HAVANA — Cuban authorities on Sunday detained the managing editor of the Los Angeles Blade’s media partner on the Communist island.
Maykel González Vivero in a series of messages he sent to the Blade shortly after 5 p.m. PST said a police car drove him to a “dark road” about 15 miles outside of Havana and released him. González a few hours earlier in a post on his Facebook page wrote he is “a journalist and I am going to get myself detained now by the police. Without force. Without drama.”
González has backed members of the San Isidro Movement, a group of independent artists, who are currently on a hunger strike to protest the rapper Denis Solís’ arrest earlier this month. Authorities on Sunday also detained Luz Escobar, a reporter for 14ymedio, an independent website founded by Yoani Sánchez, a prominent critic of the Cuban government.
Florida Congresswoman-elect María Elvira Salazar on Sunday in a tweet in response to González’s detention said the “Castro regime continues to arbitrarily arrest, beat-up and persecute all those who dare to speak their minds.”
“This latest wave of repression exposes the barbaric tactics the socialist regime employs to oppress the people of Cuba in violation of all basic human rights,” tweeted Salazar.
The Castro regime continues to arbitrarily arrest, beat-up, and persecute all those who dare to speak their minds.
— María Elvira Salazar ?? (@MaElviraSalazar) November 23, 2020
Authorities arrested González in October 2016 and September 2017 when he tried to report on hurricanes in the cities of Baracoa and Sagua la Grande respectively. The Cuban government late last year banned González from traveling outside of Cuba.
The State Department’s 2019 human rights report notes the Cuban government “does not recognize independent journalists” and they “sometimes faced government harassment, including detention and physical abuse.”
“Independent reporters experienced harassment, violence, intimidation, aggression and censorship, and several were confined to their homes or prevented from traveling abroad,” reads the report.
Nelson Julio Álvarez Mairata, an LGBTQ Youtuber who contributes to Tremenda Nota and other digital publications, has been detained at least three times since last fall. Jancel Moreno, an independent journalist and LGBTQ activist, says authorities in September threatened to arrest him on charges of spreading “enemy propaganda” and “disrespect (specifically because of my way of not showing respect for authorities, (the way) Mariela Castro’s name comes out …)”
Castro is the daughter of former Cuban President Raúl Castro who publicly spearheads LGBTQ issues in Cuba as director of the country’s National Center for Sexual Education.
Authorities at Havana’s José Martí International Airport on May 8, 2019, did not allow this reporter to enter the country and detained him for several hours before they escorted him onto a flight back to the U.S. This incident took place three days after authorities detained several people who took part in an unsanctioned LGBTQ march in Havana.
The U.S. in September 2019 granted asylum to Yariel Valdés González, a Blade contributor who suffered persecution in Cuba because he was a journalist. Valdés remained in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody until March 4.
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Hamas releases gay Israeli man’s sister, 15 other hostages
Militants kidnapped Yarden Roman-Gat on Oct. 7
KHAN YOUNIS, Gaza Strip — Hamas on Wednesday released a gay Israeli man’s sister who had been held hostage in the Gaza Strip since Oct. 7.
Media reports indicate Yarden Roman-Gat is one of 12 Israelis and four Thai nationals who the militant group released.
Roman-Gat, a physical therapist who works with elderly people and those with physical and mental health issues, and her family had just returned to Israel after a vacation in South Africa when they decided to spend the Simchat Torah holiday with Gat’s parents in Be’eri, a kibbutz that is near the border between Israel and Gaza. They were in their home on Oct. 7 when Hamas launched its surprise attack.
Media reports indicate four militants placed Roman-Gat, Gat, their 3-year-old daughter and two other Be’eri residents into a car. One of them had reportedly been placed into the trunk.
Roman-Gat and Gat jumped out of the car with their daughter as it approached Gaza. Roman-Gat’s brother, Gili Roman, a teacher and member of the Nemos LGBTQ+ Swimming Club who lives in Tel Aviv, on Oct. 30 told the Washington Blade that the militants began to run after them. He said they were shooting at them when his sister handed her daughter to her husband because he was able to run faster.
Gat hid with his daughter for 18 hours before they reached Israeli soldiers in Be’eri. He told Roman he last saw his wife hiding behind a tree to protect herself from the militants who were shooting at her.
“For us it’s like a Holocaust story,” Roman told the Blade. “It’s a horror story, the worst horror story that you can imagine.”
More than 1,400 Israelis have been killed since the war began. This figure includes at least 260 people who Hamas militants murdered at an all-night music festival in Re’im, a kibbutz that is a few miles away from Be’eri. Thousands of other Israelis have been injured and Roman-Gat is among the 240 people who militants from Hamas and other Muslim terrorist groups kidnapped.
The Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry says Israeli airstrikes have killed more than 13,000 people and injured thousands of others in the enclave.
A truce between Israel and Hamas that allowed for the release of hostages in exchange for the release of Palestinians in Israeli prisons took effect on Friday.
The Associated Press notes roughly 160 hostages remain in Gaza. The truce that the U.S., Egypt and Qatar brokered was extended two days on Monday, but is slated to expire tonight.
New on the LA County Channel
You can watch on Channel 92 or 94 on most cable systems, or anytime here. Catch up on LA County Close-Up here
New on the County Channel
Thanks to a gift to the L.A. County Parks Foundation by the L.A. Clippers, LA County Parks will have 117 renovated basketball courts at 60 locations by the spring of 2025. L.A. County parks courts host 57 Jr. Clippers youth basketball league locations, as well as everything from volleyball and dance to community events and other programming. LA Clippers Guard and hometown hero Russell Westbrook was in attendance at the opening of one of many new basketball courts at Jesse Owens Park where he learned to play as a youth.
