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LGBTQ activists participate in March on Washington commemoration

HRC President Alphonso David among speakers

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Rev. Al Sharpton (Washington Blade photo by Steph Purifoy)

LGBTQ activists joined tens of thousands of protesters at the Lincoln Memorial on Friday to demand the end of systemic racism and police brutality in one of the largest Black Lives Matter marches of the year. 

The National Action Network organized the rally; which featured high-profile speakers like Rev. Al Sharpton, Martin Luther King III, and family members of victims of police brutality. 

Titled the Commitment March on Washington, the event also served to honor the 57th anniversary of the first March on Washington where Martin Luther King, Jr., gave his “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. 

The march comes at the end of a summer marked by instances of police brutality in multiple cities across the country. The murder of George Floyd at the hands of a then-Minneapolis police officer in May rekindled the very movement which brought Martin Luther King Jr. to D.C. 57 years ago to demand racial justice and equality. 

Qween Jean, a costume designer and founder of Black Trans Liberation, a New York-based advocacy organization, said she and her friends woke at the crack of dawn to make sure they could represent the LGBTQ community in the demonstration. She carried a large trans flag up to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, waving it before the sea of protesters. 

“Our purpose is to give trans voices and trans people access to love,” said Jean in an interview. “We as a community need to recognize their power and strength so we have to affirm our family. Trans people, trans women, Black trans people can exist in any space. We are divinely made and created so yes, we will be seen. I will make sure that my generation and the next generation do not need to feel small, they do not need to be silent, they do not have to dim their light so others can shine.”

Starting at 7 a.m., thousands of protesters gathered in lines which snaked for nearly a mile around the National Mall. They were waiting to have their temperature taken before entering the rally, which was one of the many safety measures the organizers put in place. Plastic gloves were distributed along with hand sanitizer at multiple stations around the National Mall. 

The National Action Network originally estimated the crowd would swell to 100,000 but this number was lowered to 50,000 after concerns were raised about protesters coming to D.C. from other states. 

Dmitri Stoyanoff, 39, said he came out to the protest with several others from Portland, Ore., to join the demonstrations. He strode through the marchers with Pride flags waving from his backpack. Stoyanoff said he contributed to the day’s events by working to register marchers to vote. 

He wanted to support the BLM protesters because they inspired him to come out as queer in June, he said. 

“After marching for a couple weeks and listening to all these young, beautiful, Black voices talking about how this was the first time in their whole lives that they felt proud of being black, I realized that I needed to love myself too,” Stoyanoff said. “Black Lives Matter is for every American. Every gender, sexual orientation, race they’re fighting for all of us if people would care to listen.”

The protest concluded with a march scheduled to head to the MLK memorial but soon after exiting the Mall, protesters splintered to several different spots in the city. Some went to the memorial while others split to Black Lives Matter Plaza.

For Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David, the Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ civil rights movements are the same movement. As a Black gay man, David said he is oppressed for both parts of his identity.

“The Black Lives Matter movement, the LGBTQ rights movement, the Latinx movement, we’re all fighting for liberation. We’re all fighting so that we can live in this country and achieve liberation and equality,” he told the Los Angeles Blade. “I cannot be free as a gay man if I am not free as a Black man. The LGBTQ civil rights movement is a part of the BLM movement. As Black people, as POC, we shouldn’t be forced to choose between our sexual orientation, our gender identity, and our race.”

(Washington Blade photo by Steph Purifoy)


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The White House

Los Angeles to host Summit of the Americas in June

The U.S. will host the Ninth Summit of the Americas in LA in June 2022 focused on “Building a Sustainable, Resilient, & Equitable Future”

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President Joe Biden (Official White House photo by Adam Schultz)

WASHINGTON – The White House announced Tuesday that Los Angeles has been chosen by the Biden administration to host this year’s Summit of the Americas, the institutionalized gatherings of the heads of state and government of the Western Hemisphere.

The Summit of the Americas is where leaders discuss common policy issues, affirm shared values and commit to concerted actions at the national and regional level to address continuing and new challenges faced in the Americas.

The United States will host the Ninth Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles in June 2022 with a focus on “Building a Sustainable, Resilient, and Equitable Future” for the Western hemisphere.

The vital national interests of the United States are inextricably bound to the fortunes of our closest neighbors in the Americas. To that end, the ability of our democracies to close the gap between what we promise and what we deliver depends in no small part on what we do, together, to make it better,” President Biden said in his statement.

“The Summit of the Americas is the only hemisphere-wide convening of leaders from the countries of North, South, and Central America and the Caribbean. U.S. leadership in the Summit process underscores our deep and historical commitment to the people of the Western Hemisphere as well as our commitment to realizing the Build Back Better World (B3W) initiative,” the statement said.

“Working with the city of Los Angeles, Mayor of Los Angeles Eric Garcetti, and Governor of California Gavin Newsom, the United States looks forward to convening leaders and stakeholders across the hemisphere to advance our shared commitment to economic prosperity, security, human rights, and dignity,” the statement added.

U.S. officials hope will help mend diplomatic fences in the Western Hemisphere, officials familiar with the decision told the Los Angeles Times.

The administration is expected to cite the city’s “deep and robust” ties throughout the hemisphere as one of the reasons it was selected, according to a White House official speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the matter ahead of the formal announcement.

