the November ballot whom these voters are more likely favor.

President Biden’s decision to step aside has opened the door for Kamala Harris to lead the Democratic ticket and give us a fighting chance to avoid another Trump presidency. The announcement of Harris as the potential nominee has raised more than $81 million in the 24-hour period since Biden’s announcement.

Facts. Harris’s candidacy has energized the base, already mobilized key voter demographics, and strengthened the party’s overall electoral chances. As we move towards the election, Harris is going to be a powerful catalyst for important down-ticket races. She was just the lifesaving move that had to happen in order to bring the Democratic Party back to life because all races on the ballot with Democrats were going to suffer had Biden stayed on the ticket. Now, on to November.

Jasmyne Cannick is a Democratic strategist and elected delegate to the Los Angeles County Democratic Party.

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Joe Biden, our fiercest ally

Outgoing president leaves powerful legacy for LGBTQ equality

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President Joe Biden (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

President Biden bowed out of the presidential race on Sunday after weeks of pressure following his debate performance in June. He leaves a long record of support for the LGBTQ community as a key part of his powerful legacy and he has raised the bar for future presidents when it comes to fighting for our community. 

We’ve never had a fiercer ally in the White House — a president who pledged to make LGBTQ rights his top legislative priority and described anti-transgender discrimination as the “civil rights issue of our time.” He has celebrated Pride month with us each year as well as the Trans Day of Visibility and taken criticism from the right for it. He includes us in the State of the Union Address and other high-profile speeches. 

Young voters mustn’t get complacent; such sentiments from a sitting president are not the norm. Biden’s leadership on LGBTQ equality means the next Democratic president has big shoes to fill. Vice President Kamala Harris would certainly continue Biden’s work toward equality, specifically by pushing for passage of the Equality Act, which Biden backed and which passed the House but died in a Senate filibuster in 2021.

Biden has changed the game in myriad ways, especially when it comes to LGBTQ inclusion in federal appointments. The country has never had a Senate-confirmed openly LGBTQ Cabinet member before (no, Ric Grenell doesn’t count as he was not confirmed). Pete Buttigieg’s tenure as Transportation Secretary has seen its challenges, but he has proven himself a capable, polished executive unafraid of taking on Fox News antagonists. As the Victory Fund noted this week, “LGBTQ+ people have received a record number of federal appointments, including Cabinet members, judges, and around 14% of the administration.” In addition to Buttigieg, he appointed Dr. Rachel Levine as the first out transgender person to hold an office that requires Senate confirmation. And Biden made more history, naming Karine Jean-Pierre, a Black lesbian, as his press secretary.

It’s outrageous that it took until 2021 for an out Cabinet secretary and thanks to Biden, we can look forward to many more.

Biden also led in advocating for marriage equality, endorsing the idea days before his boss President Obama in 2012 and just six months before the election. It was a bold and brave move that even LGBTQ advocates discouraged. As president, Biden fought successfully to preserve marriage equality in the increasingly likely event that the historic Obergefell ruling is overturned by our discredited MAGA Supreme Court. The Respect for Marriage Act ensures that the federal government and all U.S. states and territories must recognize same-sex and interracial marriages. Biden signed it and held a massive event on the White House lawn bringing together hundreds of LGBTQ advocates from around the country for a truly joyful celebration of the landmark legislation. 

In a historic move just last month for Pride, Biden pardoned veterans who were discharged from the military because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. 

“This is about dignity, decency, and ensuring the culture of our Armed Forces reflect the values that make us an exceptional nation,” he said.

Biden began his term on Jan. 20, 2021, and on that very day, issued an expansive executive order detailing workplace protections for LGBTQ Americans and prohibiting discrimination in education, credit, health care, and housing. And every month since, his administration has ushered in one pro-LGBTQ initiative after another, a list too long to fully recap here. Biden isn’t finished advocating for us. On Aug. 1, new Title IX rules go into effect protecting LGBTQ students from discrimination by expanding existing civil rights law.

It’s a staggering record of support and the LGBTQ community owes Biden and his team a tremendous debt of gratitude. Biden will be remembered fondly and revered by history for taking down Donald Trump, rebuilding our economy, leading us out of a pandemic, and for showing future presidents how to fully embrace and empower the LGBTQ community. He has more than earned our thanks — and a long, healthy retirement in Rehoboth Beach.

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

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Hurricane Beryl: The need for an LGBTQ-inclusive disaster response in the Caribbean

Category 5 storm devastated southern Windward Islands, Jamaica

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Hurricane Beryl damage on Union Island in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. (Screen capture via Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation/YouTube)

Editor’s note: Outright International has allowed the Washington Blade to republish this op-ed from its website.

