LGBTQ people are not a social or cultural issue. LGBTQ people are human beings linked by love and sexual attraction who confront issues of race, gender, age, legal and economic discrimination largely in intersectional silence due to explicit and internalized systemic homophobia and transphobia. The Williams Institute, an LGBTQ legal and policy think tank, counters that silence through scholarship, collecting and analyzing data that presents the persistent need for LGBTQ rights.
The data illuminates the LGBTQ community: As of April 2020, there are an estimated 13,042,000 million LGBT people age 13 and older in America. As of May, 1.7 million live in California, 15% of all LGBT adults in the U.S., Legal Director Christy Mallory told the Los Angeles Blade.
Williams Institute founding director Brad Sears noted during a July 31 webinar “Are We There Yet? LGBTQ Rights and the Bostock Decision,” that each number is an individual LGBTQ person struggling amid the cacophony of the COVID crisis and the uncertain economic future. That struggle could possibly be compounded by failure to enforce the June 15 landmark Supreme Court ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County affirming that Title VII protects employees nationwide from discrimination based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.
“We know that there are over 8 million LGBTQ people in our workforce and that half of them live in States that don’t have state laws protecting them from discrimination,” Sears said. And with the Equality Act stuck in Congress, there is no federal statute that explicitly provides that protection, either.
“We know that that has consequences,” Sears said, noting numerous Williams Institute studies reporting much higher rates of LGBTQ unemployment, poverty, food insecurity and housing instability. “In this time of economic downturn, we can see really what that looks like,” along with the greater LGBTQ vulnerability to COVID-19.
And while “it’s good to quantify the impact of that discrimination,” Sears said, “we also need to recognize that every one of those numbers represents thousands and thousands of individual people.”
As background to the webinar, the Williams Institute released a pre-COVID paper looking at state nondiscrimination laws. A key finding: “3.6 million more LGBT people will gain non-discrimination protections if state-level sex non-discrimination laws in their states are interpreted consistent with Bostock,” said Mallory. HRC published an analysis, as well: “What the Supreme Court Ruling in Bostock Means For State Legislative Efforts.”
Along with Sears, who is also Associate Dean of Public Interest Law at UCLA Law, the webinar featured Alphonso David, President of the Human Rights Campaign, Andy Marra, executive director of the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF), and Melissa Zahra, whose brother was a one of the plaintiffs in the Bostock case.
Professor Cary Franklin of the University of Texas laid out the case. She explained how Justice Gorsuch, who wrote the positive 6-3 decision, interpreted Title VII using textualism which looks at the text of a law, not what the original legislators intended. Therefore, the courts have held that “any time you discriminate against people because they are gay, lesbian or transgender, you are in part discriminating against them on the basis of their sex.” (Bisexual and non-binary people were not discussed.)
Dissenter Justice Alito was “apoplectic” about that interpretation, saying legislators in 1960 did not intend these sorts of protections. But, Franklin noted, the legislators didn’t then consider discrimination on the basis of motherhood or sexual harassment as forms of behavior that were discrimination on the basis of sex. “Now the court agrees that those things are sex discrimination.”
Unfortunately, Franklin said, the Court didn’t end there, mentioning three possible exceptions to avoid infringements on the rights of religious people: the exemption in Title VII itself for religious organizations to prefer “co-religionists” and discriminate against those who don’t conduct themselves according to the tenants of the religion; the “ministerial exception;” and expanded interpretation of the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RIFRA).
“The ministerial exception is not part of Title VII. It is a court created doctrine,” Franklin said. “The court has interpreted the First Amendment to say that when religious organizations are hiring ministers, they don’t have to follow any anti-discrimination law. The Title VII exemption allows you to discriminate on the basis of religion. The ministerial exception allows you to discriminate at all the bases — race, national origin, sex, disability, and age, any anti-discrimination protections.”
Franklin put it into a larger context:
“It’s part of an enormous movement on the part of the religious right to blunt the effect of anti-discrimination law — courts have expanded the concept of ‘minister.’ Expanded it quite far. When I say ‘minister,’ you’re thinking of minister, priest, rabbi, Imam. That’s not what it means in the law anymore. It increasingly means workers for religiously-affiliated organizations.
As you may know, a decision came down this summer involving two fifth grade teachers at a Catholic school. Those teachers filed age and disability discrimination suits. And the court said their employer was not required to follow anti-discrimination law because those teachers were ministers.
Now this is an expansion of the law because those teachers didn’t have any particular religious training. They weren’t referred to by the title of ‘minister.’ They spent almost all of their day teaching math and English and science — but the Court held them to be ministers. So Justice Sonia Sotomayor in dissent says this is extremely worrisome. Coaches, camp counselors, social service workers, in house lawyers, media relations personnel, many folks who work for religious organizations could now be counted as ministers.
And I will tell you my concern and the kind of maximalist reading of the ministerial exception would extend to healthcare. You could imagine, and this is certainly the movement arguing that religiously affiliated hospitals, the folks who work for them, nurses, maybe even doctors are ministering to the sick.
This is a campaign to define an enormous swath of the American workforce as ministers and strip them of any anti-discrimination protection, certainly to protections annunciated in Bostock. But any protection of Title VII.”
The third exemption the Court mentions is RIFRA, originally enacted by the left “as a shield to protect the religious freedom of minority groups who were being injured by laws of general applicability.” But now it is being used as a sword to grant religious individuals license to discriminate against others by exempting them from the entire anti-discrimination regime, says Franklin.
“If the court continues to interpret RIFRA to excuse religious organizations from the mandates of anti-discrimination law, this will truly be the monster that eats anti-discrimination law,” says Franklin. “We will not have much of it left.”