In Case You Missed It
Adopt A Family in Need for the Holidays
Join the heartwarming campaign by sponsoring a family in need this holiday season. Today, Los Angeles County residents who want to join the charitable movement, are encouraged to sponsor a family receiving benefits from the Department of Public Social Services (DPSS) as part of the department’s holiday Adopt-A-Family Program.
For over 30 years, the department has partnered with the community to match sponsors with low-income families for the annual campaign. In 2022, Adopt-A-Family sponsored approximately 1,300 families.
Sponsors are matched with a family and given a wish list. The wish list may include clothing, gift certificates, or toys. Adopt-A-Family is a great project for families, co-workers, organizations, clubs, and schools. It is a rewarding way to lift communities and a reminder of the true meaning of the holiday season.
Those interested in sponsoring a family may apply online today at http://bit.ly/DPSSAAF. Sponsors may adopt one or multiple families. Information on the size of the family and location will be provided. For additional information, email: [email protected].
Thanks for the continued support of this worthwhile program!
At Your Service
Preparing for CARE Court
On December 1, 2023, Los Angeles County will implement the Community Assistance, Recovery and Empowerment (CARE) Act. Beginning December 1, 2023, qualifying individuals or entities can petition the Superior Court of Los Angeles County to help connect eligible individuals to a broad array of services, including mental health and housing services, via a voluntary CARE Agreement or CARE Plan established and overseen by a judicial officer. For additional information on Care Court visit dmh.lacounty.gov/court-programs/care-court/.
Residents and family members can access other LACDMH programs, services, and resources today through their website, calling the 24/7 Help Line at (800) 854-7771, or calling/texting the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.
Out and About
Holiday Boat Parade
Visit Burton Chace Park in Marina Del Rey on December 9th for the annual Holiday Boat Parade! From 4pm-8pm you can take part in various activities including a fireworks show, strolling carolers, photo opportunities, food trucks and kids crafts.
This event is free to the public. For more information, visit beaches.lacounty.gov.
Click here to access more photos of LA County in action.
City of West Hollywood turns 39 years old
At 7:00 p.m., the City’s annual State of the Community Program will celebrate WeHo’s accomplishments & preview next year’s major projects
By Paulo Murillo | WEST HOLLYWOOD – The City of West Hollywood turns 39 years old today. The City was officially incorporated as an independent City on November 29, 1984. A coalition of LGBT activists, seniors, and renters proposed a Cityhood with progressive policies and strong tenant’s rights protections.
The City is hosting the annual State of the Community Reception & Mixer starting at 6 PM at the West Hollywood Aquatic and Recreation Center (8750 El Tovar Place, West Hollywood, CA 90069). The mixer will allow West Hollywood community members to mingle with residents, elected and appointed officials, and City staff. Appetizers and beverages will be served and there will be live music by the Harrison Jazz Ensemble.
At 7:00 p.m., the City’s annual State of the Community Program will celebrate West Hollywood’s accomplishments this past year and preview next year’s major projects and new initiatives.
The State of the Community presentation will be followed by the NextGen Mixer at 8:00 p.m. The evening will end at the Respite Deck where community members can connect with fellow attendees and enjoy some beats by DJ Asha and a special performance by the City’s Inaugural Drag Laureate, Pickle.
And here are some highlights of the past 30+ years in West Hollywood:
- The first West Hollywood City Council established West Hollywood as the first City in the nation to have a majority openly gay governing body. This was a landmark development in LGBT rights in the United States as well as globally.
- The ordinances adopted by the West Hollywood City Council within the first year of Cityhood included landmark legislation such as the City’s Rent Stabilization Ordinance (which, upon its adoption was one of the strictest rent control laws in the country); Ordinance prohibiting discrimination against people with HIV and AIDS; Domestic Partnership Ordinance; and Ordinance prohibiting discrimination in employment based on sexual orientation. Today, many of the City’s landmark ordinances have been duplicated and have become mainstream policies nationally and globally.
- In 1985, the City Council established its Social Services program to provide much-needed services to residents. Over its history, the City has provided millions of dollars in grants to fund programs for people in need. These services have included services for seniors; people with HIV and AIDS; members of the LGBT community; people with disabilities; alcohol and drug use recovery programs; support programs for Russian-speaking immigrants; services for people who are homeless; food programs; and health care services for people who are uninsured. Today, the City’s Social Services Division budgets approximately
$5 million per year in funding critical support to programs that impact thousands of people in West Hollywood; City residents live longer and have lower rates of chronic diseases than residents of L.A. County as a whole.
- The onset of the HIV/AIDS epidemic had a significant impact on the City of West Hollywood due to the disease’s elevated infection rate among gay men which caused a devastatingly high number of deaths in the City. The City of West Hollywood was one of the first government entities to provide social services grants to local AIDS and HIV organizations. The City sponsored one of the first AIDS awareness campaigns in the country in October 1985 and the City’s response to the AIDS crisis has been recognized as a model for other cities, nationally and globally. Today, 12 percent of households in the City have a person living with HIV/AIDS.
