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Panama president urged to veto adoption bill’s anti-gay amendments

Fundación Iguales: Measure violates international law

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The Panama National Assembly in Panama City (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

PANAMA CITY — Activists in Panama have urged the country’s president to remove two provisions of a bill that would prevent same-sex couples from adopting children.

The Panamanian National Assembly on March 3 approved Bill 120, which would reform the country’s adoption system.

Article 22 of the bill states a man and a woman “united in marriage or a common law marriage for a minimum of two years” can adopt a child. La Prensa, a Panamanian newspaper, notes Article 26 of the bill would allow joint adoptions “when the people are spouses or in a common law marriage and are of different sex.”

Fundación Iguales, a Panamanian LGBTQ rights group, and other advocacy groups in an open letter to President Laurentino Cortizo Cohen have urged him to veto Articles 22 and 26 from the bill before he signs it.

“It is the government’s duty to ensure the faithful compliance of our National Constitution without (extending) privileges to one group at the expense of another, and to comply with international human rights commitments, which are based on the dignity and well-being of people, without any kind of distinction,” reads the letter.

“We raise this request to amend the Adoption Law’s recent amendments,” it adds.

Fundación Iguales President Iván Chanis Barahona on Thursday told the Blade during a WhatsApp interview from Panama that lawmakers introduced the bill after reports emerged that indicated children and seniors suffered physical and sexual abuse in government-run homes.

Chanis told the Blade the country’s previous adoption law did not include gender-specific references to married couples.

He said the two anti-LGBTQ lawmakers who introduced Articles 22 and 26 saw “a future where same-sex marriage is legal” in Panama. Chanis told the Blade the bill was not published online before the vote, and some lawmakers did not read Bill 120 before they voted for it.

“This was a law presented in the midst of this scandal,” he said. “In less than 24 hours they modified it and they approved it.”

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and Human Rights Watch are among the groups that have expressed concern over the bill. Cortizo, for his part, has not publicly said whether he will veto Articles 22 and 26 before he signs the measure into law.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights in 2012 ruled in favor of Karen Atala, a lesbian judge from Chile who lost custody of her three daughters to her ex-husband because of her sexual orientation. The landmark decision established a legal precedent throughout Latin America.

The same court, which is based in Costa Rica, in 2018 issued another landmark ruling that recognizes same-sex marriage and transgender rights. The Panamanian government announced it would comply with the decision.

The Organization of American States, which is based in D.C., created court in 1979 in order to enforce provisions of the American Convention on Human Rights. Panama is among the countries that currently recognize the convention.

Chanis told the Blade his group is “not against” the adoption bill, but added “you cannot deprive children the right of having a family by discriminating against who their mothers and fathers are. It’s discriminatory and it’s against the best interests of the child.” Chanis added the measure the National Assembly passed violates international law.

“It’s a setback for human rights in the country,” he said.

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Political commentary & analysis

Republicans issue new shutdown threat over trans people

On Wednesday, the House Freedom Caucus issued a letter indicating that the government may shut down if anti-trans polices are not included

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U.S. Capitol Dome
U.S. Capitol Dome (Photo by Michael Key)

By Erin Reed | WASHINGTON – On Wednesday, the House Freedom Caucus published a letter threatening a government shutdown in which it outlines a number of policies that are needed to supposedly avert such a result.

Listed among these policies are restrictions on gender affirming care, transgender participation in sports, DEI programs, and defunding Planned Parenthood. This comes after nearly a dozen riders targeting transgender people have been inserted into numerous government spending bills that could result in large scale government shutdowns if not handled by March 8th.

In an exclusive released by Axios, Republican sources state that “people are predicting a shutdown.” The report states that one of the primary drivers of the shutdown frustrations are policy riders on gender-affirming care and abortion.

Currently, Speaker Mike Johnson’s negotiations reportedly do not include gender affirming care policies, which is upsetting Republicans who have pushed for the inclusion of those policies in the final bill. Biden has stated opposition to any bill that contains them, and the riders did not make the final cut for the previous stopgap budget bill.

Now, in a letter from the House Freedom Caucus, Republicans state that unless these policies are included, the “probability that the appropriations bills will be supported by even a majority of Republicans” is low.

See the full letter here:

Increasingly, Democrats and LGBTQ+ organizations have applied pressure on the Biden administration and Democratic leadership not to accept any deal that includes anti-LGBTQ+ riders. In a letter signed by 163 Democratic members of congress, they state that bans on gender affirming care, pride flags, DEI initiatives, and discrimination should not be on the table for negotiation. Human Rights Campaign has likewise released an advertisement echoing that message:

These policies encompass bans on pride flags, prohibitions on insurance coverage, restrictions on DEI programs, and even the defunding of children’s hospitals that offer gender-affirming care.

Such measures could lead to nationwide bans on care if “federal funding” is broadly interpreted. These provisions are found in funding bills for the Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Health and Human Services, the military, and the Department of Veterans Affairs, among other sectors.