Punctuating Sear’s point that real people are hurt by discrimination, Melissa Zahra told the story of her late brother, Donald Zarda who sued Altitude Express, alleging his employment was terminated because of his sexual orientation.
Gerald Bostock (Photo courtesy CNBC)
Zarda’s lawsuit had been consolidated with a lawsuit brought by Gerald Bostock who alleged he was fired from his child welfare job for being gay by officials in Clayton County, Georgia, and a lawsuit brought by Aimee Stephens, an employee at R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, Inc., who alleged she was fired for being transgender.
Aimee Stephens (Photo courtesy ACLU)
Melissa Zahra wanted to put a face behind the story to her brother’s lawsuit.
“Every single thing that mattered to my brother for the majority of his life was being in the air. This was something that he discovered when he was in the military and from the moment of his very first jump, it was his mission to be in the air.
He got every single certification that a skydiving instructor could get. He accumulated easily over 10,000 jumps. He got his pilot’s license. He completed his degree in aviation management, He even liked zip-lining — just any way to be in the air.
Once he had discovered skydiving, he had my family’s full support because we loved seeing how happy he was. It became his entire world and all of the time what he would be traveling around to all these different drop zones and airports and different countries and teaching and being an instructor. And whenever he came home, he would have a new batch of videos for us to all watch. And of course we found it frightening, but also cool. And, you know, he was just so happy. It was his passion and he loved sharing it with people. So when he decided to dedicate his career to it — he was actually in school for engineering and he decided this is what he wanted to do and it’s what made him happy.
It was about this time in 2010 where he’d already been a skydive instructor for a long time and he had a lot of experience. He was working at a drop zone in New York and he was doing tandem jumps where you’re strapped to the other person with close physical contact.
There’s a lot of joking by the instructors and people on the job because people are understandably nervous, especially first-timers. They try to break the ice and lightened things up a little bit. And in an effort to make a student more comfortable with their close physical contact, my brother mentioned he was gay — kind of like, ‘don’t worry about me. I’m gay.’
After that jump, he was fired from his job that he loved so, so much. He was just absolutely devastated by this.
It’s important to note that this wasn’t just a skydiving instructor job, like a summer job for him. It was his entire passion. He was afraid that it would be harder to get employment at other skydiving places because it’s a small community and people share and he didn’t want to be seen as difficult or whatever — but at the same time, he knew that he needed to stand up and that it wasn’t fair and that it wasn’t right. So he ended up bringing this suit against his former employer and it just went on for what felt like forever. He would be calling my sister and my mom and me for counsel and support. He was just heartbroken.
And he started at this point taking a little bit more risks because he felt like, ‘I’m not going to be able to work. My life’s changed because of this.’ And he started taking riskier jobs. He started getting involved with base jumping, wing suit flying, and the combination of all of that. And it was that that ultimately led to his passing in 2014 in an accident.
Don Zarda, Melissa Zahra, and Bill Moore (Photo courtesy ACLU)
At that point myself and his partner Bill Moore were left as executors of his estate and we decided we definitely needed to pursue this in Don’s memory because it was so important to him and he wanted nothing more than to clear his name.
So that’s what we did. And we had a wonderful team of people who helped us along the way. And I can’t even imagine having been able to do this without them. Every single person was so amazing. And the ruling came out and we were beside ourselves — and that’s where we are today.”
TLDEF‘s Andy Marra talked about the importance of trans employee Aimee Stephens bringing her case – the first-ever trans rights case to be heard by SCOTUS. She was represented by the ACLU, with trans attorneys, Gabriel Arkles, and Chase Strangio who appeared before a conservative-leaning Court and transgender leaders across the country signed numerous amicus briefs “to make sure that our voices were well-represented.” Unfortunately, like Don Zarda, Stephens did not live to see her Supreme Court victory.
“LGBTQ+ people won because of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” Marra said, “and LGBTQ+ people across the country owe a debt of gratitude to Black and Brown people who came before us and fought so hard for civil rights protections.”
Marra focused on Justice Samuel Alito’s sharp dissent and some of the challenges that trans people face, doing so as an “optimistic person” who believes “our movement will win” — and through a movement and activist lens.
Marra’s first concern was how Alito compared the litigants to pirates. What was most disturbing about Alito’s dissent is that it “relied on harmful and already debunked myths about our community,” Marra said. “LGBTQ people were essentially compared to being rapists and sexual predators. And we were also being cast as folks that had suffered from severe mental illness.”
Marra also noted the “hopeful aspect” for the movement of Alito’s dissent: “essentially Justice Alito laid out a roadmap for advancing legal equality for transgender people and some of that work is already underway,” such as in healthcare access and protections, sex- segregated facilities in sports, and transgender people being recognized with proper pronouns.
There are a number of active litigation being brought that relies on Title VII, including healthcare. One of TLDEF’s lawsuits was cited by Alito “and we’re absolutely proud to be a part of the parade of horribles, as I’m sure we could be described as,” Marra said.
“Because of this ruling, we have a strong case to argue future litigation,” Marra said. This is a window of opportunity for us, in terms of pronouns and the First Amendment. There was a separate section in the Alito dissent that covered freedom of speech and raising the concerns around, essentially, people being forced to use gender pronouns against their will.”
Though military issues are not part of TLDEF‘s litigation portfolio, Marra did note that there are more than 14,000 trans service members, though courts have held that Title VII does not pertain to them.
“It’s worrying,” Marra said, “that the military is the nation’s largest employer for trans folks and I think that will be very interesting to see how that particular issue moves forward.”
Finally, Marra pointed out the importance on educating attorneys and law students, especially those engaged in public interest law or pro bono work, about how Bostock pertains to trans people, especially people of color.
“There is a belief that this recent ruling and Title VII really doesn’t impact their day to day lives,” Marra said. “I think it reflects the fundamental struggles for transgender people to even attain an appointment or even have access to economic opportunity, let alone be fired from a job.”
