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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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Federal Government

Guatemalan LGBTQ+ activist granted asylum in US

Estuardo Cifuentes fled country in 2019

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Estuardo Cifuentes outside a port of entry in Brownsville, Texas, on March 3, 2021, shortly after he entered the U.S. (Photo courtesy of Estuardo Cifuentes)

WASHINGTON — The U.S. has granted asylum to a Guatemalan LGBTQ+ activist who fled his country in 2019.

Estuardo Cifuentes and his partner ran a digital marketing and advertising business in Guatemala City. 

He previously told the Washington Blade that gang members extorted from them. Cifuentes said they closed their business after they attacked them.

Cifuentes told the Blade that Guatemalan police officers attacked him in front of their home when he tried to kiss his partner. Cifuentes said the officers tried to kidnap him and one of them shot at him. He told the Blade that authorities placed him under surveillance after the incident and private cars drove past his home.

Cifuentes arrived in Matamoros, a Mexican border city that is across the Rio Grande from Brownsville, Texas, in June 2019. He asked for asylum in the U.S. based on the persecution he suffered in Guatemala because of his sexual orientation.

The Trump administration forced Cifuentes to pursue his asylum case from Mexico under its Migrant Protection Protocols program that became known as the “remain in Mexico” policy.

Cifuentes while in Matamoros ran Rainbow Bridge Asylum Seekers, a program for LGBTQ+ asylum seekers and migrants that the Resource Center Matamoros, a group that provides assistance to asylum seekers and migrants in the Mexican border city, helped create.

The Biden-Harris administration in January 2021 suspended enrollment in MPP. Cifuentes entered the U.S. on March 3, 2021.

“We are profoundly relieved and grateful that my husband and I have been officially recognized as asylees in the United States,” Cifuentes told the Blade on Monday in an email. “This result marks the end of a long and painful fight against the persecution that we faced in Guatemala because of our sexual orientation.”

Vice President Kamala Harris is among those who have said discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation are among the root causes of migration from Guatemala and other countries in Central America.

Cifuentes is now the client services manager for Lawyers for Good Government’s Project Corazón, a campaign that works “hard to reunite and defend the rights of families impacted by inhumane immigration policies.” He told the Blade he will continue to help LGBTQ+ asylum seekers and migrants.

“In this new chapter of our lives, we pledge to work hard to support others in similar situations and to contribute to the broader fight for the rights and acceptance of the LGBTQ+ migrant community,” said Cifuentes. “We are hopeful that our story will serve as a call to action to confront and end persecution based on gender identity and sexual orientation.”

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Ohio

Ohio court temporarily blocks gender-affirming care ban

“Today’s ruling is a victory for transgender Ohioans & their families. The ban is an openly discriminatory breach of rights of trans youth”

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The Franklin County Court of Common Pleas in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo Credit: Franklin County Court of Common Pleas)

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Today, the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas issued a temporary restraining order to prevent the ban on gender-affirming care for transgender youth from taking immediate effect.

new lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Ohio alleges that the ban on gender-affirming care, passed into law earlier this year, violates multiple provisions of the Ohio state Constitution.

This action comes in the wake of a decision by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, under which Ohio falls, that dismissed federal constitutional concerns regarding bans on gender-affirming care for transgender youth. This latest legal challenge, however, focuses on the Ohio state Constitution and is filed in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas.

According to the recently released filing, attorneys argue that a state constitutional amendmentpassed by Republicans in 2011 to prevent the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), may, in fact, make the ban on gender-affirming care for transgender youth unconstitutional.

In 2011, Republicans in Ohio voiced concerns that the Affordable Care Act would limit healthcare choices. Misinformation about “death panels” became widespread nationally. At the same time, there was controversy over whether individuals could retain their doctors under the new federal healthcare program. In reaction, Ohio Republicans and the local Tea Party, a then-active anti-Obamacare movement within the Republican Party, advocated for a constitutional amendment to prohibit penalties related to the purchase of healthcare or health insurance. The amendment was approved by popular vote and took effect shortly thereafter.

The amendment reads as follows:

(B) No federal, state, or local law or rule shall prohibit the purchase or sale of health care or health insurance.

(C) No federal, state, or local law or rule shall impose a penalty or fine for the sale or purchase of health care or health insurance.

Now, in the latest lawsuit filed by the ACLU, attorneys argue that the new gender affirming care ban for transgender youth set to go into effect on April 24th violates these constitutional protections in the state. In the lawsuit, attorneys argue that “gender-affirming care, including the prescription of puberty-delaying medication and/or hormone therapy to minor patients where appropriate in the judgment of a physician, is ‘health care’ within the meaning of Article I, Section 21.” They argue that the law imposes penalties and prohibits the purchase of health care, rendering it unconstitutional.

The plaintiffs, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Ohio, and the global law firm Goodwin Procter, successfully argued that the plaintiffs are likely to win their claim that House Bill 68 violates the Ohio Constitution because it covers more than one single subject.

The Court enjoined the Health Care Ban as well as a ban on transgender girls participating on girls or women’s sports teams that was also contained within House Bill 68.

In a statement the ACLU said that the group will continue the litigation to ultimately obtain a permanent injunction on behalf of  Ohio families whose children are at risk of losing critical life-saving medical care.

