Connect with us

National

‘I don’t know if I will make it’

Coronavirus puts ICE detainee with HIV at even more risk

Published

on

An American flag flies in front of a privately-run U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center in the Southeast U.S. on July 31, 2020. A person with HIV who remains in ICE custody says he is afraid he will die from the coronavirus. (Washington Blade photo by Yariel Valdés González)

A person with HIV who is in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody says they are afraid the coronavirus will kill him.

“With my condition, God forbid, if I get coronavirus, I don’t know if I will make it,” the ICE detainee told the Los Angeles Blade on July 29 during an interview.

The detainee has been in ICE custody at a privately run detention center in the Southeast since last October. The detainee is originally from a country in Africa with laws that criminalize people with HIV and members of the LGBTQ community.

The detainee asked the Blade not to identify them by name to protect their privacy. They also requested the Blade not identify the country from which they originate and the facility in which they remain in ICE custody because of fear of retaliation and any potential impact their decision to speak publicly could have on their asylum case.

“It would be a death sentence if I were sent back home,” said the detainee.

The detainee told the Blade there have been coronavirus cases in their detention center, including a man from India who tested positive before his scheduled deportation.

“They were taking him out to deport him,” said the detainee. “They closed our unit down for a month.”

The detainee said there are 96 detainees in his unit. They told the Blade that ICE quarantined them after another detainee tested positive for the coronavirus.

“We were not able to leave the unit,” they said.

They told the Blade that staff brought food to the unit when it was locked down. The detainee said they are now able to access the yard for an hour a day.

‘It’s not safe’

ICE on its website notes as of Monday there were 908 detainees with confirmed coronavirus cases.

There were 21,888 people in ICE custody as of July 31. Statistics on ICE’s website note 21,085 detainees have been tested as of July 31.

Immigration Equality and Lambda Legal are among the advocacy groups that have demanded ICE release detainees with HIV because of the pandemic.

ICE in April released four men with HIV who had been detained at privately run detention centers in Louisiana and Arizona. ICE in the same month also released Iván and Ramón, two Cuban men with HIV represented by Immigration Equality and Lambda Legal, from a privately run detention center in Texas.

“We are relieved that Iván and Ramón don’t have to spend one more day in the dangerous conditions of ICE detention, terrified of contracting COVID-19,” said Immigration Equality Legal Director Bridget Crawford after their release.

A federal judge in California has ordered ICE “to identify and track all ICE detainees with risk factors” and consider whether they should be released.

Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf in April said ICE would consider the release of detainees who are at increased risk for the coronavirus on a “case-by-case basis.” An ICE spokesperson a few weeks after Wolf’s comments said their agency had released upwards of 700 detainees “after evaluating their immigration history, criminal record, potential threat to public safety, flight risk and national security concerns.”

ICE in March suspended in-person visitation at its detention centers. ICE in previous statements says it continues to provide detainees with soap for showering and handwashing, sanitizer and masks.

“The health, welfare and safety of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainees is one of the agency’s highest priorities,” says ICE on its website. “Since the onset of reports of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), ICE epidemiologists have been tracking the outbreak, regularly updating infection prevention and control protocols, and issuing guidance to ICE Health Service Corps (IHSC) staff for the screening and management of potential exposure among detainees.”

“ICE continues to incorporate CDC’s COVID-19 guidance, which is built upon the already established infectious disease monitoring and management protocols currently in use by the agency,” adds ICE. “In addition, ICE is actively working with state and local health partners to determine if any detainee requires additional testing or monitoring to combat the spread of the virus.”

Illinois Congressman Mike Quigley in June told the Blade that ICE is “ignoring” social distancing guidelines from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and not providing “protective gear or hygiene products” to detainees. The detainee with whom the Blade spoke last week also said there is no socially distancing at the detention center where they are in ICE custody.

“There’s no such thing right now as socially distancing,” they said.

“It’s not safe,” added the detainee.

Advertisement
FUND LGBTQ JOURNALISM
SIGN UP FOR E-BLAST

Maine

Hundreds pack Portland, Maine for annual Pride parade

The city of Portland held it’s annual Pride parade and festival on Saturday, with hundreds turning out to celebrate LGBTQ+ rights

Published

on

Spectators watch the Portland Pride Parade on Congress Street on June 15, 2024. (Jim Neuger/Maine Morning Star)

By Lauren McCauley | PORTLAND, Maine – The city of Portland held it’s annual Pride parade and festival on Saturday, with hundreds turning out to celebrate LGBTQ+ rights.

Pride month is observed throughout June, with parades, festivals, drag shows and other events across much of Maine. Photographer Jim Neuger captured some of the parade’s participants and onlookers as the marchers wove their way down Congress Street, culminating at the festival in Deering Oaks Park.