- The City has been one of the most outspoken advocates for the legal rights of LGBT people. In 1985, the City of West Hollywood was one of the first cities in the country to adopt a Domestic Partnership Ordinance. In October 2014, the City marked an exciting milestone as the City Clerk’s office at West Hollywood City Hall filed its 10,000th couple as registered Domestic Partners. The City also created the nation’s first municipal Transgender Task Force in 2001; in 2009 this became the City’s Transgender Advisory Board.
- West Hollywood was one of the first cities in the country to pass a resolution in support of marriage equality, paving the way for same-sex marriage initiatives all over the county. In a monumental moment in U.S. history, the City, in conjunction with the Los Angeles County Register-Recorder Clerk, began to issue marriage licenses and perform civil ceremonies for same-sex couples in June 2008, following the Supreme Court of California ruling on Proposition 8. After a legal stay, in June 2013 the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed an appeal in Hollingsworth v. Perry and the City of West Hollywood launched a marriage celebration. West Hollywood City Councilmembers and City Officials performed hundreds of civil ceremonies. On June 25, 2015, West Hollywood hosted a community rally at West Hollywood Park attended by thousands of jubilant revelers celebrating the Supreme Court declaring marriage between same sex couples legal.
- Following the election of President Trump in 2016, the West Hollywood City Council affirmed the City of West Hollywood’s commitment as a Sanctuary City and reaffirmed the City’s commitment to its core values, which includes Respect and Support for People.
- In 2017, the West Hollywood City Council approved a Resolution that calls on the U.S. House of Representatives to initiate proceedings for the impeachment of President Donald J. Trump. This came as a response to numerous violations of the Emoluments Clause of the United States Constitution, multiple violations of federal law as it relates to the employment of relatives, serious national security concerns resulting from potential interference with federal elections in 2016, and amid investigations of obstruction of justice.
- The City of West Hollywood is one of the first municipalities to form a Transgender Advisory Board, which addresses matters of advocacy on behalf of transgender people in the areas of education, community awareness, and empowerment, and makes recommendations to the West Hollywood City Council. Through its Transgender Advisory Board, the City of West Hollywood regularly co-sponsors programming and recognizes Transgender Awareness Month and Transgender Day of Remembrance each November. For more information about the City of West Hollywood’s Transgender Awareness Month events.
- The city was a soap box for the Black Lives Matter movement with several marches and demonstrations calling for racial justice taking place on Santa Monica Boulevard in 2020.
- In 2021, The city begins recovery from a long COVID-19 Shutdown.
- in 2022, the City hosted its inaugural WeHo Pride event, completed the Aquatic and Recreation Center at West Hollywood Park, installed inclusive Pride Crosswalks, responded to the monkeypox outbreak with vaccine clinics and a town hall, urged COVID-19 vaccination boosters leading to more than 87% vaccinations rate amongst residents, provide more than 1.7 million dollars in COVID-19 rental assistance, expanded the City’s Block by Block program with 30 new security ambassadors and more than 100 businesses opened since 2021.
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.
The preceding article was previously published by WeHo Times and is republished with permission.
Missouri opposes proposed federal rule for LGBTQ foster kids
Missouri’s child welfare agency already offers guidance to foster care providers asking them to use a child’s ‘preferred name and pronouns’
By Clara Bates & Annelise Hanshaw | JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey this week joined with 18 other states to oppose a proposed federal rule that aims to protect LGBTQ youth in foster care and provide them with necessary services.
The attorneys general argue in a letter to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services that the proposed rule — which requires states to provide safe and appropriate placements with providers who are appropriately trained about the child’s sexual orientation or gender identity — amounts to religion-based discrimination and violates freedom of speech.
“As a foster parent myself,” Bailey said in a news release Tuesday, “I am deeply invested in protecting children and putting their best interests first.”
“Biden’s proposed rule does exactly the opposite by enacting policies meant to exclude people with deeply held religious beliefs from being foster parents.”
The rule is part of a package of federal proposals on foster care and is an extension of the Biden administration’s broader push to protect LGBTQ kids in foster care.
“Because of family rejection and abuse,” the Biden administration said in a September press release, LGBTQ children are “overrepresented in foster care where they face poor outcomes, including mistreatment and discrimination because of who they are.”
State agencies would be required under the rule to provide safe and appropriate foster care placements for those who are “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, intersex,” along with children who are “non-binary or have non-conforming gender identity or expression.”
A qualifying foster parent would need to be educated on the needs of the child’s sexuality or gender identity and, if the child wishes, “facilitate the child’s access to age-appropriate resources, services, and activities that support their health and well-being.”
An example of a safe and appropriate placement is one where a provider is “expected to utilize the child’s identified pronouns, chosen name, and allow the child to dress in an age-appropriate manner,” according to the proposal, “that the child believes reflects their self-identified gender identity and expression.”
The attorneys general characterize that as “forcing an individual to use another’s preferred pronouns by government fiat,” in violation of the First Amendment.
Robert Fischer, director of communications for Missouri LGBTQ advocacy organization PROMO, said the freedom of religion “doesn’t give any person the right to impose those beliefs on others, particularly to discriminate.”
“Any state official who claims to put ‘children’s interests first’ and in the same breath is willing to risk their well-being and opportunity to thrive in the name of religion — I think that speaks for itself,” Fischer told The Independent.
The rule prohibits retaliation against children who identify as LGBTQ or are perceived as LGBTQ.
Public agencies would need to notify children about the option to request foster homes identified as “safe and appropriate” and tell them how to report concerns about their placement.