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The temporary restraining order is in effect for 14 days or until the hearing of plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction, whichever is sooner. HB 68 was originally set to take effect on April 24.

“We are thrilled and relieved that Ohio’s ban on gender-affirming health care has been halted and that transgender youth can continue, for the near term at least,  to access medically necessary healthcare,” Freda Levenson, Legal Director for the ACLU of Ohio, said. “Our legal battle will continue until, we hope, this cruel restriction is permanently blocked. Ohio families have a constitutional right to make personal healthcare decisions without government intrusion.”

Harper Seldin, an ACLU Staff Attorney noted:

“Today’s ruling is a victory for transgender Ohioans and their families. Ohio’s ban is an openly discriminatory breach of the rights of transgender youth and their parents alike and presents a real danger to the same young people it claims to protect. We are committed to opposing this law until it is permanently overturned, making Ohio a safer place to raise every family.”

Allison DeLaurentis and Miranda Hooker, Complex Litigation & Dispute Resolution Partners, for the law firm of Goodwin Procter said:

“Today’s ruling not only upholds the rights of transgender individuals but also champions the principle that healthcare should be accessible, and above all, inclusive.”

Additional reporting by Erin Reed

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West Hollywood

WeHo City Council Votes to affirm minimum wage of $19.08

The minimum wage increase is determined by the Consumer Price Index for for the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, areas

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Community members in the audience during the council session Monday evening. (Photo by Mike Pingel/WEHO TIMES)

By Paulo Murillo | WEST HOLLYWOOD – At a Regular West Hollywood City Council meeting on Monday, April 15, 2024, the City Council voted to affirm the City’s Minimum Wage rate of $19.08 per hour and current Leave Provisions through December 31, 2024.

Council member John Heilman made a motion to ask City Staff to come back with an ordinance change that will make the Consumer Price Index (CPI) increase annual starting in January. the motion was seconded by council member Lauren Meister. The motion passed 4-1 with a no vote from council member Sepi Shyne.

The City of West Hollywood breaks down the City’s minimum wage ordinance as follows:

How is the CPI increase determined?

The minimum wage increase is determined by the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) for the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA area.

According to the Resolution establishing an annual minimum wage increase, the minimum wage increase shall be no less than 1.0% and no more than 4.0%.

Compensated and Uncompensated Leave

Full time employees for all businesses are to be provided at least 96 compensated hours and 80 uncompensated hours per year for sick leave, vacation, or personal necessity. Part-time employees are to be provided compensated and uncompensated hours in increments proportional to that accrued by someone who works 40 hours in a week.

Administrative Regulations

To provide West Hollywood Employees and Employers further clarification on implementing the Minimum Wage Ordinance, the City has published Administrative Regulations. The Administrative Regulations outline guidance related to payment of the Citywide Minimum Wage, Compensated and Uncompensated Leave, and application of a waiver for certain Employers.

Every Employer in the City of West Hollywood shall post in a conspicuous place at any workplace or job site where any Employee works, the bulletin published each year by the City informing Employees of the current minimum wage rate and of their rights under the Ordinance. Every Employer shall post notices in English, Spanish, and any other language spoken by at least five percent (5%) of the Employees. Every Employer shall also provide to each Employee at the time of hire, the Employer’s name, address, and telephone number in writing.

July 1, 2023 Minimum Wage Notices

Waiver Application

A one-year waiver may be granted to businesses who are able to demonstrate that compliance with the payment of the Citywide Minimum Wage would force the business to: file bankruptcy or a shutdown, reduce its workforce by more than twenty percent (20%), or curtail its Employees’ total hours by more than thirty percent.

A one-year, one-time waiver may be granted to businesses who are able to demonstrate that compliance with the leave provisions of the Citywide Minimum Wage would force the business to: file bankruptcy or a shutdown, reduce its workforce by more than twenty percent (20%), or curtail its Employees’ total hours by more than thirty percent.

Alternatively, a three-month waiver may be granted to businesses who are able to demonstrate that compliance with the leave provisions of the Citywide Minimum Wage would cause an implementation hardship due to my business’ existing payroll and human resources processes and platforms the business has in place. Businesses may apply for up to two three-month waiver (maximum of six months)

To file your waiver application, please follow these steps:

  1. Notify all your employees, in writing, of the business’ intent to file a Waiver Application
  2. Compile all required documents – incomplete applications will be denied
  3. Submit the Waiver Application and all required documents by selecting the waiver for payment of minimum wage or leave provisions:

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

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

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Kansas

Kansas Governor lets web porn bill become law without signature

Critics warn it could censor works of art, classic books and LGBTQ content, as well as provide sensitive ID info to unregulated 3rd parties

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Gov. Laura Kelly decided to allow a bill regulating access by Kansas minors to pornographic websites to become law without her signature, but vetoed bills that could undermine crafting of state rules and regulations, interfere with municipal government decisions and improperly deregulate the business of temporary hair removal. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

By Tim Carpenter | TOPEKA, Kan. — Gov. Laura Kelly chose not to veto a bill Friday that earned bipartisan support among House and Senate members eager to require commercial websites to deploy age-verification software to limit online access by Kansas minors to nudity or sexually exciting images and text.

