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Poland’s LGBTQ activists confront growing crackdown

Non-binary person’s Aug. 7 underscores increased risk

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reparations, gay news, Washington Blade
(Photo by Hai Yang via Flickr)

The arrest of a non-binary person on Aug. 7 underscores the growing crackdown against LGBTQ activists in Poland.

Margot Szutowicz, who uses female pronouns, and nearly 50 others were arrested in Warsaw, the country’s capital, while protesting Szutowicz’s imminent arrest for allegedly causing damage to a truck promoting anti-LGBTQ messages and assaulting a pro-life demonstrator on June 2.

She was initially arrested on the charge on July 14, but released after 24 hours. Prosecutors appealed the case, triggering Szutowicz’s current detention.

The advocate is being held for two months awaiting trial on charges that carry multi-year prison sentences. Szutowicz was also arrested on Aug. 2 for draping a rainbow flag over a monument along with two others.

Szutowicz attempted to plan to have her Aug. 7 arrest take place in a public place and in front of the media at the Warsaw offices of the Campaign Against Homophobia, a Polish LGBTQ advocacy group, where fellow protesters and supporters joined her. Szutowicz left the office to turn herself over to the police, but law enforcement told her she would not be arrested.

Plainclothes officers waiting in an unmarked car later this night arrested Szutowicz while she was still among the crowd of 50 people. Protestors attempted to block the arrest, but they, along with bystanders, were arrested and taken into custody.

Lawyers on Aug. 8 and 9 coordinated the release of protestors and bystanders who were arrested alongside Szutowicz, but she remains in custody.

Szutowicz is set to be detained in a male facility. She is currently being held in a single-person cell due to coronavirus restrictions.

Szutowicz had been denied access to a lawyer until Thursday. Some of the 50 other people who were arrested on Aug. 7 cited police violence while in detention, including being beaten in police cars and being deprived of food and water, according to ILGA-Europe.

“The LGBTI community is being denied the right to exist by the leading political party. LGBTI people in Poland live in a situation of constant, repressive pressure with no access to justice or state protection,” said ILGA-Europe Program Director Björn van Roozendaal. “In circumstances like these, where marginalized members of society are being attacked from all sides, protest and activism are inevitable, and may even be considered provoked by the government’s failure to protect their fundamental rights and disproportionate law enforcement responses.”

Campaign Against Homophobia Executive Director Slava Melnyk said these processes carried out by the Polish police can be seen as “scaring tactics.” 

“The government, the police and the prosecutors are trying to impose a chilling effect on the civil society, activists, straight allies, LGBT people in general,” he said.

The unrest in Warsaw follows the reelection of President Andrzej Duda, who has been vocally anti-LGBTQ. As part of his presidential election campaign, he publicly signed the Family Charter that outlines no acceptance for same-sex marriages, no adoption of children by same-sex couples, and no education for children on “LGBT ideology” in public institutions, which he described as a being worse than communism.

Duda on June 24 met with President Trump at the White House.

Melnyk said Warsaw in the past has been a relatively LGBTQ-friendly city,

Mayor Rafał Trzaskowski plans to create a homeless shelter for LGBTQ individuals and increase education on diversity and inclusion, Melnyk said. The city has also been the center of Pride festivals in recent years.

Following Szutowicz’s arrest, many protesters have been displaying rainbow flags across the city, and are subsequently being arrested for those actions. Melnyk said police on Friday arrested a protester who hung a rainbow flag on the gates of Poland’s Justice Ministry.

Organizations such as The European Parliament LGBTI Intergroup, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, and the Council of Europe Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Unit have all called for Szutowicz’s immediate release.

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Idaho

Idaho ends legislative session, anti-LGBTQ+ bills sent to governor

Legislators missed their self-appointed adjournment deadline twice due to in-fighting and behind-the-scenes debates

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The Idaho House of Representatives in session at the State Capitol building in Boise on Jan. 23, 2024. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

By Clark Corbin | BOISE, Idaho – Idaho’s sometimes brutal and bruising 2024 legislative session came to a quiet end at the Idaho State Capitol in Boise on Wednesday, as without overriding any vetoes or introducing any new major bills.

After passing a controversial transportation budget on April 3, Idaho legislators recessed until Wednesday to give themselves an opportunity to try to overcome any late-session vetoes issued by Gov. Brad Little. The Idaho Senate adjourned for the year shortly before 2:45 p.m. Wednesday, and the Idaho House of Representatives adjourned a few minutes later, at 2:49 p.m.

Little did issue two vetoes on bills this week during the legislative recess – one relating to the jurisdiction of the Idaho Public Utilities Commission, another relating to a bill that would have granted the state treasurer the authority to keep a portion of state funds in physical gold and silver. The Idaho Senate attempted to override Little’s veto of Senate Bill 1323, the public utilities commission bill, but fell short of the necessary 23 vetoes. That means Little’s veto stands. 

On the other hand, Little allowed two of the most controversial late-session bills to become law. Little signed House Bill 710, which would require library’s to move so-called harmful materials upon a written request or face a lawsuit. Little also allowed House Bill 770, the transportation services budget that revokes the state’s authority to carry out the $51 million sale of the Idaho Transportation Department’s flooded former Boise headquarters on State Street, to become law without his signature. Little also allowed House Bill 726, a related budget bill for the Department of Administration, to become law without his signature.

Little addressed revoking the sale in a transmittal letter that was sent to House Speaker Mike Moyle, R-Star, on Wednesday. 

“However, I did not sign these bills because the intent language unwinds statutory policy language about how the state handles surplus properties and it increases overhead for office space needs around the state,” Little wrote. “In addition it unfairly cancels an agreed upon sales process, causing future reputational risk for the State of Idaho.”

Idaho legislators missed adjournment targets partially because of GOP infighting

Wednesday was the 94th day of the session, which gaveled in back on Jan. 8. 

Legislators missed their self-appointed adjournment deadline twice due to in-fighting and behind-the-scenes debates. Legislative leaders originally hoped to wrap up the session on March 22. But the Idaho House got bogged down in a leadership struggle and contentious budget debate that set legislators back at least a week. On Feb. 8, House Republicans took what is widely viewed as the unprecedented step of removing a major member of leadership, former House Majority Leader Megan Blanksma, R-Hammett, from her leadership post during an ongoing session. Leadership elections traditionally take place in December of even numbered years following a general election. The vote or action to remove Blanksma appeared to happen behind closed doors. There was no announcement on the floor Feb. 8, and Blanksma quietly walked off the floor that day and was eventually replaced by new House Majority Leader Jason Monks, R-Meridian.

Several legislators on Wednesday agreed that it was time to wrap up the session for the year.

“It’s a privilege to be able to do this, but it’s time to be done,” Rep. Jack Nelsen, R-Jerome, told the Sun just before the Idaho House was called to order at noon Wednesday. 

What passed during Idaho’s 2024 legislative session?

  • House Bill 722: The fiscal year 2025 budget for the Workforce Development Council provides $71 million to implement grants for the Idaho Launch program that Gov. Brad Little champions. The Idaho Launch program provides Idaho high school and home school graduates with $8,000 grants to prepare for an in-demand career. Little said the program will help train the next generation of Idahoans for a trade, allow them to remain home in Idaho and support businesses. But some prominent Republicans in the Idaho Legislature, including House Speaker Mike Moyle, R-Star, targeted Launch as a “handout.” 
  • House Bill 521: According to Idaho Education News, House Bill 521 creates ways for the state to spend an estimated $2 billion on school facilities over the next 10 years. Little made school facilities a prominent feature in his Jan. 8 State of the State address, highlighting a school that has sewage leaking under its cafeteria and telling the Idaho Legislature to stop kicking the can down the road on addressing the state’s deteriorating school buildings. “The can we are kicking is getting heavier, and we are running out of road,” Little warned in his State of the State address. 
  • House Bill 399: After Idaho became the only state not to review maternal death data, this bill authorizes the Idaho Board of Medicine to collect and review that data. Before the Idaho Legislature allowed the state’s Maternal Mortality Review Committee to expire last summer, data between 2018 and 2021 had shown a steady increase in deaths among pregnant women and new mothers, the Sun previously reported.   
  • Senate Bill 1234: This bipartisan bill co-sponsored by Sen. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, and Rep. Jack Nelsen, R-Jerome, allows insurance enrollees to receive up to a six-month supply of contraceptives. Currently, many insurance plans only reimburse for a one-month to three-month supply, according to the bill’s statement of purpose. 
  • House Bill 770: The fiscal year 2025 enhanced transportation services budget revokes the state’s authority to carry out the $51 million sale of the Idaho Transportation Department’s flooded former Boise headquarters on State Street and provides the third successive $200 million installment to repair and replace aging and poorly rated local bridges across Idaho. The debate over whether to block the sale of the State Street headquarters at least partially led to delaying the end of the 2024 legislative session and caused the would-be buyers from Hawkins Companies, the Pacific Companies and FJ Management to weigh their legal options after they said they thought they had struck a deal with the state. “We’re obviously extremely disappointed in the passage of this legislation,” said Brian Huffaker, CEO of Hawkins Companies, in a statement on behalf of Hawkins, The Pacific Companies and FJ Management. “This governmental overreach is a massive waste of taxpayer dollars, and we’re confident the courts will agree this kind of legislative interference in the free market violates the state constitution. We will be exploring legal action.”
  • House Bill 421: The bill states the Idaho Legislature only recognizes two sexes in human beings; male and female. The bill also states the word “gender” shall be a synonym for the word “sex” and shall not be considered a synonym for gender identity. Both the Idaho House and Idaho Senate passed the bill, and Little signed it into law Tuesday.  
  • House Bill 710: This year’s version of “the library materials bill” would require libraries to move materials deemed harmful to minors upon written notification from a parent, legal guardian or child, or be faced with a lawsuit for $250 dollars in statutory damages, plus uncapped actual damages and any other relief available by law. The Idaho House passed the harmful materials bill March 13, and it was one of the final bills of the year passed by the Idaho Senate on April 3. Little signed it Wednesday.
  • House Bill 538: This bill enacts protections for public employees and teachers who are unwilling to use a person’s preferred pronouns. Idaho Education News reported that under the bill teacher’s will not be able to refer to a student by a name or pronoun that does not align with their birth sex without parental permission. Little signed the bill into law Monday. 
  • Senate Bill 1377: This bill requires people who are paid to gather signatures for a ballot initiative or a referendum to disclose that they are being paid. Little signed it into law on April 4, and it is scheduled to take effect on July 1.  
  • House Bill 599: Republican House Speaker Mike Moyle, R-Star and Rep. Brandon Mitchell, R-Moscow, co-sponsored the bill as a way to combat what supporters  described as “ballot harvesting.” Under the bill, it is illegal for someone to collect and turn in another person’s absentee ballot or unvoted ballot. If someone collects 10 or more ballots during any election a violation of the bill would become a felony. The bill includes exceptions for caregivers of voters, relatives of voters and a person who is a member of the voter’s household. However, opponents including the voting advocacy group Babe Vote, described the bill as a voter suppression law that criminalizes Idahoans for helping their neighbors turn in their absentee ballots. Little signed the bill into law Tuesday.