Sears introduced HRC’s Alphonso David with accolades. “I’m just blown away by what you’ve been able to accomplish there already,” he said.
David noted that the Williams Institute has been “so instrumental to the movement over the past several decades. I know I’ve been doing this work for more than 20 years, and I’ve been relying on the research from the Williams Institute.”
The Bostock decision, David said, “yes, it is a significant decision. But it has significant limitations, as well.”
The ruling reminded him of the 1998 Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services, Inc.lawsuit brought by a male oil rig worker who alleged repeated subjected to sexual harassment by male coworkers. Justice Anton Scalia wrote the majority opinion saying workplace discrimination includes sexual harassment by male coworkers.
“It was a great ruling, but we were also concerned about the application” said David. “And we were concerned about the holding in Oncale being limited or limiting same sex harassment to three situations that were enumerated in the holding. We also were concerned about the difficulties of proving an aggressor’s sexual desire or orientation because of the inference that is not really presumed and how our plaintiff’s going to have to prove that someone was actually harassing them when the person sexual orientation may not be presumed in those cases.”
David noted that there have been many decisions over the years that are inconsistent about the application Oncale. He felt the same about Bostock.
“Here we have a significant ruling that says that LGBTQ people should be treated the same as everyone else under Title VII, because of sex includes sexual orientation and gender identity, which is great.
But we know about the limitations: the Court said it doesn’t relate to religious objections — they’re not talking about that issue. They’re certainly not talking about sex-segregated spaces so we’re talking about bathrooms. We’re also talking about sports. Those issues, the Court did not address it all in Bostok, and I’m not suggesting that we would lose those cases if they were to be advanced to the Supreme court — but it does open up the possibility that we will be confronted with those cases in the near future, where opponents of equality will use Bostock against us. So I’m concerned about that.”
David also raised the point of the implications of Bostock on people of color since often discussion about the LGBTQ community historically do not include people of color.
“That has to change,” David said, as well as considering how Bostock does not apply to public accommodations.
“We have places of public accommodations that are not included in the 1964 Civil Rights Act,” he said. “So restaurants and hotels are certainly included. But there are other places — retail stores, salons, transportation hubs — are not included and that is of significant concern for me.”
David noted that “people of color continue to face persistent discrimination on a daily basis in stores and salons in accessing transportation services, like car services and taxis.”
He cited the example of clerks in a Georgetown neighborhood in Washington, DC, using a mobile app that allowed them to profile suspected shoplifters.
“When they reviewed the data, 90% of the photographs that they took were of Black people, often accompanied by racist language,” David said. Additionally, in Wisconsin, “a Black professional basketball player was denied access to a jewelry store based on his race. This is happening all over the country” where states or locales do not have non-discrimination laws.
“There are no federal laws that protect correct us when I get into an Uber or Lyft as a Black man or as a gay man. There are no federal laws that protect me in the instance of a retail establishment if I want to go in and purchase a suit or a tee shirt. I can face discrimination unless I have recourse under state law,” David said. “So Bostock is incredibly important for us, is a huge landmark achievement. But we cannot lose sight of how much work we have to do.”
Here are additional resources:
Cary Franklin’s 2012 Harvard Law Review article, which the Supreme Court cited in Bostock:
Human Rights Campaign’s recent legal actions:
- What the Supreme Court Ruling in Bostock Means For State Legislative Efforts
- Human Rights Campaign: Supreme Court is On Right Side of History for LGBTQ Rights
- HRC Files Federal Lawsuit Against Trump-Pence Administration
TLDEF’s recent initiatives:
Boston v. HHS filed on July 9th by TLDEF and other civil rights groups to challenge new rules released as it pertains to Section 1557 of the ACA https://tldef.org/stay-informed/breaking-were-suing-administration/
TLDEF’s Trans Health Project takes a comprehensive, systematic approach to expanding access to transgender-related health care by educating affected individuals about their legal rights; cultivating a robust movement to achieve health care equity; expanding enforcement of existing legal protections; and driving clinical policy changes among insurance carriers.
Here’s the full panel discussion, as well as questions and answers at the end:
State Department spokesperson welcomes Pope Francis’ opposition to criminalization laws
Ned Price is openly gay, said pontiff ‘speaks with authority’
WASHINGTON — State Department spokesperson Ned Price on Monday said he welcomes Pope Francis’ recent comments against criminalization laws.
“His Holiness using his voice in this way is something that will be noticed by people and governments around the world,” Price told the Washington Blade during his daily press briefing. “He obviously speaks with authority that perhaps no one else can. We welcome those remarks.”
Francis, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and the Rt. Rev. Ian Greenshields of the Church of Scotland on Sunday after they left South Sudan publicly denounced criminalization laws and said their respective churches should welcome LGBTQ+ and intersex people. Francis during an exclusive interview with the Associated Press on Jan. 24 described criminalization laws as “unjust” and said “being homosexual is not a crime.”
The Vatican’s tone towards LGBTQ+ and intersex issues has softened since Francis assumed the papacy in 2013, but the church continues to consider homosexuality a sin. The Vatican remains opposed to marriage rights for same-sex couples.
Price on Monday referred to President Joe Biden’s memorandum that committed the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ+ and intersex rights abroad as part of his administration’s overall foreign policy.
The openly gay State Department spokesperson in May 2021 told the Blade the decriminalization of consensual same-sex sexual relations is one of the five priorities for the White House in its efforts to promote LGBTQ+ and intersex rights abroad. Singapore, Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda and St. Kitts and Nevis have legalized homosexuality since that interview.
“We will continue, as an administration, as a government, to doing (sic) what we can, perhaps in a very different way, but practical steps that we can to promote and protect the rights of LGBTQI+ persons around the world,” said Price on Monday, referring to Biden’s foreign policy memorandum.