Kelly, a Democratic governor working with a Legislature brandishing Republican supermajorities, said she would allow Senate Bill 394 to become law without her signature despite reservations the restrictions could trample constitutional rights and inspire legal challenges.

The bill was approved unanimously in the Senate and on a 92-31 vote by the House. That left little doubt the Senate could muster 27 votes and the House could bring together 84 votes to beat a veto.

“While well-meaning in its efforts to protect children from content the Legislature considers ‘harmful to minors,’ this bill is vague in its application and may end up infringing on constitutional rights, which is an issue being litigated in other jurisdictions over similar bills,” Kelly said.

Under the bill, parents or guardians of anyone under 18 gaining access to online pornography could file a lawsuit and seek damages of $50,000 or more against companies that didn’t successfully screen minors from material depicting or describing nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement or sadomasochistic abuse in a manner offensive to community standards. The mandate would apply to websites if at least one-fourth of viewed pages in any month contained material offensive to minors.

Identical versions of the bill were introduced by Salina Sen. J.R. Claeys and Wichita Rep. Patrick Penn, both Republicans, to require identity verification technology to deflect youthful consumers who might be drawn to raunchy online content posted anywhere in the world. The attorney general would be responsible for investigating reports of noncompliance. He could seek penalties of $500 to $10,000 for each underage visit to an off-limits site.

“Defending the integrity of the family is a core value of the Catholic church,” said Chuck Weber, executive director of the Kansas Catholic Conference and a proponent of the bill. “SB 394 is very good legislation that will help prevent the pornography industry from capturing and addicting our youth to destructive behavior.”

More red tape

On Friday, the Kansas governor vetoed a bill that would require the state budget director to determine the cost of complying with all rules and regulations drafted by state agencies. It would grant the gubernatorially appointed budget director authority to reject rules and regulations.

Kelly said the bill was objectionable because it “would insert bureaucratic red tape intended to legislatively interfere with the timely implementation of necessary and important rules and regulations. Many of these regulations are for the protection and safety of Kansans.”

The vote in the Senate was 27-13. It cleared the House 81-39.

The measure was championed by lawmakers keen to rein in state regulations or rules considered burdensome or that added to the cost of doing business in Kansas. It would target any rule or regulation if implementation or compliance costs incurred by a business over a five-year period topped $1 million. That benchmark could be exceeded if the Legislature ratified the proposed state rule or regulation.

“This veto can be easily explained by a difference in philosophies,” said House Speaker Dan Hawkins, R-Wichita. “The governor and her party believe that more government control is the answer to our problems. House Republicans believe there should be checks placed on the administrative state and that’s why we’ll be working to override her veto and rein in the power grab by unelected bureaucrats.”

Randy Stookey, a lobbyist representing the Kansas Grain and Feed Association, said regulatory compliance with state rules and regulations often came at a high cost.

“This economic impact is something that must be considered carefully,” he said. “Modeled after recent legislation in other states, the bill would enhance the review of required state agency analysis of the implementation and compliance costs of proposed regulations on the regulated community.”

Regulating bags, hair

The Legislature approved a bill advocated by business lobbying interests to prohibit cities and county governments from regulating containers used to distribute goods. The bill would forbid government intrusion into design of bags, cups, packages, containers, bottles, devices — even straws — preferred by a retailer.

House Bill 2446 would allow containers made of paper, plastic, cardboard, cloth, aluminum, glass or recycled materials. In other words, the prohibition against Lawrence businesses using single-use thin plastic bags — common in grocery stores or for carry-out food — would be nullified.

Kelly vetoed the bill because she considered it an overreach by the Legislature into decisions of officials elected to serve in municipal government.

“I believe in local control and that local officials should be held accountable by their constituents, stakeholders and businesses,” Kelly said. “This bill lacks sufficient protection to ensure local units of government are able to play a meaningful role in decision making on issues impacting their communities.”

related

Meanwhile, Kelly vetoed Senate Bill 434 that would deregulate the practice of hair removal known as “sugaring.” She expressed concern withdrawing the state from oversight of temporary hair removal by application of sugar, lemon and water, or its equivalent, could be harmful to minors.

“I have serious concerns that deregulating sugaring … could lead to safety and sanitation problems,” Kelly said. “We have a responsibility to protect Kansans, and this deregulation would threaten the health and safety of Kansans, particularly our children.”

She said it was proper to keep regulation of the industry within purview of the Kansas Board of Cosmetology. She said practitioners should be held to health and safety standards of cosmetologists, which would include criminal background checks, training and state licensing.

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Tim Carpenter

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

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

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

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Southern California

USC cancels valedictorian’s speech over antisemitism allegations

“I am shocked by this decision & profoundly disappointed that the university is succumbing to a campaign of hate meant to silence my voice”

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(Screenshot/YouTube KNBC 4)

LOS ANGELES – The University of Southern California (USC) has decided to cancel the commencement speech of Asna Tabassum, a pro-Palestinian undergraduate and this year’s valedictorian, citing safety concerns. This decision marks the first time in the university’s 141-year history that a valedictorian has been prohibited from speaking at the graduation ceremony.