On the heels of the Fourth International Conference on Small Island Developing States held in Antigua and Barbuda in May 2024, Caribbean countries are confronted with a historic event. Described as the earliest Category 5 hurricane to develop in the Atlantic, Hurricane Beryl tore through the Caribbean during the first week of July 2024. Hurricane Beryl caused catastrophic damage in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada, and Jamaica, as well as varying degrees of damage in St. Lucia and Barbados. Hurricane Beryl follows an increased number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes in the region, the most recent being Category 4 Hurricane Ian (2022), Category 5 Hurricane Dorian (2019), Category 5 Hurricane Maria (2017), and Category 5 Hurricane Irma (2017), and Category 5 Hurricane Matthew (2016). These hurricanes resulted in the loss of lives, displacement, disruption in livelihoods, destruction of vegetation and infrastructure, uninhabitable areas, and grave economic loss. For lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people in the Caribbean, climate-related disasters exacerbate the vulnerabilities and pre-existing inequalities that they face.

Survival and viability of Caribbean islands threatened

Caribbean countries are experiencing the effects of climate change (Caribbean Community Climate Change Center, 2021). Climate change is predicted to increase the frequency of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes in the region by 25-30 percent (U.S. Agency for International Development, 2018). As indicated by the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, Category 4 and 5 hurricanes cause the most devastating impacts. The “increased frequency and ferocity of extreme weather events,” as evidence of the “rapid and adverse impacts of climate change,” represent the “greatest threats to the survival and viability” of small island states in the Caribbean (Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, 2018, p. 83United Nations Fourth International Conference on Small Island Developing States, 2024, para 27.)

USD billion in damages

The financial toll of these disasters is distressing. The International Monetary Fund highlights that the Caribbean is “the most exposed region to climate-related natural disasters, with estimated adaptation investment needs of more than $100 billion, equal to about one-third of its annual economic output” (IMF, 2023). Despite this vulnerability, the Caribbean receives minimal private climate financing (IMF, 2023). The Caribbean has the highest average estimated disaster damage as a ratio to GDP globally, with some instances of damage exceeding the size of the economy (IMF, 2018). For example, Hurricane Maria resulted in $1.2 billion in damages to Dominica, totaling 226 percent of GDP (IMF, 2021). Hurricane Dorian resulted in $3.4 billion in damages to the Bahamas (estimated at 25-30 percent of GDP) (Inter-American Development Bank and Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, 2022).

LGBTQ people are among those who are disproportionately impacted

LGBTQ people in the Caribbean continue to struggle with an unrealized vision of equality (Myrie, 2024). They are among the most marginalized in the region. They often experience discriminationeconomic and societal exclusionviolence, and the threat of violence, mainly due to the criminalization of same-sex sexual relations and the stigma associated with being LGBTQ. 

As a consequence of Hurricane Beryl, affected LGBTQ people in the Caribbean face increased housing and food insecurity, disruption in economic livelihoods, reduced access to community support structures, and increased exposure to harassment and violence. Recognizing the exacerbated vulnerabilities of LGBTQ people does not mean that they are at a greater risk of experiencing climate-related disasters. Rather, it is about appreciating that “in times of crisis those most marginalized tend to suffer disproportionately compared to the broader population” (Outright International, 2020). Further, where societal discrimination is strong, LGBTIQ people may have to conceal their sexual orientation or gender identity to remain safe, making their suffering invisible to those providing assistance (Outright International, 2024). 

In the post-disaster context, LGBTQ people in the Caribbean may experience “discrimination in accessing emergency and social protection services and in emergency shelters” and “challenges integrating into their communities and earning a livelihood” (UN Women Caribbean, 2022). In the Bahamas, for example, post-Hurricane Dorian, some displaced LGBTQ persons were reluctant to stay in shelters for fear of violence. For those with sufficient resources, Hurricane Dorian was a catalyst for them to migrate (Internal Displacement Monitoring Center, 2020). 

In Haiti, LGBTQ people grappled with a heightened sense of insecurity during and after the 2010 earthquake. They reported being blamed for the earthquake and were at an increased risk of harassment and violence (International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission and SEROvie, 2011). Lesbians and bisexual women reported incidences of sexual violence and corrective rape, while gay and transgender men reported harassment and denial of access to healthcare, housing and food (IGLHRC and SEROvie, 2011). Affected LGBTQ persons shared that the earthquake “decimated the already limited physical spaces, social networks and support services available to them” (IGLHRC and SEROvie, 2011). 

Although LGBTQ people in the Caribbean tend to be disproportionately impacted in the response to their “recovery, reconstruction and livelihood needs and experience “poor recovery outcomes,” they are “largely absent from climate and mobility strategies in the Caribbean” (Bleeker et al., 2021).