Patrons of Gay bar in New York City robbed of thousands
NYPD investigators believe the criminals used facial recognition to access the victims’ phones and funds once they were incapacitated
NEW YORK – The New York City Police Department, (NYPD) confirmed that a series of robberies committed at The Eagle NYC, a Chelsea gay leather bar last Fall, had the three victims losing thousands of dollars after the criminals used facial recognition to access the victims’ phones.
NBC News Out correspondent Matt Lavietes reported the three men, who were in their late 30s and 40s, visited The Eagle NYC, on separate nights in October and November and were each robbed of $1,000 to $5,000, according to the NYPD’s deputy commissioner of public information.
No arrests have been made and the investigation is ongoing, authorities said.
Capt. Robert Gault of the city’s 10th Precinct, who spoke about the incidents at a police community council meeting last week, told NBC News that NYPD investigators believe the criminals used facial recognition to access the victims’ phones and funds once they were incapacitated.
“What we think is happening with this scheme is they’re being lured away from the club, maybe to say, ‘Hey, you wanna come with me? I got some good drugs,’ or something like that,’” Gault said. “And then, once they get into a car to do whatever it is that they’re going to do, at some point or another, they don’t know what happened when they wake up.”
Criminals use facial recognition to rob patrons at NYC gay bar:
DeSantis targets Orlando non-profit over holiday drag show
ORLANDO – Florida’s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis escalated his war on the state’s LGBTQ+ community ordering a state agency to launch a complaint against a Orlando non-profit over a drag holiday event it hosted in which children under age 18 were allowed to attend.
The state’s Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco under the Department of Business and Professional Regulation filed the complaint on Friday against the Orlando Philharmonic Plaza Foundation alleging the foundation violated Florida law in allowing for a person to “commit lewd or lascivious exhibition” in the presence of an individual who is less than 16 years old.
“A Drag Queen Christmas” was hosted by the foundation on Dec. 28 and during the performance sold alcoholic drinks at its Plaza Live venue. In the complaint, the agency states that the foundation used “Christmas-themed promotional materials” that did not give advance notice of the “sexually explicit nature” of the show’s contents.
The complaint also states that the division sent the foundation a letter ahead of the show saying “sexually explicit drag show performances constitute public nuisances, lewd activity, and disorderly conduct when minors are in attendance” and the foundation’s license could be subject to penalties if it did not ensure minors could not attend the event.
In its capacity as a regulator of alcohol, the division attempting to revoke the foundation’s liquor license for six alleged counts of violating Florida statutes.
When asked about the move by the DeSantis administration targeting the non-profit, Bryan D. Griffin, the spokesman for DeSantis said “Governor DeSantis stands to protect the innocence of children, and the governor always follows through when he says he will do something.”
Orlando Weekly writer Matthew Moyer noted that The Plaza Live — besides serving as the performing home base of the Orlando Philharmonic — hosts a robust slate of touring bands, comedians, YouTubers and, yes, drag performers.
State Rep. Anna Eskamani released a statement to Orlando Weekly late Friday afternoon, condemning the state’s actions in no uncertain terms. “Governor Ron DeSantis’ culture wars are destroying people’s jobs and livelihoods. The very notion of shutting down a small business over a drag show is insane and extreme,” said Eskamani. “In the United States we do not allow the government to determine what we can read, see or hear or who we can gather with. Targeting drag performances limits everyone’s freedom of speech and is all a part of the Governor’s sick anti-LGBTQ+ agenda.”
This is about dehumanizing LGBTQ people and targeting them for retribution by the state by portraying LGBTQ people as abberant and deviant. It's absolutely disgusting and should not be tolerated.— Alejandra Caraballo (@Esqueer_) February 3, 2023
DeSantis previously filed a complaint against a popular restaurant and pub in the Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood in July, alleging that it violated a public decency law in allowing children to attend a drag show.
The R house, is a unique casual fine dining establishment and lounge with an integrated gallery right in the heart of the vibrant Miami-Wynwood arts district named for Rocco Carulli, the executive chef as well as creator of the restaurant. The R House identifies itself on its Facebook page as “the proud home of South Florida’s most popular weekend drag brunches! Make some time to check us out and experience R House.”
The complaint was filed by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation on asking that the R House restaurant is a declared a public nuisance and has its liquor license revoked.
According to the South Florida Sun Sentinel, the complaint was issued after a video of a recent performance at the bar’s drag brunch went viral. A topless drag queen wearing lingerie stuffed with money can be seen in the video attempting to dance with a young girl, who the DPBR estimates is “between three and five years old.” Twitter account “Libs of Tik Tok” originally found the footage on Tik Tok, posted by a user who wrote, “Children belong at drag shows!!!! Children deserve to see fun & expression & freedom.”
The department cited multiple incidents of inappropriate drag performances with kids in the audience, including one in which a child “between the ages of ten and twelve” was “seen recoiling and turning away in her seat as a Brunch performer climbed on the back of the child’s bench, squatted, and gyrated a couple of feet above the child’s head.”
Iowa Governor notes ‘parental rights’ at anti-LGBTQ+ town hall
Reynolds and Republican lawmakers pledged to pass legislation this session banning LGBTQ materials in schools
By Robin Opsahl | DES MOINES – Gov. Kim Reynolds and Republican legislators speaking at a “parental rights” event Thursday pledged to pass legislation this session banning LGBTQ materials in schools and policies allowing students to socially transition without their parents’ consent.
“School choice” supporters gathered at Franklin Junior High School in Des Moines Thursday evening for the town hall event, hosted by the conservative nonprofit Moms for Liberty. Reynolds cheered the passage of her private school scholarship plan in the first weeks of the 2023 session, and promised they were not done with education legislation.