Provost Andrew Guzman expressed that while disappointing, the decision was necessary to ensure the safety of the campus and its students, emphasizing that the university’s actions are aligned with legal obligations to maintain a secure educational environment. He also clarified that the decision does not infringe upon free speech rights, as there is no entitlement to speak at the event.

Tabassum, majoring in biomedical engineering with a minor in “resistance to genocide,” faced criticism for her online posts about the Middle East conflict. The controversy escalated when a pro-Israel group accused her of antisemitism less than a week ago.

In response to the cancellation, the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Los Angeles (CAIR-LA) has called for the decision to be reversed, allowing Tabassum to deliver her speech. Tabassum, through CAIR-LA, stated that she has been subjected to a campaign of racist hatred due to her stance on human rights.

In a statement released through the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Los Angeles (CAIR-LA), Tabassum conveyed her shock and profound disappointment at the university’s decision, stating it was a result of a “campaign of hate” aimed to silence her voice. “Anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian voices have subjected me to a campaign of racist hatred because of my uncompromising belief in human rights for all,” Tabassum said.

USC maintains that the decision was solely based on safety considerations and not on the content of Tabassum’s proposed speech or her political views. The university has consulted its public safety department and external safety experts, concluding that the potential risks necessitate the cancellation for this year’s commencement to focus on celebrating the graduates without disruptions.

Asna Tabassum (Photo Credit: Annenberg Media/USC)

Tabassum’s full statement:

“I am honored to have been selected as USC Class of 2024 Valedictorian. Although this should have been a time of celebration for my family, friends, professors, and classmates, anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian voices have subjected me to a campaign of racist hatred because of my uncompromising belief in human rights for all.

“This campaign to prevent me from addressing my peers at commencement has evidently accomplished its goal: today, USC administrators informed me that the university will no longer allow me to speak at commencement due to supposed security concerns. I am both shocked by this decision and profoundly disappointed that the University is succumbing to a campaign of hate meant to silence my voice. 

“I am not surprised by those who attempt to propagate hatred. I am surprised that my own university—my home for four years—has abandoned me,” Tabassum wrote.

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Research/Study

Right-wing pastor & podcast host:  LGBTQ movement equals Hitler

Podcast host and Ohio county commissioner nominee has pushed baseless conspiracy theories and compared the LGBTQ movement to Hitler

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Graphic by Molly Butler for Media Matters

By Payton Armstrong | WASHINGTON – Right-wing pastor and podcast host Drenda Keesee, who is running uncontested in November for a Knox County, Ohio, commissioner seat, has spread unhinged conspiracy theories about climate change, abortion, “satanic hordes” causing people to identify as LGBTQ, and global elites working to bring about a “New World Order.” 

Notably, Keesee has claimed that solar farms are part of a plot to “create” food and energy shortages, said LGBTQ people “sentence themself to hell,” compared the LGBTQ movement to Adolf Hitler, and labeled the feminist movement an “occultic agenda” to “get women to fight to kill their children.” Keesee is also a proponent of the “Seven Mountain Mandate,” a theological approach that calls on Christians to impose fundamentalist values on all aspects of American life.

Keesee is running unopposed in November to be a Knox County commissioner after winning her primary on an anti-solar farm platform. Several local media reports have failed to document Keesee’s extreme rhetoric and views, including one from the local NPR affiliate covering her primary win. 

Below are several examples of Keesee spreading extreme conspiracy theories about LGBTQ people, a “New World Order,” climate change, and abortion.

Keesee has pushed bigotry and conspiracy theories about LGBTQ people, including that “satanic hordes” and “demonic spirits” cause people to be trans

  • Keesee claimed that “satanic hordes” and “demonic spirits” cause children to identify as trans and commit violence. Keesee warned that “children’s spirits” and souls are “at stake,” declaring that “demonic spirits are attacking them and satanic hordes are infiltrating them and even possessing their bodies, which is why we’re seeing more violence among youth, we’re seeing trans violence.” Keesee denied that people can be trans, saying that “you can change their hairstyle, you can do all kinds of surgeries on the outside, but it cannot change what God created a person.” [Drenda On Guard, 10/27/23]

From the October 27, 2023, edition of Drenda On Guard

  • Keesee suggested that LGBTQ people are following “Satan’s agenda” and will be in “eternal hell” and “the lake of fire” if they don’t “repent” before Jesus returns. In a Facebook livestream, Keesee called it “abominations” and “Satan’s plan” “when a man lies with a man” and when people “experiment with bodies and change them from what God designed them to create — be created male and female,” seemingly in reference to gay and transgender people. She emphasized that when they “reject God and receive Satan’s agenda … They actually sentence themself to hell.” [Facebook, 9/7/21]

From a September 7, 2021, Facebook Live video

  • Keesee called the LGBTQ movement “a cult” and gender-affirming care “hideous, occultic, satanic indoctrination.” During an episode of her podcast, Keesee recounted a story of a child questioning their sexual orientation and gender identity, claiming the child had been coached at school. Keesee claimed that one of the World Economic Forum’s “agendas” is to make children “question the most basic things of humanity,” including “whether they’re even male and female,” in order to “bring us into transhumanism.” [Drenda On Guard11/17/23]
  • Keesee compared the LGBTQ movement to Adolf Hitler and said the movement is trying to “turn” children “against God and parents.” Keesee claimed that the LGBTQ movement is pushing its agenda “into early ages because just like Hitler, they know if you’re gonna mold a child, you mold them at the youngest age you can.” Keesee added that “it makes [her] want to put on [her] boxing gloves” because children are being “bombarded constantly with messaging that makes them question whether they’re a male or female.” She claimed that schools pressure kids to identify as LGBTQ through “propaganda” that is “introduced in their classroom every day — the rainbow movement, teachers wearing, you know, rainbow, questioning their gender in everyday conversations in school.” [Drenda On Guard, 11/17/23]