What didn’t pass or didn’t get done in Idaho this legislative session?

  • Health of the mother legislation: Under Idaho’s strict felony abortion ban, the law does not allow for a doctor to terminate a pregnancy to protect the health of the mother – only to save the mother’s life. Most Americans support an exception to abortion bans that allows for the medical professional to protect the health or save the life of the pregnant patient, the Sun and States Newsroom previously reported. Last year, Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa, worked on an unsuccessful bill that would have added an exception “to treat a physical condition of the woman that if left untreated would be life-threatening.” Crane pulled the bill back last year, the Sun previously reported, but vowed to continue working on a compromise on the issue, telling States Newsroom, “It has to be dealt with.” Legislators did not pass a bill this year that created a new exception to protect the health of the pregnant patient.  
  • House Bill 753: This bill was a Texas-style immigration bill sponsored by Rep. Jaron Crane, R-Nampa, which would have created a new state crime of illegal entry into the state, allowed local law enforcement officials to check a person’s immigration status and allow a magistrate judge to order someone who violates the bill to return to their country of origin. The Idaho House voted 53-15 to pass the bill on March 29, but the Idaho Senate never took up the bill. 
  • Senate Concurrent Resolution 135: This was an anti-racism and anti-hate speech resolution condemning the racist harassment allegedly directed at University of Utah women’s basketball team while visiting Coeur d’Alene Resort last month. The Senate voted 33-1 to adopt the resolution March 28, but the Idaho House never took up the resolution, and it died when the legislative session adjourned for the year. 
  • Senate Bill 1273: This bill would have required the Idaho secretary of state to mail a new informational voter guide to every household in the state 30 days before an election. The Idaho Senate voted 22-13 to pass the bill on Feb. 26, but the House State Affairs committee never took up the bill after it was referred to the committee in late February. 
  • Senate Bill 1445: This additional budget for the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare would have provided $545,300 in state funding to provide summer lunches for low income children, Idaho Education News reported. The federal government would have covered half of the administrative costs for the program and 100% of the lunch money, Idaho EdNews reported. But the Idaho Senate rejected the budget on a 10-25 vote March 28 after Sen. Cindy Carlson, R-Riggins, and others said the state would be sending the wrong message by providing something free without requiring something in return. The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee rewrote the budget without funding for the summer lunch program, killing the program in Idaho.  
  • House Joint Resolution 4: This proposed amendment to the Idaho Constitution was promoted as a way to block ranked choice voting, which is a component of the open primary ballot initiative. The proposed amendment sought to limit elections to one round of voting, with the person with the highest number of votes being elected. But some legislators worried passing the bill would create unintended consequences for nonpartisan judicial primary elections. Amending the Idaho Constitution requires a two-thirds majority vote of both the Idaho House and Idaho Senate. But the proposed amendment died in the Idaho House on March 11 on a 42-27 vote after falling short of the necessary 47 votes. The proposed amendment is now dead for the year.

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Clark Corbin

Idaho Capital Sun senior reporter Clark Corbin has more than a decade of experience covering Idaho government and politics. He has covered every Idaho legislative session since 2011 gavel-to-gavel.

Prior to joining the Idaho Capital Sun he reported for the Idaho Falls Post Register and Idaho Education News. His reporting in Idaho has helped uncover a multimillion-dollar investment scam and exposed inaccurate data that school districts submitted to the state.

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The preceding article was previously published by the Idaho Capital Sun and is republished with permission.

The Idaho Capital Sun is the Gem State’s newest nonprofit news organization delivering accountability journalism on state politics, health care, tax policy, the environment and more. We’re part of States Newsroom, the nation’s largest state-focused nonprofit news organization.

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Kansas

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly vetoes ban on gender-identity health care

Republicans vow to seek override of Democratic governor’s actions. Senate President Ty Masterson says reflects her radical left agenda

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Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly vetoed two abortion bills and a measure criminalizing transgender health care for minors. House and Senate Republican leaders responded with promises to seek veto overrides when the full Legislature returned to Topeka on April 26. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

By Tim Carpenter | TOPEKA, Kan. — Gov. Laura Kelly flexed a veto pen to reject bills Friday prohibiting gender-identity health care for transgender youth, introducing a vague crime of coercing someone to have an abortion and implementing a broader survey of women seeking abortion that was certain to trigger veto override attempts in the Republican-led House and Senate.

The decisions by the Democratic governor to use her authority to reject these health- and abortion-rights bills didn’t come as a surprise given her previous opposition to lawmakers intervening in personal decisions that she believed ought to remain the domain of families and physicians.

Kelly said Senate Bill 233, which would ban gender-affirming care for transgender minors in Kansas, was an unwarranted attack on a small number of Kansans under 18. She said the bill was based on a politically distorted belief the Legislature knew better than parents how to raise their children.

She said it was neither a conservative nor Kansas value to block medical professionals from performing surgery or prescribing puberty blockers for their patients. She said stripping doctors of their licenses for serving health interests of patients was wrong. Under the bill, offending physicians could be face lawsuits and their professional liability insurance couldn’t be relied on to defend themselves in court.

“To be clear, this legislation tramples parental rights,” Kelly said. “The last place that I would want to be as a politician is between a parent and a child who needed medical care of any kind. And, yet, that is exactly what this legislation does.”

Senate President Ty Masterson, R-Andover, and House Speaker Dan Hawkins, R-Wichita, responded to the governor by denouncing the vetoes and pledging to seek overrides when legislators returned to the Capitol on April 26. The transgender bill was passed 27-13 in the Senate and 82-39 in the House, suggesting both chambers were in striking distance of a two-thirds majority necessary to thwart the governor.

“The governor has made it clear yet again that the radical left controls her veto pen,” Masterson said. “This devotion to extremism will not stand, and we look forward to overriding her vetoes when we return in two weeks.”

Cathryn Oakley, senior director of the Human Rights Campaign, said the ban on crucial, medically necessary health care for transgender  youth was discriminatory, designed to spread dangerous misinformation and timed to rile up anti-LGBTQ+ activists.

“Every credible medical organization — representing over 1.3 million doctors in the United States — calls for age-appropriate, gender-affirming care for transgender and nonbinary people,” Oakley said. “This is why majorities of Americans oppose criminalizing or banning gender-affirming care.”

Abortion coercion

Kelly also vetoed House Bill 2436 that would create the felony crime of engaging in physical, financial or documentary coercion to compel a girl or woman to end a pregnancy despite an expressed desire to carry the fetus to term. It was approved 27-11 in the Senate and 82-37 in the House, again potentially on the cusp of achieving a veto override.

The legislation would establish sentences of one year in jail and $5,000 fine for those guilty of abortion coercion. The fine could be elevated to $10,000 if the adult applying the pressure was the fetuses’ father and the pregnant female was under 18. If the coercion was accompanied by crimes of stalking, domestic battery, kidnapping or about 20 other offenses the prison sentence could be elevated to 25 years behind bars.

Kelly said no one should be forced to undergo a medical procedure against their will. She said threatening violence against another individual was already a crime in Kansas.