Agencies would also have to go through extra steps before placing transgender, intersex and gender non-conforming children in group care settings that are divided by sex.
The “majority” of states, according to the proposed rule, would have to “expand their efforts” to recruit and identify providers who could meet the needs of LGBTQ children.
Laws and policies for protecting LGBTQ youth in foster care — relating to kids’ rights, supports, placement considerations, caregiver qualifications and definitions — currently vary by state.
According to a federal report published in January, which reviewed states’ laws and policies, Missouri does not have laws or policies explicitly addressing any of those five categories.
Most states — 39 states and Washington, D.C. — have “explicit protections from harassment or discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity or expression,” according to a federal report, as of January. Missouri is not one of them.
Twenty-two states and D.C. as of January, require agencies to provide tailored services and supports to LGBTQ youth, and eight states and D.C. offer case management and facilitate access to “gender-affirming medical, mental health and social services.”
Children’s Division, the agency within the Missouri Department of Social Services that oversees foster care, offers guidance on their website for providers and child welfare staff in “supporting LGBTQ youth in foster care,” but still does not appear to have official policy on the issue.
A spokesperson for the Missouri Department of Social Services did not respond to a request for comment.
Those guidelines include using the child’s “preferred name and pronouns,” along with establishing a supportive environment and providing “physically and emotionally safe and supportive care and resources regardless of one’s personal attitudes and beliefs.”
The Department of Social Services is part of the administration of Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, and the guidelines were in place the entire time Bailey was serving as Parson’s general counsel — the second highest ranking job in the governor’s office.
Bailey’s spokesperson did not immediately respond when asked whether he raised any objections to the guidelines during his tenure with Parson.
The 19 attorneys general contend the federal rule would “remove faith-based providers from the foster care system” because of their “religious beliefs on sexual orientation and gender identity.”
They cite Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, a U.S. Supreme Court case that ruled a public agency couldn’t force private, religious foster agencies to allow same-sex foster parents.
The proposed rule itself also acknowledges the Supreme Court case and alleges that by not requiring religious foster-care providers to welcome LGBTQ children, it is complying with the court’s precedent.
But the attorneys general do not believe this is enough. Their letter argues the proposal violates freedom of religion because those unwilling to support LGBTQ foster children “would be excluded from providing care to as many as one-third of foster children ages 12-21.”
“In addition to discriminating against religion, the proposed rule will harm children by limiting the number of available foster homes, harm families by risking kinship placements, and harm states by increasing costs and decreasing care options,” the letter says.
The rule would “discourage individuals and organizations of faith from joining or continuing in foster care,” the attorneys general argue, and “reduce family setting options.” Without faith-based foster parents, the attorneys general say, children would be more likely to be placed in congregate settings.
They also say the rule could disqualify family members who volunteer as placement, or kinship care, if the family member does not agree to support the child’s sexuality or gender identity with age-appropriate resources, as the rule entails.
Clara Bates covers social services and poverty. She previously wrote for the Nevada Current, where she reported on labor violations in casinos, hurdles facing applicants for unemployment benefits and lax oversight of the funeral industry. She also wrote about vocational education for Democracy Journal. Bates is a graduate of Harvard College and a member of the Report for America Corps.
Annelise Hanshaw writes about education — a beat she has covered on both the West and East Coast while working for daily newspapers in Santa Barbara, California, and Greenwich, Connecticut. A born-and-raised Missourian, she is proud to be back in her home state.
The preceding article was previously published by the Missouri Independent and is republished with permission.
The Missouri Independent is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization dedicated to relentless investigative journalism and daily reporting that sheds light on state government and its impact on the lives of Missourians. This service is free to readers and other news outlets.
LGBTQ+ group urges Chileans to vote against proposed constitution
Fundación Iguales says proposal does not sufficiently protect community
BY ESTEBAN RIOSECO | SANTIAGO, Chile — Chile’s proposed new constitution has generated concern and criticism among the country’s LGBTQ+ activists who say it would not sufficiently protect the rights of sexual and gender minorities.
Fundación Iguales, one of the country’s most prominent LGBTQ+ rights organizations, has urged Chileans to vote against the proposed constitution in the referendum that will take place on Dec. 17.
The plebiscite is the second attempt in less than three years to change Chile’s constitution in the wake of widespread protests and social arrests that took place in October 2019.
Chileans on Sept. 4, 2022, rejected the Constitutional Convention’s proposed constitution. This rejection initiated the 2023 process in which the ultra-right won the majority of seats in the Constitutional Council, the body that wrote the new text on which Chileans will vote in December.
Fundación Iguales Executive Director María José Cumplido explained the reasons behind her organization’s position.
“Our position as a foundation is to vote against this proposal because of the conscientious objection without limits, the lack of a robust nondiscrimination principle, a misconception of the best interests of children and adolescents and the weakness in the sexual and reproductive rights of women and pregnant women,” she told the Washington Blade.
Cumplido warned the lack of a nondiscrimination principle in the proposed constitution could lead to a State that does not focus on implementing public policies to prevent discrimination. Cumplido said this omission could translate into a lack of training for civil servants, insufficient sex education and obstacles to access to justice, among other consequences.
Paloma Zúñiga, a former constitutional counselor for the leftist Democratic Revolution party who participated in the constitution drafting process and is an LGBTQ+ ally, told the Blade there are serious problems with the draft in regards to queer issues.