Marchers carry a 900-foot flag down Congress Street at the end of the Portland Pride Parade. June 15, 2024. Photo: Jim Neuger

Participants in the Portland Pride Parade head down Congress Street. June 15, 2024. Photo: Jim Neuger

A participant in the Portland Pride Parade on Congress Street. June 15, 2024. Photo: Jim Neuger

A participant in the Portland Pride Parade on Congress Street. June 15, 2024. Photo: Jim Neuger

A participant in the Portland Pride Parade on Congress Street. June 15, 2024. Photo: Jim Neuger

Participants in the Portland Pride Parade head down Congress Street. June 15, 2024. Photo: Jim Neuger

A Portland school system bus heads down Congress Street during the Portland Pride Parade. June 15, 2024. Photo: Jim Neuger

Participants in the Portland Pride Parade ride a trolly car down Congress Street. June 15, 2024. Photo: Jim Neuger

Participants in the Portland Pride Parade on Congress Street. June 15, 2024. Photo: Jim Neuger

A participant in the Portland Pride Parade on Congress Street. June 15, 2024. Photo: Jim Neuger

Participants in the Portland Pride Parade on Congress Street. June 15, 2024. Photo: Jim Neuger

A man watches the Portland Pride Parade from a second-story window above Reny’s department store on Congress Street. June 15, 2024. Photo: Jim Neuger

Participants in the Portland Pride Parade on Congress Street. June 15, 2024. Photo: Jim Neuger

Spectators watch the Portland Pride Parade on Congress Street. June 15, 2024. Photo: Jim Neuger

Members of the Portland Dance Collective perform during the Portland Pride Parade on Congress Street. June 15, 2024. Photo: Jim Neuger

A participant in the Portland Pride Parade on Congress Street. June 15, 2024. Photo: Jim Neuger

Portland Pride Parade heads down Congress Street. [These may be the grand marshals; need to check names.] June 15, 2024. Photo: Jim Neuger

A member of the Dykes on Bikes motorcyhcle group leads the Portland Pride Parade down Congress Street. June 15, 2024. Photo: Jim Neuger

Rylee Knight twirls a flag before marching in the Portland Pride Paradeon Congress Street. June 15, 2024. Photo: Jim Neuger

In a state that led the way in the fight for same-sex marriage — becoming the first to pass a law by statewide referendum in 2012 — many participants this year focused on the need to protect the rights of trans people, who have become the target of a nationwide, right-wing backlash.

On Tuesday, some of the movement’s pioneers held a conversation at the Equality Community Center in Portland, during which they reflected on some of the lessons they learned over the years and discussed how they could help guide future efforts to protect and advance equal rights.

******************************************************************************************

Lauren McCauley

Lauren McCauley is the editor of Maine Morning Star. She has covered politics and policy in Maine for more than 10 years and is the former editor of Maine Beacon.

******************************************************************************************

The preceding article was previously published by the Maine Morning Star and is republished with permission.

Maine Morning Star is an independent, nonprofit and nonpartisan news site covering state policy and politics — and how they impact the lives of Maine people. We aim to hold powerful people and institutions accountable and explain how their actions affect communities from Kennebunk to Caribou.

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

Continue Reading

Maryland

Baltimore Pride event disrupted causing panic & injuries

A possible chemical agent was released in front of the main stage at the Baltimore Pride Parade and Block Party

Published

on

This year’s Pride Parade and Festival was expected to attract 100,000 people. (Photo by Kaitlin Newman/the Baltimore Banner)

By John-John Williams IV and Brenna Smith | BALTIMORE, Md. – A possible chemical agent was released in front of the main stage at the Baltimore Pride Parade and Block Party on Saturday night, causing a stampede.

The incident occurred around 7 p.m. and police did not release the chemical agent, according to a spokesperson. The main stage for the event was located near North Avenue and Charles Street.

“The event was closed. The fire department responded and was tending to several injuries from the mass exodus,” a spokesperson for the police department said Sunday morning. Online social media posts suggest the chemical agent was mace. These posts allege it was sprayed after a fight broke out, prompting panic and the stampede.

Editor’s note: The rest of this article can be found on the Baltimore Banner’s website.

******************************************************************************************

The preceding article was previously published by The Baltimore Banner, a media partner of The Washington Blade and is republished with permission.

Continue Reading

New York

Pride flags vandalized at Stonewall National Monument – again

The Stonewall National Monument, the first U.S. national monument dedicated to LGBTQ+ history, was dedicated in 2016

Published

on

A rainbow flag at the Stonewall National Monument, established 2016, with the NPS arrowhead flying in Christopher Park. (Photo Credit: USNPS)

WEST GREENWICH VILLAGE, NY – During Pride month every June, Stonewall National Monument volunteers put up 250 LGBTQ+ Pride Flags on the Black iron decorative picket fence that rings the Christopher Street park.