“Additionally, I am concerned with the vague language in this bill and its potential to intrude upon private, often difficult, conversations between a person and their family, friends and health care providers,” the governor said. “This overly broad language risks criminalizing Kansans who are being confided in by their loved ones or simply sharing their expertise as a health care provider.”

Hawkins, the House Republican leader, said coercion was wrong regardless of the circumstances and Kelly’s veto of the bill was a step too far to the left.

“It’s a sad day for Kansas when the governor’s uncompromising support for abortion won’t even allow her to advocate for trafficking and abuse victims who are coerced into the procedure,” Hawkins said.

Emily Wales, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes, said HB 2436 sought to equate abortion with crime, perpetuate false narratives and erode a fundamental constitutional right to bodily autonomy. The bill did nothing to protect Kansas from reproductive coercion, including forced pregnancy or tampering with birth control.

“Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes trusts patients and stands firmly against any legislation that seeks to undermine reproductive rights or limit access to essential health care services,” Wales said.

Danielle Underwood, spokeswoman for Kansas for Life, said “Coercion Kelly” demonstrated with this veto a lack of compassion for women pushed into an abortion.

The abortion survey

The House and Senate approved a bill requiring more than a dozen questions be added to surveys of women attempting to terminate a pregnancy in Kansas. Colorful debate in the House included consideration of public health benefits of requiring interviews of men about reasons they sought a vasectomy birth control procedure or why individuals turned to health professionals for treatment of erectile dysfunction.

House Bill 2749 adopted 81-39 in the House and 27-13 in the Senate would require the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to produce twice-a-year reports on responses to the expanded abortion survey. The state of Kansas cannot require women to answer questions on the survey.

Kelly said in her veto message the bill was “invasive and unnecessary” and legislators should have taken into account rejection in August 2022 of a proposed amendment to the Kansas Constitution that would have set the stage for legislation further limiting or ending access to abortion.

“There is no valid medical reason to force a woman to disclose to the Legislature if they have been a victim of abuse, rape or incest prior to obtaining an abortion,” Kelly said. “There is also no valid reason to force a woman to disclose to the Legislature why she is seeking an abortion. I refuse to sign legislation that goes against the will of the majority of Kansans who spoke loudly on August 2, 2022. Kansans don’t want politicians involved in their private medical decisions.”

Wales, of Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes, said the bill would have compelled health care providers to “interrogate patients seeking abortion care” and to engage in violations of patient privacy while inflicting undue emotional distress.

Hawkins, the Republican House speaker, said the record numbers of Kansas abortions — the increase has been driven by bans or restrictions imposed in other states — was sufficient to warrant scrutiny of KDHE reporting on abortion. He also said the governor had no business suppressing reporting on abortion and criticized her for tapping into “irrational fears of offending the for-profit pro-abortion lobby.”

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Tim Carpenter

Tim Carpenter has reported on Kansas for 35 years. He covered the Capitol for 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal and previously worked for the Lawrence Journal-World and United Press International.

The preceding story was previously published by the Kansas Reflector and is republished with permission.

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The Kansas Reflector is a nonprofit news operation providing in-depth reporting, diverse opinions and daily coverage of state government and politics. This public service is free to readers and other news outlets. We are part of States Newsroom: the nation’s largest state-focused nonprofit news organization, with reporting from every capital.

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West Hollywood

West Hollywood in brief- City government in action this week

Participant Application Deadline is April 15 for WeHo Pride Street Fair Exhibitors, Parade Entries, and Food Vendors

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Photo Credit: City of West Hollywood/Jon Viscott

City of West Hollywood to Host Symposium: ‘Water Wise | Water Works’

WEST HOLLYWOOD – During Earth Month in April, the City of West Hollywood is working to focus attention on environmental efforts and initiatives and educational opportunities for the community. The City aims to elevate awareness about its programs and policies related to West Hollywood’s natural and built environments, ecology, and sustainability.

As part of this effort, the City of West Hollywood will host a free in-person symposium: Water Wise | Water Works. The event will focus on water as a natural resource, concentrating on its indispensable role in supporting urbanized environments. It will look ahead at issues, opportunities, and challenges in West Hollywood and the Greater Los Angeles region in the future.

The Water Wise | Water Works symposium will take place on Saturday, April 20, 2024 from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the City of West Hollywood’s Council Chambers/Public Meeting Room, located at 625 N. San Vicente Boulevard. The event is free and open to the public, RSVP is requested via Eventbrite. Limited validated parking is available in the adjacent five-story parking structure.

All life begins and ends with water. A precious resource, water is vital for a healthy and vibrant planet. Clean fresh water is not only essential for drinking and sanitation and providing for our crops, livestock, and industry, it is also the basis for creating and sustaining the ecosystems on which all humanity depends. Spending time in proximity to nature and water has been shown to have a direct effect on emotional well-being, reducing stress, anxiety, and heart rates as well as extending human life spans.

The Water Wise | Water Works symposium will explore the fundamental role that water plays in supporting urbanized settings and will look at some of the key challenges and opportunities that lie ahead concerning future sustainability, construction mitigation, climate change, ecological systems, and resilience goals.

Presentations scheduled for the symposium include an overview of current City programs and talks on the following topics:

  • Water Policy Happenings at the Regional & Local Scale with Kim Clark, Planning Supervisor, Resource Conservation & Resilient   

Communities, Southern California Association of Governments;

  • Resource Management and Underground Water: Technical Challenges and Opportunities Ahead with Laney Nelson, Water Engineer, ARUP, experts dedicated to sustainable development;
  • History of Water and Ecological Resilience in a Rapidly Changing Context with Dr. Edith Guzman, UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation;
  • Power of Water-Centric Design with Water with Mariam Mojdehi, Architect, Founding Partner, MAAM Architecture & Design Studio; and
  • Water Wise Landscapes/Regenerating Nature with Hadley Arnold, Executive Director, Arid Lands Institute/Woodbury University.

Following the presentations, there will be a moderated panel discussion and a period for questions and answers.

The City of West Hollywood is dedicated to sustainability and preserving the environment, including its:

  • Participation in the National Wildlife Federation’s Mayors’ Monarch Pledge to mark the City’s commitment to saving the monarch butterfly and other pollinators through public awareness and expansion of pollinator gardens throughout West Hollywood; 
  • Designation by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a Green Power Community by meeting 65% of its 100% renewable energy use through voluntary green power that goes above-and-beyond the State of California’s standards. The EPA’s Green Power Partnership is a voluntary program that helps increase Green Power use among U.S. organizations to advance the American market for renewable energy and development of those sources as a way to reduce air pollution and other environmental impacts associated with electricity use. Learn more about how the West Hollywood community gets its Green Power;
  • Green Building Program, the first-in-the-state green building code, that builds upon state requirements and integrates locally specific requirements for new buildings and remodels to strive towards energy efficiency, improve the health of the environment and community, and help the City shape a sustainable future. The Green Building Program was updated in 2023 to include more aggressive standards for electric vehicle charging stations; and
  • Implementation of an organics collection program in compliance with SB 1383, a statewide effort to reduce emissions of short-lived climate pollutants by reducing organic waste disposal.

The City of West Hollywood continues its work to implement its people-centered Climate Action and Adaptation Plan, WeHo Climate Action, which outlines the City’s intended path to achieve carbon neutrality by 2035 and adapt to the impacts of a changing climate while centering equity and quality-of-life outcomes for the community. The City launched a public dashboard that monitors progress under the Plan toward achieving carbon neutrality. To learn more about the City’s ongoing sustainability programs and initiatives as well as information and resources, visit WeHo Climate Action & Sustainability.

For more information about the symposium, please contact Michael Barker, Project Architect in the City of West Hollywood’s Urban Design and Architecture Studio Division, as (323) 848-6483 or at [email protected].

For people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, please call TTY (323) 848-6496.

West Hollywood Celebrates Lesbian and Queer Women Visibility Week

The City of West Hollywood recognizes April 22, 2024 through April 28, 2024 as Lesbian and Queer Women Visibility Week. The City will display the Lesbian Pride flag in medians along Santa Monica Boulevard and West Hollywood City Hall and the lanterns over Santa Monica Boulevard will be lit in pink, orange, white, and red to reflect the shades of the Lesbian Pride flag.

