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“Why are you bringing Sodom & Gomorrah here?”

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Rosa Diaz, CEO The Imperial Valley LGBT Resource Center

An LGBTQ resource center founder’s tale

 

EL CENTRO – The first thing a visitor to Imperial County will notice is that it is significantly culturally different than the rest of southern California, in part due to its immediate proximity to the U.S. border with Mexico. Valle de Imperial blends the cultures and the languages of both nations, and with the exception of the city of El Centro urban metroplex, is still very much a rural agricultural region.

Unemployment in this border region is often the highest in the nation, and 20 percent of residents live below the poverty line with 73 percent of all residents who are Hispanic.

It is within that cultural distinction that a small, but dedicated group of volunteers led by a determined former California Department of Juvenile Justice Correctional Counselor and a social worker, provides a safe haven- practically an island, for the Imperial Valley’s LGBTQI+ community.

Rosa Diaz, the CEO of the Imperial Valley’s LGBT Resource Center, still marvels that a small group of virtual strangers was able to come together to establish the County’s only LGBTQ Resource and Outreach Center just a short five years ago in 2015. For Diaz, it has been a labor of love and a way to make a difference for others like herself she told the Los Angeles Blade this week in a wide-ranging interview.

The culture of the Valley, she explained, is one with deep roots in Mexican society and cultures of other countries in Latin America. A culture that is built on strong family units with strong ties to church, faith, and centuries of traditions. It is within those parameters she said that any person who is LGBTQ will eventually find themselves estranged or outright shunned and often alone. Many residents know only too well the pain of discrimination- but their traditional ideas about family and religion don’t include same-sex marriage or even being LGBTQ, Diaz noted.

She remembers how difficult it was for her growing up, she says that she always played the roles in playtime normally a boy would fulfill even battling them to take those roles- and at the same time, she did embrace the church and her faith partly because she knew she couldn’t reveal her true self let alone her desires and having that anchor was critical to her. The concept of being a Lesbian was foreign to her culture- her family, LGBT people didn’t exist so the church and her faith became her refuge. Yet the fact that she was different still gnawed at her conscious.

Then came that one moment, as an older closeted adult in her 50’s being in her church listening to the sermon and getting angered by its hateful and exclusionary message, she decided to speak out. She marched up to the front of the church and asked for the microphone then turned and faced the pews.

I had kept you know cringing during the sermon, it wasn’t right. So when I got the microphone I just told them about me. I said this has to stop. Stop blaming LGBT people for your problems I told them. divorce, sex before marriage- babies out of wedlock, these are all sins too they are wrong but you cannot blame LGBT people for these problems.”

Diaz said that within a week or two she was persona non grata and after weeks of trying she eventually gave up going to church altogether. She said that she was determined to find a place to belong and a sense of community. There were no LGBTQ resources in the Valley so she started visiting LGBT centers north up in the Coachella Valley to Palm Springs and west into San Diego County.

In 2008, California’s Proposition 8 and the fight over marriage equality spurred on a renewed passion to establish a center in the Valley for people just like her.

When the case went to trial, then California Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown refused to defend the measure. Diaz said that she was disheartened when local officials headed by a former Chair of the Board of Supervisors joined the fight to keep same-sex marriage illegal with the anti-LGBT right-wing Christian right group, The Alliance Defense Fund.

The fight over LGBT marriage equality left deep wounds. The San Francisco Chronicle noted in a piece published Sunday, August 22, 2010; “The Imperial Valley has always been very anti-LGBT,” said Fernando Lopez, 28, who grew up in El Centro and is gay. “If you are gay there, there is nothing to turn to for support. It’s just really backward.”

In the Spring of 2015, Diaz said that the lack of visibility coupled with a lack of a resource center for the valley drove her to borrow a building and start to build a center. She put the word out that she was establishing a non-profit and to her shock she says, people who were complete strangers to her and even to each other came together to work on establishing the by-laws, the articles and structure for the new nonprofit, working with legal firms offering their services pro bono, and critically setting its mission for serving the Valley’s LGBT community.

When she told a local community leader about her goals for establishing the center, the person remarked, “Why are you bringing Sodom and Gomorrah here?” The center launched with its grand opening in October of 2015. “It was a long uphill fight,” she said adding, “We are here to stay.”

The center has partnered with outside organizations like San Diego Pride which has given the IVLGBT Center a free booth for the past four years. Diaz proudly said that the Center has also participated in LGBTQ awareness and sensitivity training for the IV Sheriff’s Office as well as the local California State Probation & parole office.

She said that groups for youth, the Trans community, drug and alcohol, mental health issues are all a part of the center’s portfolio. The principal mission is the center’s ability to connect the Valley’s LGBTQ community with resources.

As the center works to provide services and resources to the Valley’s LGBTQI+ community that is largely still invisible and culturally at odds, Diaz says that she and her staff embrace her mantra, “Don’t expect people to always understand you. Instead, learn to understand them. Then accept, forgive, and love unconditionally. This is a sure way to be happy.”

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Los Angeles County

LA County Pride lifeguard tower at Will Rogers beach vandalized

The tower had homophobic, racist and antisemitic slurs and symbols spray painted on it and its windows were broken out

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Los Angeles County LGBTQ+ Pride lifeguard tower at Will Rogers State Beach vandalized. (Screenshot/YouTube Fox 11 LA)

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles County lifeguard tower at Will Rogers State Beach was vandalized Monday evening or early Tuesday morning with homophobic, racist and antisemitic slurs and symbols were spray painted on it and the windows were broken out.

