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Vatican says Catholic Church cannot bless same-sex unions

Decree declares God cannot bless ‘sin’

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St. Peter’s Basilica (Photo public domain)

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican on Monday said the Catholic Church cannot bless same-sex unions.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which defends Catholic teachings, in a two-page decree it published on its website said it cannot bless “sin.”

“It is not licit to impart a blessing on relationships, or partnerships, even stable, that involve sexual activity outside of marriage (i.e., outside the indissoluble union of a man and a woman open in itself to the transmission of life), as is the case of the unions between persons of the same sex,” reads the decree. “The presence in such relationships of positive elements, which are in themselves to be valued and appreciated, cannot justify these relationships and render them legitimate objects of an ecclesial blessing, since the positive elements exist within the context of a union not ordered to the Creator’s plan.”

The decree, which Pope Francis approved, is dated Feb. 22. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published it less than five months after the pontiff publicly endorsed civil unions for same-sex couples.

“Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family,” said Francis in “Francesco,” a documentary about his life that debuted at the Rome Film Festival on Oct. 21, 2020. “They’re children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out, or be made miserable because of it.”

Francis, who was then known as Jorge Bergoglio, vehemently opposed a marriage equality bill in his native Argentina. Francis was the archbishop of Buenos Aires when then-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner signed it into law in 2020.

The Vatican’s tone towards LGBTQ-specific issues has softened since Francis became pope in 2013. Church teachings on homosexuality and gender identity, however, have not changed.

“It is not surprising, but still disappointing, that the Vatican has responded ‘no’ to the dubium about whether the church can bless same-sex unions,” said Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, a Maryland-based group that ministers to LGBTQ Catholics, in a statement.

“This decision though is an impotent one because it won’t stop the movement to bless such couples, and, in fact, it will actually encourage Catholics in the pews and the many Catholic leaders who are eager for such blessings to happen to work harder in their support — and blessing — of same-sex couples,” added DeBernardo.

Esteban Paulón, an LGBTQ activist in Argentina, echoed DeBernardo.

“It truly doesn’t surprise me,” Paulón told the Washington Blade on Monday after the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published its decree. “We have seen consistently ambiguous signals in relation to the LGBTI community during the eight years of Francis’ papacy.”

Juan Carlos Cruz, a gay man from Chile who is a survivor of clergy sex abuse, met with Francis at the Vatican in 2018.

Cruz on Monday referenced Tomás de Torquemada, who spearheaded the Spanish Inquisition, in his response to the the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s decree.

“The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and especially its prefects are completely in a world of their own, away from people and trying to defend the indefensible,” Cruz told the Blade. “We see it in this quest to annihilate LGBT people, in the slowness with which the crimes of abuse are dealt with, their inhumanity in their awareness of people’s suffering so contrary to Pope Francis who I don’t know why he allows such inhumane and self-interested people in charge.”

Cruz added if “the church and the CDF (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) do not advance with the world and in addition to living constantly rejecting and speaking negatively and not putting priorities where they should be, Catholics will continue to flee and we will become a rigid church, of norms, pointing the finger at many and that will only make people run and walk away. ”

“As a Catholic, I would immediately ask for a change in the leadership of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which every day resembles that of the infamous Torquemada himself and not that of the pastors that Francis proposes to us,” said Cruz.

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Georgia

A Georgia Pride Executive Director arrested on drug & gun charges

“We believe that all persons are innocent until proven guilty, including Mr. Hobbs. We offer our support to Mr. Hobbs’ family at this time”

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Photo Credit: Columbus, Georgia Police Department

COLUMBUS, Ga. – The Columbus Georgia Police Department announced on Wednesday that following a months-long investigation, the Columbus Police Department’s Special Operations Unit executed a search warrant at a residence in the 4200 block of 16th Avenue. Jeremy Hobbs, 49, was taken into custody without incident.

Hobbs, the Executive Director of the Debra Smith Wellness Center Inc., doing business as Colgay Pride, was charged with:

  • • Possession of Cocaine with Intent to Distribute
  • • Possession of Methamphetamine with Intent to Distribute
  • • Possession of VGCSA Schedule I Drug with Intent to Distribute
  • • Possession of Drug-Related Objects
  • • Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Crime

According to Columbus Police, during the search, officers found and seized the following items:

  • 5.4 grams of crack cocaine
  • • 20.7 grams of methamphetamine
  • • 23.8 grams of liquid GHB
  • • An INA .38 revolver

A statement released by Harry Underwood, Vice President of Communications, Colgay Pride and the board of the Debra Smith Wellness Center, Inc. in response to Hobbs’ arrest noted:

“The board of the Debra Smith Wellness Center, Inc., doing business as Colgay Pride, expresses our utmost concern and regret regarding the arrest and charges facing our Executive Director, Jeremy Hobbs. The charges which have been filed against him are serious. The board does not condone the alleged actions and we will cooperate with law enforcement in the coming investigations regarding our operations and finances.

