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Cure for a sickening appointment

Confronting the grief and havoc of these past four years can yield hope

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Judge Amy Coney Barrett at the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary hearing on Oct. 12, 2020 for her nomination to the Supreme Court. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images; POOL PHOTO used with permission)

When a lifetime nomination for the Supreme Court becomes the source of spreading a deadly virus, it should be taken as an omen.

Exactly one month after “Rona” crashed the maskless White House party for Judge Amy Barrett’s appointment, infecting staff, at least two senators and perhaps the feckless president himself, she has gained one of the nine mightiest seats of judgment in this nation.

Even when the reign of terror by the Trump administration ends, Judge Barrett’s addition to the high court is likely to extend its carnage in the lives of millions of LGBTQ Americans. Decades of hard-won progress for anti-discrimination protections and family recognition are now imperiled by the shifting math. This includes grave danger to the precedents for privacy in Roe v. Wade and Casey and even Lawrence in which is anchored the landmark ruling in Obergefell for marriage equality.

If settled laws establishing Social Security and Medicare are back on the table, as Barrett suggested at her Senate hearing, are even the laws to punish hate crimes safe?

Like the utter surrender of all the president’s men to COVID, the calamity of a right-wing, interventionist Supreme Court poised to invalidate even state-based safeguards against bias and hate could inflict vast casualties. The most vulnerable and least protected could pay the highest price.

No wonder LGBTQ people are in revolt, and voting as if our lives depend on it. Paul Monette, the gay writer who died of AIDS a quarter century ago, argued that grief is either a sword or useless. Gloria Anzaldúa, the late lesbian academic, essayist and activist, described darkness and sorrow as laboratories for the most potent rebellion.

Perhaps more than any time since the early 1990s, the LGBTQ community is enraged and engaged in electoral politics, poised to play a key role in transforming all three branches of government, including at the state level. This upsurge comes with the added attention to racial injustice, misogyny and anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim bigotry, which portends more lasting and much larger coalitions for change.

Fighting back begins with casting complete ballots. It must include visibility in the rallies and activism accompanying transitions of power. It requires participation by LGBTQ leaders in the redistricting process in the states, which draw boundaries that shape representation and how advocates might wield influence for the next decade.

Fighting back also compels that advocates seize the teachable moment on court reform. For more than 30 years, conservatives have been using their legislative authority in the states to expand supreme courts, including recently in the states of Georgia and Arizona. These states are noteworthy for their lack of anti-bias laws covering LGBTQ people and their emerging “swing” status that jeopardizes one-party Republican control. This specter was an unmistakable motivating factor for so-called “court-packing” by conservatives to cement a kind of veto power against policy gains for LGBTQ people and other long-ignored communities. Call it a trump card, a term with added meaning now at the federal level.

Republican condemnation of increasing the size of the U.S. Supreme Court while conducting such maneuvers at the state level has a familiar ring of hypocrisy. It builds on Republican senators’ breaking their own professed standard from 2016 about no appointments to the high court in a year of Presidential voting. The hubris and contempt for truth flaunted in their pre-election haste to install an ideological foe of LGBTQ rights on the court have now become a trigger. For Democrats, altering the composition of the high court may be justified as a consequence. For the LGBTQ community, the focus must remain on ending the onslaught on our freedom and the legal protection of our lives and families.

The denial of COVID by the Trump administration holds echoes of the past. Refusal to reckon openly, factually and humanely with HIV-AIDS by the Reagan White House begat other cruelties, and so has this one. The entire process of strong-arming Judge Barrett into the seat left vacant by the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg is soaked in sickness more malignant than the cancer that claimed the late Justice.

Voting alone does not erase the anguish and trauma of such wicked, corrosive hypocrisy. But voting in enormous numbers is one antidote, even more potent if it ushers in diversity of representation as part of pro-LGBTQ majorities. Legislation to reform the high court, a product of changed chemistry in the Congress, could be a lasting cure. It might even inspire similar, complementary reforms in some states. The grief and havoc of these past four years, confronted boldly, can yield an outgrowth of hope.

Hans Johnson has advised LGBT organizations and ballot measure campaigns in nearly every state. A longtime Washingtonian and former Blade columnist, he now lives in Los Angeles.

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Homophobia wins in the Puerto Rico Senate

Bill to ban conversion therapy died in committee

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[Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

By Alberto J. Valentín | It is a sad day for Puerto Rico, and it is a sad day for human rights on the Caribbean island.

Last Thursday, 11 senators decided to turn their backs on children and human rights in Puerto Rico. A new Senate majority proved to be weak and on the wrong side of history, again. Eight senators from the legislative committee reviewing Senate Bill 184 to ban conversation therapy on the island voted against the bill’s report.

Today, thanks to these senators, any mental health professional can freely charge a father for “curing” his son of homosexuality or of a gender identity/expression that does not conform to social standards of “normality.” Although there has been an executive order in Puerto Rico banning conversation therapy since 2018, this order is only applicable to health institutions that have a specific connection with the government. Executive orders state mandatory requirements for the Executive Branch and have the effect of law; however, any governor can revoke them.

Senators received scientific evidence and several testimonies from LGBTQIA people who testified during public hearings. These senators also received evidence of permanent depression and suicide attempts caused by conversion therapy. However, 11 senators decided to condone hate and the intolerance towards the LGBTQIA youth on the island. One of these senators, Wanda Soto, said during one of the public hearings that “… with love anything is possible … ” in reference to her belief that kids’ sexual orientation and gender identity can be changed or cured. This senator even compared a bad personal experience with a dentist she had when she was a kid with LGBTQIA opponents’ testimonies of their experiences of going through conversion therapy.