“Hate has no place in Los Angeles County. We will not back down from celebrating and protecting our LGBTQ+, Jewish, and Black communities – among our many diverse communities – across Los Angeles County. This act of hatred reminds us why our continued commitment to solidarity is necessary,”  L.A. County Supervisor Lindsey Horvath said in a statement to the Blade. “We are working with our County departmental partners to repaint Lifeguard Tower 18 at the historic and beloved Ginger Rogers Beach.”

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Rhode Island

Survey ranks Rhode Island first in nation on LGBTQ+ safety

This year a number of state lawmakers and officials could be spotted marching in the parade on Saturday, June 15

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Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos, festively attired in a rainbow jacket, marches in the Rhode Island Pride Illuminated Night Parade on Dorrance Street Saturday, June 15, 2024. (Christopher Shea/Rhode Island Current)

By Alexander Castro & Christopher Shea | PROVIDENCE, R.I. – In Rhode Island, the pinnacle of LGBTQ+ Pride Month is one colorful Saturday halfway through June, when RI PrideFest and its accompanying parade fill downtown Providence from daylight until dark.

This year a number of state lawmakers and officials could be spotted marching in the parade on Saturday, June 15. The show of support from LGBTQ+ lawmakers and allies came after a productive season at the State House for legislation meant to improve both directly and indirectly the lives of queer Rhode Islanders. 

Among the bills passed by both House and Senate by end of session last week included a health care provider shield law, expanded coverage for PrEP drugs and legislation to make name changes easier in probate court. 

Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee smiles as he marches in the Rhode Island Pride Illuminated Night Parade on Dorrance Street Saturday, June 15, 2024.
(Christopher Shea/Rhode Island Current)
A spectator waves a pride flag in front of the Reserve banquet hall on Dorrance Street in Providence. (Christopher Shea/Rhode Island Current)
Providence Mayor Brett Smiley is shown on Dorrance Street after handing out pride flags during the Rhode Island Pride Illuminated Night Parade on Saturday, June 15, 2024. (Christopher Shea/Rhode Island Current)
Sen. Tiara Mack, a Providence Democrat, in pink, marches in the Rhode Island Pride Illuminated Night Parade on Dorrance Street Saturday, June 15, 2024.
(Christopher Shea/Rhode Island Current)
Left to right, Sen. Victoia Gu, a Westerly Democrat, the back of U.S. Rep. Seth Magaziner, and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse march in the Rhode Island Pride Illuminated Night Parade on Dorrance Street Saturday, June 15, 2024.
(Christopher Shea/Rhode Island Current)
Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha marches in the Rhode Island Pride Illuminated Night Parade on Dorrance Street Saturday, June 15, 2024.
(Christopher Shea/Rhode Island Current)

Last Wednesday, June 12, Gov. Dan McKee also retweeted some positive news: Rhode Island scored first place in a national ranking of safe places for LGBTQ+ people. 

This is the third year the report cards have been released by SafeHome.org, a website that analyzes security and safety trends nationwide. State laws protecting LGBTQ+ rights are used to calculate the composite scores, which also factored in hate crime data for the first time this year.

SafeHome.org cited Rhode Island’s existing LGBTQ+ legislation, including the strength of its anti-bullying laws, lack of discrimination toward LGBTQ+ foster parents, state Medicaid inclusion of transgender people, and required hate crime reporting from law enforcement agencies. Hate crime rates in the state are low, and Rhode Island is one of only six states where every law enforcement agency needs to report hate crimes, according to SafeHome.org. 

Massachusetts — which often outpaces or matches its neighbors in quality-of-life rankings — was the lowest-ranking New England state in the SafeHome.org survey, coming in at 28th place.

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Alexander Castro

Alexander Castro covers education and health for Rhode Island Current. He has worked extensively in the visual arts as a critic, curator and adjunct professor.

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Christopher Shea

Christopher Shea covers politics, the criminal justice system and transportation for the Rhode Island Current.

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The preceding article was previously published by the Rhode Island Current and is republished with permission.

The Rhode Island Current is an independent, nonprofit news outlet focused on state government and the impact of public policy decisions in the Ocean State. Readers can expect relentless reporting with the context needed to understand key issues affecting the lives of Rhode Islanders.

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

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U.S. Federal Courts

Attorneys in Alabama trans medical case turn over document

A U.S. District Judge ordered the lawyers to turn over the Q&A document, which was used to prepare for questions from a three-judge panel

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A sign outside the Frank M. Johnson Jr. Federal Building and United States Courthouse in Montgomery, Alabama seen on January 24, 2023. (Brian Lyman/Alabama Reflector)

By Jemma Stephenson | MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Attorneys in an ongoing lawsuit against the state over Alabama’s gender affirming care for minors ban turned over a document Tuesday to a federal judge in an investigation of allegations of judge shopping. 

U.S. District Court Judge Liles C. Burke ordered the lawyers to turn over the Q&A document, which the attorneys said was used to prepare the lawyers for questions from a three-judge panel investigating allegations that the attorneys manipulated the random assignment of cases to seek a judge favorable to their case.

The attorneys have lodged objections to the production of the document, arguing that it is covered by attorney-client privilege. Burke wants the document for an in camera review. 

“Respondents submit the Q&A Document to confirm that their attorney-client privileged communications with their counsel were proper, to resolve this collateral issue as promptly as possible, and to dispense with the reputationally harmful allegations that they sought legal advice in furtherance of a crime or fraud,” the attorneys for the respondents wrote.

The plaintiffs sued Alabama in 2022 over a law making it a felony to prescribe hormones and puberty blockers in gender-affirming care. Burke, who heard the case, initially ruled for the plaintiffs and blocked the state law. But a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit overturned his ruling last year. The plaintiffs are seeking a full review of the decision by the circuit.