We believe that all persons are innocent until proven guilty, including Mr. Hobbs. We offer our support to Mr. Hobbs’ family at this time.

Our organization will meet to discuss our next steps, including a transition in leadership and strategy in the interim period. Our events and operations are on hold until further notice. With humility, we ask for the understanding and solidarity of the local community in this period. We apologize to our allies, colleagues and partners for the distress caused by these developments.”

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Los Angeles County

Parks make life better month- Culver City’s movies in the park

California’s “Parks Make Life Better!” recognizes the importance of equitable access to parks, recreation, trails, open space, & facilities

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Los Angeles Blade graphic

CULVER CITY, Calif. – July is “Parks Make Life Better!” month and the Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department is celebrating with Movies in The Park every Saturday night, all month long! 

Bring your blankets, picnic baskets, and lawn chairs to see:

Gates will open at 7 PM and movies will begin at dusk. Admission is free. 

The California “Parks Make Life Better!” campaign recognizes the importance of equitable access to parks, recreation, trails, open space, and facilities for the positive development of all. Culver City PRCS invites you and your family to celebrate with us. 

PARKS MAKE LIFE BETTER MONTH

MOVIE SCREENINGS

WHEN

Saturday July 6, 13, 20, and 27

7 PM gates open, movie starts at dusk

WHERE

  • Veterans Memorial Park on 7/6
  • Syd Kronenthal Park on 7/13
  • Fox Hills Park on 7/20
  • Culver West Alexander Park on 7/27
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Los Angeles County

LA Metro: More frequent and reliable bus service

Bus ridership in the San Fernando Valley is growing faster than in any other Metro bus service area & improvements reflect ridership growth

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Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles/Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro)

LOS ANGELES – Effective Sunday, June 23, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) announced that the agency will offer more frequent and reliable bus service and an improved travel experience on multiple routes based on direct feedback from customers and bus operators, and review of ridership and travel time data. 

Bus service improvements will update travel times so riders will wait less at stops. Added trips at peak travel times will provide extra capacity to move additional riders more efficiently during busy travel periods and some lines will be extended so riders can more easily reach major destinations. Several bus lines will operate more frequently on weekdays as outlined in the NextGen Bus Plan.

Metro is also improving peak hour frequencies weekdays on two San Fernando Valley bus lines as part of the North San Fernando Valley Corridor Transit Improvements project.

Route changes by region are as follows:

San Fernando Valley

Bus ridership in the San Fernando Valley is growing faster than in any other Metro bus service area. Metro is adding capacity on many lines to accommodate this growth in ridership.

As a first step in implementing the Measure M funded North San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor Improvements Project, Line 152 on Roscoe Boulevard and Line 166 on Nordhoff Street will begin operating service every 10 minutes during the busiest weekday peak periods both eastbound and westbound. On Line 152, 10-minute service will operate eastbound in the 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. hours and westbound during the 3:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. hours in the evening. Line 166 will operate 10-minute service westbound in the 6:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. hours and eastbound in the 4:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. hours. Each will add new weekday trips to the schedule. Seven new trips on Line 152 and eight on Line 166.

Line 158 will add 25 extra trips between the Southern terminal at Moorpark/Van Nuys and Van Nuys/Woodman to increase weekday frequency from 60 minutes to 30 minutes on the segment of Line 158 along Woodman Avenue.

Line 165 on Vanowen Street will add two additional eastbound trips during the 3:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. hours of weekday evening peak.

Line 169 on Saticoy Street will add one additional weekday trip during the 6:00 a.m. hour westbound and an additional eastbound trip during the 4:00 p.m. hour between Hollywood Burbank Airport and West Hills Medical Center for service every 30 minutes.

San Gabriel Valley

Line 76 routing will be modified to achieve faster access to and from Downtown LA and provide new direct connectivity via Alameda Street to the Little Tokyo/Arts District Station (A & E Lines). Line 76 will have new stops along Alameda Street for Union Station and will discontinue stops at Vignes Street at Cesar Chavez behind Union Station. Riders from Union Station will now board the bus on the Alameda Street side of the station.

Line 267 will be extended from Pasadena to Altadena, replacing Line 686 on Colorado Boulevard and Allen Avenue. Operating hours will be extended by an extra hour until 9 p.m. for Line 267 to maintain the same hours of service that Line 686 offers. Frequency will increase for the former Line 686 segment between Pasadena and Altadena on weekdays to every 30 minutes from every 60 minutes. Weekend service will remain at every 60 minutes.