“The last few years have provided so many reasons to be in this fight in the arena for kids,” Reynolds said. “And maybe for you it was how they were kept out of school wearing masks for no good reason. Maybe it was demonizing our country. Or an obsession with race in the classroom … I guess my message to you is, stay involved because parents and freedom still matter in Iowa.”
Protesters tried to shout over Reynolds’ speech, with one demonstrator holding up a transgender flag. Others in the room cheered and shouted “USA” as police officers removed protesters from the room.
Supporters celebrated approval of the Educational Savings Account (ESA) program, which gives students an account of $7,598 each year to use for private school tuition and associated costs. The national co-founder of Moms for Liberty, Tina Descovich, said she was excited to hear about Iowa successfully passing ESAs, but said that’s just “one small little portion of issues that are facing public education.”
For years, she said, politicians were not paying much attention to education. But in Iowa and other states across the country, Descovich said parents are putting the issue “front and center” in their state’s policy agendas, and lawmakers in states like Iowa are listening to their requests to let families decide the best educational path for their children.
“I think I think parents want that now, you know, everything in society is more custom made, and so education should be a little bit more accessible and custom made,” Descovich said.
Seven Republican legislators answered questions from attendees about Iowa’s education system. Many questions were focused on class material and discussion around gender identity. Reynolds and parents brought up Linn-Mar Community School District as an example of what’s wrong with modern schools.
The school district has a “gender support policy,” which allows a student to meet with the school to discuss socially transitioning by using a different name, pronouns and facilities corresponding with their gender identity. The district allows children to choose who is involved in those meetings with the school, and lets the child decide whether to involve their parent or guardian.
Lawmaker calls gender-affirming policies a ‘slippery slope’
Rep. Jeff Shipley, R-Fairfield, said school board members claimed the school could not reverse this policy because it would violate state and federal civil rights protections given based on gender identity.
House lawmakers approved legislation Tuesday banning school districts from letting a student use a different name or pronouns than what they were given at birth without written parental consent. House File 190 was also introduced Thursday to remove gender identity as a protected category from the state’s civil rights act.
“Mental illness should not be accommodated as a civil right,” Shipley said Thursday.
When a teacher asked the legislators at the forum about studies that showed the use of a transgender child’s preferred name and pronouns lowers suicide rates, Shipley said there were conflicting reports how to help transgender children with mental health problems. But he said policies like Linn-Mar Community School District’s are a “slippery slope.”
Using a child’s preferred name and pronouns without their parents’ knowledge could lead to them undergoing hormone replacement therapy or having gender-affirming surgeries without their parents consent, he said. How to best support transgender people is a conversation the Legislature will be discussing a lot going forward he said.
“I know other states have done things to prohibit these therapies,” he said, referencing conversation therapy. “So I think this is a conversation we’re going to have to have as a state to really decide what is the best standards of practice of therapy, what do kids need to alleviate the dysphoria and form actual identities that can be healthy and happy for the rest of their lives.”
Lawmakers address concerns about lack of choice access for special-needs students
Multiple parents also brought up concerns about how the ESA program will impact their special needs children. Legislators said they hoped to see expanded private school options for children with special needs, and were in discussions about potential future legislation to encourage more private institutions to special education students and offer more specialized educational programs.
Rep. Steven Holt, R-Denison, said he believes some private schools have not accepted special-education students because they didn’t have the resources. “And this bill was going to give them a lot more resources,” he said. “And so I’m hopeful that that alone is going to allow them to take a lot more special needs children.”
The conservative legislators assured the crowd that they would continue to provide parents more options for their children’s schooling going forward. Rep. Eddie Andrews, R-Johnston, said Iowa’s decision to desegregate schools 86 years before the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on Brown v. Board of Education shows the state has always been committed to school choice.
“And that is all we are asking, and yes, demanding, that we have the ability to educate our children in the best way at the best school that is appropriate for my child’s success. To prepare my boy, my girl, your child, for success,” Andrews said. “And that’s all school choice.”
Moms For Liberty: Giving Parents A Voice Town Hall – IOWA
Robin Opsahl is an Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter covering the state Legislature and politics. Robin has experience covering government, elections and more at media organizations including Roll Call, the Sacramento Bee and the Wausau Daily Herald, in addition to working on multimedia projects, newsletters and visualizations.
They were a political reporter for the Des Moines Register covering the Iowa caucuses leading up to the 2020 presidential election, assisting with the Register’s Iowa Poll, and reporting on Iowa’s 4th District elections.
The preceding article was previously published by the Iowa Capital Dispatch and is republished with permission.
FBI joins investigation of threats against LGBTQ+ bars in St. Louis
Since September of 2022 the FBI has been on heightened alert over violence against LGBTQ+ facilities, groups and events
ST. LOUIS – The FBI has joined the investigation into violent threats of bombs and shootings against three LGBTQ+ bars in the Grove neighborhood of St. Louis this past weekend. A fourth threat against a children’s playground and adult café that was scheduled to hold a drag queen story hour is also being looked into by the FBI.
The three establishments, PRISM STL, Just John, and Rehab, are all located on Manchester Avenue in the city’s trendy Grove neighborhood and entertainment district. According to St. Louis’ alternative weekly press outlet The Riverfront Times, late Saturday afternoon, the bars received calls from an individual threatening violence.
Around 4 p.m. at Prism, bartender Jordan Cox answered the phone. “The caller off the bat started talking about how they were the Joker, and they were going to blow up the bar, send bombs and shoot up everybody,” Cox said, adding that it sounded like at least two people were on the other line.
Just John bar owner John Arnold said he received a voicemail around the same time.