This year, according to a statement from an New York Police Department spokesperson, 160 of the flags were torn down and damaged between Thursday evening and Friday morning. The NYPD said that no arrests have been made and that the vandals climbed over the Black iron decorative picket fence that rings the Christopher Street park to gain access to the monument.

This is the second year in a row for an vandalism incident on the Stonewall National Monument. In 2023, Park volunteers found at least 70 of those flags torn down and damaged in what the New York Police Department‘s Hate Crimes Task Force investigated as a hate crime and later arrested three men.

Openly gay New York City Councilmember Erik Bottcher, whose district includes West Greenwich Village, posted photos of the snapped flags on Instagram and X on Friday. 

“Last night, bigots vandalized the Stonewall National Monument, snapping flag sticks & stealing 3/4 of the flags around the permitter of the park. Also, someone burned Pride decorations at 22nd St. in Chelsea. Anyone who thinks this will intimidate our community is badly mistaken,” Bottcher wrote.

Reacting to the vandalism at Stonewall, New York City Mayor Eric Adams in a statement said that “hate has no place in our city.” The mayor added “Our administration wants every member of our LGBTQ+ community to know: we are here for you and our administration will always have your back,” Adams said. “We will work in close coordination with the NYPD to identify and hold accountability whoever committed this heinous act.”

The Stonewall National Monument, the first U.S. national monument dedicated to LGBTQ+ history, was dedicated in 2016. It encompasses a park across the street from the Stonewall Inn, a bar where patrons fought back against a police raid on June 28, 1969, and helped spark the contemporary LGBTQ+ rights movement.

In a graphic published Saturday by NBC News, over twenty acts of hate against LGBTQ+ Pride have occurred so far this month:

Source: News reports. (Graphic: Nigel Chiwaya / NBC News)
CityState
ArvadaColo.
BoiseIdaho
BurienWash.
CarlisleMass.
Cedar ParkTexas
German VillageOhio
KennebunkMaine
Little RockArk.
MadisonN.J.
MandevilleLa.
MercedCalif.
MissoulaMont.
MitchellS.D.
MoretownVt.
New YorkN.Y.
NewbergOre.
PoulsboWash.
SpokaneWash.
WailukuHawaii
WalpoleMass.

Continue Reading

District of Columbia

Fentanyl dealer, distribution charge in deaths of two D.C. gay men

When the cause and manner of death were disclosed by the Medical Examiner, D.C. police said the investigation into the deaths remained open

Published

on

Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Department Body Cam footage from a non-related incident as a MPD uniformed officer makes an arrest. (Screenshot/YouTube MPD Washington D.C.)

WASHINGTON – The Office of the U.S. Attorney for D.C. has announced that federal prosecutors on June 13 obtained an indictment against one of two D.C. brothers previously charged with multiple counts of illegal drug distribution that now charges him with “distributing cocaine and fentanyl” on Dec. 26, 2023, that resulted in the deaths of D.C. gay men Brandon Roman and Robert “Robbie” Barletta.

In a June 13 press release, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Jevaughn ‘Ledo’ Mark, 32, is charged in a new “secondary superseding indictment” linked to the Roman and Barletta deaths. It says he and his brother, Angelo Mark, 30, “previously were charged on April 9 in a 17-count superseding indictment for participating in a conspiracy that distributed large amounts of fentanyl and cocaine in the metropolitan area.”

The press release says Jevaughn Mark is currently being held without bond on charges that include eight counts of unlawful distribution of fentanyl, cocaine, and heroin and distributing 40 grams or more of fentanyl between Jan. 10, 2024, and March 13, 2024. According to the press release, the charges were based on six illegal drug purchases from Jevaughn Mark by undercover U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and undercover D.C. police officers.

Court records show that Angelo Mark was charged in a criminal complaint on March 22 with multiple counts of conspiracy to distribute narcotics and is also being held without bond.

D.C. police and Fire and Emergency Medical Services reports show that Roman, 38, a prominent D.C. attorney and LGBTQ rights advocate, and Barletta, 28, a historic preservation expert and home renovation business owner, were found unconscious when police and emergency medical personnel responded to a 911 call and arrived at Barletta’s home on Dec. 27. The reports show that Roman was declared deceased at the scene and Barletta was taken to Washington Hospital Center where he died on Dec. 29.

A police spokesperson told the Washington  Blade in February that police were investigating the Roman and Barletta deaths, but investigators had to wait for the D.C. Medical Examiner’s official determination of the cause and manner of death before the investigation could fully proceed.

Both men were patrons at D.C. gay bars and their passing prompted many in the LGBTQ community to call for stepped up prevention services related to drug overdose cases, even though the cause and manner of death for the two men was not officially determined until early April.