Some factions within the Republican Party have increasingly indicated that targeting transgender individuals is a top priority and may view a shutdown as worth the political risk over transgender issues. Representative Dan Crenshaw stated in June that such bans are the “hill we will die on.”

It would not be the first time government operations have ground to a halt over transgender issues; in 2023, Republicans refused to move forward with any other bills unless they could pass a ban on gender-affirming care, allowing a filibuster to last for three months. Should this occur at the national level, however, it would represent the most significant impact of anti-trans policies on multiple sectors of government.

Democrats have not shown a willingness to compromise over national anti-transgender riders so far. However, if a new bill is not passed by March 1st, a partial government shutdown will trigger; March 8th is the deadline for a full government shutdown.

Should Republican leadership proceed without any of the anti-trans policy riders, many Republican voters will likely vote against the bill, and Speaker Johnson could see his own speakership threatened. Until the 2024 general elections, the riders represent the largest risk for transgender people and their care nationwide.

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Erin Reed is a transgender woman 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.

The preceding post was previously published at Erin in the Morning and is republished with permission.

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Politics

Houston candidate tests if Democrats tolerate anti-LGBTQ votes

Rep. Shawn Thierry voted for three anti-LGBTQ bills last year, which could make her more vulnerable as she fights for reelection

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Texas state Rep. Shawn Thierry (D-Harris County) reelection yard sign. (Screenshot/YouTube Campaign advert)

By Zach Despart | HOUSTON, Texas – That Senate Bill 14 would pass was not in doubt.

The legislation, which would bar gender-transitioning care for children and teens, had universal Republican support and merely awaited final sign-off by the GOP-led House.

The only surprise that May evening in the Capitol was when Rep. Shawn Thierry, a Democrat from Houston, strode to the front of the chamber and announced she was breaking with her party to support the bill.

Children must be protected from transgender care because of its risk of harm, she said, citing precedent in Texas for allowing only adults to get tattoos, use tanning salons and purchase tobacco products. She said teenagers’ brains are not developed enough to make potentially irreversible medical decisions.

“This debate… was never about erasing trans children,” Thierry said in a tearful 12-minute speech. “For me, this discussion is about how to best protect and care for these children as they navigate through the challenging journey of finding the best version of themselves.”

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Republican blitz on LGBTQ issues exposes fractures among Texas Democrats

MAY 23, 2023

Thierry’s remarks ignored that treatment decisions for minors can only be made by parents or legal guardians, as well as the consensus of major medical groups that gender-transitioning care should be available to children and teens in the care of doctors.

Republicans were quick to praise Thierry as a brave politician willing to buck her radical party. To Democrats, who watched the speech in stunned silence, she had betrayed their party’s commitment to protect LGBTQ+ rights and vulnerable Texans.

“It feels defeating, when you’re a Democrat in the Texas Legislature,” said Dallas Rep. Jessica González, one of several gay members of the caucus. “The last two legislative sessions had the most conservative bills. That’s why it’s even more important for us to stick together.”

The political fallout is spilling into the Democratic primary, where in her bid for reelection Thierry faces two challengers. One of them, labor organizer Lauren Ashley Simmons, is well funded and has secured the support of several Democratic officials — including sitting House members — and progressive groups like the influential Houston LGBTQ+ Political Caucus. A Democratic club in Houston censured her, accusing Thierry of turning her back on the gay and transgender community.

Thierry, whose small-dollar donations have largely dried up, now relies heavily on wealthy Republican donors to fund her campaign.

More than a third of Thierry’s donations over the past year came from individuals or groups who typically support Republican candidates, a curiosity in a predominantly Democratic district. They include $10,000 from Doug Deason, a conservative activist, and $15,000 from his pro-school voucher Family Empowerment Coalition PAC.

While she’s not the only Democrat in the House to have voted with Republicans on those bills, Thierry’s race has become a referendum on whether elected officials who do not fully support LGBTQ+ causes can remain in good standing with the Democratic Party. Thierry is insistent she can, and said her votes last year reflected the will of her constituents.

Thierry, who declined to sit for an interview but spoke briefly to The Texas Tribune by phone, said most of the criticism of her on LGBTQ+ issues comes from white progressives outside her district, who do not represent her base of more socially conservative, religious Black voters.

“I didn’t just jump out against … my constituents,” Thierry said. “Clearly, I have a good pulse of how the majority of the people in my district feel. I really do. I’ve lived here forever.”

But it’s a knife in the back for gay and transgender residents in District 146, who previously viewed her as an ally. The LGBTQ+ advocacy group Equality Texas endorsed Thierry as recently as 2022.

Ashton Woods, a gay man and founder of Houston’s Black Lives Matter chapter, accused Thierry of lying about her constituents’ support for her LGBTQ+ positions. He said the representative previously presented herself as an ally of the gay and transgender community, but in reality is solely interested in the views of a small group of mostly elderly supporters that agree with her.

“I don’t know who she’s talking to in my age group,” said Woods, 39. “She’s seeking a safe space where people share the same ideology as her.”