Multiple challenges to the law were filed after Gov. Kay Ivey signed the bill into law in 2022. After multiple transfers of the cases, the attorneys withdrew the case and later refiled it. Burke said the moves gave the appearance of judge shopping, which the investigative panel said had occurred in a report in October.

In a separate Tuesday filing, the attorneys also objected to Burke’s order to turn over the document, objecting to the judge’s portraying of the panel’s findings.

“Even if the one or two narrow  examples cited by the panel were really ‘inconsistencies and apparent misrepresentations’  (they are not), they do not  support  or  justify this Court’s  all-encompassing claim that the Panel ‘unanimously discredited’ the Walker Respondents’ testimony or otherwise ‘reject[ed] their testimony as unworthy of belief,’” they wrote.

The attorneys also pushed back against a Burke claim that an attorney had committed perjury before the panel. In an October report from the panel the judges wrote that one attorney had “deliberately misled” the panel about a phone call to a judge’s chamber, which Burke connected to perjury.

“There is no basis to conclude that no reasonable person could believe in good faith that he potentially perjured himself,” Burke wrote. “Likewise, there is no basis to conclude that an in camera review of the Q&A document would surely fail to turn up evidence that he intentionally lied to the court.”

 The attorneys wrote that the claim of “perjury” is not supported by facts and referenced an earlier order. They also wrote that the panel did not wholly discredit their testimony and wrote that claims of a lack of candor were limited to one footnote.

“To be clear, however, Walker counsel’s candor on the whole is concerning,” the panel wrote in a footnote.

They wrote that claims of a prima-facie case only exists because of the panel’s findings, which had due-process violations. They wrote that some were denied a right to counsel and others were excluded from proceedings.

“Respondents continue to steadfastly maintain that they testified truthfully and honestly before the Panel and in subsequent submissions to this Court. There  is  no  basis  for  this  Court  to  assert  that  the  Panel  disbelieved  or  discredited Respondents’ testimony or otherwise engaged in any purported fraud on the Court,” they wrote.

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Jemma Stephenson

Jemma Stephenson covers education as a reporter for the Alabama Reflector. She previously worked at the Montgomery Advertiser and graduated from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

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

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

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

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Research/Study

LGBTQ people in LA County struggle with cost of living & safety

Approximately 665,000 LGBTQ adults live in Los Angeles County, according to new research from the Williams Institute

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Photo courtesy of the California Department of Aging/California government

LOS ANGELES – Approximately 665,000 LGBTQ adults live in Los Angeles County, according to new research from the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law that looks at the lived experiences and needs of LGBTQ people.

The majority (82%) believe that LA County is a good place for LGBTQ people to live and that elected officials are responsive to their needs. However, affording to live in LA County is their most common worry.

Over one-third (35%) of LGBTQ Angelenos live below 200% of the federal poverty level (FPL), including almost half (47%) of transgender and nonbinary people, and they experience high rates of food insecurity and housing instability.

Nearly one in three (32%) LGBTQ households in Los Angeles County and more than one in five (23%) non-LGBTQ households experienced food insecurity in the prior year. In addition, more than 60% of LGBTQ people live in households that are cost-burdened by housing expenses, spending 30% or more of their household income on housing. A quarter (26%) of LGBTQ people live in households where over 50% of the household’s monthly income is spent on rent or mortgage payments.

“LA County represents a promise of equality and freedom to LGBTQ people who live here and throughout the country,” said lead author Brad Sears, the Founding Executive Director at the Williams Institute. “But that promise is being undermined by the County’s rapidly escalating cost of living.”

This report used representative data collected from 1,006 LGBTQ adults in Los Angeles County who completed the 2023 Los Angeles County Health Survey (LACHS) conducted by the Los Angeles County Public Health Department. The data also included responses from 504 LGBTQ individuals who participated in the Lived Experiences in Los Angeles County (LELAC) Survey, a LACHS call-back survey developed by the Williams Institute.

More than half (51%) of LGBTQ adults said they have been verbally harassed, with 39% experiencing this in the past five years. As a result, one in five LGBTQ people have avoided public places such as businesses, parks, and public transportation in the last year. About 40% of LGBTQ people do not believe that law enforcement agencies in Los Angeles County treat LGBTQ people fairly.

companion study published today surveyed 322 trans and nonbinary individuals in Los Angeles County. Results showed that the cost of living in LA County was the most significant concern for trans and nonbinary respondents, with 59% indicating that it is a serious problem. More than one-quarter (28%) of the participants were unemployed, compared to 5% of LA County overall.

The survey also revealed significant disparities in health and health care access, especially for trans and nonbinary adults who were women or transfeminine, immigrants, and those living at or near the FPL.

“Understanding the life experiences of trans and nonbinary people is important so that we can begin to improve the quality of our lives in LA County,” said study co-author Bamby Salcedo, President and CEO of the TransLatin@ Coalition. “Trans and nonbinary people are best suited to envision ways to support and uplift the community, along with trans-led organizations that have already been doing this work. LA County must commit to greater support of the organizations serving our community.”

Survey respondents were twice as likely as the general population of LA County to report having fair or poor health (27%), being uninsured (14%), and going without health care (46%).

“Despite a supportive policy environment in Los Angeles County, experiences of stigma and discrimination still exist and can hinder access to necessary resources for trans and nonbinary residents,” said lead author Jody Herman, Senior Scholar of Public Policy at the Williams Institute. “It is crucial for local officials and service providers to enact policies, provide education and training, and establish accountability to ensure respectful and positive interaction with the trans and nonbinary community.”

third report focuses on LGBTQ people’s assessment of LA County programs and services and recommendations for local elected officials.