Events during the week will feature a variety of gatherings produced with the assistance of the L-Project and Fan Girl Cafe including:

  • NextGen Coffee and Convo, featuring a panel on queer activism, challenges faced by LGBTQ women in business, and advocating for non-binary and gender-nonconforming identities with panelists Marquita Thomas, Chanel Lumiere, and Melanie Vesey. This free event will be held at Fan Girl Cafe, located at 8157 Santa Monica Boulevard, on Wednesday, April 24, 2024 from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., and will also feature an opportunity for community members to network and meet one another. 
  • Lesbian Speakers Series Film screening of the award-winning documentary Ahead of the Curve and Q&A with Franco Stevens and filmmakers Jen Rainin (Franco’s wife) and Rivkah Beth Medow. Ahead of the Curve captures the story of Franco Stevens, founder of the most successful lesbian magazine in the world and her fight to keep Curve magazine alive. This free event takes place on Saturday, April 27, 2024 at 5:30 p.m. at the City’s Council Chambers/Public Meeting Room located at 625 N. San Vicente Boulevard. This event will begin with a reception with light snacks and refreshments at 5:30 p.m. The screening will begin at 6 p.m. The Q&A will follow the film. 
  • The City invites community members to spend an afternoon at West Hollywood Park, located at 647 N. San Vicente Boulevard, for a Queer Art in the Park gathering on Sunday, April 28, 2024 from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. The event will feature lawn games, music, and queer arts and crafts vendors. Entry is free. Feel free to bring a blanket, yoga mat, lawn chair, sunscreen, and picnic accoutrements and meet new and old friends in the park. For additional information, please visit www.weho.org/lgbtq

Since incorporation in 1984, the City of West Hollywood has become one of the most influential cities in the nation for its outspoken advocacy on LGBTQ issues. No other city of its size has had a greater impact on the national public policy discourse on fairness and inclusiveness for LGBTQ people. More than 40 percent of residents in West Hollywood identify as LGBTQ and three of the five members of the West Hollywood City Council are openly LGBTQ. The City has advocated for more than three decades for measures to support LGBTQ individuals and has been in the vanguard on efforts to gain and protect equality for all people on a state, national, and international level.

For more information about the City of West Hollywood’s Lesbian and Queer Women Visibility Week, please visit www.weho.org/lgbtq or contact Moya Márquez, the City of West Hollywood’s Community Programs Coordinator, at [email protected] or at (323) 848-6574.

For people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, please call TTY (323) 848-6496.

WeHo Pride 2024 Participant Application Deadline is April 15 for WeHo Pride Street Fair Exhibitors, Parade Entries, and Food Vendors

The City of West Hollywood will close the Parade Participant, Street Fair Exhibitor, and Food Vendor application portals for its WeHo Pride 2024 celebrations on April 15, 2024 at 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time. Application portals can be accessed via the ‘Get Involved’ page on the WeHo Pride website: www.wehopride.com

 WeHo Pride Weekend will take place on Friday, May 31, 2024; Saturday, June 1, 2024; and Sunday, June 2, 2024 in and around West Hollywood Park, located at 647 N. San Vicente Boulevard. The weekend will include a free Street Fair, the Women’s Freedom Festival, the Dyke March, the WeHo Pride Parade, and the ticketed OUTLOUD Music Festival @ WeHo Pride, as well as WeHo Pride Presents Friday Night at OUTLOUD.

The WeHo Pride Street Fair will take place on Saturday, June 1, 2024 and Sunday, June 2, 2024. It will celebrate Pride with the diverse participation of LGBTQ community groups and allied organizations as part of visibility and expression. The Street Fair is free and will feature a vibrant variety of exhibitors along Santa Monica Boulevard. There will be live entertainment and performances on two stages along the boulevard, highlighting the LGBTQ community. The Street Fair is open to everyone. It is a great occasion to take part in WeHo Pride’s LGBTQ community experience. WeHo Pride Street Fair applications are also currently open for vendors, artists, performers, and more. The Street Fair promises to be bigger and better than ever before. With a wide range of activities and options, there is sure to be something for everyone. Organizations interested in applying to participate as an Exhibitor at the WeHo Pride Street Fair can apply here. Food vendors interested in participating in the event can fill out the Google form here.

Get festive as we roll down Santa Monica Boulevard for the WeHo Pride Parade on Sunday, June 2, 2024! The WeHo Pride Parade is an imaginative and colorful annual tradition along Santa Monica Boulevard that embraces LGBTQ representation, inclusion, and progress. Full of music, dancing, colorful floats, festive marching contingents, and creative flair, the Parade celebrates LGBTQ people and our contributions to community and culture. The Parade is a lively, energetic experience with good cheer and great vibes, and a whole lot of rainbows! Whether you participate in the Parade or join in the fun as a spectator, there’s something for everyone at the WeHo Pride Parade! Organizations and individuals interested in submitting an application to participate as an entrant in the annual WeHo Pride Parade can apply here. Get creative and think outside of the box! The WeHo Pride Parade welcomes floats, bands, drill teams, dance teams, entertainment entries, marchers, and more. 

There are a variety of ways for brands to sponsor this brand-new era of Pride in West Hollywood as well. From traditional activation spaces (street fair visibility and parade entries) to inclusion at one of the most diverse music events nationally, as well as creative customized opportunities, there are multiple outlets for brand visibility! Organizations interested in becoming a WeHo Pride sponsor can reach out to [email protected] 

Additional details about WeHo Pride 2024 will be posted as they become available at www.wehopride.com. Follow @wehopride on Instagram and Facebook and follow @officiallyoutloud on Instagram and Facebook.

About WeHo Pride and the City of West Hollywood Since its incorporation in 1984, the City of West Hollywood has become one of the most influential cities in the nation for its outspoken advocacy on LGBTQ issues. Home to the “Rainbow District” along Santa Monica Boulevard, which features a concentration of historic LGBTQ clubs, restaurants, and retail shops, West Hollywood consistently tops lists of “most LGBTQ friendly cities” in the nation. More than 40 percent of residents in West Hollywood identify as LGBTQ and four of the five members of the West Hollywood City Council are openly LGBTQ.

Pride is deeply rooted part of West Hollywood’s history and culture. In fact, Pride events have taken place in West Hollywood for more than 40 years (since 1979, five years before the City of West Hollywood was incorporated as a municipality). The City’s embrace of Pride is part of its advocacy for nearly four decades for measures that support LGBTQ individuals, and the City is in the vanguard on efforts to gain and protect equality for all people on a state, national, and international level. The City of West Hollywood is one of the first municipalities to form a Lesbian & Gay Advisory Board (now LGBTQ+ Commission) and a Transgender Advisory Board, which each address matters of advocacy. As part of its support of the transgender community, the City has a Transgender Resource Guide available on the City’s website.

In 2022, the City of West Hollywood inaugurated WeHo Pride with programming that represents a diverse array of LGBTQ community groups as part of visibility, expression, and celebration. West Hollywood is a community of choice for LGBTQ people from throughout the world and WeHo Pride embraces a source of deep connection for its LGBTQ history and culture.

For more information about WeHo Pride and the WeHo Pride Arts Festival, please visit www.wehopride.com.

For more information about Outloud @ WeHo Pride, please visit www.weareoutloud.com.

For inquires to the City of West Hollywood’s Event Services Division, please email [email protected].

For people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, please call TTY (323) 848-6496.

‘Spring Fest’ at West Hollywood Park

The City of West Hollywood’s Recreation Services Division invites the community to splash into Spring Fest in the park and at the pool on Saturday, April 27, 2024 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at West Hollywood Park, located at 647 N. San Vicente Boulevard. Bring your family and friends for a fun day of outdoor activities. Limited parking is available in the adjacent five-story West Hollywood Park structure.

Activities will begin at the West Hollywood Park Aquatic and Recreation Center and Great Lawn. There will be carnival games, music, performances, giveaways, egg hunts, face painters, and much more! You won’t want to miss this!

Three of the featured activities for the event are:

  • Youth Basketball Shoot Out (Ages 10 to 15) – register here ($7) – In the Shoot Out, the player shoots from five spots around the key: right corner, right wing, top of key, left wing, and left corner. At each spot: take one dribble in for a mid-range shot, dribble for a lay-up, and then end the game with a 1 & 1 free throw.
  • Duck Relays and Cardboard Boat Races – register here (free) – Duck Relays are a swim event using inflatable ducks to race relay-style across the pool in a team of four and Cardboard Boat Race are one- to three-person teams of all ages that will test their ingenuity in racing homemade boats made of cardboard and duct tape across the pool.
  • Themed Recreation Swim and Rubber Duckie Hunt – registration has reached capacity, waiting list is open here (free) – Themed Recreation Swim is full of adorable rafts of rubber ducks, water toys, floaties, and mighty merfolk of the sea and swimmers will be able to participate in a rubber duckie hunt.

Learn more about Spring Fest and recreation programming by visiting www.weho.org/recreation and selecting Rec Reader.

For more information, please call the City of West Hollywood’s Recreation Services Division at (323) 848-6534 or email [email protected] or [email protected].

For people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, please call TTY (323) 848-6496.

Open Call for Arts Grant Program Applications

The City of West Hollywood has opened application opportunities for its 2025 Arts Grant Program. The City will host a virtual Arts Grant Program information workshop for those who are interested in applying to learn more about the City’s grant-eligibility requirements and application process, as well as to ask questions.

The Arts Grant Program information workshop will be held online via the Zoom platform on Wednesday, May 22, 2024 at 1 p.m. First-time grant applicants and returning organizations with new development personnel are strongly encouraged to attend the workshop to become familiar with the application process. For more information, please visit www.weho.org/arts

The City of West Hollywood, through its Arts and Cultural Affairs Commission, has managed the Arts Grant Program for 26 years. West Hollywood’s Arts Grant Program provides grant funding to individual artists, artist collectives, and nonprofit arts organizations for the production, performance, or presentation of art projects that take place in the City of West Hollywood as well as those that serve the West Hollywood community.