From the November 17, 2023, edition of Drenda On Guard

  • Keesee claimed that Satan “is really the author” of LGBTQ inclusion and declared that support for LGBTQ people is a sign of “the last days.” Keesee lamented “this whole push of LGBTQ on our daughters and our sons,” and declared that it is “Satan who is really the author of this.” Keesee also said that she saw “a church with steps that were painted rainbow,” noting that, “Jesus said in the last days there would be great heresy, great apostasy … Satan is playing hard for the souls of men and women and especially children.” [Drenda On Guard12/15/23]

Keesee has promoted the “New World Order” conspiracy theory about a totalitarian world government, connecting it to LGBTQ inclusion and efforts to curb climate change

  • According to the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, “Proponents of the ‘New World Order’ conspiracy believe a cabal of powerful elite figures wielding great political and economic power is conspiring to implement a totalitarian one-world government.” Conspiracy theorists frequently attribute global events such as the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change to the “New World Order.” The conspiracy theory also often incorporates antisemitic narratives.
    • Keesee suggested that solar farms are part of a New World Order plot to “create” energy and food shortages. She claimed that solar farms “don’t produce crops” but “destroy the actual dirt and soil of the richest farmland in America,” declaring that “they do that because they’re trying to create a food shortage, so they can create an energy shortage.” Keesee assured her audience that “the globalists, in the end, will not get their way. A new world is coming, but it’s not going to be their great reset, their fourth industrial revolution, their New World Order. It’s going to be the king setting up his kingdom.” [Drenda On Guard, 3/29/24]

From the March 29, 2024, edition of Drenda On Guard

  • Keesee claimed that abortion, “LGBTQ agendas,” critical race theory, and “the climate emergency” are part of the plot to “bring us into the New World Order” and “destroy” America. In an episode titled “They Want To Enslave Humanity?!” Keesee said that through critical race theory, abortion, and “LGBTQ agendas,” global elites are trying to “destroy” the nation “like Hitler did with Germany.” She claimed that elites are attempting to “bring us into the New World Order” and that “it’s not a conspiracy theory.” Keesee also claimed that there’s an agenda “to make government God” and “remove parents,” to “weaponiz[e] the children then against our country.” [Drenda On Guard, 11/17/23]

From the November 17, 2023, edition of Drenda On Guard

  • Keesee said that the “climate agenda,” support for trans children, and porn addiction are part of an effort to “destroy the Republic of the United States of America in order to bring us into their New World Order, their great reset.” Keesee decried the affirmation of trans children, saying, “Transgendering, transitioning, gender-affirming, whatever — they keep changing the names and make it sound more and more beautiful and wonderful and affirming in love. It’s not love. It’s lust.” She claimed that “the climate agenda,” “the crisis of pornography,” and “transgendering” are “tied to how they bring about the New World Order” to “bring down free nations, and get them to give up their freedom, and their freedom over their children.” [Drenda On Guard, 10/27/23]

From the November 17, 2023, edition of Drenda On Guard

  • Keesee said that the “climate agenda,” support for trans children, and porn addiction are part of an effort to “destroy the Republic of the United States of America in order to bring us into their New World Order, their great reset.” Keesee decried the affirmation of trans children, saying, “Transgendering, transitioning, gender-affirming, whatever — they keep changing the names and make it sound more and more beautiful and wonderful and affirming in love. It’s not love. It’s lust.” She claimed that “the climate agenda,” “the crisis of pornography,” and “transgendering” are “tied to how they bring about the New World Order” to “bring down free nations, and get them to give up their freedom, and their freedom over their children.” [Drenda On Guard, 10/27/23]

Keesee is a proponent of the Christian nationalist “Seven Mountain Mandate”

  • The “Seven Mountain Mandate” is a “quasi-biblical blueprint for theocracy” that asserts that Christians must impose fundamentalist values on American society by conquering the “seven mountains” of cultural influence in U.S. life: government, education, media, religion, family, business, and entertainment. Several Republican public officials have come under scrutiny for their connections to the Seven Mountain Mandate, including House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) and Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Tom Parker.
    • Keesee has made the Seven Mountain Mandate central to her commentary in right-wing media. Right Wing Watch reported that “Keesee’s main focus” is on “promoting Seven Mountains Dominionism,” and highlighted various instances in which Keesee has pushed the Seven Mountain Mandate. In a recent appearance on the Christian nationalist program FlashPoint, for example, Keesee claimed that the “hand of God” was responsible for her victory because Christians must take “our place in the [seven] mountains of influence and leadership” in order to save America. [Right Wing Watch, 3/26/24]
    • Keesee is the author of Fight Like Heaven!, which lays out the Seven Mountain Mandate and “shows you precisely how to fight like heaven, kick hell out, and take back these mountains for the Kingdom of God!,” per the book’s description on Amazon. The Amazon description notes that the book “identifies the Seven Mountains of Influence that the Antichrist spirit has invaded.” [Amazon, accessed 4/5/24]
    • Keesee has also repeatedly promoted the Seven Mountain Mandate on social media and encouraged followers to “take the mountains to influence others for Christ.” For example, last summer, Keesee wrote: “We have a choice: give control to God or the adversary. The seven mountains—government, economy, health, education, media, and family—can be influenced by either force. Let’s unite as a church, conquer each mountain with grace, and reclaim them for God’s Kingdom!” [Twitter/X, 6/26/226/13/23]