Line 268 will improve bus service to the City of Sierra Madre in response to resident requests, by extending the route to Sierra Madre Boulevard via Baldwin Avenue, Sierra Madre Boulevard, and Sierra Madre Villa Avenue instead of Foothill Boulevard to and from Sierra Madre Villa Station. Metro Micro rideshare service will continue to be available in Sierra Madre. A second route change for Line 268 will improve access to the El Monte Metrolink Station with buses rerouted via Tyler Avenue, Valley Boulevard, and Santa Anita Avenue.

Gateway Cities

Line 265 on Paramount Boulevard will increase service from 60 minutes to 40-45 minutes on weekdays. Service will remain at 60 minutes on the weekends.

South Bay

Line 108 in the City of Commerce on Eastern Avenue will move its terminus location slightly north to Harbor Street due to Eastern Avenue being restored to two traffic lanes in each direction, preventing buses from safely parking at the existing terminus.

Westside/Central LA

Line 81 will relocate the northbound terminal at Eagle Rock Plaza from eastbound on Colorado Boulevard at Eagle Dale Avenue to westbound Colorado Boulevard at Eagle Dale Avenue to accommodate the Line 217 extension to Eagle Rock Plaza at the Colorado and Eagle Dale Terminal. This change will require that two stops relocate near Eagle Rock Plaza. Line 81 will also see two southbound trips added to the afternoon peak schedule weekdays in the 3:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. hours to accommodate increasing ridership.

Line 217 will extend from Vermont/Hollywood to Eagle Rock via Glendale to allow easier access for riders between Mid-City, Hollywood and Glendale. Lines 180 and 217 will each be scheduled to operate every 12 minutes daytime on weekdays and every 15 minutes daytime on weekends with coordinated schedules to maximize frequency on duplicated segments.

At Westwood, Metro Line 20, 602, and 720 buses will no longer be able to travel through the federal GSA building parking lot between Veteran Avenue and Sepulveda Boulevard. As a result, Line 602 will move from the existing terminus on Veteran Avenue to a new terminus location at Kinross Avenue west of Gayley Avenue and will discontinue use of the stop at Wilshire Boulevard and Veteran Avenue. Eastbound Line 20 and 720 buses starting trips from Veteran Avenue will instead travel via Veteran Avenue, Santa Monica Boulevard and Sepulveda Boulevard to reach Wilshire Boulevard.  

Metro will also adjust service levels slightly on many bus lines to better match ridership   levels and to accommodate the above improvements. This includes some changes to the first and last trips on some lines. Also, 49 weekday, 42 Saturday, and 41 Sunday bus lines will have revised schedules to improve their reliability. A complete list of the changes and links to new schedules can be found at metro.net/mybus.

Stay informed by following Metro on The Source and El Pasajero at metro.netfacebook.com/losangelesmetrotwitter.com/metrolosangeles,  twitter.com/metroLAalerts and instagram.com/metrolosangeles.

Bus & Rail Transit information
323.GO.METRO (323.466.3876)
6:30am – 7pm (Monday – Friday)
8:00am – 4:30pm (Saturday/Sunday)

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U.S. Federal Courts

Supreme Court rules to preserve access to abortion medication

The suit, Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. FDA, was originally filed in the U.S. District Court for the North District of Texas

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The abortifacent drug mifepristone is marketed under the brand name Mifeprex (Photo courtesy of Danco Laboratories)

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Thursday in a much-anticipated decision against efforts by conservative doctors and medical groups challenging access to mifepristone, one of two pharmaceuticals used in medication abortions. As a result of the high court’s decision, access to the drug won’t change.

Associate Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, writing for the court, reversed a lower court decision that would have made it more difficult to obtain the drug, which is used in about two-thirds of U.S. abortions. The ruling however was narrow in scope as it only addressed what is known as legal standing in a case.

SCOTUSblog senior court reporter Amy Howe noted that Kavanaugh acknowledged what he characterized as the challengers’ “sincere legal, moral, ideological, and policy objections” to elective abortion “by others” and to FDA’s 2016 and 2021 changes to the conditions on the use of the drug.

But the challengers had not shown that they would be harmed by the FDA’s mifepristone policies, he explained, and under the Constitution, merely objecting to abortion and the FDA’s policies are not enough to bring a case in federal court. The proper place to voice those objections, he suggested, is in the political or regulatory arena.

“Under Article III of the Constitution, a plaintiff’s desire to make a drug less available for others does not establish standing to sue,” Kavanaugh wrote.