“They said they were going to come in at 3 a.m. and burn the place down,” Arnold says. “And that they were fed up with us ‘fags’.” The same voicemail named a Just John employee whom the caller liked. “They told us to make sure he wasn’t there,” Arnold added.
St. Louis NBC affiliate KSDK NBC 5 reported that a bartender at Michael Klataske and Sean Abernathy’s bar PRISM actually spoke to the suspect.
In the incident regarding the fourth location, CBS affiliate KMOV 4 reported that the FBI is also investigating threats against a children’s playground and adult café called Urban Fort in South City. The owner said they received violent threats and were forced to tighten security and change the date, time and location of a scheduled story time lesson featuring a drag performer.
Since September, the FBI has been on heightened alert over violence against LGBTQ+ facilities, groups and events. A threat assessment distributed by the Department of Homeland Security after November Club Q mass-shooting in Colorado Springs warned that hate criminals and violent domestic extremists could increase threats to the LGBTQ+ community “due to their responses to legislative or societal changes in the United States.” related to LGBTQ+ issues, and conspiracy theories involving the LGBTQ+ community.”
In the bulletin issued by DHS, the HSI agency noted: “Some domestic violent extremists who have conducted attacks have cited previous attacks and attackers as inspiration. Following the late November shooting at an LGBTQI+ bar in Colorado Springs, Colorado—which remains under investigation—we have observed actors on forums known to post racially or ethnically motivated violent extremist content praising the alleged attacker.
Similarly, some domestic violent extremists in the United States praised an October 2022 shooting at a LGBTQI+ bar in Slovakia and encouraged additional violence. The attacker in Slovakia posted a manifesto online espousing white supremacist beliefs and his admiration for prior attackers, including some within the United States.”
The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department said in a statement, “The investigation is ongoing.”
Rabbi & 11-year-old son testify against anti-trans legislation
Daniel Bogard and his family are part of an interfaith movement led by Missouri clergy aimed at stopping bills targeting the LGBTQ community
ST. LOUIS, MO. — Rabbi Daniel Bogard should be spending this Shabbat preparing for tonight’s service at the synagogue he leads in St. Louis, Central Reform Congregation. Instead, he’s defending his family from death threats and planning his next trip to the state capitol, two hours away in Jefferson City, where Republicans hold a super majority in the state legislature and the governorship.
That’s also where the state GOP is pushing forward six bills: Three that would ban gender-affirming healthcare for transgender children and three more that would prohibit them from competing in school sports according to their authentic gender identity. Every year for the past few years, Bogard said he has testified against bills like these.
“Every year, again and again and again,” he said. “And it’s dehumanizing and degrading and genuinely traumatic.”
In fact, Missouri lawmakers have filed the most anti-LGBTQ+ bills of any state, according to a database from the American Civil Liberties Union that tracks anti-LGBTQ+ legislation nationwide. The ACLU called this the “most dangerous” session of the Missouri Legislature for the LGBTQ+ community it’s seen in years.
“The Republicans said that targeting trans kids is the single most important agenda on their list, especially targeting trans because it is their top priority this session. And I think, ‘What the fuck?’” said the rabbi. “We had, I don’t know, 50, 60 Jews who showed up in the state capitol with 25 hours’ notice to protest these bills last Tuesday.”
That day, Bogard was one of a half dozen fellow Jewish as well as Christian clergy who spoke out against the legislation, many of them testifying at a marathon, nine-hour hearing focused on student-athletes.
Bogard’s 11-year-old eldest son testified, and boy’s grandmother was there in support. The young man told lawmakers he was there to represent his nine-year-old brother and a friend, who are both transgender.
“I have to be here because you, the Missouri government, keeps trying to take away what they have a passion for. Why do you keep trying to take things from these kids? Kids just want to have fun, playing sports, not being stressed having to come here to tell you to let them play,” he said. “This has affected my brother, because now he is scared he will not get to do what he loves.”
The Blade agreed to not disclose either boy’s name or their faces for their protection. “I’ve had a half dozen death threats in the last year,” Bogard said. “It’s taken a huge toll. It colors everything about how I see the world at this point. I find hope really hard, which is tough as a rabbi.”
And this week wasn’t the first time the rabbi’s oldest son testified, he said. But he draws the line at putting his youngest child in the hot seat.
“My 11-year old, he’s been testifying for years now,” Bogard told the Blade. “We don’t allow our child who’s trans to testify because, first of all, he’s only nine. But they are so cruel in that testimony room. They’re cruel, and they say awful things. I mean, they call you groomers in the testimony room. They tell you you’re mutilating your child. They ask children if they’d like to be taken away from their parents, and why their parents are forcing them to believe these things. They ask children what their genitals look like.”
“So, we don’t, we don’t let our nine-year old go there,” he said, noting his child does have plenty of support, and not just from him and his wife, Rabbi Karen Bogard and their oldest son.
“My kid lives the life that every trans kid deserves. He is embraced and supported by every single one of his relatives, our friends, and the school and his teacher. They threw him a party on the one-year anniversary of his transition. The rabbi made him a kippah in the colors of the trans flag,” the pink, white and blue banner which was designed by Navy veteran and trans activist Monica Helms.
Bogard’s nine-year-old attends a school which is greatly supportive of the effort to win hearts and minds at the capitol. “The school sends a senior level person to testify against every single one of these bills,” he said. “That’s the world my kid lives in.”
To give other children like his a chance to live in a better world, even briefly, Bogard teamed-up with PROMO senior director of public policy and advocacy Shira Berkowitz last year, to start Camp Indigo Point, a summer camp for trans youth, at a secret location in Missouri.
“We thought we were going to get 20 kids from this area,” Bogard said. “And we ended up filling every one of the 97 bunks that we had for kids at the facility we had rented out, and had 60 kids on the waitlist. Those kids come from 27 states. It was the most magical thing, the best thing I’ve ever been a part of.”