Woods, who unsuccessfully challenged Thierry in the 2020 Democratic primary, said her votes on LGBTQ+ issues last year were a reason why he has decided to run again.

Joëlle Espeut, a Black transgender woman in Thierry’s district, said she had doubts about the sincerity of Thierry’s commitment even before the votes.

“I think people think that showing support is merely just saying you support the LGBT community,” Espeut said. “Outside of these bills, her support, at best, was nominal.”

Thierry gives an emotional speech, on the House floor,  on her personal experience during childbirth, on July 31, 2017.
Thierry speaks on her personal experience during childbirth, on the House floor, on July 31, 2017. 
(Photo Credit: Marjorie Kamys Cotera for The Texas Tribune)

House District 146 covers a swath of south Houston, bounded by Brays Bayou, that includes the world-class Texas Medical Center and world-famous Astrodome. Three-quarters nonwhite and heavily Democratic — President Joe Biden won some precincts by more than 90 points — the district stretches west through middle-class Meyerland and Westbury, heart of the city’s Jewish community. But it is anchored in Sunnyside, a low-income, majority-Black neighborhood that once was a thriving economic hub that is trying to revitalize.

The district has always been represented by a Black Houstonian. Thierry, now 54, in 2016 was selected by Democratic precinct chairs as the party’s nominee for the seat after then-Rep. Borris Miles resigned to run for the state Senate. She was elected unopposed.

Thierry made an impression in her first session by fighting for bipartisan legislation to address the state’s high maternal mortality rate for Black mothers, drawing on the experience of her own difficult pregnancy with her daughter.

In the following sessions, Thierry voted reliably with her party. She joined most of the Democratic caucus in their 2021 protest of a GOP voter restrictions bill, where they absconded to Washington, D.C., for several weeks to shut down the House. It was an opportunity to follow in the footsteps of her mother, a civil rights activist who integrated Sharpstown High School in Houston.

In the 2023 regular legislative session, Republicans made sexuality and children their new top social issue. By the time lawmakers adjourned in May, much of the camaraderie Thierry had built with fellow Democrats unraveled.

Three major pieces of legislation proposed by Republicans became law last year: a bill aimed at removing sexually explicit books from school libraries, a designation critics feared would be used to target LGBTQ+ literature; a requirement that transgender college athletes play on teams that align their sex assigned at birth; and the ban on trans minors from receiving gender-transitioning care.

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Texas lawmakers pursued dozens of bills affecting LGBTQ people this year. Here’s what passed and what failed.

UPDATED: JUNE 2, 2023

Thierry supported all three. She was not the only Democrat to break ranks — 11 others supported the book-banning bill. But she was by far the most outspoken in her support for the legislation. She said in another floor speech that the book bill would set up guardrails against explicit materials that have “infiltrated” schools, noting one that she said teaches children how to access dating websites.

Fellow Democrats told the Tribune they were especially frustrated that Thierry did not support their efforts to offer compromises on the transgender bill.

Rep. Ann Johnson, whose district borders Thierry’s, offered an unsuccessful amendment that would have permitted trans teens from receiving such care if two doctors and two mental health professionals approved — a high bar intended to assuage concerns that treatment such as hormones could be carelessly prescribed. Johnson declined to comment.

Thierry skipped the vote on the item, as well as all 18 other Democratic amendments. Thierry said that her positions reflected the views of her constituents.

State representatives gather to listen to discussion of a Point of Order brought against SB 14 on the House floor at the state Capitol in Austin on May 12, 2023.
State representatives listen to a Point of Order discussion brought against SB 14 on the House floor at the state Capitol in Austin on May 12, 2023. 
(Photo Credit: Evan L’Roy/The Texas Tribune)
Ricardo Martinez, CEO of Equality Texas, prepares for a press conference in front of people who have gathered on the stairs across from the House floor to protest against SB 14, before it is heard for debate on May 12, 2023.
Ricardo Martinez, CEO of Equality Texas, prepares for a press conference in front of people who have gathered on the stairs across from the House floor to protest against SB 14, before it is heard for debate on May 12, 2023.  (Photo Credit: Evan L’Roy/The Texas Tribune)

Community leaders in Sunnyside said LGBTQ+ issues are not the ones they think most about. Sunnyside Civic Club President Tracy Stephens, 66, recalls when the neighborhood was a bustling center of Black life in Houston, with its own movie theaters, bowling alleys and grocery stores.

After decades of neglect and underinvestment, he said Sunnyside needs a representative that will secure funding for street repairs and strengthen penalties for pollution. He commended Thierry for being accessible and attentive to these needs.

Stephens also said he supported Thierry’s stances on the book rating and gender-transitioning care bills. These weren’t issues when he was a kid, he said, adding that he understood Thierry’s desire to protect children.

“You’ve got to think about what’s going to happen to that kid in the long run,” Stephens said about gender-transitioning care.