“We are pleased with the Supreme Court’s decision in this incredibly important case. By rejecting the Fifth Circuit’s radical, unprecedented and unsupportable interpretation of who has standing to sue, the justices reaffirmed longstanding basic principles of administrative law,” said Abigail Long, a spokesperson for Danco. “The decision also safeguards access to a drug that has decades of safe and effective use.”

The White House released a statement from President Joe Biden on Supreme Court Decision on FDA v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine:

“Today’s decision does not change the fact that the fight for reproductive freedom continues. It does not change the fact that the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade two years ago, and women lost a fundamental freedom. It does not change the fact that the right for a woman to get the treatment she needs is imperiled if not impossible in many states.
 
It does mean that mifepristone, or medication abortion, remains available and approved. Women can continue to access this medication – approved by the FDA as safe and effective more than 20 years ago. 
 
But let’s be clear: attacks on medication abortion are part of Republican elected officials’ extreme and dangerous agenda to ban abortion nationwide. Since the overturning of Roe v. Wade, Republican elected officials have imposed extreme abortion bans in 21 states, some of which include zero exceptions for rape or incest. Women are being turned away from emergency rooms, or forced to go to court to plead for care that their doctor recommended or to travel hundreds of miles for care. Doctors and nurses are being threatened with jail time, including life in prison, for providing the health care they have been trained to provide. And contraception and IVF are under attack.
 
The stakes could not be higher for women across America. Vice President Harris and I stand with the vast majority of Americans who support a woman’s right to make deeply personal health care decisions. We will continue to fight to ensure that women in every state get the health care they need and we will continue to call on Congress to restore the protections of Roe v. Wade in federal law — that is our commitment.”

U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk in Amarillo, Texas, in a ruling a year ago, waved aside decades of scientific approval, ruled that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration improperly approved mifepristone more than 20 years ago in 2000.

Kacsmaryk, appointed to the federal bench by former President Donald Trump, in his 67 page opinion wrote that the FDA’s two-decade-old approval violated a federal rule that allows for accelerated approval for certain drugs and, along with subsequent actions by the agency, was unlawful.

The suit, Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. FDA, was originally filed in the U.S. District Court for the North District of Texas in mid-November by Alliance Defending Freedom, an anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQ+ legal organization.

Applauding Kacsmaryk’s ruling, Erik Baptist, speaking for the Alliance Defending Freedom said in a statement: “By illegally approving dangerous chemical abortion drugs, the FDA put women and girls in harm’s way, and it’s high time the agency is held accountable for its reckless actions.”

Erin Hawley, a senior attorney for the conservative group Alliance Defending Freedom who argued the case at the Supreme Court, said the opinion was “disappointing,” but told reporters in a press gaggle after the ruling that the explicit mention of conscience protections was a victory.

“The Supreme Court was crystal clear that pro life doctors do have federal conscience protections, even in emergency situations,” Hawley said. “So that’s a huge win for the pro-life cause. The Supreme Court clearly said that our doctors are entitled to those federal conscious protections that are based on their religious beliefs.”

Related

The case now returns to the lower courts, and the dispute over access to the drug likely is not over. 

SCOTUSblog also reported that Nancy Northrup, the president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, praised the decision but conceded that the dispute could continue even after Thursday’s ruling. She, too, noted that the three states “could still attempt to keep the case going, including taking it back up to the Supreme Court,” and she warned that access to mifepristone “is still at risk nationwide.”

The Hill notes that for instance, the same district court in Texas that originally ruled against the FDA said a group of three red states—Missouri, Idaho and Kansas— can intervene in the lawsuit.

“I would expect the litigation to continue with those states raising different standing arguments than made by our doctors,” ADF’s Hawley told reporters.

Equality California, the nation’s largest statewide LGBTQ+ civil rights organization, emailed the Blade the following statement from Executive Director Tony Hoang in response to a unanimous ruling by the United States Supreme Court:

“We appreciate today’s unanimous decision to uphold access to the abortion drug mifepristone, authored by a conservative Justice. This ruling reinforces the critical importance of maintaining accessible reproductive healthcare and highlights the necessity of safeguarding these rights from baseless legal attacks.

However, it is imperative to recognize that the Court should never have accepted this case. The so-called Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine lacked the standing to initiate this challenge. Moreover, federal conscience exemptions already exist for healthcare providers who object to offering abortion-related care. 

Medication abortions involving mifepristone constitute the majority of abortions in America, including those sought by LGBTQ+ people. Our community understands the necessity of bodily autonomy and the right to make decisions regarding our own medical care, including reproductive care. Patients deserve access to the medications they need, and providers should be able to deliver that care without unwarranted interference from extremist courts or politicians.   