The City of West Hollywood invites and encourages artists and organizations representing diverse populations and diverse artistic disciplines to apply for these grants. As defined in the Cultural Equity Statement, diversity includes all ways in which people differ, including but not limited to, race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, education, age, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, ability, geography, citizenship status, religion, language, physical appearance, and the intersection of these various identities. The City commits to ensuring cultural equity in all arts policies and practices.

The Arts Grant Program categories with open application processes for 2025 are as follows:

Arts Project Grant — Supports the production, performance, or presentation of art projects that take place in the City of West Hollywood and that serve the West Hollywood community. The proposed projects should take place in the City of West Hollywood in 2025 and 2026. Proposed presentations may include, but are not limited to: comedy show, dance performance, drag performance, film screening, visual art exhibit, music presentation, poetry reading, and theatre presentation. The Arts Project Grant category is awarded in a two-year cycle [with one application, grantee can be awarded for 2 years]. The maximum grant award is $20,000 per grantee ($10,000 per year). The deadline for this category is Monday, July 1, 2024.

Community Arts Grant — Supports non-profit arts organizations with a history of supporting BIPOC, LGBQ, and/or female artists and audiences. Proposed projects should take place in West Hollywood in 2025. Proposed presentations can include an art centered presentation or performance, and/or an educational and participatory program (workshop) which engages BIPOC, LGBQ, and/or female artists and audiences. The maximum grant award for both artists and non-profits arts organizations for this category is $6,000. The deadline for this category is Monday, July 1, 2024. 

Transgender, Gender Diverse, Intersex, + (TGI+) Arts Grant — Supports and enhances the presentation of artworks in West Hollywood by transgender, non-binary, intersex, and gender nonconforming artists and non-profit organizations with a history of supporting artists in these communities. Proposed projects should take place in West Hollywood in 2025. Proposed presentations should include art presentations which engage transgender, gender diverse, and/or intersex artists and audiences. The maximum grant award is $6,500 for both artists and non-profit arts organizations. The deadline for this category is Monday, July 1, 2024.

WeHo Artist Grant — Supports the long-term development of an artist’s ideas by providing funds that increase the capacity for artists to realize work, advance the conditions of creation, and navigate the complexities of both making art and making a career. Eligible artists must reside in the City of West Hollywood. The grant award is $6,000 per year for five artists. The deadline for applications is Monday, July 1, 2024.

Artists and organizations interested in applying may visit www.weho.org/arts for more information.

For more information about the City of West Hollywood’s Arts Grant Program, please visit www.weho.org/arts or contact City of West Hollywood Grants Coordinator Eva Angeloff at (323) 848-6354 or [email protected].

For people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, please call TTY (323) 848-6496.

West Hollywood Promotes Local Actions that Address Climate Change as it Celebrates Earth Month in April with ‘WeHo Takes Climate Action 2024’

In honor of Earth Month in April, the City of West Hollywood will celebrate WeHo Takes Climate Action 2024 to rally community members to collectively embrace sustainable practices and contribute to the City’s 2035 carbon neutrality goal. Community members are encouraged to share social media posts about taking sustainability action steps using the hashtag #WeHoClimateAction.

Starting in April, residents, businesses, and local organizations are encouraged to take various actions that support the City’s ambitious environmental goals. Through its @wehocity social media pages, the City will promote various steps relating to energy, transportation, zero waste, natural environment, and resilience that community members can take. The City will also share the latest information on its climate action initiatives to raise community awareness about City programs and policies related to its natural and built environments, ecology, and sustainability efforts.

The City of West Hollywood has a strong record of developing and instituting progressive and forward-thinking environmental policies and, as a city committed to reducing its carbon footprint, West Hollywood recognizes the importance of individual actions in making a substantial impact on the health of the planet.

 “One of the City of West Hollywood’s most critical core values is Responsibility for the Environment,” said City of West Hollywood Mayor John M. Erickson. “West Hollywood has steadily led the way in developing and applying policies that help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, save energy, and promote sustainability. As we take next steps in realizing the goals of our Climate Action Plan, Earth Month in April is a wonderful opportunity for all us of to do what we can to make individual steps that add up to big community impacts and help our city to reducing our carbon footprint, which will better prepare us for the future effects of climate change.”

In the spirit of proactive initiatives, the City of West Hollywood is gearing up for Earth Month with a variety of community events and programs in April:

  • On Saturday, April 20, 2024, the City will host a free in-person symposium, Water Wise | Water Works, which will explore the fundamental role that water plays in supporting urbanized settings. It will examine some of the key challenges and opportunities that lie ahead with respect to future sustainability, climate change, ecology, and resilience goals that are pursued at the local and state levels. The symposium will take place at the West Hollywood City Council Chambers/Public Meeting Room, located at 625 N. San Vicente Boulevard from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. More information is available on the City website calendar
  • On Saturday, April 20, 2024 the City will host an annual Tree Planting at 9 a.m. in the public parkway at 1146/1148 Formosa Avenue. Four paperbark (Melaleuca quinquenervia) trees, which are widely planted throughout Southern California and are native to Australia, will be planted. The paperbark is a rounded, evergreen tree with a maximum height of 40 feet. It has a low water use rating and features exfoliating bark and oblong leaves with seasonal flower displays in the summer and fall that will attract pollinators and birds. Sun exposure ranges from partial shade to full sun. West Hollywood community members are invited and encouraged to participate in this year’s annual tree planting event. Drop in; no RSVP is needed. Supervision, instruction, tools, and gloves will be provided. The event will start with a short ‘how-to’ planting session, followed by a discussion on the benefits trees provide to the urban environment.

To showcase the City of West Hollywood climate actions in energy, transportation, zero waste, natural environment, and resilience programs, the City will highlight its sustainability programs and share information about how community members can get involved via social media and more, including the following:  

  • The City’s newly launched Green Business Certification program is a recognizes and encourages efficient, profitable, and sustainable business operations. To support businesses, West Hollywood’s Green Business Program and its services are being offered at no cost. Visit go.weho.org/greenbusiness for more information.
  • Electrify WeHo is the City’s new web resource on electrification with resources to help community members transition into an all-electric home which can improve indoor air quality, lower your energy costs, modernize your home, and help WeHo reach its 2035 carbon neutrality goal. Learn about the benefits and incentives to help make the switch at Electrify WeHo.
  • Go Solar West Hollywood is a City-sponsored program encouraging property owners to go solar. The City has partnered with online marketplace EnergySage to help property owners receive and compare quotes. 
  • The City’s new Resilience Efforts webpage provides the public with information on resilience and centralizes the City’s resiliency efforts to serve as a resource for community members. 
  • The City of West Hollywood encourages community members to leave their automobiles at home and take alternate forms of transportation when possible while traversing the City, including by using scooters, bicycles, walking (the City is only 1.9 square miles!), or via the City’s free transit options. Please visit www.wehopickup.com or www.weho.org/cityline for more information.
  • Responding to a statewide effort to reduce emissions associated with organic waste disposal by diverting waste from landfills, the City has worked with Athens Services to establish an organic recycling service throughout West Hollywood. Community members are encouraged to visit the City’s organic recycling webpage to learn how to sort waste and recycle.
  • In January 2024, the West Hollywood City Council adopted the new Tree Canopy ordinance regulating the preservation, removal, relocation, and replacement of existing mature canopy trees. 
  • The City’s Heritage Tree program promotes identifying specimen trees, promotes tree awareness, advocates for the protection of mature tree benefits, and educates community members about the City’s heritage trees and proper maintenance practices. All great trees start small! Visit the City’s webpage about young tree care best practices. The WeHo community is encouraged to check out resource videos and take the tree steward pledge!

Finally, the City will continue to implement its people-centered Climate Action and Adaptation Plan (WeHo Climate Action), which outlines the City’s intended path to achieve carbon neutrality by 2035 and adapt to the impacts of a changing climate while centering equity and quality-of-life outcomes for the West Hollywood community. The City s biannually updates its WeHo Climate Action public dashboard that monitors progress toward achieving carbon neutrality and its 60 programs and projects. To learn more about the City’s active sustainability initiatives and public dashboard, visit WeHo Climate Action & Sustainability.

The City of West Hollywood will, additionally partner with The Center for Early Education to provide a day of service for school children. This private event will take place at Kings Road Park and programming will feature monarch butterfly conservation education and activities, planting nectar and other foliage, and park cleanup. Visit the City’s educational Monarch Butterfly Conservation webpage to learn more about monarch butterfly conservation and City efforts.

For more information about West Hollywood’s Earth Month 2024, please contact Andi Lovano, City of West Hollywood Community & Legislative Affairs Manager, at (323) 848-6333 or at [email protected].

For people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, please call TTY (323) 848-6496.

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For up-to-date information about City of West Hollywood news and events, follow @wehocity on social media, sign-up for news updates at www.weho.org/email, and visit the City’s calendar of meetings and events at www.weho.org/calendar. West Hollywood City Hall is open for walk-in services at public counters or by appointment by visiting www.weho.org/appointments. City Hall services are accessible by phone at (323) 848-6400 and via website at www.weho.org. Receive text updates by texting “WeHo” to (323) 848-5000.