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Ohio

Marriage equality plaintiff Obergefell running for Ohio state legislature

Obergefell was the plaintiff seeking marriage rights that led the U.S. Supreme Court to rule in 2015 for same-sex marriage nationwide

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Jim Obergefell (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

SANDUSKY, Oh. – Jim Obergefell, the lead plaintiff in the litigation that ensured same-sex couples have the right to marry nationwide, announced on Tuesday he’d pursue a new endeavor and run for a seat in the state legislature in his home state of Ohio.

“You deserve a representative who does the right thing, no matter what. You deserve a representative who fights to make things better for everyone,” Obergefell said. “I’ve been part of a national civil rights case that made life better for millions of Americans. Simply put, I fight for what’s right and just.”

Obergefell, who claims residency in Sandusky, Ohio, is seeking a seat to represent 89th Ohio District, which comprises Erie and Ottawa Counties. A key portion of his announcement was devoted to vowing to protect the Great Lakes adjacent to Ohio.

“We need to invest in our Great Lake, protect our Great Lake, and make the nation envious that Ohio has smartly invested in one of the greatest freshwater assets in the world,” Obergefell said.

Obergefell was the named plaintiff in the consolidated litigation of plaintiffs seeking marriage rights that led the U.S. Supreme Court to rule in 2015 for same-sex marriage nationwide. Obergefell was widower to John Arthur, who died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and was seeking the right to be recognized as his spouse on his death certificate. The ruling in the consolidated cases ensured same-sex couples would enjoy the full benefits and responsibilities of marriage.

“We should all be able to participate fully in society and the economy, living in strong communities with great public schools, access to quality healthcare, and with well-paying jobs that allow us to stay in the community we love, with the family we care about,” Obergefell said in a statement on his candidacy.

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Arizona

Arizona lawmakers and activists push back against anti-LGBTQ bills

Arizona is no stranger to anti-LGBTQ bills. In 2020 lawmakers sent an anti-LGBTQ education bill to Republican Gov. Ducey’s desk- he vetoed it

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Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs hung Trans & LGBTQ+ Pride flags on the balcony of the historic state Capitol building on Friday, June 28, 2019. Courtesy of Arizona Secretary of State’s Office

PHOENIX – Political leaders and activists in Arizona are sounding the alarm bells over nearly a dozen anti-LGBTQ bills introduced by Republican lawmakers in the state legislature. 

The discriminatory bills – totaling nine to date, according to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) – mirror much of the anti-LGBTQ bills introduced last year around the country, in what was a record year for legislation attacking the LGBTQ community, particularly trans people. 

Three of the bills – Senate Bill 1130, which would ban gender-affirming care for minors, Senate Bill 1165, an anti-trans sports bill, and House Bill 2112, which could prohibit the teaching of racism and sex discrimination – are set for committee meetings this week. 

Senate Bill 1130 was introduced by Arizona state Sen. Wendy Rogers, who, as the Blade reported last year, is an outspoken supporter of Donald Trump and a member of the far-right anti-government militia organization Oath Keepers.

Other bills would limit gender markers on official documentation to only “male” and “female,” make educators only use incorrect pronouns for students if it differs from their birth certificate and force students to get written permission to join clubs involving gender identity or sexuality. 

“This is an attack on human rights,” said Arizona state Rep. César Chávez, chairman of the Arizona LGBTQ Legislative Caucus, at a press conference hosted by the HRC. “We’re criminalizing individuals for being who they are. On top of that, we’re criminalizing doctors and health care workers, individuals that are doing their job.”

Sponsors of these bills say that they will benefit their communities and protect women and children. However, Chávez accused the Republican party of wanting to “attack our youth and those individuals who identify as LGBT+.” 

Lizette Trujillo, a parent of a trans child in Tucson, Arizona, detailed the toll that the proposed legislation takes on her son and her family. 

“Legislators in our state are wielding their power to leverage the most vulnerable youth in our state to further their political careers,” she said, adding: “This causes irreparable harm on the transgender community.” 

She also had an urgent message for members of her community: “Help us stop power-hungry legislators in this blatant attack,” she said. “Help us stop our government from using parents like me and kids like mine as their political pawns. Transgender kids exist – protect them, believe them, support them and affirm them.

Trujillo, who is also a member of the HRC Foundation’s Parents for Transgender Equality National Council, has become accustomed to the fight for her son’s rights. In 2019, the HRC featured her for “leading the charge” for LGBTQ-inclusive education within the Tucson Unified School District. 

Arizona is no stranger to anti-LGBTQ bills. Last year, state lawmakers sent an anti-LGBTQ education bill to Republican Gov. Doug Ducey’s desk. But he ended up vetoing the bill, calling it “broad and overly vague.” 

Now, pro-LGBTQ lawmakers and activists in the state are readying to push back against such legislation. 

According to Bridget Sharpe of HRC Arizona, the group plans to show up to the statehouse and testify against the anti-LGBTQ legislation. She said that is the best way to get results. They will make their first appearance Thursday, where Trujillo will be a speaker. 

Chávez wants to have conversations with his colleagues across the aisle, noting that it has “become a rarity here in the Arizona State Legislature,” but that they are “very meaningful.”

“I will say that it’s going to take political will from my Republican colleagues to be able to vote against these bills,” he said.

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