Sandra Massie Hines, who earned the nickname “the mayor of Sunnyside” for her civil rights work in the community, said her focus lately has been helping elderly residents at risk of homelessness because of rising rents.

When it comes to gay and trans issues, Hines said she supported Thierry’s votes. She said exposing children to LGBTQ+ materials is confusing for them.

“I think kids shouldn’t be coached into being told they need to grow extremities, or cut off extremities,” said Hines, 75. “I just think a lot of that is fostered by adults.”

Gender transition surgery is extremely rare under the age of 18, according to doctors, and in most cases gender-transition medical care for minors means hormone therapy or puberty blockers.

But younger residents, and those with gay or trans family members, said Thierry’s stances are hurtful and don’t represent the largely progressive district.

Gender-transitioning care, including doctor-prescribed hormones, makes life bearable for a 16-year-old trans teenager in District 146, their mother said.

The Tribune granted her anonymity, after verifying her identity and address, because Gov. Greg Abbott has authorized state officials to open child abuse investigations into parents who provide gender-affirming care to their trans children. Those investigations are on pause due to a lawsuit filed by Texas families against the state.

The child came out as trans at age 7. They had a mental health crisis at 10, a common occurrence for children suffering from gender dysphoria, a type of psychological distress that results from a mismatch between a person’s sex assigned at birth and their gender identity. Their mother said at the time she did not understand the kind of support they needed. Gender-transitioning treatments have significantly improved the teen’s mental and physical health, she said.

“They can just go to school, do the SATs, get their driver’s license and think about who they’re going to take to the spring dance,” she said. “It freed them up to have a developmentally normal life, as opposed to where they were at prior to this care, which was a dark place.”

The mother said she wished to share her experience with Thierry as lawmakers considered SB 14 but said her Capitol staff declined to schedule an appointment. She said aides said constituents could visit the office at any time to see if Thierry was available. The mother said it was impractical to make the three-hour drive from Houston without a guarantee (Thierry’s chief of staff said she makes time to meet with visitors, even if it requires stepping away from legislative business).

Now that gender-transitioning care is banned, the mother said she has made a plan to move to a different state if necessary, a step other Texas families with trans children have already taken.

Lauren Ashley Simmons speaks with volunteers before block walking on Jan. 28, 2024, in the Meyerland neighborhood of Houston.
Lauren Ashley Simmons speaks with volunteers before block walking on Jan. 28, 2024, in the Meyerland neighborhood of Houston. (Photo Credit: Annie Mulligan for The Texas Tribune)

Anger with Thierry over her votes last year has created an opening for labor organizer Lauren Ashley Simmons, with a faction of Democrats coalescing around her.

Simmons, who has never before sought elected office, said residents encouraged her to run after a video of her criticizing the state takeover of Houston ISD exploded in popularity online. With two children in the district, Simmons was worried about Republican attacks on public education and felt Thierry was unresponsive to constituents about the issue.

She was shocked to see Thierry’s remarks on SB 14, which she felt were “ripped from the Republican national agenda.” Why not make a 12-minute speech on the most pressing issues in District 146, she wondered, like gun violence and the lack of grocery stores?

Simmons, 36, likened the plight of the parents of trans children to her own daughter’s treatment for sickle-cell anemia, which includes an experimental chemotherapy drug and opioids.

“Those are decisions that are hard for me and her dad to make with her medical team,” Simmons said. “I get really nervous when we start passing legislation about what decisions parents can make about their children’s health care.”

Simmons has captured some of the marquee Democratic endorsements, including labor unions and Planned Parenthood, as well as Equality Texas, which had previously endorsed Thierry. Democratic leaders including Houston City Controller Chris Hollins, former Harris County Democratic Party Chairman Odus Evbagharu and three House Democrats have also backed her.

Lauren Ashley Simmons checks addresses of voters as she block walks on in Houston.
Lauren Ashley Simmons checks addresses of voters as she block walks on in Houston. 
(Photo Credit: Annie Mulligan for The Texas Tribune)

Two Black Democratic House members — Reps. Barbara Gervin-Hawkins of San Antonio and Nicole Collier of Fort Worth — have endorsed Thierry, as have local groups including the Houston Black American Democrats and the Harris County chapter of the Texas Coalition of Black Democrats.

Collier disagrees with Thierry’s vote on SB 14. But she said Thierry has been a devoted Democrat on other issues and does not deserve to be purged from the party. Collier praised Thierry as a skilled and hardworking legislator who has done much for her district.

“It takes a lot of courage to take a stand on a provision that isn’t popular or safe,” Collier said. “I respect that as a leader, she is able to do that, in a time where everyone expected her to go along.”

Other Democrats view it differently. There is room for the party’s elected officials to offer lukewarm support to the LGBTQ+ community in moderate districts, they believe, but not in one that has one of the highest shares of Democrat voters of any in the state.

“It is increasingly hard for us to not only pass meaningful legislation, but also defeat harmful policies,” said González, who has endorsed Simmons. “I firmly believe it’s important for us to stand up and fight for our Democratic values and also elect other Democrats who share those values.”

