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Sen. Collins won’t co-sponsor Equality Act, laments ‘revision’ not made

Maine Republican throws veiled shade at HRC for not endorsing her

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Equality Act, gay news, Washington Blade
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) lamented revisions weren’t made to the Equality Act. (Photo public domain)

WASHINGTON – Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), whose support for the Equality Act would be essential to passing the bill to expand the prohibition on discrimination against LGBTQ people under federal law, said Monday evening she won’t co-sponsor the legislation in the U.S. Senate.

Collins, speaking to the Washington Blade in the basement of the U.S. Capitol on her way to the Senate floor, said she’d “not co-sponsor” the Equality Act when asked about her position on the bill.

The Maine Republican said changes she had sought, but didn’t immediately specify, weren’t made to the Equality Act when she was the lone Republican to co-sponsor the legislation in the previous Congress.

“There were certain provisions of the Equality Act which needed revision,” Collins said.

Throwing some veiled criticism at the Human Rights Campaign, which declined to endorse her in 2020 as it had done in previous elections, Collins added, “Unfortunately the commitments that were made to me were not [given] last year.”

“I’m a strong believer in LGBTQ rights,” Collins concluded just before she entered the Senate elevator to head to the floor for a cloture vote on Linda Thomas-Greenfield as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Collins, who has the reputation of a moderate Republican and has backed LGBTQ rights, including “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal, would be needed as a supporter to claim 60 votes to end a filibuster on the bill. The senator didn’t say how she’d ultimately come down on the legislation if a vote were held.

The U.S. House is set to vote on the Equality Act, which would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to ban anti-LGBTQ discrimination on Thursday, a spokesperson for House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) confirmed to the Blade.

Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) introduced the legislation in the House last week with all 223 original co-sponsors being Democrats, unlike the previous Congress in which a handful of Republicans supported the bill. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) has yet to introduce it in the Senate.

Meanwhile, other Republicans who may be key to finding sufficient support for the Equality Act, professed to be unaware of the legislation when asked by the Blade.

“I have not read the bill,” said Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) just as she was entering the Senate elevator.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who may be a 2024 presidential contender, expressed similar ignorance.

“I don’t know what’s in it,” Rubio said.

Asked if anyone has reached out to him about the legislation, Rubio said, “No one’s talked to me about it.”

Nonetheless, Democrats who were among the Equality Act’s strongest supporters said talks among colleagues were already underway.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), asked in the hallways of the U.S. Capitol basement whether she had reached out to colleagues said, “I have actually.” Baldwin declined to say which senators she had addressed.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) similarly said talks within the Senate were underway over the Equality Act.

“I’m doing a lot of outreach right now,” Booker said. “A lot of hope.”

Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) is set to introduce legislation billed as a compromise on LGBTQ rights and religious freedom supported by the Church of Latter-day Saints. None of the senators the Blade spoke to described details of the legislation.

Baldwin, returning from her cloture vote on Thomas-Greenfield in the U.S. Capitol basement, referred to process when asked how confident she was the Equality Act would pass in the Senate.

“First things, first,” Baldwin said. “We’re going to obviously introduce it. I think we are hoping for a good hearing in the Judiciary Committee. And then, I think it’s a big question about how we move civil rights matters in general. And we’re gonna have to really strategize a lot about that but I don’t think we have the answers today.”

Asked if the “big question about how we move civil rights matters” was an allusion to ending the filibuster, Baldwin said, “I’m not going there.”

“I think that we’re obviously moving the American Rescue Plan using reconciliation,” Baldwin said. “Civil rights matters are not typically things that can be moved in reconciliation. So, you know, in the meantime, we’re going to try to pick up as many Republicans as we can. And in the long run, we’ll have to assess.”

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Southern California

Triple A:  National gas prices drop below $4, SoCal prices still declining

The average price for self-serve regular gasoline in California is $5.38, which is 16 cents lower than last week

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Los Angeles Blade file screenshot/photo

LOS ANGELES – Southern California gas prices continue to be down by 70 to 75 cents from a month ago in many areas, according to the Auto Club’s Weekend Gas Watch. The average price for self-serve regular gasoline in California is $5.38, which is 16 cents lower than last week. The average national price is $3.99, the lowest level since March, which is 15 cents lower than a week ago.

The average price of self-serve regular gasoline in the Los Angeles-Long Beach area is $5.41 per gallon, which is 17 cents lower than last week, 74 cents lower than last month, and $1.03 higher than last year. In San Diego, the average price is $5.37, which is 14 cents lower than last week, 70 cents lower than last month, and $1.02 higher than last year.

On the Central Coast, the average price is $5.57, which is 10 cents lower than last week, 54 cents lower than last month and $1.25 higher than last year. In Riverside, the average per-gallon price is $5.28, which is 17 cents lower than last week, 74 cents lower than last month and 98 cents higher than a year ago. In Bakersfield, the $5.55 average price is 20 cents lower than last Thursday, 65 cents lower than last month and $1.22 higher than a year ago today.