“First, (there is) an overly broad conscientious objection could allow discrimination on religious grounds in education, health care, commerce, among others,” she said. “For example, a restaurant could expel a lesbian couple for kissing, a hospital could refuse to treat a trans person or not allow LGBTQ students in classrooms.”
Zúñiga added a second concern is “the absence of a nondiscrimination principle robust enough to oblige the state to prevent discrimination considering that violence against queer people has increased.” The final issue, according to Zúñiga, is “the weakness of the rights of children and adolescents, especially in terms of their autonomy and free development of personality, which could directly affect trans children.”
Cumplido agrees with Zúñiga regarding the problems the enshrining of conscientious objection in the new constitution could bring. The activist highlighted international examples, such as the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores case in the U.S., where conscientious objection was used to reopen debates on rights already democratically resolved. This legal precedent could be replicated in various situations in Chile, especially given the breadth of the amendment.
Zúñiga, who belongs to a political party that supports President Gabriel Boric, said “we must vote against it because it is a great risk and setback for LGBTQ+ people and the rights conquered in recent years.”
“As a left sector we did everything possible to eliminate the amendments that harmed LGBTQ+, and even improve their quality of life through a new constitution, but the Republican Party with its majority blocked all our attempts,” she explained.
ACLU & Lambda Legal sue Iowa over ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law
DES MOINES, Iowa – The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Iowa and Lambda Legal on Tuesday sued to block a sweeping Iowa education law that seeks to silence LGBTQ+ students, erase any recognition of LGBTQ+ people from public schools, and bans books with sexual or LGBTQ+ content, arguing in a federal lawsuit that the measure violates the constitutional rights of LGBTQ students.
The law also requires teachers, counselors, school psychologists, and other staff to report students to their parents or guardians if a student asks to be referred to by names or pronouns that align with their gender identity. This reporting is required regardless of whether it violates a student’s expectation of confidentiality, professional ethical obligations, or whether the school official knows that the student would be rendered unsafe, kicked out of their home, or subject to abuse as a result, the suit alleges.
The lawsuit is being brought on behalf of Iowa Safe Schools, a non-profit organization supporting LGBTQ and allied youth, and seven Iowa students and their families affected by the law. The students range from 4th to 12th graders and span the state.
One of the clients in the case, Puck Carlson (they/them), a high school senior in Iowa City, said the law is having a devastating impact on LGBTQ+ students like them. “Reading has always been a fundamental part of how I learned to understand the world around me. Every student should have the right to do the same: to be able to learn about people, cultures, and perspectives and to be able to learn about all of the world around them—not just parts of it. Furthermore, every student should be able to see themselves in their libraries—so that they not only understand the world around them but that they also belong in it.”
Another plaintiff is Percy Batista-Pedro, high school junior, Waterloo, Iowa who said:
“I am a junior and I also attend orchestra, participate in theater, and lead my school’s Gay-Straight Alliance. I have experienced harassment in school because of my transgender identity, but SF496 and its provisions to shut down open, healthy discussion of LGBTQ issues, and its silencing of students like me make me fear for my happiness and safety more than ever.
“I am scared of being harassed if I wear Pride apparel, or if I talk about my identity in class. This fear, which is shared by my transgender friends, is why I have chosen to be a plaintiff in this case. During my freshman year while I was performing in a play, a student in the crowd threatened to kill me. I believe the student knew me because of a protest I had staged earlier that year at my high school. Now, after SF 496 and the climate it has created to shame and invite violence against transgender people, I would be terrified of organizing another protest.
“Transgender youth should not have to live in fear at their schools. We should not have to take unnecessary steps to gain the respect of being called by the correct name and pronouns that no cisgender kid ever has to ask for. It is blatant discrimination and should not be permitted to continue.”
Belinda Scarrott, Percy’s mom noted:
“I have joined with other parents in the State of Iowa to act against this unnecessarily cruel law. My 16-year-old child is transgender and queer. Prior to the passage of SF 496, school already presented difficulties for him that are not faced by cisgender, straight children. We struggled for years, and continue to struggle, with him being misgendered, bullied, and called the wrong name. We even received death threats posted to social media and shouted at school functions, with no action taken by the school.
“I send my child to school, work, and play every day knowing there are many individuals who, given the opportunity, would harm my child simply because he exists as his authentic self. This law only serves to make life more perilous for him and more terrifying for me. This law claims to protect parental rights, but it does the opposite. Instead of sending my child to school and assuming he will be safe, as every parent of a cis-gendered, straight child does, I spend my days worrying about what potential damage this school day might do to my child’s physical or mental well-being.”
The law went into effect this fall. Penalties for violating portions of the law start January 1, 2024, and administrators, teachers, librarians, and other school staff will be subject to disciplinary action, which could include being fired or losing a license.
SPECIFICS OF THE LAWSUIT
SF 496 is a law with wide-ranging implications for students’ academic experience, safe school climate, and mental health. The lawsuit challenges multiple portions of the law that target LGBTQ+ youth and require school districts to ban books, including the following provisions:
- The law forbids “any program, curriculum, test, survey, questionnaire, promotion, or instruction relating to gender identity or sexual orientation” in grades K-6. This prohibition has frightened LGBTQ+ young people into concealing who they are for fear of violating the law or getting a teacher in trouble. This provision has caused school districts to take down safe space stickers, remove references to LGBTQ historical figures from library displays, and ban books with LGBTQ themes or characters from libraries and classrooms. This provision also has forced student groups for LGBTQ+ students and their allies to stop meeting entirely.