Meaningful inclusion of LGBTQ people is necessary for an effective and equitable disaster response

International, regional, and local stakeholders must secure the meaningful inclusion of LGBTQ people in the Caribbean for an effective and equitable disaster response. This can be achieved by ensuring that LGBTQ people actively contribute to the planning processes and are engaged in all stages of the disaster management cycle. Meaningful inclusion allows for the full appreciation of the unique vulnerabilities of those affected and is critical for humanitarian actors to respond to their needs effectively. There must also be adequate safeguards to eliminate increased security risks and protect against discrimination, particularly in the provision of services and the distribution of resources. 

Finally, “to ensure that the humanitarian sector does not reinforce or generate new forms of discrimination and harm, humanitarian actors must approach relationship-building with LGBTIQ organizations with sensitivity and commitment to safety, security, and confidentiality,” centering local knowledge and the voices of those most in need of life-saving assistance (Outright International, 2024).

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Trump and DeSantis threaten to decimate LGBTQ rights

There is an urgent need for state-level protections

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By Sean Ebony Coleman
As the nation gears up for the upcoming Republican National Convention in Milwaukee, where former President Donald Trump is expected to secure the nomination, the future of LGBTQ+ rights hangs in the balance.

Recent polls indicate Trump pulling ahead of President Biden, making the prospect of a second Trump administration increasingly plausible. Nowhere is this concern felt more acutely than among transgender individuals, who currently face significant implications from the existing Trumpist “Don’t Say Gay” policies spreading across conservative state legislatures.

2024 has already seen a record number of anti-trans policies introduced. As I write this, 112 anti-trans bills are currently active, potentially joining the 47 policies passed this year. Politicians are continuously attempting to restrict healthcare access, athletic participation, bathroom rights, and the overall safety of our transgender siblings.

The rise of Governor Ron DeSantis in Florida, largely on the back of his anti-LGBTQ+ crusade and expansive bans on gender-affirming care, drag shows, and books with gay characters, show us just how dangerous these “policies” are when used by a populist politician. The 2024 ban on trans athletes in New York’s Nassau County also proved that these policies can take shape even in the bluest states.

President Trump’s campaign, built on the rhetoric of tradition and “safety” for children, seeks to further codify violence against transgender folks into law beyond what we’ve already witnessed this year. While some have claimed the former president is more sympathetic to the LGBTQ+ community than others in his party, with one former cabinet official calling Trump the “most pro-gay president in American history,” we know the truth. Don’t be fooled.

His official GOP platform seeks to criminalize gender-affirming care for minors and affirms exclusion for transgender individuals in sports. The rhetoric used creates a permissive environment for both subtle and overt aggressions, enabling gender policing and demonization to occur on a larger scale.

The proposed Project 2025 details another level of harm, outlining the administration’s plans to enforce policies that target the community. This blueprint includes measures to erase LGBTQ+-inclusive language in federal agencies, impose a complete ban on transgender servicemembers in the military, and disregard the Supreme Court’s Bostock v. Clayton County decision, which extended Civil Rights Act protections to cover sexual orientation and gender identity.

The consequences of these policies are dire. Project 2025 will empower the most extreme factions within Trump’s circle to reverse decades of progress, fostering an atmosphere of hostility and discrimination. If enacted, these policies will strip away essential protections and endanger lives, especially those living at the intersection of other systemic biases.

As we take stock of the current political climate leading up to the election, it becomes increasingly clear how vital state-level protections are for vulnerable individuals. These protections serve as a crucial safeguard against potential threats posed by federal policies, particularly if the Trump administration secures another term. State policymakers must carefully deliberate on their strategies and readiness to counteract any adverse impacts on civil rights and marginalized communities.

Sean Ebony Coleman (Photo by Desmond Picotte)

I urge all states, regardless of their political leaning, to address the pressing issue of unchecked harassment happening within their boundaries. This includes taking proactive measures to ensure the safety and well-being of all civilians, regardless of their background or identity. Even the most progressive states, like California and New York, should reevaluate how to enforce protective policies for all individuals within their jurisdictions. By doing so, states can play a pivotal role in upholding fundamental rights and combating discrimination across the nation.

For examples of ways that lawmakers can support our community, I’d encourage people to look to the U.S. Congress. In 2023, Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) proposed a Trans Bill of Rights. The bill amended the 1964 Civil Rights Act to include gender identity as a protected status and lays out the rights to bodily autonomy, communal safety, and free expression for trans individuals. While this bill stalled in a narrowly divided House and Senate, control of Congress is a “jump-ball” in 2024. We must ensure voters know that this issue is on the ballot.