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Colorado

Transgender, nonbinary ICE detainees allege mistreatment at Colo. detention center

Advocacy groups filed complaint with federal officials on April 9

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The Aurora Contract Detention Facility (Photo courtesy of GEO Group)

AURORA, Colo. — Five Transgender and nonbinary people who are in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody at a privately-run detention center in Colorado say they continue to suffer mistreatment.

The Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network, the National Immigration Project and the American Immigration Council on April 9 filed a complaint with the Department of Homeland Security’s Offices for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, Immigration Detention Ombudsman and Inspector General and ICE’s Office of Professional Responsibility on behalf of the detainees at the Aurora Contract Detention Facility near Denver.

Charlotte, one of the five complainants, says she spends up to 23 hours a day in her room. 

She says in the complaint that a psychiatrist has prescribed her medications for anxiety and depression, but “is in the dark about her actual diagnoses because they were not explained to her.” Myriah and Elsa allege they do not have regular access to hormones and other related health care.

Omar, who identifies as Trans and nonbinary, in the complaint alleges they would “start hormone replacement therapy if they could be assured that they would not be placed in solitary confinement.” Other detainees in the complaint allege staff have also threatened to place them in isolation.

“They have been told repeatedly that, if they started therapy, they would be placed in ‘protective custody’ (solitary confinement) because the Aurora facility has no nonbinary or men’s Transgender housing unit,” reads the complaint. “This is so, despite other Trans men having been detained in Aurora in the past, so Omar is very likely receiving misinformation that is preventing them from accessing the treatment they require.”

Omar further alleges staffers told them upon their arrival that “they had to have a ‘boy part’ (meaning a penis) to be assigned to” the housing unit in which other Trans people live. Other complainants say staff have also subjected them to degrading comments and other mistreatment because of their gender identity. 

“Victoria, Charlotte and Myriah are all apprehensive about a specific female guard who is assigned to the housing unit for Transgender women at Aurora,” reads the complaint. “Victoria has experienced this guard peering at her through the glass on the door of her form. Charlotte, Myriah and the other women in her dorm experienced the same guard making fun of them after they complained that she had confiscated all of their personal hygiene products, like their toothbrushes and toothpaste, and replaced them with menstrual pads and tampons, which she knows they do not need.”

“She said something to them like, ‘If you were real women, you would need these things,'” reads the complaint. “The same guard told them that they had to ask her for their personal hygiene products when they wanted to use them, stripping them of their most basic agency.”

Victoria, who has been in ICE custody for more than two years, also says she does not have regular access to hormones. Victoria further claims poor food, lack of access to exercise and stress and anxiety because of her prolonged detention has caused has made her health deteriorate.

The GEO Group, a Florida-based company, operates the Aurora Contract Detention Facility.

Advocates for years have complained about the conditions for Trans and nonbinary people in ICE custody and have demanded the agency release all of them.

Roxsana Hernández, a Trans Honduran woman with HIV, on May 25, 2018, died in ICE custody in New Mexico. Her family in 2020 sued the federal government and the five private companies who were responsible for her care.

Johana “Joa” Medina Leon, a Trans Salvadoran woman, on June 1, 2019, passed away at a Texas hospital four days after her release from ICE custody. Kelly González Aguilar, a Trans Honduran woman, had been in ICE custody for more than two years until her release from the Aurora Contract Detention Center on July 14, 2020.

ICE spokesperson Steve Kotecki on Friday told the Blade there were 10 “self-identified Transgender detainees” at the Aurora Contract Detention Center on April 11. The facility’s “transgendered units” can accommodate up to 87 Trans detainees. 

A 2015 memorandum then-ICE Executive Associate Director of Enforcement and Removal Operations Thomas Homan signed requires personnel to allow Trans detainees to identify themselves based on their gender identity on data forms. The directive, among other things, also contains guidelines for a “respectful, safe and secure environment” for Trans detainees and requires detention facilities to provide them with access to hormone therapy and other Trans-specific health care.

“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is committed to ensuring that all those in its custody reside in safe, secure and humane environments,” said Kotecki. “ICE regularly reviews each case involving self-identified Transgender noncitizens and determines on a case-by-case basis whether detention is warranted.”

The complaint, however, states this memo does not go far enough to protect Trans and nonbinary detainees.

“ICE’s 2015 guidance has some significant flaws,” it reads. “It fails to provide meaningful remedies for policy violations. It does not acknowledge the challenges that nonbinary people face when imprisoned by ICE and the lack of such guidance explains why the needs of nonbinary people are largely misunderstood and unmet.”

“Further, the language used to describe people who are TNB is not inclusive and does not reflect terminology adopted by the community it is meant to describe,” adds the complaint. “Although this list is not exhaustive, it addresses some of the primary concerns voiced by the complaints.”

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U.S. Federal Courts

Federal judge tosses a NY county’s suit defending trans sports ban

Bills banning trans youth from participating in sports already have passed in 24 states, although some have been blocked by active lawsuits

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Theodore Roosevelt Federal Courthouse at 225 Cadman Plaza East in Brooklyn, New York. (Photo Credit: U.S. Courts/GSA)

BROOKLYN, N.Y. – A U.S. District Court judge ruled Friday against a pre-emptive lawsuit from Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman fighting off an attempt by New York Attorney General Letitia James to litigate his transphobic executive order barring the county’s Department of Parks, Recreation, and Museums from issuing permits to any women’s or girls’ sports team with transgender players.

“This decision is a tremendous victory for justice and the rule of law, but our work here is not done,” said Alexis Richards, a spokesperson for the Attorney General. “It’s past time for Nassau County to rescind this [executive] order and treat all our communities with the basic respect and dignity they deserve.”

Earlier this month U.S. District Court Judge Nusrat Choudhury, who is on the bench of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, denied Blakeman’s request for a temporary restraining order against the Attorney General.

In that ruling Judge Choudhury wrote that the Long Island county “falls far short of meeting the high bar for securing the extraordinary relief,” the Associated Press reported.

Among other things, Choudhury said the county failed to “demonstrate irreparable harm,” which she said was a “critical prerequisite” for such an order.

The ruling, however, doesn’t address the legality of the county’s ban or James’ request that the lawsuit be dismissed. Those issues will be decided at a later date, the Associated Press noted.

Reacting to today’s ruling in a statement released to the media Blakeman said: “We vehemently disagree with the decision and will appeal.”

On March 1st, Attorney General James sent a order of cease and desist to Blakeman demanding that the Republican Nassau County Executive rescind his February 22 directive within five days or else face additional legal actions. 

“The law is perfectly clear: you cannot discriminate against a person because of their gender identity or expression. We have no room for hate or bigotry in New York,” the Attorney General wrote. “This executive order is transphobic and blatantly illegal. Nassau County must immediately rescind the order, or we will not hesitate to take decisive legal action.” 

Last month the Nassau County Executive announced he was filing a lawsuit over the Attorney General’s actions.

Last month on March 11, the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) filed a separate lawsuit against the Nassau County Executive. The lawsuit argues that the policy violates New York’s Human Rights Law and Civil Rights Law, which explicitly prohibit discrimination based on gender identity following passage of New York’s Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA).  

“Trans people who play sports need support and affirmation, not to be a political target. Nassau County’s cynical attempt to shut them out of public spaces is a blatant violation of our state’s civil and human rights laws. It also speaks to growing, nationwide attacks against LGBTQ+ rights, and we won’t stand for this hatred here in New York,” said Gabriella Larios, staff attorney at the New York Civil Liberties Union. “As promised the day this executive order was issued, we’re taking action so that the courts relegate this harmful, transphobic policy to the dustbin of history, where it belongs.” 

The ban will remain in effect as the litigation proceeds or it is enjoined by a judge.

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West Hollywood

David Cooley makes emotional exit as owner of The Abbey WeHo

Video captured by longtime patron Edgar Alvarez shows a tearful Cooley hugging his staff and patrons as he made his way out of The Abbey WeHo

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Actress & singer Jennifer Lopez with David Cooley, the founder and now former owner of The Abbey WeHo in January of 2024 at an event honoring Cooley. (Photo Credit: The Abbey WeHo/Facebook)

By Paulo Murillo | WEST HOLLYWOOD – David Cooley, the founder and former owner of The Abbey WeHo and The Chapel at The Abbey, made a tearful exit on his last day as owner of two of West Hollywood’s most iconic nightclub on Thursday night. He officially turned over the reins over to new owner Tristan Schukraft.

The final hurrah was a low-key affair. According to a witness, at one point all the bartenders lined up to bid their former boss a final farewell, but Cooley took too long to come out from the back, so they eventually went back to work.

David Cooley’s Final Day at the Abbey – Photo courtesy of Edgar Alvarez

Video captured by longtime patron Edgar Alvarez shows a tearful Cooley hugging his staff and patrons as he made his way out of The Abbey WeHo. The crowd clapped and cheered, and people can be heard thanking him as he made his final exit.