- The law requires public schools K-12 to remove all books containing “descriptions or visual depictions of a sex act” with the explicit exception of the Bible. This portion of the law has caused school districts to remove hundreds of titles from school libraries. School districts have interpreted this provision as requiring the removal of classics from authors such as James Joyce, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Alice Walker, and many others.
- The law requires school counselors and other school employees to report to parents or guardians any student’s request for a gender-affirming accommodation, including any request to be addressed by particular pronouns. This forced outing provision requires disclosure of a student’s gender identity to the student’s parents or guardians regardless of whether a school official knows that the report will expose the student to potential family rejection, being kicked out, or physical abuse.
On Nov. 15, the Iowa Board of Education issued proposed rules implementing the law, but those rules do not clarify the law and do not address its unconstitutionality.
The plaintiffs ask the court to 1) temporarily block the law’s implementation while the litigation proceeds because of ongoing irreparable harm to LGBTQ+ students. The lawsuit also asks 2) that SF 496 then be declared unconstitutional and permanently blocked.
Meet the LGBTQ staff working on Biden’s re-election campaign
Tolliver, Flores on importance of diversity in government
(Editor’s note: This is the second in a three-part series profiling senior LGBTQ staff working on President Biden’s re-election campaign. Part one was published last week and Part three will be published next week.)
WILMINGTON, Del. — From the team’s headquarters here, the Washington Blade spoke with the Biden-Harris reelection campaign’s director of operations, Teresa Tolliver, and Rubi Flores, special assistant to Campaign Manager Julie Chávez Rodríguez.
Tolliver came to the campaign from the Democratic National Committee, having previously worked in the White House Presidential Personnel Office and then at the U.S. Air Force under Undersecretary Gina Ortiz Jones, who was nominated by President Joe Biden to become the first lesbian and first woman of color to serve in the role.
It was at PPO “where I learned more about Gina and then was like, ‘I want to work for that person,'” Tolliver said, adding that while she was always interested in national security, the chance to serve in the Pentagon with the Air Force’s new lesbian undersecretary was too good to pass up.
Among other responsibilities at PPO, Tolliver said her work included “helping to place high ranking LGBTQ folks in the administration as well as in special assistant roles; everything up and down within the admin,” which has made history with the number and seniority of LGBTQ appointees serving across the federal government.
“Whether we’re looking at people of color, or whether we’re looking at, you know, LGBTQ folks, this is an administration that is now going to be a campaign that we want to look like America,” Tolliver said. The approach influences not just hiring practices but also choices over who will be interviewed for which roles and how they will be supported to be as effective as possible.
“We used to joke in PPO that it was a very queer team,” she said, with “a lot of LGBTQ folks,” so it was “very special for me to work during that time because I actually came out to my family when I was working.”
In 2021 on National Coming Out Day, observed each year on Oct. 11, Vice President Kamala Harris arranged a photo with LGBTQ folks serving in the administration (as she has done in subsequent years). “I ended up being dead-center next to her,” Tolliver said, “and I was like, ‘I should probably tell my parents.'”
Tolliver came out as a lesbian to her family, friends, and colleagues just as she began dating her now-fiancée. She said she considers herself lucky, “being able to work in an environment where I just felt open and comfortable and able to be myself so much that I then decided that it was time to come out.”
She and her fiancée were engaged in January, during which time Tolliver was at the DNC, and the couple decided to get married in August of 2024. While it is guaranteed to be a busy time, Tolliver said they wanted to be wed with Biden in office and in New York City, where “we will have a validated marriage” even if same-sex marriage rights are repealed or undermined. “There’s always the possibility that we do not win an election,” Tolliver noted.
The fight is personal. “We all have these very deeply personal reasons to be here and working here,” she said, “whether you’re here because you’re fighting for LGBTQ rights, or because, you know, abortion is something that you care deeply about, or immigration, or whatever the case may be.”
Tolliver contrasted her experiences working for Team Biden — “I feel like half of our wedding is people who I worked with on 2020,” as “campaigns give you these lifelong friendships” — with the casual homophobia she encountered at a bridal shop where she worked while in college.
“I remember not being out and my boss saying, ‘Oh, never hire a lesbian,’ or, ‘I could never hire a gay person because [they’re] gonna see women changing and everything in their bridal gowns,’ and I just remember kind of sinking back into the closet after that,” Tolliver said.
Flores, likewise, has encountered prejudice in previous workplaces and found a supportive home on the Biden campaign, as well as a mentor in Chávez Rodríguez who, like Jones, had broken barriers as the “first Latina campaign manager for a major presidential campaign.”
At the same time, “I don’t talk about my trans identity,” Flores said, “because it’s just too hard,” and instead “the way that I cope, in my life, is to just be exceptional in every other way I can.”
“Being Brown and an immigrant and being a trans woman present so many challenges in my life,” said Flores, who moved to conservative South Texas from Mexico City at age 10. “I’ve struggled a lot, being who I am, and especially when you’re a kid, you know, it’s just impossible.”
In the current political environment, where conservatives have fear mongered about the trans community and passed laws restricting their rights, Flores said the challenges are deeper than, for example, ensuring that youth can maintain access to medically necessary gender affirming healthcare — “it’s having the space to even imagine oneself as that.”
“When a child has no opportunity to imagine themselves as who they really are,” Flores said, “that just breaks my heart and and it’s unacceptable.”