As a Black transgender man and lifelong advocate, I have witnessed both the strides and setbacks in our journey toward equality. When we opened the doors to our first LGBTQ+ community center, there were no LGBTQ+ health centers, and many community residents viewed our efforts with skepticism. Now, with three centers operating in the Bronx, Atlanta, and Washington D.C., I can confidently say our team has been embraced by our friends and neighbors, illustrating the power of grassroots efforts and community building. But as far as we’ve come, we still have so much more to do to ensure every member of the LGBTQ+ community is afforded the rights and safety granted to our cisgender peers.

In light of the challenges ahead, it is more important than ever for states to reaffirm their commitment to progressive and inclusive values. By enacting strong legislative protections and standing firmly against regressive policies, we can send a clear message that LGBTQ+ rights are human rights and must be defended at all costs.

As we face the prospect of Project 2025 and the potential return of a Trump administration, let us honor our history and continue to fight for a future where all individuals are treated with dignity and respect. This is an opportunity for states and policymakers to reclaim our nation’s role as a beacon for progressive values across the world.

Sean Ebony Coleman is CEO and founder of national LGBTQ nonprofit Destination Tomorrow

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Bed-wetting Dems jumping the gun on Biden

The debate was terrible but it doesn’t mean Trump is inevitable

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President Joe Biden (Screen capture via CNN)

President Biden’s disastrous debate performance last week predictably brought the usual bed-wetting and panicking among Beltway Democrats.  

Yes, the debate was bad and only reinforced many Americans’ concerns about Biden’s mental fitness and ability to do the rigorous job of president into his mid-80s. It’s clear that Biden’s supporters and staff were keeping him away from press conferences and interviews due to their private concerns about his ability to perform. That was a grave mistake. The American public deserves regular access to their president. More press conferences, interviews, and even, perhaps, a competitive primary would have given voters more chances to see Biden up close without the aid of edits or Teleprompters. As the New York Times noted, by this point in his presidency, Barack Obama had given 570 news conferences, Donald Trump had given 468, while Biden gave just 164.

But let’s take a beat and remember a few key factors.

Donald Trump delivered a disastrous debate performance, too, and is nearly as old as Biden. Trump has offered up a bewildering flurry of mental slips, verbal gaffes, and outright nonsense that should alarm everyone. 

When CNN’s Dana Bash asked Trump during the debate if he would do anything to address the climate crisis, his reply included this gem: “We had H2O” during his presidency. Huh? If Biden had said that, Fox News would run it on the hour for a week.

Frankly, I don’t care if Biden made a poo-poo in his pants during the debate. The alternative is a twice-impeached wannabe autocrat who is awaiting sentencing on 34 felony counts. Trump’s Project 2025, which he predictably and falsely denies knowing anything about, would be a war on women, the LGBTQ community, immigrants, and pretty much anyone who isn’t a white, cis, heterosexual, Christian male. His election would spell the end of our democracy as we know it with Trump and his allies vowing to expel career civil servants by the tens of thousands and replacing them with MAGA loyalists. Trump would round up, imprison, and deport hundreds of thousands of immigrants. Yes, the return of kids in cages. How quickly we forget. He would likely get two more Supreme Court picks following the expected retirements of Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas, giving Trump a 5-4 MAGA majority, a truly terrifying prospect.

You can just imagine the Trump toadies who would be members of his Cabinet; think Stephen Miller and Steve Bannon, who just reported to prison for contempt of Congress. 

Before you count Biden out, remember that he has surprised us before. His campaign was all but dead until Rep. Jim Clyburn endorsed him in the 2020 race, propelling him to the Democratic nomination over two-dozen opponents. He went on to defeat an incumbent president, never an easy feat, and send Trump packing. 

He skillfully navigated the Jan. 6 crisis. He has since delivered stellar off-the-cuff performances during State of the Union addresses. He expanded NATO and has led the fight against Putin, something that Trump would surely abandon. 

Biden spearheaded, passed, and signed landmark legislation on infrastructure, marriage equality, and gun reform. He championed the American Rescue Plan to finally end the pandemic after more than 1.1 million American deaths under Trump. He signed the CHIPS Act, which has triggered nearly $300 billion in manufacturing investments by American companies. He promised to sign the bipartisan immigration bill authored by right-wing Republican Sen. James Lankford that was derailed only because Trump instructed the sycophantic Mike Johnson to kill it. Biden rejoined the Paris Climate Accords, issued executive orders on abortion, and pardoned all federal offenses for simple marijuana possession. The list goes on. These are not minor achievements, especially given our divided government and divided electorate. Many of these accomplishments came despite predictions that Biden would be a weak president incapable of overcoming division to get anything substantive done. 

By any measure he has been a great president who inherited a disastrous economy, record deficits, and COVID. 