Suicide and depression rates among LGBTQIA youth are staggering and are the highest in the entire United States compared to other reasons. These indices are a direct consequence of the intolerance, discrimination and lack of validation that our society perpetuates. LGBTQIA youth go through difficult times in their lives, including personal and family acceptance that trigger years of depression and anxiety among LGBTQIA people.

Today again, hatred wins. Today, Puerto Rico demonstrates why it is the number one jurisdiction for hate crimes in the entire United States. Today again, these 11 senators make evident why gender-based crimes continue to dominate local headlines. Today these senators are an example of the ignorance and lack of cultural competence that persist in our island. Today, these senators will be responsible for the depression and the stigma that the LGBTQIA community will continue to suffer. Today these senators are responsible for perpetuating intolerance. We take a step back as a society, demonstrating again that we cannot tolerate those who are different and who do not meet our standards of normality.

Neither the tears of Gustavo nor Elvin or Caleb, who presented their testimonies before the Puerto Rico Senate, were enough to move the hearts of these senators. The hypocritical hugs and words of support that some senators gave to these LGBTQIA people after their testimony and personally meeting them make it much harder to understand how they turned their backs on our children. Today these 11 senators are responsible for perpetuating hate crimes on the island and make our path to be a more inclusive society even harder.

Homophobia won in the Puerto Rico Senate last Thursday. There was no difference when the pro-statehood Senate majority defeated SB 1000 (banning conversion therapy) back in 2018 and now with a new majority lead by the Popular Democratic Party. Different senators, different bills, same result, but the same homophobia. Many Puerto Rican voters believed that furthering human rights would be easier to achieve on the island with a new majority in the legislature. Unfortunately, the reality is that our legislature is just a mirror of our society, and the lack of cultural competence persists among us. But we will keep fighting; this is a single lost battle, a battle among many others yet to come.

These are the 11 senators who voted against SB 184 or didn’t vote:

  1. Sen. Rubén Soto – Against
  2. Sen. Ramón Ruiz – Against
  3. Sen. Albert Torres – Against
  4. Sen. Ada García – Against
  5. Sen. Wanda Soto – Against
  6. Sen. Marissa Jimenez – Against
  7. Sen. Joanne Rodríguez – Against
  8. Sen. Thomas Rivera – Against
  9. Sen. José L. Dalmau – Absent
  10. Sen. Marially González – Absent
  11. Sen. Javier Aponte – Absent
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Happy Mother’s Day

The publisher, editor, and staff of the Los Angeles Blade wishes all of the mother’s a very happy mother’s day and thank you for all that you do.

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The publisher, editor, and staff of the Los Angeles Blade wishes all of the mother’s a very happy mother’s day and thank you for all that you do.

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Rich privilege on full display- Hannity interviews Jenner and it wasn’t pretty

Vox journalist Aaron Rupar live tweeted the show, capturing some of the arguably worst of the discourse with Jenner.

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LOS ANGELES – Fox News pundit and anchor Sean Hannity interviewed realty television star Caitlyn Jenner on his show Wednesday evening and it frankly was a hot mess.

Jenner, who announced a week ago that she’s running to replace California Governor Gavin Newsom in the likely recall election this Fall, gave Hannity her take on issues that was Trumpian and clueless to outright enraging at times.

Vox journalist Aaron Rupar live tweeted the show, capturing some of the arguably worst of the discourse with Jenner pontificating on subject matters that she clearly doesn’t have a firm grasp of.

For instance, on California’s homeless crisis: Jenner said: “My friends are leaving California. My hangar, [ Jenner is a pilot and has her own aircraft ] the guy right across, he was packing up his hangar and I said, where are you going? And he says, ‘I’m moving to Sedona, Arizona, I can’t take it anymore. I can’t walk down the streets and see the homeless'”

Jenner again disparages Trans youth athletes: Jenner explains that she’s opposed to transgender girls playing sports against other girls. But then in the next breath she says she wants to be a role model for transgender girls.

“Forest management is extremely important” Jenner’s comments about wildfires reminded Rupar of former President Trump’s clueless remarks.

Next she claims, well take a listen yourself:

This next part is rich. “You’re pro *legal* immigration” — Sean Hannity puts words in Caitlyn Jenner’s mouth when she talks about immigration. Jenner responds by saying, “sorry, did I miss the legal part? Thanks for catching me. You’ve got my back, Sean, I appreciate that.”

Then there’s her take on trains. Jenner wonders why high speed rail is needed between LA and SF since people can just fly

Then she muses that Trump did a better job than Biden is doing which is completely vapid and devoid of substance

Mercifully it ended…

I reached out to a Trans activist of note for comments on the Hannity interview, who angrily asked why I would consider giving Jenner any more oxygen.

I explained that sadly in the toxic world of Republican politics circa 2021 in a post-Trump presidency world there are those right wing extremists who will hold Jenner up as an ‘authority-figure’ and as a spokesperson for Trans people, and worse will cite Jenner as an example.

Jenner needs to be marginalized, people need to hear loudly and clearly that she absolutely does not speak for the LGBTQ+ community and that her bigotry towards young Trans people is harmful and dangerous.

While Jenner’s candidacy and ‘policy’ positions may well be perceived as a joke, what does need to be taken seriously is her ongoing attacks on the Trans youth who just want to participate in sports.

Electing not to comment the activist agreed.

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