Like many trans women, Flores said she has encountered employment discrimination in the past. “One of the things that, you know, growing up and making the decision, if you can call it that, to transition, is the reality that trans women can’t get jobs,” she said, adding, “it’s something that’s just absolutely real.”
Flores was on the policy research team at FWD.us, an immigration advocacy organization, when she was approached by the Biden campaign. “I knew it would be a tremendously difficult job,” but the primary draw was that “I had the opportunity to contribute to those things getting better and most importantly, in the context that we are in, to not make them worse.”
“The kinds of laws and policies that are being implemented by Republican administrations at the state level and that could potentially come into place at the national level if our opponents win absolutely terrify me,” Flores said. “They could upend my life.”
She continued, “If I was living in some of the states where some of these policies passed, I would have trouble securing care for myself.”
The work, therefore, is “being part of an administration and trying to reelect a president that is fighting to protect those rights – it’s not only an honor, but it’s a responsibility.” In terms of her decision to join the campaign, Flores said, “It’s not even tangential or something that comes to mind, it’s central to why I chose to work here.”
In separate interviews, Flores’s colleagues agreed with her that the hours are “incredibly long,” but “there’s a great culture that we have here and just the fact that we’re all in it together is huge.”
Several also echoed Flores’s statement that “there’s power in the fact that other people can see LGBTQ folks in our presidential campaign” to reelect a candidate who is working to protect and defend the community’s rights.
However, while these spaces have often been restricted for LGBTQ people in general, trans folks have often been wholly excluded from them.
“I’m just generally apprehensive to sound like, ‘oh, everything’s gonna get better,’ when there’s just so much work left to be done, specifically in trans issues and trans representation,” Flores said.
“I just could have very easily not be here. Not have the job. Not be alive. That’s just a possibility for many of us,” she said.
Flores also noted the unprecedented level of hostility directed at the trans community recently. “As hard as it was for me to be who I am and look how I look, there wasn’t this — I mean, there’s always been transphobia, but there wasn’t this sort of pervasive thing that automatically categorize[s] a trans identity as everything that’s horrible with the world,” she said.
‘Full of Lies’ George Santos balloon on the Mall near U.S. Capitol
Activists called for the expulsion of the congressman following a U.S. House Ethics Committee report detailing fraud and misuse of funds
WASHINGTON – Activists from MoveOn Political Action inflated a 15-foot-tall balloon depicting U.S. Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) wearing a “full of lies” tie and displayed it on the Mall near the United States Capitol on Tuesday.
Activists called for the expulsion of the congressman following a U.S. House Ethics Committee report detailing fraud and misuse of funds.
Out Assemblymember Evan Low eyes South Bay House seat
Long considered a likely U.S. House candidate once a seat opened up, Low is widely expected to enter the 2024 race to succeed Rep. Anna Eshoo
By Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor | SANTA CLARA COUNTY, Calif. – With the news Tuesday that Congressmember Anna Eshoo (D-Palo Alto) will retire from the South Bay House seat she has held since 1993, it provides an opportunity to see the first LGBTQ person from the Bay Area be elected to Capitol Hill.
Long considered a likely congressional candidate once a seat opened up, gay Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Cupertino) is widely expected to enter the 2024 race to succeed Eshoo. Low, 41, told the Bay Area Reporter that he is interested in running for it but is not yet ready to make an official announcement.
“Any person who follows in her footsteps must commit themselves completely to upholding her incredible legacy. Today, I’m going to celebrate one of our valley’s greatest public servants and a personal mentor to me. There are a lot of people in the community I need to talk to before I make a formal decision,” Low, who has until early December to decide, wrote in a texted reply November 21.
Tuesday morning Eshoo released a video about her decision not to seek reelection next year in order to break the news to her constituents.
“As the first Democrat and first woman to ever represent this distinguished congressional district, no one could ever be prouder than me to carry our Democratic Party values,” Eshoo wrote in an email to her supporters.
Eshoo’s 16th Congressional District spans both San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. She had first sought a House seat six years after winning election to the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors but fell short in the general election of 1988 to Republican then-Stanford professor Tom Campbell.
When Campbell opted not to run for another term in 1992, and instead mounted an unsuccessful U.S. Senate bid, Eshoo ran again and won. She has long been a champion of LGBTQ issues in Congress and has enjoyed strong support from the LGBTQ community throughout her time in the House.
As the B.A.R.’s online Political Notes column reported last year, Eshoo ran her first TV ads since being elected to Congress for her 2022 candidacy. In it, she touted being an original co-sponsor of the Equality Act, the federal omnibus LGBTQ rights legislation adopted by the House in 2021. (It died when the U.S. Senate failed to vote on it.)
It is believed to be the first time a Bay Area congressmember highlighted their support of the Equality Act in a campaign commercial. In an interview Eshoo had told the B.A.R. she was proud to have that distinction.
“I have always believed there is one class of citizenship in our country and that is first class. So without the movement for equality and fullness of citizenship that can’t happen,” Eshoo had told the B.A.R. “I am very proud of that, so I wanted to highlight the Equality Act.”
Eshoo also had the honor of being the first woman to serve as chair of the Democratic Party in San Mateo County, as she noted in her email to constituents. She also served as a member of the Democratic National Committee.
“I’m so proud of all we’ve achieved together and that the strength of our party rests on a strong foundation of clubs, caucuses, and county committees with our allies in Labor and other valued advocates. Our party continues to be strengthened by our diversity, and I’m confident this will continue because it is who we are,” wrote Eshoo. “As the last year of my service in Congress lies ahead, be assured that I will continue to bring my tenaciousness and unswerving commitment to my work to strengthen our democracy, and our work together for a sweeping Democratic victory for the country we love so much.”