Given this outstanding record, it’s disappointing that gay Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) joined a handful of House Democrats in calling on Biden to withdraw. That was premature. Biden deserves a chance to reset and address the questions about his mental acuity. And if polls are to be believed, all of the battleground states remain within the margin of error so it doesn’t appear the debate proved as disastrous as many first assumed.

If Biden decides to drop out, it should be his decision and it’s unlikely that those few House Democrats will have any influence over it. If he doesn’t drop out, we must all double down to ensure he wins and that the Democrats hold the Senate and retake the House. The country, and our LGBTQ community, can’t afford another Trump term. 

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

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Vote Democratic or July 4, 2025 will look very different

Biden’s debate performance was bad but the sky is not falling

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(Blade file photo by Michael Key)

As we celebrate the founding of our country, we must recognize the election on Nov. 5 could dramatically change how our country looks in the future. We can debate whether Joe Biden is the best candidate for Democrats on the ticket, but reality is, whoever the Democratic candidate is, they must defeat Donald Trump. Trump is a racist, sexist, misogynistic, homophobic pig who was found liable for sexual assault and convicted of 34 felonies. A man who spouts lies every time he opens his mouth. A man who uses Hitler’s words, and said he will be a dictator on his first day in office. A man who said he will seek retribution on any opponent, using the Department of Justice and IRS to do his dirty work. 

Yes, President Joe Biden had a disastrous debate, and many pundits are calling for him to step down as the candidate. They are having a field day doing so, because none of them are involved in the process that would follow. None of them mention the two times in recent history, Democratic presidents chose to not run for a second term, Lyndon Johnson and Harry Truman, a Republican won. This time the Republican alternative is the disgusting, evil, Donald Trump. Even the New York Times editorial board, when calling for Biden to step aside as a candidate, wrote, “If the race comes down to a choice between Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden, the sitting president would be this board’s unequivocal pick. That is how much of a danger Mr. Trump poses.”

The simple truth is Biden feels he can win, and won’t step aside. The only person who could convince him to do so, is his wife, Jill Biden, and she has shown she will not do that. She reminds me a little of Nancy Reagan, who protected her husband when he had issues with cognition. 

What all Americans need to understand, is no American president makes decisions on their own, without massive consultation with advisers. They don’t meet foreign dignitaries alone, but with advisers. And President Biden has shown he has the most incredible group of advisers around him, maybe with the exception of those who prepared him for this debate. 

I have loads of questions for them. If President Biden had a cold as claimed, why didn’t they tell him to begin his first statement of the debate with an apology to the audience. Something like, “I want to take a moment to apologize to the TV audience on how my voice is today, and how it will sound to you. I have a severe cold and will sound raspier, and slower, but of course feeling a little ill would not keep me from being here today.” It could have changed the tenor of the debate. It would not have excused his poor performance, but may have given people a few thoughts in his favor. Then there was the closing two minutes. How is it possible the president wasn’t coached on ending the debate with the issues he has said he believes will win for Democrats: abortion, climate change, and saving democracy? The debate prep team kept him cloistered for a week; seems they could be sued for malpractice. 

Again, it was a disastrous debate for President Biden. But then rather than what the pundits are saying, grassroots Democrats are responding with money. The Biden campaign reported Saturday that it raised $27 million on Thursday and Friday. The hour after the debate ended was its best grassroots fundraising hour since Biden kicked off his reelection campaign, per the Hill

So contrary to the all the pundits, the sky is not falling. Yes, there is a lot more work to do than before the debate. But the focus for all Democrats, and all decent people, must be to ensure we don’t reelect Trump, because of what he would do to our country. How his election would change us. How if he did what he says, and tries to return all decisions on just about everything, to the states, it is not only women who must be scared. It is Blacks, the LGBTQ+ community, every minority; and young people who will live longest with the results of doing nothing to ameliorate climate change. They should all be very scared.

So happy 4th and here’s to hoping Americans are smart enough to vote correctly, and ensure July 4, 2025 will be just as happy. 

Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

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LGBTQ people deserve freedom, a sense of home, and belonging

Latoya Nugent found refuge in Canada after fleeing Jamaica

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Latoya Nugent, center, at the March for LGBTQ+ Rights in Toronto on May 16, 2024. (Photo courtesy of Rainbow Railroad)

Seven years ago, my fight for queer liberation in notoriously homophobic Jamaica culminated in a violent and brutal unlawful arrest and detention. This was the peak of decades of persecution due to my sexual orientation and work as a queer human rights defender and activist. It completely broke me and silenced me. I suffered severe emotional trauma, from which I am still recovering years later. 

Following that life-threatening arrest, I became a shell of who I once was. I cut off communication with my community for several years, unable to face my fear of the police and the hostility of the world around me. 