“We may see more relief at the pump as we move closer to the end of summer road trips, but a more significant decrease in demand for fuel will likely come after Labor Day weekend,” said Auto Club spokesperson Doug Shupe. “Some drivers have made changes to their daily habits, like carpooling, using public transit and shopping and dining out less, however, most people are still prioritizing their budgets to take family road trips. We encourage consumers to shop around for the cheapest gas using a tool like the free AAA Mobile app.”

The Weekend Gas Watch monitors the average price of gasoline. As of 9 a.m. on Aug. 11, averages are:

CA Gas Watch 8-11-22
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Asia

WorldPride 2025 in Taiwan cancelled

“Taiwan deeply regrets that InterPride, due to political considerations, has unilaterally rejected the mutually agreed upon consensus”

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Taipei Pride October, 2014 (Photo by Andy Lain 多元的台灣 2014彩虹大遊行)

TAIPEI, Taiwan – Taiwanese organizers of the WorldPride 2025 Taiwan will not hold the event after InterPride, a global LGBTQ rights group, refused to let the Taiwanese organizers use the island nation’s name in the event title.

WorldPride Taiwan 2025 was initially slated to be hosted by the southern city of Kaohsiung after the Taiwan Preparation Committee, consisting of representatives from Kaohsiung Pride and Taiwan Pride, had their bid accepted by InterPride, a global LGBTQ rights group.

 A-Ku (阿古), co-chairman of the local WorldPride Taiwan 2025 organizing committee told media outlets that InterPride had recently “suddenly” asked them to change the name of the event to “Kaohsiung,” removing the word “Taiwan.”

“After careful evaluation, it is believed that if the event continues, it may harm the interests of Taiwan and the Taiwan gay community. Therefore, it is decided to terminate the project before signing the contract,” said the co-chair in a statement.

Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) helped organize a tripartite meeting with InterPride and Kaohsiung Pride on Nov. 16, 2021 during which the three parties agreed upon the name Taiwan, A-Ku told Focus Taiwan/CNA News English.

Despite this, InterPride subsequently announced in a letter dated July 26 that, based on a vote by the directors and supervisors, the event must be named either “WorldPride Kaohsiung” or “Kaohsiung WorldPride,” A-Ku said.

He also noted that InterPride’s assertion that it had suggested using the name “WorldPride Kaohsiung, Taiwan” was “completely inconsistent with the facts.”

A-Ku added that the name “WorldPride Taiwan 2025” had been used throughout the entire bidding process from the beginning of 2021, including on application forms, plans, and other relevant documents.

Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry released a statement noting that the event would have been the first WorldPride event to be held in East Asia.

“Taiwan deeply regrets that InterPride, due to political considerations, has unilaterally rejected the mutually agreed upon consensus and broken a relationship of cooperation and trust, leading to this outcome,” the statement said adding;

“Not only does the decision disrespect Taiwan’s rights and diligent efforts, it also harms Asia’s vast LGBTIQ+ community and runs counter to the progressive principles espoused by InterPride.”

Taiwan had legalized same-sex marriage in 2019, “On May 17th, 2019 in Taiwan, Love Won,” tweeted President Tsai Ing-wen at the time. “We took a big step towards true equality, and made Taiwan a better country.”

The island nation’s recognition of same-sex marriage is a first for Asia, and Taiwan is proud of its reputation as a central bastion of LGBTQ rights and liberalism in Asia.

WorldPride 2025 Taiwan’s full statement:

Statement on Project Termination of Hosting WorldPride Taiwan 2025》

The WorldPride 2025 Taiwan Preparation Committee would like to express our sincere gratitude for all the generous support we have received since winning the bid to host WorldPride 2025 in Taiwan. After months of preparation and collaboration with various government departments and corporate enterprises, it is a great pity to announce that the project of WorldPride Taiwan 2025 has been terminated.

When discussing and negotiating the event contract’s terms and conditions, the WorldPride 2025 Taiwan Preparation Committee (consisting of Taiwan Pride and Kaohsiung Pride) was unable to reach a consensus with InterPride, the event licensor. There were major discrepancies between our stances on the event’s naming, understandings of Taiwan’s culture, and expectations of what a WorldPride event should look like.

In the back-and-forth discussions, InterPride repetitively raised their concerns and doubts about whether Taiwan has the capacity, economic and otherwise, to host an international event like WorldPride. This is despite our team consisting of highly competent Pride organizers who have successfully organized some of the largest Pride events in Asia. Although we have presented past data and relevant statistics to prove our track record, we were still unable to convince InterPride. However hard we have tried to cooperate, our efforts did not result in an equal and trusting working partnership with the event licensor.

The final straw that led the negotiation to a deadlock was the abrupt notice from InterPride, requiring the name of the event to change from “WorldPride Taiwan 2025” to “WorldPride Kaohsiung 2025”. This is despite the fact that the name “WorldPride Taiwan 2025” was used throughout the entire bidding process: From the bid application and the bid proposal evaluation to the voting process and the winner announcement back in 2021.