William Melhado contributed reporting.

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Zach Despart’s staff photo

Zach Despart is a politics reporter for The Texas Tribune. He investigates power — who wields it, how and to what ends — through the lens of Texas government. He has extensively covered the Uvalde school shooting, including a groundbreaking investigation on the role the gunman’s rifle played in the disastrous police response.

He previously covered Harris County for the Houston Chronicle, where he reported on corruption, elections, disaster preparedness and the region’s recovery from Hurricane Harvey. An upstate New York native, he received his bachelor’s degree in political science and film from the University of Vermont.

The preceding article was previously published by The Texas Tribune and is republished by permission.

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Quality journalism doesn’t come free

Perhaps it goes without saying — but producing quality journalism isn’t cheap. At a time when newsroom resources and revenue across the country are declining, The Texas Tribune remains committed to sustaining our mission: creating a more engaged and informed Texas with every story we cover, every event we convene and every newsletter we send. As a nonprofit newsroom, we rely on members to help keep our stories free and our events open to the public. Do you value our journalism? Show us with your support.

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Los Angeles County

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

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Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

New on the County Channel

Lights, camera, nostalgia! The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in the heart of Los Angeles’ Miracle Mile is the perfect destination for movie buffs with special exhibitions and a permanent collection taking viewers behind the scenes into how cinema magic is made.

You can watch more stories like this on Channel 92 or 94 on most cable systems, or anytime here. Catch up on LA County Close-Up here.

In Case You Missed It

Calling All Property Owners and Managers

If you have a vacant residential building or apartment units available, there is a fast and simple way to find qualified renters. LeaseUp is the go-to service for people leasing properties across LA County. LeaseUp is an initiative from the PATH non-profit organization that partners with service providers and property owners, developers, and managers in order to quickly fill vacancies and help those at risk of homelessness find and maintain housing.

At Your Service

Grants Available for First-time Homebuyers

The Department of Consumer and Business Affairs and LA County Center for Financial Empowerment has launched the County of Los Angeles Greenline Home Program which aims to tackle the legacy of redlining. The goal is to empower and uplift economically marginalized communities. $35,000 grants will be available for first-time homebuyers living in LA County.

To learn more about eligibility requirements visit dcba.lacounty.gov/greenline.

Out and About

Rise, Reclaim, Restore

Teens are invited to join the LA County Department of Public Health at the Rise, Reclaim, Restore Youth Mental Health Summit. Through engaging workshops and interactive activities, these summits will equip young people with the tools to navigate their mental well-being, support their friends, and become leaders in their schools. Together, we will explore strategies for self-care, coping mechanisms, and building resilience.

Youth who attend will be eligible for raffle prizes, freebies, and community service hours! Click here to learn more.

Photo Finish

A look inside LA County’s new ballot processing center ahead of the March 5 Primary election. Make your plan to vote today!
(Photo: Los Angeles County / Mayra Beltran Vasquez)

Click here to access more photos of LA County in action.

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West Hollywood

WeHo trans activist Annie Jump Vicente arrested for felony assault

Jump facing a felony assault with a deadly weapon charge for allegedly striking a Block by Block Ambassador on the head with a flashlight

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West Hollywood resident and trans activist, Annie Jump Vicente, shown here in this file photo, speaking before the WeHo City Council.

By Paulo Murillo | WEST HOLLYWOOD – West Hollywood resident and trans activist, Annie Jump Vicente (also uses the alias Annie Vicente Jump) was arrested on Thursday, February 15, 2024 and is facing a felony assault with a deadly weapon (245 PC) for allegedly striking a Block by Block Ambassador on the head with a flashlight.

Captain William (Bill) Moulder the commanding officer of the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station stated that a second suspect is outstanding as of the publishing of this piece. Detectives are continuing to actively investigate this case.

According to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Inmate Information Center, booking number 6762311 states that Jump was arrested on February 15, 2024, at 2:00 a.m. by West Hollywood Sheriff Deputies and booked at 2:45 a.m. She was released the following day.

A source familiar with the incident tells WEHO TIMES that Ms. Jump (who was booked as male) assaulted the Block by Block ambassador near Santa Monica Boulevard and N. Vista Avenue.

Full details on the incident are not yet available, however Jump has a court date scheduled for March 7, 2024.

Jump_Booking Record Details – Inmate Information Center

Ms. Jump spoke during public comment Tuesday night at a regular city council meeting to tell her own version of what happened that night.

“As I’m sure you heard by now, one of your security ambassadors, or goons as they are, crossed paths with me,” she said tearfully. “He’s actually, he then sexually assaulted me and battered me. He beat the shit out of me. And then he had me arrested and charged with a felony. I was asked about my genitalia by the deputies. I was assigned male, though my identification states I’m female. They put me with the men. Imagine what it’s like to be a trans woman incarcerated with men. Unfortunately, you can’t.”