In April, the D.C. Office of the Chief Medical Examiner disclosed that the cause of death for both men was an accidental consumption of several drugs that created a fatal “toxic” effect. The Medical Examiner’s office said Barletta’s death was linked to the consumption of at least four different drugs and Roman’s death was caused by the “combined toxic effect” of six drugs. The Medical Examiner’s office disclosed that cocaine and fentanyl were among the drugs found in the bodies of both men. And for both men, the manner of death was listed as “Accident/Intoxication.”

When the cause and manner of death were disclosed by the Medical Examiner, D.C. police spokesperson Tom Lynch said the police investigation into the deaths remained open but said, “There are no updates on the investigation that we are ready to release to the public.”

But the Medical Examiner’s findings prompted Johnny Bailey, the community outreach coordinator for HIPS D.C., an LGBTQ supportive organization that provides services and support for those who use recreational drugs, to say he strongly believed that Barletta and Roman did not intentionally consume some of the drugs found in their system.

“I’m going to say I do believe this was a poisoning,” Bailey told the Blade. “I think it is unfair to call some things an overdose because an overdose is when you do too much of a drug and you die from that drug,” he said. “This is like if you have a few glasses of wine every night and someone puts arsenic in your wine, no one would be like, ‘oh, they drank themselves to death.’ They were poisoned. And that’s what I think is happening here,” he said in referring to Barletta and Roman.

In announcing the new charges against Jevaughn Mark that link him to Barletta and Roman’s deaths, the U.S. Attorney’s press release discloses that he supplied fentanyl in the drugs he sold unknowingly to the undercover DEA and D.C. police officers when one of the officers, posing as a drug buyer, did not ask for fentanyl.

“In each instance, the DEA/MPD agents requested to buy ‘Special K’ or Ketamine from Jevaughn Mark,” the press release says. “In every instance, Jevaughn Mark supplied a mixture of fentanyl and other substances, including heroin, but not ketamine,” it says.

The release says that after the earlier indictment against Jevaughn Mark was issued, law enforcement agents conducted a search of his Southeast D.C. home and “recovered two firearms, cocaine, fentanyl, about $38,000 in cash, body armor vests, and drug trafficking paraphernalia.” It says on that same day authorities executed another search for a second residence linked to Jevaughn Mark, where they located a bedroom used by his brother Angelo Mark.

“From Angelo Mark’s bedroom, law enforcement recovered seven firearms, 900 rounds of ammunition, dozens of pills, cocaine, fentanyl, drug trafficking paraphernalia, and about $50,000 in cash,” the press release says, adding, “Based on the evidence, both brothers were indicted in the first superseding indictment.” 

Continue Reading

Michigan

Governor & Michigan lawmakers recognize June as Pride month

House lawmakers passed a resolution Wednesday recognizing June 2024 as Pride month and acknowledging the push for equality for LGBTQ+ people

Published

on

Michigan Pride at the Capitol in Lansing, June 25, 2023 (Photo Credit: Angela Demas/Michigan Advance)

By Lucy Valeski | LANSING, Mich. – It’s Pride month in Michigan, an annual recognition of the LGBTQ+ community marked by parades and celebrations in every corner of the state

In Lansing, House lawmakers passed a resolution Wednesday recognizing June 2024 as Pride month and acknowledging the push for equality for LGBTQ+ people in Michigan, past and present. 

The LGBTQ+ community has celebrated Pride month since June 1970, the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York. The month was first recognized in the United States in 1999 by President Bill Clinton. The Michigan legislature did not formally recognize Pride month until 2021. 

“Resolutions like this aren’t policy, obviously,” state Rep. Laurie Pohutsky (D-Livonia) told the Advance. “But it’s important that we do everything we can to make sure that folks in Michigan, and particularly our LGBTQ residents, know that they’re welcome and that they have a government that recognizes them and appreciates them and respects them.”

Pohutsky, a member of the House LGBTQ+ Caucus, sponsored the resolution. She said the resolution is especially important this year, as GOP lawmakers previously blocked the recognition of Pride month.

In 2022, the then-GOP-controlled Senate blocked a vote on a resolution recognizing Pride month. Republican lawmakers wanted to add language reflecting that not every Michigander “agrees with the lifestyle of the LGBT community.” The resolution passed the previous year in 2021, but not in 2019 or 2020.

“There was such a long time where we couldn’t even get the bare minimum of a Pride resolution passed,” Pohutsky said. 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer also formally recognized the Pride month with a proclamation on June 1. Whitmer was the first governor to march at the Motor City Pride parade and fly a Pride flag on a state building in 2019. 