Bogard said the entire staff at the camp, except for him, is trans and nonbinary. It’s efforts like this and the work he and other cisgender parents do at the capitol that has won him admiration and allies, including one woman who describes herself as an Orthodox feminist.
“The efforts to take away trans rights in Missouri — and attack and erase all LGBTQ+ people in our state — have felt like repeated gut punches as we see more and more bills proposed and work to build up the energy to travel to the capitol week after week to testify. It often feels like more than enough to break a person,” Rori Picker Neiss, Maharat and executive director of the JCRC in St. Louis, told the Blade. “And yet what continues to inspire me each day are these brave kids and their resilience, the parents who fight for them to the ends of the earth, and the faith leaders who refuse to allow religious language to be coopted for harm.”
Bogard and others making this effort do more than testify, they lobby the lawmakers. “Many of these Republicans will tell you in private how much they don’t like these bills and don’t want to be a part of them, but they feel like they have to.”
And what about those who are pushing the bills forward, such as Senate President Pro Tem Caleb Rowden? Bogard calls them “disgusting” and “enablers of fascism.”
“They are the people who are torturing my family, because it’s good politics for them,” he said. “I think it’s fascism that’s rising here. I think that’s what this is and that’s what we’re facing. It’s white Christian nationalism, certainly, and it’s taking over red states.”
As the Blade has reported, families from Texas, Florida and other states of hate are fleeing to sanctuary states like California, Connecticut and Massachusetts because of the kinds of bills being considered in Missouri. Even though Bogard has deep roots in St. Louis, he confessed moving away is something his family may have to consider.
“I don’t know a loving parent of a trans kid in a red state who isn’t up at night, terrified that they’re going to need to flee,” he said. “I live in the house that my grandpa built, that my dad grew up in, that I grew up in, that my kids are growing up in. My folks are here at home, very close to us and who love their grandkids. My mom came down to testify with us. My brother’s here, his family, my niece.
“I’m terrified we’re going to need to flee the state, because if they give me the choice between doing what is right for my child, and staying, that’s not a choice. The great fear is, government goons showing up at your door to take your child away.”
Newsom on federal court allowing domestic violence abusers guns
“These three zealots are hellbent on a deranged vision of guns for all, leaving government powerless to protect its people”
NEW ORLEANS – On Thursday, a three judge panel from the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, ruled that the federal law prohibiting individuals from “possessing a firearm while under a domestic violence restraining order” is unconstitutional.
Judge Cory Wilson, a Trump appointee, writing in the majority opinion in United States v. Rahimi, stated the federal law targeting those believed to pose a domestic violence threat could not stand under the Bruen test, a significant U.S. Supreme Court June 23, 2022 decision which requires that gun laws have a historical analogy to the firearm regulations in place at the time of the Constitution’s framing and the Second Amendment.
CNN reported that the 5th Circuit panel was not persuaded by the historical parallels put forward by the US Justice Department, which was defending the conviction of a person who possessed a firearm while under a domestic violence restraining order that had been imposed after he was accused of assaulting his ex-girlfriend. The Justice Department argued that the domestic violence law was analogous to 17th-and 18th century regulations that disarmed “dangerous” persons.
The immediate impact of this decision is that Zackey Rahimi, who “was subject to an agreed civil protective order entered February 5, 2020, by a Texas state court after Rahimi’s alleged assault of his ex-girlfriend,” may not be convicted of violating the federal ban on gun possession by domestic abusers.
More broadly, because the decision was handed down by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which presides over federal lawsuits in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas, this federal law can no longer be enforced in those three states.
In Sacramento, California Governor Gavin Newsom issued a statement after the judicial panel struck down the federal law:
“Now, a federal appeals court has ruled domestic abusers have the right to carry firearms. Where is the line? Who’s next?
“Judge Cory Wilson, Judge James Ho, and Judge Edith Jones.
“These three zealots are hellbent on a deranged vision of guns for all, leaving government powerless to protect its people. This is what the ultra-conservative majority of the U.S. Supreme Court wants. It’s happening, and it’s happening right now.
“Wake up, America – this assault on our safety will only accelerate. This is serious – and it’s coming to California. We are probably only weeks away from another activist judge, Judge Roger Benitez, striking down California’s bans on assault weapons and large capacity magazines. California will continue to fight against these extremist judges to protect our residents’ right to be free from gun violence.”
FBI probes Santos GoFundMe scheme & separate SEC complaint
Republican Rep. George Santos faces yet another law enforcement probe, this time over allegations he ran a GoFundMe scam in 2016
WASHINGTON – Republican Rep. George Santos (N.Y.) faces yet another law enforcement probe, this time over allegations that the congressman ran a GoFundMe scam in 2016 by crowdsourcing for a U.S. Navy Veteran and his cancer-stricken service dog before absconding with the money.
POLITICO reported on Wednesday that the veteran, Richard Osthoff, furbished text messages to FBI agents who were working on behalf of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, which is reportedly conducting a parallel investigation into Santos’s campaign finances.
The news comes a day after Santos resigned from his two committee assignments following a meeting with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Monday.
Meanwhile, Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.) announced on Twitter Wednesday that he filed a complaint against Santos with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) “for violating federal securities law.”
Torres wrote that his GOP colleague “illegally operated as a broker without a license, raising funds from unsuspecting investors for Harbor City Capitol, a 17 million dollar Ponzi Scheme.”