She alleged that this is not the first time Block by Block assaulted her. “Security ambassadors touch me. They violate me and they punch me and if you recall from your inauguration [Mayor] Erickson, I played a video where one of your city paid goons threatened to kill my dog. She was unfortunately there that night on Valentine’s Day and she had she was an absolute angel. She was so scared and helpless to get around. I had to get her out of there before they killed my dog.”

Twitter account @TransinWeho believed to belong to Ms. Jump posted an edited video she had with a Block by Block Security ambassador. In the video, she is shown aggressively confronting and following a security ambassador as he tries to flee the scene.

Jump was also arrested by West Hollywood sheriffs on December 7, 2022, and charged with a misdemeanor for blocking deputies from entering her building responding to a domestic violence call. Jump was arrested and charged for violation Penal Code § 148(a)(1) PC which makes it a crime to willfully resist, delay or obstruct peace officers or EMTs who are performing their official duties—however, a Los Angeles County District Attorney Charge Evaluation Sheet dated December 21, 2022, concluded that “the defendant’s total conduct cannot be characterized other than a refusal to consent to a request to enter her apartment. Such conduct cannot constitute grounds for a lawful arrest or subsequent search and seizure… Refusal to stand aside and permit a requested entry, even when officers… had a right to force an entry… cannot constitute a violation of section 148.”

She has filed a civil rights lawsuit against the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD), ten individual West Hollywood Station LASD deputies (referred to as Doe LASD Deputies in the lawsuit), as well as the County of Los Angeles.

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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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Iowa

Iowa senate passes “blank check to discriminate” opponents say

Critics charge businesses could use the law to circumvent civil rights laws by citing religious beliefs as justification to deny services

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Iowa state capitol building in Des Moines. (Photo credit: State of Iowa)

DES MOINES, Iowa – The Iowa Senate passed legislation Tuesday that opponents say will be used as as a “blank check to discriminate” against LGBTQ+ Iowans and marginalized communities.

The legislation bars governments across Iowa from “substantially burdens” meaning that any action that directly or indirectly constrains, inhibits, curtails, or denies the exercise of religion by any person or compels any action contrary to a person’s exercise of religion and includes but is not limited to withholding of benefits; assessment of criminal, civil, or administrative penalties; or exclusion from governmental programs or access to governmental facilities.

The Des Moines Register noted that the legislation would say that state and local governments shall not “substantially burden” someone’s exercise of religion unless it is in furtherance of a compelling government interest and the least restrictive means of pursuing that interest.

A person, corporation, church, foundation or other entity whose exercise of religion has been burdened would have the power to go to court to seek damages or other means of redressing the harm against them.

The Republican majority-held Senate voted 31-16 along party lines with all Democrats in opposition to pass Senate File 2095, which its sponsor, state Sen. Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig, told the Register: “I believe that it is time for Iowa to add a religious freedom restoration act to our code.”

The Register also reported that Republicans have consistently introduced similar religious freedom bills since taking control of the House, Senate and governor’s office in 2016, but Tuesday’s vote was the first time such a proposal has passed the Senate.

Opponents and critics charge that people or businesses could use the law to circumvent civil rights laws by citing religious beliefs as justification to deny services, housing, employment or other public accommodations to LGBTQ Iowans or other minority groups, the Register reported.

State Senator Zach Wahls, D-Coralville, the son of two married moms reflected:

“This legislation is not about restoring religious freedom at all. This legislation is about allowing some people to cite their religious beliefs to violate the basic civil rights protections that all Iowans benefit from. This bill is a direct assault on the basic idea of equal protection under the law,” said Wahls.

Sen. Jeff Taylor, R-Sioux Center, told the Register it seems like the bill’s opponents see it as “some kind of a plot by conservative Christians to discriminate against people.” But he said the legislation would benefit people of all faiths, not just conservative Christians.

“This is not religion specific,” he said. “This is going to benefit everybody.”

The Republican Party controls the offices of governor, secretary of state, attorney general, and both chambers of the state legislature. The Register noted that An identical version of the bill advanced through a committee in the Iowa House. It must still pass the full chamber before it could go to Gov. Kim Reynolds for her signature.

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Oklahoma

White House responds to nonbinary teenager’s death

The victim’s mother told the Independent that Benedict had suffered bullying over their gender since the start of the 2023 school year

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Nex Benedict, a 16-year-old nonbinary student from Oklahoma, died on Feb. 8 after a fight at their high school. (Family photo)

WASHINGTON – White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and national advocacy groups issued statements on Wednesday about the death of nonbinary Oklahoma teenager Nex Benedict after they were allegedly assaulted in a high school restroom.

Benedict died on Feb. 8. According to ABC News, officials investigating the incident said they will be interviewing students and staff “over the next few weeks” and plan to share findings with the Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office.

The victim’s mother told the Independent that Benedict had suffered bullying over their gender since the start of the 2023 school year, shortly after Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a bill to prohibit students from using public school restrooms that do not match the sex listed on their birth certificates.