“These findings from the Williams Institute provide invaluable data that will guide our Board, County departments, and the inaugural LGBTQ+ Commission in shaping policies and programs to truly deliver for our diverse LGBTQ+ communities,” said LA County Board Chair Lindsey P. Horvath, who initiated the motion to present the findings to the Board. 

“It’s especially critical that we support our trans, gender-nonconforming, and nonbinary communities, ensuring they feel safe and supported, and that they are able to afford to live in Los Angeles County. These insights will guide our essential and transformative work.”

“Many LGBTQ people provided recommendations for elected officials to improve quality of life in Los Angeles County,” said principal investigator Kerith J. Conron, Research Director at the Williams Institute. “LGBTQ people are asking for visible allyship, increased representation of LGBTQ individuals in elected positions and civil service, and housing and financial support.”

“These recent findings serve as a sobering reminder of the persistent barriers faced by the LGBT community in Los Angeles County,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, PhD, MPH, MEd, Director of Public Health. “These reports underscore the profound impact of the disparities on the health and wellbeing of a community that include our family members, colleagues, and friends. It is imperative that we not only acknowledge these inequities but actively engage in eliminating them. Through collaborative efforts with community leaders, policymakers, and the public, Public Health is committed to upholding principles of justice and equity by ensuring that every member of our community has the resources they need to thrive.”

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Politics

Trump announces Day 1 funding ban for trans supportive schools

Trump turned his aim towards trans people near the end of a rally in Racine, Wisconsin, which was mostly focused on immigration and crime

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Donald Trump campaign rally in Racine, Wisconsin. (Screenshot/YouTube)

By Erin Reed | RACINE, Wis. – On Wednesday, former Republican President Donald Trump turned his aim towards transgender people near the end of a speech in Racine, Wisconsin, which was mostly focused on immigration and crime.

In the speech, he announced that his administration would shut down federal funding for schools that support transgender people, describing these schools as “pushing transgender insanity,” on day one. He also announced his intent to target transgender people in sports. These statements suggest that the candidate may increasingly prioritize targeting transgender people as a key election issue should he win.

Though the first hour of the speech went by without a mention of LGBTQ+ people, Trump turned his attention towards schools abruptly after speaking about crime, where he announced his day one priorities:

“We’re going to be proud of our Capital, we’re going to take care of our Capital. On day one, I will sign a new executive order to cut Federal funding of any school pushing critical race theory, transgender insanity, and other inappropriate racial, sexual, or political content onto the lives of our children, and I will not give one penny to any school that has a vaccine mandate or a mask.”

He then turned towards the topic of transgender athletes, claiming that a cisgender woman was injured by a volleyball hit by a transgender woman, which he claimed “came out at her at a speed that which she’s never seen before.” He also took aim at transgender swimmers and weightlifters.

This is not the first time that Donald Trump has spoken about transgender issues. Recently, his campaign slammed President Biden’s proclamation of Transgender Day of Visibility as “blasphemous” for falling on the same day as Easter. Notably, Trans Day of Visibility has been on March 31st for several years, whereas Easter is a moving holiday. Shortly after, he endorsed Pastor Mark Burns in South Carolina, who has called for executions over transgender people.

Recently, in a rally in Michigan, he stated that his day-one priorities included reversing Title IX protections for trans youth. Likewise, last year he released a video stating he intends to target programs promoting gender-affirming care “at any age” and to treat gender-affirming care as child abuse.

Wisconsin has seen an extreme number of anti-transgender and anti-LGBTQ+ bills: over 17 bills were proposed in 2024 targeting transgender people. Though many of these bills passed due to Republican legislative majorities, which are forecast to lessen after redistricting this year, all bills were stopped by Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers, who promised to veto bills targeting transgender people in the state:

“I’ll keep my promise to veto any bill making Wisconsin less safe, less inclusive, and less welcoming for LGBTQ people and kids — including this one,” Evers said. “And I’ll be damn proud to do it.”

If Trump is making a play for a political win using transgender issues as a major campaign issue, he may face difficulties. In the 2022 gubernatorial election, Republicans spent money on ads warning voters in Wisconsin of “transgender kindergarteners” and campaigned heavily on the issue.

Evers won his election and thanked voters in his victory speech for standing up for transgender kids. Similarly, millions were spent on ads against Judge Janet Protasiewicz for the Wisconsin Supreme Court over transgender youth. These ads also failed, with the judge outperforming expected results and winning her election.

Nevertheless, the Trump campaign is doubling down on this issue, mirroring the approach of many far-right Republicans in other states. His emphasis on transgender policies in a swing state is a strategic move worth monitoring to see if it solidifies as a cornerstone of his election platform.

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

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

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Research/Study

New Polling: 65% of Black Americans support Black LGBTQ rights

73% of Gen Z respondents (between the ages of 12 and 27) “agree that the Black community should do more to support Black LGBTQ+ people”

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Photo courtesy of the National Black Justice Coalition.

WASHINGTON – The National Black Justice Coalition, a D.C.-based LGBTQ advocacy organization, announced on June 19 that it commissioned what it believes to be a first-of-its-kind national survey of Black people in the United States in which 65 percent said they consider themselves “supporters of Black LGBTQ+ people and rights,” with 57 percent of the supporters saying they were “churchgoers.”

In a press release describing the findings of the survey, NBJC said it commissioned the research firm HIT Strategies to conduct the survey with support from five other national LGBTQ organizations – the Human Rights Campaign, the National LGBTQ Task Force, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Family Equality, and GLSEN.