In 2022, I was one of the 9,591 at-risk LGBTQI+ people who reached out to Rainbow Railroad for help. Through the organization’s Emergency Travel Support (ETS) program, which relocates at-risk LGBTQI+ people and helps them make asylum claims in countries like the U.S., I resettled in Canada where I’ve been living safely with dignity and pride. 

This Pride Month, I’m reflecting on what it means to be safe. Who has access to safety and why others are excluded from it. What is our collective role and responsibility in expanding safety for our queer and trans communities, especially those in the over 60 countries that criminalize LGBTQI+ people? 

Safety means different things to different people depending on our experiences and journeys. For me, it’s the difference between suffering and thriving, feeling worthless and worthy, and feeling hopeless and hopeful. It is the difference between displacement and belonging. 

Rainbow Railroad recently released a report that examines the state of global LGBTQI+ persecution, drawing on data from 15,352 help requests spanning 100+ countries. This report is significant for several reasons, chief among them is the reality that no other organization or government captures the breadth and depth of data on LGBTQI+ forced displacement, perpetuating the invisibility of queer individuals in humanitarian responses. The report is an important contribution to the discourse on the intersection of queer identity, LGBTQI+ persecution, forced displacement, and humanitarian protection systems. 

Of all the data and insights uncovered in the report, I was most struck by one statistic — 91 percent of at-risk LGBTQI+ individuals relocated through the ETS program reported an improved sense of personal safety. This statistic is particularly personal to me because ETS was the only relocation option accessible to me in 2022 when I reached out to Rainbow Railroad for help. 

I am in that 91 percent because I am now thriving. I feel worthy. I am hopeful about life. And I belong. 

Today, among the 120 million forcibly displaced people around the world, queer and trans individuals face compounded complications from homophobia and transphobia while trying to access protection and safety. And while the anti-gender movement continues to swell in some states, I firmly believe that the U.S. remains a global leader in refugee resettlement — which is why the U.S. government must uphold its international obligations and reverse its recent executive order that imposes severe restrictions on the right to seek asylum. 

Queer and trans individuals deserve freedom, a sense of home, and belonging — realities that flourish only when rooted in the bedrock of safety. 

There is a lot more work to be done. It’s challenging. It’s complex. It’s costly. But I have experienced firsthand what the transformative impact of Rainbow Railroad’s work has on someone’s life — that ability to lift people out of danger into safety is something worth celebrating this Pride. 

Latoya Nugent is the head of engagement for Rainbow Railroad.

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Commentary

As fewer anti-LGBTQ bills pass, the fight gets harder

A growing indifference to suffering that is baked into the legal system

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(Photo by Proxima Studio/Bigstock)

BY RYAN THORESON | In recent years, advocates have faced an unprecedented avalanche of anti-LGBTQ legislation each spring. In 2024, however, the onslaught seems to have faltered somewhat. While hundreds of anti-LGBTQ bills were once again introduced, as many state legislative sessions draw to a close, fewer bills have been enacted into law.

While that may seem like cause for celebration, it’s also cause for concern.

To be sure, the slowdown in anti-LGBTQ legislation is welcome. Beginning in 2020, legislation targeting transgender rights in particular had sailed through state legislatures, with the number and scope of hostile bills increasing each year. Unlike earlier years when one or two prominent anti-LGBTQ bills triggered a national pushback that often chastened lawmakers, hundreds of bills have been introduced during legislative sessions in the last four years, often with little debate or scrutiny, and dozens of them zealously passed into law.

Those bills do real damage when they are enacted, cutting LGBTQ people off from material benefits like health care and domestic violence sheltersrecognition by the state, and equal participation in public life. Even when they fail to become law, they have devastating effects on the mental health of LGBTQ people, throwing their lives into disarray and sapping valuable time and energy from LGBTQ communities. This especially affects children, with more than 90 percent of LGBTQ young people in a recent Trevor Project survey reporting that politics had negatively affected their personal well-being.

But the recent slowdown, far from being a positive signal, may well reflect a growing indifference to the suffering of LGBTQ people that is now baked into the political and legal system. Opponents of LGBTQ rights have normalized hostile rhetoric and enacted draconian laws that seemed unthinkable just a couple of years ago, and even ardent supporters of equality find themselves unsure how they might reverse state laws that unapologetically strip away LGBTQ rights.

If anything, it has become apparent that the damage that has been done since 2020 will most likely reverberate for a generation, and the past year shows that restoring and advancing LGBTQ rights will be a painstaking endeavor.

And one sobering reason for the slowing pace of anti-LGBTQ legislation is that, at this point, many conservative states have already stripped away important rights, particularly for transgender children. As of 2024, half of the states in the U.S. prohibit transgender girls from playing school sports, and half have banned or criminalized at least some forms of medically indicated healthcare.

Put differently, lawmakers aren’t targeting some rights this year because they’ve already eviscerated them.