“Every young person deserves to feel safe and supported at school,” Jean-Pierre said in a post on X. “Our hearts are with Nex Benedict’s family, their friends, and their entire school community in the wake of this horrific tragedy.”

Calling Benedict’s death a “gut-wrenching tragedy that exposes the chilling reality of anti-trans hatred,” Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson said. “We are reaching out to the DOJ, we are encouraging the community to speak out.”

Along with Robinson’s remarks, HRC’s Press Team included a link to the organization’s blog post about Benedict and a statement from Tori Cooper, director of community engagement for the HRC Transgender Justice Initiative:

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“Extremist anti-LGBTQ+ hate accounts, like online troll Chaya Raichik, the woman behind ‘Libs of TikTok’, who was recently appointed to Oklahoma’s library advisory board, are perpetuating a vile and hateful narrative that is permitting these types of public attacks,” she wrote.

State schools superintendent Ryan Walters, who last year called transgender youth using public restrooms “an assault on truth” and a danger to other kids, was responsible for naming Raichik to the library media panel.

“The assault on Nex is an inevitable result of the hateful rhetoric and discriminatory legislation targeting Oklahoma trans youth,” Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Oklahoma wrote in a joint statement.

“We are deeply troubled by reports the school failed to respond appropriately to the altercation that preceded Nex’s death and demand a thorough, open investigation into the matter,” the groups wrote.

Their statement also notes the organizations’ lawsuit challenging Oklahoma Senate Bill 615, the bathroom bill signed by Stitt last year.

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Congress

Transphobic U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene targets Adm. Levine

Greene’s post Saturday was not the first time she expressed rank anti-LGBTQ bigotry- on the House floor she misgendered the health official

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U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON – In a post on X Saturday, U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) lobbed transphobic insults at Adm. Rachel Levine, assistant secretary for health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the highest ranking transgender government official.

The congresswoman was responding to a video posted by Levine on X, which highlighted the disproportionate harms wrought by climate change on “the physical and mental health of Black communities” along with HHS’s work addressing these issues.

“Here is a man pretending to be a woman claiming the climate is hurting black Americans more than others” Greene wrote in her post. “This is the Democrat Party. Mental illness on full display.”

The congresswoman has repeatedly targeted Levine, largely over her support for gender-affirming care — medically necessary, evidence-based interventions that are governed by clinical practice guidelines and endorsed by every mainstream scientific and medical society in the world.

Greene’s post on Saturday was not the first time she crossed the line into rank anti-LGBTQ bigotry, however.

Speaking from the House floor in November, Greene misgendered and dead-named the health official while introducing an amendment to “reduce — no, castrate” her government salary to $1.

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New York

Beverly Tillery leaving New York City Anti-Violence Project

“I am so proud of the work we have done over the last eight years, which have been some of the most difficult our community has experienced”

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Beverly Tillery of the Anti-Violence Project. (Photo by Chris Tuttle)

NEW YORK CITY – After eight years of serving as executive director, Beverly Tillery announced on Tuesday that she will be leaving the New York-based Anti-Violence Project, America’s largest support and advocacy organization for LGBTQ survivors of violence.

“I am so proud of the work we have done over the last eight years, years which have been some of the most difficult our community has experienced in decades,” she said in a statement. Despite the steady increase in threats since the start of her tenure, Tillery said, “we helped our communities respond to the increases in hate violence attacks and came together with other targeted communities to protect each other.”

AVP Board Chair Stephanie K. Blackwood credited Tillery with helping to grow the group into “an organization that is poised for a national role,” recognized for its “model support services to survivors and their families, innovative policy and advocacy work and impactful community organizing.”

Recent advocacy work has included educating policymakers and leaders about the escalating threats and attacks against LGBTQ spaces, following the group’s issuance of its comprehensive survey and corresponding report titled, “Under Attack: 2022 LGBTQ+ Safe Spaces National Needs Assessment.”

Tillery spoke with the Washington Blade in October about AVP’s meetings with the White House, top officials at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, including Adm. Rachel Levine, assistant secretary for health, and congressional offices.

The group plans to begin the search for a new executive director next month. Tillery’s last day will be July 31.

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Africa

Zimbabwean vice president reiterates strong opposition to LGBTQ+ rights

Constantino Chiwenga condemned advocacy group’s scholarship

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Zimbabwean Vice President Constantino Chiwenga (Screen capture via SABC News YouTube)

HARARE, Zimbabwe — Zimbabwean Vice President Constantino Chiwenga has expressed concerns over what he has described as foreign recruitment of LGBTQ+ people in the country.

Chiwenga on Feb. 15 described Zimbabwe as a Christian country and therefore does not have room to accommodate those who identify as LGBTQ+. His comments were in response to Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe and the advocacy group’s annual scholarship program that provides funds to people who identify as LGBTQ+.

“The government of Zimbabwe strongly and firmly rejects and denounces as unlawful, un-Christian, anti-Zimbabwean and un-African, insidious attempts by foreign interests to entice, lure and recruit Zimbabwe’s less privileged, but able students into lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activities and malpractices through offers of educational scholarships,” he said.