“One of the first surveys of its kind, explicitly sampling Black people (1,300 participants) on Black LGBTQ+ people and issues – including an oversampling of Black LGBTQ+ participants to provide a more representative view of this subgroup – it investigates the sentiments, stories, perceptions, and priorities around Black values and progressive policies, to better understand how they impact Black views on Black LGBTQ+ people,” the press release says.

It says the survey found, among other things, that 73 percent of Gen Z respondents, who in 2024 are between the ages of 12 and 27, “agree that the Black community should do more to support Black LGBTQ+ people.”

According to the press release, it also found that 40 percent of Black people in the survey reported having a family member who identifies as LGBTQ+ and 80 percent reported having “some proximity to gay, lesbian, bisexual, or queer people, but only 42 percent have some proximity to transgender or gender-expansive people.”

The survey includes these additional findings:

• 86% of Black people nationally report having a feeling of shared fate and connectivity with other Black people in the U.S., but this view doesn’t fully extend to the Black LGBTQ+ community. Around half — 51% — of Black people surveyed feel a shared fate with Black LGBTQ+ people.

• 34% reported the belief that Black LGBTQ+ people “lead with their sexual orientation or gender identity.” Those participants were “significantly less likely to support the Black LGBTQ+ community and most likely to report not feeling a shared fate with Black LGBTQ+ people.”

• 92% of Black people in the survey reported “concern about youth suicide after being shown statistics about the heightened rate among Black LGBTQ+ youth.” Those expressing this concern included 83% of self-reported opponents of LGBTQ+ rights.

• “Black people’s support for LGBTQ+ rights can be sorted into three major groups: 29% Active Accomplices, 25% Passive Allies (high potential to be moved), 35% Opponents. Among Opponents, ‘competing priorities’ and ‘religious beliefs’ are the two most significant barriers to supporting Black LGBTQ+ people and issues.”

• 10% of the survey participants identified as LGBTQ. Among those who identified as LGBTQ, 38% identified as bisexual, 33% identified as lesbian or gay, 28% identified as non-binary or gender non-conforming, and 6% identified as transgender.

• Also, among those who identified as LGBTQ, 89% think the Black community should do more to support Black LGBTQ+ people, 69% think Black LGBTQ+ people have fewer rights and freedoms than other Black people, 35% think non-Black LGBTQ+ people have fewer rights and freedom than other Black people, 54% “feel their vote has a lot of power,” 51% live in urban areas, and 75% rarely or never attend church.

Additional information about the survey from NBJC can be accessed here.

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Los Angeles County

LAUSD board votes to ban student cellphone use during school day

Mobile phone apps are often cited as the leading cause among adolescents to suffer from episodes of mental health crisis or being bullied

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LAUSD board votes to ban student cellphone use during school day. (Screenshot/YouTube KABC 7 Eyewitness News)

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) voted Tuesday to ban mobile phone use during the school day starting in January of 2025. The ban is a complete prohibition against access and use of mobile phones by students on all LAUSD school campuses, including break periods.

“No matter what we bring to the board in the next four months, it will come with an awareness campaign for all stakeholders including students, but advances also the critical element of pursuing litigation against social media giants for their careless, irresponsible and immoral actions that have put kids across the country in the position they’re in today,” said LAUSD Superintendent Alberto Carvalho.

There was dissension as two school board members opposed the ban citing how difficult it would be for employees of the second largest school district in the country to enforce the ban and stay on top of it, KABC 7 reported.

Nick Melvoin, the LAUSD school board member for District 4, who spearheaded the ban, spoke with KABC 7:

“When I talk to teachers and students and parents… I also hear the same, which is that more and more time is being spent on policing student phone use. There’s not a coherent enforcement and they’re looking for some support from the board and from the district,” Melvoin said Tuesday. “The schools that have gone farther and that have already implemented a phone-free school day report incredible results. Kids are happier, they’re talking to one another, their academics are up.”

Some parents and others are opposed to the ban telling KABC that they wanted to be able to communicate with their children. Others however see the ban as a means to improve learning and lead to less bullying.

On Monday, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy wrote an op-ed calling for warning labels for younger users on social media platforms.

With mobile phone apps most often cited as the leading cause among adolescents to suffer from episodes of mental health crisis or being bullied as is a majority of cases for LGBTQ+ youth, especially trans and gender non-conforming youth, limiting school day usage could mitigate a portion of those instances a San Fernando Valley youth mental health crisis counselor, who asked to remain unidentified, told the Blade Tuesday afternoon.

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Missouri

Planned Parenthood will fight Missouri AG on trans youth records

Lawyers representing Planned Parenthood and the Missouri AG argued Monday over HIPPA protections during a St. Louis Circuit Court hearing

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Advocates with PROMO and Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri rally outside of the St. Louis Civil Courts building Monday afternoon (Annelise Hanshaw/Missouri Independent).

By Annelise Hanshaw | ST. LOUIS, Mo. – A circuit court judge heard arguments Monday over whether the Missouri attorney general’s efforts to access medical records of transgender youth violate privacy protections.

Monday’s hearing was convened at the request of Bailey in the hopes that the court would amend a previous order that requires patients to waive HIPAA rights before their medical records could be shared. If they don’t waive HIPAA, their documents would be exempt from the attorney general’s request for medical records.

HIPAA, which stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, protects patients from their providers disclosing their personally identifiable health information.

St. Louis Circuit Court Judge Joseph Whyte did not immediately rule following the hearing. Richard Muniz, interim president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, said if the decision is unfavorable, his organization will appeal.

“Our commitment to our patients is that we will fight this as long as we need to,” Muniz told The Independent. “Today, we’ve already signaled that we are going to appeal because we think that we shouldn’t have to turn over documents, especially patient records, but we shouldn’t have to partake in this investigation at all.”