Keesee said the feminist movement is a “demonic, occultic agenda” to “get women to fight to kill their children”

  • Keesee said that feminism “shakes its fist in the face of God” and suggested women should come “under the covering of men.” Keesee said that feminism makes women selfish and invoked Satan, saying, “It is a selfishness that says, just like Satan said in Isaiah 9 … ‘I’ll make my throne above God’s throne,’ and it is us enthroning ourselves.” Keesee also expressed agreement with her guest that feminism is a “perversion of God’s word,” and went on to complain that “women don’t know how to be a woman of God that comes under the covering of men.” [Drenda On Guard5/12/23]
  • Keesee called the feminist movement and abortion a “hideous, demonic, occultic agenda” to “get women to fight to kill their children.” Keesee called feminism “demonic to the core” and asserted that “Satan wants to divide the male, the female, emasculate the men, remove them as the protector — the defender, the strong voice, to protect their kids — and get women to want to attack their own God-given right to bear children.” [Drenda On Guard, 11/17/23]

From the November 17, 2023, edition of Drenda On Guard

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The preceding article was previously published by Media Matters for America and is republished with permission.

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Political commentary & analysis

The impact of the Supreme Court’s Idaho ruling on trans people

The ruling is complicated & will have an immediate impact for trans youth in Idaho and could have national repercussions

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U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington D.C. (Photo Credit: Architect of the U.S. Capitol)

By Erin Reed | WASHINGTON – On Monday, news broke that the Supreme Court of the United States will allow Idaho to enforce its ban on gender-affirming care for transgender youth, a felony ban that makes trans care punishable by up to 10 years in prison for doctors who provide it to those under 18. 

The ruling was not based on the merits of gender-affirming care or its constitutionality; rather, it addressed broad injunctions and a lower court’s ability to block a law fully at the earliest stages — a pet issue for some conservative justices who chose to take decisive action when transgender lives were at stake.

The immediate impact of the ruling is clear: transgender individuals will be barred from obtaining gender-affirming care in Idaho, except for only two plaintiffs, despite no rationale for how a ban is supposed to work for everyone but those two plaintiffs when doctors are broadly barred from providing care. In other states where anti-trans laws are being litigated, the impacts are more nebulous, and the ruling could impact many other issues as well.

The case in question stems from a challenge to Idaho’s felony ban on gender-affirming care. In December 2023, a federal judge ruled that the ban was likely unconstitutional, ruling in favor of two transgender minor plaintiffs using pseudonyms.

The judge stated that the right to obtain medically necessary care for your children is “deeply rooted in this nation’s history and traditions,” using the logic from the anti-abortion Dobbs decision against transgender care bans as an apparent preemptive strike at such language being utilized to justify bans on trans care should the case ever reach the Supreme Court.

The judge then issued a broad preliminary injunction that prevented the state from enforcing the law on anyone while the court process played out.

It was the breadth of the injunction that came under dispute in the Supreme Court, not issues directly related to the constitutionality of transgender care. Attorneys for the state of Idaho argued that the injunction was too broad and that the state should be allowed to enforce the law on everyone except for the plaintiffs.

This would force anyone seeking care to seek individual exceptions and rulings from federal courts, an expensive endeavor. On the other hand, attorneys for the plaintiffs pointed out that the broad injunction was necessary: the plaintiffs were using pseudonyms to preserve their anonymity.

Without a broad preliminary injunction, doctors would be unlikely to continue offering care, thus making it impossible for the plaintiffs to access that care even with a ruling in their favor, and in doing so, they would have to forfeit their anonymity.

The majority of the court sided with reversing the injunction and allowing the law to go into effect for everyone but the plaintiffs, with a plurality signing onto Justice Gorsuch’s opinion stating that the ability of judges to issue broad preliminary injunctions should be muted.

They had little to say about the constitutionality of the law itself, except for Justices Kavanaugh and Barrett, who wrote in their separate concurrence that they believe the state may a likelihood of success on the merits [Update: Law Dork’s Chris Geidner states that the “merits” here, as Kavanaugh described it in his opinion, are about the scope of the injunction, and so it may not necessarily signal Kavanaugh and Barrett’s votes on the challenges to the gender-affirming care bans].

Instead, the real impact of this case will likely be on justices issuing broad preliminary injunctions to block statewide laws in the early stages of a constitutional challenge; it should not immediately impact any anti-trans laws being decided on the merits.