@wehotimes David Cooley, the founder and former owner of The Abbey WeHo and The Chapel at The Abbey, made a tearful exit on his last day as owner of two of West Hollywood’s most iconic nightclub on Thursday night. He officially turned over the reigns to new owner Tristan Schukraft. The final hurrah was a low-key affair. According to a witness, at one point all the bartenders lined up to bid their former boss a final farewell, but Cooley took too long to come out from the back, so they eventually went back to work. Video captured by longtime patron Edgar Alvarez shows a tearful Cooley hugging his staff and patrons as he made his way out of The Abbey WeHo. The crowd clapped and cheered, and people can be heard thanking him as he made his final exit. As a joke, and perhaps a final nod to Cooley’s longstanding relationship with the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station, a sheriff’s deputy vehicle waited for him out front and then whisked him away in a dramatic exit while people on the sidewalk waved goodbye. #wehotimes #wehonews #wehocity #weho #westhollywood #wehonightlife #westhollywoodnightlife @The Abbey ♬ original sound – WEHO TIMES

As a joke, and perhaps a final nod to Cooley’s longstanding relationship with the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station, a sheriff’s deputy vehicle waited for him out front and then whisked him away in a dramatic exit while people on the sidewalk waved goodbye.

The Abbey Food & Bar and The Chapel at The Abbey were sold to entrepreneur Tristan Schukraft—a technology entrepreneur turned hotelier, nightlife aficionado, and well-known member of the West Hollywood LGBTQ+ community.

The Abbey and The Chapel add to Schukraft’s portfolio of businesses that enrich the LGBTQ+ community across the United States, which includes MISTR, the largest telemedicine provider of free online PrEP and long-term HIV care serving all 50 states, D.C., and Puerto Rico. More recently, Schukraft acquired and is in the process of reimagining Tryst and Circo, LGBTQ+ hotel and nightlife venues in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

“I’m excited to build on the legacy that David Cooley created over the last 33 years at The Abbey. David built a small coffee shop on an unknown side street into one of the most famous gay bars in the country, if not the world. This is both an honor and a significant responsibility,” explains Tristan Schukraft. “I plan to respect and honor The Abbey’s history while bringing new ideas that reflect our evolving LGBTQ+ community and my personal approach to hospitality. We’re not just maintaining a legacy business and an international landmark; we’re adding to the future of LGBTQ+ nightlife.”

David Cooley’s last day at The Abbey WeHo truly marks the end of an era.

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Paulo Murillo is Editor in Chief and Publisher of WEHO TIMES. He brings over 20 years of experience as a columnist, reporter, and photo journalist.

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The preceding article was previously published by WeHo Times and is republished with permission.

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Political commentary & analysis

Jimmy Kimmel Live’s hilarious faux ‘Out for Biden’ campaign ad

“It’s called ‘Out for Biden-Harris,’ which is a clunky title, but was definitely better than the original slogan: ‘I’m a Joemosexual”

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Late night host Jimmy Kimmel debuts a faux Biden-Harris reelection campaign advert poking fun at his allyship of the LGBTQ+ community. (Screenshot/YouTube Jimmy Kimmel Live ABC TV)

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. – During his opening monologue Thursday, ABC Television late night host Jimmy Kimmel took playful aim at a new push by the Biden-Harris reelection campaign’s effort to get more LGBTQ+ voters to the polls in November.

The Biden-Harris campaign on Wednesday debuted “Out for Biden-Harris,” a “national organizing and engagement program to mobilize LGBTQ+ voters, communities, and leaders across the country.”

In a press release announcement, the campaign stated: “From drag queens to elected leaders to LGBTQ+ faith leaders, Team Biden-Harris will use a wide range of validators to communicate what’s at stake for the LGBTQ+ community in this election and why it’s critical that we vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.”

In his satirical take on the announcement Kimmel noted:

“Yesterday they launched a new program to engage voters in the LGBTQ+ community,” Kimmel said, having a slight issue with articulating the acronym for the community. “It’s called ‘Out for Biden-Harris,’ which is a clunky title, but was definitely better than the original slogan: ‘I’m a Joemosexual.”

The parody campaign advertisement voiced by a Biden impersonator said:

“What’s up bitches? It’s me, Joe Biden, and I’m excited to announce the launch of Out for Biden-Harris: a new campaign all about you LGBT-cuties out there,” he said. “Listen, I may be straighter than a bamboo fishing rod, but I’m the most gay-friendly president in history. Like your mother used to always say, ‘You can’t spell Biden without Bi.’ And that’s the tea.”

The campaign noted that LGBTQ voters will be “a key part” of its coalition, while 39 percent of voters consider LGBTQ equality a “make-or-break issue.”

“In 2020, nearly 11,000 LGBTQ+ volunteers mobilized to help elect President Biden and Vice President Harris,” the campaign wrote. “This year, Out for Biden-Harris will re-engage these supporters and build on their work. The program is designed around the idea that there is no better messenger to mobilize LGBTQ+ voters than their friends and neighbors to bring new supporters into our campaign.”

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The Biden-Harris administration is the most pro-LGBTQ in history, and LGBTQ groups with a combined 3.8 million members have endorsed President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign the Biden-Harris campaign manager Julie Chavez-Rodriguez pointed out.

“LGBTQ+ voters are a force to be reckoned with. They were critical to our victory in 2020, and they will be critical to winning again this November,” said Chavez-Rodriguez. “That’s why we’re thrilled to launch Out for Biden-Harris, which will harness the LGBTQ+ community’s organizing prowess to reelect President Biden and Vice President Harris this November.”

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The Biden-Harris segment begins at the 7:22 minute mark:

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Maine

Maine House passes proposed trans & abortion shield law

Republican critics of bill to protect professionals who provide reproductive & gender-affirming care repeated disinformation to argue against

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March for Queer & Trans Youth Autonomy in Washington D.C. 2023. (Michael Key/Washington Blade)

By Evan Popp | AUGUSTA, Maine – After hours of contentious debate that stretched late into the night, the Maine House on Wednesday approved a proposed “shield law” designed to protect the state’s health professionals who provide reproductive and gender-affirming care from being targeted by other states’ bans or restrictions on such treatments.  

The chamber passed LD 227, sponsored by Anne Perry (D-Calais), by an 80-70 mostly party-line vote, with Democrats in support and Republicans opposed (with the exception of Democratic Rep. Bruce White of Waterville). The bill will now move to the Senate. 

“What this bill intends to do is to shield — and that’s why it’s called a shield law — the providers who provide this care while in the state of Maine … from another state coming in to enforce their laws on this state,” Perry said. “It is a sovereignty issue.”

The measure comes as many Republican-led states have sought to curb access to reproductive care following the overturning of federal abortion rights in 2022 and have also targeted gender-affirming care for transgender youth. So far, in reaction to such efforts, 22 states and Washington, D.C. have passed shield laws protecting abortion and eleven of those states and D.C. also have protections specifically for gender-affirming care.

The Maine Legislature’s Judiciary Committee voted down a separate shield law proposal in January. The text of LD 227 was subsequently introduced and advanced by the Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services Committee last month. 

During the House debate on the bill Wednesday night, Democratic supporters said the bill is needed to ensure health professionals can provide legally-protected care without fear of being targeted by out-of-state actors. 

In contrast, Republicans repeated claims that the bill would facilitate criminal activity — arguments that legal experts have said are not based in reality. They also expressed concern that the measure would hamstring law enforcement by preventing them from sharing information and expressed their general opposition to gender-affirming care for minors and reproductive health rights like abortion. 

In his speech, Rep. Joshua Morris (R-Turner) argued the bill would make it easier for traffickers to find safe haven in Maine, claiming the measure would allow for kids to be brought to the state without parental consent for the services mentioned in the proposal. 

The argument that LD 227 represents an attack on parental rights was also invoked by numerous opponents of the legislation. 

“I have only scratched the surface of the problems with this bill,” Morris said, also citing issues with the process, including the late introduction of the measure and a lack of publicly-available text. 

Bill proponents say claims that the bill would facilitate kidnapping and trafficking are blatant lies. And legal authorities, including Attorney General Aaron Frey, have also pushed back against such arguments. Frey told Maine Morning Star that the bill makes “no changes to criminal law, nor does it legalize any currently illegal behavior.”

“There is no reading of the bill that would authorize criminal acts, like kidnapping or trafficking,” Frey stated. 

Furthermore, in response to concerns about the bill, lawmakers on the Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services Committee narrowed it to provide protections specifically for health care professionals and those who assist them, rather than offering protections for any person. Colleen McCarthy Reid, a legislative analyst from the Office of Policy and Legal Analysis, said the change was meant to emphasize the bill’s intended use following the claims about child trafficking and kidnapping. 

During Wednesday’s debate, opponents of the bill also said they were worried about the bill’s impact on law enforcement. Rep. Scott Cyrway (R-Albion) referenced the opposition of the Maine Sheriff’s Association to LD 227. Cyrway said the provisions in the bill that prevent law enforcement from sharing information to aid another state’s investigation into a legally-protected health activity in Maine would hamper the ability of police to work with colleagues in other places to address criminal activity. 