Yet even as the pace of legislation slows, critical rights continue to be stripped away. According to the ACLU, more than 30 anti-LGBTQ bills have been enacted in 2024 — fewer than the 84 enacted in 2023, but still far too many. Among them, Utah and Mississippi restricted transgender people from accessing bathrooms and locker rooms in public schools and other government buildings.

Lawmakers in Ohio overrode the governor’s veto to ban transgender children from receiving gender-affirming care or playing sports consistent with their gender identity. South Carolina and Wyoming similarly enacted blanket bans preventing transgender children from accessing gender-affirming care.

Many of the bills that have been introduced this year sought to expand existing anti-LGBTQ legislation in new ways. Alabama, for example, successfully expanded its bathroom ban from K-12 schools to colleges and universities. Even those that didn’t pass are in many cases likely to be reintroduced after the 2024 election, particularly if anti-LGBTQ lawmakers increase their showing in state legislatures or if governors who are supportive of LGBTQ rights are no longer positioned to veto hostile legislation.

In many states with anti-LGBTQ legislation, administrative and regulatory agencies are being used to curtail LGBTQ rights even further. Florida offers an instructive example. Even after years of anti-LGBTQ legislation, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles took things a step further within its mandate, and decided in 2024 that transgender people could no longer update the gender marker on their driver’s licenses. This echoes recent regulatory crackdowns elsewhere in the United States, from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services investigating parental support for transgender children as child abuse to school boards across the country stripping away lifesaving resources in schools.

And while many believed that courts would provide a bulwark against discriminatory legislation and regulations, in part because of strong Supreme Court precedent to suggest that anti-transgender discrimination is a form of sex discrimination, that has not consistently been the case. Trial courts have largely found in favor of transgender litigants, criticizing the insufficient justification and discriminatory purpose of anti-transgender laws, but some appellate courts have nevertheless allowed the laws to take effect.

Perhaps most alarming, there are advocates and lawmakers who, if in a position to do so, are eager to carry out an even harsher attack on LGBTQ rights. Project 2025, which a group of conservative organizations has drafted as a roadmap for a second Trump administration, promises an even more draconian attack on LGBTQ rights. This would include rolling back existing nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people, reinstating the transgender military ban, and codifying state restrictions on transgender rights at the federal level, in addition to limiting recognition of same-sex relationships.

The anti-LGBTQ backlash may be waning in certain respects — but in other ways, it has only just begun. As we celebrate Pride, LGBTQ people and their allies should be mindful of the need to support those communities whose rights are being eroded, invest in transgender rights organizing, demand that lawmakers prioritize LGBTQ rights, and fight for the independent institutions and protections for basic freedoms that are essential to hold power to account.

Ryan Thoreson is a specialist on LGBTQ rights at Human Rights Watch and teaches at the University of Cincinnati College of Law.

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Commentary

Lawsuits won’t matter if democracy is lost

Be part of the megaphone that helps voters understand what’s at risk

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The New York Times has a column headlined, “The Resistance to the Trump Administration has Already Started.” It reveals, “A sprawling network of Democratic officials, progressive activists, watchdog groups and ex-Republicans has been taking extraordinary steps to prepare for a potential second Trump presidency, drawn together by the fear that Mr. Trump’s return to power would pose a grave threat not just to their agenda but to American democracy itself.” They are preparing lawsuits for any eventuality. What they are preparing for is the second column in the Times headlined, “If Trump Wins.”

It is because of the second column the time has come for all those in the elite groups who are part of the ‘sprawling network,’ and many others, to come out of their ivory towers, and take to the streets to spread the message across the nation about what happens when democracy dies. They need to do this NOW! Despite what some think, even those groups registered as a 501(c)3 in the tax code, can get involved in politics, just not for any one candidate. They can, and must, speak out and educate voters on what will happen to their rights if Donald Trump wins. While they may not tell people to vote for Joe Biden, they can make it clear what will happen if they stay home and don’t vote, simply by telling them the truth, based on Donald Trump’s words, and the words of his supporters. Tell them what he and his sycophants are saying, what they are preparing to do. Be part of the megaphone that helps voters understand, and then trust them to do the right thing. I trust they will, if they hear, and understand, the truth.

While I can say “Vote for Biden,” a 501(c)3 organization, like some of those the Times writes about, cannot. I ran organizations with that tax status and still went up to Congress and educated staff and members. I would talk about the pros and cons of the bills being considered. I would explain what the implications of a bill were for their constituents, and then let them decide how to vote. Not saying any organization should be as bad as the evangelical pastors whose churches exist under the same tax laws, and get away with actually telling their flock who to vote for. But they must stop thinking, they can’t get out in the community and speak out. 