Attacks on abortion do not end with this decision; millions of people nationwide are still unable to get abortion care and abortion opponents remain focused on their end goal of a nationwide abortion ban. 

Equality California will continue to work with our legislative partners in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., as well as organizational allies, like Planned Parenthood, to help protect and expand access to abortion and reproductive healthcare.”

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U.S. Federal Courts

ACLU of Indiana sues City of Loogootee for blocking Pride

The First Amendment lawsuit calls for the court to enjoin Loogootee’s Special Events Ordinance and allowing plaintiffs to hold PrideFest 2024

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Photo Credit: Loogootee Pride 2024

EVANSVILLE, Ind. — The ACLU of Indiana filed suit in U.S. District Court on Thursday against the City of Loogootee, a community of about 2,600 in the southwestern part of the state, on behalf of the sponsors of PrideFest 2024.

After initially approving a permit for PrideFest 2024 to take place on September 7, the Loogootee City Council has since passed two new ordinances changing the application process for using city property, rescinded its prior approval of PrideFest 2024, and failed to vote on the new application the sponsors properly submitted in February 2024.

The first Loogootee Pride Festival was successfully held in June 2023 at the Public Square, in the center of town. where numerous community events have been held over the years. About 200 people attended the 2023 festival, and organizers had no reason to suspect that the town’s leadership would not approve a permit for a festival in 2024.

Since submitting a new application for PrideFest 2024 in February, the organizers of PrideFest, Patoka Valley AIDS Community Action Group, have attended each subsequent Loogootee City Council meeting.

The PrideFest application has been on the Council’s meeting agenda but Council members never discussed or voted on it. On June 10th, the Council passed the most recently revised ordinance setting up numerous roadblocks to PrideFest.

Another event, Summer Fest, is scheduled to be held in the Public Square next week, apparently without the organizers of that event even applying for a permit.

The First Amendment lawsuit filed today calls for the court to enjoin Loogootee’s Special Events Ordinance and allowing plaintiffs to hold PrideFest 2024 at the Public Square on September 7, 2024.
 
ACLU of Indiana’s Legal Director Ken Falk said:
 
“The City of Loogootee’s revocation of its November 2023 permission to hold PrideFest 2024 and its actions since that time violate the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. The latest city special events ordinance is unconstitutional in many ways. It, and the actions of the City Council, clearly indicate that Councilmembers are trying to deny our plaintiffs the ability to hold their event because they disagree with a celebration of the LGBTQ community..

The complaint can be found here.

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Delaware

Sarah McBride poised to become first trans member of Congress

McBride currently holds a seat in the First State Senate District of Delaware and has used that momentum to mobilize her supporters

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Del. State Senator Sarah McBride (D-1st District) (Washington Blade file photo by Daniel Truitt)

By Joe Reberkenny | WILMINGTON, Del. – Delaware State Sen. Sarah McBride has become the Democratic frontrunner for Congress after her primary opponent dropped out of the race. This sets up McBride to possibly become the first transgender member of Congress if elected in November. 

Eugene Young announced on Wednesday he suspended his campaign for Delaware’s At-Large congressional district, leaving McBride as the only Democratic candidate running for the seat. Young’s announcement leaves Republican challenger Donyale Hall as McBride’s only obstacle to the House of Representatives.

As the new Democratic frontrunner, McBride is slated to win the strongly Democratic state’s sole House seat, which is currently held by Democrat Lisa Blunt Rochester. Blunt Rochester is leaving the House to run for Thomas Carper’s seat in the Senate who will be retiring at the end of the year. 

According to McBride’s campaign, she has raised more than $2 million and does not appear to be slowing down. Not only could McBride become the historic first trans member of Congress, but her campaign has raised record-breaking amounts — more than any candidate for an open congressional seat in state history.

McBride currently holds a seat in the First State Senate District of Delaware and has used that momentum to mobilize her supporters.

LPAC, an organization that works to get LGBTQ+ women and nonbinary candidates elected to public office, has endorsed McBride’s run for Congress as well as her past campaigns. LPAC’s Executive Director Janelle Perez released a statement regarding McBride’s path to the House.

“LPAC is thrilled that Sarah McBride has cleared the Democratic field and is on a clear path to making history in November as the first out trans person ever elected to the U.S. Congress,” Perez wrote in her statement. “This did not happen by accident: Sarah has actively cleared the field by building an undeniably formidable campaign, connecting deeply with voters and out-raising every candidate in the field by a longshot.”

Other candidates have until July 8 to enter the race, although that is unlikely given McBride’s fundraising advantage and growing momentum. 