NEW: I just asked the SEC to investigate George Santos for violating federal securities law.— Ritchie Torres (@RitchieTorres) February 1, 2023
Mr. Santos illegally operated as a broker without a license, raising funds from unsuspecting investors for Harbor City Capitol, a 17 million dollar Ponzi Scheme. pic.twitter.com/2z4YpqhOvm
Last month, Torres and fellow New York Democratic Rep. Dan Goldman filed a U.S. Federal Elections Commission (FEC) complaint against Santos over his alleged violations of campaign finance laws. And over the weekend, the U.S. Department of Justice reportedly asked the FEC to yield to federal prosecutors – likely a sign that the campaign finance issues are the subject of a criminal probe.
Santos reportedly faces investigations by the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office and the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James. He has been embroiled in controversy since his arrival to Washington following revelations that nearly every part of his biography and identity were complete fabrications.
Doug Emhoff visits memorial to gay victims of the Nazis in Berlin
Second gentleman marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day at Auschwitz
BERLIN — Second gentleman Doug Emhoff on Tuesday visited a monument to gay victims of the Nazis in Berlin.
A readout from Emhoff’s office notes he visited the Memorial to the Persecuted Homosexuals under National Socialism with Philipp Braun of the Lesbian and Gay Federation of Germany, a German LGBTQ+ and intersex rights group. Christopher Schreiber and Alexander Scheld of the Berlin-Brandenburg Lesbian and Gay Federation were also with Emhoff.
“The Memorial to the Persecuted Homosexuals under Nazi Socialism is intended to honor the homosexual victims of National Socialism and at the same time ‘set a constant sign against intolerance, hostility and exclusion towards gays and lesbians,'” notes the readout.
Emhoff on Tuesday visited other memorials that honor the Sinti and Roma and people with disabilities who the Nazis killed. The second gentleman also visited Berlin’s Holocaust memorial before he met with five people who survived it.
The second gentleman earlier in the day participated in a roundtable with Jewish, Muslim and Christian leaders and met with Ukrainian refugees at Berlin’s New Synagogue. Emhoff on Monday participated in a meeting at the city’s Topography of Terror Museum that focused on antisemitism.
In Berlin, I met with experts from around Europe to hear about what our allies and friends are doing to combat antisemitism. We can build coalitions, learn from each other, and trade best practices. It’s going to take a global effort to tackle this epidemic of hate. pic.twitter.com/BeA1tP4aMy
— Douglas Emhoff (@SecondGentleman) January 31, 2023
International Holocaust Memorial Day, which commemorates the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Poland in 1945, took place on Jan. 27.
Emhoff traveled to the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Memorial and Museum and participated in ceremonies that commemorated the camp’s liberation. He later attended a Shabbat dinner with members of the Jewish community in Krakow, visited Oscar Schindler’s factory and met with Ukrainian refugees at a U.N. Refugee Agency community center before he traveled to Germany.
I’m still processing what I saw today at Auschwitz. It was emotional. Displays of children’s shoes. Piles of women’s hair.
We must educate the next generation on the horrors of the Holocaust and call out those who deny it. pic.twitter.com/a6NjlTvYqd
— Douglas Emhoff (@SecondGentleman) January 27, 2023
Suspect in 29 year old murder of Trans woman arrested
“Forensic evidence” was found at the scene of the crime that eventually led to the arrest of James William Grimsley
CONCORD, Calif. – The suspect in the murder of Terrie Ladwig, a 28-year-old trans woman beaten and strangled in her Concord apartment on Dec. 2, 1994, has been arrested in Utah by a Salt Lake City Police and United States Marshals Service Fugitive Task Force a spokesperson for the Concord Police Department announced Monday.
Lieutenant Sean Donnelly told reporters that “forensic evidence” was found at the scene of the crime that eventually led to the arrest of James William Grimsley, 55. “I can tell you it was a violent scene, looked like there was a violent struggle between Terrie and the suspect,” said Donnelly.
Asked if police were classifying the case as a hate crime, Donnelly responded: “You know we’re not certain of the motive but that is certainly a possibility.”
In an article published by the Contra Costa Times on December 2, 2004, a decade after the murder, the Times reported:
“Concord police Detective Mike Warnock said he thinks the Ladwig case is solvable. The department has pulled it out of the cold case file within the past year. “Individuals who were originally interviewed are being reinterviewed,” Warnock said.
Ladwig’s husband, Steven Ladwig, was quickly cleared as a suspect in 1994. He had been on a submarine at sea and then at his Navy base in Bangor, Wash., when his wife was killed.
The Ladwigs were married in July 1994, Steven Ladwig told the Times after the killing. He considered his wife, who was born Larry Earl Thompson Jr., female. She was preparing to have gender-reassignment surgery, he said.
After their marriage, Ladwig went back to sea. He had returned to base when, on Nov. 28, Terrie Ladwig called to say someone was trying to break down the apartment door.
No one called police, Warnock said, but Steven Ladwig rushed home. According to a coroner’s report, he found his wife beaten and strangled on their bed. There was no sign of forced entry and she had a small amount of alcohol and methamphetamine in her blood. Neither Steven Ladwig nor his wife’s family could be located for this story. Warnock said police have not heard from them for years.
Warnock said one theory is that someone reacted violently after finding out that Terrie Ladwig was a biological man.“
ABC7 Bay area reported that police say the suspect in Ladwig’s murder, Grimsley, is a truck driver. They won’t say how they linked him to the killing but do say, “There is forensic evidence in the case.” They had been working closely with the FBI and Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office over the last six to eight months to make the arrest.
Grimsley is being held in the Salt Lake County Jail on $1 million bail pending an extradition hearing to return him to California. Grimley’s first court appearance in Salt Lake City was scheduled for Wednesday.
Salt Lake City NBC affiliate KSL TV 5 reported it was not immediately known how long Grimsley, who would have been 25 at the time of the killing, has been living in Utah. Court records show Grimsley as having a West Valley City address in 2018, and he may have been living in Kearns in 2008. His criminal history in Utah includes one minor traffic violation.
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