Preparing their lawsuits for the possibility Trump could win, is fine. Actually, if God-forbid he wins, there will be time from Nov. 5-Jan. 20 to work on them. But stopping Trump from winning by explaining in plain English to the voters why you are doing this, and what could happen to their rights, is an equally, if not more important, use of time prior to the election. Let’s face facts. If Trump is elected, and gets to appoint more judges, all the lawsuits could lose. It will be too late to do much, if our democracy is lost. Trump and his sycophants, his MAGA cult, will laugh you out of court. 

Every one of us needs to spend the next 18 weeks before Nov. 5 reminding voters to listen to what Trump, and his people, are saying and planning — and believe them. They are evil. He has said he will be a dictator. He has said he will use the DOJ to seek revenge against anyone he perceives has wronged him. He said he would have the IRS go after those he doesn’t like. He quotes Hitler. All those lawsuits will lose to that. It’s time for everyone to get their hands dirty, and get in the game. Time to get down in the mud and educate the American people before it’s too late. Those who the Times writes about are smart, and have the ability to explain why they are preparing. Tell the American people what they need to know now, so in essence, all legal preparation won’t have to be used. Do it so the results of the election on Nov. 5 will allow for those legal briefs being diligently prepared, to join Trump and his acolytes, in the dustbin of history. 

I can promise anyone who does this will go down in history as someone who helped save democracy and not just someone who thought they could have an impact after it was lost.

Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

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Viewpoint

We are proud of who we are. No law can take that away from us

Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act signed in 2023

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

For close to two decades now, I have witnessed the never-ending brutality and stigmatization of key populations, not only in Uganda but across the global Black community.

For too long, LGBTQI+ people in Uganda and across the African continent have been subject to discrimination, social exclusion, and prosecution, which restricts their access to jobs, health care, and much more. 

A toxic concoction of prejudice and legislation, including Uganda’s 2023 Anti-Homosexuality Act (AHA), has driven the LGBTQI+ community underground.

In Uganda today, LGBTQI+ people are less likely to seek out necessary, lifesaving services like HIV prevention and treatment. Drug users are regularly denied necessary harm reduction treatments. Sex workers are routinely targeted for assault and extortion by clients and by the police. 

Throughout the continent, marginalized communities are contending with intersecting forms of discrimination based on socioeconomic class, gender identity, and sexual orientation.

And so, the cycles of poverty and marginalization roll on, health inequities widen, HIV and other illnesses can spread, and mental health and general well-being suffer.

We founded the Uganda Key Populations Consortium (UKPC) in 2018 to put a stop to all this — to challenge draconian laws like the AHA and advocate for equity and equality for key populations. 

Back then, so many of us didn’t have a home — a place where we could sit together and say: This is what we, as a people, need and stand for. 

UKPC brings together LGBTQI+ people and people from other key populations to express themselves, learn and build community. We work with partners to create safe spaces — drop-in centers — across the country, where our community can connect, access health services, and make their voices heard. 

Thanks in large part to these drop-in centers, we saw a huge increase in the number of people starting antiretroviral therapy, using HIV self-testing tool kits and taking steps to prevent sexually transmitted infections.

We also establish strong relationships with civil society, nongovernmental organizations, and government partners that support us and our work to serve our community, despite constant challenges.

Today, all our work is under threat.

The AHA encourages violent abuse and discrimination against my community. A recent report paints a grim picture: since the AHA was passed, Uganda’s LGBTQI+ community has suffered 434 evictions and banishments, 309 incidents of violence, 92 recorded instances of mental health distress, and 69 arrests. 

The law also threatens people supporting LGBTQI+ communities and those providing or seeking basic health services.

Our community organizations have closed dozens of drop-in centers, shutting down a critical link between individuals and their peers — not to mention essential mental and physical health care. We have diverted much-needed funds to make our offices and meeting places safe and secure. We can’t be sure that reaching people online is safe, and that their data and identities will be protected.

Still: we are fighting back. I am fighting back. Our community is fighting back.

Changing the status quo will require more work and support. We need partners like the Global Fund and its Breaking Down Barriers initiative, because those programs empower communities to lead — and give us a voice. They also give us a platform for collective action, to continue working against the violence and hatred that, some days, feels inescapable. 

When communities come together, change is possible.

Pride is a moment to celebrate — and to protest. Every June, I take a moment to close my eyes and focus inward, to honor myself and the community that made me. To think about what we’ve accomplished, and the work still left to do. This year is no exception.

We are proud of who we are. No law can take that away from us.

Richard Lusimbo is the founder and director general of the Uganda Key Populations Consortium, and a longtime LGBTQI+ and human and health rights activist. UKPC is a partner of the Global Fund’s Breaking Down Barriers initiative, which aims to reduce human rights-related barriers to health.

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