Bailey launched his investigation in March 2023 looking into gender-affirming care of minors after the affidavit of Jamie Reed, who worked at Washington University’s adolescent Transgender Center. In April, another circuit court judge ruled that Bailey may continue his investigation — adding that patients must waive HIPAA rights before their private health information could be shared.

Children’s Mercy in Kansas City, Washington University and Planned Parenthood Great Plains are also arguing against the attorney general’s civil investigative demands.

The April decision, beyond giving patients the ability to protect their medical records, granted Bailey power to investigate Planned Parenthood under the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act, a state law that allows the attorney general’s office to investigate deceptive marketing practices.

Matthew Eddy, an attorney representing Planned Parenthood said during his arguments Monday that the attorney general’s authority under the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act has yet to be fully litigated.

Health care providers are fearful of what the attorney general might do with more information. Prior reporting by The Independent revealed Bailey’s use of the Division of Professional Registration, which is investigating therapists as a result of a complaint from his office.

After the attorney general’s office received a list of minor patients that received care at the Washington University Transgender Center and other documents, therapists and social workers that had written letters of support for patients to go to the Transgender Center had their licenses at risk. As of early May, 16 of 57 cases were still open.

Hearing

Deputy Solicitor General Sam Freeland, representing the attorney general, argued Monday that a federal regulation allows medical records to be released when ordered by the court. He told the judge this exception was “not discussed by the plaintiff.”

“HIPAA has not barred the disclosure of the documents in question,” Freeland argued.

He said Planned Parenthood had the burden of proof to show that HIPAA covers the documents.

Eddy this was “simply not correct.”

“Planned Parenthood has proven the general rule that HIPAA protects disclosure,” he said. “The burden is on the respondent to show that the exception applies.”

Eddy further attacked the premise of Bailey’s investigation, which Freeland argued was not on the table Monday.

He said the attorney general’s civil investigative demands, which Eddy said were titled as an investigation into the Washington University Transgender Center, “had no allegations as to Planned Parenthood’s conduct.”

“He can’t point to a single complaint from a patient, a patient’s parent,” Eddy said.

Eddy said the attorney general “had 54 incredibly broad requests for information.”

“Included in the requests are information that would be deeply sensitive to transgender minors,” he told the judge.

Muniz told reporters one of the requests was for “any document that mentions TikTok,” calling the investigation a “sprawling phishing expedition.”

In press releases, Bailey has expressed a belief that all gender-affirming medical providers are connected.

“I launched this investigation to obtain the truth about how this clandestine network of clinics subjected children to puberty blockers and irreversible surgery, often without parental consent,” he said in a statement following the hearing Monday. “We are moving forward undeterred with our investigation into Planned Parenthood. I will not stop until all bad actors are held accountable.”

Muniz said Planned Parenthood does not have a formal relationship with Washington University, which was the focus of Reed’s affidavit and the beginning of Bailey’s investigation.

Supporters of Planned Parenthood rallied before the hearing, calling the investigation a political attack.

“(Bailey) only wants (the records) so he can politicize gender affirming care and to put a target on transgender and gender-non-conforming patients,” Margot Riphagen, Planned Parenthood St. Louis’s vice president of external affairs, said during the rally.

Katy Erker-Lynch, executive director of LGBTQ advocacy organization PROMO, called the attorney general’s actions “scary.”

“He has pushed credentialing committees of social workers, professional counselors and family and marital therapists to investigate every single provider on the eastern side of the state that has offered a letter of support for a trans or gender expansive kid to receive care,” she said, referencing a Division of Professional Registration investigation that stemmed from the AG’s complaint.

Around 40 people attended the rally, filling the courtroom until a small group were standing in the back. Most wore t-shirts with phrases like “protect trans kids” or “I fight with Planned Parenthood” and filed into the seats behind Planned Parenthood’s lawyers before sitting on the opposing side.

“Thank you,” a few people told Eddy as they walked out of the St. Louis courtroom.

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Annelise Hanshaw

Annelise Hanshaw writes about education — a beat she has covered on both the West and East Coast while working for daily newspapers in Santa Barbara, California, and Greenwich, Connecticut. A born-and-raised Missourian, she is proud to be back in her home state.

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The preceding article was previously published by The Missouri Independent and is republished with permission.

The Missouri Independent is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization dedicated to relentless investigative journalism and daily reporting that sheds light on state government and its impact on the lives of Missourians. This service is free to readers and other news outlets.

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

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Montana

Montana court hears arguments defining sex as ‘male’ or ‘female’

The bill drew national attention from critics, who said it left no place for those who don’t fit a biologically narrow definition

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Thane Johnson, representing the state of Montana, gestures in Missoula County District Court during arguments over a bill that defines sex as “male” and “female.” (Keila Szpaller/The Daily Montanan)

By Keila Szpaller | MISSOULA, Mont. – Defining “sex” makes some people think back on the President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky scandal — so said lawyer Kyle Gray on Tuesday in Missoula County District Court.

In that case, the president swore he didn’t have “sexual relations” with a White House intern, but questions swirled around what exactly had been happening in the Oval Office when it came to sex.

 Lawyer Kyle Gray, left, with Holland & Hart, argues on behalf of plaintiffs who allege Senate bill 458 is unconstitutional. Lawyer Alex Rate, right, with the ACLU of Montana, also represents plaintiffs.
(Keila Szpaller/The Daily Montanan)

Gray, representing plaintiffs in a lawsuit over a 2023 bill that defines “sex,” said the word can mean sexual intercourse as much as it can refer to “male” and “female.”

Senate Bill 458, the subject of litigation, aims to define sex as “male” or “female.”