Of course, this provides little consolation to transgender young people in Idaho, who will have to go without access to their medication in the state even though two courts have ruled that the law blocking them is likely unconstitutional. It also raises questions about other broad preliminary injunctions nationwide on transgender topics: we likely cannot expect each student to take their school to federal court every time they want to challenge an individual bathroom ban in their local high school, for instance.

These questions have a significant impact on transgender individuals but will not only affect transgender people. They will arise anytime a state passes a law that is broadly enjoined at the preliminary stage by lower courts. This issue has surfaced in many other cases, from ghost guns to the mifepristone case, where sometimes broad preliminary injunctions are viewed favorably by the same justices who just ruled negatively on them for transgender individuals.

The impact of the ruling will likely be initially muted for transgender people nationwide. While it will have a significant impact in Idaho, there are no cases currently pending on transgender healthcare where a broad federal preliminary injunction is in place, other than in Idaho.

The case in Arkansas, for instance, has moved well beyond the preliminary injunction stage and has been ruled unconstitutional on the merits. However, numerous other cases are still being litigated, and states are enjoined on a wide range of topics, many of which have been broadly enjoined while awaiting a final constitutional ruling on the law. It remains to be seen if any of these broad injunctions are similarly challenged.

It is also important to note that this will not impact any rulings made under state-level litigation. For instance, in Montana, a ban on gender-affirming care is enjoined from enforcement using the state constitution’s right to seek “safety, health, and happiness in all lawful ways,” as well as an explicit right to privacy.

Meanwhile, in Ohio, a state challenge is currently underway using a provision in the state constitution that bars the state from issuing penalties for obtaining or providing healthcare. These state challenges will be insulated from anything that happens at the Supreme Court level.

Still, the ruling will mean further hardship for transgender youth in Idaho, and could signal that the Supreme Court is willing to take drastic action when it comes to transgender healthcare, even if that action is not directly related to the merits of the healthcare bans themselves. The Supreme Court could address the issue on the merits at any time, and it seems increasingly likely that it will in the near future.

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Erin Reed is a transgender woman (she/her pronouns) and researcher who tracks anti-LGBTQ+ legislation around the world and helps people become better advocates for their queer family, friends, colleagues, and community. Reed also is a social media consultant and public speaker.

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The preceding article was first published at Erin In The Morning and is republished with permission.

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U.S. Federal Courts

Appeals court strikes down West Virginia trans athlete ban

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The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday blocked West Virginia’s ban on transgender athletes, finding the law violates transgender students’ rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the constitution. The ban was challenged by Becky Pepper-Jackson (pictured) a 13-year-old transgender student athlete from West Virginia. (Billy Wolfe/ACLU photo)

By Lori Kersey | RICHMOND, Va. – The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has struck down West Virginia’s ban on transgender athletes, finding the law violates transgender students’ rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the constitution and Title IX, a federal civil rights law prohibiting discrimination based on sex in education programs.

The case, B.P.J. vs. the West Virginia Board of Education, was filed in May 2021 on behalf of Becky Pepper-Jackson, a 13-year-old transgender middle school student and track athlete who would be barred from participating if the ban is upheld. Pepper-Jackson is represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia and Lambda Legal.

In April 2021, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice signed into law a bill prohibiting transgender women and girls in the state from participating in sports that align with their gender identity. The U.S. Court of Appeals in February 2023 blocked the state from removing Pepper-Jackson from her school’s track and field team as legal advocates appealed a lower court’s ruling upholding the ban. 

In Tuesday’s ruling, Judge Toby Heytens wrote that offering Pepper-Jackson the “choice” between not participating in sports and participating only on boys teams is not a real choice.

“The defendants cannot expect that B.P.J. will countermand her social transition, her medical treatment, and all the work she has done with her schools, teachers, and coaches for nearly half her life by introducing herself to teammates, coaches, and even opponents as a boy,” the judge wrote. 

“By participating on boys teams, B.P.J. would be sharing the field with boys who are larger, stronger, and faster than her because of the elevated levels of circulating testosterone she lacks,” he wrote. “The Act thus exposes B.P.J. to the very harms Title IX is meant to prevent by effectively ‘exclud[ing]’ her from ‘participation in’ all non-coed sports entirely.”

In a statement Tuesday, Joshua Block, senior staff attorney for the ACLU’s LGBTQ & HIV Project, called the court’s ruling “a tremendous victory for our client, transgender West Virginians, and the freedom of all youth to play as who they are.”

“It also continues a string of federal courts ruling against bans on the participation of transgender athletes and in favor of their equal participation as the gender they know themselves to be,” Block wrote. “This case is fundamentally about the equality of transgender youth in our schools and our communities and we’re thankful the Fourth Circuit agreed.” 

“We hope today’s ruling sends a message of hope to the trans youth of West Virginia,” Aubrey Sparks, legal director of the ACLU of West Virginia, said in the statement. “And a message of warning to politicians who continue to dehumanize this vulnerable population.”

West Virginia is one of 21 states that have banned transgender student-athletes over the last three years, according to the ACLU. 

In a statement Tuesday, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey vowed to defend the ban and said he is “deeply disappointed” in the decision. 