LD 227 does prevent police from knowingly providing information for an interstate investigation into legally-protected health activity or arresting someone in relation to such treatment. However, it provides some exceptions to these rules, including: if federal law requires action, if police have a good faith belief a warrant is valid in Maine, or if there isn’t enough time to comply with the provisions of LD 227 and there is a compelling need for action because of an imminent danger to public safety. 

Republicans attack gender-affirming care

Opponents of LD 227 also denounced gender-affirming care in general during Wednesday’s debate. They said the bill would allow kids to come from out of state to get what they referred to as treatment that cannot be reversed. Multiple Republicans claimed gender-transitioning services are unproven and dangerous for youth.

“This bill will allow doctors to mutilate beautiful bodies, completely throw a child’s fertility away, and hide and ignore true mental health issues and struggles,” said Rep. Katrina Smith (R-Palermo). 

However, proponents of the measure such as Rep. Matt Moonen (D-Portland) pointed out that reproductive health care and gender-affirming care are legally protected in Maine and that LD 227 does not change the extensive regulations in place for such treatments, particularly when it comes to youth. 

As Maine Morning Star previously reported, parental consent is needed in most cases for minors to obtain gender-affirming care. A law in Maine passed last session allows for people who are at least 16 years old to receive non-surgical gender-affirming hormone therapy — not gender reassignment surgery — without a parent’s consent, but only under a set of specific circumstances.   

Furthermore, Democrats pointed out that myriad health care organizations support gender-affirming care as necessary treatment for gender dysphoria.  

Providers say they fear prohibitions on such services will lead to worse mental health outcomes for transgender youth, with the American Medical Association calling efforts to curb gender-affirming care “a dangerous intrusion into the practice of medicine.”  

Rep. Sam Zager (D-Portland), a family physician, said safe and effective gender-affirming care is crucial to young people’s mental health and overall well-being. 

“People whose gender identity does not match their assigned gender I believe deserve access to evidence-based health care for their full being, just like everybody else. So health care practitioners can’t be intimidated …from providing it,” he said. 

Lawmakers push back against Republican AGs’ letter

In pushing for passage Wednesday, multiple Democrats also referenced a letter about the bill penned in March by 15 Republican attorneys general from around the country. In the letter, the officials argued a shield law would be unconstitutional and said they would “vigorously avail” themselves of “every recourse our Constitution provides” if the bill passed.  

Democratic lawmakers called the letter an egregious attempt to intimidate legislators and a prime example of why the state needs a shield law in the first place. Proponents also cited actions such as those taken by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who issued investigative subpoenas to a Washington state hospital that he alleged violated Texas law by providing gender affirming care to Texas youths.  

“At its core, this bill is about our state’s sovereign ability to set and enforce our state’s laws without interference from Texas, Tennessee or Kentucky,” said Rep. Amy Kuhn (D-Falmouth). 

Following Wednesday’s vote, Planned Parenthood Maine Action Fund praised lawmakers for passing the bill. 

In a news release, the group’s vice president of public affairs Lisa Margulies said, “Maine is one step closer to protecting our providers of essential medical care from hostile attacks by out-of-state extremists.” Margulies applauded lawmakers who voted for the bill “in the face of vile rhetoric and lies, political posturing and threats of violence.” 

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Evan Popp

Evan Popp studied journalism at Ithaca College. He joins Maine Morning Star following three years at Maine Beacon writing about statewide politics. Before that, he worked for the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper and interned at the Progressive magazine, ThinkProgress and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

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

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

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

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Politics

First Lady warns Trump is ‘dangerous to the LGBTQ community’

Delivering a keynote address at the HRC’s ‘Equality in Action’ event, she warned Trump is “a bully” who’s “dangerous to the LGBTQ community”

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Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson introduces the First Lady Dr. Jill Biden at the Human Rights Campaign's Equality in Action event on Friday, April 12, 2024 in Arlington, Va. (Kevin Wolf/AP Images for Human Rights Campaign)

ARLINGTON, Va. — Delivering a keynote address at the Human Rights Campaign’s ‘Equality in Action’ event Friday, First Lady Jill Biden warned former President Donald Trump is “a bully” who is “dangerous to the LGBTQ community.”

Her appearance at the three-day volunteer and board gathering at the Sheraton Pentagon City in Arlington, Virginia comes as part of the Biden-Harris reelection campaign’s “Out for Biden” program, which aims to “mobilize LGBTQ+ voters, communities, and leaders across the country.”

“Today, this community is under attack,” Mrs. Biden said. “Rights are being stripped away. freedoms are eroding. More and more state laws are being passed targeting this community. Just last month, we had to fend off more than 50 anti gay amendments that Republicans tried to force into the government funding bill.”

“These were extreme measures aimed directly at this community — measures that would have limited health care and weakened protections for same sex couples,” she said. “And they served only one purpose to spread hate and fear.”

In a nod to her long career as an educator, Mrs. Biden said, “History teaches us that our rights and freedoms don’t disappear overnight. They disappear slowly. Subtly. Silently.”

She continued, “A book ban. A court decision. A ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law. One group of people loses their rights and then another. And another. Until one day you wake up and no longer live in a democracy…This is our chapter of history and it’s up to us how it ends.”

Mrs. Biden then highlighted some of the advancements for LGBTQ rights secured under the Biden-Harris administration.

“Thanks to President Biden, marriage equality is now the law of the land,” she said. “He ended the ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood. He’s made it possible for trans Americans to serve openly and honorably in our military. And he’s standing firmly against conversion therapy.”

“Yes, there are forces outside these walls that are trying to erase these hard fought gains, trying to unwind all the progress that we’ve made,” Mrs. Biden said. “They want to take our victories away. But we won’t let them. Your President will not let them — I will not let them.”

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Tennessee

Tennessee lawmakers: “Recruiting” for trans youth care a felony

The bill was passed alongside an abortion bill that would make it illegal for adults to help minors obtain abortions without parental consent

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Tennessee Capitol Building in Nashville. (Photo Credit: State of Tennessee)

By Erin Reed | NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Republican-controlled Tennessee Senate passed a bill Thursday that would make it a felony to help a transgender youth obtain gender-affirming care.

Read broadly, the bill could apply even to those providing information about healthcare resources and laws in other states to youths in Tennessee. The bill borrows old language from anti-gay rhetoric of decades past around “recruiting” to further clamp down on information given to transgender youth about healthcare.

It signals a new phase in the fight over transgender care in the United States, potentially having nationwide repercussions and pitting the state against others that have passed shield laws protecting patient healthcare from out of state investigations.

The bill is Senate Bill 2782. The language of the bill was amended before its passage Thursday, stating that any adult who “recruits, harbors, or transports” a minor in Tennessee for the purpose of gender-affirming care could be guilty of a Class C felony, which carries a prison sentence of three to 15 years.

 Read broadly, it could prohibit discussing healthcare options available in other states with transgender youths or providing maps of “safe states” for transgender healthcare to a transgender youth, though some legal experts say that this reading is constitutionally dubious and could violate first amendment protections.

You can read the amended bill here:

The bill is not the first to target transgender people, although it is the first to specify that it applies over state lines. Some gender affirming care bans in the United States have also banned “aiding and abetting” gender affirming care, such as in Mississippi and Iowa. Those bans have sparked concern that even counselors, voice therapists, and LGBTQ+ organizations could be targeted for “aiding and abetting” transgender youth obtaining care.

The Tennessee bill was passed alongside an abortion bill that would make it illegal for adults to help minors obtain abortions without parental consent, also dubbed an “abortion trafficking” law.

If passed, Tennessee would become only the second state to enact such a law after a similar one in Idaho was blocked in court. The Idaho law uses identical language, barring “recruiting, harboring, or transporting” a pregnant minor seeking an abortion. Together, these laws represent the latest in the cross-pollination between attacks on gender-affirming care and reproductive freedom that have become increasingly common in recent years.

This has in turn led to several states passing “safe state,” “shield,” or “sanctuary” laws for transgender people and those seeking or providing abortions or gender-affirming care. Currently, 15 states have enacted legislation or policies declaring themselves “sanctuary states” for gender-affirming care and reproductive healthcare

. These shield laws assert that other states cannot subpoena healthcare legally provided within their borders, and that they maintain jurisdiction over their own territories. These shield laws have already made an impact; Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton recently attempted to subpoena medical records from Seattle Children’s Hospital, which informed him that it could not comply due to Washington’s shield law.

You can see a state map of shield laws currently in effect here:

The fight over transgender rights is spilling into a battle over jurisdictional issues that have not been litigated in over a century and a half. In response to a recent proposal in Maine to pass a shield law, 16 Republican attorneys general signed a letter authored by the AG of Tennessee stating their intention to sue Maine if they pass a law that would bar complying with requests for patient healthcare information from across state lines.

similar letter, written by Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita and signed by 18 Republican AGs, announced similar opposition to shielding abortion records. In response, the Maine Legislature passed LD227, making it the potential 16th state to enact such a shield law, despite legal threats from Republican states like Tennessee.

The Tennessee bill is slated for a subcommittee hearing on April 16th. If the bill passes, there could be a showdown between the state and other states that have acted to protect their transgender citizens and citizens seeking abortions. Likewise, there could be an enormous chilling effect on providing information about transgender healthcare to minors in the state.

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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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