“It is no surprise to me that Sarah has reached this point — she is a compassionate leader who truly cares for her community and has a tangible impact on everyone around her,” Perez added. “This is a groundbreaking moment for LGBTQ+ representation in our country and I know that Sarah McBride will make an incredible member of Congress.”

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Joseph Reberkenny, is a recent graduate of American University and the Blade Foundation’s seventh recipient of the Elkins fellowship. Reberkenny will cover Delaware politics for the Washington Blade in this summer, 2024.

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Political commentary & analysis

Project 2025: Far right’s laundry list also targets LGBTQ+ rights

Project 2025  extends to altering the post-WWII international order, challenging established human rights declarations

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Former President Trump speaks at Heritage Foundation event in 2018. (Screenshot/YouTube PBS NewsHour)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – A dystopian Handmaid’s Tale style future may soon be underway in the US, should former President Donald Trump and the Republicans seize the upcoming election. Backed by billions of dollars in funding, and over 100 organizations, many of which are tied to hate groups and white nationalists, the far right’s laundry list of goals includes removing all women’s reproductive rights, and firing all LGBTQ+ employees.

This plan is called Project 2025, and it is terrifying for the minority groups it calls out. 

In a recent Zoom discussion attended by the Blade, Wendy Via and Heidi Beirich, co-founders of the advocacy The Global Project Against Hate and Extremism (GPAHE), shed light on the disturbing realities of  the far-right’s manifesto that has gained surprisingly little media coverage thus far. 

Wendy Via President & Co-Founder and Heidi Beirich, PhD Chief Strategy Officer & Co-Founder (Photo Credit: GPAHE)

Project 2025, led by the far-right Heritage Foundation and supported by over 100 organizations, is a 920-page plan aimed at reshaping America into a more authoritarian and Christian Nationalist state.

The plan threatens to roll back constitutional rights for women, LGBTQ+ people, immigrants, and people of color, and proposes centralizing power in the executive branch. Project 2025 aims to radically reshape the U.S. government, systematically dismantling protections for LGBTQ+ individuals, women, people of color, immigrants, and disabled individuals.

One excerpt from Project 2025 reads: “The next conservative President must make the institutions of American civil society hard targets for woke culture warriors. This starts with deleting the terms sexual orientation and gender identity (“SOGI”), diversity, equity, and inclusion, gender, gender equality, gender equity, gender awareness, gender-sensitive, abortion, reproductive health, reproductive rights, and any other term used to deprive Americans of their First Amendment rights out of every federal rule, agency regulation, contract, grant, regulation, and piece of legislation that exists.”

Project 2025 entails a coordinated attack on people of color and immigrants, proposing measures such as militarizing the border and executing mass deportations. Further proposals include re-assigning control of the FBI to the president, giving the ruler of the free world the power to turn the FBI on anyone not following through on the rules outlines by Project 2025. 

Trump’s plan to increase law enforcement and military presence, coupled with the potential use of the DOJ and FBI to target marginalized groups, raises alarms about civil rights protections.

The militarization of law enforcement under Project 2025 threatens the safety and freedoms of vulnerable populations, and all those who do not fall under the category of cisgender heterosexual, white, Christians.

Authors of Project 2025 seek to erase terms like “gender identity” and “diversity” from government language, further marginalizing LGBTQ+ individuals. The plan also includes proposals to demonize the LGBTQ+ community, painting them as societal threats through various government agencies.

Charlie Kirk, founder of Turning Point USA (TPUSA) and a Project 2025 advisor, continues to promote controversial Christian Nationalist views. At a Phoenix rally, he compared the fight against “wokeness” to World War II battles against totalitarianism. TPUSA, with significant financial backing, actively promotes conservative values and opposes LGBTQ+ rights.

The project calls for the removal of LGBTQ+ protections in employment, education, and adoption, and aims to criminalize gender-affirming care. LGBTQ+ individuals face the threat of job termination and increased legal persecution under this plan.

Under these rules, anyone who can be proven or, perhaps, even suspected of being hired under Diversity and Inclusion initiatives, will be fired.

Christian nationalism is a keystone in shaping Project 2025, which includes efforts to restrict reproductive rights in addition to LGBTQ+ issues. The plan’s advocates seek to make the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) federal law, promoting Christian traditional family values at the expense of individual freedoms.

This includes allowing orphanages to turn away potential adopters who adhere to any faith other than Christianity. Further, Project 2025 threatens to eradicate adoptions as a whole, as the manifesto calls for a child’s “right” to be raised by their mother and father, regardless of the economic and/or mental states of said parents. The act would also limit or eliminate the right to practice one’s religion of choice, thereby annihilating the separation of church and state. 