“Michigan will always be a place where everyone has the freedom to be who they are and love who they love,” Whitmer said in a release. “Our work is not done, but every year, we make progress to move Michigan forward. Let’s keep getting it done.”

LGBTQ+ legislation in Michigan

During this session, Michigan’s Democratic-controlled Legislature has passed several bills aimed at protecting the LGBTQ+ community in the state. Whitmer, a Democrat, signed legislation expanded Michigan’s anti-discrimination law to include LGBTQ+ people last year and banned conversion therapy for minors.

These bills had languished in the Legislature for years when it was led by Republicans.

Lawmakers are also working on a bill that would ban gay and trans panic defenses. The defense excuses crimes, like assault, of an LGBTQ+ person because it lets the perpetrator blame their identity. 

But Pohutsky said it is important to think about how any bill will impact the LGBTQ+ community. Laws relating to legal name changes or reproductive rights can affect queer Michiganders in unique ways, she said. 

“I think one of the really wonderful things that has happened as a positive consequence of us electing more LGBTQ leaders is that we are more apt to recognize how policies impact the community, and that’s been really important,” Pohutsky said. 

******************************************************************************************

Lucy Valeski

Lucy Valeski is a States Newsroom fellow for the Michigan Advance. She is currently a student at the University of Missouri, where she studies journalism and political science. She previously covered local government for the Columbia Missourian, statewide news for Missouri Business Alert and technology policy for MLex in Brussels.

******************************************************************************************

The preceding story was previously published by the Michigan Advance and is republished with permission.

Corporate media aren’t cutting it. The Michigan Advance is a nonprofit outlet featuring hard-hitting reporting on politics and policy and the best progressive commentary in the state.

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

Continue Reading

Indiana

‘You will lose access’: Pornhub says as age verification takes effect

Pornhub — joined by other explicit content providers and a free speech group — sued the state in an attempt to block the law

Published

on

Starting July 1, Hoosiers wanting to access adult content websites, like PornHub, will be required to upload age-verification documents online thanks to a new Indiana law aimed at protecting minors. (Screenshot from website)

By Leslie Bonilla Muñiz | MONTREAL, Canada – Pornography video-sharing website Pornhub says it’ll block access to Hoosier users as Indiana prepares to enact a recently approved age verification requirement. Its exit is planned for June 27.

And it’s warning users directly.

“You will lose access to Pornhub in 13 days,” a website pop-up read Thursday.

“Did you know that your government wants you to give your driver’s license before you can access Pornhub?” it continued. “As crazy as that sounds, it’s true.”

It comes days after Pornhub — joined by other explicit content providers and a free speech group — sued the state in an attempt to block the law.

Pornhub parent company Aylo said it has publicly supported age verification for “years” but added, “the way many jurisdictions worldwide have chosen to implement age verification is ineffective, haphazard, and dangerous.”

Senate Bill 17 requires that “adult-oriented websites” hosting explicit materials — such as pornography or other “material harmful to minors” — verify a user’s identity before allowing access. That could be by scanning a driver’s license or registering with a third-party verification service.

 The user notice pop-up on Pornhub. (Screenshot of website)

Lawmakers tussled over the legislation in committee and on the floor. Despite that, they overwhelmingly voted to pass the law, according to the Legislature’s bill action tracker.

“We have children who have seen hardcore content before they have their first kiss,” bill author Sen. Mike Bohacek, R-Michiana Shores, said in January.

Senate Minority Leader Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis — the bill’s most outspoken opponent — held that the legislation lacked information privacy “guardrails.” He raised concerns about how securely the proof of age documents will be handled.

That’s an argument Pornhub is making directly to its users.

In its pop-up, Pornhub said it doesn’t want minors accessing its website, but that “putting everybody’s privacy at risk won’t achieve that.”

Rather than attempt to verify Hoosier users’ ages, Pornhub plans to close up shop in Indiana.

Parent company Aylo said Pornhub was “one of the few sites” to comply with Louisiana’s age verification law when it took effect in early 2023.

“Since then, our traffic in Louisiana dropped approximately 80%. These people did not stop looking for porn,” Aylo said. “They just migrated to darker corners of the internet that don’t ask users to verify age, that don’t follow the law, that don’t take user safety seriously, and that often don’t even moderate content.”

“In practice, the laws have just made the internet more dangerous for adults and children,” Aylo continued.

The company has instead advocated for “device-based” age verification, and said it was “happy to collaborate” with government, technology companies and other partners to work on a “solution.”

Critics have said the approach, which uses a device’s built-in features to verify a user’s age, doesn’t protect children who use a parent’s phone or other device. Aylo also suggested people use existing parental control features.

“The safety of our users is our number one concern,” Aylo concluded. “We will always comply with the law, but we hope that governments around the world will implement laws that actually protect the safety and security of users.”