The Montana Constitution, however, says the public needs to have a clear idea of the topic of a bill, and that a bill must have “only one purpose.” As such, Gray argued SB 458 missed the mark.

The bill’s title is “an act generally revising the laws to provide a common definition for the word sex when referring to a human.” It lists 41 sections of law to be revised.

“It’s the poster boy for violating the single-subject clearly expressed in the title of the bill,” said Gray, of Holland & Hart.

On behalf of the State of Montana, however, attorney Thane Johnson told Judge Shane Vannatta the point of the “single subject” rule is to prevent fraud and deception. It ensures a bill isn’t hiding things or keeping information under wraps, he said, and SB 458 spells out its plan for updates.

SB 458 defines sex as male or female, and Johnson said the title “puts the world on notice” of its intent for numerous updates. Additionally, he said, a title can’t rule out all other interpretations without going on at length.

“Plaintiffs’ argument would lead to absurd results because our title would just … fill up pages,” Johnson said.

In 2023, the Montana Legislature adopted the controversial bill that defined sex based on people’s reproductive organs and the cells they produce at the time of birth.

In response, the American Civil Liberties Union of Montana sued the state of Montana on behalf of Shawn Reagor, Dandilion Cloverdale, Jamie Doe, Linda Troyer and Jane Doe, alleging the law “is hopelessly confusing, overbroad, and … invades the province of the courts.”

The bill drew national attention from critics, who said it left no place for people who don’t fit the biologically narrow and unscientific definition. The Human Rights Campaign referred to it as the “LGBTQ+ Erasure Act.”

Tuesday, however, the parties argued only about whether the bill’s title got crosswise with the Montana Constitution’s requirement that a bill generally address only one topic, and that its title clearly expresses it.

In the argument for the state, Johnson said the title did refer to a common definition of sex, and he pointed to Webster’s Dictionary as one piece of evidence. He also explained the rationale behind the bill as addressing an idea that’s emerged in the last 10 years or so.

“The legislature just felt the need to define that term more clearly under the concept of modern times, and I don’t think there’s any question that this is the state of affairs that we are in,” Johnson said.

Although Johnson said the bill meets the single subject requirement, he said he believes it fits better as one of the exceptions to the rule. To that end, he peeled apart the requirement in Article 5 Section 11 subsection 3 of the state constitution:

“Each bill, except general appropriation bills and bills for the codification and general revision of the laws, shall contain only one subject, clearly expressed in its title. If any subject is embraced in any act and is not expressed in the title, only so much of the act not so expressed is void.”

Johnson argued the constitution allows for three exceptions — appropriation bills, codification bills, and general revision bills — and said SB 458 fit the exception given it was “generally revising” the law.

But he said the bill is constitutional either way, whether it’s an exception to the rule, as he believes, or it’s not.

Vannatta asked Johnson about “male” and “female” not being in the title, and Johnson pointed out the title refers to “humans.” Vannatta also wanted to know how the state responded to sex referring also to intercourse, but Johnson said the court is “obligated to liberally construe the definition.”

Vannatta had asked the plaintiffs whether the concepts of “male” and “female” don’t naturally flow from the term “sex,” as the defendants allege. Gray countered that defining sex led her to think of the political scandal with Clinton.

Gray also said the language about bill titles had never been interpreted the way the state was interpreting it. She said the point is to ensure the public knows what is taking place, and a reference to “generally revising” in the title doesn’t cut it.

“A bill generally revising laws about dogs wouldn’t tell you that the legislature has decided to outlaw rabies,” Gray said as an example.

In this case, Gray said the title appears to be “very deceptive,” although she said it’s possible no one thought about other definitions.

Regardless, she said, the title of the bill doesn’t give the public an idea of the way the law would change things in practice.

For example, she said, with its definition of sex as “male” or “female,” is Montana saying a hospital can discriminate against admitting a person who is transgender or intersex?

“Well, if they’re saying that, certainly the public wants to know,” Gray said.

Also, what do sex and gender have to do with interstate signage or building codes? Gray said some issues relate to gender, but some “make no sense at all,” and the public would need to dig into the subject matter to find out.

 Reagor, lead plaintiff, left, speaks with observer Keppen, right, after the hearing.
(Keila Szpaller/The Daily Montanan)

After the hearing, Vannatta said he would take the request for summary judgment under advisement and rule when possible.

If the judge finds in favor of the plaintiffs, the law will be off the books, said Alex Rate, lawyer for the ACLU of Montana.

However, if the judge finds in favor of the state, the court will consider the second claim from plaintiffs, he said; they also argue it is up to the courts, not the legislature, to determine the definition of sex because it’s part of the Equal Protection clause of the constitution.

That issue wasn’t the subject of Tuesday’s hearing.

Reagor, one of the plaintiffs, said the courtroom heard just one of the arguments the bill was unconstitutional, but it’s not the only one: “I think it’s really disappointing that so many taxpayer dollars are being wasted on defending bills that are malicious and that legislators knew were unconstitutional when they passed them.”

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Keila Szpaller

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

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

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

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

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U.S. Federal Courts

Federal judge wants Q&A doc from lawyers in trans medical case

The report concluded lawyers had engaged in judge-shopping, adding sometimes lawyers consider potential judges in determining where to file

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The Frank M. Johnson Jr. Federal Building and United States Courthouse in Montgomery, Alabama, seen on January 24, 2023. (Brian Lyman/Alabama Reflector)

By Jemma Stephenson | MONTGOMERY, Ala. – A federal judge in Montgomery Friday ordered attorneys representing transgender families to turn over a document used to prep lawyers ahead of a hearing over alleged judge shopping. 