Project 2025  extends to altering the post-WWII international order, challenging established human rights declarations. Plans to fire civil servants and replace them with political appointees were also discussed, raising concerns about the impartiality and stability of federal agencies. 

One zoom attendee  voiced concerns about the defunding of LGBTQ+ nonprofits and the potential for increased investigations and demonization of organizations working with immigrants. The implementation of Project 2025 through executive orders by a conservative president poses a substantial risk to this concern.

Emphasizing the critical need to act now, speakers highlighted the growth of a far-right international network since Trump’s presidency, which could lead to the criminalization of LGBTQ+ individuals. The overturning of landmark cases like Lawrence v. Texas could pave the way for further legal persecution.

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Southern California

Triple A: SoCal gas prices continue dropping quickly

The average price for self-serve regular gasoline in California is $4.87, which is 11 cents lower than a week ago

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Triple A Auto Club/Los Angeles Blade

LOS ANGELES – Gas prices in Southern California have dropped by more than 50 cents a gallon in most areas after two straight months of price declines, according to the Auto Club’s Weekend Gas Watch. The average price for self-serve regular gasoline in California is $4.87, which is 11 cents lower than a week ago. The average national price is $3.46, which is two cents lower than a week ago.

The average price of self-serve regular gasoline in the Los Angeles-Long Beach area is $4.83 per gallon, which is 10 cents less than last week and 13 cents less than last year. In San Diego, the average price is $4.85, which is 10 cents lower than last week and eight cents lower than this time last year.

On the Central Coast, the average price is $4.97, which is five cents lower than last week and two cents higher than last year. In Riverside, the average per-gallon price is $4.75, which is 10 cents lower than last week and 10 cents lower than a year ago. In Bakersfield, the $4.96 average price is eight cents less than last week and nine cents higher than a year ago today.

“Oil Price Information Service reports the latest Energy Information Administration data shows that West Coast refinery utilization rates reached their highest production levels of 2024 at the beginning of this month,” said Auto Club Spokesperson Doug Shupe. “California continues to have the highest gas prices in the U.S., but this week for the first time since March, gas prices in most local areas are lower than at this time a year ago.”

The Weekend Gas Watch monitors the average price of gasoline. As of 9 a.m. on June 13, averages are:

061324

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Africa

Protesters vandalize Zimbabwean LGBTQ+ rights group’s offices

GALZ has reported the incident to the police

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Protesters vandalized GALZ's offices in Harare, Zimbabwe, with homophobic graffiti. (Photos courtesy of GALZ)

HARARE, Zimbabwe — A handful of protesters over this past weekend vandalized the offices of Zimbabwe’s largest LGBTQ+ rights organization.

Although they did not enter GALZ (an Association of LGBTI People in Zimbabwe)’s building in Harare, the country’s capital, they did gather at the gate and sang homophobic songs. The protesters also left anti-gay graffiti on the gate and walls.

Several people after the incident started to question the authenticity of the protesters, arguing GALZ itself organized the protest in order to get funding. They said some of the protesters “looked gay” and even argued the organization had yet to approach the police.

GALZ has sought to discredit some of the reports, while calling the protest disrespectful and uncalled for.

“We categorically condemn the acts of vandalism and intimidation that occurred on Sunday afternoon,” said GALZ in a statement. “A group of individuals claiming to represent various Christian churches descended at our offices. They proceeded to vandalize the property, painting hateful graffiti on the walls. While we respect differences in values, it is utterly unacceptable to deploy acts of vandalism and intimidation against communities who hold different values.”

GALZ said it has filed an official police report, and is “cooperating fully with the ongoing investigations.” 

“We call on the authorities to hold the perpetrators accountable for these criminal actions,” said the organization. 

GALZ also said it remains steadfast in its commitment to LGBTQ+ rights, and urged religious and political leaders to be at the forefront of fostering unity in Zimbabwe.

“This act of violence has not been committed in isolation, it is a stark reminder of the ongoing discrimination and hostility that our community faces,” said GALZ.

“We urge religious and political leaders to condemn such acts of hate and to uphold the  constitutional rights and freedoms for all citizens to be protected by law regardless of their diverse backgrounds including sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. We encourage Zimbabweans to resort to open and respectful dialogue to address indifferences,” added the organization.

Several United Methodist Church parishioners last month held a protest in Harare during which they protested the church’s recent decision to allow LGBTQ+ clergy and same-sex marriages. James Kawadza, one of the protest organizers, said it was un-African to engage in same-sex relations.