Indiana’s law goes into effect July 1 — unless a judge blocks it.

Pornhub and the other plaintiffs filed suit on Monday, alleging that the law is unconstitutional — violating the First Amendment — and unenforceable. They asked a federal judge in Indianapolis to issue a preliminary injunction against the law.

Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita defended it Tuesday as a “commonsense” way to protect children.

******************************************************************************************

Leslie Bonilla Muñiz

Leslie covers state government for the Indiana Capital Chronicle with emphases on elections, infrastructure and transportation. She previously covered city-county government for the Indianapolis Business Journal. She has also reported on local, national and international news for the Chicago Tribune, Voice of America and more. She holds an undergraduate degree in journalism from Northwestern University.

******************************************************************************************

The preceding article was previously published by the Indiana Capital Chronicle and is republished with permission.

The Indiana Capital Chronicle is an independent, nonprofit news organization dedicated to giving Hoosiers a comprehensive look inside state government, policy and elections. The site combines daily coverage with in-depth scrutiny, political awareness and insightful commentary.

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

Continue Reading

Florida

Openly gay Carlos Guillermo Smith elected to Florida State Senate

He is the second gay man elected to the Florida Senate, after Sen. Shevrin Jones, a Miami Gardens Democrat

Published

on

Congressman Maxwell Alejandro Frost (D-FL10) congratulates Florida state Senator-elect Carlos Guillermo Smith. (Photo Credit: Office of Congressman Maxwell Alejandro Frost)

ORLANDO, Fla. — Former State Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith officially won his race for the Florida State Senate (District 17), becoming the second openly LGBTQ member elected to the chamber in state history.

“He’s making history AGAIN as the 1st LGBTQ+ Latino in the Florida Senate. Together, we’re growing the multi-racial, multi-generational, working-class movement in Central Florida. Let’s go!” said Democratic U.S. Rep. Maxwell Alejandro Frost who represents Central Florida in the House.

In 2022, while seeking reelection to the Florida House, Guillermo Smith was targeted by the Florida State Republican Party, who invested millions campaigning to defeat him. Now less than two years after losing his re-election, Guillermo Smith won election unopposed to succeed Democratic State Senator Linda Stewart.

In a statement to reporters, Senator-elect said:

“My heart is full of gratitude for this community who has entrusted me with the responsibility of serving as their state Senator,” Smith said.

“Since last year, our campaign has knocked on over 10,000 doors in Senate District 17. We know that voters are frustrated with the direction our state has been heading and they’ve had enough. Rents and property insurance premiums are soaring, over a million Floridians have recently lost health care, and Tallahassee has turned our classrooms into political battlefields.”

Florida Politics noted:

Smith served in the House for six years, where he was among the most outspoken progressive activists in the Democratic minority. He was also the first openly gay Latino LGBTQ member of the House, and will soon hold the same distinction in the Senate.

He is the second gay man elected to the Senate, after Sen. Shevrin Jones, a Miami Gardens Democrat.

During his time in the House, Smith developed a reputation both as a progressive champion and a scorn of conservatives. The onetime Orange County Democratic Party Chair represented a University of Central Florida-centric district for three terms, first elected in 2016.

Stratton Pollitzer, Chair of Equality Florida Action PAC, said in a press release:

“We’re thrilled that voters are sending Carlos back to Tallahassee to continue the fight in the Florida Legislature. Carlos is an unflinching progressive and one of the governor’s sharpest critics. He consistently exposes the governor’s lies, hypocrisy, and agenda to strip away our rights and freedoms. When the governor hid public information from voters, Carlos took him to court and won. Carlos is on the front lines, working to ensure the safety and well-being of all Floridians.”

Continue Reading

Congress

House Republicans pass NDAA with anti-LGBTQ riders

U.S. Rep. Robert Garcia (D-Calif.) slammed Republican U.S. Rep. Josh Brecheen’s (Okla.) effort to ban drag shows on American military bases

Published

on

U.S. Rep. Robert Garcia (D-Calif.) during the debate on Thursday over the National Defense Authorization Act (Screen capture via C-Span)


WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Robert Garcia (D-Calif.) slammed Republican U.S. Rep. Josh Brecheen’s (Okla.) effort to ban drag shows on American military bases during a debate over the annual National Defense Authorization Act spending bill on Thursday.

The appropriations package, which contains five anti-LGBTQ riders pushed by House GOP members, was passed on Friday.

“We know there are a lot of threats to the health and well-being of our service members and their families: poisoned water, toxic mold in military housing, PTSD, and suicide,” said Garcia, who is gay and a co-chair of the Congressional Equality Caucus.