We had made it clear to InterPride that there are some significant reasons why we insist on using the name “WorldPride Taiwan 2025”. First, the name “Taiwan Pride” is of symbolic significance to the Taiwanese LGBTIQ+ community as it has been used for Taiwan’s first and still ongoing Pride parade since the first edition in 2003. It was not named after the city but the nation as a whole. Second, WorldPride Taiwan 2025 was planned to connect several Pride events and activities across Taiwan, with many cities, in addition to Kaohsiung, participating.

After the winner announcement, upon reading InterPride’s congratulatory letter which mistakenly named Taiwan as a region instead of a country, Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) helped organize a tripartite meeting with InterPride and KH Pride on November 16 2021. In the meeting, the three parties (MOFA, InterPride, KH Pride) agreed on using “WorldPride Taiwan 2025” as the name for all the sequential events and activities. However, during the recent contract negotiation, InterPride suddenly made it a requirement that WorldPride 2025 can only be named after the host city rather than the country (“WorldPride Kaohsiung 2025” instead of “WorldPride Taiwan 2025”). This unexpected requirement essentially reneges on the previously made agreement.

In the face of many uncertainties such as InterPride’s inconsistent attitude toward the event naming and doubts about our team and the Taiwan market, we have to make the painful decision to terminate the project of hosting WorldPride 2025 in order to strive for the best interest of the LGBTIQ+ community in Taiwan. The WorldPride 2025 Preparation Committee will also resign to take responsibility for failing to host the event.

We would like to express our most profound appreciation to everyone who has supported us. We are especially grateful for the continuous assistance and resources provided by Taiwan’s Presidential Office and Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

We promise that the termination of hosting WorldPride Taiwan 2025 will not undermine our motivation to serve the LGBTIQ+ community. We will continue to promote Taiwan’s LGBTIQ+ culture worldwide.

The WorldPride 2025 Taiwan Preparation Committee

2022/08/12

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U.S. Federal Courts

Michigan AG Nessel joins coalition opposing Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law

“Non-inclusive educational environments have severe negative health impacts on LGBTQ+ students, resulting in increased mental health issues”

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Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel speaking at the Michigan capitol building for Pride June 26, 2022 Lansing, MI (Photo Credit: Office of the Michigan Attorney General)

By Jon King | LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has joined a coalition of 16 attorneys general from across the country in filing an amicus brief opposing Florida’s “Parental Rights in Education Act,” otherwise known as the “Don’t Say Gay” law.

Nessel, a Democrat who is Michigan’s first openly gay top statewide official, says that the law, which prevents classroom discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity, poses a serious threat to LGBTQ+ students who she says are particularly vulnerable to discrimination.  

“This bill is an affront not just to educators, but also to LGBTQ+ students, especially those who may already be experiencing the stigmatizing effect of their identity at school,” Nessel said. “This bill is not motivated by the desire to limit inappropriate content in classrooms. It is meant to have a chilling effect on how educators do their jobs and may also violate the First Amendment rights of students and teachers alike. I gladly join my colleagues on this brief and hope it discourages other states, including Michigan, from considering similar legislation.” 

The law is being challenged in federal district court by a group of students, parents, teachers and organizations seeking to prevent its enforcement by alleging that it violates, among other things, the Equal Protection Clause and the First Amendment.  

The law entirely bans “classroom instruction” on sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through Grade 3 while also requiring the state education agency write new classroom instructions for standards that must be followed by grades four through 12. 

Opponents say that because the law does not define many of its key terms, like “classroom instruction,” it is forcing Florida teachers to censor themselves out of fear of prosecution. That fear is further compounded by the fact that the law also allows a parent to bring a civil claim against a school district to enforce its prohibitions.  

There are two main points in the brief.

“Florida’s law is extreme,” it states. “Although Florida claims the Act is intended to protect children and preserve parental choice, the attorneys general have curricula in place that allow for age-appropriate discussion of LGBTQ+ issues while respecting parental views on the topic.”

“The law is causing significant harms to students, parents, teachers, and other states,” claims the brief. “Non-inclusive educational environments have severe negative health impacts on LGBTQ+ students, resulting in increased rates of mental health disorders and suicide attempts. These harms extend to youth not just in Florida, but throughout the country.”

Nessel is joining the amicus brief alongside Attorneys General from New Jersey, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New York and Oregon.

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The preceding article was previously published by the Michigan Advance and is republished with permission.

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Jon King has been a journalist for more than 35 years. He is the Past President of the Michigan Associated Press Media Editors Association and has been recognized for excellence numerous times, most recently in 2021 with the Best Investigative Story by the Michigan Association of Broadcasters. He is also an adjunct faculty member at Cleary University. Jon and his family live in Howell, where he also serves on the Board of Directors for the Livingston Diversity Council.

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The Michigan Advance is a hard-hitting, nonprofit news site covering politics and policy across the state. We feature in-depth stories, briefs and social media updates, as well as top-notch progressive commentary. The Advance is free of advertising and free to our readers. We wholeheartedly believe that journalists have the biggest impact by reporting close to home, explaining what’s happening in our state and communities — and why. Michigan has hundreds fewer reporters than just a couple decades ago. The result is too many stories falling through the cracks.

The Advance is part of States Newsroom, a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit supported by grants and a coalition of donors and readers. The Advance retains editorial independence.

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