In a statement he released reacting to Eshoo’s news, Low called Eshoo “an icon” and a “personal hero” to him. He also praised her for being a “champion who leads this community with tremendous energy, grace, and grit.”
He added that he is looking forward “to the many ways” the community can honor Eshoo for “her extraordinary service” over the years.
“We are so blessed to have her as our leader, gracefully navigating the complex issues in this valley of high expectations,” stated Low. “Her public service has been noble and selfless, advancing quality healthcare access for all, immigration reform rooted in compassion and humanity, and stringent consumer protections unfettered by special interests.”
As the B.A.R. reported last year, Low moved into the redrawn 26th Assembly District that includes Cupertino, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, and parts of San Jose in order to avoid competing against his colleague Assemblymember Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto) for reelection to the state Legislature. Berman had been drawn into Low’s former Assembly District.
Doing so required Low to vacate the 1,100 square foot condo in Campbell that he co-owns with his brother, a San Jose police officer. He moved into the Sunnyvale home of his father and stepmother.
Low grew up in San Jose, and his parents separated when he was 18. He graduated from San Jose State University and went on to win election to the Campbell City Council in 2006.
He was the first Asian American to serve on the governing body. Four years later he became the youngest openly LGBTQ+ mayor in the country at age 26.
He first won election to the state Assembly in 2014. He has strong ties to Silicon Valley’s tech industry, which could benefit him in a House race as a source of support and financial donations to his campaign.
Low would be the second out candidate running next year for an open House seat in the Bay Area. Jennifer Kim-Anh Tran, Ph.D., a queer leader within the state’s Vietnamese American community, is seeking to succeed Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Oakland), who is running for U.S. Senate rather than seek another House term.
Tran is the partner of Nenna Joiner, who owns several sex shops in the East Bay and a downtown Oakland nightlife venue. She is in a tough race to survive the March primary along with fellow Democrats BART board member Lateefah Simon and business owner Tim Sanchez, a U.S. Navy Reserves veteran who served in Afghanistan.
As the B.A.R. first reported in an online story November 17, there are now out House candidates in all three of the West Coast states. The 2024 election could thus see the California congressional delegation’s LGBTQ contingent expand from its current two gay members, while those in Oregon and Washington state could see their first out members.
The preceding article was previously published by the Bay Area Reporter and is republished with permission.
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South Africa poised to bolster penalties for anti-gay attacks, hate speech
Bill awaits approval in Parliament
PRETORIA, South Africa — The South African government is one step closer to ensuring any form of homophobia will be subject to hefty penalties that could include a lengthy prison sentence.
Deputy Justice and Constitutional Development Minister John Jeffery on Nov. 22 noted the Prevention and Combatting of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill is now waiting approval in the country’s Parliament. President Cyril Ramaphosa will then sign it into law once it is approved.
First introduced in Parliament in 2018, the bill has been contested on its viability and how it would help protect people in South Africa against hate crimes and hate speech, particularly based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or any other form of discrimination.
MPs approved the bill in March and then sent it to the National Council of Provinces, which approved it on Nov. 17. The Justice and Correctional Services Committee approved the NCOP’s recommendations last Wednesday.
“Section 3 of the bill defines a hate crime as an offense committed where the offender is motivated by prejudice or intolerance towards the victim of the crime because of specified characteristics or perceived characteristics of the victim or another person associated with the victim,” reads a Parliament press release about the bill. “These characteristics listed as grounds that could constitute a hate crime include age, albinism, birth, color, culture, disability, ethnic or social origin, gender or gender identity, HIV status, language, nationality, migrant or refugee status, occupation or trade, political affiliation or conviction, race, religion, sex, which includes intersex or sexual orientation.”
The press release further notes Section 4 of the bill defines hate speech “as the intentional publishing or communicating of anything that can incite harm or promote hate based on grounds, including, among others, age, sexual orientation and race.”
“The bill also provides for penalties such as fines, imprisonment or both for those who are convicted of the offenses,” it reads.
Access Chapter 2, a South African LGBTQ+ rights organization, meanwhile, has now become the first LGBTQ+-led law clinic in the country. The Legal Practice Council last week officially registered the group.
Although South Africa is the only African country that protects same-sex sexual relations in its constitution, there has been a surge in anti-gay attacks — kidnappings, hate speech, rape and killings — over the last few years. This trend has prompted many people who identify as LGBTQ+ to be cautious about disclosing their sexual orientation.
Gerbrandt van Heerden of the Center For Risk Analysis, a market research firm, says there is an urgent need to better equip society, law enforcement agencies and other sectors to fight homophobic attacks.
“Officials such as police, teachers, judges and magistrates should receive proper training and resources regarding LGBT issues,” said van Heerden. “Sexuality and sexual health should be included as a subject in the healthcare worker curriculum so that professionals in the field will in future have sufficient skills to manage LGBT patients properly, and be more knowledgeable about their specific healthcare needs.”
Van Heerden added companies and employers should receive guidance that helps them understand a hostile-free workplace for LGBTQ+ people can improve productivity and output and attract talent. Van Heerden also said official data, such as that in the national Census, should include Trans South Africans and other members of the LGBTQ+ community.
“Doing so will demonstrate how serious South Africa and its policymakers are in cherishing and respecting the country’s progressive constitution,” said van Heerden.
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