“Homosexuality is unlawful in Zimbabwe and marriage is between a man and a woman,” he said. “The church has aligned with the rainbow movement, and this is also a threat to our African traditions and human existence at large. Homosexuality is not contextual, it is an abomination where Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by fire.”

Section 73 of Zimbabwe’s Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act on sexual crimes and crimes against morality says any “male person who, with the consent of another male person, knowingly performs with that other person anal sexual intercourse, or any act involving physical contact other than anal sexual intercourse that would be regarded by a reasonable person to be an indecent act, shall be guilty of sodomy and liable to” a fine, up to a year in prison or both.

Cases of people being arrested under this provision are rare.

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Pulse, a reflection: Eight years ago 49 lives were stolen

Brandon Wolf, a Pulse survivor who now serves as national spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, called for a safer future

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Pulse Nightclub Memorial & mass-shooting site in Orlando, Florida. (Los Angeles Blade/Brody Levesque file photo)

By Jay Waagmeester | ORLANDO, Fla. – Eight years have passed since 49 people were killed and 53 were wounded in a shooting at Pulse, a nightclub in Orlando.

To mark that anniversary on Wednesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered state and national flags flown at half-staff as a “mark of respect for victims, their families, and the many affected by this tragedy.”

DeSantis has made the order each year since taking office and former Gov. Rick Scott did the same in 2017 and 2018. Both are Republicans.

The shooter, who pledged his loyalty to ISIS, opened fire as the gay nightclub in Orlando hosted a Latin night on June 12, 2016.

Florida Rep. Anna Eskamani, a Democrat who represents the area that included Pulse, posted the names and photos of all 49 people who were killed.

The National Democratic Party released a statement criticizing Republicans’ efforts to stop gun reform, including by the NRA, and praised President Joe Biden’s efforts toward gun safety, including the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.

“This Pride month, as we celebrate love, equality, and inclusion, this anniversary reminds us of the work left to ensure all LGBTQ+ Americans can live their lives without fear of harassment, discrimination, and violence,” the statement reads.

Vice President Kamala Harris posted about the shooting Wednesday.

Brandon Wolf, a survivor of the shooting who now serves as national spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, posted to X calling for a safer future in which young people “know they are loved and valued exactly as they are.”

national memorial was approved by Congress to honor the club in 2021, although work on a physical structure is still in progress. The City of Orlando is filling seats on the newly created Pulse Memorial Advisory Committee after a private effort to build a permanent memorial failed.

Carlos Guillermo Smith, a former member of the Florida House and Democratic candidate for the Florida Senate, posted to X that there is a need for a memorial for the shooting.

“This year’s remembrance has me reflecting on the need to create a respectful Orlando memorial for the 49, and to continue our fight to #HonorThemWithAction by creating a world they’d be proud of — a world where love conquers hate and we can all live free from gun violence.”

Florida Republican state Rep. Randy Fine took to X with the hashtag, “BombsAway.”

The mass shootings in Orlando and Parkland were a moment of change for gun law in Florida. In 2018, the Legislature approved a law to expand background checks, ban types of guns, and impose a three-day waiting period for handgun purchases. It included “red flag” language allowing authorities to remove firearms from people deemed dangerous.

Editor’s note from the Los Angeles Blade:

Community leaders, first responders and the families of the victims and survivors of the Pulse tragedy gathered together for an annual remembrance ceremony hosted by the City of Orlando. The Remembrance Ceremony allows the Orlando community to come together every year on the evening of June 12 to honor and remember the 49 angels taken, their families, the survivors, first responders, trauma teams and all those impacted by the tragedy.    

The 2024 family and survivor-focused ceremony was held at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts with doors opening at 6 p.m. and the program beginning at 7 p.m. 

On X (formerly Twitter) Former Arizona State Rep. Daniel Hernandez Jr., himself a survivor of another American mass shooting on January 8, 2011, that gravely injured then Arizona U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords and 18 others who were shot during a constituent meeting held in a Safeway supermarket parking lot in Casas Adobes, Arizona, in the Tucson metropolitan area, posted about remarks in remembrance of Pulse at a Pride event hosted in Washington D.C. Wednesday evening by Vice-President Kamala Harris.

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Jay Waagmeester

Jay covers education for the Florida Phoenix. He previously worked for the Iowa Capital Dispatch and the Iowa State Daily. He grew up in Iowa and is a graduate of Iowa State University.

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The preceding article was previously published by The Florida Phoenix and is republished with permission.

The Phoenix is a nonprofit news site that’s free of advertising and free to readers. We cover state government and politics with a staff of five journalists located at the Florida Press Center in downtown Tallahassee.

We’re part of States Newsroom, the nation’s largest state-focused nonprofit news organization.

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