“Zimbabwe has legislated against all such deviances, making any offers predicated on the same aberrations both unlawful and criminal, and a grave and gross affront on our national values and ethos as a Christian nation,” he added.

Chiwenga said such scholarships are a national threat and highlighted that anyone who identifies as LGBTQ+ shall not be enrolled at any educational institution.

“To that end, government sees such scholarship offers as a direct challenge on its authority, and thus will not hesitate to take appropriate measures to enforce national laws, and to protect and defend national values,” he said.

“Our schools and institutions of higher learning will not entertain applicants, let alone enroll persons associated with such alien, anti-life, un-African and un-Christian values which are being promoted and cultivated by, as well as practiced in decadent societies with whom we share no moral or cultural affinities,” added Chiwenga.

The vice president also said Zimbabwe shall not be influenced by any country to change its stance with regards to the LGBTQ+ community.

“Zimbabwe is a sovereign, African state with definite laws and values which typify it, cutting it apart from other mores,” said Chiwenga. “Young Zimbabweans who qualify for enrolment into tertiary institutions here and elsewhere, should approach government departments tasked to give grants and scholarship support to deserving cases. They should never be tempted to trade or sell their souls for such abominable and devilish offers.”

Activists and commentators have sharply criticized Chiwenga’s comments, saying people’s sexual lives should not be of public concern.

“This scholarship has been going on for years and many graduates have been supported and gainfully employed,” noted GALZ Programs Manager Samuel Matsikure. “In the 90s it showed LGBT (people) who were bullied, outed and faced harassment would drop out of school, hence, it was important to provide them with basic education so they can support themselves in life.”

Stacey Chihera, a social commentator, said what consenting adult individuals decide to do behind closed doors should never be up for public discussion. 

“I wish this entitlement about individual sexuality was applied to corruption, service delivery and infrastructure development,” said Chihera. “What consenting adult individuals decide to do behind closed doors with their private parts should never be up for discussion! Not even by the government.”

Namatai Kwekweza a lawyer and an activist, said the vice president was scapegoating the real issues on the ground that are affecting the country on a daily basis.

“The facts being a scapegoat is necessary for an underperforming and evil government that will overzealously and hypothetically talk about morality and Christian values except when it comes to corruption, looting, genocide, abductions, torture, elections fraud, abuse of office, sexual abuse,” said Kwekweza. “These leaders must be seen more, major more and heard loudest in matters of public accountability and returning stolen loot, than in matters of moral grandstanding of which they have no moral authority in the first place.”

Consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized in Zimbabwe with up to 14 years in prison.

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California Politics

Poll: Schiff continues to lead U.S. Senate Primary with 28%

Since January, Schiff’s support has increased by three points, from 25% to 28%, Garvey’s support increased by four points, from 18% to 22%

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Congressman Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) speaking to group in the Capitol in January 2024. (Official U.S. House of Representatives photo)

BOSTON, Mass. – A new Emerson College Polling/Inside California Politics/The Hill survey finds California Democratic U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff maintaining his lead in the U.S. Senate Primary, with 28%, followed by former Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres baseball player, Republican Steve Garvey at 22%, and Schiff’s Democratic House colleague Katie Porter with 16%.

The Emerson College Polling also found that nine percent of voters support Democratic U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee. Seventeen percent remain undecided. 
Since January, Schiff’s support has increased by three points, from 25% to 28%, Garvey’s support increased by four points, from 18% to 22%, and Porter’s support increased by three points, from 13% to 16%.

“Candidate support varies by age group,” Spencer Kimball, executive director of Emerson College Polling, noted. “Schiff’s support is highest among voters in their 60s, at 45%, and those over 70, with 39%, whereas Porter’s strength is among young voters, where she holds 23%. Notably, this group has the highest share of undecided voters at 28%. Garvey’s strength is also with older voters, with 33% support among voters over 70.”

Emerson researchers also found:

  • Half of California voters (50%) approve of the job President Biden is doing in office, while 41% disapprove. Governor Newsom holds a 49% job approval, while 40% disapprove.
  • In the likely general election between Biden and former President Donald Trump, 55% would support Biden, 33% Trump, while 12% are undecided. With third-party candidates added to the ballot test, Biden’s support decreased to 49%, Trump’s to 31%, while 8% instead supported Robert Kennedy Jr., and 1% supported Cornel West and Jill Stein respectively. 
  • In the March Republican Primary, 72% of GOP voters plan to vote for Trump, 20% for Haley, and 8% are undecided. In the Democratic Primary, 75% of voters support President Biden, 9% Dean Phillips, and 16% are undecided.

The Emerson College Polling/Inside California Politics/The Hill California poll was conducted February 16-18, 2024. The sample consisted of 1,000 registered voters, with a credibility interval, similar to a poll’s margin of error, of +/- 3 percentage points.

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