“So I’m stunned to see that the Republican idea to protect our troops is to ban drag shows,” he said. “Mr. Speaker, my Republican colleagues want us to believe that ‘these gays are trying to murder us.’ They want us to believe that drag is harmful, or immoral and wrong. This is ridiculous.”

“We can document and celebrate drag shows on military bases since the late 1800s, and through both world wars,” Garcia continued. “The USO and the Red Cross supported drag during World War II. That’s right: the Army that defeated Hitler and saved the world included drag queens.” 

“Ronald Regan starred in a movie called ‘This Is the Army!’ — a movie about World War II that featured four drag performances,” he said. “And he’s not the only Republican president who knew that drag can be fun and sometimes silly.”

Garcia displayed a photo of former president and presumptive 2024 GOP nominee Donald Trump alongside former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who was dressed in drag.

“Mr. Speaker,” the congressman said, “drag is Art. Drag is Culture. Drag is Creativity. Drag is Comedy. And no, drag is Not a Crime. It’s not pornography. The real obscenity is when one of our colleagues, the gentlewoman from Georgia, shows literal posters of revenge porn in our Oversight Committee! If we want to end porn in government facilities, let’s ban that.”

In a statement on Friday, the Equality Caucus called out House Republicans’ politicization of the military appropriations bill.

“Like last year, House Republicans voted to add poison pill, anti-LGBTQI+ provisions to the NDAA that discriminate against our LGTBQI+ servicemembers and their families,” said Caucus Chair U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) “The Equality Caucus remains committed to preventing these discriminatory provisions from becoming law.”

Along with Brecheen’s drag show ban, the caucus highlighted four of these riders from this year’s NDAA:

  • Amendment 46 by U.S. Rep. Greg Steube (R-Fla.), which would “prohibit funds for the Department of Defense Education Activity from being used to purchase, maintain, or display in a school library or classroom books that include transgender and intersex characters or touch on topics related to gender identity or variations in sex characteristics,”
  • Amendment 49 by U.S. Rep. Cory Mills (R-Fla.), which would “ban Pride flags from any workplace, common access area, or public area of the Department of Defense,” and
  • Amendments 52 and 53 by U.S. Reps. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.) and Ralph Norman (S.C.), which would, respectively, “ban TRICARE from covering and furnishing gender-affirming surgeries and hormone treatments,” and “prohibit the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) from covering or providing referrals for “gender transition procedures”—including puberty blockers, hormone therapy, and surgeries—for servicemembers’ dependent minor children.”

Continue Reading

Federal Government

Administration officials visit LGBTQ-owned dental, medical offices

“There’s a surge in small businesses starting and that includes” those founded by members of the LGBTQ community”

Published

on

Second from left, Dr. Robert McKernan, co-founder of Big Gay Smiles, U.S. Small Business Administration Administrator Isabel Guzman, HHS Assistant Secretary for Health Adm. Rachel Levine, Big Gay Smiles Co-Founder Tyler Dougherty, and SBA Washington Metropolitan Area District Director Larry Webb. (Washington Blade photo by Christopher Kane)


WASHINGTON — The Assistant Secretary for Health Adm. Rachel Levine of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Administrator Isabel Guzman of the U.S. Small Business Administration toured two LGBTQ-owned small businesses on Tuesday in Washington, D.C. — Big Gay Smiles and Price Medical, accompanied by the Washington Blade.

The event provided an “amazing opportunity” to “talk about the different synergies in terms of small businesses and the SBA, and health equity for many communities,” including the LGBTQ community, Levine told the Blade.

Representation matters, she said, adding, “that’s true in dental care and medical care,” where there is a tremendous need to push for improvements in health equity — which represents a major focus for HHS under her and Secretary Xavier Becerra’s leadership, and in the Biden-Harris administration across the board.

“Small businesses identify needs in communities,” Guzman said. With Big Gay Smiles, Dr. Robert McKernan and his husband Tyler Dougherty “have clearly identified a need” for “dentistry that is inclusive and that is respectful of the LGBTQIA community in particular.”

She added, “now that they’re a newly established business, part of the small business boom in the Biden-Harris administration, to see their growth and trajectory, it’s wonderful to know that there are going to be providers out there providing that missing support.”

The practice, founded in 2021, “is so affirming for the LGBTQIA community and we certainly wish them luck with their venture and they seem to have a great start,” Levine said. “They’re really dedicated to ending the HIV epidemic, providing excellent dental care, as well as oral cancer screenings, which are so important, and they’re really providing a real service to the community.”

Big Gay Smiles donates 10 percent of its revenue to national and local HIV/AIDS nonprofits. McKernan and Dougherty stressed that their business is committed to combatting homophobia and anti-LGBTQ attitudes and practices within the dental field more broadly.