“The Save Women’s Sports Act is ‘constitutionally permissible’ and the law complies with Title IX,” Morrisey said. “I will keep fighting to safeguard Title IX. We must keep working to protect women’s sports so that women’s safety is secured and girls have a truly fair playing field. We know the law is correct and will use every available tool to defend it.”

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Lori Kersey

Lori Kersey is a reporter with a decade of experience reporting in West Virginia. She covers state government for West Virginia Watch.

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The preceding article was previously published by the West Virginia Watch and is republished with permission.

Nonprofit, nonpartisan, independent journalism not hidden behind a paywall. Mountaineers are always free, and so is West Virginia Watch.

West Virginia Watch is part of States Newsroom, the nation’s largest state-focused nonprofit news organization.

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India

Indian political parties for the first time include LGBTQ rights 

The world’s largest democratic exercise will begin in India on April 19 as citizens begin to cast their votes in the country’s election

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Candidates from the Indian National Congress campaigning in Mumbai. The Indian National Congress is the world's largest democratic political organization. (Photo Credit: The Indian National Congress/Facebook)

NEW DELHI — The world’s largest democratic exercise will begin in India on April 19 as citizens begin to cast their votes in the country’s election.

This year’s election is different because national level political parties for the first time are promising to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples as part of their election platforms. 

The Indian National Congress, one of India’s oldest political parties, promised after wide consultation that it would introduce a bill that would recognize civil unions between couples who are part of the LGBTQ community. The party, which has governed India for the majority of the period since independence from the U.K. in 1947, has refrained from taking a stance on laws that include Section 377, which criminalized consensual same-sex sexual relations.

Then-Health Minister Gulam Nabi Azad in 2011 when the INC was in power said homosexuality is a disease. He made the controversial comment while speaking at an HIV/AIDS conference in New Delhi, the Indian capital.

“Unfortunately, this disease has come to our country too,” said Azad. “Where a man has sex with another man, which is completely unnatural and should not happen but does.”

When the Delhi High Court was hearing the Naz Foundation case, the Home Affairs Ministry opposed the striking down of Section 377 based on its belief that homosexuality cannot be morally condoned. The INC never struck down Section 377, which criminalized homosexuality, in parliament.

A 5-judge panel on the Supreme Court on Sept. 6, 2018, decriminalized consensual same-sex sexual relations.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) on April 4 unveiled its platform with a range of socialist commitments, including support for LGBTQ rights. Among these pledges is to amend the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act 2019 to address community concerns and ensure legal recognition and protection for same-sex couples akin to marriage. 

The platform also outlined plans to introduce a bill similar to the Special Marriage Act of 1954, which allows partners to be listed as dependents and facilitating like inheritance, alimony in the event of divorce and other issues. The party further pledged to enact a comprehensive anti-discriminatory bill that would include LGBTQ people, ensure quotas in educational institutions and implement horizontal reservations in employment. 

Addressing the issue of crimes against LGBTQ people, the platform promised to treat such offenses on par with crimes against heterosexuals. The platform also calls for tackling bullying, violence and harassment of gender non-conforming and LGBTQ people in educational settings, enforcing anti-hazing policies and combating hazing based on sexual orientation and gender identity. 

The platform further touched issues related to transition and informed consent.

The Special Marriage Act of 1954 is a law that provides for civil unions among Indians and Indian nationals who live abroad, regardless of the religion or faith followed by either party. This law enables people from two different religious backgrounds to enter into marriage. Parliament in 2019 passed the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act that extended rights to trans people.

Brinda Karat, a former member of the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Indian Parliament, and leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), spoke with the Washington Blade and said the current government has homophobic ideas that are not acceptable to the party.

The ruling government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi is striving to secure more than 400 parliament seats in the upcoming election, aiming for a substantial majority. 

Various polls conducted by Indian news organizations indicate a probable victory for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. In response to the BJP’s dominance, Congress and several national and regional parties have joined forces as the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance. 

This alliance comprises 26 opposition political parties. Despite its formation, however, there is no clear coalition strategy in place and only two parties have included LGBTQ-specific policies in their election platforms. 

The Blade reached out to Congress’ spokesperson for comment, but has not received a response. The BJP also did not respond to a request for comment.

The party has yet to release its election platform. 

Ankush Kumar is a reporter who has covered many stories for Washington and Los Angeles Blades from Iran, India and Singapore. He recently reported for the Daily Beast. He can be reached at [email protected]. He is on Twitter at @mohitkopinion. 

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Africa

Ruling that upheld Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act appealed

Country’s Constitutional Court refused to ‘nullify’ law

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Uganda’s Constitutional Court (Photo Credit: Amnesty International)

KAMPALA, Uganda — 22 LGBTQ+ activists in Uganda have appealed this month’s ruling that upheld the country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act.

The Constitutional Court on April 3 refused to “nullify the Anti-Homosexuality Act in its totality.”

President Yoweri Museveni last May signed the law, which contains a death penalty provision for “aggravated homosexuality.”

The U.S. subsequently imposed visa restrictions on Ugandan officials and removed the country from a program that allows sub-Saharan African countries to trade duty-free with the U.S. The World Bank Group also announced the suspension of new loans to Uganda.

Media reports indicate Sexual Minorities Uganda Executive Director Frank Mugisha and Jacqueline Kasha Nabagesara are among the activists who filed the appeal.

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