In the 51-page filing, U.S. District Judge Liles C. Burke told the lawyers to provide the information, known as a Q&A document, to the judge for an in-camera review, to decide whether or not the document is covered by attorney-client privilege.

Burke, appointed by former President Donald Trump, has accused the attorneys for the families of trying to a get a judge that would be favorable to their case.

“This is not an ordinary civil case in which a court simply disbelieved testimony about an important fact: here, a three-judge panel was investigating whether lawyers intentionally attempted to subvert the administration of justice by judge-shopping, unanimously found that they did, unanimously disbelieved their explanations that they did not, unanimously expressed concern about their candor, and unanimously found that one lawyer lied outright,” he wrote. “If this is not enough to open the door for an in camera review of the Q&A document, it is difficult to imagine what would suffice.”

According to the Legal Information Institute, “in camera” reviews “are held in private before a judge where the press and the public are not allowed to take part.”

In May, a filing from the attorneys said that the document was an appropriate preparation for questions from a panel investigating the allegations and not under a continuing order from the panel or generated to further crime or fraud. They wrote that it should not trigger the crime-fraud exception and that if an in-camera review must take place, it should be done by a special master.

A message was left with attorney Barry Ragsdale, who according to Burke created the document and represents some of the accused attorneys. A message was also left with the attorney for Kathleen Hartnett, who according to Burke’s filing has her own attorney. The whole Walker team was formerly represented by Ragsdale, according to Burke’s filing.

The plaintiffs sued Alabama in 2022 over a law making it a felony to prescribe hormones and puberty blockers in gender-affirming care. Burke, who heard the case, initially ruled for the plaintiffs and blocked the state law. But a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit overturned his ruling last year. The plaintiffs are seeking a full review of the decision by the circuit.

In 2022, shortly after Gov. Kay Ivey signed the restrictions on gender-affirming medical care, multiple lawsuits were filed against the law. According to an October report from a panel that investigated the charges of judge shopping, the first lawsuit in the U.S. Northern District of Alabama was originally assigned to U.S. District Judge Anna Manasco, who recused herself. The case was reassigned to Magistrate Judge Staci G. Cornelius. There was not unanimous consent for “dispositive jurisdiction” by a magistrate judge, so the court was reassigned to Judge Annemarie Carnie Axon.

The second lawsuit was filed in the U.S. Middle District of Alabama, and the attorneys marked the case as related to Corbitt v. Taylor, a 2018 case. The case was assigned to Chief Judge Emily C. Marks. The attorneys filed a motion that the case be reassigned to Judge Myron H. Thompson, who presided over Corbitt. Thompson has historically ruled for abortion and civil rights cases. They also called Thompson’s chambers.

In the report, the panel accused an attorney of having “deliberately misled” the panel about the call to Thompson’s office. In the Friday filing, Burke wrote that this “provides a stand-alone evidentiary basis for a prima facie showing of fraud on the court.”

“Put differently, the Panel’s finding (and independently, the transcripts they rely on) support a prima facie case of perjury as a ‘crime,’ but they also suffice to show a prima facie case of fraud on the court under the separate heading of ‘fraud,’” he wrote.

According to the October filing, Marks entered an order to show why the case should not be transferred to the Northern District. Lawyers from the two cases had a conference call, and the parties consented to a transfer. Then the attorneys responded to the order and withdrew their motion. Marks transferred the case and it was randomly assigned to Burke, who set a hearing date. The attorneys in the cases were going to consolidate their cases.

Axon was presiding over a criminal trial, so the first case was transferred to Burke. The state attorneys then indicated that they would not file a motion to consolidate.

Within minutes of each other, both of the lawsuits were dismissed by the attorneys. Attorneys told reporters that they were planning to refile.

Burke filed an order that included that the lawyers were giving an appearance of judge shopping. At his direction, the clerk forwarded that order to the chief judge of each district in Alabama.

A new case was filed in the U.S. Middle District and was assigned to Burke by designation.

The panelists’ October report concluded that the lawyers engaged in judge-shopping.

“The Panel is not naïve,” the panel wrote in their October report. “Lawyers sometimes consider potential judicial assignments in determining where to file a case, and there may be reasons why in certain cases some judges may be considered more favorable draws than others. So the panel does not condemn the lawyers for fretting about their chances of success before a particular judge. Of course, the irony here is that counsel ultimately succeeded before Judge Burke. But in this case, counsel did more than fret. They made plans and took steps in an attempt to manipulate the assignment of these cases.”

related

Since then, Burke has requested that the document be overturned and met with the accused attorneys after a recent court hearing. The panelists had asked the attorneys if they had been coached on what to say in the proceedings, and most of the lawyers said no. One lawyer, Milo Inglehart, said he had been provided the Q&A document the night before that included talking points in response to some potential questions.

The panel asked for the document to be turned over. The attorney did not do so, allegedly at the direction of Ragsdale.

“Mr. Ragsdale unilaterally decided that Mr. Inglehart could avoid producing the Q&A Document anyway—even though the Panel had just rejected counsel’s arguments that the attorney-client privilege or the work-product doctrine shielded it from disclosure—because the July 25 order exempted ‘privileged communications’ from disclosure in the respondents’ declarations,” wrote Burke in a footnote. “Even though the panel denied the request for a protective order, Mr. Inglehart nonetheless withheld the Q&A document as privileged at his counsel’s advice.”

The judge wrote that the document must be provided by 5 p.m. on Tuesday.

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Jemma Stephenson

Jemma Stephenson covers education as a reporter for the Alabama Reflector. She previously worked at the Montgomery Advertiser and graduated from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

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

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

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

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