“We try to align our practices here within this dental office to align with the strategic initiatives being able to help reduce HIV transmission, reduce stigma, and help to ensure people have the knowledge and [are] empowered to ensure that they’re safe,” Dougherty said.

McKernan added, “With the Academy of General Dentistry, we’ve done a lot of discussions around intersex, around trans affirming care, in order to help educate our fellow dental providers. It’s very important that every dentist here in the [D.C. area] provide trans affirming care and gender affirming care because it’s very important that someone who comes to a medical provider not be deadnamed, not get misnamed, and have an affirming environment.”

Trans and gender expansive communities face barriers to accessing care and are at higher risk for oral cancer, depression, and dental neglect. Levine, who is the country’s highest-ranking transgender government official, shared that she has encountered discrimination in dental offices.

After touring the office, Levine and McKernan discussed the persistence of discrimination against patients living with HIV/AIDS by dental practices, despite the fact that this conduct is illegal.

“I’ve traveled around the country,” the assistant health secretary told the Blade. “We have seen that many FQHCs [federally qualified health centers] or community health centers as well as LGBTQIA community health centers have had dentists, like Whitman-Walker, to provide that care because many people with HIV and in our broader community have faced stigma and have not been able to access very, very important dental care.”

Prior to opening his practice, McKernan practiced dentistry at Whitman-Walker, the D.C. nonprofit community health center that has expertise in treating LGBTQ patients and those living with HIV/AIDS. Big Gay Smiles is a red ribbon sponsor for the organization’s Walk & 5K to End HIV.

After their visit with Big Gay Smiles, Levine and Guzman headed to Price Medical, a practice whose focus areas include internal medicine/primary care, HIV specialty care, immunizations, infectious disease treatment, and aesthetics like Botox.

There, the officials talked with Dr. Timothy Price about his office’s work advancing health equity and serving LGBTQ patients including those living with HIV/AIDS, as well as the ways in which small businesses like his have benefitted from access to electronic health records and telemedicine.

Levine, Dr. Timothy Price of Price Medical, and Guzman 
(Washington Blade photo by Christopher Kane)

“People being able to access medical care from the comfort of their home or workplace can be very important,” Price said, with technology providing the means by which they can “ask questions and get an answer and have access to a health care provider.”

Often, LGBTQ patients will have concerns, including sexual health concerns, that need urgent attention, he said. For instance, “we’ve had patients need to access us for post-exposure prophylaxis for HIV,” in some cases when “people are vacationing and they have something that might be related to their health and they can reach us [via telemedicine] so that’s the way it’s really helped us and helped the patients.”

Access to technology for small businesses is an area in which the SBA can play a valuable role, Guzman noted.

“The Biden-Harris administration has focused on a whole-of-government approach to making sure we can support the community, and that includes in entrepreneurship,” she told the Blade.

“There’s a surge in [small] businesses starting and that includes” those founded by members of the LGBTQ community “and so you see that there’s products and services that need to be offered,” and the administration is “committed to making sure that we can fund those great ideas.”

Guzman said she sees opportunities for future collaboration between her agency and HHS to help encourage and facilitate innovation in the healthcare space. “Small businesses are innovators creating the future of health tech,” she said.

Levine agreed, noting “we have been talking about that, about different ways that we can work together, because as we think about the social determinants of health and those other social factors that impact health, well, economic opportunity is absolutely a social determinant of health,” and small businesses are certainly a critical way to broaden economic opportunity.

Continue Reading

New York

WABC’s Up Close | Stonewall Inn’s revival & NYC’s equity efforts

WABC-TV Channel 7 is showcasing stories of Pride with a special edition of the Up Close podcast with host Bill Ritter

Published

on

WABC 7 news anchor Bill Ritter interviews Ronald Porcelli & co-owners of the Stonewall Inn, Stacy Lentz and Kurt Kelly. (Screenshot WABC)

NEW YORK, N.Y. – As the 55th anniversary of the queer uprising at the Stonewall Inn in West Greenwich Village, WABC 7 news anchor Bill Ritter interviews Ronald Porcelli, the director of the NYC Unity Project, Mayor’s Office of Equity & Racial Justice, and the co-owners of the Stonewall Inn, Stacy Lentz and Kurt Kelly.

According to Ritter on his podcast WABC Up Close, Lentz and Kelly share the stories of what inspired them to buy the Stonewall Inn 18 years ago, what the process of reviving it entailed, the challenges they face and what the future holds for this institution, while sharing their own stories of embracing their identities and living their truths.

Porcelli gives listeners and viewers a rare look into how City Hall is working with diverse communities to make New York a more equitable and fair place for all of its people during a time of heightened societal polarization.

Watch:

For readers & viewers in the Tri-State area watch Up Close on Sunday mornings at 11:00 on Channel 7, WABC-TV.

Continue Reading

Popular